Reader's Ask: What is the Worst Advice You Have Ever Received About Job Searching?

Answer: Apply to everything hiring, even if it's not your field.

When I first starting working way back after I had just finished high school and college, I was given this advice by my mother.


Sorry, Mom, but you were dead wrong.


Why was this such bad advice?


There are more than a few reasons why this was horrible advice. Let's go through a few:


Your resume will show a lack of focus.


If you have a chain of wildly unrelated jobs and experience, it will actually make it that much harder to get the job you want. After all, the hiring manager in your dream job will want to see how your experience relates to the opening they have. If you lack that experience, chances are you will get passed over in favour of someone who does.


What if you have some?


Well, the issue is that even if you have some positions that are related, it will be difficult to stage this on your resume. If you remove the unrelated positions, you then end up with gaps in your employment which is something else a hiring manager will be looking for... and will probably bin your resume over.


The game of getting hired is simple: Don't give the hiring manager a reason to toss your resume in the bin.


It may sound cruel and unfeeling, but the reality of hiring - being on both sides of this coin - is one of winnowing out those who fit what we're looking for and those who don't. We can't interview everyone, nor give everyone a chance to shine in the job, as much as we wish we could. We know we're probably missing out on gems but the resume and application is really the best tool we have to narrow down the search.


Your job here is to give me a reason to keep your resume.


The best way to do that is to "wow" me with your related experience.


What if I've already created a string of unrelated experiences? Do I give up now?


All is not lost.


What you should be doing is starting to focus in on what it is you want to do. I wouldn't panic and sign up for the first college course to get you there (but it could help!) but start looking at all of the entry-level positions in that field, and some of the mid-level ones too. What you're looking for are the skills the ad will be listing as 'needed to have'.


Now, look at your previous experience, even the unrelated, and see if you can pick out where you can spin your experience to best match what those positions are looking for.


Also look at what can be dropped off the end of your resume - the really, really old positions that have nothing to do with anything outside of being a paycheque and are older than ten years... especially if you're looking to jump career tracks. Look for a balance between explaining how someone with more life experience got that experience and not overwhelming the hiring manager with a crapton of job titles. See if you can clump some of this together, especially if postings were short, into Contracting with them as projects.


Don't lie on your resume. Never, ever... but do organize it so that an HR manager can skim over it and see exactly how you fit the position best. Even if it's not perfect, a well organized, coherent, and visually appealing resume will score you points and increase your chances.


The other place to shine here is in the cover letter.


Why a Cover Letter is Your Secret Weapon


Don't groan. It really is, especially if you need to explain to an HR manager why your resume is the "one". Always submit a cover letter - and make sure it is always tweaked to match the position, company, and job you are applying to.


A well-written cover letter will set you apart, especially if the visual elements match the resume exactly.


The other thing a cover letter will let you do is to tie your experience together and present to the hiring manager just how, even if the experience looks unrelated on the resume, why it does fit what they're looking for after all.


But don't settle for just "anything"


But the best way to get the job you want is to not settle for something outside of your skills and to gather only relevant experience in the first place.


After all, you wouldn't expect a welder to work in a fast-food restaurant, and vice versa.


And yes, restaurant skills are trade skills too.


If you cannot find anything in your area looking for what you do, I have perhaps the hardest piece of advice you may ever hear...


If your only choice is to settle or have nothing - Move


As hard is it may be to hear, sometimes the best idea is to relocate to where the jobs are to get the experience. It's never an easy choice. You may have a family and it could mean uprooting them.


However, speaking from experience, you're only going to do them a favour in the long run as sticking to your field and your skills will result in better financial stability in the end.


This is something I wish I had figured out long before now. I spent my twenties, and even my thirties, in a fugue of unfocused job searches and wondering why I not only couldn't find something that paid well but made me happy. It wasn't until a few years ago, and while in college, I received this advice from the career counselor and had my awakening moment.


And the advice worked far better than what my mother told me over twenty years ago.

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