I have been gainfully employed for all my adult life even while I was a student. And I have gotten just about every one of my jobs from answering ads. I got one job just one! through my college placement office. I got another job from a recruiter. But all the rest even my academic jobs came from answering ads.
I have also worked with clients who had been unsuccessful in their job campaigns. They had given up on want ads. When we changed their resumes and cover letter, the picture changed. Now nearly all were getting responses and requests for interviews.
Want ads still work, but there’s a system to using them. Before we start, let’s blow away two common myths about want ads.
Myth #1: Most jobs aren’t advertised so you’re unlikely to find them by looking in the want ads.
Experts estimate that want ads display less than 20% of all available jobs. You’ll hear estimates as low as 5%.
But let’s think about what happens to the other 80% of all jobs those that never get advertised as want ads. Some will be posted in-house and available only to current employees. Some will be available on campuses for entry-level applicants. Others will be available only to applicants identified by recruiters. And of course some will come only through the “hidden job market” of contacts and networking.
Myth #2: “The FIRST thing you need to do is figure out EXACTLY what you want to do.
Job search doesn’t operate like searches for a mate.
A lot of career guidance is based on the premise that choosing a career is like going on a dating site and looking over your prospective mates. You decide you want John, Jerry or Steven. And you don’t look further.
Careers, alas, aren’t laid out like eligible prospects. They don’t come with names you can recognize or descriptions like “blond” or “loves dogs.”
Finding your career – or your next job – is more like going to a dance and experimenting with all sorts of partners. After the first dance, you say, “I want someone who won’t step on my feet…at least not hard.”
After you’ve whirled a few partners, you decide you don’t mind the ones who step on your feet. It’s the ones who talk all through the number … and then talk some more.
Or you find you really, really like a partner who keeps you laughing. You don’t care if he can’t slow dance; you’d rather go fast anyway. You don’t care if she’s not up on the steps; you’re struck by her surprising sense of humor.
Finally you narrow your choices. You look for certain types of partners and avoid others. And you often meet someone who didn’t seem promising at first but who fit all the non-negotiables on your checklist.
Talking to someone about a career is like dancing with a new partner. You won’t know if you’ve got a fit till you’ve tried half a dozen different things.
Often you can’t predict what you’ll like because you never realized this opportunity existed. Or you didn’t realize that a career you’d crossed off because it didn’t meet your criteria actually came in a version that was perfect. It’s like saying, “I can’t wear lime green,” but in the right combination and shade, you can.
Research supports the dance model – not the datebook.
We’ve come along way since the first tentative career books were written. Researchers have studied the way people choose careers. Very few begin the traditional way, with a clear definition of “here’s what I want.”
Insisting on this degree of clarity will actually hold back your search and often keep you from finding your next, best career. Sometimes you recognize what you want only when you meet it face to face.
Want ads help you take advantage of the dance model.
When I was in the job market, I answered ads very broadly. As a result, I sometimes found myself being interviewed for a job that I’d never have considered. I got ideas for whole new categories of jobs I could apply for increasing the likelihood that I’d be hired.
You might start by applying for jobs in accounting but then realize you know a lot about data analysis. You start looking at jobs in data analysis. You revise your resume. You reposition yourself. You might find more jobs in data analysis, which means you have a better chance to sell yourself even if you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications.
If you’d like more guidance on working with want ads, I just released a brand new downloadable Report:
JOB SEARCH SIMPLIFIED:
FINDING WORK YOU LOVE THROUGH WANT ADS, CLASSIFIEDS AND JOB POSTINGS
A Guide For Mid-Career Professionals Who Are Serious About Getting Great Results From Their Job Search