Between friends, colleagues, family, and common “wisdom,” there’s no shortage of sources you can get advice from when you’re applying to jobs. The problem, however, is that not all of that advice is good advice. While our friends and family often mean well, the labor market changes rapidly enough that one job hunting best practice is no longer relevant a couple years later. And sometimes, advice-givers are just plain misinformed.
So if you’re really looking for tips that can help you get your foot in the door at a new job, don’t rely too much on well-meaning friends and family. Leave it to the experts. Here, J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of the career advice site Work It Daily shares some of the most common misconceptions amongst job seekers.
Once upon a time, employees were expected to stay at their companies for years on end lest they risk looking flakey or unambitious. But today, the rules have changed. Millennials change jobs an average of four times in the decade after graduating from college, about double the rate of Gen Xers. And this happens for good reason — new jobs tend to be the quickest way to advance in title and salary. Besides, if you’re truly unhappy in your current position, you shouldn’t force yourself to stay – life is too short to be miserable at work. Now, that’s not to say that you should necessarily quit a job you’re unhappy at without anything else lined up first. But if the main thing holding you back from exploring other opportunities is that you haven’t been there long enough, don’t worry. If you’re the right fit for the job, recruiters aren’t likely to write you off based solely on your previous tenure.
You may have to apply to more than one company before you find the perfect fit, but that doesn’t mean that more applications directly translates into more opportunities. When it comes to applying to jobs, the key to success is working smarter, not harder. So rather than sending out as many applications as humanly possible, it’s better to get strategic and only apply to the companies that you feel are a great fit for your interests and experience. So how exactly can you identify those companies?
“One of the things we have job seekers do is create a list of 10 companies that you absolutely love – the product, the service, whatever it is they do, you absolutely love it. Don’t get hung up on whether you’d ever work for them or not, don’t get hung up that they’re not in your backyard. Just ten companies you love. Then ask yourself, ‘What’s similar about these 10 companies?’” O’Donnell says. From there, patterns will emerge, whether that’s companies with great customer service, a culture of innovation, a commitment to helping the less fortunate, or whatever matters most to you. “It gets a lot easier to find employers once you know what those are,” O’Donnell adds.
“In cover letters, people tell job seekers to basically summarize what’s in their résumé,” O’Donnell says. But using your cover letter simply as a way to repurpose what you’ve already laid out is a waste of your time.
“I’m not going to read your cover letter if I know that everything in it is what’s in the résumé,” O’Donnell shares. Beyond being redundant, using your cover letter as a résumé summary means you miss out on demonstrating passion and culture fit for the particular company and role. “The cover letter is your opportunity to tell me how you feel connected to me as a company – I want you to tell me how you came to learn that what we do is different, special, valuable, important. The résumé will speak for itself,” O’Donnell says.
It’s natural to want to avoid highlighting the parts of your application that aren’t so strong, but addressing issues head-on is a good way to assuage any doubts that a potential employer might have. And while you don’t want to necessarily make it front and center on your résumé, recruiters and hiring managers will respect an honest, thoughtful answer if they inquire about why you took a break from the working world.
“What we teach people to do is answer that question using the ‘experience, learn, and grow’ model — what did I experience, what did I learn from that situation, and how did I grow. If you’ve had a meaningful life event that’s gotten in the way of your work — whether positive or negative — you shouldn’t be afraid to proactively bring it up. “If you were out of work because you took your sabbatical and traveled around the world, that would be noteworthy. If you stayed home and cared for an ailing relative or parent who passed, you may want to say you were a primary caregiver,” O’Donnell advises.
This post is by Emily Moore and originally appeared on Glassdoor. It is reposted with permission.