Career coach: Finding it ‘impossible' to get a new job? 3 overlooked strategies I give all my clients

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I know the job market seems impenetrable to lots of people right now. Opportunities are more scarce, competition is high, application processes are getting longer, and job offers — if they do come — don't feel like they reflect the cost of living.

There's no benefit to sugarcoating it: Job searches are going to take longer in this labor environment. It's natural to feel disillusioned or even desperate. But job hunting from that mindset will only make your search longer and more miserable.

As a career coach, my role is to guide people to their next opportunity, regardless of economic conditions. Now that we're out of the "Great Resignation" boom times, I advise my clients to adopt three overlooked strategies to get an edge in their job search.

1. Think quality over quantity

Given the realities of the current job market, mentally prepare for a longer job hunt and be proactive about managing your energy. 

It's tempting to sprint — applying to as many jobs as possible and dedicating as much time and effort as you can in hopes of landing a role quickly. This approach depletes your energy reserves, leaving you susceptible to burnout and making you want to stop looking altogether. 

Sprinting is usually paired with a "spray and pray" strategy, where you send out the same application to every job that seems like it has potential. But applying to roles that don't excite you is tedious, demoralizing, and draining.

Plus, generic, low-quality applications fail to stand out, leading to fewer callbacks and increasing your frustration and the length of your job search.

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For some individuals, financial pressures or toxic work environments require making an urgent effort and casting a wide net. But if your situation allows, be selective. 

It's easier to find the motivation and energy to apply for positions that genuinely align with your career goals and aspirations. Plus, submitting fewer, high-quality applications that do a great job of highlighting your unique skills, expertise, and achievements makes it more likely you'll land interviews. 

Job seeking is draining, and searches are inevitably going to take longer right now. Be kind to yourself. Err on the side of doing less and scaling up. Energy spent can't be recovered. A burned-out job seeker doesn't get many offers.

2. Pick the right shortcuts

Creating first-rate materials is time- and energy-intensive, even if the potential prize is a job you're over the moon for. 

AI tools can enhance efficiency, but they're not magic wands. Generic AI prompts may feel like they save you time, but they tend to make your applications blend in with others created using similar shortcuts. Instead, write your resume draft first, then use AI to help you review and improve it, so it reads as truthful, authentic, and human. 

Similarly, avoid using one-click apply on LinkedIn or Indeed. In my experience, job seekers typically resort to these options when they're frustrated and want to put in as little effort as possible. So recruiters and hiring managers aren't totally off-base in thinking these are low-quality applications from candidates who aren't particularly invested.

There are, however, other shortcuts you can and should use. Create a bank of words, phrases, and bullets you come across that describe you accurately from a handful of relevant job listings. Pull from your bank to help you use language that will resonate with recruiters without mimicking the target listing too closely. 

Make sure to save all your application materials, like resumes and cover letters. Use them together with your bank above as building blocks for future customized applications so you don't have to start from scratch or use the same generic template every time. 

3. Find the job leads hiding in your network

When opportunities are scarce and competition is fierce, strong relationships are more important than ever. Your network can help you learn about job openings earlier, get your application noticed, and build trust with potential employers. 

Here's how to use your network to uncover opportunities:

  • Start with the people you already know. Before trying to expand your network, go through your phone, email, and LinkedIn contacts and reconnect with former colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Let them know you're on the hunt and tell them what you're looking for and why you're a good fit. People who already know you are more likely to support you, even if they can't directly offer a job.
  • Join professional associations or organizations. These groups connect you with others in your field, offer skill-building classes and events, and provide opportunities to build your reputation. A quick Google search should uncover online and local options.
  • Play the LinkedIn lottery last. Cold messaging people on LinkedIn is hit or miss, but still worth doing when you discover recruiters, hiring managers, or other interesting people at promising companies. 

No matter who you message — an old work buddy or a complete stranger — be thoughtful and specific. The worst outcome is that you don't hear back, but many people will be willing to help if you reach out in a respectful and genuine way. No one can say "yes" to you if you say "no" to yourself first. 

With practice, the discomfort will fade, and as you see positive results, you'll become more confident in your networking abilities. 

One last reminder: 'It's natural to feel overwhelmed'

It's natural to feel overwhelmed or discouraged in a tough job market. Stay focused on your goals, listen to your needs, and get extra help if you need it.

Most important of all, don't forget this: You are more than your employment status.

Phoebe Gavin is a career coach, speaker and trainer specializing in career strategy, negotiation and empathetic leadership. She's the author of "The Workplace Guide to Time Management: Best Practices to Maximize Productivity."

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