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Published: Tuesday, 6/6/2006

The Big Job Search Question

By Kevin Donlin

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As a professional resume writer, here s a question I ve been asked at least twice a day for the past 10 years: My job search isn t working: What should I do?

I ve had to answer that question 10,950 times since 1996 (do the math). My answer is always the same, and it s always simple: Find out what you re doing wrong. Then fix it.

To find out what s wrong with your job search so you can fix it, ask yourself the following three sub questions to get at the heart of the matter.

Sub Question #1: How are you looking for a job now, exactly?

The key word here is EXACTLY. What exactly are you doing every day to find work?

The best no, the only way to know precisely what you do each day is to carry a small notebook and jot down how you spend your time, in blocks of 15 minutes, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep.

Do this for one week. I promise you will be slightly disgusted with what you find.

What you thought was eight hours of job hunting each day was more like 60 minutes of actual job search along with four hours of busy work, one hour of goofing off and two hours of TV/ e mail/ instant messaging/ coffee breaks/ talking on the phone/ errands, etc.

Don t be discouraged: you can turn this around.

It s a strange fact that whatever gets observed gets improved. When you pay close attention to what you re doing and write it down each day in your notebook, wasted time will disappear like cockroaches when the kitchen light comes on. Try it!

Sub Question #2: What, if anything, is working in your job search?

If you re doing something that is producing job leads, do more of it.

Again, writing this down will bring helpful clarity.

Answer this question: How exactly did get your last five job interviews, in this job search or in prior searches? Was it networking with an old college buddy? A want ad in the newspaper you applied for? A lead from a relative? A recruiter who called you?

When you write down this list of five job search hits, I guarantee at least one light bulb will go on over your head. When you see on paper five things you did to get job interviews before you will surely find something you haven t done today... something you can go out and do right now.

But what if have no job search successes to repeat? No problem. You have friends, right? Family? Neighbors? Ask them how they got their last five job interviews. Take notes. Pick one method and try it.

Sub Question #3: What is not working in your job search?

This list will be longer than you would like. That s OK. We re going to free up perhaps 80 percent of your time each day to do more of what s working (see Question #2).

That s right. I said up to 80 percent of what you re doing to find a job is a complete waste of time. Don t believe me? Just look at how you spend your time right now (see Question #1).

Let s say you re spending three hours a day applying for jobs, e mailing resumes and replying to e mails. In fact, you ve sent out 247 resumes in 45 days with no job interviews. So those three hours a day are not producing results they are wasted.

But which part of the equation is at fault? Here s where you have to play detective.

Is it your resume? Maybe it stinks. Try sending it to three people and asking for their unvarnished opinion.

How are you sending out resumes? By e mail only? Try mailing, faxing and hand delivering it for jobs you really want.

What jobs are you applying for? Employers may think you re not qualified, or perhaps over qualified. Could you be more flexible in the type of job you seek?

The aim of Question #3 is to get you to stop doing what s not working, or improve how you do it so you can spend more time on job search methods that are working.

In other words, do more of what works and less of what doesn t. Doing so will help you find the right job fast.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

Kevin Donlin, owner of Edina, Minn.-based Guaranteed Resumes, frequently writes about best practices in job hunting. For more information, visit www.gresumes.com.

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