How to Manage ‘Opportunity Overload’ While Job Searching
In the last half of 2017, I noticed a major change in the average job search. Many people seem to have gone from struggling with not enough options to struggling with too many options.
At first glance, the latter may seem like a better problem to have. The truth is that both scenarios often result in the same thing: A person not getting the right job, the job they actually want. When you have too many options, it can be nearly impossible to filter the wrong opportunities from the ones that would really fit you and your career.
As job seekers battle the overabundance of opportunities, perhaps they’ll begin to better understand and sympathize with the employers on the other side of the hiring process.
See, employers have had to go through the same thing for years. When a company posts a job ad, it is looking for the right fit. When each ad brings in hundreds of applications, however, it can be overwhelming. With not enough time or people on deck to read through every application, many companies have had to rely on applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to manage the candidate overload.
Job seekers, unfortunately, don’t have the equivalent of an ATS to help with their opportunity overloads. What are they to do?
I have two solutions of my own I’d like to propose. It all begins with a slogan and an equation:
Less is more.
Quality + Clarity > Quantity
Why Less Really Is More
Most job seekers to whom I speak are using 3-4 different job boards. Consequently, they are getting pinged about hundreds of opportunities every week. The problem with this approach is that it only perpetuates a job seeker’s frustration as they try to deal with the information overload, leaving them exhausted and often without any good leads.
If you are going to use job boards, I recommend you start with one for a week or two. Bump it up to two boards only if you feel you can handle more information and need more opportunities.
Those of you who have read my previous articles or listened to my podcast might be shocked that I haven’t yet pointed out that job boards are an awful job search strategy.
I’ve grown to better understand how we humans embrace change. I know from personal experience how long the learning curve can be. I now realize telling job seekers – especially those who are new to the contemporary job search – to stay away from job boards is comparable to telling a group of kids to stay away from the plate of cookies you just set out unguarded.
I understand and respect that most people are going to do what they think is best for their search until their experiences teach them differently. So, if you’re set on using job boards and online applications, limit the number of boards you use to help you better manage the overload.
Ready for Something New? Try ‘Quality + Clarity > Quantity’
In my personal experience, I’d say 99 percent of job seekers aren’t clear on what they want. This is partly why they’re being bombarded by opportunities – and still feeling like they can’t find the right fit.
When job seekers do have a general idea of what they want in a job, most have major difficulties communicating this on their resumes, cover letters, applications, LinkedIn profiles, and to people in their networks.
Communicating what you want in your job search is an art form, a skill that needs much development. The problem is that we are all too close to our own personal career histories to effectively sort out these things for ourselves.
Trust me: I primarily work with executive job seekers who are very seasoned in their careers and work experiences. Even these accomplished professionals find it almost impossible to sort out and clearly communicate their important achievements without outside help.
The first thing I do with all of my clients is help them clarify what they want at this stage of their career, including the type of company culture they’re seeking. Being clear on what you want means more than knowing your target role, title, and industry. I’m talking about a wider perspective than that.
For example, many of my clients have done a lot of traveling for their work and are now interested in positions where they can stay local and spend more time with family. Clarity, then, means identifying all the variables surrounding your work and determining what your preferences and non-negotiables are.
(Much to my surprise, I’ve discovered over that years that most of my clients appreciate the clarity I help them get more than the jobs I help them land. That should tell you how important – and hard to achieve – this clarity is.)
If I’m being completely honest, I truly do believe that gaining such clarity requires support and assistance from industry professionals. Hire a career coach – or at least someone who is adept at using digital branding to attract potential employers.
Can’t afford professional help? Get creative. Perhaps you can offer to buy someone dinner in exchange for their expertise. They might say no, but it’s worth a shot.
You can also look up interactive workshops, webinars, and instructional videos on creating effective resumes and LinkedIn profiles. These options will likely be more affordable than hiring a career coach, although they won’t have all the same benefits of a coach.
When you have a clearer understanding of what you want in your career, limit your job searching methods as discussed above. More importantly, effectively communicate what you want and why you’re the right fit to potential employers and your network contacts. As you do this, you will filter out the opportunities that don’t meet your needs and attract high-quality opportunities that do.