The 4 Killer Job Search Mistakes

This is a very tough job market. Many highly skilled, extremely professional job seekers are taking an unprecedented amount of time to find a job. There are, though, 4 killer job search mistakes that job seekers are making that turn a long job search into an even longer one. This multiple-part series will cover these mistakes and give the job seeker (you) tools to overcome them.

Mistake 1: A Bad Attitude

In the Crossroads Career Network Program, there are 6 steps to the job search:

  1. Attitude
  2. Aptitude
  3. Altitude
  4. Search
  5. Sort
  6. Select

Notice ‘Attitude’ is the first step. In fact, it is the most important step.

When I am speaking to a group, I illustrate the importance that attitude has on the job search. I let them know I am about to say something and I challenge them to tell me if they believe me or not. Once I have their attention, I stick out my left hip with my left hand on it, shrug my shoulders as I turn my head up at an angle to the right and roll my eyes as I take a deep breath. As I’m exhaling I say “I’m thrilled to be here.” “No” is the response from the room. They don’t believe me. I ask them why they don’t believe me; I said I was thrilled to be here. Some will say my stance, others my tone or facial expression all which can be summed up as my body language. I verify that what they are saying then is that they believe my body language over the words I speak and they agree.

The same is true for you. You can NAIL all of the answers in an interview; you can give the best answers that have ever been given to the questions. If your body language is either lacking confidence, closed or showing anger, your body is saying “DO NOT HIRE ME” and they will believe your body language over the words you speak.

No one ever claimed the job search is fun; that is because it’s not. There are a number of things that must be addressed in order to have a good attitude during a job search.

  1. Understanding  the New Job Market (and what has changed)
  2. Processing the Loss
  3. Dealing with Pressure Points

Understanding the New Job Market

You can’t navigate in the job market unless you know what it is. If you have heard me speak or read any of my articles, you know that I use a lot of analogies. Navigating in the market without understanding it is like navigating in a pitch black warehouse and being told you need to get to the other side of the room. It is so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face so you can’t see the other side of the room or the multitude of obstacles in the way. You can work as hard as you possibly can; there is just no way to see if you are making any progress. You will feel like a hamster on a hamster wheel.

Knowing how the job market has changed and what is now required to find a job is like turning on the lights in the warehouse. You can see where you need to go; you can see the obstacles in the way, how to get around them, and you can see that you are making progress. Is it a lovely place where we want to spend a lot of time? No! Yet with the lights on, we can navigate the job market and walk into the next job.

So let’s turn that light on and understand how the job market has changed.

I now turn to another analogy: the telephone.

Rotary Dial Phone
In your grandfather’s day or your great grandfather’s day, they had the large rotary dial phone. The phone weighed a ton and was hard wired into the wall. There was only one phone in the house and it was either in the kitchen (think back to the Lassie show) or at the bottom of the stairs (think Leave it To Beaver). That is like the job market of that day. They had only one or two jobs in a lifetime. My father was in the Navy and then joined Civil Service. My grandfather was a farmer. Think about the oystermen and shrimpers in the Gulf. That is the only job they have ever known and it’s the only job their fathers and their father’s fathers have ever know. Whether you worked in a glass factory or automotive plant, or served as a police officer or fireman, that was your only job.

  • One job.
  • You retired at 65 with a gold watch, a pension and benefits for life.
  • All of the services were done in house. No services were outsourced.
  • Big companies meant stability. “As GM, so goes the nation.”

That is the job market of yester-year.

Modular Phone
Then the world moved to modular phones. In almost every room there is a modular plug. You plug a phone into the outlet and expect the phone to work well there and you unplug it and plug it in elsewhere and expect it to work just as well there. You still plugged into the wall though; you worked as an employee for an employer.

  • People had up to 12 jobs and up to 4 different careers in a lifetime.
  • The day of assuming you will receive a pension is gone and many companies now are cutting back on benefits and 401K company contributions.
  • People are living longer healthier lives and don’t really think they will completely retire; they may just change what they do for a living.
  • Smaller companies are more stable than huge companies because they are easier to turn around when the industry or technology changes.

This is the job market of yesterday.

Cell Phone
But how many of you don’t even have a home phone anymore; I don’t. For more and more people every day, the cell phone serves as the home phone as well. In the analogy, that means we will work with but not for companies. Another reality of today’s job market is that your next job is not your last. You will be on the job market again.

In this new job market, we are responsible for our own retirement plans and even healthcare. Even if a company offers a 401K match, you may not be there long enough to get vested. Recent graduates may consider purchasing a term life plan that goes from job to job with them than invest in a group plan that is worthless once they leave the company. Instead of going with group health plans, people may consider getting health insurance that continues regardless of the employment situation.

As more and more companies outsource work, we will not be employees but actually contract with companies.

In today’s job market, job stability is a personal responsibility. In this recession, there has not been an industry or professional that has not been touched by this latest recession. We can no longer look to companies to provide job stability. Our identities cannot come from the company we work for but instead from knowing the value we bring.

We may not like the new job market. We may long for the way it used to be. The reality is that the job market has changed and so must our approach to it in order to succeed.

Processing the Job Loss

We are all human and we were made to go through a certain process in order to heal from a loss. When we lose a family member, we give ourselves time and permission to grieve. The same should be true when we lose a job. Whether we left by choice or where invited to leave, it is a loss. We go through the same stages of grieving as we do when we lose a family member. We have to go through anger, denial, depression, bargaining and, then finally, acceptance in order to heal and move on.

At one event where I was the guest speaker, the person introducing me wanted to make a comment to the group first. Part of his comment was advising job seekers not to have a pity party. I actually disagree. Have a pity party. I did in 2002 when I was out of work for so long. Get party hats and noise makers, cry, get angry and feel bad. And then like any party, there is a quitting time. Set a quitting time on your pity party but while the party is on, do it right. Give yourself time to process the loss. If you don’t, that baggage will still be there as you are searching and can come out at the most inopportune time, like the middle of an interview.

Then, after you get to the last stage of grieving, which is acceptance, go one step further and accept the opportunity. There is a plan that will prosper you and not harm you, that will give you a hope and a future. God promises it in Jeremiah 29:11-17. How exciting! What could be behind that next door? I left a 20+ year career in IT and now I own my own company serving as a job search coach and I LOVE it! Trust me, starting a career as a job search coach after that many years in IT is a real left turn; it is not the normal career path for a techie. People can see though how much I love what I do. You can have a job you love too. What is the plan He has for you? I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Dealing with Pressure Points

As we have agreed, the job search process is not fun. In addition we need to keep the roof over the head, the car in the driveway, and food on the table. The job search is also stressful on relationships.

Let me ask you a question. Would you hesitate to call 911 if your house was on fire? So far I have not yet met a person who said they would. That’s because it would be absurd not to call 911 if the house was on fire. Even if we were trained firemen, it would be crazy not to call 911 if our house was on fire because we’d like to use the pump truck over our little garden hose and because we’d like the help of others.

So we agree there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it would be crazy not to ask when we need it.

We have 911 for first responders. We have 411 for information. We have 511 for the Department of Transportation (please do not dial it while driving). We also have 211, the nationwide number for the United Way.

If you think you may need help down the road or at least you want to know your options, call 211. The United Way is the coordinating agency between hundreds of organizations that offer all types of assistance or advice (free or on a sliding scale). Credit card counseling, rent assistance, the latest on mortgage programs, food banks and emotional support and counseling are just a few of the services provided by the United Way organizations. Just dial 211 and they will ask you the type of advice / assistance you need and your ZIP code and they will then connect you with an organization nearest to you that provides the type of assistance you desire.

There is no shame in asking for help; it is actually crazy not to. When you get your next job (and you will, God promises it) just give to the United Way.

A bad attitude will sabotage your job search. Attitude is a choice. Accept that the job market has changed, process the loss, look forward to the opportunity an get help for pressure points. Choose a positive attitude and begin the search.

How This Impacts You

So where are you in the job search process – still understanding the marketplace, processing the loss of your job or dealing with pressure points? Anything I’ve left out in regards to attitude? What would you add?


  1. I thought the article was well written and completely true! I had been with my former employer for 10 years and five of the eight jobs in Credit were sent to Kolcutta, India. In 2008, fifty of my co-workers lost their jobs to the Outsourced group in India. I just lost my job January 3, 2011.
    You are so right about the grieving! I’ve been through that and now the Cobra insurance payments and the life insurance notices are hitting my mailbox. I also have to learn to cope with the fact my Husband and Son were dropped from my healthplan, because of the high Cobra rates. I know there are jobs out there for me and I’m a good employee…Thanks for the article and being honest about changes in the job market. Twenty years ago you made a few phones calls and you had an interview and then got the job..not so today!

  2. Peter-

    Good article! I think that it is timely because I keep looking back over past mistakes that I wish I hadn’t made, and re-living scenarios, etc. I have been out of work for a long time and am weary with the job search. I find myself trying to hold back tears, as I am struggling to find some footing and a glimmer of hope on the horizon. My anger is at myself- for some reason, I feel that if I were better, smarter, younger, I would have found work by now. I keep praying for God’s help to guide me in the direction he wants me to go, but I’m so tired and discouraged. How do you keep a positive attitude after years of struggling to find work?

    1. First, understand that it is not you; the job market changed. You just need to understand how it changed and change your approach to the job search.

      Also, realize that God has promised that He has a plan for you; the plan is not on a dusty shelf , He actually knows what it is. It is a plan that will prosper you and not harm you. It will give you hope and a future (Source of this promise is Jeremiah 29:11-17). You just have to seek Him with all of your heart. Take God up on that promise by seeking Him and holding Him to it.

      I heard when I was in my long job search that when you are in times of trouble read Psalms and Proverbs. I highly recommend it now myself.

      After understanding how the job market is different (outlined in part 1) , then read Who Moved My Cheese and figure out which character you are regarding the job search. Read Attitude is Everything by Keith Harrell or Power of Positive Thinking by Normal Vincent Peale.

      Do other things that help your attitude:
      * You may have to lessen the amount of time you spend with people who are negative.
      * If you are struggling with clinical depression, see a professional because you will not be successful in your job search until you choose and really have a positive attitude.
      * When I am unsure of something, I feel so much better being prepared. That helps my confidence. Read how to find a job so you are prepared and do it with a renewed energy.
      * I claim I am solar powered because the lack of sunshine greatly affects my energy. If you are not getting out of the house, that will negatively affect you in two ways: lack of sunshine (source of vitamin D which impacts mood) and lack of human contact and feeling connected to others and the world. Be sure you get 20 minutes of sunshine a day (protect your skin as needed).
      * Turn off the negative. There are radio and TV shows I can’t listen to or watch if I feel my attitude slipping because they are so negative. Turn on your favorite mood boosting music (mine are beach music and inspirational Christian songs).

      Realize attitude is a choice and choose a good one.

  3. “Attitude is the first step”. Help please … somehow I am not able to find steps 2 to 4.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Thank you for your comment. We just posted the second post in the four-part series. You can read it here:

  4. I can very much relate to what Linda has to say about trying to keep positive. I have been out of steady work since July of 2010. I worked part-time temp work until 2 wks ago and was then told I wasn’t a good fit. I, like LInda, ask myself, What’s wrong with me? Is it my age? Is it my education? Is it my lack of technology skills? Is it a combination of one or all of these things? I, too, have difficulty holding back tears; a lot of difficulty. I have prayed so much for guidance, but I am so discouraged in my job search. I don’t know where else to turn. Can someone give me some positive feedback?

  5. Linda,
    Do not lose hope. As I said above, it is not YOU. There is a plan that God has for you that will prosper you, give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-17). You just have to seek Him and do what you need to in this new job market.

    I have people read the following for a more positive attitude:
    * Psalms and Proverbs
    * Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson (the book is very thin – quick read)
    * Attitude is Everything by Keith Harrell
    * The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

    You also want to get help with the job search portion so you know how the job makret changed and what to do. You are welcome to contact me so I can point you in the right direction.

  6. […] and blog posts that use words such as avoidable, costly and even deadly or, more dramatically, killer to describe the impact of even the smallest of mistakes. While it is true that making a mistake is […]

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked*