Jumpstarting Your Job Search
How to "Jumpstart" Your Stalled Job Search
by Carolyn DeGrinney, '96
Experiencing a severe case of inertia? If you have been devoting reasonable efforts to your search until this point, good for you. Give yourself a break. Many people, at one point or another, lose steam on a job search. This is especially true if you are attempting to take your time and do things right. After a bit of a break, some people are able to gain momentum again easily. Others are more slow to get back on track. This Career Services Office (CSO) article is designed to offer job search suggestions to those of you who have temporarily lost your way.
First, let's address possible reasons for your lack of progress. After you recognize exactly what is holding you back, you will have a much better chance of rehabilitating your search. The primary reasons for a stalled job search include: fear of rejection by employers, not enough time devoted to self-assessment prior to commencing the search, frustration caused by lack of advance planning, and haphazard search methods, a seemingly insurmountable stumbling block, or laziness.
With respect to fear of rejection, it is true that you will not be rejected if you do not send out letters. If you send out carefully prepared materials and are assertive in following up on those materials, it is just a matter of time before your materials reach that individual who is looking for an employee with your education and experience. Share your concerns with select family members, friends or your career counselor. You will likely be pleased with the encouragement and support you receive. Once you have worked through your fears, it will be smooth sailing ahead! Remember, you have a lot to offer a prospective employer.
If you did not devote enough advance thought to your search, you are likely to be frustrated by haphazard search methods and unpersuasive cover letters and resumes. Before you send out your very first cover letter, your energy would be well spent on taking the Strong Interest Inventory and/or the Myers Briggs type Indicator. These are well respected methods of defining interests and abilities. Additionally, the CSO suggests you review one or more of the following resources in our Office: Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams; I Could Do Anything, If I Only Knew What it Was; What Color Is Your Parachute?. After you have a few ideas of which fields might be of interest, conduct informational interviews with individuals in those fields. Find someone who has your ideal job, then talk with that person. What do they like about the work? How did they get started? Don't be shy. People like to talk about themselves. The CSO suggests that you focus on alumni of your undergraduate institution as well as alumni of the University of Maine School of Law. Remember, they were in your place at one time and out of loyalty to their alma mater will be most likely to speak with you.
As a student, join a professional organization of people who work in your field of interest. For instance, if you want to practice criminal law, we suggest you contact the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Introduce yourself and volunteer to help local attorneys with the pro bono cases. Those attorneys who benefit from your expert and timely assistance will be very likely to offer advice (or perhaps even permanent employment) to you.
Once you have spent some quality time thinking about your interests and goals, you will be better able to tell an employer why you want to secure a particular position or work for his/her organization. If you are unsure about where you are heading, your resume and cover letters will lack focus and/or enthusiasm and it will be nearly impossible for you to convince an employer that you are the best applicant.
You are faced with a seemingly insurmountable stumbling block to your job search. You have successfully faced your fears of rejection, and are no longer sabotaging your own search for employment nirvana. You have given your search the necessary forethought, have conducted numerous informational interviews, joined a professional organization in the field, and friends and family have unfortunately been unable to help. Come back and talk with us at the CSO. Together, we will brainstorm and come up with new ideas to try. Sometimes simply talking through your search efforts with a trained professional will make clear exactly what your next step should be. Most times we will be successful in helping you to work around perceived barrier.
The least glamorous reason for a stalled job search is plain, old-fashioned laziness. If you have not yet made the commitment to search seriously, the CSO suggests that you start at the beginning. Perhaps you are not motivated because you have not yet found something that excites you. Read newspapers, think about which classes you enjoy, take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. A successful job search is conducted with the same intensity one devotes to a challenging course. On the other hand, if you know what interests you, you owe it to yourself to make the effort. Divide your job search into manageable portions and set reasonable goals so that you do not become overwhelmed.
We welcome you to use the resources and attend the workshops, programs, and seminars in the Career Services Offices. Sign up for individual consultations, drop by for "one quick question," or just come by to say hello. We look forward to working with you in the near future. Best of luck with the search.
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