As our job market continues to grow stronger, some media professionals still find themselves unemployed, or, if they’re working, unable to find that new gig. If you’ve been laid off or looking for a new job while working for a year or longer, the reason your phone isn’t ringing with corner office offers could be… you. Career experts say that these common behaviors can hamper any well-meaning job hunt.
1. No One Knows You’re Looking
If you’ve been laid off, the first reaction to being laid off isn’t generally a positive one—and those feelings can linger. Most people laid off report problems with depression, anxiety and insomnia, in addition to general challenges such as paying bills and losing health insurance.
According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, almost half of those surveyed say they felt embarrassed and ashamed about being out of work—especially men, most of whom felt they should be the breadwinners in their households.
J.T. O’Donnell, founder and president of Careerealism.com, says that it is easy for out-of-work media pros to want to avoid talking to people about their unemployment. But they need to get out there and start pitching what they have to offer, remembering that they are not “unemployed” but simply “between assignments.”
“Find your Jerry Maguire-ness and show people your passion for the media business,” she says. “Media pros know it takes more than words to attract an audience. Great media moments are about creating a feeling, inducing a reaction.”
“You aren’t going to convince anyone you are top media talent sitting at home,” adds O’Donnell.
2. Your Only Network Is the One You Use for an Internet Connection
Once you’ve put the word out to people you know, it’s time to mingle with those influencers you don’t. Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers in Atlanta, says she thinks people are not getting jobs because they are not meeting people who can connect them with the right opportunities. Companies report that more than 27 percent of their jobs are filled with candidates who were referred to them, she says.
“Stop applying for jobs and start identifying people you need to know to share information and advice and build relationships that will lead you to your next job,” she adds.
Networking includes lots more other than handing out your card at a luncheon. It’s best to follow up with contacts within a few days of meeting in person and try to stay visible long after that. Add the person to your LinkedIn network right away.
Follow up with an email to see how they are doing. Try not to be too pushy, but do forge a relationship.
3. You Only Have One Resume and One Cover Letter
Customizing a resume or cover letter goes beyond changing the salutation. “We sometimes get lazy and just send out the same resume to all of the companies that we’re applying to with minimal changes,” says Erica Swallow, a content consultant and former contributor at Mashable.
“Sometimes it works if the companies you’re applying to are very similar in industry and culture, but it can oftentimes be a mistake.”
Salpeter adds that resumes that are not targeted to a specific job will be outdone by the person who takes the time to focus on the specific opportunity and tweaks the resume appropriately. This isn’t too time-consuming, either. Sometimes you can simply add some keywords or re-order bullet points to give it a new focus.
And unless you’re a new graduate, it’s time to ditch the “objective” and upgrade to a qualifications profile that talks about the skills and experience you have to offer.
“Flopping duties on a sheet of paper and hoping a hiring authority will extrapolate accomplishments and figure out where you fit in the organization doesn’t work,” says Dawn S. Bugni, a certified resume writer and career coach at write-solution.com.
4. You Don’t Tweet
Listen up, Ms. Too Cool for School. While you’re at home sending your resume to that firstname.lastname@example.org address, the smart kids (and gainfully employed folks) are making valuable connections with media gatekeepers through social networking.
“New media and digital media… has completely changed the shape of how both business and media work,” says David Metcalfe, design and production coordinator at Terry College of Business in Athens, Georgia.
It has also shifted the way companies hire people because they generally want those that are savvy with social networking, and those who have a stellar online reputation, too. Metcalfe says that if you are not proficient using digital media for yourself, companies may not think you will be effective working for them.
5. You’re Not On Top of Your Industry
Many laid-off media professionals knew how to do their jobs, but are not up on the latest technologies and aptitudes. “Know about technology changes and trends, business trends and who is there [at the companies you target],” says Steven Savage, a California-based IT project manager in the video gaming arena.
In fact, some employers say that they want multi-talented candidates, so instead of just hiring someone who can write news, they want the individual that knows how to post it online, as well—so expanding your skill sets can really pay off.
6. You’re a Traffic Reporter Only Looking for Traffic Reporting Jobs
“The media has changed so dramatically that many of the jobs no longer exist,” says Mark Goldman, a media relations specialist with Goldman McCormick PR in New York City. In fact, numerous jobs that were eliminated will not return no matter how high the economy soars.
Mitchell York, a career coach at e2ecoaching.com and former executive at Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media, believes it is imperative to expand your job search—and your skill sets, especially if you’re in a declining field like print advertising design.
“If someone is great at managing the creation and production of a complex print ad campaign, they have skills they can be used elsewhere, in functions like project management, negotiating, business development, managing contractors and working under time and budget constraints,” York explains.
Playing up these transferable skills is a smart choice. “Most people hang on too long to the hope they can wait it out and get back to the kind of position they had.”
7. You Think Big (Companies), Not Small
Mark Herschberg, the CTO of Flashpoint, believes that many media professionals are not familiar with the cultural values that smaller firms possess, so when targeting them, they don’t fit in and don’t get those jobs. “You can teach people tools, but you can’t teach cultural values,” he explains.
The transition from media giant to smaller-scale firm is possible, but you have to surround yourself in a more intimate setting. (And it doesn’t mean you’ll earn any less, either.) He recommends spending time at a startup or doing discounted consulting work to pick up on the values of today’s smaller firms.
8. You Focus Too Much on Your Years of Experience
Don’t worry about what employers think, says Bugni.
“If the job search and resume are focused on being able to do what the company needs, the extraneous information”—whether you’re “overqualified” to “too experienced,” that is— “shouldn’t even come into play. A resume is a sales and marketing document, not a ‘tell-all’ autobiography. Once the resume has compelled an interview, the change in career path and goals can be shared in a positive light.”
In the end, the success of your job search depends on you. Polish up that resume, bone up on your networking and even when things look bleak, keep a positive attitude.
Check out Mediabistro’s job board, where top companies are looking for top talent every day.