5 Reasons Why Job Search Resolutions Fail (and, How to Succeed)

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We’re more than halfway done with January.

How’s it going on the resolutions?

If you’re like a lot of people (raising hand), this is that period during which the optimistic high starts wearing off and the rubber meets the proverbial road. It’s when the excitement over all that meat, butter and cheese you bought for your keto diet is seriously waning (and you’d nearly kill for a brownie and some Cheetos right about now). It’s when you don’t even want to look at your running shoes, nor lace them up and head out in the pouring rain (said with love, Portland).

And for anyone who’s made “Land a new job in 2019!” their primary resolution, this is also about the time you might just need to shift into grit mode — because the post-holiday high has worn off and throngs of recruiters have not (yet) thrown themselves on your doorstep.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Job search rarely moves at the speed of light. But, as you move through January and beyond, it’s important to understand the most common reasons that job search resolutions fail — so you can sidestep these pitfalls and win the game.

  1. You haven’t defined your goals (specifically)

    Many job seekers are of the “I want to be open to anything that comes my way” ilk. And, that’s understandable. You don’t want to close off options. It’s scary to close off options.

    However, it’s also very hard to create a compelling resume, LinkedIn profile and networking talking points if you’re trying to speak to the universe of possibilities all at once. Simply put, it makes it hard for recruiters and hiring managers to connect the dots between what they need and what you can walk through their doors and deliver. And, if they can’t connect those dots, guess what? They’re going to contact someone else; someone who has made it incredibly easy to figure out how and why they make sense.

    Having no or little definition will also complicate your search. How overwhelming does it feel to sit down at your computer and endlessly search for that nebulous, undefined perfect job? Probably quite.

    Try this instead: Before racing out of the gates to spruce up your resume and LinkedIn profile … before applying for a gazillion jobs … think through what this next job looks like. What do you want to be doing? What environment are you best suited for? What are these jobs likely called, and who are they with?

    Having at least a strong ballpark idea of what you’re aiming toward is going to dramatically increase your odds of success, and dramatically decrease your anxiety.

  2. You are relying 100% on online applications

    Guys, we gotta stop having this conversation. OK, we’ll have it again, because it’s that important.

    If your entire job search effort involves applying for job after job via an online portal and then sitting back and waiting, you may be looking at a long, frustrating haul here.


    There are 1,000 reasons why this isn’t your best method. Here are a few:

    • Your resume will likely be scanned and rated by resume scanning software before humans ever see it (if they see it)

    • You are competing with people who are pulling out the stops to establish or leverage an “in” at that same organization — guess who gets the recruiter’s attention first?

    • You are competing with a gazillion other people, who are also “just” applying for this job online

    • Resume scanning software (also known as the applicant tracking system) might have a hard time reading and parsing your resume into data fields (especially if your resume is in an unusual format, using flowery fonts or includes photos or graphics). If this happens, you may never get contacted

    Try this instead: Certainly, I’m not saying to NEVER apply for jobs via online portals. Many companies require that you come into the system in this manner, even if you have an inside connection. However, don’t just apply and call ‘er done. At a MINIMUM, go over to LinkedIn and see if you have a first- or second-degree connection at that company, and work to leverage that.

    And, if you’re wondering how, exactly to approach people on LinkedIn? Check out this video that we did in partnership with LinkedIn. You’ll also find it in the course “Job Seeker Tips” in LinkedIn Learning if you are a LinkedIn Premium member.

  3. You’re all ponder (and research), and no action

    You can dream. You can plan. You can research and study your Myers-Briggs results until the cows come home. However, pondering and action are two entirely separate things.

    Try this instead: Certainly, you should respect yourself enough to do the front-end assessing, goal-setting and planning, but the only way you’re going to see this thing through is by taking action. Small, deliberate (and, at times, out-of-your-comfort-zone) steps every single day — even when you flat-out don’t feel like it — are what will take you the distance.

  4. You aren’t tracking your progress.

    Lack of organization will not only make you feel more discouraged and overwhelmed through this transition, it may also put you at risk for missing an opportunity. You absolutely don’t want to feel anxious and out-of-control through this process, right? Of course not.

    Do This: At a minimum, keep a notebook or simple Excel spreadsheet going that maps out who you’ve spoken to, what you’ve applied for, where things stand with each person or opportunity, and when you should follow up.

  5. You don’t believe in yourself.

    Few people will believe in you, take a chance on you or pull out the stops to hire you if you don’t believe in yourself. Why should they? Businesses need employees who have the self-awareness, poise and confidence to perform. They need leaders who are inspiring and decisive. They do not need a bunch of low-energy Eeyores running the show.

    Try This: With full recognition that , even under the best of circumstances, job search can be among life’s more stressful endeavors — you’ve GOT to step into job search with confidence. If you’re having a challenging time mustering this, check out this article (The Muse) for some quick tips.

Do you have a tip to job seekers stay motivated and on track with their efforts this year? Please share it in the comments below!