Job Search Advice That’s More Harmful Than Helpful Right Now
I used to check my Twitter and Instagram every hour — now I compulsively refresh my LinkedIn page, because you never know if a recruiter sent you a message about the perfect job opportunity while you were making breakfast. When you’re searching for a job (especially when you’re unemployed or feel like you will be unemployed soon), it can consume you. When people say job hunting is a full-time job, they’re not wrong. I’ve spent hours just browsing through job posting sites, tweaking my resume, and writing tailor-made cover letters and introductory emails. And if you do land an interview, that means additional hours of research on the company and preparing bullet points about yourself and questions you have about the position.
Then there’s endless job advice that you inevitably sift through while you’re on LinkedIn, or maybe even hear from friends, family, and acquaintances. Mostly though, I’ve seen it on LinkedIn in the form of viral posts coming from career coaches and recruiters who are trying to inspire and motivate LinkedIn users and steer them in the right direction when all seems lost.
But this advice can do the opposite of inspire and motivate — it can come off as judge-y and out of touch even if that’s not the OP’s intent. Luckily, advice is just advice. What works for some may not work for others, and some of the following “bad” pieces of advice I’m about to list may have worked for you, which is awesome! However, especially during times like these when the job market is incredibly volatile and more companies are experiencing hiring freezes, it’s super important to be conscientious and compassionate, and aware that this is no ordinary time to be looking for a job. Some days, it’s hard to even grapple with what’s happening with the world, let alone our career trajectories.
Here are some not-so-helpful job tips I’ve either personally seen on LinkedIn, or sourced from a recruiter who’s seen it all.
1. “Losing your job is a blessing in disguise.”
This piece of advice (which generally comes from a good place) appears in many forms, such as “As one door closes, another one will open,” or “This could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” Those may totally be true statements, and life works in very weird ways. But right now, it’s okay to be angry with your situation. It’s normal to worry about what happens next and know that you wouldn’t be in this shitty spot had your employer not let you go. Losing your job, no matter what, sucks, and certainly doesn’t feel like a “blessing” (and your checking account may agree). Granted, many people *will* eventually find their dream job that gives them feel fulfillment, and it’s great to have a positive outlook on things. But in the meantime, aspirational quotes about what’s to come might not be that helpful at this very moment.
2. “Use this time to freelance, consult, or form a business.”
This is totally a good idea in theory, and I’ve personally always freelanced on the side when I had full-time jobs. When I lost my job, it took a couple of weeks, but I eventually was able to secure enough freelance writing gigs to make ends meet. But it took eight years of networking for this to be possible. Advising someone to start their own consulting business when they’ve just been let go from their job can sound overwhelming. Maybe down the line, sure. If that’s what you want to do and if that’s what you’re passionate about. But also, just know that wanting full-time employment is totally okay too. We have the tendency, as millennials, to glorify side hustles and being available to work 24/7, but if your goal is to find a stable “9-to-5” don’t ever feel like that’s not good enough. Now may not be the time to build an empire. It’s hard enough buying toilet paper let alone filing an LLC.
3. “Don’t work with agency recruiters, go straight to the company themselves.”
According to executive recruiter Kyra Willans, you should use every single resource available, which includes recruiters. “While you may think it’s simpler to apply directly because there are higher rates of unemployment, you will likely have much more competition for any given job. A recruiter can be a valuable asset because they have relationships with the hiring manager, can guarantee your resume will be seen, and will likely even get you some feedback on your application.”
4. “It’s pointless to talk to recruiters if they don’t have a job for you at the moment.”
Especially during these times, it’s important to establish relationships with recruiters and hiring managers even if they have no leads at the time. Because once a position does open up, that recruiter or hiring manager may have just the person for the job (aka, you). According to Kyra, “Be open to any and all relationships in your space. As we’ve seen, things change very quickly, and when companies lift their hiring freezes and start ramping up, you’ll be in a much better position if you’ve already built relationships with recruiters in your industry.”
5. “It’s a numbers game!”
I’m definitely guilty of this. My first few weeks after I was laid off, I treated applying for jobs like a marathon. I think I applied to like thirty jobs in one day, copying and pasting cover letters and just swapping out the name of the company and hiring manager with whomever I was addressing (and I didn’t hear back from any of them, shocker!).
“Take everything with a grain of salt and realize that what works for that person might not necessarily work for you.”
The point is: Yes, you should be applying to more than one job. Putting all your eggs in one basket is usually not the best plan of action. Chances are likely that the more jobs you apply to, the more eyeballs will look over your resume and even consider you as a viable candidate, but that doesn’t mean recruiters and hiring managers will actually reach out to you if you’re more focused on quantity over quality — it should be a healthy mix of both. Kyra tells TFD, “Take the time to research each opportunity, read job descriptions, and cater your resume to the positions that you’re applying to. If you’re taking the time to demonstrate how your experience aligns to the role, you have a great chance of actually getting a call for the role.”
6. “It’s your chance to apply to grad school.”
In a perfect world, we could defer our rent and bills while meanwhile having a stockpile of cash in savings to support going to grad school or even taking specialized courses during our time of unemployment. Any kind of schooling can be a great opportunity to learn or sharpen your skills, which can give you an edge when you’re applying to various positions. And if you have the resources to do that, amazing! But if you’re worried about next month’s rent and are relying on unemployment benefits to scrape by, the advice to further one’s education might be coming from a place of privilege, and just isn’t realistic. By the way, I’m sure budget-friendly online courses exist for certain skills like SEO or coding — and if you have the time to dive into those, that’s great. But if you’re worried about time or money, it’s okay to place your priorities elsewhere.
7. “Now’s the time to think of your ‘big idea.'”
I’ve seen this post making countless rounds on LinkedIn (thanks, algorithm). It outlines startups created during the Great Recession that eventually grew to become big, successful (either publicly traded or acquired) companies, like WhatsApp (2008), Venmo (2009), Instagram (2010), Uber (2009), Slack (2009), and others. But can I just say: A pandemic is not the same as the 2008 recession. I’m not an economist, so I’m not going to get into the differences because I’ll probably sound dumb, but the way COVID-19 is decimating the economy is very different from how the housing crisis decimated the economy. This piece of job advice seems to say, “You, too, can build a company during a time of crisis if you just use your inner genius, ” but aside from a pandemic being vastly different from the housing market crash, it is a very different world for startups now and it has been long before the pandemic hit. (And if you’re interested in learning more about the implosion of Silicon Valley startups, this is a very good article that explains it very eloquently.) Basically? Don’t feel bad if you’re not huddled up in your incubator brainstorming what the next Facebook looks like.
Everyone’s job-hunting journey looks different, so it’s not like there’s a generalized set of rules. Sarah Donovan, Senior Digital Media Recruiter tells TFD that folks should absolutely “take everything with a grain of salt and realize that what works for that person might not necessarily work for you.” She adds, “And obviously, never judge other people for how they are handling the job hunt during this time. We all need a little extra slack right now.” Amen to that.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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