We’ve seen some improvements in America’s unemployment rate, but when you also consider the huge amounts of underemployed workers, the situation gets a lot more grim. Countless job seekers are being forced to settle for positions below their skill level and wage requirements because they simply have no other choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one in 10 American workers are unemployed or underemployed, and some estimate even more. With this difficult economic climate, embarking on a job search takes courage. If you’ve spent months looking for work to no avail, it’s important to reflect on what factors might be driving your misfortune, and whether those forces are within your control or not. Here are some of the reasons you might be struggling to find a job.
1. You’re making too many rookie mistakes
The first thing you want to consider is what obvious missteps you can correct in your job search strategy. From interview blunders to resume errors, job seekers make a lot of silly mistakes. You’ll probably come to know what some of your weaknesses are in the process. If interviewing isn’t your thing, for example, you could try practicing with a friend. Without reflecting on your approach, you’re going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. So if you can’t figure out where you’re going wrong, ask for an outside perspective.
2. You don’t have the right qualifications
Hiring managers want the most qualified candidates, so if you’re only applying for jobs that could be considered a “reach” for someone of your skill level, this might be where you’re going wrong. On the other hand, your resume can be passed over if you’re over-qualified as well. If you think you’ve hit that sweet spot and you’re still not getting any bites, you might be lacking adequate “soft skills.” Research has shown that today’s employers often turn down applicants for a lack of communication and interpersonal skills rather than technical qualifications. Don’t dismiss the importance of how you carry yourself and interact with others in every step of the application process.
3. You’re not getting past the screening stage
While the Internet Age has streamlined certain things for the job search process, it has also perversely made it much more challenging to get through to the person doing the hiring. When employers use algorithms to filter applicants, there’s not much you can do about it, but there are other screening methods you can prepare for. Fair or not, drug testing is alive and well in the application process at many companies, so be ready for it just in case. Personality tests and other assessments could come your way too, but there are ways to make sure you “pass” these tests by preparing yourself ahead of time and highlighting your strengths.
4. You’re ignoring your social presence
One part of the screening process that modern-day applicants must now contend with is the obligatory social media checkup. You’ve probably heard it over and over again: Get those inappropriate photos and statements off your social media accounts. This advice sounds obvious, but it’s not just the red flags that employers are looking for anymore. There is some evidence that hiring managers will pass over candidates simply for lacking a Facebook account.
If that sounds crazy and unfair, that’s because it is. Sure, it may seem suspicious in this day and age to reject social media culture, but there are still plenty of Americans who abstain from it for normal reasons. One of those reasons, ironically enough, might be to keep their online presence under control when looking for a job. So if you’re thinking of closing your accounts to make yourself appear more professional, you may want to consider simply editing your profiles instead.
5. Job seekers are in a tough spot
Last but not least, remember to consider the factors beyond your control. There may be a shortage of jobs in your particular field. You may have a gap in your resume that has a reasonable explanation, but some managers will toss your application aside regardless. The culture of constant layoffs can work against you too, particularly in the corporate world. And when older, higher-paid workers are constantly being cast aside, it makes age discrimination another force you may need to think about. These days, the application and interview process can drag on and on like never before. This tips the scale in favor of employers, who are getting paid for the time they put into the process, unlike the job seekers who can end up spending weeks or months on a dead end.
When you’re unemployed or “in transition,” a lot of people will tell you that a winning attitude, a new outfit, and a resume reboot will fix everything. But there also may be economic and systemic issues working against you. It’s OK to acknowledge that. The better you understand how the job market works, the better equipped you’ll be to finally land the position you want.