The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 6

This is the sixth post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

6th deadly sin: going it alone

You read our blog posts about the first five deadly sins of job searching, and have all your ducks in a row. Your resume and social media presence are top notch, and you are well prepared for job interviews. You are staging a great search. . .and yet, after a few weeks, no success. You are starting to doubt yourself. Are there any jobs out there? Are you good enough? Yes, you are! But job searching takes time and patience. The higher your desired position and salary the longer your search will take. The longer the search takes the more demoralizing and discouraging it can become. Don’t commit the 6th deadly sin of job search and try to go it alone!

The best antidote to the job search blues is community

Not feeling needed anymore is one of the prime stressors after job loss. Build a support system that shows you are not alone in this and that makes you feel needed and appreciated. What constitutes a support system will look different for everybody depending on their individual needs. Support systems are often drawn from:

Family – If you have a supportive family that listens and encourages you, perfect! If they make you feel needed, even better. Unfortunately family members often, mostly unknowingly, add to stress with well intentioned but unfounded advice and pressure.

Religious/Spiritual groups – If you have a religious or spiritual home you can fall back on, this can be invaluable. Being involved and helping others can make you feel better about your own situation.

Sports teams/hobby groups – Physical activity is very important for emotional wellbeing. Again, helping others by coaching or leading groups will make you feel better as well!

Job Search Support Groups – Jobs search support groups or job clubs are groups of job seekers that meet on a regular basis and bring job seekers from different backgrounds together for mutual support, networking, accountability and job search tips. Research shows that job club participants on average find employment faster than seekers who go it alone. They also report better wellbeing due to being able to help other group members with networking leads or other advice. You can find these groups in most larger cities and they are often sponsored and run by churches and community organizations. Here at the Career Center we are big believers in this concept and have facilitated weekly job club meetings for years.

If you are a job seeker in a professional career and are interested in joining our job club, you can find more information here or give the Career Center a call at 225-231-3733.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

Written by Anne Nowak

Book Review: A Friend of a Friend of a Friend. . .

what if all the advice we’ve heard about networking is wrong?

You already know that networking is one of the most important ingredients to success in business, in job search and many other life situations. But if you are like most people, you cringe at the thought of going to the next networking meeting full of strangers. If that adequately describes you, you might want to pick up business professor David Burkus’ latest book on the topic: A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend…..Understanding the hidden networks that can transform your life and your career.

Early on he writes that traditional networking meetings are actually not the most efficient way to meet the right people to connect you to your next job or to start your next business venture with. He proceeds to present a number of scientific findings coupled with real life examples of the approaches that do work. At the end of each chapter he presents exercises that every reader can do on their own to apply the chapter’s findings and facilitate their own networking success. Some of his key findings are:

“Find strength in Weak Ties”

While most people will turn to their trusted close friends and family after a career setback, Burkus presents scientific and anecdotal evidence that it is your weak and dormant ties that will most help you in your job search or business endeavor. While close friends are eager and willing to help, their networks are too similar to your own to unearth new information or leads. It is much more likely that a former supervisor or colleague or past college friends who we have not been in close contact with will furnish the opportunity or information that will lead to a career breakthrough. Therefore Burkus recommends to start a regular practice of reengaging old acquaintances (which represent the weak or dormant ties).

“Skip mixers – share activities instead”

Another finding of his research will have many readers breathe a sigh of relief. Burkus advocates shunning traditional networking meetings consisting of a large room full of strangers who awkwardly try to connect and network. He argues that most people at these events just engage with the people they already know or that are very similar to themselves. He presents research that suggests we meet people much more easily and naturally when we engage in activities together where the primary goal is not networking and that draw participation from diverse sources. Some examples are: serving on non-profit boards, volunteering, taking classes, participating in team sports or being active in religious institutions. These kinds of shared activities create stronger bonds among participants than networking mixers ever could.

Overall thoughts

These are just two of the main takeaways. There is a lot more material in the book. The author presents a lot of research to explain how networking works and why some approaches are more efficient than others. Burkus addresses networking issues specific to job search and to founding or growing a business. An added value of the book is the section “From Science to Practice” at the end of each chapter. Burkus gives the reader “homework assignments” to practice the preceding chapter’s materials in their own life. All the practical information can also be downloaded from his website. Following along and completing the assignments will definitely make you a more skilled and efficient networker.

If you’d like a fresh new approach to networking, you may check out A Friend of a Friend by David Burkus from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Written by Anne Nowak

Book Review: Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

“Hi, I’m Vanessa, and I’m a recovering awkward person” is the first sentence of Van Edward’s book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. It is aptly dedicated to “anyone who has ever felt awkward in a social situation.” In other words, it’s written for most people. While not everybody will transform into a social butterfly after reading the book, the good news is that there are certain tricks, or hacks as Van Edwards calls them,  that everyone can learn to improve their social interactions.

Since people skills didn’t come naturally to her, Van Edwards decided to study and learn them just like math problems. She became so good at it that she made studying people her business and is now a requested teacher, writer, and speaker on the topic who has been featured on all major TV networks. Van Edwards also created the website Science of People.

She calls her approach human behavior hacking, which her company achieves by rigorous analysis of the latest scientific studies, creating actionable strategies and putting them to the test in her lab. The book is a synopsis of the company’s last eight years of research, which is supposed to illuminate “how people work.” According to Van Edwards there are hidden rules to human behavior that can be decoded and then be used to your advantage. She introduces the reader to 14 techniques or hacks to analyze and improve interpersonal relations. These hacks are worked into three parts of the book:

  1. The first five minutes
  2. The first five hours
  3. The first five days.

The first five minutes

The first part is all about the power of first impressions, how to read them, and how to make a good first  impression oneself. The author explains how social interactions work and what makes people likable. She introduces the first four hacks in this chapter, which give valuable and actionable input on how to best work a room at a social function, start interesting and memorable conversations, and form more lasting relationships.

The first five hours

As the title suggests, this chapter represents the next step in a relationship — taking it from first impressions and introductions to a deeper level. The reader is introduced to techniques for decoding and reading people and how to customize interactions accordingly. A large part of this chapter is dedicated to reading facial microexpressions. Microexpressions and theories behind them are well explained, but being able to decode them quickly in a conversation takes a lot more practice than just reading about them. Van Edwards offers more in depth practice and classes on her website, and readers who want to be able to actually use those decoding skills will have to invest more time and money to carefully study and practice what’s presented in the book.

For Van Edwards, the next step in establishing a lasting productive relationship is to decode peoples’ personalities, your own as well as others’. Her go-to tool for this is the five-factor-model, which she then introduces in detail and explains how it can be used to improve relationships with the people around us. Again, she presents valuable information, but in order to use the tool effectively the reader will have to put in a good bit of practice first.

The last part of this chapter deals with appreciation and value. According to Van Edwards, we will form the most meaningful relationships when we know how the people around us like to be appreciated and what their core values are. Along with the five-factor model, she presents techniques on how to do so. This is very insightful and falls into the category “easy takeaway” because some of the information presented in this part can be directly applied to real life situations.

The first five days

In this final part, Van Edwards wants to teach the reader how to level up their relationships and make them more meaningful. Meaningful relationships are formed around a good connection between people. An important tool for establishing connection is storytelling. Van Edwards proceeds to explain why storytelling is so important to connection and how to do it effectively. Again, this chapter represents an easy takeaway: Real life tips and tools the reader can adapt and use.

From forming connections, Van Edwards moves to empowering and leading people. The leadership “hacks” presented here are widely applicable, beyond people in formal leadership positions. They can be used by everybody and in everyday situations. Another hack to forming connection is to admit vulnerability. Admitting not knowing and asking for advice makes people more likeable according to the author.

Last but not least, Van Edwards presents her research on how to deal with difficult people. She presents tools on how to interact with frustrated and hurt individuals and steer the conversation back to a less emotional level. This part represents another quick takeaway for the reader.

Overall this is an interesting, engaging, and easy-to-read book with a wealth of information about interpersonal relations. After reading the book and using the tools, the reader will be much better equipped to handle interpersonal communication and relationships. However, some of the techniques presented in the book require careful study and practice. While most readers will walk away with good information and a couple of quick takeaways, interested readers can use the materials at Science of People (most of them are online courses available for a fee) to really deepen their understanding of human relationships and take them to the next level.

Written by Anne Nowak.

Social Media for the Job Search

If you missed our August seminar on “Social Media for the Job Search,” here are the key takeaways.

Over 90% of recruiters are using social media these days. They can use them passively to check you out. Or they use them actively to search for candidates. Most likely they will do both. The big three for job search purposes are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Social media can benefit job searchers in four main ways

  1. Finding job openings that are posted
  2. Networking
  3. Building your personal brand
  4. Getting to know a potential employer

Job postings

This is pretty straight forward. Facebook and LinkedIn both feature job boards, where companies can post open positions. Users have the option to apply directly on Facebook and LinkedIn. While applying with your LinkedIn profile is perfectly fine as long as your profile is well written and complete, applying with your Facebook profile is probably not your best bet. Most people use Facebook primarily for private interactions, so there is not enough work specific information on there. If you see a job posted on Facebook, go directly to the employer website to apply rather than apply through Facebook directly.

Many companies also announce open positions in their updates and tweets. Therefore follow the organizations that you are interested in to immediately become aware of newly announced positions. On Twitter, some companies even have separate twitter handles for their recruiting division.


80% of open positions are never advertised and are found through networking. Social media can be a great tool in your networking efforts. LinkedIn was specifically created to facilitate professional networking. Use it to find people you know at your target companies, to find people who can connect you to your target companies, to reconnect with old college friends and colleagues, to discuss professional issues with colleagues, etc.

Use your network of friends on Facebook and Twitter and let them know that you are looking for a new opportunity. Craft a targeted message letting your friends know exactly what you are looking for, what your expertise is, and how your expertise and experience can benefit a future employer.

Building your personal brand

Social media is tailor-made for developing your personal brand. Before you start posting, determine exactly what your professional expertise is, your target audience, and how you want to position yourself. Identify influencers and organizations you want to follow and engage with. In order to make the most of social media, you have to be very active, post often, comment on others’ feeds or in groups you belong to, and engage your audience.

Getting information about potential employers

By following your target organizations on social media you will gain a lot more insight into those organizations than by just looking at their websites. Social media are often updated in real time and much more frequently than websites. This allows you to get a much better grasp of company culture. The better you know a potential employer the better you know if it might be a good fit for you. As an added bonus you will be the first to learn of new opportunities, since these days many companies announce open positions on social media first, before updating job boards.

Caution: Social media can harm your job search efforts as much as they can help

While you are job searching, be especially vigilant about what you post on social media! Compromising information has a way of “getting out there.” So don’t post anything you don’t want a potential employer to see.

Social Media Rules of Thumb

  1. Building a good personal brand on several social media platforms takes a lot of time. If you don’t want to or can’t devote a good bit of time to it, concentrate on one platform and use that one well. For most people in corporate America, LinkedIn will be the platform of choice. If you have Facebook and Twitter accounts that you don’t want to use for your job search, set your privacy settings on the highest level possible!
  2. Watch what you post! Abstain from posting photos that are sexually explicit or involve alcohol and drugs! You might also want to hold off on pictures showing you skydiving, bungee jumping or being involved in other activities that potential employers might consider dangerous. Do not post about divisive issues such as politics or religion (unless you are looking for work as a political consultant or pastor, of course). All of these can get you screened out!

If you need help creating your LinkedIn profile or crafting your personal branding message, contact the Career Center at (225) 231-3733.

Written by Anne Nowak.

LinkedIn: Do I really need it?

The short answer

If you are in a professional career in Corporate America, the answer is yes! If you are job searching in Corporate America, the answer is a resounding yes!


The preeminent global social network for professionals

According to the company, LinkedIn hosts the profiles of more than 400 million users in 200 countries and territories.  133 million of those users are in the United States. Recruiter surveys show that 93% of recruiters use LinkedIn to either vet candidates or proactively search for new employees. Yes, you heard right, 93%! If you cannot be found on LinkedIn, you might as well be invisible.

Apart from being found by recruiters, LinkedIn is most useful as a networking tool. It’s about establishing connections with other professionals. Job search and career advancement are all about networking. LinkedIn makes it easy to find and establish connections and to leverage them for a potential job search.  It will help you research companies, open positions, and people working for those companies that you may want to connect with. Recently LinkedIn has also beefed up its jobs database and job search feature, so that you can use it as a job board and often directly apply through the site.

As stated above, LinkedIn is most important for people in Corporate America. Small business owners are also seeing LinkedIn gaining in importance for creating new business and marketing. However, there are fields, where this social network is less instrumental, such as academia.

Where do I start?

You have to start by creating a profile. This is very straightforward, just follow the prompts. Make sure your profile is complete! That includes your summary, work history, education, a photo, and recommendations. There is an indicator of “profile strength” on your profile page, which will show what you are missing if your profile hasn’t made it all the way to “all star”. Completeness of profile is important, since only complete profiles will appear at the top of recruiter search results! And, yes, you do need a (professional!) photo and recommendations from connections for your profile to be complete.

The next step is to get connected to other LinkedIn users. Just start by connecting to people you know, such as current colleagues, former colleagues, family and friends, alumni from your alma mater, etc. The more connections you have, the more people will also want to connect with you. Your network will grow exponentially.

If you would like help creating your LinkedIn profile, the Career Center will help you. We offer one-on-one help, LinkedIn workshops, and books about the subject. For very good current LinkedIn information you can also follow Joshua Waldman’s blog.

This is the first in a series of in-depth posts about different features and functionalities of LinkedIn. So stay tuned!

Written by Anne Nowak.

Sisters in Search: How Participating in Job Clubs Improves Your Job Search Outcomes


Too often, the job search is a lonely activity characterized by a “fend for yourself” attitude, which can lead to “there are just no jobs out there for me” exasperation. To combat the feelings of defeat and isolation while job searching, the Career Center has revived the tried-and-true concept of job search groups, aka, job clubs. We are currently conducting the fifth job club since we started in 2010.

The concept of job clubs is not new. It originated in the 1970s and has since been studied repeatedly and in different settings. Each study has shown that job club participants have better and faster job search outcomes than job seekers who work on their own.

Our main motive is to provide a safe, supportive space and fellowship with like-minded job searchers while at the same time teaching job search skills. Our groups run for 12 weeks and meet once a week for up to three hours. Each meeting starts with a check-in, where participants share their job search activities, successes and missteps of the preceding week. This provides an opportunity for participants to vent frustration, share joys, and ask each other for both advice and networking leads.

The second part of the session consists of a weekly topic where participants learn important job search skills such as job search strategy, resumes, interview preparation, networking and informational interviews, development of a personal brand and elevator pitch, salary negotiation, dealing with rejection, managing personal finances, how to start your own business, etc.

So, after 12 weeks participants are walking away with resumes, elevator pitches, interview and networking strategies, active LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, and greater financial literacy. But most importantly, they have established a true professional support system and even some new friends. They have more confidence to tackle their search. In fact, many participants leave the group before the end of the 12 weeks because they have found employment in the meantime.

Besides finding employment, the most important outcome of our job clubs are the participants’ newfound feelings of confidence and hope. Being able to help other participants with networking leads and/or advice during the meetings contribute to their overall well-being.

A testimonial from a previous participant of an all female group sums it up nicely: “The topics have been valuable, but the group support has been great. It has been a confidence builder. It has been helpful, when brainstorming, to give back to the others too … we were sisters in search.”

Written by Anne Nowak, Certified Job and Career Development Coach. 

Excerpted from “Sisters in Search: Improving Job Search Outcomes through Job Club Peer Support,” by Anne Nowak, which appeared in NCDA’s web magazine, Career Convergence, at Copyright © June 2016. Reprinted with permission.

To learn about start dates of future job clubs, check the events page of our website or join our mailing list to receive monthly updates on upcoming workshops.