Is anyone reading my application?

The way most of us are used to finding a new job is by looking through advertised positions, submitting applications, and then waiting with our fingers crossed. While that’s certainly logical, there are a lot of disadvantages to approaching a career change this way.

When you’re looking to move from one industry to another, or one sector to another, or to shift to a different function than the one you’ve spent decades in, just hitting “submit” on job postings will get you lots of crickets – and frustration at the black hole of application sites.

Photo by Tim Gouw on

If the recipient of your application is a sophisticated online system with algorithms scanning for key words that match the job posting, chances are they only have a superficial understanding of the potential fit (so far, anyway). There’s very little human possibility in this approach, which makes it difficult for an atypical application to get through the filters.

On the human end of things, it can be just as much of a challenge breaking through. Sometimes, the recruiter who is scanning resumes is very black-and-white in their thinking, acting more like the algorithms – how many boxes did this candidate check? – rather than bringing creative, critical thinking to the search.

Other times, the person reading applications is newer to recruiting, or hasn’t really been trained, or wears many different hats – and is going so much on instinct that they might get triggered by a certain university, or reminded of someone they used to work with, rather than making a logical decision on whom to move forward.

For applications that come from career changers, neither the algorithms, nor these kinds of recruiters really know what to do with a resume that is different from what they were expecting, one that raises issues such as:

  • This person is going to want a lot more money than we have.
  • How are they going to fit in to this culture when all they’ve done is ____?
  • This resume is nothing like the others – it doesn’t make sense to me.
  • How does what they’ve been doing relate at all to this job? I don’t see the connection.

Even one of these questions is enough to prompt them to pass on you without getting curious about the possibilities.

Pretty frustrating, isn’t it?

The best way to get your foot in the door to industries you’re interested in, for jobs you might be interested in, is still by connecting with actual people.

In order to do that well, first you need to spend time learning what’s important to you, and what you’re great at – so you can clearly communicate some ideas of where you might fit.

Then, it’s time to build a list of who you can connect with – who in your own network might have ideas, whether for positions that might be a fit, or for people in their networks they can introduce you to. You can certainly use a tool like LinkedIn to help facilitate this process, especially to see who your contacts are connected with, so you can make specific requests of them.

Building your network is your primary tool to make this a much more effective, and lifegiving, process – to remember that it really is about connecting with other humans.

Who are three people you can reach out to this week to move your job search in a new, fresh direction?

What do you think?

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