When Job Hunting, It's All in the Approach

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, November 1, 2007 12:00 AM

I graduated from college two years ago. After graduating, I had an internship with the government and later became a permanent employee. I've been here for two years now. Unfortunately, I have been miserable for much of my time here. My parents encouraged me to wait a year before I started looking for a new job. I then decided to wait until I got my bonus (sizeable and needed) before I started to apply elsewhere.

I've been interviewing for nearly eight months and have yet to receive an offer. I think my issue is that I am a terrible interviewer. I do get second interviews a lot, so I know I'm not completely terrible, but it's starting to become very frustrating. I'm stuck in a job where I am unhappy and can't seem to get out of it.

Is there a class or book I can read on interviewing? Some say I'm 'over-shooting' where I apply, but I think after two years of waking up and crying before I go to work, I deserve a legitimately fun job. What do I do?

If you've been making it to the second round of interviews, you are probably not overreaching in the positions that you are applying to. I do encourage you, however, to consider casting a slightly wider net to see if you have better results.

Keep in mind that it's not unusual for job seekers to search for eight or more months before finding the right opportunity. Without knowing your specific field, I can only speculate that the job market in your industry may be saturated with many qualified applicants. I applaud your aggressiveness, but you may need to be patient and prepare for a longer search than you anticipated.

Aside from not having been offered a new job yet, I wonder what makes you think that you're so bad at interviewing. Have you received feedback from prospective employers? Or are you just struggling to find an explanation for your lack of offers?

Based on the question you asked and the explanation of your current work situation, I suspect that you are an energetic and creative person. You are also probably able to convey a great deal of enthusiasm in your interviews (good), but may suffer from a lack of poise (not-so-good). I know this is a lot to infer from what you've mentioned, but I want to give it to you straight. I think it may help if you managed to bring more polish and diplomacy to these conversations.

I am struck by your use of the term "legitimately fun" to describe your ideal job, and dismayed that you're unable to find anything positive to say about your current one. It won't take an incredibly perceptive interviewer to pick up on these as red flags. They are likely to wonder if you have the fortitude to stick it out and motivate yourself when things aren't so fun. You must find a way to market the experience you've gained at your current job while describing your professional aspirations in terms of ambition and growth rather than pure enjoyment.

Join Lily Garcia on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. ET for How to Deal Live.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail lilymgarcia@gmail.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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