We were spoiled.
While there was a brief, blissful period when job hunting consisted of posting your resume on Monster.com at 2 a.m. and getting up extra early the next morning to navigate the flood of recruiter calls and e-mails, those glory days have passed. Yet many job seekers continue to use this strategy, devoting hours nightly to e-mailing their resumes to every online posting they come across.
They're wasting their time.
The Web can be an excellent tool for planning your career, but only if you put your energy in the right places. Here are a few do's and don'ts to guide you in your Web-based job search.
* Do use it to learn more about workplace trends. There is an amazing amount of free information out there to help you plan your job hunt. The content on many of these career sites is far superior to the actual job openings they advertise. For example, CareerBuilder.com's "Advice and Resources" section contains tips about finding a career coach, interviewing, and starting your own business. You can also find guides to help you with your cover letters and resume.
* Do use it to maintain a broader social and professional network. It's hard enough to make time to call your mom every Saturday morning, much less that interesting accountant from Cleveland whom you met at a conference last week. This is where e-mail helps. It's less intrusive than a phone call, and it enables people to stay in touch over long distances. E-mail also helps you stay in touch with far more people than you could manage by phone. How many can you e-mail in a spare hour every morning compared with how many you can call?
* Do use it to investigate specific companies. Before you apply for a job at an organization, at the very least you should check out its Web site. This is a company's public face; it includes much of the information you need to decide if you really want to work there, not to mention great hints about what to put in your cover letter.
* Don't post your resume on Monster.com and wait for the jobs to come to you.
A recent survey by DBM, a global human resources consulting firm, found that only 5 percent of successful job seekers found their new positions through online job boards, even in the tech industry. Even newspaper classifieds have a slightly higher success rate, at 6 to 7 percent. Most people -- 60 percent -- found their jobs through networking. Even in the tech sector, computers don't hire people. People do.
* Don't e-mail your resume to every job opening you see. When you do this without much regard for how good a match you are for the company, you're wasting bandwidth. This is to human resources departments what 36 offers a day to "REFINANCE YOUR HOUSE!!!" is to your inbox: icky spam.
One recent poster to my online chat said she had spent two hours every night helping her husband apply for jobs since he retired from the Air Force. She said she visited at least 10 different sites each night for about two hours, submitting his resume for the jobs she thought he had a chance at. Her and her husband's evenings would be better spent hitting happy hours and having dinner with his old military colleagues to find out where they are working.
* Don't limit your searches to the big job boards like Monster.com and CareerBuilder. I don't mean to pick on Monster.com, a competitor to the Post Co.'s recruitment advertising business. Relying solely on washingtonpost.com/jobs (run by a sister company of The Washington Post) or the Post classifieds is just as foolish. The best job boards are often the ones that cover your specific field, usually those affiliated with professional associations. For example, the American Copy Editors Society runs a job board for professional editors. Find out what sort of organizations exist for your career, and whether they have their own job boards.
* Don't forget good grammar. "e.e. cummings has caused the downfall of civilization," said a receptionist at a District-based employment agency for graphic designers and Web developers. She sorts through hundreds of resumes a week, and she said that "droves" of workers will submit them in all lowercase letters, and sometimes with no punctuation. I suppose they think they are being clever, so maybe if they realized how many other people were doing this, and how thoroughly unoriginal it is, they'd cut out this nonsense.
"People should definitely use as good grammar and punctuation in an e-mail as they would for print. If they write their resume e-mail like a throwaway letter, that's exactly what will happen to it," the receptionist said.
* Do make sure your Web or e-mail resume looks as good when printed out as it did on screen. The temp agency receptionist said her company prefers e-mailed resumes to paper ones, but that many of the agents in her office, including her boss, will print them out to read them. And this is a "tech savvy" firm.
When you get online, make sure you are saving your time, not wasting it.
Join Mary Ellen Slayter for Career Track Live, an online discussion about issues affecting young workers on washingtonpost.com, today at 11 a.m. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org