Winning Job Search Strategies

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We all know finding work in today’s marketplace isn’t easy.  However, if you’re considering a job change or are just starting your mental health career you might want to take a look at the following principles.  They can help you build a highly effective job search campaign.

1) Think Different

There are lots of obstacles and challenges no matter what your profession.  And each industry brings its own unique set of circumstances.  But perhaps the biggest roadblock for many in our field is when a person cannot see beyond the more traditional opportunities available in the marketplace.  I was guilty of this for years.  I looked where the obvious paths were – private practice, state metal health systems, schools.  Need I say more?

“Safe is the New Risky.”  A year ago I heard this saying and loved it.  To me it says, “Maybe the obvious career path isn’t where I should be looking?” or “Maybe the traditional job search process I’ve done for years isn’t working as well as it used to?”

Think about it.  Less than 25% of job opportunities are advertised in the Want Ads and this includes Careerbuilder and the like.  Even worse, by the time they’re posted they’re already old opportunities that have gone through the internal wires and networks.

Approach your job search in a different way.   Look in places you may not have dared explore in the past.  Don’t let the field define you and you’ll have a better chance of expanding your choices and opportunities.

2) It’s Not About You!

When most of us begin looking for new employment, we think about our own interests, needs, and wants first and foremost.  And taking this frame of reference is a necessary and important part of any job search process.  However, you must be careful not to forget the most important people in this process – the hiring organization and its managers.

The overarching reality here is that the job search process is NOT about you.  Perhaps a better way to think of this is in terms of the hiring process versus the overall job search process.  If you’re to succeed at earning opportunities, you must focus on the needs and wants of the person who is doing the hiring.  This represents a rather significant paradigm shift for many job seekers, and it’s a shift that will produce great results for you.

If you’re able to clarify how you may be of value and how you can help solve a problem or fill a need, then you significantly improve your chances.

3) Play To Your Strengths

Instead of spending time trying to improve upon your perceived weaknesses why not flip it around!  What about taking time to really understand your strengths and then build a career development plan that plays to those first and forefmost?

You have more strengths than you may believe and those skills and competencies can be used to find opportunities in a wide variety of areas.  Your therapeutic skills offer a lot of value that cross over into a variety of professional services (e.g., industrial organization psychology, business consulting, coaching, human resources, market research).

Are you new to the field with limited experience?  This isn’t as big of a problem as you believe it to be.  When you apply for a job, focus on specific competencies that are strengths for you.  Identify those attributes you believe will be valued by the hiring manager and emphasize those.  I’ve seen many inexperienced people win out over other more qualified candidates simply because they did a good job showing how their analytical skills, creativity or adaptability from one work setting could be positively transferred to the manager’s work setting.

4) Think End Of Time Not End Of Month

The fourth principle is a classic sales mantra and it has great utility when conducting a job search.  In the world of professional sales it’s easy to focus your time and energy on the end of the month when you have targets to hit and commissions to earn.  This approach is enticing but the better play is to build systems and networks for the long haul.

The message is simple.  If you’re in graduate school please don’t spend all your time with books and homework!  Work on building your network.  If you’re a seasoned professional looking for a change then work towards achieving a balance between short term tasks (e.g., resume writing, applying to job ads) and long term growth.

Venture out into mental health circles, write online articles, meet new people who are doing interesting work, build strong working relationships and get noticed.  Those who do this effectively will inevitably create an environment where work opportunities begin to present themselves versus having to actively seek them out.

There are a number of long term career development techniques (ex. Informational Interviewing) you can adopt and I suggest using them whether you’re presently searching for work or not!

There are opportunities out there for you.  Try some of these approaches out and see if they work for you!

David Diana



  1. cwcomment  April 6, 2009

    This advice is great- networking is so important. Using the power of small in your job search is key- reaching out to the people you know is a little simple step. If your friends aren’t hiring their friends will know someone who is!

  2. David Diana  April 7, 2009

    Networking is definitely key. I made the mistake of doing none of that in grad school and t took me years to recover from that! Informational interviewing is really key! It’s such a powerful process. Thanks fo the comments from both of you!

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