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Do I Settle for Less after a Month of Looking?

Q: "I'm looking for a job after graduating college with a degree in Speech Communication. I've applied for countless jobs over the past month and had only one interview. The interview seemed promising, but I have not heard back in almost a week. Is it improper to call the employer to ask about the progress of things? Also, how long does an average job search take? I'm wondering if I should lower my expectations. Yet, I fear that I will end up once again waiting tables."

A: You're concerned about three important issues on the minds of many job seekers. Let's take them one at a time.

  • It's definitely appropriate to inquire about the status of the job, unless the interviewer has specifically said, "Don't call us, we'll call you." Employers want people who are enthusiastic about working for them. Your follow-up call says you want to be a part of their team.

    If you haven't written a thank you note yet, snail or email one right away. Be sure to mention specifically why the position interests you, why you are uniquely qualified for it and that you want the job. A great thank you note often means the difference between getting an offer or being a runner-up.

  • While there is no average length for a job search, the rule of thumb is one month for each $10,000. If you are new to the communications job market, you are probably looking for a position in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Your search will probably take two to three months.
  • Don't lower your expectations unless you face eviction. It's usually just as hard to land a job below your level because employers assume overqualified candidates will take it, then leave as soon they find something better.

You say you've applied for countless positions in the last month. How selective have you been? Where are you finding these openings? My guess is you are already lowering your expectations by sending the same resume to every halfway decent listing in the newspaper, on the internet or with a search firm. If this is true, try changing your approach. Put together an ideal job description and respond only to the positions that closely match it. Customize each resume to what the job requires, and focus on finding openings through networking with friends, relatives, professional organizations, professors, fellow alumni or church members.

Because employers want to hire candidates they know and trust, targeting potential employees through contacts is the way companies fill 80 to 90 percent of their openings. If you concentrate your job search activity on networking, you will find a position close to your ideal job much more quickly.

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