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Blindly chasing any and every job isn’t a smart way to launch your career…Here’s how to do better

I think we can all agree that time = money. But, when it comes to job hunting, that may not be the only equation worth considering.

I’m in my mid-twenties, and since graduating college, I have always been told to apply for jobs, as many as I can, even those that seem far out of my league. I think this is advice that permeates an entire generation. We can “have it all.” That is a great notion and I fully support the idea of challenging oneself and pushing the boundaries of our respective comfort zones.

But, many people like me (a full-time freelance journalist) wind up spending massive amounts of time applying for jobs we will never get under the misconception that we can land that dream job if we just keep trying. Some of us will! But most won’t.

Fortunately, I think there are ways to job hunt that need not waste our precious time. (Of course this advice is not applicable to everyone — recent grads, and others, from all walks of life, often just need to find something to keep them afloat.)

If you have a little wiggle room though, you should be looking hard for jobs you could realistically perform and wantto do.

“That’s nonsense!” you say. “Rapid-fire job applying is a great investment! You’re investing in your own future, even if you throw away a little time and money right now. There’s a bigger payoff in the end, right?”

It’s possible, but more often than not there is a much longer ladder to success. Unfortunately, you could not only be wasting your time, but also missing out on other potential opportunities in the interim.

Here are some ways you can keep the job hunting game from wasting your time and costing you.

Don’t convince yourself a job sounds more appealing than it really is. I’ve done this with every single job I’ve sought, primarily to muster the motivation to send my resume. But, if you actually get the job and you hate it, soon enough you will find yourself searching for another. And it doesn’t look so good on your resume if you’re jumping around every couple months. As with any of these suggestions, it could go completely the other way and you might end up loving the position. You never know until you try, but in this case, it’s important to weigh your time and other investments against the possible outcomes.

Don’t apply if you are way under-qualified. If the job requires eight years of experience and you have three to four, don’t bother applying. You will most likely never hear back. If the job requires an in-depth knowledge of balance sheets and the word “liabilities” means nothing to you in the financial context, don’t bother applying. When you apply to a job for which you’re under-qualified, you waste a lot of time tailoring your resume to make yourself seem like a better candidate than you are.

Don’t make a “full day of it.” This is personal advice that may not be applicable to others, but if you make an entire day of sending resumes and CVs and editing cover letters, you are going to get burned out. You may or may not make mistakes, but you certainly won’t be improving your skills or acquiring more knowledge. If anything, you will likely send less than stellar applications with the mindset that you’re racing time to send out as many as you can. You will also likely convince yourself cover letters can be subtly tweaked rather than tailored to the particular job (this is essential!). “Spraying and praying” also leads to rejection after rejection, which can make even the thickest-skinned feel a bit like a failure.

You should always be updating and reworking your resume/CV/cover letter template anyway. No matter how seasoned you consider yourself, have someone else look over them. There could be one small thing you’ve overlooked that sticks out like a sore thumb. Ask your friends, frankly, if they think you’re qualified for a position as well.

Network, network, network. It’s old news by now but that’s because itworks. There are good job sites to be certain, but stop wasting your time on the ones that have never been fruitful. You should contact specific people and build relationships. Don’t underestimate the power of social media for real job leads from friends and acquaintances. Chances are, you’ve got a lot of friends who do what you do. You can also tell people to keep an eye out for you—by doing so you push some of the burden onto your friend without him even realizing it. (Your name will always jump to mind when he hears of a job opening, because you worked your way into his subconscious.)

If you come across a job that seems unfamiliar but intriguing, don’t get overly wrapped up considering the “maybes.” Envisioning yourself in a career you know nothing about often leads to transient whimsies, which, for our express purposes, are a waste of time.

If you have already applied to a job, follow up. If you got an interview, send a thank-you note. This could be just the thing to sway an employer who is weighing you against another candidate, and it takes about a maximum of three minutes.

LOOK. WHO. HELD. THE. POSITION. BEFORE. YOU. Don’t apply to be the Pulitzer Prize administrator if you’re 25 and have taken a couple literature classes, while the outgoing administrator is 82 and has a laundry list of worldly accomplishments. Huge waste of time.

Use the time you’re not wasting binge-applying to everything in sight (see above) to actively do things that make you more marketable. This is a good use of your time. Take a class in HTML. Basic HTML is not hard to learn and it can be a huge bonus for employers. You could also practice public speaking, which will help you not only in job interviews, but also in actual jobs.

Don’t worry and fret and catastraphize your situation if you keep coming up empty. Worrying = time = money. Move on quickly and narrow your focus (or, if necessary, widen it).

Think outside the box, which in this day and age often means doing it yourself (DIY). Unfortunately, people like you, no matter who you are, are a dime a dozen in the job market. This is the era in which we have no choice but to be entrepreneurial. If you have a particular skill or area of expertise, consider writing about it. There is a huge market online for knowledgeable people to write about what they know (i.e. real estate, starting businesses, the healthcare industry, teaching, etc.). You’ll learn more about your field and keep the money coming while you wait for the job you actually want.