Job Boards Are Where Dreams Go to Die

A few years after I started Path Forward a book came out called “50 Ways to Get a Job” by Dev Aujla. I read it and had two instant reactions:

  1. I wish this book had come out earlier in my career because it was the career guide I always wanted. 
  2. Every returner should read this book.

It’s truly the perfect book for anyone who’s been in their career for a few years and is contemplating what’s next. And that means it’s also perfect for anyone who’s currently in the career of family caregiving and trying to figure out what’s next! (Note: I have no relationship with the author or publisher – recommending this as a very worthwhile investment for job seekers). 

My favorite chapter, by far, was the one titled “Go to a Job Board and Then Leave.” (An online version of this chapter can be found here.) The author perfectly articulates what I’ve always felt that job boards are a soul-crushing waste of time. Vast, unfocused, and confusing, most job boards are a mish-mash of seemingly every job under the sun.

What should you do instead? Well, if you’ve been hanging around Path Forward for any length of time, you are going to know that I’m going to tell you to network. 

Networking, which Aujla also recommends, is how you find out what jobs are really out there, if you are qualified, and how to connect with people at that company to gain better insight into how to position your candidacy.

Focus your efforts

My other advice is to spend more time on each application. This is going to sound a bit counterintuitive, because job seeking is a numbers game. But it’s a specific kind of numbers game. 

Submitting a few applications a month is unlikely to be successful. But submitting 100 in a month isn’t likely to work either. That’s because to submit that many you are likely doing little beyond clicking “apply now” on the job listing. 

To apply to that many jobs you probably aren’t including a cover letter or you are sending the same one to everyone. You likely aren’t tailoring your resume. To some extent you are playing a video game. 

Set a good pace

I can’t give you a specific number of applications you should aim for, but I’d say having about 10-20 applications “active” at any given time is probably going to get you closer to where you want to be. 

At this rate you can really read a job description, research the company to know if it’s somewhere you’d like to work, choose from one of a handful of resumes you’ve tailored for different roles, write a really customized cover letter, find and communicate with contacts at that company, follow up with those contacts, and prepare for interviews. You can’t put that much effort into 100 applications a month.

Consider niche job boards

When you take that approach, job boards, particularly “niche” job boards those that focus on specific types of jobs, either by industry or career level can be useful. 

For instance, when we have a staff opening at Path Forward we advertise our jobs on Idealist.org, a site specifically for nonprofit and other mission-focused job listings. By using these types of boards, you can focus on a smaller number of targeted companies and put together a solid application. 

While I don’t think of Path Forward as a job board, we have a different kind of curated list on our website. Our listings of job opportunities (both technical and corporate) available via return to work programs are uniquely open to you, as a caregiver, and only open to those with career breaks. That gives you the distinct advantage of applying into a level playing field.

Apply online and then…

I also want to note that avoiding job boards does not mean you should avoid applying for jobs online. Many job seekers, particularly those who are likely to be marginalized by automated sorting, avoid submitting online applications for fear they will be automatically sorted into the rejection pile. They take the advice around networking to an extreme, assuming that only a personal contact handing your resume to a hiring manager is the way to get hired. 

While you are right to worry about the possibility of being ignored in the giant pile of online submissions, the answer is not to avoid online applications altogether. Applicant tracking systems are how companies keep track of their candidates if your resume isn’t in there, you risk being lost if the person you sent your information to doesn’t get it to the right people to review it. 

Ideally, the answer is to do both submit your application online and, if you have one, also send a note to any contacts you have at the company alerting them to your submission. Best case scenario: your contact alerts the hiring team and your application is flagged for review. But at the very least you are still in the pile of applications if that doesn’t happen. 

Connect with humans

Networking is very important to your job search. It isn’t a magic solution it doesn’t guarantee you a job or even an interview but reaching out on LinkedIn and having connections at the companies you are targeting can increase the chances that your resume lands on the right desk and is read. 

And, most importantly, connecting with humans is a far better way to spend your time than endlessly scrolling through job listings for hours each day.