The 3 biggest mistakes job seekers make after a layoff

Layoff numbers remain historically low in the labor market, but shocks to tech and finance jobs have been ratcheting up throughout the year. With companies including Twitter, Stripe, Salesforce and Meta announcing staff cuts in a matter of days, and CEOs saying they’re preparing for a recession by reducing headcount, the market could get a little tighter for some job seekers rebounding from a layoff.

Albert Ko, 37, knows a thing or two about bracing for the worst: He’s been through five rounds of layoffs in his 15-year career in engineering and sales, including two instances where he lost his job. He’s now a director at AngelList Talent, a career site for startup jobs, and offers up his time to help review resumes, offer advice and connect people with new jobs.

He’s consistently noticed that sudden job seekers tend to make three big mistakes as they hit the market. Here’s what to avoid:

Saying you can do everything: ‘Nobody needs a generalist’

As you’re updating your LinkedIn status or polishing your resume, you might feel compelled to list out every task you’ve perfected or every skill you’ve picked up. From a hiring perspective, this is a mistake, Ko says: “You don’t want to be good at everything. Be very good at a few things.”

An executive summary or resume with a laundry list everything you’ve ever done doesn’t give the reader a good idea of your unique expertise, Ko says. “People will state how they’re good at sales and marketing and operations, and in my mind I’m like, ‘You can’t be good at all three things, and I don’t need you to be good at all three things.'”

So as you’re posting about your layoff on social media and putting a call out for job leads, take some time to reflect on exactly what you’re uniquely suited to do and what you want to do next, based on a mix of your interests, talents and what the job market is calling for.

As you start applying to jobs, make sure your resume and cover letter are tailored to each company. Be specific about how your skills fit into what the organization needs: “Emphasize your super strength,” Ko says. “Nobody needs a generalist. They need somebody who’s really good at what they’re trying to solve for.”

And where possible, make sure to quantify your work and how it made money or saved time for the business.

Not being clear about what you’re looking for next

Ko says it’s great to see people posting about their layoffs on LinkedIn because it removes the stigma around asking for help. He’s found ex-colleagues, recruiters and hiring managers generally respond positively to these posts and want to lend their support.

But, another big mistake to avoid is asking for help but not being clear about what you’re looking for in your next job or company, Ko says.

That could mean putting out a call saying you can do anything, as mentioned above, or it can be staying vague about what title or level of work you’re seeking.

“If you’re too general about the type or role or company you want to work for, I have no place to start, and I’m potentially very busy helping a lot of people at the same time,” Ko says.

To help your network help you, be specific: “Tell me the type of companies you want to work for, or go the extra step to look at hiring managers or teams at those companies and let me know. Then I can facilitate introductions that way,” Ko says. “Telling me you’re looking for any job in operations or marketing doesn’t help me.”

Even if you don’t have a list of dream employers at the ready, maybe you know what type of work environment you’re looking for: the size of the company, the industry, what types of products or services you’re passionate about building, and so on.

Accepting every interview, even if you’re on the fence: ‘You’re going to burn your connections’

In addition to crowdsourcing on LinkedIn, Ko recommends tapping other personal networks for job leads: a high school or college alumni listserv, Facebook community groups, parenting circles, a sports league, organizations you volunteer with, and other social groups where you’re a member.

With that said, going through a layoff is as much an emotional challenge as it is financial. So if you start asking other people for help in your search, make sure you have the time and mental energy to follow through on leads people give you.

“You don’t have too many shots of putting yourself out there and asking for a referral,” Ko says.

He says it’s also a big mistake to chase every single referral when you know it’s something you’re not really interested in. “Recruiters and referrals know when you’re not serious about something,” he says. “If they’re putting their neck out there for you and you’re not sure [about an opportunity], that’s going to be a problem.”

Not only do you waste your time and the hiring manager’s time, “you’re going to burn your connections trying to help you,” Ko adds.

Instead, thank your connection for their support and reiterate why that opportunity isn’t the best fit. Stay focused on what you actually want and only take interviews that are a good match.

Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O’Leary how you can increase your earning power.

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