I’ve read more articles than I can count sharing ideas for reviving a stagnant job search. And I feel beyond frustrated every time I see suggestions like “Attend a networking event!” “Call your mentor!” and “Update that resume!”

Succeeding in the modern day job search requires a strategic approach. So when you start to feel stuck (most job seekers experience this at least once in their search), don't just try anything and everything. 

Instead, pursue only the activities that address your specific challenges -- thereby saving you time and generating the results you need to move forward.  

Here’s the two-step process I use with job seekers who find themselves in a job search rut.

Step 1: Define the problem.

No, the problem isn’t “I haven’t found a job yet!”

You've got to go one level deeper and ask yourself where you’re stuck in your search; where in the job search process do you keep experiencing friction?

I typically see job seekers stuck in the following places (in the following order):

  1. They’re ready for something new but unsure which career path is right for them
  2. They're worried their credentials aren't enough to land their dream job
  3. They’ve applied for tens of jobs online and received little or no response
  4. Networking feels like an uphill, unproductive battle
  5. Informational interviews aren't producing any meaningful results
  6. They're getting to the formal and even final interview phase but not getting any offers
  7. They’re receiving offers, but none of them meet their salary or other expectations

No matter where you're stuck, here's what you need to know:

Wherever you’re experiencing friction is a symptom of the problem standing between you and progress.

For example, if you’re unsure whether you have the right credentials for your dream job, it’s time to ask informed members of your network for feedback. Their responses will clarify whether you’re a strong candidate already, or if you need to make a stronger case for your alternative experience, change your focus, or go out and acquire those deal-breaker credentials you don’t yet have.

If no one’s responding to your informational interview requests, you may be targeting the wrong contacts, or failing to use the strongest response-inciting content, or you may not have a compelling narrative on your LinkedIn profile.

If your interviews aren’t turning into offers, you may have room for improvement in your interview skills, or you may need to invest more energy building relationships with people who will advocate for you internally at the finish line.

It may feel challenging or even demoralizing to focus on what's not working. But the silver lining is that once you define the problem, you can stop fretting and start fixing.

Step 2: Solve the problem.

So you’ve found the problem! Now go solve it.

You may find a simple solution, or you may need to try a few different ideas to clear the hurdle. But there’s no reason to waste your precious job search energy trying a host of general suggestions. And the last solution you want is to “just apply for more jobs online!”

Draft a 2-week action plan to address the specific problem you're facing. I’m willing to bet that if you’ve identified the right problem, two weeks from now you’ll have more energy, clarity and confidence to power your search.