Applying the 80-20 rule to your job search

By David G. Jensen

You may not know it by name, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto principle. It’s that turn-of-the-century formula by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who famously wrote that 20% of your effort will produce 80% of your results—or, more accurately, that there is a great imbalance between inputs and outputs and between causes and results. It’s remarkable that 120 years later it still explains so much.

Take a look at how retail stores operate: 20% of their goods produce 80% of their profits, and 20% of the sales year produces 80% of their revenue. Car insurance companies will tell you that 20% of their insured drivers cause 80% of accidents. In your home, 20% of the carpet gets 80% of the wear, and in your automobile, only 20% of the energy gets transferred to the wheels (combustion chews up the other 80%). When I come into work in the morning, 20% of my actions are going to result in the bulk of my paycheck. And I’ll bet that 20% of your papers produce 80% of your citations!

Don’t you wish that you could simply be happy with that 80% output and work just 1 day out of 5? The problem with that logic is that we can’t recognize which 20% of our actions are the ones that will lead to the big payoffs. But for you, as a scientist seeking an opportunity to move into a new phase of your career, perhaps there are some ways to use this 80-20 principle to your advantage in the job search.

1) Prioritizing your job search activities

A job search requires a variety of different activities, including researching, applying, and networking. Figuring out how to prioritize them can be a challenge. But in light of the permanence of the Pareto principle, it’s clear that the best approach is to focus on the high points from each category. In other words, don’t throw all your efforts into the networking column, even though that’s often a productive use of your time. And neither should you put all of your effort into responding to job advertisements. Instead, recognize that the job search requires that you engage in a range of activities, and that the returns on your activities will vary. Even though you won’t be able to discern the difference between low-return and high-return actions immediately, it will come to you with experience. As you begin to realize what your “big reward” activities look and feel like, you can then fine-tune how you prioritize your job-search tasks.

Here are the five categories of activities that fill out anyone’s time spent job searching, along with my tips on how to maximize the 20% of action that results in 80% of your success.

See all 6 areas and the complete article

4 Job Search Tips For People Over 50

No matter who you are, hunting for a job can be tough. But, when you’re over 50? There are times when it seems downright impossible.

Technology keeps changing, the workforce just keeps getting younger and younger (seriously, some of these interns look like they’re 12 years old), and—unfortunately—there seems to be an element of age bias among some employers who seem to covertly hold, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” as their company mission statement.

You have tons of experience and value to bring to the table. However, you’re concerned that you’ll be consistently overlooked—either because companies see you as too expensive, too qualified, or too close to retirement age.

It’s a predicament, really. And, while I don’t have a time machine to instantly knock 20 years off your age, I can offer a few tips that are sure to be helpful to you more seasoned job seekers. Let’s get to it!

1. Tailor Your Resume (Yes, Really!)

This is advice you’ve heard echoed again and again. But, if you’ve simply brushed it off as something that’s only meant for those younger applicants who need to do everything in their power to present themselves as relevant? Think again, my friends.

Tailoring your resume (I can hear you groaning from all the way over here) is absolutely crucial for you as well. Why? Well, yes, you have a seemingly never-ending supply of experience and expertise to offer. But, guess what? Employers and hiring managers still only care about the stuff that’s most impressive and most relevant to the job you’re applying for.

I know—it’s kind of a buzzkill. You haven’t worked for 30 years only to touch on the simple highlights in your resume, after all. You want to brag about everything you’ve accomplished so far—including that community service award you got back in 1989.

However, it’s important that you only focus on the stuff that’s most relevant to your desired position. The same golden rule holds true for job seekers of all ages: The more you can make yourself seem like the perfect fit, the higher the likelihood of landing an interview (and maybe even the job!).

4. Don’t Make It an Issue

Finally, try not to get too worked up about your age as you’re moving through your job hunt. Yes, I’m sure that searching for a new gig at this point in time has its discouraging moments. But, don’t think of yourself as old or aged out—think of yourself as extremely qualified.

You have years of hands-on experience and tons of refined skills that you’re bringing to the table. That’s not a bad thing, so stop viewing it as one! If you don’t make your age a huge issue throughout your search, chances are others won’t either.

Job hunting in your later years can definitely present some unique challenges. But, hey, look at it this way—you’re a seasoned expert with tons of valuable experience under your belt. This is nothing you can’t handle!

See all 4 tips and the complete ZipRecruiter article

5 tips to turn a tricky interview question into a memorable anecdote

Joy Tibbs

Your dazzling CV has gained you an interview, but now it’s time to shine in front of your prospective employer. Knowing you had the right skills and experience to get this far should give you confidence, but what happens when you have to give examples of these in practice? What do you do when you hear the dreaded words: ‘Tell me about a time when…’?

Suddenly, all of your interview preparation goes out of the window. ‘Why can’t they stick to the standard skills and weaknesses question?’ you ask yourself. But actually, this is your time to shine. Everybody loves a good story, and you will have plenty of anecdotes lodged somewhere in your memory bank. So stay calm, take a deep breath and think fast!

Here are some top tips to answering this kind of question:

  1. Keep it relevant. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know what you had for breakfast or what you aunty’s cat is called. Give a strong initial statement, for example, ‘I experienced conflict in the workplace in a previous role, but I managed to overcome it by…’ or ‘There was a time when I struggled to prioritise tasks, but…’, or ‘When I was at university I learnt a lot as I lived with people from various cultures and backgrounds and I have been able to use this experience in the workplace’.

4. Share what you learnt as a result. Perhaps the way you work or the way you handle relationships has changed following this experience. Or perhaps you were promoted as a result of the way you behaved or were asked to take on additional responsibility. Whatever the situation, explain how you developed through the experience.

See all 5 tips and the complete PremierJobSearch article

14 Tips To Connect In Your Community For Your Job Search

Some job seekers see attending organized networking events as akin to meeting their future in-laws for the first time. For some it’s downright frightening; one job seeker told me she hyperventilates before she goes to an event. Wow.

Perhaps you feel similar symptoms, dreading the times you have to attend organized networking events.

You’re expected to engage in conversation about you and the strangers you meet, deliver your elevator pitch, maintain proper posture, exchange business cards, refrain from eating messy food, etc.

Take away the expectations that come with attending a networking event, and you’re left with simply connecting with people in your community. You’re more relaxed. There’s no pressure to perform like you would at a networking event.

Community includes the people with whom you interact: former colleagues, small meet-ups, friends, family, neighbors, soccer parents, PTA members, your hair stylist, the folks with whom you volunteer, your career center staff—essentially everyone in your life.

Am I suggesting that you avoid networking events? Certainly not. There are opportunities these events provide, but by connecting with people in your community valuable opportunities also exist. Some important points to consider when connecting in the community include:

  1. Get the word out. As simple as this sounds, I know people who don’t tell family or friends they’re out of work because of shame and embarrassment. Regardless of how you departed your company/organization, your community has to know you’re no longer employed. There is no shame in being unemployed, as thousands of others like you are in the same situation.

4) Resist the urge to bash. Regardless of how your employment ended, don’t rant about how unfairly you were treated and the circumstances of why you were let go or laid off. If asked about your departure, explain how it happened, but don’t come across as angry. If you’re not past the anger stage, avoid talking about the situation.

10) Carry personal business cards with you. That’s right; even when you connect with your community in a casual way you’ll want to show how serious you are about finding a job. It shows professionalism and helps people to remember what you do and the type of job you’re seeking (related to numbers 4 and 5). Unlike your resume, they are easy to carry.

See all 14 tips and the complete article


Top 10 Job Search Tips

Finding a new job can be a perplexing and infuriating experience. In order to rid yourself of unnecessary angst so your job-search becomes less stressful, it is recommended that you use practical job search approaches to help you land a new job. We have put together the list below to help you in your job search. We hope you find this list very helpful, whether you are a recent college grad, in mid-career, a seasoned professional or an executive.  


  1. Assess your skills inventory. Reflects on your background, knowledge, skills and abilities to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are before you embark on your job search.  Make a detailed list of your strengths and weaknesses, then focus on the skills you would like to leverage in your job search.

2) Practice and improve your interview skills. It is wise that you practice and improve your interview skills.  You can do this on your own, or you can hire a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) to help you hone and master interview skills. Also, interview for jobs you may not be excited about so you can get real life practice on how to interview.  By doing this, you will prepare yourself for the interviews you really want.

3) Follow up after interviews. Always send thank you emails after each interview.  Be sure to get business cards at the end of each interview so you can follow up.  It is appropriate to follow up for status updates post interviews, but be respectful and don’t overdo it…as that can be a turn off.

See all 10 Tips and the complete article


Five Job Search Rules To Break — And Five To Follow

Liz Ryan

The old job-search rules are going out the window. Most of what we learned about how to get a job in the last millennium is useless now.

You can’t get a good job by filling out online job applications. Your application will be lost in a sea of applications and you may never hear a word from the employer. You have to take matters into your own hands!

  1. The first job search rule to break is the old rule that says you must apply for a job by completing an online job application. That’s a time-consuming, mojo-crushing and ineffective job search channel, as more and more employers are realizing.

How do CEOs, CFOs and other senior-level leaders get their jobs? You don’t see those people filling out online job applications — so why should you do it? You can reach your hiring manager directly. It takes a little time and effort, but so do all worthwhile projects!

2) The second job search rule to break is related to the first one. The second rule to break is “Always follow the instructions for job-seekers in the job ad.” You can disobey those instructions all you want. You are not responsible for reading job ads in the first place, much less for following the instructions in them.

Many job ads say, “Do not contact managers directly” but you can ignore that advice. If your hiring manager likes your Pain Letter and your Human-Voiced Resume and wants to hire you, HR will either be thrilled to have one less job opening to deal with or they’ll have little or nothing to say about your manager’s desire to hire you.

Sometimes job-seekers wonder, “Could an HR person or company recruiter blacklist me because I circumvented their online application system to reach my manager directly?” I have never heard of that happening, but let’s say it did. Would you want to work for a company where the HR folks could blacklist you from future opportunities because you found a more effective way to contact your hiring manager than by following their instructions? I hope not!

Five Job Search Rules To Follow
4. No matter which job search channels you employ, from third-party recruiters in your corner to the direct approach to hiring managers, you still  need a strong and robust network of people on your side as a job-seeker. Make one-on-one and group networking a cornerstone of your job search. That will help you not only with job-search leads and advice but also with your confidence and precious mojo supply. You’ll provide support to your networking contacts, too!