With the unemployment rate so low and hundreds of thousands of jobs going unfilled, now's a great time to be looking around. But are you doing it the right way or letting false notions frustrate your search?
There's a lot of conventional wisdom about jobs and job hunting that isn't all that accurate.
Start with the notion that you should give two weeks' notice when leaving a job.
While this might be common etiquette, there's no law requiring two weeks of transition time, said Jennifer Ward, Arizona president of the Employers Council, an organization focused on workplace and human-resources laws.
"There's also a misconception out there than an employer has to let you work those final two weeks and pay you for them," she added.
Sometimes, staying even two weeks could be a bad idea. Here are examples of myths:
You can't cut ties quickly
An employer might want to cut the ties more quickly, especially if a departing worker could divert customers, steal business secrets, demoralize co-workers or slack off.
"How productive will that employee be over those two weeks?" Ward said.
Meanwhile, the departing worker, for various reasons, might feel uncomfortable sticking around, or that person might find it advantageous to move on quickly to help the new employer.
Conversely, there might be reasons to stay longer than two weeks, especially if you're in the midst of a lengthy project or the company would have trouble finding a replacement.
"If there are good feelings on both sides, then it's OK to stay longer," Ward said.
Limit search to online job ads
Job-search websites have revolutionized employment in recent decades. But by relying too much on online postings and electronically submitted resumes, you might be missing opportunities, as plenty of unfilled positions aren't advertised, said Andrew Challenger, a vice president at outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Even in the digital age, many jobs are still landed through referrals, networking or other personal interactions.
"Getting out there and asking for help is a humbling, exhausting process," Challenger said, but it can pay off. Too much of an online focus "creates a trap of not going out there and doing the hard work of meeting people," he said.
As noted, not all openings are advertised, including specialized and highly paid positions. In addition, businesses sometimes will make room for people with the skills and enthusiasm they desire, even if they aren't specifically looking.
"If an employer and an individual are a good fit, there's the potential to create a job for that person," Ward said. And that, she adds, is more likely to happen from personal interactions.
No need for social media presence
The flip side of relying too much on online postings and resume sending is not using social media enough. Potentially more damaging, some job applicants, especially those with senior-level executive experience, assume they don't need much of a social media profile.
"They think their reputations and resumes will get them their next opportunity," Challenger said.
However, hiring managers routinely look at LinkedIn.com and other online sites.
"Not having a social-media presence, especially LinkedIn, can really hurt your candidacy," he said. "It makes you look like you're not keeping up with the times."
Challenger describes a LinkedIn profile as "your best public resume," and he suggests spending as much time polishing it up as you would spend on a traditional resume.
While you're at it, take a close look at your Facebook, Twitter and other online accounts with an eye on minimizing offensive or controversial material.
Changing occupations next to impossible
In an age of increased specialization, it's not easy to find work in a new field. But you often can do it, though you might not want to.
The grass often looks greener in someone else's yard. A new profession might not really be as glamorous, fun or lucrative as you think. And as a job seeker in a new field, you likely would need to start in a junior position, with less pay and job satisfaction.
"If you want to pivot and change careers, you likely will have to start at the bottom and work your way up," Ward said.
Challenger suggests changing industries – bringing your existing skills to a new type of business – before changing occupations entirely. If you want to make a substantial switch from, say, teacher to accountant, you likely would need to return to school to get the necessary education or credentials, which is another impediment.
Still, pursuing these types of changes is a lot easier when unemployment is near record lows compared to times when openings aren't so plentiful.
If you're getting old, you're out of luck
Older applicants often do face a tougher task finding a job. Employers assume they aren't as technically sophisticated as younger workers or plan to retire in just a few years. Besides, seasoned workers tend to earn more, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
Older job applicants who feel they have been discriminated against can bring legal action against a potential employer, but they would need substantial evidence to support a claim of bias, Ward said.
Challenger suggests that older applicants come to interviews with examples of how their experience helped them evolve and stories of how they helped former employers. They should emphasize traits that older workers are known for, such as sound judgment, reliability and punctuality.
Job skills, education, experience and attitude still matter, regardless of a person's age.
At any rate, about 4 in 10 Americans ages 55 and up are still employed, while the proportion of employed individuals 65 and up has doubled in recent decades and now stands at 20%, according to investment firm United Income – showing that jobs are still available for people in this age group.
It takes about a month to find a job for each $10,000 in salary
This rule of thumb has become a popular notion over the years. It assumes higher-paying jobs take more time to find – for example, eight months on average for someone who earned $80,000, but only four months for someone making $40,000.
Still, it's just a generalization and is easily refuted. For example, "Nurses are so much in demand that a nurse can find a comparably paying job pretty quickly," said Ward. But that's not be the case in other occupations where job openings aren't as numerous.
Challenger agrees, noting that computer programmers who might make $200,000 have skills so highly in demand that they likely could land a new position in a week, while a senior executive might need to look for more than a year.
"It's not really a question of compensation but rather of the number of openings for a particular position in an area," he said.
If a company calls me a contractor, that's what I am
Many businesses would prefer to hire independent contractors rather than employees, partly to avoid paying for health insurance and other benefits. But there are substantive legal tests that determine whether a worker is a contractor or an employee.
"It boils down to how much control you're exercising over the person and how integral they are to your business," Ward said.
Employers exert greater control over employees than contractors, and they give employees responsibilities that are more integral to their businesses.
Speaking of benefits, a common misconception is to assume employees are entitled to paid vacation time, Ward said. Businesses in many states must provide a minimum amount of paid sick time and other benefits, but paid vacation time generally is provided voluntarily, not as a legal requirement, she said.
Reach Wiles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8616.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jobs: 7 myths about looking for work