WHY JOB HUNTING IS MORE LIKE A DATE THAN A RACE

Posted On 19th May 2013

Sex is a topic I’ve tackled in this blog from time to time. Odd, for a job hunting coach, you might think.

Not really. Think about it.

We all need to breathe, drink, eat, avoid freezing to death and be loved, in roughly that order. Your ability to breathe is really the only one of those tasks modern humans depend on no one else for. The others require money, status, society, other people. They require an income, a job. Someone other than you has to want to cooperate.

There’s another reason for my interest. Most orthodox career coaching sees getting a job as a race. Essentially they see it as a matter of merit, and demonstrating that merit.

I sat in the Olympic Stadium last July and saw Usain Bolt mow down his opponents in a heat of the 100m. Later that day he got the Gold. He won because he was the best and showed it.

It was orthodox career coaching brilliantly depicted. To get a job, be the best, and show it.

And yet….

People who do all the right things rot in dole queues quite often, and some very flawed so and sos prosper. We all know this, even if we’d never admit it to a class of 16 year olds.

Why does this happen so very, very often?

Simply put, hiring organisations are looking for a match, not the best. They may not even know what that match looks like until they start looking. They probably have a few ideas, and some companies will be pickier than others.

But they are not simply seeing who among all their candidates can cover that 100m quickest.

They are waiting to be turned on.

So, how can you turn an employer on? Or, perhaps more appropriately put, how can you make yourself attractive to a hirer, knowing that “merit” is the wrong yard stick to use?

Tricky.

The main problem is an employer’s idea of “Mr/Mrs Right” may never have been very fixed and will probably change as the recruitment process moves on.

Deciding you want to work for such and such a company in this or that job is really a near-guarantee of unrequited love.

Try this instead.

A while ago I advised job seekers to “apply till your fingers bleed”. Forget all this nonsense about targeting a small number of jobs you seem highly qualified for. There are just too many random factors in any recruitment process for such a narrow strategy.

Frankly, it’s a numbers game, just like dating. The more times you put yourself out there the less likely you are to go home empty handed. You need to be realistic about rejection. It will be your constant companion and while it is, of course, VERY personal, whatever you may be told, there is nothing you can do about it but forget it as quick as you can.

Back in my student days at the LSE I had a friend with a very crude but effective pick up technique.

He’d triage the party, bar, club whatever and cross off his list any girl who was clearly with someone already. Then he’d approach the girl who attracted him the most with a painfully blunt line.

Depending on how that went (and he rarely landed the first one) he’d keep whittling his way down the crowd until someone didn’t tell him to get lost.

It worked. The trick was having fairly flexible standards and little imagination or memory. He’d have made a perfect infantryman. He never feared the next encounter and forgot the bad ones in an instant.

And that, dear reader, is the best advice I can give. It certainly helps to have a good CV, a well coded LinkedIn profile and to know how to interview. It helps more just to keep going.

You just need to keep trying, and find one piece of luck.

David Welsh

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