Job hunting for pretenders

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Dec 02

Goshawk killing Grey Heron
Creative Commons License photo credit: bayucca

There you are, listening in on your latest “all hands” team meeting, and your fearless leader calmly informs everyone that revenues are a little less than expected, margins are not as large as they thought they would be and budgets are not being met. In short, your company is experiencing some financial pain that has yet to translate into reduced costs and/or increased revenue to continue operating.

Oh oh…

Of course, someone seriously asks management if that means layoffs and management seriously answers that they are not sure just yet. That’s expected. But you are a Cubicle Warrior, so these facts mean something will happen, but you don’t know what. Should you look for a job? Should you stay?

Those are good questions. Too often, though, pundits will waffle on this. They have it both ways. This is a real answer to the “should I stay or go” question when there isn’t a lot of information to check. I’m not going to link to it, but it is a direct quote:

You don’t need to take another job if it turns out you don’t need to, but job searches can take a while and if the worst does happen, you’ll be glad that you got a head start. So send out some applications, but think of it not as a “real” job hunt but as more of a safety net in case you end up needing one.

It’s that last sentence that grates on me. Start looking for a job, but not really. Start sending out some applications, but just kidding. Job searches are not half measures. Job searches are real. Not pretend.

Real job searches show your talents, pretend ones show lack of commitment

If you halfheartedly approach your job search, it shows. You won’t refine your resume to the latest results, nor do you change your resume to show how you best match up with a job description. The result is even though you are well qualified for the job, your poor approach means you get passed over for the interview. You miss the opportunity. But don’t worry, it’s not a “real” job hunt, right?

Real job searches need honing your stories, pretend ones mean you wing it

When you get to interviewing, it is important to develop, practice and deliver stories about how your work follows the hero’s path: great work to do, difficulties overcome by your good work resulting in a successful conclusion. These shining moments of your career need a good deal of thought and more than a little practice to make sure they sound right and come across as the person you are for a company. Without finely honed stories of your work successes, your interview blends in with all the others; your blandness means you don’t get the job. Another opportunity lost. But, don’t worry, it’s not a “real” job hunt, right?

Real job searches need real work in your business network, pretend ones mean you don’t bother

Your business network is a place where you hear about opportunities and have people in them that can offer company background for management and the working culture. It is important to tap this business network to find out if something could be right for you if there was an opening and to receive guidance on the best way to proceed inside a company once an opportunity is found. If you were doing a job search, you’d make the extra effort to find out what you can from your business network because it would give you the inside edge on your competition. But since this isn’t a “real” job hunt, you don’t bother and miss the opportunity or the inside information that would give you a competitive advantage resulting in a job offer.

Job searches are about getting job offers

If you want to lose out on opportunities, say your job hunt is not a “real” job hunt. Fool yourself into thinking that because you are sending out a few resumes and talking to a few people who you might find a job. Delude yourself into thinking that a bit of activity is a real job search instead of needing to do the work to find the job.

The pundit above is correct: it takes some time to find a job. But don’t pretend you are doing a job hunt. Be on a job hunt. Don’t pretend to hunt for food as a hawk; go and do it. After all, you never have to decide to take a different job until you get a job offer. And you don’t get job offers pretending to do the work.

  • My take on this is talk of lay-offs is a signal to brush up your credentials, crank-up the networking and take a look at the lie of the land. Job hunting is distracting at a time when you can least afford to be distracted. If you feel it’s time to apply for a new job, then either go in boots and all or don’t bother – save your energy for the hunt to come.

    • Exactly. I probably should have clarified that you need to read as best you can what you believe is happening in the company when this sort of news comes out. Always, you must evaluate how long you think your position will last and this case shows there is now new information that needs processing to determine how long your job will last. If you think the length of time your job will now last matches up or surpasses the time to get a new job, then you need to job search all-in to find the next opportunity.

      Good point, Bill, and nice to see your comment here!

  • Rick Saia says:

    Excellent post Scot! Just as a professional athlete would not approach a game as if it were “pretend,” the job seeker should not respond to any job posting as if it were only practice, or something that doesn’t count. You never know if you could be missing a good opportunity because you’re caught unprepared to tell your stories, or you make a half-hearted effort to find out more about the company and the job via research or your network.

    • I just don’t understand the attitude of casually sending out resumes and think that constitutes a job search. Outside of wasting your time, the real key that you nail is this one: you miss opportunities. Until you get a job offer, you are in a job search and no decisions need making as to taking a job or not. When an opportunity presents itself through a job offer, you are not in a powerful position to determine if you want to stay or leave. When you don’t put in the effort, you never get to that envious position of having a job and having the possibility of another.

  • Zack Pike says:

    Inspiring post Scott. The piece about honing your stories is especially important… Remarkable stories get the job. If you can’t articulate what you’ve done, the success you’ve had, and help the interviewer to realize how that applies to the position your there for, then your resume is definitely going into the stack of “maybes”. Fortunately, telling great stories is difficult… Which opens opportunities if you’re good at it.

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