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Job Search Judo

As an executive coach and owner of a talent acquisition consultancy, I have a unique dual perspective on the job search. I help clients through career transitions and also see the under-belly of large recruiting organizations. On an individual level, finding a job is an emotional sport. It is inherently confronting. For even the most enlightened, grounded, spiritual beings – it can feel like a referendum on one’s self esteem. And, if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I am talking about. Without further adieu, I will share ten “insider” tips that I normally reserve for friends and clients in transition.

  1. Holding Paradox. The job search mantra that I recommend is “keep moving.” Job searches are almost never linear. A lot of unpredictable things happen and there a moments of excitement and disappointment. One of the most powerful leadership principles that I teach is the notion of “holding paradox”. A paradox is a phrase that involves two seemingly contradictory truths. For example, here are two sides of a paradox:

    • Corporate websites are black holes for online applicants.
    • Corporate websites are important and can get you discovered.

There is truth in both of the aforementioned statements. Black and white minds tend to put all of their beliefs in one side of the paradox. They tend to dig in. They get hung up. If someone believes that career websites are black holes, they would no longer apply online for positions in which they are interested. This outlook wouldn’t serve them positively. Holding the paradox means believing in both sides of the paradox; it has the effect of “un-sticking” the mind. If you hold both sides of the paradox then you will be more effective and powerful. You will keep moving.

  1. Cultivate Your Career Desire. I use the word “cultivate” here deliberately. Answering the question about what I want to do next is very confronting. Humans often don’t even fully express true desires because they can seem too radical. Change careers? That is scary stuff for most people. What also makes it difficult is that our desires are dynamic. They change all the time. One tool that I recommend is a particular type of journaling introduced by Julia Cameron.
  2. It’s an Inefficient Game. Recruiting is an inefficient game. Accept it. The best people don’t always get hired. You simply never know what is going on behind the scenes. A day of interviews is not a sufficient basis to make a decision about joining a company. Someone’s performance in the interviewing game is often not predictive of how someone will perform on the job. You really shouldn’t let this game impact your self esteem.
  3. Expect the Process to be Unpredictable. As a rule, companies are not good at recruiting. In most cases, the hiring managers don’t have time. They give clear direction on what they want. Sometimes budgets get pulled. It is a common feeling to think that you had a great interview, yet then they don’t follow-up with you in a timely manner.
  4. Play the Game to Win. There is no such thing as an informational interview. Even if you are meeting someone under the guise of “informational interview,” you have to act like you want the job [even if you are not sure.] Hiring managers and team members are going to be evaluating whether or not they want to work with you. Playing the game to win also means showing up with the right energy level. Your energy level is critical to your success in an interview. Remember that most people make their decision about people based on non-verbal information. Low energy in an interview setting just never comes across positively. If you have to drink a Red Bull to get your energy level pumping, then do it. If you need to do jumping jacks in the parking lot – then do it. Your mind and body need to be ready for the interview.
  5. Observe the SILVERBACK Rule. Years ago I was watching a wildlife show about silverback guerillas. In the show, a biologist was warning a David Attenborough-like host not to raise his head above the level of the dominant male guerilla’s head as to do so would trigger a violent response from the alpha. This is a good metaphor to live by when you are interviewing. Overall, interviewees should experience you as respectful and deferential. One way to invite guerilla attack is to ask too many tough questions of the interviewee. There are lots of really important questions that need answering. What happened to the last person in this role? What has the company’s turnover been like? If your interviewer feels challenged by you, then there is a good chance that he/she will not like you. The interview is not the time to ask all of your tough questions.
  6. Trust in Your PROCESS. Have a process. It is fundamental to good decision making. Have you ever seen a successful salesforce NOT have a pipeline process? When I work with people in a job transition, I advise them to write down the dimensions that they are going to use to make their decision. Starting with a list sounds obvious and easy, but it is always hard. Secondly, I have them develop an opportunity pipeline that includes company research. And thirdly, I implore my clients to involve other people in their process. Identify three people that you trust to give you their honest reaction. The decision to accept a job offer involves a leap of faith. You really don’t have enough information. You may end up making your decision on instinct but you will feel better about your decision if you had a process. A process helps you in discouraged moments. A defined process, however simple, will lead to a better decision.
  7. Your EMOTIONS are NOT the MAP. During a job search you are going to experience a wide range of emotions. You are going to feel like you had a “great” or a “terrible” interview. Sometimes you will feel lazy – like you are not doing enough. You will likely experience rejection. You are going to feel many things and the mistake that people make is that they take too much stock in their emotions. How you feel in any given moment is likely not an accurate indicator of how you are actually doing.
  8. Build the STORIES of your RESUME. Most candidates obsess over their resume. It makes sense on some level but the resume’s greatest value is to the person who created it. If obsessing about your resume help you gain clarity about what you have done – then great. I’m all for it. Where most job-seekers go wrong is that they stop reviewing their past as soon as they have “nailed” the best action verbs on their resume. More than likely, how your resume is formatted is not going to make a difference in your job search. Many of the people that interview you won’t even read your document. They might skim it. With my clients, I encourage them to go deeper and to develop the stories of their resume. Thinking about their experience as a series of stories encourages people to think about their experience in a different way. I have them practice the stories. Now, I am not suggesting that you overtly start your interview with “Let me tell you a story.” It is a subtle thing. But if you think and talk about your experience like you are telling story then you are going to be more engaging. You will seem more confident. If you memorize your resume as a series of stories it can help you in an interview. When you are nervous, telling a story that you know can build your momentum.
  9. INVEST in a COACH.
    On a sociological level, there is something that doesn’t make sense to me. People spend all sorts of money on their health and well being. They spend money to go to doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and massage therapists. People may even visit a therapist to address issues with their personal life. And why is it that we spend the majority of our waking hours working at our vocation and we don’t spend money on career coaches. I’m sorry, it just does not make sense to me. It is critical to have an objective voice that you can turn to for help with your job search. We all need support from our friends and family but they struggle to be objective. And sometimes it is hard for us to share our true feelings with friends because we care what they think. How much is it worth to you to land a job at the right company? It’s worth everything – spend the money on a coach.