The Job Market is Unfair - So Do Something About It

by Bachhuber, Ed.D., Thomas Friday, September 14, 2007
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Not unlike many life aspects, job hunting is often unfair. The best candidate only sometimes gets the job. There are many things you can’t control—and variables outside your control influence job search success e.g. anticipated business doesn’t develop, quarterly reports reflect downturns, company or departmental priorities are altered, hiring priorities change, open positions become closed, bosses change and decide not to hire and political or personal biases get in the way of sound decisions—you can do everything “right” and not get the job.

This job search process you’re engaged in can also be quite irrational--and even Zen like in its nature. Positive results can come from your intuition and or gut decisions--and actions. Howard Figler in his book, The Complete Job Search Handbook, has a chapter on the Zen of the Work Search, and he suggests we pay attention to our intuition along with our common sense and tested wisdom. Dr. Figler says that the Job Search process:

  • Is not a predictable process
  • Has many unknown and hidden variables
  • Is out of your control
  • Has subtle realms—human and beyond
  • Is limited by scientific, rational methods—they are only part of the solution
For example, you may have always resisted taking your talkative, somewhat overbearing aunt up on her invitation to visit her promotions business. If you take her up on it one day, she may introduce you to a recent hire with similar interests and background. You share the same ideas on web-based marketing…and he knows someone in another company who wants to hire an assistant. Wow—your network’s expanded and you’re on to a new job lead.

Or, you go with intuition and introduce yourself to a director where you’re volunteering for a Milwaukee Parks Education program. You inquire if he has 15 minutes to answer some questions about the new fine arts initiative this year and you discover that the principles behind the initiative were central to a project you did in your last job. You ask a couple of great questions and wow! You’ve impressed a director with your knowledge, relevant experience and curiosity.

Finally, you’re in a conventional first round interview and are responding to a question about your most significant satisfaction in your last job. You reply with your well prepared, bullet point answer but then, sensing deeper interest in the expression of the interviewer, you decide to go for it—you ask, “Would you mind if I showed you 2 slides which present these ideas concisely and with flair?” She nods and you move into a 30 second presentation of the 2 slides you’ve deftly pulled from your leather bound notepad. Wow…you’ve just connected to a key business point for this organization and she wants copies to share with colleagues. A second round interview is almost guaranteed. Thus, following from these examples, job search success isn’t always about following the book.

Jack Falvey, job market expert and executive coach wrote an insightful article in 1987 before the internet was such a large part of job hunting. His advice is still gold--

  • There are no rules
  • Get yourself in front of people
  • Stop your wishful thinking
  • Keep yourself alive in your network
  • Being uncomfortable is good
  • You are the head of research & sales
Besides tapping into your intuition, there are other strategies job seekers can use in their search that don’t always follow the book but may lead to success.

Guerrilla Tactics
The use of this term may be a bit off-putting given its war-like context. Given the inferior position most job hunters unfortunately feel they are in and the challenge of convincing an employer that your value is worth paying for, times may be desperate and may call for more unconventional action.

Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry helps the reader see that the following characteristics can enhance your chances of success:

  • “Revolutionary movement”—your success may require you to “buck the system” and go around conventional job seeking systems. An example can be as simple as using a personal contact in an organization after you’ve submitted an on-line application, or calling on a friend who can get you informational meetings with targeted organizations.

  • “Isolate superior forces” —this can apply to isolating and articulating your key strengths and how they can add business value to a specific department or division as well as isolating the key people in the organization you need to impress.

  • “Strategic”—thinking 2-3 steps ahead of the curve in terms of an organization’s needs.

  • “Political mobilization”—pull out all the stops in getting the “right people” lined up in your corner and ready to be your advocates.

  • “Sudden acts of harassment”—well, maybe not harassment but rather astonishment, influence, and impact; demonstrating powerfully how your track record and your potential is what the organization most needs.
The authors encourage your job hunting to be:

  • Bold
  • Passionate
  • Professional/tasteful
  • Creative
  • Using an army of helpers
  • Offering rewards for interviews/meetings
  • Doing what others haven’t
However, I advise you run any strategy by a mentor, colleague or coach before implementing. Everybody has their own definitions for the above and each organization its own culture in terms of appropriateness—and potential success.