The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
It may not be the best of times, but it is certainly not the worst of times. For job hunters, it is a time when millions of people hear the magic words “You’re hired!” every month—and millions more don’t. It is a time when no one will “give” you a job—but many people will give you a chance to prove you deserve one. It is a time of unlimited opportunity available to those who will accept both the responsibilities and the rewards. And it is the time when my imaginary client, Beryl Klein, like it or not, needs to find a job.
I have encouraged Beryl to think of the world of sales in a broad, encompassing way. A salesman doesn’t only seek an exchange of dollars for goods or services. Everyone who achieves his goals by persuading others to adopt and act on his insights or ideas is, in effect, a salesman. So Beryl and I are going to review the results of interviews with two professionals who are really in the business of selling—a nursing home administrator and an executive recruiter (a.k.a. headhunter).
A nursing home administrator’s primary job is to make sure that the beds in his facility are filled with satisfied residents. Satisfied residents tell their friends, families, and doctors about their experience in the nursing home, so they recommend the facility to others in the future. Now, no one would confuse a nursing home with a vacation destination; the time spent there is unlikely to be that enjoyable. But every staff member knows that when each resident is treated with respect, genuine caring, and dignity, they will all be satisfied with the care they receive. The administrator helps that happen by constantly monitoring all functions of the facility, from housekeeping to food service to intensive therapies, to make sure that they all meet that standard of caring. And then, every few weeks, he meets with the nurses’ aides, the kitchen staff, the lowest-paid people in the building, and speaks to them about their work. And that’s when he makes his most important sale.
With all the doctors, nurses, and therapists on a nursing home’s staff, it is the aides that provide most of the care. They do a lot of work that isn’t glamorous, and they don’t get paid much for doing it. If they do their work with patience, soothing words, and a smile, the experience will be as pleasant as possible. If they are cold and uncaring, it will be a disaster. The administrator speaks about caring, about treating each resident like they would want their own parent or friend to be treated. That’s the key idea he sells. His empathy and genuineness, together with his actions that back up his words, will ultimately decide the success of his facility. This is true salesmanship in action.
The executive recruiter makes a similar sale. He may be contacting a company to solicit a job listing, or an executive that he wants to move up the career ladder. Either way, his most important sale happens before he “gets down to business,” at the beginning, when he gets a chance to learn about a company or a candidate, and convince each side that he has its best interest at heart. To the extent that he succeeds in conveying commitment and empathy, he will be trusted to conduct a candidate search or suggest a placement.
A key part of the executive recruiter’s work is dealing with the word no. No matter how well he does his work, many of the people he speaks to will not agree to work with him. Persistence and optimism are vital for his success. Beryl will have to think about how he handles rejection, about staying focused when things are not working out.
These two careers are different in a significant way: how they are paid. Nursing home administrators earn a salary; executive recruiters earn commissions. The commission-versus-salary question is an important one in the current job market, so Beryl would be well advised to speak to people who can share their insight and experiences on this point. Most people have told him that a steady salary is the secure way to support a family, but he’ll do his own research to learn if that is really true. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.