The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
I promise that, at least for now, this is the last of my “frustration” columns. I wrote them because job hunters feel trapped in a miasma of frustrations, conflicting and unhelpful advice, and dead ends. I hope that by giving name and form to some of these common experiences, I can at least alleviate some of the pain, especially the feeling of total failure that comes from trying all the things that the conventional wisdom says should work and coming up with nothing.
More important, though, is to try to break through the paralysis that sets in as a result of these frustrating experiences. I meet many job hunters who are so discouraged by the job hunt quicksand that they aren’t able or willing to listen to me, or any other source of real guidance. They stay stuck, and sink even deeper, because they feel that they have heard from a lot of smart people already, and why should what I have to say work any better?
There’s another factor that makes it harder to get started on the real work of job hunting. All those things that well-meaning people recommend, the things that sound worthwhile but ultimately wreck a job hunter’s motivation, self-esteem, and happiness, have one underlying principle whose siren song leads to destruction. It is the seductive call of passivity, safety, and helplessness that lures people to the conventional job hunt. These things don’t work, but they don’t hurt much either. There is little personal investment, little personal contact—and so, when they don’t work, little personal loss. The blame is easily placed on the economy, the president, the “system,” the something, the anything, the “what do you want from me there’s nothing else I can do!”
Then there is that amazing collection of reasons that obviously make it impossible for you to get a job. You are either too old, too young, overqualified, or lacking experience; you have the wrong degree, have no degree, have too advanced a degree, have been unemployed too long, been in the same job too long, in a field that’s overcrowded, in a field that’s dying out, and on and on. There is at least one for everyone, and they all mean the same thing: you are not going to find a job, so don’t bother looking.
The economy, and maybe the president, and the whole crummy computerized faceless system, all make it harder to find a job. But passivity is never the right answer. Taking the informed, active route, doing the things that research shows leads to a successful job hunt is the right response. Should you expect 100% success? Nothing is 100%. But moving from 4% or 10% to 85% or 90% seems like a good way to go.
There are four steps in the real job hunt. Along the way you’ll learn how to network, how to do some research, and how to succeed at the interview. But the first step happens inside you. With reflection, introspection, consultation, and maybe some good coaching, you have to decide what job you should be doing. It’s the job where—making the most of your talent, training, and experience—you are able to deliver maximum value to your employer. And it should definitely include a little idealism, a sprinkle of unrealistic aspirations, and a smidgen of fun. Because if you want to find a dream job (and you should), you have to have a dream. 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.