The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
Everyone needs heroes. Job hunters especially—given the frustrations and disappointments that are often part of the process—could use someone to look up to, the kind of person whose life exemplifies sticking to the search, staying focused on the goal until success is finally achieved. I would like to nominate Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan.
We here in the Rockaways should feel particularly proud of “Wrong Way,” as our own Floyd Bennett Field was an important part of the incident that made him famous. But we shouldn’t be overly possessive; Corrigan deserves to be recognized and imitated by job searchers no matter where they may be. In a world that pushes bad advice and impatience onto career choosers and job hunters, Corrigan is a real hero.
Corrigan fell in love with flying as a teenager in Los Angeles of the 1920s. He became an aircraft builder and mechanic; Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis was one of his projects. Saving every penny, he took pilot lessons and earned his license. After Lindbergh’s flight in 1927, he decided that he would also fly across the Atlantic, to his ancestral home in Ireland. But where Lindbergh had wealthy backers and a custom-built plane, he would be the flyer of the common man. He bought a used plane in 1933 and began modifying it to make the flight. But every time he applied for permission to try, the answer was no.
In 1938 he received permission to fly cross-country nonstop. If he made it, he would be allowed to apply for permission to fly back to L.A. But definitely not Ireland. That was impossible, given his jalopy of a plane. Arriving at Floyd Bennett after a 27-hour flight, he got his permission to return, took off eastward, and never made the U‑turn over Lawrence. Twenty-eight hours later, he landed in Dublin. An expert navigator, he told the authorities that he hadn’t noticed he was going the wrong way. It took a 600-word telegram to list all of the rules he had broken. And from that day forward, he became famous as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. He returned to a ticker-tape parade and news headlines printed in backwards letters. For the rest of his life he let the world believe what it wanted to believe. He had fulfilled his dream.
I have worked with clients who are ready to take the steps necessary to choose the right career and look for the right job. They do their homework, gather information, and start building networks—things move forward exactly as they should. And then they hit a snag. Someone whom they care about, whose opinion matters to them—a spouse, a parent, a friend—calls them and says, “What are you waiting for? Just take a job already!”
I hope the people who say this are clueless, not cruel. But their words hurt nonetheless. Because beneath their words lie assumptions about the nature of work, at least at a practical level. When they say, “Just take a job, it doesn’t matter which one,” they are either saying that work is an impersonal, meaningless rat-race that has to be tolerated, or that you are a faceless drone who will be no more than a cog in someone’s machine. Neither of which will make you look forward to Monday morning. No one (I hope) would say, “Just marry someone, it doesn’t matter who.”
Sometimes older singles get advised, “You’re just too picky.” Maybe there is a point where a discriminating eye crosses over to obsession. But more often, that’s not what’s happening. Rebbetzin Neuberger, a’h, wife of the longtime menahel of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, was an older single. When she was asked, “Why do you send all the boys away?” she answered, “When the right one comes, I won’t.”
Well, sometimes the best answer is not to answer at all. Even when you are doing the right thing, some of the people who care about you just won’t understand. So that’s why job hunters need a hero like “Wrong Way” Corrigan. Because some people will spend 60 years laughing about how you spent all that time going the wrong way. But you’ll know that when it mattered, you stuck to your goal and followed your 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.