Your Biggest Obstacle Is...

By John L. Nicodemus

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The greatest single challenge job seekers face today is not the economy, their age or technical background, or any of the other typical challenges about which you hear. The greatest challenge job seekers face is themselves! I do not mean to minimize the myriad of challenges that are encountered in the search. There are many difficult obstacles. However, all of these can be overcome by a well designed and conducted job search campaign.

So why do I say that we our own worst enemy when it comes to finding a job in today’s environment? There are three major reasons…

Three major reasons why are we our own worst enemy

First is our own experience. Most of us have had to manage a job search at one time or other in our past, and we tend to try to replicate that experience. It worked before, why not now? Seven years ago the average unemployed person went 5 weeks between jobs. Now that number is 40 weeks. It is a new and different environment. What worked then is not effective today. The standard 2 or 3 page chronological resume is liable to remain unread. Jobs listed on the numerous on-line sites represent only about 20% of the available opportunities. Sending out resumes and waiting for the phone to ring no longer is a reasonable strategy. Mass mailings are typically a waste of time and effort.  Most of the books on the subject reflect past realities, not present day challenges. So what is one to do?  

The solution is to admit that you need some help in an area with which you are not familiar, past experience notwithstanding.  Getting help may be difficult or embarrassing - DO IT ANYWAY! We all have a propensity to procrastinate – DON’T! There are lots of resources out there that do not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, many of the resources are free for the asking. Most of these are very effective. If the advice you are getting is the same old stuff, go elsewhere for the help you need.

The second reason that we get in our own way is a failure to understand the basic dynamics of the relationship with potential employers. We are out of work; sometimes for a significant period of time. Our focus is on our need for work, so we write our resume with tons of detail about the jobs and duties that we have had and go to interviews with the same tons of detail about us in the hope that something we have written or said will strike a chord. Today’s reality requires a different focus. It is NOT ABOUT US! Rather, it is all about WHAT WE CAN DO FOR THE EMPLOYER. Said a different way, it is always about the employer’s wants and needs. This is a subtle but vitally important difference.

The final reason is all about ATTITUDE! Attitude drives all our actions, either positively or negatively. I read a blog the other day that detailed many of the frustrations faced by the job seeker. The ultimate point was that we will have to shovel a whole lot of manure before we uncover the right opportunity.  Shoveling manure isn’t fun. The job search is a lonely frustrating endeavor. If we let our attitude go south, that will be reflected in the quality of effort that we put out on our search; it will adversely impact our self-confidence, and that doubt will be reflected in how well or poorly we interview when we do finally land one.

Typically, the unemployed are embarrassed about their status, a prejudice that lingers from years ago when the assumption was that if you did not have a job you were less than competent. When we are embarrassed we tend to either cover up the source of that embarrassment or withdraw from situations that would draw attention to the source. Many times this means we will withdraw from our family, friends and colleagues. These actions are understandable and completely counterproductive to maintaining that vital positive attitude that is needed to persevere through the frustrations. Instead, we need to develop and nurture a support and networking system, through family, friends, colleagues, and job clubs. We need to get positive feedback from things like volunteer efforts and clubs. These will help maintain the attitude that will keep us shoveling all that manure.

I guarantee the job you want is under that pile somewhere.


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