The majority of job search advice is cookie-cutter, advice that is not new, just common sense.
- Always be networking.
- Focus on your strengths.
- Show interest in the job.
- Before applying, research the company.
- Continually improve your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Despite following the advice of self-proclaimed job-hunting experts and career coaches, most job seekers struggle to find a job.
Most advice does not get to the root of what it takes to succeed. Most people find hard truth advice, often a truism, uncomfortable; hence, they do not want to hear it. I am the opposite; I am grateful for advice that challenges my assumptions and reframes my thinking. More than once, someone’s advice has exposed the limitations of my beliefs. Limiting beliefs are the most common obstacle to success.
For example, many job seekers believe their age makes them unhireable; hence, they accuse employers of age discrimination, thereby giving themselves permission to believe their lack of job search success is not their fault rather than to analyze whether they are not being hired due to something they are doing or not doing. Consequently, job seekers who believe their age hinders them from being hired tend to gravitate towards advice that supports their belief. (e.g., Remove graduation dates from your resume and only include your last 15 years of work experience.)
Most job search advice is syrupy, based on what the advisor thinks job seekers want to hear and therefore fails to address the harsh realities of job hunting or managing a career in a hyper-competitive workplace where everyone is battling to remain relevant.
The best advice I ever received, advice that re-engineered my thinking regarding job hunting, as well as how to manage my career, was given to me during a heated exchange while living and working in Chandigarh, India, where I was overseeing a 150-seat call centre.
Unexpectedly, the COO of the company called me from California to discuss a process improvement proposal I had made to the CEO, which he strongly disagreed with. A heated disagreement ensued. At the time, I was young and cocky, and I said it was up to the CEO, not him, whether to implement my suggestion.
After a long pause, the COO said, “Nick, what other people think of you decides whether or not you move forward in this company.”
I thanked the COO, admittedly sarcastically, for his backhanded advice, which many would have interpreted as a warning, hung up, and leaned back in my chair. My mind kept replaying his words. Eventually, I realized that his advice was a truism that summed up what it takes to succeed not only in one’s career but also in one’s life.
It takes multiple approvals to receive a job offer. What the person who reads your resume and LinkedIn profile thinks about your ability to do the job and possibly being a fit determines whether you are invited for an interview. You will likely be interviewed two or three times. Each time, your interviewer(s) will be judging you.
Aside from dating, I cannot think of an activity in which you are subject to as much judgment (READ: scrutiny), whether on paper, your digital footprint and, of course, face-to-face, then while searching for a job. The COO’s advice contradicted the cliche advice to “not worry about what other people think of you.” The harsh truth: Nobody is entitled to employment, livelihood, or acceptance; they must be earned.
The advice to not worry about what other people think of you is good advice if you are not dependent on other people’s approval. However, job searching boils down to seeking approval, often from strangers, that you are worthy of joining their payroll, will fit the team and company culture and will be manageable.
When you do not care what other people think about you—disregarding how you come across—you make it difficult for others, especially strangers, to judge you favourably. Therefore, the question: Should you be 100% yourself when searching for a job and managing your career?
Not if it hinders you from being judged positively, that you are a professional who can be relied on.
In an interview, you are judged based on:
- what you are wearing
- the words you use
- your mannerisms and level of energy
- your posture
… and much more.
All this judgement happens after the employer has judged your resume, LinkedIn profile, and telephone screening interview to determine if you are face-to-face interview worthy. The hiring process is a judgement process.
Keeping the COO’s words, “what other people think of you decides whether or not you move forward,” top of mind makes me mindful that how I present myself and how others experience me are determining factors in whether I am accepted. In other words, I am constantly reminding myself that I have a great deal of control over how people perceive and experience me, which you also have.
If job seekers wish to experience more green lights throughout their job search, regardless of their age, they need to give more serious thought to how they present themselves to employers and hiring managers.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to email@example.com.