Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Job Search Persistence - Never never never give in

It disturbs me when I see comments from candidates who have given up.

As the recession has dragged on, I sense that more people are starting to give up their job search. A number of mainstream news articles seem to confirm this when they discuss that unemployment numbers are understated, due (in part) to people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have given up.

Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting. Persistence is the #1 determinant of success in any difficult task. However, if your persistence isn't leading to progress in your search, candidates can get demotivated. I see that happening more often with candidates - I suspect it's due to a misdirection of efforts, combined with today's tough job market.

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In a good market, candidates can make mistakes and still land jobs, because in good job market there's a shortage of candidates. That's not the case today - candidates who are finding jobs are both persistent and are executing their search effectively. It's seldom the case of a candidate getting lucky, but more often the successful candidate engineering their luck (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/02/5-ways-to-get-lucky-in-your-job-search.html).

When I talk to unsuccessful frustrated candidates, the consistent story line is one of persistence in tactics. These candidates don't recognize an important difference - the difference between persistence and stubbornness. These candidates are using the same tactics over and over and are frustrated that they aren't seeing a different outcome (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/definition-of-insanity.html).

However, one consistent trait among successful candidates is the willingness to try new tactics, rather than giving up when frustrated.

Seth Godin, the guru of modern marketing writes, "Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over." (Source: http://sethgodin.typepad.com). As Seth points out, the key is persistence in towards goals, and using a new tactics to drive us towards that goal when the old tactics don't work. Most candidates I speak to who are frustrated in their search continue to use the same tactics

There's a great story about differentiating between goals and tactics from a little
company called Traf-O-Data started by two young entrepreneurs. Traf-O-Data was developing hardware and software to count the number of cars that passed through an intersection, to lower the cost of municipal traffic planning. The company had customers, had revenue, and was generating out a small profit - an early moderate success. The only problem was that it wasn't meeting the founder's goals, as its partners realized Traf-O-data would never become large enough to create a long and profitable career for them. Instead the founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded a second company to meet their goals, called Microsoft.

Imagine how different the world would be if Gates and Allen had ignored their goals, instead concentrating on their tactics? Maybe Traf-O-Data would have been a wild success, and the modern standard for counting cars and traffic planning at intersections everywhere. What would the internet and PC's look like today?

Christopher Columbus maintained fanatical persistence toward his goals. Even as his tactics failed, over and over, he didn't loose sight of his goals and he didn't give up. Columbus failed early in his career as a mercenary, hired by the Duke of Anjou to help overtake the Kingdom of Naples. Later he was captured by Portugal, while captaining a Spanish expedition guarding a fleet of valuable cargo. Columbus petitioned the King of Spain for seven years before gaining funding to explore a faster trade route to India - which he never found. His reward for his expedition was heavily weighted in pay for performance, limiting the King's risk, because few in the Spanish court believed he would succeed.

Both Bill Gates and Columbus learned through failure and changed their tactics - but persevered to attain their goals.

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed". After releasing this quote, Michael Jordan went on to miss 3,000 more shots on his way to becoming the greatest payer in pro-basketball history, because he never lost sight of his goal.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great orsmall, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." - Winston Churchill

Just remember ... as you pump yourself up to persist, make sure you persist in the right things. Persist to achieve your goals, but be ready to try new tactics to reach them.

It may not be your job search that's impossible - it may be your tactics. Persist, try something new and measure the results.

Readers - any inspiring stories of how you persisted to success in your job search?

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Related Articles:
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone - Why are job seekers are afraid to change?
Safe Is The Risky Path For Candidates

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Peter said...

I'd been out of work for over 13 months untio this week. Every few months or so I'd change my strategy, the first time from generalist (wide market, limited appeal) to specialist and I got several hot responses but nothing that materialised.

I tried and I tried and I tried and still came up against brick walls of "good skills, not just now". It was exhausting constantly marketing and selling myself and I often felt demoralized. I knew deep down that what I was doing was right and needed to be done and I just kept 'buggering on' as Churchill would say. It was a job in itself.

Two weeks ago I receive an urgent call from an ex-client (after several months of preparation and positioning myself) gunning for me to come back and work for them at inflated rates and with a much elevated role than before.

I'd re-branded and re-marketed myself and knew I was worth the position and compensation. I felt vindicated of my hard work and I know it's been a result of my efforts, my self-review, my refinements to my approach and f course, my persistence.

I'm not unique and you can do it, too.

Phil Rosenberg said...


Great story, and thanks for sharing. Congrats on your persistence and new job!

kimba said...

I hope to have a good story to share with you but not as of yet. I just hit 7 months of unemployment. I market myself everyday in as many different ways as I can. I network through twitter, LinkedIn, events & conferences. I often offer myself out to work registration for events so I can attend for free. I adjust my approach to the changing market. But...and you knew there would be one, when the employment is done I will have to take a job. Any job and it will most likely be two jobs. That is when the concern will truly set in. How will I have time to look for a job? How will I be able to schedule interviews? I am very persistent. I don't give up. I believe in the process of finding a job. I support what you have to say but please understand that we do and will give up our job search when we have to make a choice between keeping the house, paying the electric or putting food on the table. Looking for a job is a full time job that doesn't pay while you are looking.

Monica said...

Hi Phil!
Thanks for sharing always positive messages!
I can't share right now a success story, however I agree that persistance will bring good news... someday.
I live in Argentina and I want to have an international professional eperience. I understand it is not the best time to look for a job in US, but here I am ... pursuing my goals. I started 8 months ago, with no job at all.
As you suggested, I learned through the search process and I have improved the search tactics.
In addition, I should admit that thanks to this search process I have met kind bright people all over the world and discovered amazing people in my network that helped me with the search as well.
I might not have this job eperience goal fullfilled. I might have some bad sad days where I want to quit this search. But I stop complaining to myself, focus on the job I am performing now, evaluate my tactics and see what else I could do, read and learn more about the market and situation, etc..
I am perseverant. I am widening my search to Europe, for eample, which opens a window, when the door remains closed.
Thanks for your work, your words and the information you always share with the world.
Kind Regards,