Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Job Seekers - It's Not Just The Economy, It's You

What happens when the going gets tough?

In sports, when a team is about to face a tougher opponent, when they are expected to lose, do their coaches have them prepare in the same way? When you're up against a tough business problem, up against a difficult challenge, do you go prepare the same way as for something easy?

Successful teams, competitors, and business people attack difficult challenges differently than the easy stuff. They prepare differently, they train harder, they push themselves, and they try new tactics to put prepare their competition. Better preparation is why underdogs have a fighting chance to win.

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Bobby Knight, 3 time NCAA basketball championship coach, is a great example of this type of preparation. Bobby had solid players who never gave up, who responded to the amazing work ethic that Bobby drilled into their skulls and hearts. His 3 championships with Indiana were teams that rose above the talents of the individual players - these teams were greater than the sum of their parts.

Why? Bobby prepared and played his teams 120% whether they were ahead by 20 points, or behind by 20 points. Because of this preparation and focus, his teams could sometimes erase a 20 point deficit to win, but almost never gave up a 20 point deficit. If you ever watched Bobby screaming in the face of one of his players (on national TV) who let up the intensity when his team was up by 25 points, you understand what I mean by a different type of preparation. Sadly, I could not find any YouTube videos of Coach Knight that are fit for the workplace.

How much would you cheer for an underdog sports team that held just its normal practices, preparing a team that was expected to clobber them in the same way they prepared for easy opponents? Would you cheer for them? Or feel they didn't care, so why should you?

Then why do most candidates use this half-way approach to prepare for their job search? And then why do the same poorly prepared candidates complain and blame the economy for their lack of job opportunities? (Sadly, I had a podcast interview with Coach Knight, but it was also not fit for the workplace).

Sure this is a lousy job market. So why do most candidates approach it in the same way as a strong job market and then blame their job woes on the economy? I see this and hear this every day, in conversations I have with candidates, in comments to my articles, on forums.

Candidates have never had more tools to stand out and differentiate themselves ... yet most don't/won't use them. It pushes most into new territory and past their comfort zone (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/step-out-of-your-comfort-zone.html). This blog explains these tools, drawing a road map for candidates who are brave enough to push their own envelope, and embrace the large number of choices we have today to differentiate and stand out.

Ask yourself honestly, how many of these tools are you using in your job search?
  1. Networking on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter beyond your close contacts? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/now-that-im-linked-who-do-i-link-to.html

  2. Building relationships and having conversations with your network, instead of spamming resumes? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-networking-doesnt-work.html

  3. Heavily customizing each resume for the specific job? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/09/differentiate-your-resume-with-winning.html

  4. Not relying on cover letters to differentiate, but relying on your resume? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-your-cover-letter-obsolete-tradition.html

  5. Gaining inside information on your target companies before you apply for a job? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/guerrilla-job-search-tactics.html

  6. Tracking your resume response rate? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-effective-is-your-resume-heres-how.html

  7. Creating a ResuBlog, and posting at least weekly? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/you-dont-have-to-be-shakespeare-to.html

  8. Extensively researching a target company before even sending a resume? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/4-killer-ways-to-use-research.html

  9. Creating an online portfolio? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-online-portfolios-put-you-at-top-of.html

  10. Building a project plan for your job search? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/02/are-you-planning-to-fail-in-your-job.html

  11. Approaching your search as a subject matter expert, not as a generalist? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/02/subject-matter-experts-rule.html

  12. Creating your social brand? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-use-social-branding.html

  13. Clearly answering the 3 things an employer looks for on your resume? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search.html

  14. Incorporating non-verbal communication into your interview? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/see-how-easily-you-can-master-non.html

  15. Look for problems you are uniquely qualified to solve, instead of looking for a job? http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/03/would-you-stop-looking-for-job-already.html
Most candidates won't take up the challenge of pushing their personal job search envelope - instead, most just retreat, whine, and blame the economy. Most candidates use the same techniques they did 10 years ago, complain their search isn't going anywhere, and continue to use the same tactics (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/definition-of-insanity.html).

In today's economy we're all underdogs. The underdogs who are winning, and who are finding jobs are approaching their job search in a different manner than the 50%ers. The winning underdogs are using every tool at their disposal, taking every opportunity to differentiate themselves, and they are working smarter. Who's ready to meet the challenge of this rotten economy and step up their game?

Yes, the job market stinks. What are you doing about it?

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Related Articles:
5 Ways To Get Lucky In Your Job Search
Job Seekers New Year’s Resolutions

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George said...


One of the best quotes I have heard from Coach Knight is "The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win". I think the same can be said of anyone's job search or interview strategies.

George Shattuck

Phil Rosenberg said...

I'm an Illinois fan, but always respected how Bobby pushed his players and teams, even using games themselves as preparation for future games. His work ethic and using preparation tools that were different than other coaches is a great analogy to job search preparation.

I hear all too often "If only I could get in front of the hiring manager ... " and wonder, then why aren't you?

Nichole said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your timely post. Read any magazine or book which profiles the world's top achievers, and you'll find two things, bar none: 1) they all initially failed to reach their big goal, so they 2) refined their strategy and tried again. Defining and setting a goal is just one part of success. Having a strategy to reach it and the ability and willingness to see when it's not working and readjust that strategy is the second part.

Krista said...

I went to IU when Bobby was coaching! Although some of his methods may be a little TOO much, I think his players' graduation rate and his teams' winning percentage speak volumes!