Categorized | Job Hunting

The Job Search Blitz

Posted on 02 November 2008

One of my best friends, truly nature’s nobleman, has just been laid off from his job after two decades in an executive position. He’s not only capable, but a great, generous personality. I love him to pieces. The only problem is that he is going about his approach to getting a new job in the way a nobleman would attempt to find a job–and this is not the best way to get work in a nation that bans titles of hereditary nobility.

I have seen so many others do likewise that I thought I might examine his case, decide what he’s doing wrong, and advise him how to do things differently. This story may help you, too, whether you are nobleman or worker-bee. Ivan, as I will call him, is about fifty. He used to earn about two hundred thousand a year. In his field and in his location, this was a spectacularly good salary. It will be a major coup if he can find work that pays even close to what he was making before.

The solution: Undertake a major blitz to find a job that pays as much as possible–given the realities of the situation–and then fill in the holes with consulting or freelance work.

Work is a marketplace where people, jobs, and money are matched according to some system of fair exchange.

Now, this means that Ivan should be out barnstorming like a madman, calling and writing everyone he possibly can. He’s not. He finds this distasteful, as it may be, but it’s also necessary. Ivan keeps telling me that he’s counting on his friends to help him, as they well might, because his friends love him. But Ivan is the one affected by job loss, and he is the one actually looking for employment. He cannot expect anyone else to put more energy into the job hunt than he will.

1. Self-Reliance
When you lose your job, it’s up to YOU, not anyone else, to get the new job. Your friends can, will, and should help. But it’s your life.

Ivan has called me a few times and, in disgusted tones, told me that certain employers are not offering what he needs to maintain his lifestyle and send his girls to college. Ivan has every right to feel dismay. He’s a capable guy in his field and deserves to enjoy a pleasant way of life. But he is making a serious mistake. The employer has absolutely no obligation to pay Ivan what Ivan wants or needs. The employer’s job is to get the best possible help he can get for the least money. That’s what he owes to his owners. Job applicants must show the employer that he (or she) will be so productive that they deserve a big salary. Work is not charity. It’s not asking your parents for a raise in your allowance. Work is a marketplace where people, jobs, and money are matched according to some system of fair exchange.

2. Demonstrate Your Value
By and large, you earn what you’re worth, and it’s up to you to show that as a big number. You are selling your productivity, not what you need to live on. It’s that simple.

Ivan also is trying to find an environment like the one he had before: one employer, absorbing work, friendly colleagues, a general feeling of fulfillment. Alas, the work he finds now is not as interesting, not as well paid, performed by strangers, and devoid of passion. Ivan shows a certain contempt for this situation, and I totally understand him. But his first job at this point is to feed his family, pay his car insurance, and put aside some shekels for future tuition bills. In this life, bills are usually paid by labor. We must settle for what we can get.

3. Put First Things First
If we can’t always get what we want, then we have to settle for what we need. (I think I’ve heard that before ) Ivan has to pay his bills without drawing down savings or reducing the draft. After he has stabilized the outflow and income, he can work on making his job more interesting. He can enlarge its scope, make new friends, and take on new challenges. He can do freelance work that’s more intellectually meaningful, perhaps even volunteer on the side. But for now, getting bread on the table comes first.

Ivan has yet to learn a key lesson: In real life, we all have to settle for second best. Or, put another way, we must pay the bills and then aim for the stars.

4. Be Thankful
Ivan is also showing an odd little trait: a false and harmful sense of entitlement. The other day when I called him and asked if he had found any work, he mentioned rather offhandedly two different freelance gigs that had come his way. Both were prestigious and paid well, so I congratulated him. He shrugged and said, “Yeah, they’re okay.”

That was all he said. Now, the point here is that I, your humble servant, got him these jobs. I expected him to thank me, but he did not. Ivan has been such a good pal over the decades that I can (and do) forgive him. But what about other friendly promoters who don’t have that history with Ivan? He is going to put them off if he does not show gratitude when they help him. Friends usually help, at least in part, to earn your gratitude. They will soon stop helping those who fail to thank them.

When people help the job hunter, the job hunter is obliged to show gratitude. Little gifts are unnecessary, although they help, but expressing your thanks goes a long way. You are not excused from having good manners just because you are looking for a job. In fact, you are required to have better manners than ever or you will soon run out of friends who will help.

When I noted Ivan’s lack of gratitude to me, I wondered if he was being polite to potential employers. If he’s not saying please and thank you, sending notes of appreciation, even bringing little trinkets, he’s making a huge mistake. Manners are how people remember us, for better or worse, and they show whether we deserve their help or not.

I am sure there are other lessons for job hunters, but these are the basic four. Now put them to good use–go out there and get that job!

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