As a job hunter, it’s hard for me to resist clicking through on news stories that purport to tell you the secrets to getting a job. I can’t resist–but I’m pretty sure it’s a mistake.
Job-hunting advice from experts seems to fall into two categories. First is the obvious stuff: Spell things correctly, don’t lie, use proper grammar, yadda yadda.
And second are the more fanciful, original notions. I get where they come from: If you’re going to make a living as an expert, you’d better have something unique to say, a supply of ironclad thou shalts and thou shalt nots that sound good whether or not they have any connection to reality.
When I was in college, in a short seminar on job-hunting, the dean of the school spoke of how much admiration she’d have for a prospective employee who called to follow up on their application. So I tried that for a little while. It took seriously annoying a few prospects to realize that it just might be possible that she didn’t know what she was talking about.
Who knows? Maybe that strategy actually had worked for her. But it certainly didn’t work for me. And instead of stressing out about ticking off a checklist laid down by some authority figure, I’d have been better off worrying about what my judgment said was right.
I’ve spent at least a little bit of time on both sides of the job interview table. Enough, certainly, to realize that it can be an extremely imprecise art.
So instead of wisdom, or perhaps “wisdom,” I think what I can offer of more value is spirit in the form of this pep talk. Whether it’s to myself or to other people, I don’t know. But:
There are some 140 million people currently employed in the United States. And some of them are dumber than you are. So there’s obviously some stuff built into the system that has nothing to do with your potential to do the job at hand.
So give yourself a measure of freedom. When applying for a job, make the effort to present yourself well–and then accept that you’ve done your best. Job-hunting may be a terrible game, but it’s one you gotta play. So don’t despair at the randomness of it all, because your despair only helps your competition.
Many people have gotten jobs before, and many people will get them again. It is a very bad time to be trying to do so, but even now, it is not impossible. It may be easier to pretend that it is, something emotionally fulfilling in the notion that the world is simply out to get you, but don’t give in. It will only hurt you.