Job Search: Working within a broken system

Last month I wrote Why the Job Market and Job Search Is Broken.  I sincerely think that this problem is unfixable.  UNFIXABLE!

What does that mean? It means that we, who sometimes feel like pawns in the big picture, must work within a broken system. And that, I think, is okay.

How do we work within this broken system?

First, we must understand that it is broken, and understand some of the broken components.

We don’t have to understand all of the broken components… but it’s good to know what we are up against. In the classic The Art of War, Tsu writes “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  I don’t think any job seeker needs to read up on the broken parts of a job search… they’ll learn about many of them in the first month or two.  But just accepting that things are broken might help you know that (a) you are not broken, and (b) doing the right principle-based things are wrong.

Next, we must ensure that we are doing current best practices, based on principles, not some advice from someone who hasn’t looked for a job in twenty years.

I had well-intentioned people tell me what to do, give me advice, print off pages of job postings… but hardly any of these people encouraged me to network, helped me understand how to network, or work on my brand (or, reputation management). I spent most of my time spinning wheels, doing things that a career coach (or someone in-the-know) knows I should not have done.  Where are you spending your time?  What tactics and techniques are you banking on?  If they aren’t principle-based, then you better do some reading. Or go to a career center (university, state-based, in a church basement, whatever) and talk to someone who is current!

Next, we must focus on consistent work.

This is one of the hardest things. It’s easy to do hard stuff for a few hours, or a few days.  But as time goes on, and bills pile up, and rejection after rejection reinforces a message, it gets harder and harder to consistently do the right things. You lose HOPE (“Why try?”). Mark Leblanc sent me a postcard that says “consistency trumps commitment.” A big part of his awesome system is that you do three things that move you closer to your objectives EVERY SINGLE DAY.  These three things can be small, but they must be things that move you closer.

I’ve had days where I do my three things before 8 am.  Want to know what happens? I have a way more productive day. I typically do more during the day. I don’t have nagging feelings of “I need to do those things!”  I get them done, bite by bite, early in the morning, day after day, month after month.

Consistency is they key, doing the right things each day.  I’ve tried it both ways: doing small things consistently or doing something big every once in a while.  Doing small things consistently is much better.

Next, we must become accountable to someone.

This might be the most important thing to do. I thought I was accountable to myself, my bank statements, my mortgage and other creditors, and my wife. An accountability partner (or coach, or whatever you want to call this person) will help you understand what’s broken, and what to ignore and what to focus on (see the first point above).  The coach will help you focus on consistently doing principle-based best practices that are current (see the other to points).

Perhaps most important thing with an appropriate accountability partner is that you are reporting to this person each and every week.  You are honest with yourself and your coach. Just knowing that there’s someone who is going to ask if you really did that thing, and what you are going to do next week, and did you call that person you have been too afraid to call… this is someone offering you moral support, telling you that YES you can do it, and YES you are on the right track… that is invaluable!

Look, you aren’t going to fix the broken system.  I’m not going to fix the broken system. But that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out how to work within the system.  Let’s work with what we got and dictate our results, instead of sitting back waiting for things to get better.