Navigating the Job Search is Like Driving in Spain

Imagine this: you are in a rental car in Spain. It’s stick shift, of course, which you haven’t driven in over twenty years. You set out to drive at least an hour. So you get in your rental car ready to hit the road… they said that most of the street signs are similar enough to what you are used to that it shouldn’t be a big deal.  Then, you come across a set of street signs like this (photo courtesy campervantrips):


No big deal really… right?  Except, you are supposed to turn soon, according to your GPS (which seems to be off by 100 meters).  Wait, did I say meters? Yeah, that’s foreign to me… So I’m in a foreign country, driving a different kind of car (stick), using a measuring system that I’m not used to (how long until 250 meters??), the GPS is off enough to make a difference, and the next exit I want is M-30. Wait, is that an exit, or a road?  And what the heck is E-5, and why is the next one E-901 instead of E-6?  A-4, A-42, A-5… ?????


This was me a week ago. I rented a car in Spain and, with three teens in tow, drove to various beaches around Barcelona. Most of the time it was fine, but every once in a while it got really confusing! Is this exit for M-30, E-901, A-3, A-4, A-42, A-5… and why can’t it just be ONE thing?  Like, in my state back home, there’s one exit number… like exit 291. That is, I think, two hundred ninety one miles from the south border of the state.  Guess what the next exit is? 292!  Or maybe 293, if it is two miles up.  I don’t remember exactly, but they are in numerical order, and they make sense.

They make sense to me because I’ve lived in this region for the last twenty something years.

After the fourth day of driving in Spain, I start to “get it.” I didn’t totally get it, but I started to get it a little. I got it enough to feel like I was on my way to being more confident with those signs.

Want to know what the trick was?


The signs in Spain are too noisy. There is too much superfluous writing on the signs, and to read it all would mean to slow down and probably be a danger to cars behind you.  Reading every single thing is too much, it takes too much time, and it’s not (always) important.

Knowing what you can and should ignore is a terrific skill, both when driving in a foreign country with weird-to-you signs and when navigating a job search, which for many of us, is foreign territory.

Because it’s all new, we tend to be hyper-sensitive to stimuli… articles that say this, videos that say that, and too much contradiction. Worse, there’s plenty of bad advice that really gets people mixed up (like, “if you aren’t on google, you don’t exist.” Or worse, “you must use Twitter in your job search.”)  Both of those can be good, but not if you aren’t doing any fundamentals. If you aren’t figuring out how to do the basics, then the advice to get on Twitter and do your job search there is harmful noise.

In your job search, figure out what is noise, and ignore the noise.

This is a SKILL that you can learn and improve. At first it will be pretty confusing but as you find your groove you’ll figure out what you can ignore, and what you need to focus on.

To your career success!