The Job Seeker’s Plight: Hard Work and Nothing to Show for it!

December is always a bad month for recruiters. As bad as the first two weeks are, the last two are even worse. If the phone rings, it’s a holiday miracle! (The only thing comparable is Thanksgiving week.)

Four years ago things were worse than ever. I literally had nothing to do. Then I was staring at my file cabinets and realized that I had documents dating back 10 plus years, that I did not need. And those that I might have a need for, I could scan.

So I pulled out file folders, removed staples, and started shredding. And I continued to shred. And when the shredder overheated, I took a break. And then I resumed shredding. And at the end of the three-four days it took to complete the project, I had thrown out some 25 13-gallon garbage bags full of no longer needed documents.

Then I looked around the office and saw no change. I knew what I had done. I knew it was a smart thing to do. Every December, I still do the same thing: shred or scan and shred. But the result is always the same: I know what I have done but I can’t see any results. That is, unless I open the drawers, which are now nearly empty.


A new career counseling client came to me very frustrated. He had been looking for a job for close to a year. He showed me an Excel spreadsheet which confirmed he had sent out over a thousand applications. In a good month he had one interview. There were few good months. Bottom line, he had done a lot of work but had nothing to show for it! Or at least so he thought.

That got me thinking about my filing cabinets. The only way I knew I had done anything was to open the drawers. So, after I told him the story so he would understand what I was talking about, I said, “Let’s open your drawers.” Then, realizing what I had said, I blushed and when he stopped laughing, I said, “Let me rephrase that!”

Well, I didn’t have to.

The reason, no surprise, that he was not getting any interviews was that the only thing worse than his cover letter and resume were his networking skills. (He actually was not a bad interviewee except for the fact that he never sent thank-you emails…) But that did not mean he had not accomplished anything during his year of unemployment. The problem was, given that his only goal was to get a job, and he hadn’t, he could not see his actually accomplishments.

First, he had had a career that enabled him to maintain his standard of living for a year without any salary.

Second, during that year he had improved himself, keeping up to date with his profession and learning new skills. (Three cheers for the Internet!)

Third, he had helped a number of non-profits. (“But that’s just volunteer stuff, not work!”)

I won’t insult your intelligence by saying how I changed his resume and cover letter, or to tell you the results.

The moral of the story is this: Just because you can’t see your accomplishments doesn’t mean they are not there. All you have to do is look for them. And when you find them, you may also find your self-confidence which, in case you don’t know it, is a prerequisite for getting a job offer.


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 330,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he co-chairs their Entrepreneurship Council, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website,, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.