What Job Seekers Can Learn from Freud

The Interpretation of Dreams was originally published in 1899. To put it mildly, it was rejected by the scientific community. In fact, in the six years following its publication only 351 copies were sold. (This post is based on the ebook of the 8th edition, published in 2010 by Basic Books.) Ironically, and I only share this for the obvious historic significance, Freud wrote the preface to the second edition, in the summer of 1908 in, of all places, Berchtesgaden!

So the first lesson job seekers can learn from Freud is don’t give up. Have the courage of your convictions. Accept criticism and address it professionally. In the end, you may be proven correct (even if your choice of vacation spots may, one day, prove rather unfortunate!). As Freud wrote in the preface to the third edition, “just as formerly I was unwilling to regard the neglect of my book by readers as evidence of its worthlessness, so I cannot claim that the interest which is now being taken in it is a proof of its excellence” (loc. 356-358). In other words, don’t beat yourself up when things are not going your way, and don’t get a swelled head when they do.

(Segue missing because I could not think of one!)

I have a theory about decision making. If you sleep well at night you made the right decision for you. It may appear to be wrong for someone else, immoral, unethical, even indecent, but for you it was the right decision. You decided to quit your job without having a new job. That’s Mistake #1 in the Career Counseling Handbook. (Don’t look for it; there’s no such thing!) But for you it was the right decision because you could not take another day with your idiot boss, stupid colleagues and moronic clients. So you slept very well that night and then, in the morning, you started to deal with your new reality.

This article, though, is not about the morning, it’s about the night. Specifically, about your literal dreams. Not the day dreams of killing the boss, burning down the office building, posting your clients’ secrets on Facebook, but the dreams you dream at night when your mind is actually calm and you are not, in reality, in control.

Now I happen to be one of those people who says, figuratively, “I don’t dream.” And, figuratively, it’s true. I can’t tell you the last dream I had because I never remember my dreams. Never. But, of course, I dream every night. If humans did not dream they would die. We need REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep to keep our sanity. So we all dream. It’s just that some of us do not remember our dreams. (Shortly I shall contradict myself.)

But I have a simple test to show if your dream was a happy one or a troubling one, because even if you can’t remember it your bed will! First, though, we need Freud to define for us what a dream actually is in reality.

He wrote, “There is a popular saying that ‘dreams come from indigestion’ and this helps us to see what is meant by the stimuli and sources of dreams.” In other words, have a spicy meal for dinner and don’t expect to dream about unicorns. Dragons are more likely to fill your thoughts!

But it has always been recognized that dreams are “pre-monitors of illness” (loc. 980-982). Again, I quote the Master (loc, 1004-1007):

It it is established that the interior of the body when it is in a diseased state becomes a source of stimuli for dreams, and if we admit that during sleep the mind, being diverted from the external world, is able to pay more attention to the interior of the body, then it seems plausible to suppose that the internal organs do not need to be diseased before they can cause excitations to reach the sleeping mind – excitations which are somehow turned into dream-images.

From this I draw my second conclusion for job seekers: listen to your body. Having left your job, you are no longer “being diverted from the external world,” so you can concentrate on yourself. I had one career counseling client who, for no apparent reason, was doing poorly in interviews. He got plenty of interviews, so his cover letter and resume were fine, but he just could not get any job offers.

When we would do mock or practice interviews, he did great. But they were not real and, I, of course, could not see what was happening during the real interviews. Then he got lucky. He asked one of his interviewers to critique his “performance.” And she did. All of her colleagues agreed with her that he did not appear to be the type of person who could handle stress. That was rubbish. His job was very stressful and he had been highly successful at it. But the criticism could not be ignored. So I sent him to the doctor and, one blood test later they discovered the problem, the doctor wrote a prescription for the cure and, once his body was under control he aced his next interview and got the offer. So listen to your body. He had been having problems but attributed them to his being unemployed. He never bothered to tell me about them. After all, I’m not that type of doctor!

I think the best analogy may be “the sport of kings.” Boxers, if I am not mistaken, by law, always have to have a medical check before stepping into the ring. So too should the job seeker.

I have always believed that we dream just before we wake and that the dream only lasts a few seconds even though it may be a dream about an experience that took place in the near or distant past over a good period of time. It is common for people to dream, for example, about hearing church bells and then to wake to their alarm clock. Apparently, I’m not wrong, although I would hesitate to say that I am right. According to Freud, “Once we have put ourselves to sleep by excluding all stimuli, there is no need and no occasion for dreaming until morning, when the process of being gradually awakened by the impact of fresh stimuli,” such as an alarm clock, someone calling your name, a knock on the door, traffic, “might be reflected in the phenomenon of dreaming” (loc. 1705-1707).

What Freud showed was that “dreams really have a meaning” (loc. 2412-2413) and “a dream is the fulfillment of a wish” (Chapter 3). But it can all be in reverse. You can dream the opposite of reality. For example, Freud tells the story (loc. 2481-2484) of a friend who told him that his wife dreamed that she was having her period. The truth was that she had missed her period. As he wrote, “It was a neat way of announcing her first pregnancy.” (There is something about Freud saying “neat” that bothers me!)

If you remember your dreams, you are lucky, because “Dreams are never concerned with trivialities; we do not allow our sleep to be disturbed by trifles” (loc. 3373-3374). So if you can remember your dreams you can know what is really on your mind.

When I was writing my doctoral dissertation I complained to one of my professors that during the night I would wake up with a great solution to whatever problem I was facing, but, in the morning, I could never remember what it was. (This would be the aforementioned contraction!) He told me to keep a pad of paper and a pen by my bed. I did and when I would wake up in the middle of the night with my brilliant discovery, I would immediately write it down. Great idea in theory, but in practice, not so great. Rarely could I read my handwriting (which is bad enough when I am awake!). But sometimes it worked. I realized that I had to be really awake so I would turn on the light and sit up to write. That made all the difference.

So my third suggestion to job seekers is, for example, if you dream about the perfect answer to an interview question, wake up and write it down. You never know, it may get you the job offer!

Of course, one of the problems job seekers have is that they know too much about themselves. There are things they worry a prospective employer may find out. Usually it is nonsense and the job seeker is making a big deal out of nothing. I had one client who was mortified that he would be asked about a project he had been responsible for 20 years (!) earlier which had failed. I told him (a) there was virtually no chance an employer would know about it, (b) there was no chance that they would care about it, and (c) to use it as an example of a learning experience. He did and he got the offer.

As Freud notes (loc. 3816-3917), “there are many things which one has to keep secret from other people but of which one makes no secret to oneself.” Failures are things we want to keep secret. But that’s just silly. We all have had them. They are important experiences. Even Freud failed. In his case it was his Forensic Medicine finals. How do I know? He wrote about it (loc. 4886-4887)!

Finally one last bit of advice. When you find an error on your resume or your cover letter, make sure it does not happen again, but don’t lose any sleep over it. For one thing, once you hit “send” you can’t take it back. But Freud shares a cute story which just goes to show something I learned a long time ago: People don’t read!

As the good doctor tells it (loc. 8663-8665), “The editor of a popular French periodical is said to have made a bet that he would have the words ‘in front’ or ‘behind’ inserted by the printer in every sentence of a long article without a single one of his readers noticing it. He won the bet.”

So when you go to sleep tonight, think about your job search and how you will handle the wording of your cover letters, resume, and how you will answer those tough interview questions that are causing you stress. And then dream about them. Because “dreams are nothing other than fulfillment of wishes” (loc. 9441) and “[b]y picturing our wishes as fulfilled, dreams are after all leading us into the future…” (loc. 10608-10609). So dream that you get the interview and job offer and, according to Freud, you will!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, 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! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

The 21st Century Job Search

New cover shot for articles

People seem to believe that entering a new century means that there is a new way to do just about everything, or at least there should be. That’s silly. At least as regards conducting an effective job search, the only thing different in this, the second decade of the twenty-first century, from previous centuries, is technology – you can literally find networking events at the push of a button, and apply for hundreds of jobs a week, if you already have a computer and Internet access, virtually for free!

There are two other differences, but I am afraid you will have to read my new book, The 21st Century Job Search, to find out what they are!

I have never been afraid of controversy, nor am I hesitant to admit when I am wrong. Accordingly, in the book I revisit my previous comments on such things as wearing large engagement rings to job interviews, my short-lived position as a career coach at a New York university, and coping with discrimination, topics which raised some eyebrows when I originally wrote about them on LinkedIn.

In the book you will learn:

  • How to prepare for an effective job search;
  • How to research prospective employers;
  • How to handle your Internet presence;
  • How to utilize LinkedIn to build your brand and attract employers;
  • How to effectively network – especially if you are shy;
  • How to prepare for surprises;
  • How to correctly read job descriptions to avoid frustration;
  • What really happens to, and how to write, effective cover letters;
  • What really happens to, and how to write, effective resumes;
  • How to properly prepare for phone, video and in-person interviews;
  • What questions to ask, and how to answers questions you will be asked, in interviews;
  • How to follow-up after an interview;
  • About legal and illegal discrimination; and
  • About negotiating, offer letters, and resigning.

I also tackle the “tough” questions of dealing with a “resume gap,” raising health issues, having been fired, and how to turn having been a stay-at-home parent or caregiver into an attraction for employers.

But I do not simply tell you what to do, when possible, I show you. There is a script, especially for those of you who are shy, for effective networking and follow up. Additionally, you will find sample letters for networking, expressing interest in a company, applying for jobs, thanking interviewers and, my personal favorite, the rejection letter.

While in the book I give particular advice to veterans, college students, “older” candidates, the long-term unemployed, stay-at-home parents, and caregivers about how to effectively cope with the different stages of a job search, the book is for any job seeker regardless of their circumstances.

The official launch date for the book is March 1. You may pre-order the book and receive significant savings through February 28. The paperback edition will only cost you $9.95 (a $10 savings), and the Kindle edition will only be $2.99 (a $6.96 savings; FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.) To make your purchase, click on the links or the book cover.

The one thing older candidates should focus on in job interviews

I am an addict. When my copies of Inc. and Fast Company magazines arrive every month, I stop everything I am doing and read them, cover to cover. I’ve literally read every word in them this century. I always get valuable insights. This month’s issue of Inc. was no different. In his article, “You’re Never Too Old to Start a Business,” Gary Vaynerchuk made me rethink the advice I have given in the past to older workers.

Don’t get me wrong, I take nothing back that I have written or said. But Mr. Vaynerchuk came up with something that I readily admit I had not considered.

I always tell older candidates to focus on the one thing younger candidates don’t have: experience. But thanks to Vaynerchuk I would spin it differently:

Imagine the scenario: You have the interview. You are addressing the interviewer’s concerns about you. You have made it clear that you don’t want her job and that you are looking for something long-term. And you have been talking about all the great things you have done. You mention your network. You emphasize that you can “hit the ground running” as your only learning curve is to learn the “company way.” But now you add something new:

There’s one other thing that I want you to consider. When you hire me you hire someone who has had to deal with adversity. I know how to handle a crisis. I no longer panic. I passed that stage a long time ago. I can calmly analyze a bad situation and keep it from becoming a disaster. I keep things in their proper perspective. I know what to do and what not to do. I know what to say and not to say. I don’t make matters worse.

And then, shut up!

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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 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

The 3 Rules for Interviewing

After posting my video on interviewing strategies, a number of individuals reached out to me with questions about “the rules for interviewing.” They were obsessing over what is permissible and what is not permissible during an interview.

The result, in all cases, was that they were hesitant to answer questions fully. They had read articles – contradictory, of course – advising never to say this or do that in an interview. They had so much information and conflicting advice that, for all intents and purposes, they could not function. The obvious result: No job offers.

So their question to me was, What are the rules for interviewing?

There are three. There are only three. And that’s it. Everything else depends on the circumstances. So here they are:

Rule Number One: Dress professionally. That means conservatively with no perfume, cologne or scented aftershave.

Rule Number Two: Be punctual. That means arriving no more than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled interview unless the weather is really bad or they tell you in advance that you will have to complete an application.

Rule Number Three: Tell the truth. That means… Well, frankly, if you don’t know what that means you have bigger problems than interviewing!

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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 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

7 Things Worth Considering about Job Interviews

The key to a successful job interview is knowing how to research (prepare); understanding the difference between the screening interviews (phone and Skype) and the face-to-face interview; how to follow-up; responding to an offer; and, of course, the questions to ask and answer. It all comes down to differentiation. You have to differentiate yourself from your competition. Problem is, you don’t know who your competition is. So what’s the solution?

If you know, great! If not, isn’t it worth 47 minutes of your time to find out what you may need to know?

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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 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

The First Questions all Candidates and Employers Should Ask in Job Interviews

When the time comes, and candidates are asked in a job interview if they have any questions, this is when they can take control of the interview. And they want it to be a positive experience. There is one great question every candidate should lead off with which will guarantee positivity. By definition, it has to result in the interviewer(s) praising them. They will have no choice. So what is this question?

Why did you invite me in for an interview?

Of course, you can rephrase it – What about my resume appealed to you? – but the result will be the same. They will let you know what they felt were your strengths and now you know what to reinforce and, more importantly, what to emphasize. They probably missed something else that is great about you. So let them know what it is.

And then there is the question every interviewer should ask. Regardless of the job for which a candidate is applying, every employee of every company has tasks to perform. For every task employees must prepare. Employers need to know that candidates know how to prepare well for whatever situations they will face. Of course, an employer can usually tell how well a candidate prepares for meetings by the quality of their answers, and more importantly, their questions during the interview. But sometimes nervousness can interfere with an otherwise top-notch candidate’s performance. So there is one question which is likely to put the candidate at ease and provide the interviewer(s) with the information they need. So what is the question – the FIRST question – interviewers should ask?

What did you do to… – or, if you prefer – How did you…. prepare for this interview?

Either way, you will get the information you need to make an informed decision.

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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 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.