How to Reenter the Job Market

If President-elect Trump honors his commitments to repeal Obamacare and the tens of thousands of regulations passed by President Obama (at an annual cost of billions for businesses) the result should be the creation of a massive number of new jobs. Of course, this will not happen until Mr. Trump takes office and, even then, it will take time.

The sign that people believe him will be an increase in the civilian labor force participation rate which, as everyone now knows, is a far more important statistic than the unemployment rate, and which has not been this low since 1977/78. In other words, people who gave up looking for work will want to, once again, find employment. They will become confident that the economy is finally going to turn around.

The downside is that this means a lot of competition. Accordingly, if you are one of these individuals, here are some steps you should take now to get a leg up on your fellow job seekers.

Obtain what you lack

The most important thing you can do is get what you need. How do you know what you need? Look at job postings for positions in which you are interested. Note the qualifications. If most jobs require something you do not have, get it! Obviously you cannot get a college degree in three months, but you can learn new skills and become current in your profession. There are legitimate on-line courses available including: www.coursera.org, www.edx.org and www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses. Get educated! And if you need a specific certification, find a trade school. It does not matter if they are accredited. You need an education, not a piece of paper to hang on the wall.

Get noticed

Start writing posts on LinkedIn. The fact that you are reading this proves my point. But also utilize such services as Help a Reporter Out and BlogTalkRadio to build your brand. Put differently, what you are trying to do is to get recognized for your expertise so employers will come after you. If you happen to be in New York City on Wednesday, November 30, you can attend my talk on Building a Brand to Attract Employers at the Science, Industry and Business Library. Failing that, you can watch a video of a previous presentation I made on the same topic. It’s only slightly dated. If you follow my advice, with a little luck, not only will employers notice you, but you will be able to include “Media Citations” on your resume, as proof of your being a “recognized expert” in your field.

Prepare an employer-focused resume

Start working on a new resume. It’s not difficult to fill the unemployment gap which I am certain is of concern to you. Under “Work Experience” create a subsection, “Employment-Related Activities.” Include any courses you have taken, short-term work you undertook and, perhaps most importantly, your volunteer activities. You want to show that you have not been idle, that you are not the type of person who can sit around all day and watch television.

Most importantly, don’t start your resume with a professional summary where you engage in self-praise. No employer cares what you think about yourself. Employers want to be reassured that you can meet their needs, that you can solve their problems. Simply begin with a section titled “Selected Accomplishments.” List half a dozen bullet points highlighting relatively recent career successes. That’s what employers care about.

Network

Resume networking. Reach out to old friends and colleagues, even if you have lost touch. You have nothing about which to be embarrassed. Let everyone know that you are back on the job market. While the hope is that there will be plenty of jobs advertised, the competition for them will be great. As always, the simple truth is that the best jobs, and the majority of jobs, are not and will not be advertised. You will only find out about them through networking.

Don’t fall for scams

Once the job market picks up, those persons claiming to be job search experts will start coming out of the woodwork. Don’t fall for them! There are no shortcuts and if something sounds questionable, it probably is. If they tell you that they can get you on the television networks, make certain they are not talking about a mention in a silly press release that is picked up by the network affiliates and placed on their websites. You will be making a fool of yourself. The same is true if you engage the services of someone who tells you to eliminate the gap in your resume by creating a group on LinkedIn and presenting yourself as a “Founder.” You’ll just look silly.

Similarly, be cautious of so-called “professional resume writers.” Don’t pay for a fancy resume written by someone who simply fills in a template. Ask to see three examples of their resumes. If they begin with self-praise, don’t waste your money. Similarly, there is absolutely no need to hire someone to create your LinkedIn profile. Just cut and paste your resume. You don’t want any discrepancies between the two. And, of course, if you have it, add multimedia files. In any case, keep in mind how recruiters actually use LinkedIn.

Watch out for career counselors

If you feel the need for outside assistance, shop around. First, only hire a career counselor who has actually hired people. You don’t want an academic; you want a practitioner! In other words, you want someone who has “been there and done that,” not someone who has just read about it. Second, request a 15-minute free consultation. Take five minutes to explain to them your situation and then let them talk for the remaining 10. If everything they say is boilerplate, move on! If they have nothing negative to say, no real criticism, move on! Most importantly, do not pay an hourly rate. Only pay a flat fee and the service should continue, ideally, until you get your next job. Someone who charges an hourly rate is looking for a long-term relationship with you so that they can milk you for as much money as they can. You don’t want a relationship, you want a job! And since I just happen to be a career counselor myself I can say with complete authority, we are very boring people! You can find far more interesting souls with whom to have a relationship.

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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 300,000 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 chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Confidentiality and Your Job Search

“Looking for new opportunities.” That is what I tell attendees at my speaking events and my career counseling clients to write, front and center, right after their names, on their LinkedIn profiles so that the world will know that they are looking for a new job. Of course, there is always one exception: You don’t do that if you don’t want your current employer to know that you are looking!

Seems pretty obvious but one person just called me, desperate for help, panicking, because she was just fired by her boss. She had seen her LinkedIn profile, saw the “Looking for…” statement, and found a replacement.

We all make mistakes, but there are “mistakes” and there are “mistakes” and this definitely falls under the heading of a “mistake.”

What makes this ironic is that this morning I decided to go for a walk. It was chilly, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I thought it would be refreshing. I did not know it would also be entertaining.

As I was walking I heard a commotion. Being a nice Jewish boy I will not repeat verbatim what the wife was (justifiably) saying to her husband, but suffice it to say I will never understand why people do not delete the call logs, voice mail messages, and text messages from their phones especially if they are of a “sensitive” nature. Hubby got caught.

In my book there is no excuse for cheating. Period. End of sentence. So hubby will get what he deserves (hopefully within the bounds of federal and state law…). But looking for a new employer is, of course, totally different than looking for a new life partner (in place of or in addition to the one you currently have). It is not immoral. It is not indecent. It is, in fact, quite common. You just don’t want to broadcast it.

I don’t know which is more accurate: Is conducting a confidential job search a “zero sum game” or “Catch 22?” In the first place, the more people who know about your search the less confidentiality you have. But the fewer people who know about your job search, the less effectiveness you have. In the second place, if you don’t tell people about your search they can’t help you, but if you tell people about your search eventually your boss may find out about it. I guess they are both equally accurate.

So now comes the big question: How do you conduct a confidential job search when you are employed and can’t afford for your boss to find out? The word is “discreet.”

If you are looking to change careers, in other words, to enter a new industry, your problem may not be that serious. After all, you are not going to be networking with people who are likely to know your boss. And if, by chance, she finds out about it, all you have to say that you are interested in the industry, find it fascinating, and want to learn more about it. Of course, if she says she knows you are handing out resumes, then my advice is to come clean. Maybe an honest conversation will result in your finding a solution, if possible, to the reason(s) why you are looking for a new career. In any case, adding “liar” to “disloyal” is never a good idea.

Of course when looking for a new job in the same industry, the odds are better (or worse depending on your point of view) that the boss will hear about it. The answer, again, is to always be discreet and make certain that when you are letting it be known that you are looking for a new job that you always say and write that you are applying “in confidence.” If someone were to tell your boss that you are looking to leave, and she fires you, and you can prove who told her, you might (I’m not an attorney) have grounds for a law suit against the person who violated your confidence. But there is good news:

A funny thing usually happens when you tell someone that you want to talk to them “in confidence” or “confidentially.” They are complimented. You are telling them that you trust them. Most people like that feeling. It means they have a good reputation. If they violate that trust, you will be able to destroy their reputation. They won’t want that. So don’t worry.

But the bottom line is, if you are employed and looking for a change, there is no way to conduct a totally confidential job search. Be prepared! As with everything else in life, and as hubby found out, you have to be willing to be held accountable for your actions.

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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 300,000 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 chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Identifying and Eliminating the One Person Who is Blocking Your Job Search or Career Move

Every so often I like to read books about topics about which I am curious, knowing full well that I will not understand them. So when I learned that Einstein had written a book meant to explain his theories to the public, I ordered it. If I say I understood 25% I would be bragging and exaggerating! But it was not a waste of time. (Get it? Time. The fourth dimension! Pause for laughter.) It’s good to get out of your own head every now and again.

That is especially true with a job search. The majority of everything you do will be unsuccessful. Most of the employers you contact will not respond. Most of the people with whom you network will be of no assistance. But the minority will respond. The minority will be helpful. You will get that job or start that new career. The problem is, unless you are really lucky and get that new job quickly, it’s going to take a while. That will cause frustration and frustration leads to self-doubt. Self-doubt leads to paralysis.

Most of the resumes I receive start with self-praise.

Highly accomplished manager and sole contributor with deep understanding of best practices to support all channels of asset management distribution. Deep management team-building and mentoring capabilities. Extremely fluid at forging trans-departmental relationships and strong collaborations in highly matrixed organizations. Excellent contract negotiation skills. Creative problem solver skilled at developing effective messaging with internal and external clients. Keen sense of priorities and projects ownership to ensure successful completion on time and on budget.

That’s an exact quote and a great example of what I am talking about. Notice how great she thinks she is but, alas, no mention of a single actual accomplishment. If she had come to me for assistance, the nonsense would have been replaced with a few tangible facts about which employers would actually care. She may be as good as she thinks she is, but, to use a journalism term, if so, she buried the lead.

There is a reason why so many job seekers make this mistake. They are focused on themselves. They want employers to know how great they are. Well, no employer cares how great you think you are. Employers want to be confident that you can solve their problems. That is why self-praise needs to be replaced with selected accomplishments.

But even that is no guarantee of a job offer. And most people will still ignore you. There may be better candidates. You will not always be the best. In fact, you may be the best only once, which is all you need to be.

The problem is, as stated, rejection leads to frustration. You then go from thinking you are the best to thinking you are worthless and your career has been for nought. You start obsessing. You panic. You can’t think straight. You can’t figure out what you are doing wrong.

You then become your own worst enemy. You can’t see the forest for the trees. You no longer have any confidence. You forget about all your successes. You are the one standing in your own way!

That is when you have to step back. Unless you are in marketing or sales, you are not an expert in marketing or sales. And marketing and sales is what a successful job search is all about. You could be actually the greatest IT professional in human history, but the worst in human history making the case for your employment. There is no contradiction between the two. This is not what you do!

When that happens, when you reach that stage, you have no choice but to seek outside help. Of course, I am pitching my services. I’d be lying and would lose all credibility if I pretended otherwise. But before spending money (you don’t want to know how much some people have told me they have spent on job search assistance and career counseling!) spend time with people you respect. Notice I did not say “friends and family.” You might like or love them, but you may not respect them. And if you don’t respect them, you won’t listen to them and, just as importantly, they won’t listen to you, because they probably don’t respect you either. The person needs to be able to take a step back, forget all they know about you, and let you talk freely and candidly about your career. They first have to listen to you. Then they have to ask questions you might not like but which you will have to answer. And then you have to listen to them. You don’t necessarily have to agree with them, but you have to listen.

I have found that people sometimes ignore their most valuable traits. They take them for granted and don’t think they are a big deal when, in fact, they are. Ironically, those are the traits that may appeal to a new employer and are usually the ones that will lead to a new career. But to find them, you have to stand back and let the person with whom you are meeting see both your forest and your trees.

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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 300,000 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 chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

On “women’s problems,” enemas and choosing a career counselor

I was recently reminded that this month marks the thirtieth anniversary of my having had major surgery. I spent 27 days in the hospital. It was an experience, to say the least.

A number of years ago a colleague was going to the hospital for surgery. When I asked our supervisor what she was having, he said, “women’s problems,” which abruptly ended the conversation. None of my business. None of his!

She knew that I knew she was going into the hospital so I went over and wished her well. We were rather friendly so I asked if it would be alright to visit her. She said it would be but I should call the hospital first.

A week later I phoned the hospital and got permission to visit. When I arrived she was surrounded by colleagues, friends and family…and her doctor. I immediately knew what was going on. All of her visitors were telling her she looked well. Asked how she was feeling. Reassured her. Said all the right things. Basically did everything a patient does not want done.

I walked straight to her bedside, said, “Hi” and asked the doctor if he was her doctor. He said he was. I then looked closely at her nose. Using my finger as a pointer I said, to the doctor, “You do great work. I don’t see a scar and I can’t even see any swelling. Remarkable! But, if I may offer one criticism, personally, I would have chopped a bit more off.” Without missing a beat he replied, “It’s a judgment call. It’s easier to chop more off later than to add on.” “Good point,” I responded. I then looked at my colleague and said, “See you back at work.” I gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder, shook hands with the doctor, and left. That was it.

By the time I got to work the next day the rumor mill was hard at work. Everyone knew about my “disgraceful” behavior. I just laughed it off. I could not have cared less.

A few of us were in the lobby when she returned. She ignored everyone and came straight to me. For the first time ever, she gave me a hug and a kiss. Everyone saw and everyone heard what she said: “I can’t thank you enough. How did you know what to say?”

The answer was simple: I had been a patient and knew what she wanted to hear and how she wanted to be treated.

A couple of years later a friend called me. His grandfather was going to have heart surgery. He, the grandfather, was very nervous and they, the family, were worried about his state of mind. He asked me to drop by.

I did. I walked into my friend’s apartment. He introduced me to his grandfather. I whispered in his ear. He smiled. Slapped me on the back. And I left without saying a word to my friend or anyone else.

When I got home my phone was ringing.

What did you say to my grandfather? When you left, he got up, took his meds, and went to bed. Usually we have to fight with him. What did you say?

I figured all of you were telling him that today the surgery is not a big deal and he should not worry. Well, for him it is a big deal and he has the right to worry. So I told him it was big deal and he had the right to worry.

But what exactly did you tell him?

Nothing that begins with an enema is every any fun!

People who have not had an experience that someone else is going through usually want to be nice. They think they are saying and doing the right things. But, in truth, they are not. They are usually saying and doing the exact opposite of what the person they care about wants. And, because of that, it does not work and can lead to frustration.

I have noted previously that when choosing a career counselor the first question to ask is, “Have you ever hired and fired people?” If not, then the counselor’s approach is purely academic. That’s not what a job seeker needs.

Of late, I have come to the conclusion that other questions have to be asked:

Have you ever been unemployed? For how long? How did you get your next job?

Have you ever been faced with having to sell your home?

Have you ever had to choose between paying for medication and buying food or paying the rent?

In other words, before hiring a career counselor make sure that they have personally experienced what you are experiencing. If they haven’t, you can probably find better ways to spend your money.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

How to apply for a job for which you are unqualified.

In my previous post, I promised I would write about applying for jobs for which you are unqualified. I shall now keep my promise. In fact, I have been trying to keep it for a few days now. The problem is, I am my own worst critic and have not liked the previous drafts. This is actually a very difficult topic and it is the Number One reason people think they are not being considered for a position.

So let’s begin with the statement I just made only this time with emphasis on the word “think.” You may be wrong. Your cover letter may be proof that you cannot write. Your resume may be evidence that you are sloppy and disorganized. And your interviewing skills may be so bad that you could not convince a drowning man to hire you, the only person within site, to rescue him. To quote the Bard, The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

But let’s say that you are correct and you are unqualified. What does that mean? It means you either lack something, have too much of something, or not enough of something. So let’s look at each.

You Lack Something

If a job requires a license or certification, and you don’t have said license or certification, you will not be considered for the job. The fact that you hope to pass the test “next week” (I actually had someone tell me that once) is irrelevant. You may pass. You may fail. But you don’t have it so you are not qualified and will not be considered. There is nothing to discuss. If the job requires OSHA certification, and you are not OSHA certified, you are unqualified. Period. End of discussion (almost).

Instead of lacking a certification, you may lack a skill. I had a career counseling client who came to me after losing her job. She had been a “secretary” – her word, not mine! – for 30 years. The company she was at closed. She knew dictation and shorthand (two lost skills). And she was an expert in Word Perfect. I wrote my doctoral dissertation using Word Perfect. It is far superior to Word. But no one uses it today; everyone uses Word. She did not know Word. There was absolutely no point in her applying for any job until she learned Word. Once she did, she got a job in a matter of a few weeks. So if you are lacking a skill, learn it!

In some cases the problem is not a qualification or skill, but geography. You may be totally qualified for the position except for the fact that you are in the wrong city. Many employers have no desire to relocate applicants. There is enough local talent. Moreover, knowing the city may be an important part of the job (even if not stated in the job description). So if you are out-of-town your best bet may be to move to the city where you want to live and then start looking for work. Of course, financially this may not be feasible. In that case the solution is networking, but that takes time. Bottom line, is, you are in a chicken and egg situation. You can’t get the job until your move to the city but you can’t move to the city until you get the job. This one usually takes more luck than anything else, other than patience.

Too Much

The job requires “2-5 years’ experience.” You have 15 years under your belt. You are, accordingly, over qualified. Yes, you are probably being rejected because of your age, but go prove it. Not going to happen. The employer can come up with a number of sound reasons for not wanting anyone with more than five years’ experience. (I am about to provide one!)

Or, the job requires a Bachelor’s degree and you have a Master’s. You are overqualified.

Why would an employer not want someone with “too much” experience or education? One credible reason is fear of boredom. In other words, they are worried the person will leave either because the company is not big enough for them, or they won’t get along with their less experienced and less educated colleagues. That is a totally legitimate concern.

Too Little

Now we have the opposite case. The job description requires “10 plus years experience and a graduate/advanced degree,” and you are fresh out of college with maybe two years of real experience.

Unlike the above case, this is not age discrimination. You lack the network of the more experienced candidate. You lack the life experiences. You’re not there yet. You will be. But the employer wants to hire someone who has “been there and done that,” not someone with potential to “get there and do that.” And that is the employer’s right.

So how do you get a job for which you are unqualified?

There are two ways to applied for a job for which you are unqualified: informally and informally. (Not a typo; an attempt at humor!)

The first “informally” means you don’t actually apply. Instead, someone recommends you. This is when you are “underqualified.” Someone who knows the employer speaks on your behalf saying, “She’s not there yet. She does not have everything you are looking for. But she has great potential. Look at what she has accomplished. Do you want her in your tent or working for your competition? Give her 10 minutes. It will be time well spent.” In other words: network!

The second “informally” means you are “overqualified.” In this case, assuming that you know who the employer is, you apply for the job by not applying for it. You submit your resume with the following introduction in your cover letter:

Having successfully blah, blah, blah, I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself in the hope that if a position should open at NAME OF COMPANY, you will consider me a viable candidate.

The “blah, blah, blah” is an actual accomplishment that you have that will make them immediately think about the position they are looking to fill. What you are doing is getting them to decide whether or not to consider you.

Of course, a case can be made for applying for the job directly and if they want to reject you, they’ll do so. In that case you would write:

Having successfully blah, blah, blah, I want to submit my candidacy for the XYZ position knowing that I cannot only fulfill the requirements of the job, but exceed them.

So what’s the difference? It’s a matter of style. My concern is that if you apply for a specific job and are rejected, because of the amount of work the HR department has, you may not get into the company’s Applicant Tracking System. My way, that may not be an issue. But it is a judgement call. The important thing is to focus on an actual verifiable accomplishment.

It also depends on to whom you are sending the letter. If it is going to HR, they probably are just “checking boxes.” If it is going to the hiring manager or supervisor, they may care more about the substance of the resume than just comparing it with the job description.

As for being overqualified, networking is of less importance. Yes, it would be nice to have someone tell the employer that she would be a fool not to hire you. That you can cover the owner’s expenses for your salary, etc. in short order is a great selling point, but you can get that message across in the cover letter by writing something similar to the above.

Lastly, let’s get back to the case of lacking certification. If you are going to get the certification quickly, and if you meet all the other criteria, all things being equal, you should not have a problem, as long as the job has not yet been filled. Which is why people think that noting they they will have the certification shortly makes up for not having it. That may be the case. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right candidate and you may have everything else they are looking for. And they may be willing to offer you the position on the condition that you get the certification. So apply for it. After all, what do you have to lose?

So to summarize, the way to get a job for which you are not qualified is by a combination of networking (obtaining an outside recommendation) and writing an accomplishment-based cover letter. It has worked for me. It has worked for my career counseling clients. It may work for you.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

What should you yell if you are being attacked (and what does this have to do with getting a job)?

If your response is “Help!” you are wrong. The correct answer is “Fire!”

This comes from the case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in 1964. Published reports at the time, later debunked as an exaggeration, claimed dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese’s cries for help. No one helped. No one called the Police. The reason they all gave was that they assumed someone else had called. This is known as the “Bystander Effect.”

Now, you are no doubt asking, what in the world does this have to do with career counseling and helping people conduct an effective job search? Good question. I hope the answer is as well.

If you yell “help” when being attacked, the people hearing will assume others have also heard and have taken action. They will ignore you. That’s the Bystander Effect. And, of course, if the person is yelling “help,” by definition, that means that you are not in any personal danger. So you have no personal reason – forgetting for a moment the little inconvenient concept of civic responsibility – to get involved. But if the person is yelling “fire!” and you hear them, then the fire may be close to you. You could be in danger. Accordingly, you call the Fire Department. (I don’t know this for a fact but I think this is one of the reasons that when there is a call to 9-1-1 about a fire, the Police always arrive on the scene.)

“Fire” is personal, “help” is not. When you yell “help” you are focused on yourself. When you yell “fire” you are focused on the other person(s), warning them of danger.

The Number One mistake job seekers make is that they are focused on the themselves and not on the employer.

I have a fairly new career counseling client who does not listen. He has also been unemployed for a very long time. The two are, no doubt, connected.

He sent me the job description for a position for which he wants to apply. I read it thoroughly, reviewed the resume we had prepared and, totally confused, I called him. The conversation went something like this:

I think you sent me the wrong job description.

Was it for the coordinator position at XYZ?

Yes. Why would you apply for it?

I think it would be interesting. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I have the skills.

But you lack all of the qualifications and have none of the experience.

But I want to try. Why don’t you encourage me?

Because that’s not what you paid me for. You paid me to help you get a job. You are forgetting what I tell you practically every two weeks: Your job search is not about you, it’s about the employer. You have to meet the employer’s needs. The employer only has to meet your needs once they offer you the job.

But I know I can do it.

XYZ does not want someone who “knows they can do it,” they want someone who has done it. So by applying for a job for which you do not have a chance of getting, all you are doing is adding to your frustration. What’s more, XYZ may remember that you applied and, if they ever have an opening for a job for which you are actually qualified, the fact that you applied for this one may be held against you.

That’s not fair.

It may not be fair but it is reality. So do what I told you to do the last time this happened. Send them your resume without referencing the specific position. Just write that you want to introduce yourself in case anything should open up in the future. Focus on one of your accomplishments that you feel will resonate with them. Reference your attached resume. Thank them. That’s all you can do.

And that’s all he really can do. You have to stay focused on the employer’s needs and not on your wants if you want to get the job.

When I was looking at his resume I saw that he lives in Queens and I figured he was old enough to remember the Genovese murder, or at least had head about it. (I don’t know if it’s still true, but someone once told me that it was taught in Social Studies classes in Queens’ high schools.) He did. “Fire” vs “Help” seemed to resonate with him. Hopefully he now gets it and will remember. I hope you will too if you are in the habit of applying for job for which you are unqualified. (By the way, my next post will be on applying for jobs for which you are unqualified.)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, 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, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

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