Myths and Attitudes

We are well into a deep recession with unemployment at a record high, approaching double digits. Because of the employment situation, we have worked more in the past six months with clients who are out of work in contrast to clients who are seeking to make a change or move up in their careers. Some of the clients come to us after a fairly extended period of unemployment. What makes it more difficult for some people to gain a new job while for other job seekers, reemployment is not such a huge hurdle? From our experience, it has very little to do with actual qualifications but rather with the attitude the client has about job search.

We generally start all our engagements with a free critique of the client’s current resume. In our communication with clients at this stage, we often get the “myths” list from job seekers. These myths are their perceptions on why they are unsuccessful in their job search. A myth list will often sound something like this:

“I’ve been looking for a job for six months and there just isn’t anything out there (Myth 1). I don’t have a degree (Myth 2) and I think that is one of the reasons no one is calling me. Add to it that I’ve 59 years old (Myth 3) and I have three strikes against me from the beginning. It’s a hopeless situation.”

Such a negative attitude is self-defeating. The job seeker with this attitude spends more time and energy taking a negative approach to the job search and less time actually taking positive action to get interviews! Notice the job seeker does not mention the resume even though the resume is the primary career marketing tool for generating interviews. A great resume will deal strategically with any conceived hurdles such as education deficits or age. Much of our approach and strategies revolve around nullifying or de-emphasizing issues that may stand in the way of an interview! If you are not receiving interviews, the first potential culprit that should be examined is the resume. It must do its job – sell your value, overcome potential problems, and generate the interview.

In the client’s comments above, he grasps some common myths concerning hiring. The first myth is that there are no jobs available. That’s untrue! There ARE jobs out there but there is more competition for each one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a figure last week stating for every open position, there are five applicants. New businesses are starting up as those laid off decide to take the opportunity to pursue The American Dream of owning their own company. Smaller companies are stepping in with cost-saving solutions where larger companies cannot compete due to huge overhead. There are some terrific opportunities in the market right now!

The second myth concerns the degree or lack of one. Many people feel the lack of a degree is a comment upon their character. That could not be further from the truth! In fact, here is a comment from a recruiter concerning education:

“I can tell you that too much education can be a bad thing when it comes to applying for jobs. Not only does it give the impression that you don't know what you want to be when you grow up, it can also suggest that you don't want to grow up. People who have dedicated so much time to their education often perceive its value to be much higher than it is to employers, and it can be difficult to convince them to downplay it. And it's not just an issue of being "over-qualified" - in some cases it may be indicative that a person is "not qualified" because they spent more time in school than in the real world.”

Most people do not think of the education issue from that perspective, but rather think of lack of education as a huge strike against them. You cannot learn experience in a classroom! Employers know that, too! Sure, a formal degree is helpful but savvy employers know that it is not the only success indicator in hiring. You may notice that many, many employers will accept experience in lieu of a degree.

The third myth – the age issue – actually has some basis of truth. Is age discrimination a factor in job search? Yes, it can be. People hire people. Those who are the hiring decision-makers bring their own personal attitudes and biases to the process. While age discrimination in hiring is illegal, it still happens. In the comment above, the client believes his age is a reason for not generating interviews. If his resume was written well, his age would not “show” on the resume and the issue would be a moot point until he actually arrived for the interview.

Job seekers who successfully find their next job quickly have some common traits. They have positive, can-do attitudes. They do not listen to the negative messages coming from the media about the job market. They look for solutions to problems they face rather than caving to the problems. They focus on the positive attributes they have to offer employers rather than dwelling on the negatives in their past. They are constantly making efforts toward that next job – they do not stand still and wait for things to happen. And finally, they make sure they are using the most aggressive career marketing tools available – a fantastic resume and a sound job search plan.