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One of these works like magic… but which one?

People who face unemployment or layoff, don’t fit well with their position or colleagues, feel chronic dissatisfaction with their work, or who yearn for a new opportunity within their organization all have one thing in common: they need a new job. Of all my clients, job-seekers may win the prize for Most Pessimistic Comments:

“I’ve been looking for months.”

“No one is hiring.”

“It’s a $#!%-storm out there.”

A rough economy is like a slow day of fishing: most anglers are shut out, but somebody on the water is still catching fish. How do you become that “somebody?”

Success sometimes requires venturing out

Success sometimes requires venturing out

Fisherman’s Tip #1: Pick the Right Spot

When I was 14, I tried fishing for wild brown trout on the Owens River near Bishop, California. These fish are smart, wary, and difficult to catch, which I learned after fishing the same spot for three hours with zero bites. Then, this guy named Randy came along who knew the river and told me that I needed to keep moving, because my spot either didn’t hold any trout, or if it did, they were alert to my presence or weren’t interested in my bait.

In career terms, the “right spot” amounts to industry and location. To snag a job, the industry you target has to provide opportunities, and if you’re not getting any nibbles, then you may need to look in a different spot where jobs are more abundant. For instance, the current market for architecture positions is abysmal, with a higher unemployment rate for college graduates than almost any other major—unless you’re willing to relocate to Asia, where the market is expanding. If relocating is not an option, then it might be time to target an industry with more opportunity. If I’m starving and can’t catch a wild trout, I need to consider going after catfish or carp (which are more abundant and less picky) until I have some food in my belly and can afford to be more selective.

Fisherman’s Tip #2:  Vary Your Presentation

Back on the Owens River, I kept moving around to test different spots, but still wasn’t getting any bites. I sought out Randy for advice, and he identified my problem: the cheese balls and salmon eggs that appeal to the stocked trout in lakes have no effect on wild trout, which only bite live crickets and certain artificial lures. Since I didn’t have any crickets, I started presenting every lure in my tackle box to the Owens wild trout, up and down the river.

cheese bait

To catch a prize, you need your A-game. This represents the opposite.

For career development, your presentation involves the sum total of your resume, networking, and interviewing activities. This is the point where most job seekers get out-competed, because they are casting cheese balls instead of live crickets. Presentation can always be enhanced or varied to catch the attention of recruiters and employers, usually with expanded person-to-person networking, a more relevant resume or LinkedIn profile, and improved interview preparation. One former client sent 650 resumes in two years without a single response, despite fishing in the right spot (she was seeking an advertising position in Southern California, for which she was sufficiently qualified). Clearly, her presentation was costing her opportunities, but when she got help to refine her approach, she eventually found a job.

Fisherman’s Tip #3: More Time on the Water

Five and a half hours into my day, I got my first bite. Although I failed to hook that crafty devil, I had discovered the lure/ presentation that appealed to my quarry. From that point, it was just a matter of time. I continued to test different spots with that magic lure, until I finally hooked and landed my first wild brown trout, partially falling in the river and nearly drowning in the process. At the end of the day, putting in almost seven hours of fishing, I walked back to camp with two trout on my stringer. I crossed paths with Randy again, expecting him to tease me for my sparse catch. Instead, he greeted me with admiration, admitting that he did not catch his first wild trout until his fifth trip to the Owens River. Considering the level of difficulty, I had become that “somebody” who’s catching when no one else can. Good thing I didn’t give up at the five hour mark.

Judging by her fishing ability, this young lady's future looks bright

Judging by her fishing ability, this young lady’s future looks bright

Like fishing, a career search is a numbers game, and you won’t often catch a job with the first resume or application you cast. If you want to be that “somebody” who hooks opportunities even when the market is tight, then you will need to invest more time and energy in the process than your competitors, scan various areas until you hit the right spot at the right time, and test different presentations until you find the winning formula that gets you noticed. Although you can’t control another person’s decision to hire you—just like you can’t “make” a fish bite—following these three tips will push the odds in your favor.

by Jason Sackett, LCSW
Professional Staff at CWFL