Safe Is The Risky Path For Candidates

Mar 4 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

Risky Business - Creative Commons

Earlier, I posted an article suggesting that job seekers take responsibility for their own search, rather than blame others, blame the economy, blame anyone but themselves (see:

Sadly, I got many responses that just contained more whining, more blaming others, with not very many taking responsibility for their own job search.

I’m not alone in this observation. Seth Godin, one of the great marketing minds of our time, and author of 13 marketing books, has some interesting thoughts on taking the safe path.

Seth writes in his blog, discussing a recent trip to a college campus:

“It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.

Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into “trouble” with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.

The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.

Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it’s a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you’re reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.

Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It’s pretty clear that the thing that’s wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.

Cut class. Take a seminar on french literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.”

Seth Godin – On self determination

Many of today’s unemployed took the safe path, believing that their employers would have more loyalty to them than to their shareholders. A large number of today’s unemployed, believing they were safe and had “guaranteed employment” didn’t expand their skills or education, because they mistakenly felt safe.

It’s turned out to be much more risky than they thought.

I’ve talked to countless people who had been with the same company for 10, 20, even 30 years, and now find that their skills are much less valuable on the open market than they were to their old employer. In a sense, they allowed their career to get too employer-specific, because they took the safe path.

It’s interesting to hear the comments of some of these candidates, and how they vent their frustration with the job market:

  • Blaming employers – stating the interesting idea that it’s a company’s job to hire them, and if the candidate can’t find work, it’s the company’s fault
  • Blaming the economy – claiming it’s the economy’s fault they can’t find a job, yet they aren’t using many of the currently available techniques that can help them stand out in the job market
  • Blaming foreign workers (especially prevalent in Technology) – claiming it’s all the fault of foreigners who have come here to steal our jobs (how many generations have had the same excuse?)
  • Blaming hiring managers, recruiters, and HR – blaming hiring managers as being too picky or lazy, when it’s often candidates who won’t adopt new techniques that are lazy
  • Blaming Wall Street, the stock market, Government ….

Blaming anyone but themselves for taking the safe but risky path.

So how can you take a risky (but still relatively safe) path in your job search?

You have the ability to self-determine your future, and the gift of being able to choose. What will you do to assure you don’t waste that gift?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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