Job Search Persistence – Never never never give in

Mar 16 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

It disturbs me when I see comments from candidates who have given up.

As the tough job market dragged on, I’ve sensed that more people were starting to give up their job search. A number of mainstream news articles seem to confirm this when they discuss that unemployment numbers are understated, due (in part) to people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have given up.

Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting. Persistence is the #1 determinant of success in any difficult task. However, if your persistence isn’t leading to progress in your search, candidates can get demotivated. When I see that happening I suspect it’s due to a misdirection of efforts, combined with today’s tough job market.

In a good market, candidates can make mistakes and still land jobs, because in good job market there’s a shortage of candidates. That’s not the case today – candidates who are finding jobs are both persistent and are executing their search effectively. It’s seldom the case of a candidate getting lucky, but more often the successful candidate engineering their luck (

When I talk to unsuccessful frustrated candidates, the consistent story line is one of persistence in tactics. These candidates don’t recognize an important difference – the difference between persistence and stubbornness. These candidates are using the same tactics over and over and are frustrated that they aren’t seeing a different outcome (

However, one consistent trait among successful candidates is the willingness to try new tactics, rather than giving up when frustrated.

Seth Godin, the guru of modern marketing writes, “Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.” (Source: As Seth points out, the key is persistence in towards goals, and using a new tactics to drive us towards that goal when the old tactics don’t work.

But most candidates I speak to who are frustrated in their search continue to use the same tactics over and over, while expecting different results.

There’s a great story about differentiating between goals and tactics from a little
company called Traf-O-Data started by two young entrepreneurs. Traf-O-Data was developing hardware and software to count the number of cars that passed through an intersection, to lower the cost of municipal traffic planning. The company had customers, had revenue, and was generating out a small profit – an early moderate success. The only problem was that it wasn’t meeting the founder’s goals, as its partners realized Traf-O-data would never become large enough to create a long and profitable career for them. Instead the founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded a second company to meet their goals, called Microsoft.

Imagine how different the world would be if Gates and Allen had ignored their goals, instead concentrating on their tactics? Maybe Traf-O-Data would have been a wild success, and the modern standard for counting cars and traffic planning at intersections everywhere. What would the internet and PC’s look like today?

Christopher Columbus maintained fanatical persistence toward his goals. Even as his tactics failed, over and over, he didn’t loose sight of his goals and he didn’t give up. Columbus failed early in his career as a mercenary, hired by the Duke of Anjou to help overtake the Kingdom of Naples. Later he was captured by Portugal, while captaining a Spanish expedition guarding a fleet of valuable cargo. Columbus petitioned the King of Spain for seven years before gaining funding to explore a faster trade route to India – which he never found. His reward for his expedition was heavily weighted in pay for performance, limiting the King’s risk, because few in the Spanish court believed he would succeed.

Both Bill Gates and Columbus learned through failure and changed their tactics – but persevered to attain their goals.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been truste
d to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

After releasing this quote, Michael Jordan went on to miss 3,000 more shots on his way to becoming the greatest payer in pro-basketball history, because he never lost sight of his goal.

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great orsmall, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill

Just remember … as you pump yourself up to persist, make sure you persist in the right things. Persist to achieve your goals, but be ready to try new tactics to reach them.

It may not be your job search that’s impossible – it may be your tactics. Persist, try something new and measure the results.


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