How do you eat an elephant? This was a question posed by my running coach, and it’s so applicable to job search as well.
My readers who know me know that I train for marathons and triathlons and run to raise money for the American Cancer Society. My running coaches are the great Jenny Hadfield and Mike Norman, co-founders of Chicago Endurance Sports. Coach Jenny often talks and writes about eating elephants.
There are so many parallels between job search and marathons …
Why Is Job Search Like A Marathon?
Like it or not, a job search is a marathon – it takes a long time. And just like a marathon, the quality of your final results, the speed you are able to get to the finish line, and the pain (or lack of pain) of the effort is determined by how well you prepare.
What do you think happens when a candidate is prepared for a sprint, but ends up with a marathon? Pain. frustration, fear, and an increased risk that they can’t reach the goal – the finish line … or a good job.
Unfortunately, most candidates are prepared for a sprint – it’s what they are used to. Most first time marathon runners don’t realize the amount of preparation needed to accomplish a marathon. Just like most job seekers don’t recognize the amount of preparation they will need to find their next job.
In prior job markets, there was an over supply of jobs and shortages of qualified candidates, which made sprints out of job searches – but not today. So past experience in job search doesn’t translate well into the realities of today’s job market.
For example, most management level candidates I talk to expect their job search to last an average 3 months – because that’s the longest they can imagine that a job search might last based on prior job markets. Yet, today’s job market has different realities – 6-9 months for managers. 9-12 months for senior managers & executives, even longer for a company President/CEO. CareerBuilder recently published that the job market improved to a 30 week search length for the average candidate.
While some people might be able to run a sprint with no preparation – it’s impossible to run a marathon if you haven’t taken the steps to prepare. It’s not just that you’d take a long time to complete a marathon if your prior preparation consisted of your TV’s remote control or your Wii. Without preparation, it’s impossible to complete a marathon – not even if you walked the entire 26.2 miles.
Candidates who attempt job search without preparation experience comparable pain.
So How Do You Eat An Elephant?
(and what does it have to do with your job search)
Coach Jenny has an awesome answer – the key of how to eat an elephant. “One bite at a time.”
Coach Mike adds that a critical part of effective marathon and triathlon training is to “take the time to make a realistic training plan.”
Both comments are directly applicable to job search, but to a candidate, eating an elephant isn’t about putting on the miles.
How can a candidate eat an elephant in 4 steps:
- Make a written project plan: Very few candidates prepare a written project plan. This is more than something in your head, a follow up tracking, a to-do list, or a list of target companies/contacts. Much like managers prepare a project plan for multi-month large scale projects to track many moving parts, job seekers have a huge benefit when preparing a formal plan for their job search. For details on how to prepare a project plan for your job search, see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/02/are-you-planning-to-fail-in-your-job.html
- Research, research, research: Most candidates don’t do much research until they are preparing for an interview. That’s great news to those candidates who realize that their best chance of getting an interview is by gaining information that their competitors don’t have – by researching to find non-public information (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/guerrilla-job-search-tactics.html).
- Address the employer’s problems: Rather than looking for a job, look for problems that you are uniquely qualified to solve – here’s how (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/03/would-you-stop-looking-for-job-already.html).
- Be unique: Strive to present yourself in ways that will differentiate from the pack. Instead of using the same techniques as your friends, peers, or co-workers, approach your job search differently. While most candidates have learned to try to be all things to all people, that doesn’t work well in a job market where there are less jobs than candidates. Instead, focus on your specific strengths … what makes you unique and different.
Instead of emphasizing the wide variety of all the things you could do, instead focus on what you do better than anyone else and companies who need those specific skills. (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-personal-branding-statement-can.html).
Personally, I like to eat my elephant with lots and lots of road salt …
Many thanks to Coaches Jenny Hadfield and Mike Norman for inspiring this article.
How will you eat your personal elephant?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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