Are You Using A Silly String Job Search Strategy?

Nov 20 2012 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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Many job seekers use a Silly String job search strategy, mainly because they think it will help their career.

Of course you’re not intentionally self destructing your job search strategy, but many things that job seekers naturally do … or were taught to do … can unintentionally damage your job search.

Most job seekers were taught to job search in a different age, with different hiring processes, different hiring decisions, different competitive challenges, different technology, different employer technology, different employer needs and concerns. But because it’s what we were taught, it’s what worked last time, and because we’re comfortable with these methods, we often continue to use them, unaware that they no longer work.

Job search is so uncomfortable for most of us that we tend to seek things that are comfortable to us about job search … those “tried and true” methods, developed for a different job market. While comfortable, when used in today’s very different job market, those “tried and true” methods cause frustration, delay, even long term career damage.

For instance, if you’re using a Silly String job search strategy, you’ve got problems today.

What’s a Silly String job search strategy and how can you tell if you’re using it in your job search?

The Silly String Job Search Strategy:

Let’s say you did something early in your career, like you were in charge of bringing Silly String to market for Wham-o.

How do you handle this on your resume?

… Do you highlight it?

… Do you mention it?

… Do you ignore it?

How to recognize if you’re using the Silly String strategy:

  • You highlight early-career accomplishments: When you highlight that you brought Silly String to market, or another early career accomplishment, you’re using a Silly String strategy.
  • You start your elevator pitch with early-career accomplishments: If you start your elevator pitch saying that you’re a marketing professional and that you invented the Pet Rock … you’re using a Silly String strategy.
  • Anything more than an incidental resume mention: If you attract any more than incidental attention by including that you negotiated the Chia Pet acquisition, you’re using a Silly String strategy.

The Silly String strategy isn’t just about what you invented, marketed or acquired. These are just some ridiculously obvious examples. It applies to any significant achievement, early in your career, that happened so long ago that it’s no longer relevant to today’s employers.

Now that you see some Silly String in your job search strategy, what will you do? Will you let it remain or change how and what you communicate?

There are a number of problems with the Silly String strategy that you should be aware of before you make a decision …

Why the Silly String strategy doesn’t work:

  1. Who cares? Is it relevant today? Is it relevant today that you invented the Hula Hoop? Will that experience help your target hiring manager today?
  2. This happened 30 years ago: You worked on development of the first Space Shuttle … 30 years ago. You’ve moved on to other things since then. Do you really remember the details well enough to immediately pick up where you left off? Or will you need ramp up time and a learning curve to get back up to speed?
  3. What have you done since then? OK, so you invented the Egg McMuffin. What have you done since then? Are you washed up? Have your best days happened far in your past?

Hopefully, these examples illuminate why Silly String job search strategies are ineffective in today’s job market.

But what should you use instead of the Silly String?

Instead of Silly String in your job search, why not instead focus on how you’ve already solved similar problems that the hiring manager faces today … rather than what you did 20 years ago?

Why not discuss something the hiring manager actually cares about? How you can help him/her solve key problems, meet goals, break through roadblocks, exploit opportunities, avoid risk that that hiring manager is dealing with right now?

The biggest reason you aren’t focusing on current hiring manager problems is because you don’t know what they are.

… And that’s just a matter of preparation. Because if you don’t know what the hiring manager’s priority problems are before you send your resume, you’re guessing … usually wrong.

So rather than waste your time guessing, why not invest your time into upfront research so you won’t have to guess the hiring manager’s issues … you’ll know them.

Which do you think is more effective?

… A Silly String strategy, emphasizing what you accomplished 30 years ago?


… Demonstrating that you’ve already solved similar problems to the hiring manager’s priority issues?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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