Contrarian Ideas for Red Cape-Wearing Job Seekers

Contrary advice for the red cape wearing job seeker

In my work as an executive and leadership coach, I primarily spend time with people already in great jobs, helping them find simple, practical ways they can achieve more clarity, confidence, and control of the things they care about most–their success, their business communication and relationships, their rewards and recognition, making a significant contribution to their organization or the world, etc. But when I’m out speaking, I often meet several professionals looking for new jobs.

That happened this week, and after having the same conversation with several people, I thought it might be valuable to share some of my own ideas for job seekers who want to bring their superpowers to work and find the next opportunity where they can wear their red cape and make a difference for their organization and for themselves.

What I hear when I share these is that some are a little contrary to “popular belief.” Well, these ideas seem to be working for the people who are moving around, so you can make your own decision.


1. Get out from behind the computer.

Several weeks ago, USA Today ran a front-page story about a college grad who every morning goes down to her parents’ basement at 8am and starts working on her job search for the next eight hours. I wish I would have saved the article, but I was so annoyed I shredded it to bits.

Great jobs, like great relationships, don’t fall from your ceiling. There’s no magic email trick or search engine spark that will bump you up without you doing the work. Jobs are created and filled by human beings.  You have to be out among the human beings for your best shot, so start clicking less and connecting more.

Get out! Fill your calendar with coffees or even better, quick meetings at someone’s office. Use the computer to find the people to talk to, but don’t rely on email to make your impression–go look ’em in the eye.

“I’m shy,” someone said to me when I pushed this. But in reality, this person had been great at building relationships with clients in their last job, and so I know they have the skills to talk to new people.  Stop hiding behind “shy” or being an introvert–you don’t have to be anyone different than who you are today. (For the truth about introverts, see my interview with author Jennifer Kahnweiler of [amazon_link id=”1576755770″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Introverted Leader[/amazon_link].)

2. Swim where the fish are.

Don’t feel compelled to go to every networking event. Just spend your time and energy (and registration fees) where the people who do what you do are–that means professional organizations, trade groups, etc.

There are too many “job seeker” meetings that are depressing and full of people complaining to each other. If you do go to one of these, make sure you’re getting value from it (meeting new friends to support each other, being able to use your contacts to help someone else, great outside speakers, etc.).  You’re better off spending your time around people who you aspire to be.

3. Don’t believe the myth that there are no jobs out there.

As I’ve said often, you can only control three things: what you say, what you do, and what you think. If you think there are no jobs (or no jobs for you, with your particular skills, and your particular requirements), then you lose before you get started.

Don’t believe the negativity bias that’s out there about opportunities in the workplace. People are changing–or creating–jobs all the time. Companies are starting or expanding. Sure, it’s not as simple as just raising your hand and getting picked, but would you want a job that was that simple to get?

I recently attended the Society of Human Resources’ (SHRM) annual conference with 13,000 attendees. Of five days’ worth of presentations and workshops, a ton of them were about recruiting, attracting and retaining great talent. If no one cared about these topics anymore, a major trade group like SHRM wouldn’t waste their time.

Manage your beliefs everyday, and don’t lose the battle in your head. Remember, every job opening is a problem to be solved, a need to be met, and opportunity being left on the table. Every person I talk to who is hiring wanted to fill the job yesterday. Be counter-cultural–believe there’s a great job for you out there, because there is. If you’re hanging with people who focus on the struggle, not the potential, find some new buds.

YOUR TURN: What do you think about these ideas? If you’re a job seeker or new job holder, what are your best tips and ideas? Reply below or tell us on Facebook or Twitter!

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