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You did what?…#1 Mistake When Searching for a New Career

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
― Bill Gates

So, you’ve experienced some success in your current job, perhaps your past several jobs, and are considering career advancement options. Maybe you’ve come to realize your company’s version of a bottleneck is shaped more like a bottle of Gentleman Jack than it is a bottle of Riesling. Perhaps you and your boss are like oil and water, two freight trains heading straight towards each other on the same track, and most certainly should not fold each other’s parachutes before a skydive.

Based on what you’re reading and hearing, the economy seems to be picking up speed. You’ve done OK financially and have put some away for a rainy day. Feeling upbeat, your letter of resignation is merrily, and with very little trepidation, personally delivered to that fat-dumb-and-happy-lazier-than-a-bump-on-a-log-totally-full-of-himself boss.

The first ever-so-slight dose of reality hits when that letter is accepted without any effort to win you back. No matter, you say, he’ll realize what he had in you after next month’s numbers come out.

A nice relaxing celebratory dinner, followed by two weeks (with unused vacation pay) of getting some long-forgotten chores around the house done, catching up on some sleep and finally some relaxing weekends all amount to a smooth transition into ‘career search’ mode. Time lost: 2 weeks. Opportunity cost: $3,000 + (~ $75,000 annually)

OK, time to really dig in. Coffee in hand. PC turned on. What’s next on the list? Update resume. Develop list of contacts. Create target company list. Update LinkedIn profile with good photo. Connect with every recruiter known to man. Reconnect with long-lost colleagues, ‘friends’, and ‘people I’ve done business with’ on LinkedIn. Join LinkedIn groups. View job boards. Submit some resumes. Total time lost: 4 weeks. Opportunity cost: $6,000 +

Phase II tasks start to become clear, maybe. Adjust resume to appeal to either broader or more specific opportunities. How many years to include? Begin to realize how many contacts won’t return the call, don’t remember, or are too busy in their own careers to set time aside to ‘help’. Sign up to an increasing number of job boards and continue to submit resumes. Build a spreadsheet (albeit late) to keep track of resume submittals and the miserable 5% response rate. Wonder why the interviews aren’t coming in fast and furious. Confuse recruiter calls with company interviews. What’s wrong with the resume? Should have completed that MBA. How to explain the 15-year gap between that Associates Degree and today? Am told an AA is not a full degree. ‘Anticipated Graduation Date: December 2018’ doesn’t count. Total time lost: 8 weeks. Opportunity cost: $12,000 +

Finally, a real interview. Haircut, new outfit, wash car, realize exercising these past 8 weeks instead of stress eating would have been a better option. The interview process takes how long? Four weeks? Plus planning and preparing for relocation – that’s another four weeks…if this FIRST interview amounts to a real job offer. Wonder if this is the right career / job choice. Wonder what sort of job will the spouse land. Continue to send out resumes, read email ‘newsletters’ in a feverish attempt to stay current (catch up) on industry events and changes. Total time lost: 16 weeks. Opportunity cost: $24,000 + spouse’s lost wages…if the job works out. Let’s stick with $40,000 total opportunity cost…if this makes it to an acceptable offer, with a good company, in a region that’s NOT more expensive.

How long will it take, assuming a better paying position, to regain those opportunity costs?

As a recruiter, I can vouch for the virtually endless number of scenarios which have, can and could stretch the career search to six months or more. Now there’s a REAL gap on the resume, which will undoubtedly have to be explained on nearly every interview. That’s in addition to answering the question, “Why did you leave your job without one to move into?”.

It’s all well and good to be able to confidently explain that fiscally conservative and wise investment decisions enabled this career search without resorting to bankruptcy. However, how is the question “Why are you interested in this position?” answered without the manager thinking, “This guy just really needs a job after six months.” Whatever the ‘correct’ response is, it will ring hollow when compared to the same response given by a professional seeking a career change or career advancement but elected to stay, deal with, learn from, etc. at their current company.

It’s not a reflection of experience, skill sets, background or education. However, it can quickly become a matter of questioning decision-making abilities.

That’s not a desirable outcome of a ‘career search’.

“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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