Career Advice, Interviews

Steps To Getting A Dream Job: Face Your Worst Career Mistakes

Most career advice is written as if all job hunters were Ivy League graduates with MBAs and a perfect track record. The truth for most of us is that we’re average, have screwed up once or twice and are anxious about being exposed in the job hunting process. We’re not quite sure what we want but have a clearer picture of what we don’t want.

Getting fired, laid off, demoted, passed over, screwed and tattooed is what happens to most people with jobs. We live in and around the Peter Principle, painfully aware of our shortcomings. The result is that creepy feeling that the reference check is going to turn up something noxious.

While the advice givers always recommend a frontal assault, we often hope to skate past the checks. They routinely describe a type of bullshitting that works well for the elite and terribly for the rest of us. If you get the sense that the job advice you’ve gotten must be for someone else, you’re not alone. The standard counsel is to put lipstick on the pig.

There’s something really weird about job hunting advice that doesn’t work.

So, how do you get over the fear that your job hunt will implode as soon as they learn about your layoff at Enron?

Very interestingly, 85% of us are in the same boat, struggling with average-ness and not quite sure how to put the frosting on our cakes. For us, the first job we get offered usually feels like the only offer we’ll get. Is it possible to be choosy and average? What about below average?

The very first thing to do involves celebrating the fact that you are normal. Those high-flying masters of the universe are the real freak show. Normal is where most of the world lives. Ask a sibling or a good friend to regale you with stories of their screw ups. You can be pretty sure that if they say they don’t have any, they’ve been reading the same job hunting advice you’re about to reject.

Laugh at yourself and find a couple of other people who will laugh with you. Job interviewers are really just trying to find people who are not too scared to make a mistake. They can’t tell you that. But you can be sure that they are exposed to an endless line of poseurs who claim a life of accomplishment with nary a scar.

Make a list of your twenty-five worst mistakes. Try your very best to write down the really awful ones. It’s hard to be that honest.

Make another list of all of the things that you hope the job interviewer won’t discover. The more honest you can be, the better the results.

Review both lists with someone you trust. Ask them if there’s anything on the list that would get in the way of the job you want. If there is and you haven’t done something about it, now is a good time to start.

Looking for work is humiliating, difficult, embarrassing, stressful, anxiety-producing and frustrating. If you’re lucky, one in ten job interviews will mature into an offer. One in fifty will be worth taking.

Evaluating your weaknesses is a method for coming to grips with the fear that paralyzes most job hunters. It’s not a good idea to bring the list to your next interview or to recite it from memory if a recruiter calls. Naming your fears helps you set them aside, that’s all

The trick is to understand that you have to get interviewed often enough to be good at it. The first step, acknowledging your weak points, allows you to move ahead without being scared of your shadow. It’s damned hard work.

This is Part 9 in John Sumser‘s Dream Job Blog Series