Question: “No offense, Matt, but job hunting isn’t much fun and I hope I never have to work with you again in a professional capacity!  How do I avoid this?”

No offense taken!  As a career counselor, you get used to this phenomenon pretty quickly, and realize that while this line of work allows you to meet some fascinating, highly talented individuals, there’s no question that most of them would rather be sitting behind the desk of their next job — instead of needing to come into your office and work on resumes, job search strategies, and interviewing skills.  In fact, whenever I get a call from a former client whom I haven’t talked with for a couple of months, I admit that my initial reaction tends to be: “Uh oh! I doubt this is a social call — I wonder what happened?”

So while it may run counter to my own revenue stream and business interests, let’s talk about how to avoid needing the services of Career Horizons — or any other career counselor or outplacement service — for as long as possible and possibly for the rest of your working life.

The most important advice I’d provide on this score is to actively reframe your current job search process as a valuable learning experience and developmental opportunity, instead of as a necessary evil.  If this is the first significant job hunt you’ve had to run in a while, accept the fact that you’re going to be a fish out of water and will likely be frustrated by many of the new dynamics you encounter along the way.  The majority of my clients report, for example, that they are blown away by the enormous “barriers to entry” that now exist across industries, as well as by the lack of common courtesy, slow pace of the interviewing process, and low response rate their resumes receive to published advertisements — even opportunities they feel were literally written with their background and credentials in mind!

As undesirable as some of these “new rules of the game” may be, however, they are indisputable facts of life in the modern world of work — and you can therefore either expend your energy fighting against them, or do yourself a much bigger favor by embracing them and learning how to apply them to your own advantage in the years to come.  After all, what was it that Charles Darwin told us?  That it’s not the strongest of species that tend to survive, but the ones most adaptable to their environments?   I think this insight is incredibly appropriate in a career context and should be taken to heart by anybody who still has a few years left before retirement.  So instead of wasting energy wishing for the good old days, if such actually existed, I’d strongly encourage any professional job seeker to concentrate on learning how the game is actually played, in today’s world, and strengthening their ability to play it successfully.

In the new economy, for example, it’s clear that two of the biggest keys to employment success are to maintain a set of specialized skills that can produce immediate positive outcomes, as well as to devote significant time to networking and building up as much “social capital” as possible in the form of personal/professional relationships.  I doubt anybody would dispute this and you see the importance of these two variables every day (or at least I do) in terms of how quickly, smoothly, and successfully people bounce back from a job or career setback.  The question therefore becomes this: when you land your next job, will you quickly forget these important lessons or will you instead catalogue what you’ve learned and take active steps both to keep your network in peak condition and to acquire the emerging skills that appear most in demand within your field?  The choice is yours, and while I’m not intentionally trying to sound alarmist, your future marketability could teeter on it.

If you want a role model to follow, we’ve got one.  Recently, one of our clients (name withheld for confidentiality) recently impressed us by forwarding along a PowerPoint presentation — several months AFTER her job search ended — that captured the key insights she had acquired during her employment transition and the steps she would take to maintain her career health in the years to come.  Needless to say, this is exactly the mindset we feel will continue to separate the most successful career professionals from those who routinely struggle.  And while we look forward to maintaining a relationship with this client in the years to come, her actions and attitude suggest that this relationship will be a personal one, since it’s doubtful she’ll need us to support her again in a professional capacity!