THE BLOG

Losing Hope in Your Job Search

06/12/2013 03:59 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2013

"The worst part of trying to find a job?" he said to me, "The worst part is that I'm losing hope." It's not the rejections, it's not being at the mercy of someone half my age, it's not even the fact that finding work is a full time job with no vacations and no pay. It's that I am losing hope."

Simmering right below all the obvious reasons for losing hope, are a host of other factors. Most of them don't get talked about very often because they tend toward the abstract. And when people are losing hope, or angry, the last thing they want is a theory. They want answers. Instructions. Being told what to do. Sure, they also get mad at cheap, dismissive, "lets blame the victim" tips on getting a job. But we've always had those. Cheap tips promoted to work for everyone can work sometimes. People can win lotteries too. But if I had said to the man losing hope, "Don't worry! Be happy! Hope will return just as soon as you get the right resume!" What do you suppose his answer would have been?

So what does drive this loss of hope?

Efficiency. As you read these words, somewhere there is a hiring authority thinking, "I wonder if there is a way we could hire people without using any people?" No one is anti-efficiency. The problem is that the every single person's job search is different. So you have an individual bucking up against an efficient system that really doesn't recognize the individual. And any planet where a person can't be recognized for who they are is a place without hope.

Rationality. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about the system for connecting the right person with the right job is the illusion that it's rational. Ask a seasoned recruiter if finding the right fit for a job is like a math problem. They will tell you no. The system is efficient. It can look great from the outside. (Until you run up against cracks in the system like job sites that won't take resumes. Or ads for jobs that don't exist.) But the system is not rational. So how does that evoke hopelessness? Picture the job seeker who has done everything right. Followed every experts tip. And still has no job. Wouldn't you feel hopeless too?

Cost. What does a bad chemist cost to hire? A CEO who leads a company into the ground? A teacher? Can you imagine the cost of a bad hire for a teacher or principal? That cost has a ripple effect that can last for years. And it's that "for years" part that presents the problem. Massive, vague speculations on long term costs are measured alongside of immediate short tem savings. Guess who wins?

And the tie to hopelessness? The nose dive of self esteem for the candidate who thinks, "More than anything, I must be cheap."

Finally, there is the illusion of MAGIC. The selling of the idea that there is such a thing as "how to get a job." When we all know that "how to get a job? " isn't even the right question. The right question is "how do I get a job?"

That question. "How do I get a job?" means letting go of the search and inevitable anger over cheap, dismissive tips promoted to work for everyone. There IS no "secret" to getting a job.

So where's the hope?

It's in whatever prompts new and different thinking for you, JUST YOU, on finding work.

There is hope every time you start a thought with the words, "What if I . . ." and then you fill in the blank.

Since publishing Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, I hear stories of hope lost and found every day. All of them unique. NONE of them applicable to anybody other than the story teller. All of them connected by principles, not action steps or instructions.

Like my banker's fiancé. She didn't get around gatekeepers, bother with sending resumes to strangers, interview with people whose sole purpose was to find what she didn't have. She became part of a community of people who did what she did for a living. So when a job came up, she already knew about it. She didn't "network"---from one person to another. She built community. Then after she did her interviews, she sent tiny pairs of shoes to the hiring manager--to show the message, "I can go the extra mile." In the book, we call that "adding music." It's the way you show your fit for a job. There is no one way. It's a song only you can sing.

And she ended up getting two offers.

That and hope.