I was standing in line for coffee one day listening to a gentleman of roughly 30 years old talking to someone on his iPhone about why he didn't get the job he had applied for at a local pharmaceutical company. I could only hear one side of the conversation but felt fortunate that at least I could walk away without causing any heartache to this young man. Someone else, on the other end of that line, wasn't so lucky. In the few minutes that I kept listening he offered a litany of imagined excuses as to why he didn't get the job. Some of the reasons included; the terrible job market has made for too much job competition, he was overqualified with a Master's degree, he didn't have any contacts working at the company who could offer him a leg up over other applicants, and the list went on and on.
When did people stop saying those four magic little words, It Is My Fault? The lack of personal responsibility in America is at epidemic proportions. When did people stop being accountable? Was it when fast food customers started suing restaurants for their own accidental spilled coffee? I don't know about you, but I don't need my paper cup to display a size 18 font warning that, "This Coffee May Be Hot." Perhaps individual responsibility started to disappear when high schools began eliminating vending machines from their cafeterias because students cannot be blamed for overindulging in candy bars and soda if the school is providing the opportunity to buy them. Maybe our duty to own up to our individual faults melted away when many state and local governments ceased allowing restaurant owners the ability to use trans-fats because Americans are overweight and we cannot blame people for their own over-eating.
Here is what I wanted to say to that jobless young adult in the line at the coffee shop, chatting away on his $400 iPhone: Dude, Seriously? It's totally your fault that you didn't get that job. It is not the employer's fault. It is not your school's fault. It's not the fault of the person that did get hired. It is not your mama's fault, nor your dad's. It is not society's fault. It is not the government's fault. The fault, my friend, is yours. Just yours. Accepting this truth is your first step forward toward employment.
If you wanted the job so badly, did you really do your research? Did you go into the job interview knowing everything there is to know about that company, including stock value, company challenges, competition, and recent press releases? Are you sure you had no contacts working at that company? Did you research all the people working at the firm through LinkedIn and did you find out if any of your LinkedIn contacts were even remotely connected to someone currently employed by that firm? If you have even 400-500 LinkedIn connections, that alone can connect you to more than one million people in the work force.
Did you know the name of the person who would be interviewing you (this requires that you ask) and did you know all you could know about that person before you went for the interview? Did you do even a tiny bit of legwork on Google, Facebook, or Twitter? Maybe she is an avid reader, a regular blogger, or an expert on something that would have given you a commonality to talk about. Knowing from her blog that the interviewer is a voracious reader, did you offer some of your favorite book recommendations at the interview? Most people are drawn to people who are genuinely interested in them. Were you genuinely interested in learning as much as possible about the person who was interviewing you?
Speaking of social networks, did you make sure yours reflected a candidate the firm would want to hire? You deleted all the college photos of you and your buddies doing keg stands, right? You did your best to make sure your status updates and tweets were clean, and deleted the rest? If you didn't take the time to employer-proof your social networks, you at least changed your privacy settings so that your posts and photos were not entirely public, correct?
Did you take two hours to write up a white paper about this firm analyzing their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to offer as evidence that you understand the company better than any other applicant? Did you bring articles about their competition with advice on how this firm could use the information to bolster their own interests?
Was your interview flawless? Did you weave in your knowledge of their business through each interview question? Was your resume impeccable? That is, updated on the day of the interview and printed on gray parchment paper so that it could not possibly blend in with the hundreds of others? Did you call after the interview to say thank you? Even better, did you send a video email of you offering sincere appreciation for her time? Of course you sent a thank you note, right?
A college degree does not get you far these days. What does is a little ingenuity. If you are leaving it up to the employer to decide if you are right for the job, then it could be a while before you see a paycheck. If on the other hand, you know you are right for the job, and are willing to put a little bit of effort into proving it, it won't take long for fate to draw your card.
Remember, in a tough job market, the ones that score the good jobs are the ones that build off of a simple personal foundation that if they don't get the job, it's totally their own fault.