THE BLOG
09/16/2014 10:37 am ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

"Happy Talk" Job Search

At first, it makes you feel so good.

You're looking for work. Or more work. Maybe any work. Engaging work. A retirement plan. Or maybe even your first job. So you go looking for advice. And that's when you find the 'Happy Talk.' You are thrilled! You'll have this work problem solved by dinner. 'Happy Talk' is an easy to understand, one-size fits all, rational recipe for pulling you out of panic and into employment. A simple list of instructions.

Who knew it would be this easy? You buy the books and watch the videos that dole out the recipes on how to find a job. You pour through the never-ending river of advice on line. Bright, cheery pieces with titles like, ' I GOT A JOB AND SO CAN YOU!' You start down the list of instructions, ('Let's see now, be sure to sound confident in the interview'. . . OK. Got it. Check.) You have the passing thought, "Gosh, I've followed recipes for making brownies that were tougher than this."

That's the beautiful thing about Happy Talk Job Search. It's as easy as making brownies. You don't really have to think at all. Just eat the brownies!

But as you begin wandering merrily down the path of Happy Talk, munching on those brownies, something unexpected happens. You're not finding your work.

So you buy into another Happy Talk recipe. Brownies weren't your favorite bakery treat anyway. Maybe you need oatmeal cookies. They might take a bit more thought. But if you can bake them just right . . .

As the oatmeal cookies bake, you start thinking that what's most frustrating about this little job search thing, is that you have done EVERYTHING RIGHT! Everything right and you STILL haven't found your work!!!!

And that's when the urge strikes to reach inside your computer screen, find the throat of anyone peddling the Happy Talk and grab on tight till they promise to stop. You scream at the broken screen, "Finding work means pain! Not making cookies!"

Finding work means translating Happy Talk clichés back into REALITY TALK. For example:

• "Apply, Apply, Apply"--the notion that the more resumes you send out, the better your chances--is one of the most harmful pieces of Happy Talk. It benefits recruiters, keeps the hiring system going, and sounds logical. But it's simply wrong. There is no data that supports this little pearl of wisdom, but the worst part is that this advice wastes time. Translate this piece of Happy Talk to "target your applications."

• "How to" can be translated to "What if I . . .?" The fundamental need in connecting to work is NOT a "how to" problem. Yes, there are people who chew gum in interviews, don't act confident, or any other one of the standard, stale, happy talk pieces of advice. But there are also people who interview PERFECTLY and don't get jobs. In contrast, approaching your search with "What if I . . ." opens up your own unique path to work. A much harder path because you need to think it through and that kind of thought isn't easy. It's frustrating. Doesn't feel good like Happy Talk does.

• Translate "Do more networking" to "become part of every COMMUNITY you can." The cheapening of networking by social media and our desire for instant communication has sucked the meaning of the word networking into a watery state that can mean something different to everyone. Add to that the fact that hiring decisions, especially in larger companies, are rarely made by one person. It's the community that holds the power. So use that power by leveraging your active participation in your communities.

• Translate "research the company" into "find a fit." Fit means something entirely different for every single job. It's often left unsaid. Fit is what's between the lines of the job description. One way to find and see fit is by thinking of it as "the music of the organization." Not literally of course. But rather as a jumping off point for all the ways you can "add music" to the organization's mission. You don't stop at adding objective value. You also add music because you are a "fit."

Happy Talk is rampant not just on line and in books but also institutionally across career development and outplacement operations all using the same models of connecting people and work that have been in place for decades. Happy talk feeds on itself. Advice breeds more advice.

So if the Happy Talk is ever going to stop. Do this:

The next time someone gives you a piece of Happy Talk advice on finding work, ask yourself: "What if I thought differently about finding work?"

Then listen for your own unique answer. Not the expert answer.

Your answer.