THE BLOG
11/12/2014 05:05 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2015

Why Can't I Get A Job?

"Why can't I get a job?"

It sounds like such a SIMPLE question! So we search for a simple answer.

• Write the perfect resume.
• "It's a numbers game. Just keep trying."
• Network.
• Get a different skill set.

And it's this simplistic approach to finding work that is at the heart of the problem. Because there IS no one simple answer. There is no lever to pull and the job pops out of the vending machine. Every single job search is different. You could follow every single piece of job search advice ever written or spoken and still not find a job.

Why?

Because job search is not a rational process. We pretend it is. In the name of efficiency and cost savings and sometimes plain old "just not getting it," we both coach and do our own job search as if it was a mathematical formula or a recipe for a nice, warm cup of soup.

Career Development operations--at schools or in business-- often hold tight to the dirty little secret that job search is NOT a rational process. Not letting anyone inside to see how the sausage--or the resumes--are made. Circling the wagons against any kind of new thinking. New thinking like: Now do I get INSIDE the company first, to make sure gatekeepers or gate keeping software doesn't stop me? How do I become part of a community? How do I become an insider?

Dawn got her job by standing in a Starbuck's line. Try finding that piece of advice on a Linked In blog or anywhere else. You won't. Every job search is different.

Dawn had an administrative job at one of the world's largest insurance companies. It took up about half her energy and thought on any given day. She was a go-getter. Wanted more. She had applied for jobs with human resources, but nothing had ever happened. So she started reading about her company. Not just the official stuff. She started reading about insurance. She started reading about "risk." Dawn is a low key, thoughtful young woman of 26. People might even call her shy. So if someone would have told her, "Just network!" she would have cringed, nodded politely and then done nothing.

But the idea, and she loved ideas, of managing risk, came to be something that fascinated her. The word "Geek" did occur to her. But she didn't advertise her interest. What she did was come to understand what an underwriter did. How underwriting really fueled the business. As she thought about risk one day, she told me that she came across a copy of Finding Work When There Are No Jobs because a friend had told her, 'this book is NOTHING like you think it will be.' Dawn opened the book to a random page and was struck by the 5th Principle, "Practicing Stewardship." That principle was all about understanding something larger that yourself. And that's when the bell in her mind started ringing. "Risk" was bigger than she was! Her interest in risk, a personal interest, was exactly what the book meant when it spoke about practicing stewardship.

Dawn told me that the story in Finding Work where the couple is walking to Dairy Queen one night drove her nuts because she couldn't scream at the characters, "Hey! Pay attention! You are MISSING all the people in your lives who can help you get a job!"

But Dawn was still very shy.

Till that one day when she did something totally different than she had ever done in her life. It happened in that Starbuck's line. Dawn had read the story in Finding Work titled "When The Women Took Charge." There was something in the description of that woman that said "Brave" to her. Dawn was in fact standing in that Starbuck's line, thinking about the story of the brave Welsh woman, when she realized that the SVP of Underwriting was standing right behind her.

So Dawn turned around and changed her question. She didn't ask about jobs. She introduced herself and said this, "How do I learn more about underwriting? I've been reading up on managing risk, and I find it interesting. Do you have any advice?"

Six months later, Dawn is finishing up a training program for underwriting. The SVP is her mentor. And in two weeks she will be starting her job as an underwriter.

Thinking differently about finding work. Finding your own path. Not the better resume. The better path.

Your path.

Because maybe "Why can't I get a job?" isn't the question that will help you. Maybe the question is:

"How do I think differently about finding work?"