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Einstein’s Definition of Insanity

Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Unfortunately, many job seekers fit this definition. They do the same thing in their job search over, and over, and over again and think THIS time it will work! To some extent, any endeavor takes several tries to get it right or to get the desired result. However, if the number of tries starts becoming very large and nothing has developed, you may want to reconsider the process.

Thomas Edison said it took him over 10,000 tries to find the right material for a filament before he was able to invent the incandescent light-bulb. Each experiment, however, involved a new material… something different. He didn’t keep trying the same filament over and over again.

This comes to mind because of a job seeker I’ve been talking to that over-exemplifies the problem. She’s been unemployed for nearly 18 months with no end in sight. She has a respectable work history, however, has stuck to a common and ineffective job search strategy without any intent to change.

She, like many job seekers relies on only one arrow in her quiver. She applies to jobs posted online… endlessly. She’s taken the “art” to a new level. She has applied to one large company in the area nearly 800 times over the past year and a half. She has applied to a multitude of other companies countless times as well. Her job search day consists of sitting at her computer 8 to 10 hours searching every job board and company site she can and applying to any position that matches a few keywords from her resume. She has received a few calls and a few interviews, however, none of them was a great fit, and she no longer receives calls at all these last few months.

She knows someone at the large company she’s been targeting and keeps applying relentlessly thinking that her contact will make it happen for her. That contact has told her directly, however, that they will not hire her because they view her as unfocused in the jobs she’s targeting and exceptionally obsessive in the number of online applications. She’s burned any hope of current or future opportunities at that company because of her obsession… and probably other companies as well.

Whenever we talk about how to become more effective in her search, she focuses on submitting more online applications each day. She’s  convinced that if she can only apply to enough positions… ONE of them has to bite. No bites so far.

Applying to one company several times will usually result in destroying your chances of getting a position there rather than enhancing it. When someone keeps applying for positions over and over again, the perception generally is that there is no focus, but rather a throw everything against the wall and see what sticks kind of approach.

A more effective approach is to only apply for 2 or 3, very targeted positions, and only pursue additional ones through direct contacts and conversations. Seek contact names and referrals from friends, other business contacts, LinkedIn, and other online resources. Call or email people within the organization directly and introduce yourself. Very concisely and professionally describe your most related experience to the position and ask for who else they would recommend you talk to. If there is an interest in you, at some point they will ask you to still fill out an online application. However, at that point you are already along in the process and don’t have a history of applying endlessly.

An effective job search certainly does include looking for online postings and applying appropriately. However, more importantly, it includes effective networking, conversations with people that can refer you one step closer to someone that may have a job appropriate for your background. It includes strategically pursuing companies that fit your background and interests whether they have a position posted or not.

Don’t rely only on one arrow in your quiver for your job search. Online applications are actually the LEAST effective means of landing a new position. Pursue multiple strategies and don’t abuse any one of them to the point of burning bridges.

Take Einstein’s warning to heart and get better results!


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