Friday, May 30, 2014


A story of hopelessness, hope, & perhaps a helpful hint or two

In The Divine Comedy by 14th century Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, readers experience an epic journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso). Dante's Inferno is, to this day, the most popular part of the saga, with its doomed popes and diverse damnations. For centuries, images of the dammed walking on hot coals or floating head down in rivers of excrement have haunted the faithful and entertained those with more skeptical natures.

While Dante's Hellish imagery is certainly compelling, it's nothing compared to the uncertainty of Purgatorio, however. In Purgatory, many a lost soul is made to lie prostrate or walk through flames, day after day, year after, serving up their penance in the hope that, one day, they'll find their way to Paradise. Having recently survived my own personal Purgatory, I now wonder... Given the choice, would Dante's penitents have chosen interminable uncertainty, or a river of shit?


In July of 2013, my employer of 17 years initiated a 'resource action', an impersonal term that had a very personal impact on me and thousands of my coworkers around the globe. Like many people who've gone through similar circumstances, I was faced with an uncertain future, uncertain finances... Seemingly overnight, uncertainty became my only certainty.

I'd love to claim that I dealt with the situation heroically, head on and without any doubts as to my future. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. The truth is that, facing unemployment for the first time in my career, I was utterly terrified. Whenever I stopped to think about my situation, the uncertainty threatened to paralyze me completely. My solution? Stop thinking and act.

The gates of Purgatory

Like most anything in life, a job search is a process with a beginning and an end. Unfortunately, like those trapped in Dante's Purgatorio, job seekers often feel like they have little to no control over the process. Employers pick and choose which resumes to read and, even if you're lucky enough to get called or e-mailed by a company recruiter, that's just step one. Candidates progress from being one of thousands of resumes to one of hundreds of voices, one of tens of faces and (if you're really lucky) possibly one of maybe five or ten finalists. Even the finalists are faced with odds ranging from 10:1 to 2:1.

Why am I belaboring such difficult realities? Because it's important to remember that, even if you do everything right (e.g. the perfect resume, interview, etc.), your best odds are 50/50. Knowing that no lead or prospect is ever certain may help you realize that you can never stop searching... At least until there's an offer on the table. 

The seven terraces

Job seekers are continually bombarded with advice, rules-of-thumb, and learned opinions they're told will help them get hired. Most of what you're told is true... And yet, it's not.

Yes, you should...
  • Write and polish up your resume
  • Create multiple resumes for each job role you're pursuing
  • Customize your resume for each job you apply to
  • Create a personalized cover letter that's also specific to each job
  • Practice telling stories, based on your own experience, that you can then use to answer the many "Have you ever...?", "How did you deal with...?", "Was there ever a time when...?" sorts of questions encountered in modern interviews
  • Have past work/portfolio samples ready to share (if applicable)
  • Remember that employers sometimes only consider the first few hundred (or fewer) applicants (LinkUp is a great resource for finding fresh job postings, btw)
  • Immediately follow up every phone screen and interview with a personalized thank you note or e-mail
  • Never stop applying/looking, regardless of how well an interview goes (ref. my prior comments re:odds)
  • Pursue every networking opportunity (e.g. LinkedIn, other social media, local networking groups, personal clubs, churches, etc.)

Will doing everything right ensure that you find a job? No.  Doing 'all the right things' will increase your odds of gaining an interview though. And keeping at it, not giving up, that's the real secret. Though there are no guarantees in life, I'll guarantee you this... If you give up and resign yourself to lying prostrate or walking on coals, you will fail.


Which brings me to why I'm writing this. I don't want you to fail. I want you to succeed and join me on the other side... To find your own Paradiso. And, until you do, please know that my prayers are with you.

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