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Job Hunting, Jobseekers' Perspective

The One-Word Key to Job Search Success

Tried to show the hills behind me, but they do...

Tried to show the hills behind me, but they don’t look quite as tall as they felt… (Photo credit: cyclotourist)

Having worked in job training and employment for over 11 years, I have observed how the job search has changed with technology, the economy, and a variety of other influencing factors, but one thing I noticed has been a constant in job search success. It was something I noticed from the first, and yet it is also something I continually re-learn with just about every new jobseeker I work with.

To explain my reasoning, allow me to speak of something entirely different: bicycling. There is a hill, about a mile from my home, over which I must travel to reach many of my biking destinations. When I first started biking I could not reach the stop without stopping, and even after many excursions over that same hill there are days when I feel I just cannot make it. I lower my head, so as to see as little of the hill as possible, and soon I am forced to downshift, as my speed lowers, my legs start to ache and my breathing accelerates. Before I reach the top, I’m barely moving, I’m gasping for air, and muscles are screaming. My mind is screaming too– STOP! You cannot get to the top! You don’t have enough energy! You’re going to pass out!

Sometimes I listen, and stop for a drink and a slight breather. Sometimes I don’t. I block out the self-defeating talk, and tell myself, “you CAN do it.” It’s almost like the Little Engine That Could– “You can do it, you can do it…” At first I don’t believe myself. But then I notice how close to the top I have come. Then my attitude changes. Now, I look at hills without as much apprehension as I used to – because I know I can do it.

I recently worked with a jobseeker whom I will call Jane. She had a very small job history, only working a couple of jobs and for only a few months each, the last of which was over a year ago. When I met her, I could see the defeat in her eyes. That look is nothing new; I see it in almost every set of eyes at many of my workshops. Scores of rejections have beaten them down until they have seemingly no choice but to think, “STOP! You cannot do this anymore! You are out of energy!”

I asked Jane to make a list of all her skills– ALL of them. Everything she could think of. Start with her last job, write down every single thing she did as part of her work. Then do the same with previous jobs, then with volunteer work, church work, and school work. Make a list that would probably be 5-10 pages long. Ask friends, family and former co-workers to identify things she did well, and add those to the list. From that we would make a master resume, then use that to carve out targeted resumes to send to employers. Not long after giving her this assignment, I received an email from a changed jobseeker. She had gotten a job! The excitement shone through the words. She learned she COULD do it.

So what is that one-word key to job search success? Same as the one-word key to climbing hills: CONFIDENCE. Simply the art of saying, “I can do it,” until you actually do.


About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.



  1. Pingback: The Little Red Bike That Could | Confessions of a Novice Cyclist - July 14, 2013

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