Here is a story from a wonderful book called Life is a Verb.

A college ceramics teacher decided to do an experiment with his two fall pottery classes.  He told one class that they would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced that quarter—that their grade depended on the number of pots they threw. So, the more the better!  The second class was told that their grade was determined by the quality of their work and that they only needed to produce one “perfect” pot.

Question: Which group do you think received the highest grades?

Well, it turns out the works of the highest quality came from the group that was graded on quantity not quality. It seems that while the “quantity” group was churning out pot after pot they were also getting better at pot throwing! The “quality” group sat and pondered, thought, and redesigned their pot trying to get to perfection. In the end, the perfect pot group had little more to show for their time and efforts than a lot of theory and a few not-so-perfect pots.

Is perfectionism holding you back in your job search? Are you looking for the perfect opportunity and passing on the so-so option that might turn into something else? Do you endlessly ponder whether your resume is perfect, and spend very little time networking? Are you so concerned about all the advice you’ve received that you are afraid to make a move?

It’s important to realize that job seeking—like any human endeavour—is messy. You might issue a few emails with (gasp!) a typo. You might be on the phone when the prospective employer calls. You might forget to follow up, and then wonder if you’ve waited too long. Or, like the proverbial teenage boy, you might be so afraid that you never pick up the phone!  You might see a job ad, be missing just one requirement and tell yourself: “I can’t apply for that job.”

My book, New Resume New Career, details the stories of 50 real-life career changers. They had to put on their thinking hats and screw up the courage to revitalize and reformulate their careers. Not all of them got their dream job the first time out, but they are all moving toward that dream. They inspired me as I was writing the book. One year later, I love hearing updates and the twists and turns their careers have taken. Here are some tried-and-true lessons I learned as I helped them in their searches:

  1. The best leads come from people—usually friends of friends. YOU may not be friends with an important person who can give you a job lead, but your friends might. You MUST network with friends in order to find out about jobs and be presented through people channels.
  2. The universe loves speed—when you hear about a job lead act on it immediately. If you can be the first to apply, the job might never even “go public,” creating a win-win for you and the company. They save time and money interviewing, and you get a job!
  3. See your resume as a marketing document—include only information that sells you into a specific job. Check out my Resume Billboard™ section in New Resume New Career.
  4. Follow lots of leads—try not to get too focused on one opportunity and get your heart set on it. Just like the pot-throwing class, you will become better at job seeking if you do more job seeking activities.
  5. Open up to the possibilities—put away those thoughts of “I’ll never do THAT again.” The bad experiences you may have had in the past won’t necessarily repeat. Be curious when you hear about opportunities. Remember that it’s expensive to advertise jobs. Behind the job that’s “almost right” could be one even better for you.

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