The frustrating lottery we’ve all played…

Imagine the introduction of a new lottery game that promises a “lifetime of cash and security” to those lucky enough to win. You’re intrigued, and so you check out the rules of this game:

  • Enter as often as you like. Each entry qualifies you for a chance at a cash prize structured as a bi-weekly payout. New lotteries are started daily with winners chosen continuously;
  • Each entry costs you $50 minimum with winnings having an annual value of $25,000 to ten times that or more;
  • To save on administrative costs, you’ll only be notified if you are one of the semi-finalists chosen; announced lotteries may be canceled or postponed at any time with no notification;
  • Typically there will be at least 500 entries per lottery, and about 5 – 10 are chosen as semi-finalists. Not all entries are reviewed and entries may be dismissed for any reason;
  • This is a winner-take-all lottery. If you are chosen as a semi-finalist you must pay another $150 minimum to have a chance at winning;
  • For all winners, there is a 1 in 2 chance that your winnings will be cancelled within the first year.

If this described a real lottery, I’m confident you would choose not to play. Once you scan the rules, you’ll know that the more you enter the more frustrated you’ll become, since you’ll get no feedback and won’t know whether you won or not, or if they even held that particular draw. If you do get notified, you’ll have to pay more to stay in the running, and they’ll still reserve the right to cancel the lottery, postpone it, or restructure it and run it again with new players. And as a final humiliation, even if you do definitively “win” you know there is still an almost 1 in 2 chance that the prize will be withdrawn shortly after it has been awarded…who the heck would design anything this way?

The good news: there is no actual lottery designed like this. The bad news: it is an accurate description of the traditional job search process we’ve all followed in searching the job boards, newspapers, and other resources, looking for a new job.

If you are actively in a job search like this, what are your chances are with this approach? Let’s work through it and determine your odds of success. For each application, you’re probably up against 500 other seekers. Of course, not all will be considered or even reviewed, so let’s assume that you have a 1 in 250 chance here. The next stage – a formal interview — yields a higher probability since “only” 5 to 10 people are interviewed so let’s use 15% as our odds for this stage. Now, employment surveys suggest that 47% of the time a hiring decision results in a “misfit” and the employee is terminated or leaves. If you work through the numbers your odds of landing long term employment – your main objective – work out to be about 3 in 10,000 for every job posting you apply for. If you want to maximize your chances at getting a job through this kind of process, you’ll pursue a lot of job postings to build up your chances of a success. How many will that be..? The grim reality here is that even if you applied to 500 jobs this way, statistically you have less than a 1 in 5 chance of capturing a job.

Clearly, this approach to job search has a very low success rate, and will consume a great deal of your time. This raises two key questions for the job seeker:

  1. Is there an alternative job search strategy you can use to find a meaningful job?
  2. Is there a method to job search that uses your time more effectively?

My answer to both of these is a resounding YES.

What is the alternative to squandering your precious time in an ill-conceived lottery style job search that frustrates and demoralizes? In a nutshell, you need to turn the current “game” on its head and hold your own interviews to see what company should benefit from your unique combination of skills, experience, and personality. Instead of responding to their requirements, you need a strategy that turn the tables and presents them with your capabilities and your “opportunity sought” and then explores whether there is a match worth pursuing. And finally, you need to remove yourself from the “stampede of job seekers” and position yourself as the natural front-runner.

While this will initially sound highly ambitious and extremely unlikely, the reality is that it does work, it works for all types of job seekers, and it works very well. Executing such a search strategy delivers far better results in a shorter time frame, and consumes less of your precious time. It builds your confidence along the way, and results in a much better fit between you, your job, and your employer. And it will most likely deliver you a better compensation package than you would otherwise enjoy. What’s not to like about this alternative to the frustration and humiliation of the typical job search?

In my next posting, I’ll explore in much greater detail this “alternative strategy” to traditional job search, and lay out the specific pieces of the strategy so that you can start to build your own action plan. In the meantime, if you are an active job seeker, you might want to spend some time thinking hard about how you are currently spending your time, what it is truly worth, and how much you are accomplishing. Your own answers may surprise you and help you put a more accurate figure on what your current job search is really costing you.

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