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The Illusion of Control

Here’s how a job search usually takes place: you decide to change jobs. You put together a resume, which probably won’t be read by more than half of the interviewers, because it’s not put together very well. You send it with a cover letter that talks all about you and regurgitates your resume, and doesn’t sell you very well either.

You post it on job boards and mail it to companies advertising in the paper, and then you wait. In an attempt to make something happen quickly, you may opt to fax blast it to thousands of employers, because it doesn’t cost much, and think of the odds! Nothing much happens, and the clock keeps ticking.

So it’s no wonder most people are nervous about interviewing. Though they want the job, the majority go to an interview unprepared, and yet hope they’re the one that is hired. And when nothing continues to happen, the frustration grows. There’s a feeling of helplessness, as if the decision is in everyone’s hands but yours.

And that’s where the supposition – and the danger – begins.

Suppositions are an attempt to feel in control when you don't. You're going on an interview, you're nervous, you have no idea what to expect, and so you try to pin some of it down.

The danger is because you’re making things up. You don't know. And unless you ask questions, you could make a grave mistake based on your assumptions. Illusions and reality aren’t synonymous. "Duh," you say. And yet, millions of job seekers every day confuse the two.

Have you ever caught yourself making a supposition? What was your reaction when it shattered?

Let’s take one of the above examples. You’re interviewing in Houston, and you assume the interviewer left Chicago, because he didn’t like the winter.

Anticipating a shared viewpoint and an immediate camaraderie, you say. "Get tired of those mean Chicago winters? I bet you like Houston much better," you say.

"No," he says. "Actually, my company transferred me down here. My wife’s and my immediate family are still in Chicago. I was raised there, and I miss the snow."

You’re thrown off track. You were counting on the joviality you’d share from bashing Chicago winters, and suddenly, not only is that non-existent, it’s not likely to develop. Now what? Do you recover and express sympathy for his position (meanwhile noting that this company transfers people, and if you’re a company guy, you’re expected to go)?

Do you try to make him agree with you by continuing to make negative comments because you’re seeking validation? Or do you shut your mouth and maybe – or maybe not – notice that you’re more nervous than you were when you sat down, simply because he didn’t agree with you?

People who buy into the illusion of control aren’t generally cognizant of what they’re doing. Consequently, this lack of awareness can perpetuate itself, and either one of the last two reactions, or something similar, takes place. And because the whole process passed quickly and unconsciously, all you know is something has gone amiss. You’ve already bombed the interview and it hasn’t even begun.

The rest is courtesy, and if you come to your senses and recover your balance, you might have a chance to redeem yourself. On the other hand, if you’re reaction is the first one, you probably experienced an epiphany.

Pay attention to your thoughts. If you catch yourself making assumptive statements, recognize that you’re moving into a danger zone. If you’re hanging on to illusory beliefs, you’re not likely to make a sound decision, because sound decisions are based on reality.

You’re already setting yourself up for a defensive interview position and the need to be approved of. And instead of participating in the interview to determine if you wanted to pursue it, you gave the power to the interviewer, hoping he’d like you and it would increase your chances of being hired.

Understand that it doesn't put you in control at all, really. It's an illusion of control that makes you feel better. What puts you in control is preparation based on facts about the company and yourself. Spend your time on that instead.

- Judi Perkins

Judi was a search consultant for 20 years in the contingency and retained markets. She now gives job seekers the unique understanding and insight into the psychology of the hiring process and teaches renegade ways of job seeking that bring results. The result is excitement and a rewarding job instead of increasing frustration and despair as the months continue to pass. Sign up for her free newsletter at www.findtheperfectjob.comand ask your question for the latest free teleseminar.