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The Introspective Job Hunter

The phone rings, or an e-mail comes in and your heart picks up the pace just a bit. Could it be the response you've been waiting on for that "perfect job" opportunity that you applied for?

If it is, then Congratulations!

If however, you are subject to the same statistics as the rest of us, it probably is not.

Either way, you probably have, or at least will, put a lot of effort into thinking about yourself. Introspection is a good thing, if not overdone. Like everything else, moderation is the key. Job hunters are by their very nature, an introspective lot. First of all, you put a great deal of time and effort (or at least you should have) into your resume. It is after all, the sum total of all of your professional experience up to this point in your life. Then you went out and filled out all sorts of questionnaires on job sites and employer registries in an attempt at getting your resume out where everyone could see it.

If you are like me, a few of those questionnaires and "skill databases" made you seriously stop and re-evaluate yourself. Like a lot of people, you may have years of experience and look great on paper, but when it comes down to breaking out your skills and knowledge into tiny little categories, well, there just isn't much there. Couple that with a few months of little to no return on your resume distribution efforts and even the most confident of senior managers will start doubting his/her worth. Don't do it!

Bolstered by the need of Recruiters to be able to classify candidates by specific skills, many employers and job sites now require candidates to list every single little piece of experience that they have garnered over the years. While this is great for the Recruiter who needs someone with esoteric experience in a field like programming or actuarial services, it tends to belittle the "soft skills" of the average, non-technology oriented candidate.

It is this very generic(ing) of American workers that trouble so many of us. We are taught that we are individuals- that every person's contributions count. Somehow though, this doesn't seem to apply in the world of job hunting.

So what is good introspection and what is bad introspection?

Introspection is bad when it leads to doubt, anger, and depression. If you find yourself constantly wondering "what you did wrong," or "why didn't they like me," then you know that what you are doing is not healthy.

Good introspection on the other hand, leads to self-improvement. Instead of self-defeating questions like those above that many people ask themselves, try instead, "Ok, what didn't they see on my resume that they wanted?" or "what did I say in the interview that I could maybe say differently, or even not say at all?" The difference you see, is how you look at the problem. If you didn't get the job, or your resume didn't make it past the second round draft pick, don't immediately start beating yourself up; instead, examine the "why's" of the situation. Instead of second guessing the problem, don't be afraid to ask the Recruiter or hiring manager what led them to choose another candidate over you. If the Recruiter you are working with is too busy to answer that question, then it's time to find another one. They are, after all, working for both you AND the employer. It is in their best interest to represent the best candidates and a savvy Recruiter will see the value in someone who goes out of their way to make improvements when necessary.

When you do ask why they chose someone else, you may be surprised to find that it had little to do with your qualifications. Maybe your resume was near the bottom and before they even got to it, they had 50 other perfectly qualified candidates. It could be that you had 8 out of the 10 things they were looking for (and that's not bad) but someone else had 9 out of 10. The point is, just don't immediately go into reinvention mode simply because you're not getting the response you would like from your resume.

That being said, never stop looking for ways to improve yourself. Even managers, who are supposedly experts in their fields, need refresher courses. Between online educational classes, workshops, books, volunteer opportunities, and more, there is always something you can do that will add value to your credentials.

There is a simple equation that when used properly, will yield great results:

Self introspection + Self Improvement = A Well Rounded Candidate

When you focus on the problem, it doesn't take long before it infuses all aspects of your life. Focus instead, on improvements. The rest will fall into place.

Chris Souther
Freelance and Technical Writer in Atlanta, GA