There is a simple solution to jobsearch failure. I really believe this. Assessing jobsearch success was the topic of the last blog, where our millennials examined their jobsearch challenges and brought remarkable insight for ANY jobseeker.

Here is a quick excerpt.

These individuals believe that a job SHOULD have:

  • Good pay
  • Interesting work
  • Rewarding activities
  • Room to grow
  • Benefits, including health insurance
  • Time off for personal activities
  • Minimal risk and be a safe place

A job should NOT:

  • Have too much menial or busy work
  • Include bad managers or toxic colleagues

No one wants to dread going to work. But I have to ask, “Is this reasonable to expect from a job?”

What was so interesting to me is that the baby-boomers that I work with want the same things! I’m certain of one thing: although these are all excellent points, it is unreasonable to ask that much from a job. Essentially, we are asking for happiness. And we are asking for a job to bring us happiness. I’m asking for reconsideration on this point.

I believe that trying to find the “perfect” job that will create inordinate happiness in life puts undo pressure on jobseekers. Further, I don’t think it is wise to relegate that much responsibility OR give that much power to an employer. I don’t think they care about “life-happiness” and I don’t think they should care! Their job is to build the business and help every employee become a great employee. (I am aware that that is often not the case.)

I believe that asking for “happiness” in a job is an unrealistic and unreasonable expectation. I’m not saying that being miserable is okay either. However, I think there is middle-ground.

Managing unreasonable expectations

We would all love to have the job of our dreams. We would all love to have the job with people we enjoy and that is so exciting that we can hardly wait for the weekend to be over so we can go to work. That situation is rare. If the only jobs a person applies to have to meet all the criterion listed above, then they will rarely find positions to apply for (online or otherwise) and that will cripple their jobsearch.

Building a career and finding employment situations where a person can grow is important. However, minimum wage isn’t a livable income either. I understand that. However, history is full of people, famous and not-so-famous, that did menial jobs while working their way through college. Some of them grew their careers from their first menial job. Some were grateful to move on to other work.

Personally, I have done both. I cleaned public bathrooms from 11 PM to 7 AM, for three years, while I went to school. When I taught college as a full-time teacher, I hauled stacked chairs and music stands—approximately 90 minutes of every day. I also sorted hundreds of music selections before filing them in the library. My summer jobs included hauling lumber and siding from a truck to the construction site.

I believe that jobs are a means to have a revenue stream so we can live independently, and be able to handle the basics of daily living and save for our future—for us and our families.

My advice: Understand that there may be menial work. It’s okay. Broaden the possibilities to get a job by searching for positions that utilize core competencies. This is especially important for early career jobseekers and mid-career jobseekers as well.

Scott was in his mid-career. He was determined to get a job—anything. He emailed me with: “I’m now working for ______ (a national package delivery service). The core requirements: Marginal reading ability and a pulse. “

He held that job through the holidays and then went to a contracting employment agency. He performed (menial) jobs through several assignments and was hired by one of those companies to do what he did best and loved: marketing.

* * *

Top tips for managing job-search failure:

  1. Embrace reasonable expectations for a job. This is the first step in achieving job-search success.
  2. Every job search has challenges. Team up with other jobseekers to identify solutions to the weekly challenges.
  3. Broaden your job search to incorporate elements of your “ideal” job and ones that will align you for a better position.
  4. Identify tools to manage the “messy-ness” that is inevitable.

Managing messy relationships on the job

Almost every millennial jobseeker hopes for a job where the relationships are enjoyable. They are aware of the horror stories and the employee reviews of companies that they find online.

Boomer jobseekers are especially keen on this as well. They’ve been through enormous challenge on the job and during their jobsearch—especially since 2008. They are more than ready to have a job with less stress!

One way to narrow down the “messiness” of a job is to divide it into two primary parts: relationships and activities.

Relationship Tips On the Job:

It is unusual when someone likes everyone that they interact with and everyone likes them. And it’s usually the relationships that can make a job unbearable. People write books about this and the internet is full of resources.

Here are a few high-level suggestions that I hope will help:

  • This is my number one rule.
    It is the responsibility of every employee to be pleasant and professional. This should become a habit.
    This is something that every person can control and it is not dependent on the job, the situation, the people, what they do, how badly others behave or the task-at-hand.

    There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • When the work environment is tense and/or people are under stress, it is important to respond with urgency, and without losing self-control or professionalism.
  • If people treat you with disrespect or take their frustration out on you—remember that this reflects them and not you. It is not a reason to lose one’s professional demeanor.
  • When necessary, if your emotions are on edge or you believe you may lose your self-control; it is critical that you step away before you say or do anything that is inappropriate.

    These may help:

    • Ask, “What can I do to help?”
    • “I am upset right now and I need to step away.” (Then do so, leave the room.)
    • “Please excuse me, I’m _______ (frustrated/upset/annoyed), and I need to take a few minutes.” (Then leave the room.)
  • If someone in your work situation becomes unprofessional in their demeanor (verbal abuse, shouting, using expletives, slamming a door, or hitting a desk); it is appropriate to simply leave the area. This is unacceptable in the workplace—period.

This never fails:

Without exception, this has always worked. I use it in personal situations when people are upset as well as in the workplace. Even when people have trashed me out and were verbally inappropriate, this has worked.

I simply ask: What can I do to help?

That’s it. It’s my best tool. People calm down. They see me as an asset and focused on finding a solution. It makes me look good and shows that I’m there to help. Truly, that’s why I showed up at work—to help!

What to do when the job activities are boring, uninteresting, and …well…menial.

This is not an unusual situation. It is especially true in transition jobs, as well as temporary and seasonal employment.

If we are honest about it, there is a certain amount of menial work in every position.

That said, if in your current situation there are opportunities to move to a better position, then there is action to be taken!

One way to know if opportunities are available is ask these questions:

  1. Are there people who are doing work that would be a good or better fit for you?
  2. Is there work that isn’t getting done, that you could do that would be a better fit? (…and where some of the “menial” work can be passed on to others.)
  3. Also, talk to other employees and find out more about the company and where potential opportunities might be found.

If the answer is “yes—there are opportunities!” Then take action.

Action items to improve your work activities

BEFORE taking action, it is critical to confirm two essential points:

  1. What is the specific pain that the decision maker is experiencing?
  2. What does the decision maker believe to be the solution?

There must be agreement on these two points. Even if they don’t align with your core competencies or what you hope to do, remember that this is an opening— and not the end point.

THEN: once an agreement is reached (and it might include your suggestions as to the solution), then you should ask to be considered as part of that solution.

Essentially, you are finding ways to bring added value. You might not get exactly what you want, but it might get you a step closer. Even if it doesn’t lead to something, the key is to educate people on your core competencies and your outstanding attitude and desire to bring value that will contribute to the business success.

This is a very long blog. If you made it to this point. Hats off to you! I hope it helps.

Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.

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2 thoughts on “The simple solution to jobsearch failure

  1. Marcia,

    I agree with everything you say but many jobs in the U.S. are horrendous. It’s not the menial work, it’s the extreme corporate politics and terrible interpersonal relationships.

    There’s no sense of fairness unless you can prove you have been treated poorly as a protected class (e.g., race, gender, disability, etc.). A worker’s unhappiness is of no interest in the workplace no matter how poorly they are treated.


    Diana Schneidman, author, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less

    1. Diana!
      Thank you for taking your time to comment.
      You are so right about the atmosphere is so many work environments due to hidden agendas by management and a sense that employees are disposable. It was one of the factors that caused me to start my own business.

      As I recall the beginning of your wonderful book Real Skills, Real Income, you too, were fed up with the office politics and unethical practices.

      As I look back over the last 10 years (beginning of my business), companies were struggling to survive, Senior Executives were (and still are) under enormous pressure to deliver revenue mandates. Pressure from the top continues and I believe it causes a trickle-down effect to the entire company.

      With FM clients, we thoroughly research the company, culture, and management. Glassdoor is helpful, but we go further and find former employees on LinkedIn and ask for a 20-minute conversation (about 1 in 3 will agree to chat). I’m finding that these practices have disengaged employees and businesses are suffering because of it. The relationship between employee engagement and profitability is starting to pepper the HR communities and I’m encouraged that change is possible and hope that is the case.

      Again, thanks for writing.

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