Roland B. Vendeland

Warmth, wisdom, and wit.

Roland B. Vendeland

True or False: There are no firms out there that can get me a decent job.


As a career advisor and presenter on career management topics, I often hear questions such as:

I have heard these questions from many individuals ranging from high school students to executives. Those making the inquiries do not understand the career position search process. Unless they "luck into" a position or have very low expectations, they are likely to experience a lengthy job search.

Occasionally, I am asked questions such as:

  1. Do my skills and values support my objective?
  2. How can I improve my interview technique?
  3. Are my achievements and training in line with employers' expectations?
  4. Whom should I talk with to find out more about this industry?
  5. What skills should I acquire to be competitive in this field?
  6. Do I appear confident and knowledgeable in my presentation?

Those making these inquiries demonstrate a greater appreciation of the career position search process.

A person in the first group harbors the misconception that someone else will get him a job. After all, hasn't he secured jobs in this manner in the past? When he was in school, didn't "someone" get him an internship or a part-time job? When he completed school, didn't "someone" set up an interview with a company for him? Didn't "someone" at an employment agency get him a temporary job? Twenty years ago didn't his father talk "someone" into giving him a job?

If "someone" else got him a part-time, entry-level, or temporary position, then "someone" else must be able to get him a well compensated, meaningful employment with opportunities for satisfaction and advancement. "Someone" else can't.

The problem with looking toward others is the failure to look toward oneself. A job search is primarily an internal search. An individual who fails to recognize this limits his success. When a job seeker focuses external to himself, he fails to see the value of self-assessment or a proactive approach. Once an individual recognizes the most valuable career choices are internal not external he can concentrate upon self-assessment and seriously begin the search process.

I discovered this principle not as a career advisor but as a job seeker. I was unemployed in the midst of a recession and attending a meeting with 75 other unemployed job seekers. Some of the participants had been unemployed for over two years. Most spoke about the poor employment climate. One fellow spoke about how he had owed his own business, sold it and sought a position managing another's business. He explained how the prospective employers he had met were concerned that he could not adapt to their management style since he had only worked for himself. He explained that he had not considered that as a barrier to securing employment, but could understand why potential employers would be concerned. He didn't know how but he intended to assuage their fears.

I remember thinking, "This guy is going to find a job before most of these other people and so am I."

He reported in a subsequent meeting that he had convinced an employer to let him serve as an outside salesperson and work his way into management only after he had demonstrated his ability to adapt. I was searching for a position in education. I recalled a lesson a career advisor had taught me: when looking for employment in government, education or the nonprofit sector, follow legislation and the funding streams. I researched the areas of interest to me, found the programs mandated and funded through legislation and networked myself into an interview.

When the interviewer asked me what I knew about the position, I related the legislative mandated service that the program must provide. The interviewer told me I was the only one of ten people interviewed who knew program's mandated services. I asked how she could consider offering the job to someone who had not taken the initiative to determine what he or she would have to do. She offered me the job. Once an individual accepts personal responsibility to acquire meaningful employment, he can concentrate upon taking ownership of the process to assess his skills, polish his presentation, research the market, determine his match and network himself. He comes to realize while others can assist him as resource persons or advisors, he must sell himself to prospective employers. Once he secures employment, he can take control of his career, begin to record and present his accomplishments to his employer, manage his advancements and determine when to initiated a new job search.

Those that fail to accept responsibility eventually secure employment. They, however, generally do not gain insight into the career search process and do not apply it to their future advantage. They generally conclude, "I had to do everything myself and I didn't receive benefit from anyone." Compared to those who fully invested in themselves, they are right!