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The official online job search resource hosted By Dick Bolles, author of "What Color is Your Parachute"
The Magic of Alternatives
November 11 - November 17, 2004
Parachute Newsletter
by Richard N. Bolles

If you are job-hunting, the most important thing you need to do is to keep hope alive. That is not always easy. . Day after day of sending out resumes, with not a single answer, day after day of searching employers' ads, here or on the Internet, without a single nibble. It is easy to get discouraged. Yet hope is everything. Hope will keep you going, against all odds. Therefore we must understand the rules for keeping hope alive.

Having studied successful job-hunters for over thirty years, I have discovered that their most important Secret for keeping Hope alive is that from the beginning, the successful ones have chosen alternatives.

At least two alternative job-hunting methods
At least two alternative ideas of what they could do with their skills
At least two alternative fields that they would enjoy being in
At least two alternative 'target' organizations that they can go after
At least two alternative ways of approaching employers
At least two alternative job prospects
And so forth.

There is magic in having alternatives. The reason is simple. If you have only one way - - one process, one field, one job, one target, and so forth - - and that one way doesn't work, you have no backup strategy to save you, and so Hope dies.

But you can keep Hope alive if you are obsessed with the idea of always having alternatives - - from the very beginning.

I can illustrate this with many examples. But this one from job-hunters' actual experience is as compellling as any: in the U.S. one third to one half of all job-hunters simply give up, by the second month. Yikes!

Okay, now the sixty four dollar question: why is that?

It turns out the 'why' is related to the number of job-hunting methods they used. There are many job-hunting methods to choose from: Answering ads (here or on the Internet); sending out resumes, via the Internet or by direct mail; visiting the Federal/state employment agency; asking family or friends for 'leads'; asking friends for vacancies where they work; going to your high school or college placement office; placing an ad on the Internet or in your local paper, as a job-hunter; etc.

A study of 100 job-hunters who were using only one method of job-search, found that 51 of them abandoned their search, by the second month.

By contrast, a study of 100 job-hunters who were using several job-search methods, found that only 31 abandoned their search, by the second month.

I don't think it's hard to figure out why this is. As I just said, if you use only one job-hunting strategy - - say, resumes - - and then that strategy doesn't turn up anything very quickly, you tend to lose Hope. You staked everything on that one strategy. If it doesn't work, you're finished.

On the other hand, if you are using two, or more methods, your Hope tends to stay alive - - because, when one method doesn't work for you, you think to yourself, well surely one of these other methods will pay off - - and so, you keep on going. You keep Hope alive.

How many job-hunting avenues should you use, in order to keep hope alive? Well, it looks as though logically the answer should be: the more job-hunting methods you use, the greater your success will be, at finding a job. No limit.

But, actually it turns out there is a limit. One study revealed that the likelihood of your uncovering those jobs that are out there increases with each additional method that you use, up to four. However, if you use more than four methods, your likelihood of uncovering those jobs that are out there, starts to decrease.

I have pondered this strange finding, and concluded that the reason for this is that if you try to do more than four methods you will end up only taking a stab at each one, rather than giving each the time and thoroughness that it deserves and needs, in order to be effective.

So, by all means add a second alternative (besides, let us say, resumes) to your job-hunting strategies, but do it carefully and thoroughly. And only after investing the appropriate amount of time in that, should you consider adding a third, or - - at most - - a fourth alternative.

When should you go on to another alternative? Basically, it's when you've tried the old method, and it just doesn't work. Our tendency, altogether too often, is to just do more of it. Job-expert Carol Christen defines this as "job-hunting insanity." In the job-hunt, the cure for this kind of insanity is alternatives.

So, if you answer ads in the newspapers, if you answer job-postings on the Internet, if you send out your resume everywhere, if you sign up with agencies in vain, and nothing is working, don't just do more of it. And don't give up. Change your tactics.

Thus will you keep Hope alive. And that is everything to someone who is out of work, and hunting. Wise job-hunters know from the beginning that they are hunting secondly for a job but first of all for Hope.

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