Self-advocacy, confidence are crucial for job seeking

Illustration from Pioneer Log Archives

Do you want a job? Just ask. It really is that simple. Now, this does not mean you will get the job, but it often yields a lot more beneficial results than one might expect.

Several studies have shown that men are more assertive than other genders when it comes to applying for jobs. For example, the Harvard Business Review features a study from the Hewlett Packard internal report which states men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the listed qualifications, while women only apply if they meet 100% of them. Men look at the job description and if only a portion of their experience is relevant, they apply. We should all follow their lead. The rule of thumb should be that if at least half of  your experience applies to a job, you should apply. 

To apply does not always mean submitting an application. Sometimes it does, but I use the term more liberally, in the sense that one should apply themselves in order to achieve a goal.  To apply, in this case, can mean writing an email, making a phone call, asking for an informational meeting or stopping by an office for a memorable face-to-face introduction. The goal is to express interest and demonstrate you are qualified.

The worst case scenario is that after all of that, they say no. But what is really so bad about that? If the outcome is rejection, then the worst-case scenario is that you have an updated resume, made a new professional connection, exercised your interview skills and hopefully allowed yourself to zero in on the life-long challenge of deciding what it is you want to do on this Earth. 

I would argue that many times, this outcome is far from the worst-case scenario in the employment world. Much like any other pursuit in life, it may feel fruitless now, but that email you sent may yield substantial results later on. Employment should not be viewed as the selection of one job at one time. It should be viewed as the continual cultivation of opportunities to give yourself professional flexibility and affirm your sense of autonomy. This reframing is not an excuse to perform sub-par work. Poor craftsmanship often limits your options, rather than increasing them. 

This continual cultivation method only works if you maintain the utmost sense of professionalism. This can be done in three steps: be transparent in your communication and about your commitments, always be on time or early and work until the job is meaningfully completed rather than “done.” 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the importance of asking questions. During the interview process, many focus on trying to have the “right” answer, but few give credit to the power of the right question. The right question demonstrates that you are engaged and that you care about the outcome. The right question shows that you are willing to invest a portion of your time and mental energy in order to create the best outcome possible. 

The same is true for finding one’s “perfect” life path or career. Too many people focus on the answer, rather than asking themselves the right questions. What do I need to be content? What do I value most in life? What gives me energy? How close do I want to be with my co-workers? How important is having a boss that inspires me? Do I function better in project-based environments or do I prefer work that has habitual duties? Do I work better in individual or collaborative environments? 

I do not mean this to sound privileged or ableist; there are several valid reasons to feel constrained by this daunting task. My hope, however, is that you feel encouraged to step up for yourself when you feel you can.

No one will do this work for you. It is time to step up, be your own best advocate and apply.

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