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Job Hunting and the Paradox of Choice

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

We’ve all been there. We’re embarking on a job search- either of our own initiative….or sometimes not. We reach out to very well-meaning friends and family because we know we should. They want to help- they really do. So, what do you say? How do you help them get their wheels turning and ultimately open up their networks to you?

I was just having this conversation with an esteemed colleague. All too often, people don’t want to limit themselves so they say, “I’ll do anything!”, thinking that might help their cause. Unfortunately, it does not!

If you’ve ever heard of the paradox of choice, you know this study makes a compelling case on why leaving options open and vague is the worst possible approach!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the “Paradox of Choice” describes the anxiety and debilitation associated with having too many options. When the options are plentiful, many of us get overwhelmed and shut down. BUT, when we have fewer options, we are able to process, differentiate and ultimately take action.

Now the “Paradox of Choice” generally refers to consumer behavior but the same mentality can AND SHOULD be applied to how you help your network mobilize in your job search.

When you speak with people about your search- and you should tell EVERYONE you know (except your boss if you’re still working for them!)- be thoughtful and be specific!

So, for example, let’s say that you spent most of your career working in Business Development for law firms. Unfortunately, you’ve been affected by a rash of layoffs and now are in the market for a new job. You bring your friends together and say, “Friends, I need a new job!” and they say, “How can we help? What are you looking for?”.

This could go one of two ways.

The first:

You say, “I’ll do anything!” and they say: “My uncle Jimmy is looking for a truck driver in the oilfield. Would you do that?” OR “I hear there’s an opening for a nighttime security guard in my building. How about that?”

Alternately, you give some thought to all the applications where your skillset might be valuable and you say:

“I’ve spent the last 15 years doing business development for law firms, which are professional services. I could transition seamlessly to other professional services firms, like CPA firms, or financial consulting companies or management consulting. Alternately because my current book of business includes C-level decision makers at large service firms, I could also bring value to software companies, etc. I would appreciate introductions to people you may know at companies like those.”

Now, this scenario might be a tiny bit dramatic, but it makes a point. With the second approach, people’s wheels get turning and now they can rifle through their mental rolodexes and actually make worthwhile introductions for you!

You could even go one step further and ask your college fraternity brother out for a drink and say, “Hey Jimmy, I noticed a great opening at your firm with this title. Could you look up the hiring manager and maybe put my resume in front of him and drop a good word?”

It’s YOUR job to make sure your network understands what you’re looking for and who you need to know. Humans are notoriously bad mind readers and need all the help they can get!

Happy hunting!

If you have a specific question about your job search, send us an email to asktherecruiter@infinitalent.net.

Byline:

Yael Iffergan is Founder and Managing Director of INFINITalent Partners, LLC, a full service, recruitment firm, offering third party contingency search services along with career coaching. Yael has spent the last 15 years in recruiting and has literally placed or helped thousands of candidates at all levels and professions. She has also helped leaders at all levels of organizations (both large and small, public and private) make hiring decisions as a trusted partner and advocate.

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