After years of watching so many get it wrong, Korn Ferry's CEO and best-selling author Gary Burnison decided to focus his next book on the keys to great job hunting and career growth. But as Lose the Resume, Land the Job reveals, the experience from a firm that has placed millions of executives proves that the modern job search is full of unexpected steps and unusual dedication. Here is an excerpt:
In my thirty-five years of professional life, including the last decade as CEO of a public company, I have been continuously shocked by the naiveté of people when it comes to their career. From the supposed most sophisticated to the least experienced, from Fortune 500 board members and seasoned executives to college seniors, people are confounded by how to find their next “gig.” Not knowing what to do, they resort to the old standby: “Let me send you my resume,” which has become as meaningless a cliché as “Let’s do lunch.” When you say it, you know you’re never going to have lunch. The same goes for your offer to email your resume. Unless someone genuinely wants to hear from you, your resume isn’t going anywhere. That’s why you need to lose the resume to land the right job.
Yes, you still need to have a resume, but don’t expect it to be more than a calling card, a conversation opener. Unfortunately, people think their resume accounts for 90 percent of getting a new job, when actually it’s only 10 percent. No wonder sending out resumes isn’t getting people where they want or need to go! While it’s true that almost anyone with a decent education and some experience can get a job, finding the right job is not easy. In fact, it has never been harder. Forget unemployment rates that might not seem so bad these days; most unemployment figures mask the fact that the combination of technology and a merciless global economy has made it almost impossible to find work that offers the compensation we want or purpose we need. In survey after survey, it’s the same complaints: Wage growth isn’t happening, motivation is down, and job stability is vanishing. Here’s a ridiculous stat: Half of U.S. workers have a pay rate that fluctuates sharply every month—by almost 30 percent.
Yet the only way out of this trap is to engage in a job search process that people never expect to be so arduous or so long. If you are like most people, you will start out by making the critical mistake of waiting for opportunities to come to you. Given that an average of 250 resumes are received for every corporate-job opening—the first 200 typically land just seconds after the job is posted—this approach is patently passive and illogical. And when you fail to gain any traction, you tend to send out more resumes. You feel stuck—like a victim. As time goes on, you begin to doubt yourself. If you lose heart, desperation sets in. Soon you’ll lose all perspective about yourself and where you want to work. You take any job rather than languish in a position you don’t like anymore. Or you quit before getting another job—and that’s the number-one mistake to avoid, because you need to have a job to get a job. When you’re “marketing yourself,” you must eliminate every red flag that could sink your career.
To break this cycle, you need to change your strategy, to shift to a more active and calculated approach. The analogy I use is surfing, which exemplifies my life philosophy. Everyone, I believe, gets a number of “waves” in life—some enormous, some much smaller. The trick is to know when and how hard to paddle when your wave appears, how to position yourself for success—when to bail before the wave crashes on you, and when to ride all the way to shore. One thing is certain: You never look down. Look up, look forward, take flight.
Ultimately, you’ll need to face the fact that job hunting in the twenty-first century requires a focus and dedication you didn’t know you had. Does any of this sound like something you’re willing to do? If so, you will need far more in your job-search arsenal than just your resume. You need a holistic approach grounded in who you are, where you can be most successful, and the story you tell to forge a connection with a prospective employer. And that’s so much more empowering than merely getting your next job. It’s the key to your future success.