The Confidence Deficit
by Michael Mayher

I have been a headhunter and consultant for a long time, working with and on behalf of company hiring managers on one side of the table and job seekers on the other. I have dealt with people of all professional levels, functions and roles, too many to count. During the last 22 years I’ve interacted with both white and blue collar, with and without university degrees, entry-level and senior executives and, oh my, the changes I have witnessed.

People face many obstacles in the current employment market, the sluggish economy being the most obvious, but there are other more subtle hurdles. The simple act of applying for jobs has become an obstacle course intentionally erected by human resources with the blessing of company management. For some reason, some of these wizards think companies can streamline and better hire the people they need by removing as much human interaction from the initial stages of the hiring process as possible. Ironic, eh?

However, the biggest obstacle people face – is themselves. Yeah, that’s right, increasingly more and more job seekers are their own worst enemy, talk about ironic!

The thing people suffer from the most is a lack of confidence - don’t doubt me on this, otherwise ambitious and hard-working people have become absolute wimps. They’ve rendered themselves powerless to influence their own fate. Increasingly and unbelievably my simplest suggestions are met with incredulity and I contend it is the digital age that has been shackling people.

Let’s take, for example, the basic act of finding a job. When I suggest people need to do more than rote, repetitive, un-inspiring and un-productive online job search and application activities – they look at me much like a dog looks at you and tilts its head, when you say something they don’t understand. Online only job search activity is a losing proposition, plain and simple, and people deep down know it. For context to back up this claim, read my blog entry from 1 September 2014, entitled The Uncomfortable Truth About Jobs Posted Online, which registered more than 45,000 views; obviously, I struck a nerve.

Need a couple of reasons I am right? Okay, many available jobs are not even posted online. Many of the jobs listed are pure B.S. and if you look often enough you’ll see the same jobs appear over and over, and it’s not because they are hiring lots of people but, rather, they are crap jobs nobody wants. Yet people keep doing the same thing because they are unwilling to step beyond a comfort zone in which someone might tell them, “no” and thereby ruin their day, boo hoo. Here, let me hit you right between the eyes; if you are not having much luck with finding a job and all you are doing is applying online and not seeming to get anywhere – you’d better start doing something different. If you are not willing to try new things, don’t complain, but the system isn’t your biggest problem; you are your biggest problem. You should see the reactions I get when I suggest that, after submitting their resume online and hearing nothing, they should try to call the company to follow up 7 – 10 days afterward. They actually tell me, “I will not do that; I’m not begging for a job.” What?

And what about the interview process? I always advise that people engage in the process and take a hands-on approach, asking about and questioning everything to gain a full understanding about the job they are seeking and for being evaluated – it’s common sense, right? I suggest they ask questions like, “Why is the position open?”, “What happened to the last person?”, and “How long were they in the position?”… I have had increasingly more people actually say to me, “But they might not like if I ask so many questions.” Are you kidding me, get off your knees for God’s sake!

Even the simplest interview protocol of sending a follow-up letter / email after an interview, which is and should be a normal gesture after any interview with a hiring manager, and yet people say, “No, I don’t want it to look like I am kissing their butt or too eager.”

On the other hand, I know of many people who have gotten angry at me but also implemented some of my suggestions and later admitted it made a positive difference. Here’s the thing: I hear a lot of complaining out there, when in fact there are jobs, but too many people are looking for every excuse to not do something that can greatly benefit them.

Now, if you are angered and offended because, perhaps, you resemble some of what I described above, good, I hope so. Because often people stuck in a rut need something to yank them out of it. Which brings us back to the topic of self-confidence; if you have it then nothing I stated above would be offensive. Everyone has difficulties and I’m not picking on anyone, but in order to change a situation – something has to change in order to bring about a different result.

It’s your choice, stay where it is safe and warm making excuses or take control of your own destiny and grow a thicker skin, so that the word “no” or a disapproving look doesn’t damage increasingly frail egos. Step outside your comfort zone to move your life and career forward. Since when did we begin to feel as though we don’t have permission to do anything more than digital measures? Who made these supposed rules and why are we following them? The solution is ridiculously simple; incorporate some creativity and innovation into your activities. What’s the worst that could happen, you might get no replies, or you might be told “no”? Chances are that is already the case. Change your mind and change your life.

More articles by Michael Mayher:
Earn the Opportunity to Say No
Resume Usefulness
After the Interview
Getting an Invitation
Reference Checked Before the Interview
Networking Effectively
A Failure to Communicate
Increasing Your Chances
Why You Should Heed My Advice

To Those Still Asleep
The Way It Was/The Way It Is
Demonstrating Interest is Not Begging
Confidence is a Key Ingredient
Stop Relying on the Internet
Career Survival Skills: The First Interview
The Interview
Resolve to Make This Year, Your Year
Periodic Update of Your Resume

About the Author: Michael Mayher has been an international direct search recruiter on two continents for over 22 years. A consultant, published author, lecturer and blogger, he re-introduces professionals to critical Soft Skills lost in our digital age and necessary to effectively navigate their careers. You can find more information by visiting his blog and website

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