An Application is Not a Marriage Proposal

An Application is Not a Marriage Proposal

by Kerry Scott on 2 September 2009


I just have to get this off my chest:

When you are applying for a job, you are…well, applying for a job.  You are not making a lifetime commitment.  You are not signing a blood pact.  You are not tattooing some guy’s name across your chest.  You are not signing over your firstborn.  All your application says is, “I’m interested in hearing more about this.”  That’s all it is.

This means that you don’t have to decide up front whether you want the job before you even apply.  You just need to decide that (a) you need a job, and (b) this might not suck.  That’s it.

You can fritter away weeks, even months, waiting for the perfect job to be posted on some job board…just so you can apply.  Here’s what’s going to happen then:  a thousand other people will apply too.  Then you’ll spend the next couple of months make yourself crazy by checking your email every four minutes.  Odds are you won’t get the job, because a thousand people is a lot.  Then you’ll be crushed, and you’ll feel like a loser, and that feeling will make it even harder for you to beat the odds the next time a perfect job comes along.  In the meantime, you’ll starve to death, because perfect jobs are pretty hard to come by (and they’re rarely posted on job boards).  That’s why they invented the lottery.

You don’t find a spouse by dating only people you are 100% sure you would want to marry.  You find a spouse by meeting lots of people.  Otherwise, you end up either alone or married to the wrong person (usually, and I’m sure there are exceptions, but they mostly happen on compounds in the western United States, before the government agents arrive).   The same is true for finding a job.  You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince (or princess, or whatever you’re into).

Oh, and here’s another clue:  The one you think you really, really want might actually suck.  Once I got a job at a place that is a major “employer of choice” in my town.  Everyone was envious.  Getting that job was like getting into Harvard.  Then I started the job, and I hated it.  Taking a new job is always a gamble, even after a bunch of interviews.  If you think you can tell the good from the sucky just by reading the ad, you’re either crazy or psychic.  My money’s on crazy.

There’s no perfect job.  There are only jobs that suck and jobs that don’t.  Most jobs don’t suck harder than unemployment.

Apply.  Get out there.  The worst that can happen is that you get some interview experience, and find out where you DON’T want to work.  That’s useful information that helps you find the job that suits you.  Don’t apply for jobs that are a crazy stretch, but if there’s a reasonable chance that you’re qualified, go for it.

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Sabrina September 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

There’s lots of jobs here that suck more than unemployment. Mostly because they pay less…

HR Minion September 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

I agree completely! I once tried, and tried, and tried to get into a company because I thought that was what I wanted. Eventually I did and I hated it. I was so disappointed and disillusioned. What ‘s worse is that I was so focused on that company that I wasted a lot of time on them by not looking elsewhere. That’s why I always tell people, you lose nothing by applying or interviewing for a job. It’s not like you are under any obligation to accept.

Charles September 2, 2009 at 9:59 am

Hey! I am in an arranged marriage in one of those Western compounds.

Just kidding!

Back in the mid-90′s I mailed my resume to a job posting that I found in the newspaper even though it didn’t sound like “my cup of tea.” The only reason I submitted my resume is that there were no other listings that week. I tried to send out a couple of resumes each week; so, if there had been other listings I probably would have skipped it. Long story short – I not only got the job, but, love it and stayed close to six years until the entire department was outsourced to India.

So, yea, you never know.

Tim G September 2, 2009 at 10:29 am

This is why some people are so outraged when they are let go. Employment at will works both ways. A good employer works to cultivate loyalty, but undersands that people may choose to leave. I happen to be a long-term employee, but with a break in service that came at a time where the employer was not meeting my personal needs. I found something better, left, and grew as a result. When I was ready to move on from there, I considered several options before returning to my previous employer. We have choices. I know that the choices aren’t always what we want, but the relationship is always a choice.
.-= Tim G´s last blog ..Bringing the Whole Package =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott September 2, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Charles, you reminded me of this:

Somewhere in the upstairs hall closet of my house is a box. In the box, amid the old photos and ticket stubs and notes a boy passed me in 10th grade is an index card. The index card has a little cut-out of a classified ad taped to it.

When I first moved to Milwaukee from Los Angeles in 1992, I came with no job lined up. I got here on a Friday, and when the Sunday paper came out, I went through it and cut out all of the administrative assistant ads and taped them to index cards. Then I typed out cover letters for each one of them on my trusty electric typewriter, on my fancy cream colored paper. Then I paired them up with the resumes I’d had printed at the print shop, and walked them to the post office to mail. Kids, this is how we did things back in the day.

When I got home, I found that there was one more little cut out classified ad on the floor below my desk. I was tired, and I’d just typed out 32 cover letters by hand, and I’d already mailed the whole stack…so I debated whether it was worth bothering with #33. The ad didn’t look like much, and the pay was really low. Then I remembered I was alone in a strange town, with rent to pay on my first apartment and no money left after paying for the move. So I typed up one more letter, sealed the envelope, and went back to the post office.

I ended up getting the job from that ad. It sucked. In fact, it sucked so badly that I would have quit the very first week if it wasn’t for the fact that the intern who also worked there was hot. I endured that crappy job for several months for the sake of that intern…who is now my husband (and still a hottie).

You never know what you’re going to get out of a job. Sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to…and if not, you can always find something else.

Jess September 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I disagree in a way. The worst that can happen is you spend a lot of time tailoring each resume and cover letter to convince the hiring manager that you’re worth talking to and then get zero interviews. That really is worse than landing any interview, period. Nobody’s giving away interviews like they used to.
.-= Jess´s last blog ..And I’m back on Twitter =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott September 4, 2009 at 3:07 pm

To be honest, I’ve never understood why people advise tailoring your resume. I mean, your experience is your experience. How much can you really change it?

I can see having a few different versions of your resume under certain circumstances. For example, if you’ve got about two years of retail experience, and two years of administrative assistant experience, maybe you have a version of your resume for each (because you need a job, so you’re applying in both fields). But I’m blown away by career counselors who tell you to tailor your resume for each individual opening. How do you do it? What are you adding or taking away, and why? On what basis? Because if it’s the ad…well, I’ve written a whole lot of ads in my time, and at best they reflect a small part of what I’m looking for.

As for the cover letter–ideally the whole thing is 4-5 paragraphs long, tops, and several of those are standard stuff (like your contact info, where you heard about the ad, etc.). So you should only have a couple of short paragraphs to play with there (and customizing THOSE is worthwhile…but since they’re short, it shouldn’t take long).

I hear about people who are spending a couple of hours on each cover letter/resume submission, and I wonder whether that’s really the best use of anyone’s job hunting time. It seems like spending 15 minutes customizing the cover letter and the other hour-and-45-minutes networking might yield better results.

Kerry Sandberg Scott September 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm

You know what—don’t answer that. I’m going to do a post about this next week. I’d like to get input from people on this whole resume-tailoring thing. I’ve had a couple of questions about that lately, and I really want to understand where that’s coming from and how people are applying that advice.

Jess September 4, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I’m glad you’re doing that. It’s a timely topic for me. I’m one of the people who spends hours on each job application.
.-= Jess´s last blog ..And I’m back on Twitter =-.

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