Job Search

Agile Job Search Techniques: 7 Steps to Responsibility

If you want to get an awesome job with the least effort, jazz up your job search with agile self-management (Tweet). Agile methods will help you rapidly discover which of your skills match employer’s true needs, market yourself for better results, target “channels” that have the best opportunities, hone in how much to ask for, and land a great job.

responsibility steps

Agile job seekers rely on six fundamental agile patterns to fuel a successful search. In this installment, we’ll focus on the Responsibility pattern. To “accepting responsibility,” in this case, means taking the attitude that everything that happens in your job search, good and bad, is something you caused—you own it.

While few of us have trouble taking responsibility for success, most of us have difficulty taking responsibility for failure. Christopher Avery, an expert on responsible leadership, claims our perspective follows a predictable sequence until we respond with action:

  1. Deny there is a problem
  2. Blame Others, for causing it
  3. Justify, by blaming the system
  4. Feel Guilty, by blaming yourself
  5. Feel Obligated, to continue failing
  6. (optional) Quit, if you just can’t stand it
  7. Accept Responsibility, and act

Christopher Avery argues that our perspective on failure follows a predictable sequence until we finally take responsibility and act.

First, we deny there’s problem. Has this happened to you? “I sent 100 resumes out four weeks ago for jobs that I could do in my sleep, but no one called me back.” Denial says, “Well, the hiring managers are probably busy, I just need to be patient!”Denial just delays our ability to respond to the problem. (There’s a reason why “respond” sounds similar to “responsible.”)

Second, we blame others for the problem. “Those hiring managers are so lazy! I bet recruiters are holding my resume so internal candidates get a chance!” Now we have a few more excuses to avoid work to fix the problem.

Third, we blame the system for the problem. “Unemployment is high, so I bet they have tons of applicants. My stellar resume is buried amidst lots of mediocre ones. There’s nothing I can do!” Guess what, there’s nothing to do, because we aren’t responsible!

Fourth, we blame ourselves for the problem; we feel guilty, because our personality, our essential nature, keeps us from being employed. “I’m no good for these jobs, I was a fool to even apply. No one will hire people at my age for these jobs. I’m a minority, and you know how the world is stacked against me.” Guess what, there’s nothing to do, because we can’t control the outcome! Are you starting to get the picture? Each of these stages Is a way to avoid doing work!Once we wallow in self-loathing for a while, hopefully we roll our eyes at ourselves to get one step closer to responsibility.

Fifth, we embrace obligation to keep doing what we’re doing, because people expect us to do it this way. “I am just doing what they told me to do in ‘What Color is Your Parachute’! My employment counselor told me to do it this way, and if I don’t do it this way, I won’t get an unemployment check!” We still don’t have to do anything new.

Sixth, we can quit. In the case of a job search, quitting means to stop looking for a job. “Maybe I can stick with my current job, even though I hate it. Maybe I can live with Mom. Maybe I can go fishing at the cabin all summer.” Do we have to take real action yet? Nope. We’ve gone through six perspectives on our problem, and none of them really demanded anything from us.

Lastly, we can take responsibility, and finally, here is where the rubber meets the road. We take action. We decide that we are going to email or call all 100 recruiters to find out the status. If we get vague answers, we’ll reach out via LinkedIn to people we think might be the hiring managers, and ask them to tell us where our resume might have gotten stuck. If we can’t reach them, we’ll find pals who have been hiring managers and ask them to review our resume, we’ll find alternate means to reach hiring managers.

If we follow the entire Responsibility Process, as Avery calls it, every time we encounter failure, we eventually reach responsibility, where we behave responsibly and act to improve the situation. But many of us get stuck in one of the six intermediate states. Every problem is different: sometimes we get stuck feeling guilty. Other times, we talk about how the circumstances created the problem. Only if we push through to the next state, and finally to responsibility, do we improve our situation. We will get more done if we reach the state of responsibility faster, but Avery argues we usually have to go through all the intermediate states first. So if you are blaming others, quickly figure out how to blame the system, and then move on!

Taking responsibility for everything that happens will make things happen for you. You’ll pretty much start from the bottom with every problem, but understanding the process means you can accelerate to a solution in short order.

In future parts of this series, you’ll learn to apply the other five patterns to your agile job search, to gain an awesome job faster. In the process, you’ll also learn more about agility. Agile methods have driven the successes of many companies, including many on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Join us for parts 2 through 6, in weeks to come.

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By Dan Greening

Dan Greening is a serial entrepreneur working on his fourth startup, where he leads implementation of two agile practices, Lean Startup and Scrum. Between the third and fourth startup, he was the lead agile coach for Citrix Online, Skype, Overstock, and other companies. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA. He is a Certified Enterprise Coach with the Scrum Alliance, and a Scrum@Scale Trainer. He has published innovative work on agile management, parallel processing, and chaotic systems.

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