In one sense, an election is much like a job search. A group of political candidates (applicants) goes all out to convince voters (employers) that they are the best choice for the job.
Just as future office seekers can learn from the successes and failures of the last campaign, you too can hone your job-search efforts by taking heed of what did and did not work for politicians on election day. Here are a few examples:
Don’t waste your time seeking a job you can’t get –
It would seem Phil Angelides was the only one who thought he had a chance to defeat The Governator. He continued to trail the gov by double digits through election day. So why did he bother? He expended much effort and millions of dollars getting nowhere.
Don’t do the same in your job search. Applying for jobs that are way beyond your reach simply wastes your own time and money in a futile exercise.
You can resurrect your career –
Two examples come to mind – Governor Schwarzenegger and US Senator Joe Lieberman. One year ago last November, voters overwhelmingly rejected the governor’s reform agenda. In response, Arnold vowed to change. He hired a Democratic chief of staff and modified his approach. It obviously worked. Lieberman, after losing the Democratic primary, ran as an independent and won.
These two are good role models to keep in mind when you face your own career rejection. Not only can you survive, you can thrive.
You can’t always change the subject –
Rather than admit mistakes, Republicans desperately wanted to divert attention away from the war. But Iraq remained the defining issue of the campaign.
Are you finding that potential employers are focusing on a particular element of your background? Do you provide an adequate response that answers their concerns? Or are you simply hoping it will go away? Remember, you can test your tactics by running them by a friend in management.
Pick your references wisely –
Because of his low approval ratings, many Republican candidates chose to avoid having President Bush campaign for them. You too must choose your references wisely.
Will the people you pick as references not only say good things about you, but do it in a professional and positive manner? If not, choose someone else. Republicans did – they used First Lady Laura Bush as a more acceptable and popular alternative.
Timing is critical –
Some pundits believe that if President Bush had replaced Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prior to the election, the Republicans would have maintained their majority in the US Senate. In essence, the president would have told voters before the election that he was willing to change a failed Iraq policy. Instead, the President waited until after the election, when it was too late.
What are you procrastinating about in your job search? Calling an employer to see if they received your resume? Networking? Cold calling? The longer you wait, the more likely employers will pick someone else.
Leave the comedy to the comedians –
The campaign trail, like your job search, is rarely a place for comedy, as John Kerry painfully illustrated. For those who missed it, Kerry (taking a jab at President Bush) said education was good if you took advantage of it – if you didn’t, you ended up in Iraq. The unintended inference was that our troops are stupid and uneducated. Soldiers and their families did not take kindly to the comment. Worse, Kerry refused at first to apologize. David Letterman said it best "Kerry has finally learned how to lose an election he’s not even in."
You too may lose if you tell a joke and discover that either your delivery misfires, or your prospective boss doesn’t have a sense of humor. So play it straight.
Say what you mean and mean what you say –
When the President’s handlers decided that (in Iraq)had taken on a negative connotation, the spin doctors had the chief executive change his message to What? The president had swapped a meaningful slogan to one made of mush. lacks resolve, clarity and meaning.
What about your job search – are you sticking with a clear message so an employer easily knows who you are? For example, do you have a specific job objective at the top of your resume? Does your resume support that objective by citing related experience? Do your cover letters complement the resume? Or are you constantly changing tactics?
Don’t get greedy –
If you, as a potential hire, appear to be too expensive, the employer will look elsewhere. Just as California voters did with Prop 86 (a $2.1-billion tax on cigarettes) and Prop 87 (a $4-billion tax on oil).
In the case of your job search, never discuss salary until you have been offered the job. Then, do your homework by going to resources like Salary.com and researching what level of compensation is reasonable.
Listen to what the employer wants –
Republicans pursued a neo-con agenda that didn’t sit well with authentic conservatives or moderates. And Congressman John Doolittle, after nearly losing an election he thought would be no contest, said he intended to focus a lot more on the needs of his district than on the Washington politics that had dominated his current term.
You, too, need to focus on what the employer wants. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask.
Don’t try to find a scapegoat from the past – For a brief time, Republicans aired a campaign ad that blamed President Clinton for the troubles facing the current administration. Because Clinton failed to capture Osama, we have terrorism today. Because Clinton failed to disarm North Korea, we have another nuclear threat. The ad quickly disappeared, in part because it wasn’t credible that the Bush administration had not contributed to the problems.
Don’t fall into this trap during job interviews. Never speak ill of a past boss. It will make you come off as a complainer. Worse, instead of finding a sympathetic ear, you might discover what managers already know – employers tend to side with other employers.
One final career recommendation: Do your best to fulfill your employer’s expectations. The change in leadership probably would not have happened last month if the majority party had done what it was chosen to do. That’s a good thing to keep in mind after you land that next job. If you expect the boss to keep you on the payroll, pay attention and perform. Or face the consequences as so many incumbents did last month.