You Smell Desperate

desperate guy

Don’t be this guy

Remember that guy that was totally into you? The more you ignored him the harder he tried to cling to you? There’s something similar happening when you are in the work-a-day world. If a hiring manager thinks you’re desperate, you become very unattractive.

I had a terrific discussion over lunch last week with Karl Sakas, Mark Traphagen, Casey Cheshire, Stephanie Kapera and Emerson Stratton. We talked over the idea of finding a way to balance confidence without seeming conceited and eagerness without coming off as desperate while looking for a new position. It’s not always easy.

The Hiring Manager

One of the wildcards in the equation is the person on the other side of the desk. You have no idea what that person really wants. We all make assumptions about what they must want, but every manager is looking for that intangible quality. Does the manager want someone who is upbeat and energetic or does that type of personality come off as fake to them? Does laid back say you’re confident or lazy? The truth is you don’t know, only the person on the other side of the desk does.

Not every HR person has a perfect picture of what’s needed either, so at larger companies you’re fighting through an additional step!

Out of Work

When you are out of work, you will usually take almost anything that comes along, especially if the mortgage is due. So you answer questions with, “yes, I love that!” Eventually the hiring manager pukes and you’re asked to leave. Then if you ask what went wrong, nobody will ever give you a straight answer because they’re terrified you’ll sue them.

When you’re out of work is when your confidence is at it’s lowest, which is dangerous. A loss of confidence stinks, and that stench permeates every interview you head into. If you can only do one thing when you’re out of work, stay confident and stay positive (okay, that’s two things).

Not Looking

Not looking for a job is like an extra helping of Old Spice in an interview. You can talk openly and honestly about how you want to work, because in the end, you don’t need the job they have. Good God that’s attractive!

The reason it’s attractive is simple. We all want things that are scarce, that are hard to obtain, that are out of our reach. It’s why the candy bar we sneak into the movie theatre seems so much better.

The Best Way To Get A Great Job

Stop looking for a job that would be great for you and start being great at the job you’re in.

There is no doubt you could run the company better than that bonehead in the corner office, but who cares? The same way you know who is a great employee is, so does everyone else. I tell people all the time that the best web designer I’ve ever worked with is Les James. I have been fortunate to have the honor of working next to him at three different companies. Les doesn’t have to look for a job, the jobs come looking for him. The last time I reached out to Les to offer him a job he told me no. I worked on him because I knew he was perfect, but also because I was not going to let someone else have the best web designer on the planet… I wanted him!

What are the hard lessons you’ve learned from being in the workforce over the past few years?


  1. Dan Moran says

    I have spent that last 4 years discovering how different it is to find a job when your 50 as opposed to 30. The questions are no longer focused on whether I can do the job, but why I would want the job.

    • says

      That’s interesting Dan, but I can see that happening. It’s funny that when I talk to people about the desire to just do good work no matter where you are, I often get funny looks, especially from younger people. The idea of being the best bagger at a grocery store because you have self-pride and want to simply do a good job is lost on most high schoolers, but the underlying feeling seems to carry on for many years.

      That’s one of the reasons I hate the “where do you want to be in 5 years?” question. In many ways, I don’t care, I just want to be doing work I’m proud of. Saying that to some people makes you seem like a freak, but if you can get your pitch down just right, you can make them seem like a freak for asking such a stupid question ;-)

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