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The connection between fishing and searching for a job

Updated on May 3, 2010

Fishing for a job

These two activities may not, on first glimpse, have much in common. In fact there are more similarities between the two than anybody realizes. There are ways to assure failure in either pursuit and there are proven methods that greatly increase your success rate. Most people know the basics of one or the other activities and some may know something about both. This short article will show the reader how the pastimes are related and should make you think about how you proceed with your job search. Fishing success is another subject to be discussed elsewhere.

The goal of a fishing expedition is to catch fish. The successful fisherman starts with knowledge of his prey, skill in the use of his equipment, experience based on past successes and failures, and a plan to use this set of resources to achieve his goal. There are many separate species of fish and the particular methods used to catch each species vary greatly. The secondary intent of the fisherman also varies according to the species being pursued and the fisherman’s personal goals. In some cases the secondary intent actually outweighs the primary goal – catching fish. The recreational fisherman is fishing for relaxation and time away from his regular life. His overall success is not solidly connected to the fish he catches. It is based on his degree of separation from the pressures of his life. There are professional fishermen whose goal is to catch enough fish to earn a living. This might be as tournament pros or as commercial operators whose income depends directly on the fish caught. The fish caught by the fisherman is a measure of how well prepared he was when he started the day. The most successful fishermen are better prepared with advanced knowledge, proven skills, proven experience, proper tools (tackle) and an effective plan. The connection to the job search should be clearing up a bit at this point.

When a person begins a job search his goal is to be offered a job. Like the fisherman, he has the choice of accepting the offer or continuing his search. There are very few recreational job seekers. Most seekers mean to eventually accept an offer and stop searching. The more offers a searcher gets the better the accepted job is going to be. His overall success is related to the number of offers he has to choose from. Few job seekers are successful enough to receive more than a couple offers. The successful seeker, like the successful fisherman, approaches his search with the right combination of resources.

The job seeker must have knowledge about the job he wants. He should know where the jobs are likely to be. There are few jobs of any kind to be found in rural areas. Most jobs are in or near metropolitan areas. Therefore, the seeker will concentrate his efforts where the jobs are most abundant. It has been said ninety percent of fish stay in ten percent of the water. Successful fishermen know where the fish should be and focus their effort there. A similar approach should apply to jobs. The job searcher’s knowledge of the position he is seeking will further narrow the search area. This search area doesn’t have to geographical. The search can be limited to business types most likely to meet the seeker’s job requirements. If the searcher is looking for a position as a copywriter, he won’t be looking at industrial organizations – he’ll be limiting his search to newspapers, ad agencies, publishers or other media-based companies.

The job seeker’s bait is the skill set he presents. As with fishing, the more real and natural the bait the more likely it will be taken. A fake skill set, like ineffective artificial bait, is quickly recognized and rejected. The fisherman who is successful with artificial bait knows the details of the natural bait he is representing and replicates it as closely as possible. If a job seeker wants to represent a skill set he does not possess, he must know enough to convince a hiring manager that he can do the job. He must maintain this illusion long enough to be offered the job just as the fisherman must fool the fish long enough to set the hook. Still, the best bait for any fish (or job) is the real natural food (or skill set) the fish (or position) expects to see.

Just as having the right bait does not ensure catching a fish, having a real and marketable skill set does not automatically get you a job offer. As already mentioned you have to put the bait where the fish are. You also have to present it properly. No trout will take a bait sitting lifeless on the bottom of the stream. No hiring manager will look twice at a bare list of skills on a sheet of paper. The resume is the presentation. The job seeker uses the resume to present his skill set (and education and experience) in a form acceptable and attractive to the hiring manager. Outright lies are easily detected and rejected. Outrageous exaggerations are just as bad. If the trout expects a mayfly he won’t bite a minnow no matter how prettily it is presented. The hiring manager is just as selective. A very well presented resume for an electrician holds no interest for him if he’s looking for a website designer.

Part of the job seeker’s resource package is the plan. The plan doesn’t have to be a well defined, written document. It may exist in the back of the seeker’s mind and be unconsciously consulted as the search progresses. Nevertheless, there must be a plan in place. A fisherman will not leave home without a destination in mind and some idea of what he will do when he gets there. He will have his tackle, boat, and other equipment prepared. The successful job seeker will have his resume prepared, in printed form, as an e-document, or even online as a HTML document. He will know where he is going to look for jobs and how he will present his “bait”. He will have his references, previous employers contact info, work history, transcripts, and diplomas ready for deployment when needed; and he will be prepared for the interview with practiced answers to common questions. When a fish takes a bait there is often a short time before the fish detects the hook and rejects the bait. The fisherman must be prepared for this and react quickly to hook the fish before it spits the hook. The interview is the job seeker’s hookset. An effective interview performance can establish the connection that leads to the job offer. Interviewing is a skill. It can be learned but not effectively taught. More interviews, like more hooksets, will improve the interviewee’s responses. (Personal note: I have taken interviews for jobs I absolutely did not want – just for the experience.)

Part of the fisherman’s plan is the species of fish he expects to catch. He matches the rest of his plan to the fish he chooses to pursue. If he wants rainbow trout he won’t be loading up his deep-sea rods, 130pound-test line and18inch-long marlin jigs. He’ll load up his fly rod, his dry fly pouch and his waders. The job seeker should match his approach to the position he seeks. A $100K per year management position requires a very different plan than a job as night manager at the local convenience store. Do not try to get hired as a computer programmer with a resume showing only industrial maintenance experience. Research example resumes; reduce or eliminate emphasis on non- applicable experience; highlight recent education; and demonstrate experience in the chosen field.

Putting all this together it should be easy to see the similarities between fishing and searching for jobs. Both the successful job seeker and the successful fisherman approach the activity with a plan, a defined goal, knowledge, and the correct resources to promote success.


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