The One Thing You Must Do in a Job Interview, with Anita Bruzzese

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Hi, this is Mac from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001, and now I’ve put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide.

My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit MacsList.org/anywhere.

This is Find Your Dream Job; the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.

This week we’re talking about the one thing you must do in a job search.

Your boss asks you to see an important client. You don’t think twice about the need to prepare. You spend the time it takes to get ready for that appointment. Preparation is the one thing you must do in a job search, according to this week’s guest expert,  Anita Bruzzese. She says when job seekers skip preparation they end up frustrated and unhappy. Anita and I talk later in the show.

Here’s one of the most popular questions in a job interview: Where do you want to be in five years? Ben has found a blog post that shows what an employer hopes to learn from your answer. He tells us more in a moment.

What do you say when asked in a job interview about your career goals? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Katie Pettit in Chicago, Illinois. Becky shares her advice shortly.

As always, let’s first check in with the Mac’s List team.

Our topic this week is the one thing you must do in a job search. Now I’d love to hear from you all, what’s at the top of your list? Becky, you’re looking pensive.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, I was going to say network. But I think the more important thing is just generally to talk to people. I think people get really stressed out about networking, like, “How do I network? Am I networking right? This is so frustrating and scary. I don’t like going to events.” If you’re like that, you can still communicate, you can still talk about your job search to the people around you, the people you meet.

Because I think a lot of times people tend to hide it, don’t want to bring it up all the time, but I think that it can be so helpful for job seekers. Especially if you’ve been unemployed for awhile, or you’re getting frustrated, to talk about it. Keep it out there and open, and not try to hide it, because that’s when things get more frustrating and more not positive.

I think you should keep in mind that you should always be communicating about where you’re at in your job search. Not necessarily networking, but just in general talking to people about where you’re at, and what your goals are. I think that just keeps it positive and keeps you working towards your goals.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I love your emphasis on communication, and in particular, human connection.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, that’s huge.

Mac Prichard:

Agreed, because I know we’ve made this point before, but you’ve got to step away from the computer, and yes you need to apply for jobs online, and talk to people via email. But there is no substitute for human connection.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, not getting caught up in the networking side of things, I think is really important.

Becky Thomas:

The formal aspect of it.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Because that can be intimidating.

Jessica Black:

Yes, it can definitely be.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it’s a skill you can learn, but it takes some practice.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

It can be scary.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

What about you, Jessica? What’s at the top of your list of things you’ve just got to do during a job search?

Jessica Black:

I would say, I’m kind of split between staying focused on your goals, because it’s so easy to do that spray and pray kind of, every job you see.

Mac Prichard:

Right.

Jessica Black:

Making sure that you are not getting into that mindset that you want to apply for everything that you see. So staying focused for sure. But I also think that, keeping your…I’m a big LinkedIn advocate, so, keeping your LinkedIn up to date, and, along with what Becky said, connecting with people there. Again, we’ve talked about this before, but doing that before rather than when you’re looking for a job. [Keeping it updated] kind of continuously is always important. But yeah, making sure that everything is up to date there, and making sure that you’re putting your best foot forward on LinkedIn, as well as your in your resume.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, agreed.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Ben, what are your thoughts?

Ben Forstag:

So I think networking and staying on top of your job search game even while you’re employed is important. But I think the number one thing you need to do, the thing that most people don’t do in a job search, is really know what you want to be doing with your career. Having some clear goals, because I talk to a lot of job seekers, and when I ask them, “So what do you want to be doing?”, the number one response I get is, “I don’t know” or, “Anything, whatever happens is great.” I’m like, “That makes it really hard for you, for yourself, to find what you’re looking for.” Because you end up chasing a lot of bad leads, you put yourself in a situation where you’re applying for a jobs you aren’t really that interested in. Which makes it hard to show the enthusiasm you need to show, if you want to land the job.

So I say to take the time to get really focused about what you want, and then, instead of casting a wide net for jobs, be laser focused on the specific types of jobs and careers that are most interesting to you.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, for me, I’m with you and Jessica, I’m on the goal train here. You need to know where you want to go, and it’s okay if you’ve got a shortlist of two or three goals that you want to explore, but as you say, Ben, there’s no substitute for knowing what your destination is. It makes your search so much easier.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

I think it’s okay that in the course of your networking, you learn about new things that are interesting to you, your goals can change, but I think it’s important to stay focused, so you’re only pursuing two to three different leads at any one time. As opposed to anything that pops up into your radar.

Mac Prichard:

Good. Well great, well thank you all, and I know we’re going to talk more with Anita about this, and I know from reading her stuff, she’s a fan of goals as well. She is obviously a huge fan of preparation.

So let’s turn to you first though, Ben, because you’re out there every week, searching the nooks and crannies of the internet, looking for books, tools, websites, and other resources our listeners can use in a job search and careers. So what have you uncovered for our listeners this week?

Ben Forstag:

So this week I want to talk about an article I found on the Harvard Business Reviews site, and it’s called, Where Will You Be In Five Years?

So this is a question that you’ve probably heard in interviews. It comes up a lot. I’ll be honest, it’s one of my least favorite questions.

Jessica Black:

It’s a tough one.

Ben Forstag:

It’s like I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five years. I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, so how am I supposed to have a vision of where my career’s going to be in half a decade? I’ll be honest, I’m even a little skeptical of anyone who already has a real clear roadmap mapped out of their career. Because life happens and things change.

So, I like this piece because it unpacks the question a little bit, about what actually employers are looking for when they ask this question. It provides a really tactical approach to answering it based around the internal motivations of the employer.

So, the reason employers ask this question is not because they’re looking for a clear vision where you’re going to be. There’s a couple key things they’re looking for. Like, are you pursuing a job that’s within your larger strategic interests? Is there some other interest that might take you away from the workforce or away from that employer should they hire you?

Things like if you say, “My goal is really to start my own business in the next two years.”

Mac Prichard:

That’s quite a turnoff.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, exactly.

Mac Prichard:

Unless it’s a contract job.

Ben Forstag:

I think there’s probably some very nefarious employers who are trying to probe out things like, are you looking to move someplace else? Are you looking to have children? Take maternity leave, things like that. They’re trying to figure out the broad brush strokes of what your life might look like in the next five years, so they can, frankly, take some risk avoidance in their hiring.

But the other thing I really like about this piece was that  it uses this prompt to dive into a deeper question, which is, “where does meaning reside for me?” I think a lot of people are just talking about having goals right. A lot of people struggle with, “I don’t know what I want to be doing. I don’t know what my career should look like or what my real interests are.”

So I think if you think about this, “Where will I be in five years” question, it gives you a framework to creating those ideas, those goals for yourself. So if you think about, again, restructuring the question as “What is meaningful to me? In the next five years, what could I do to more closely reach those things that are meaningful to me?”, you can step back from there and start constructing what a career might look like.

The authors of this, they make a really good point, which is, reframe the question from, “Where do you want to be in five years?”, to, “What do you want to learn in the next five years?” The answer to that question, of what would you like to learn professionally, can really clarify a general career direction that will keep you engaged.

So I thought this was a really interesting piece on a couple of levels. Both as a tactical, how you answer this question, but also as a philosophical, how you can take the structure of this question and unpack it into a bigger, more rewarding, career trajectory.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, sounds like a great story. I’ll definitely check it out. This is one of those questions that comes up in almost every interview, or certainly a second or third interview. So you have to have an answer ready.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, it’s one of these ones that it’s so frequent, you should just have a rote answer down, or at least a framework of a response. Again, keep in mind, the key things that the employer wants to know is “Are you already planning your exit strategy if we give you this job?” We’ve talked about this before, you have to show enthusiasm for the job that you’re applying for. If you talk about how your goals are something that’s completely different from the job that you’re applying for, they’re looking for that kind of thing.

So it’s one of these questions where it’s easier to give a wrong answer than a correct answer. So check it out, it’s on the Harvard Business Review website.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, thanks Ben. If you’ve got a suggestion for Ben, he would love to hear from you. You can write him at ben@macslist.org. We’d love to share your idea on the show, so send your emails directly to Ben.

Now, let’s turn to you, our listeners. Becky is here to answer one of your questions. Becky, what’s in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Becky Thomas:

So we have an excellent sort of segue from that five years question. Katie Pettit emailed us to ask a question sort of similar to that, “Where do you want to be in five years?” question, with a bit of a twist. So Katie asks:

“I’ve had interviewers ask ‘What are your future career goals?’, or ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ When my goal is to have the job of the person interviewing me, what’s the best way to answer this question without sounding like a threat or someone who will be gunning for their job?”

I think this is a fairly common one, and it’s a good question. It’s a little tricky, Katie, so thank you for asking.

Generally, I think, interviewers like to see a candidate show drive and show that they have goals. It’s totally okay to express your desire to move up and take more responsibility on over time, as you feel that you’re developing your career with the company, if you get hired.

Another thing to keep in mind is your interviewer probably wants their boss’s job in 5 years too. With all that said though, I don’t recommend you say, to them in the interview, “Oh yeah,I want your job. In five years, I’ll be where you’re at.” That’s probably not a good approach.

I would be a little bit more focused on yourself in this question, actually. You want to talk about your own goals for the next five years. So, talk about what specifically you want to do.  “In the near future, I want to strengthen the leadership and work management skills that I’ve already built.” You can talk about how you deliver the most value doing those things that you want to work on. You feel that you’re at your best when you’re doing those skills. Talk about “In five years I hope to be managing projects and leading a team.” Whatever it might be.

Be specific about the actions you want to take to get to that goal. If you’re a junior project manager and you want to be a project manager in five years, you’ll have smaller steps to take over time to get to that place. Whether it’s starting with you delegating the work within your team, and then leading a specific part of that project. You have steps that you need to take to make your goal achievable. So really talk about that in your answer to the question. It’ll  show your interviewer you’ve really thought through that goal and you have a clear plan to achieve it. If they’re threatened by that, it’s on them.

You’re showing that you’re driven, and you know where you want to be, and you know yourself and your skills. I think that’ll be impressive to them. So that’s my advice.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I like that a lot. I like your focus and your emphasis on the phrasing portion of that, of demonstrating that you would like to move up. Well not even move up, just learn from your experiences and grow in the organization. That you want to still be at that same organization in five years, you just want to be able to move around throughout the organization as well. Even using that as an opportunity to, focus on your goals, as you said, of what specific areas of that person’s job that you see yourself doing and doing well. Then using that as an opportunity to say, “I would love to learn from you in the next several years.”

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

Because, she or he would be your boss or your supervisor in those couple of years. Saying, “I really see myself in this opportunity for growth and I would love to be able to learn from you in this experience.” People always want to be mentors as well and help other people grow, and I think that phrasing it in that way of focusing on your goals. Posing it as not being threatening, then demonstrating that you want to move through the organization, and showing that. I think that’s really good.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, so, I think that most managers know that there’s a professional progression that you go through and people are going to grow in their careers and move on to different things. I think the key is also remembering that managers are people too. They can be insecure. So I really like your point about playing to that person’s ego and saying, “One of the reasons I’m really excited about this job is at some point in my career, I hope to be in a position like you have. I think I have a lot I could learn from such a great, talented, experienced professional like you.” Really position that person as a mentor.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, definitely. But don’t just say it because you think that’s what you need to say. Just be authentic and genuine.

Becky Thomas:

Say it if you believe it.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

You need to be authentic.

Ben Forstag:

Of course. But I think that’s true a lot of times. You can learn a lot from a good manager.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely.

Ben Forstag:

Unless we’re talking about a job where only one of them exists in the world.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Ben Forstag:

NASA project manager for manned space flight. There might be one person who has that job. There’s probably other positions for the same title or the same kind of responsibilities elsewhere. By saying like, “I want your job”, doesn’t necessarily mean, “I want to be sitting behind the desk you’re sitting at right now.”

Jessica Black:

Right.

Ben Forstag:

It means that at some point in my career, I want a similar type of responsibility or role like that. I think most managers understand that that’s something that happens in people’s careers. They move on.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, and I liked what you said, Becky, about that manager might also want to be moving up as well. So being able to groom the next person or replacement.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, that’ll help their career too.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, it’ll help their career and it’ll help make sure that their position is solid when they do decide to leave. That the organization itself is stronger.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, totally.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. I agree. Employers want people who are ambitious and want to learn and want to grow. I love the points that all of you are making about the need to say where you want to go. Because I think that will be appealing. Yeah, so good advice.

Well thank you, Becky. If you’ve got a question for Becky, please send her an email. Her address is becky@macslist.org. You can also call our listener line, that number is, area code, 716-JOB-TALK. Or send us a tweet, our twitter handle is @macs_list

If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a free copy of our new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.

We’ll be back in just a moment. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Anita Bruzzese, about the one thing you must do in a job search.

Most people struggle with job hunting. The reason is simple; most of us learn the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For fifteen years at Mac’s List, I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon find meaningful, well-paying, and rewarding jobs that they love. Now I’ve put all of my job hunting secrets in one book that can help you no matter where you live.

You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted, and ace your next job interview. For more information, and to download the first chapter for free, visit Mac’sList.org/anywhere.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Anita Bruzzese.

She is an award-winning journalist specializing in workplace and career issues. She has written two career-advice books. She has also been quoted in publications such as O, the Oprah magazine, and she’s been a guest on the Today show.

Anita joins us today from the St. Louis area.

Anita, thanks for coming on the show.

Anita Bruzzese:

Thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Well it’s a pleasure.

Now our topic this week is about the importance of preparation in a job search. When you and I chatted before the program, you were saying this was the one thing people have to do in a job search. What do you mean by preparation, Anita? Why is it so important?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well, I think there’s a couple of scenarios. Sometimes, people are unexpectedly looking for a job. They get laid off or there’s a merger, or there’s something that happens. So in a panic, they just start sending out resumes right and left. Just whoever is online that they can find the address for. They send out resumes. The other thing is, they’re kind of wishy washy about their job search, and they’re not quite sure. Maybe they just want to see what’s out there, they’re not real enthusiastic about it. So those kind of things really set people up to fail because they’re job searching without giving it a lot of thought.

Mac Prichard:

So, what kind of difference can preparation make? Because let’s go back to that second scenario, someone who, they just want to test the water. Why is that a bad thing, Anita?

Anita Bruzzese:

Yeah. Well, I’ll give you an example. I sit on the board of a nonprofit and we were recently advertising for a position. This is not a nonprofit that’s run by Microsoft, it doesn’t have a lot of money. It was advertising for a position and we had resumes come in, and we had resumes from people three thousand miles away who didn’t really even have the qualifications. If you looked at the job, you could tell this was not a nonprofit with a lot of money to pay. I’m not really sure what these people thought they were doing. It wasn’t like we were going to be able to fly them in to interview them. We would not be able to pay any moving costs. They really didn’t have the qualifications to apply.

So that’s kind of what I’m saying. I’ve even talked to law firms where people have applied for the position of lawyer and they do not have a law degree. So that’s why I think a lot of times people just get into this mindset where they’re just going to cast this really wide net and just see what happens. That’s probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Because you’re going into it totally unprepared. If I called you from the law firm and said, “Alright, where did you get your law degree from?”, and you have no law degree, what are you going to say?

It’s a ridiculous waste of time and effort.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to people, and I’m making a guess here, but I imagine people who send that resume from three thousand miles away and think, “Who knows? Maybe lightning will strike. I could do that job or I could learn how to do it. Why shouldn’t I apply?” What would you say to somebody like that, Anita?

Anita Bruzzese:

Because I think that job searches are draining. There’s a reason they say that a job search is a job in itself. It requires a lot of focus, it requires a lot of energy. If you’re going to do it, why not put a hundred percent of your effort into something that you really want, or that really interests you, or that you’re qualified for, instead of casting this wide net and just hoping lightning strikes, and you might get something. I think that you’ll get defeated really quickly.

So one reason or another, you start losing your enthusiasm, and you don’t put a lot of effort into your job search. Let me give you another example.

The other day I was talking to an executive with a healthcare company. He said he just got a cover letter, now keep in mind he’s with a healthcare company, but the person says, “I would really like to work for the port of New Orleans. I really like New Orleans.” Number one, the job was not in New Orleans. It was not with the port of New Orleans. But this person was obviously unfocused, not making a real effort in this job search.

Why do that to yourself and an employer? If you’re not enthusiastic about the job when you’re applying for it, you’re certainly not going to be enthusiastic when they call you for an interview, if you even get that far. So I think it’s a real waste of the energy that you’re going to need to conduct a successful job search.

Mac Prichard:

Well let’s talk about the preparation that people should do before they reply to a job posting, or follow up on a lead that they’ve gotten through word of mouth. What do you recommend people do before they hit send on an application, Anita?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well you know, the worldwide web is pretty wonderful, it has a lot of resources that you can go on. A lot of little self tests you can give yourself to just decide really what you want to do. What your strengths are. Tom Rath is a good friend of mine, he’s written Strengths Finder. I recommend that if you’re not really sure what you want to do. But really sit down and conduct your job search like it’s a job. Decide what things you want to do, what you absolutely don’t want to do. If you see those things in a job posting, for example, nine out of the ten things you absolutely hate, why would you apply for that job?

So you sit down and you come up with a game plan. What you want to do, the industries you’re interested in. Do you want to move? Do you not want to move? Do you only want to telecommute? Do you only want a remote working position? What kind of experience do you have? Is the job requiring certain certifications or a law degree? All those little things that you need to go through in your mind so you have it settled what you’re looking for. You hone in on your job search so that you are much more effective and much more likely to get that interview.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0, which is a great resource. We’ve mentioned it here on the show a number of times in the past. Are there other resources, Anita, or perhaps models that people could find and follow online to go through getting answers to that great question you just outlined?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well, there’s the Meyer’s Briggs test, you can take. The reason I like Tom’s is, I think it gets people thinking in a way about themselves that maybe they never have before. Because a lot of people think, “Oh I enjoy doing that”, but they don’t see that as a strength, they see it as maybe a hobby, or something. So it really opens a lot of doors.

There’s a lot of resources online. If you are the graduate of a college, I would recommend you go back to your alumni, a lot of them have connections. Their career centers offer resources online, tests you can take. The Department of Labor has a website and you can go on there and they have all kind of little tests you can take, or industries that are growing, industries that are not. So you can help educate yourself about what’s out there. Industries that are dying, industries that are thriving, all those kinds of things.

Mac Prichard:

I love your suggestion about checking in with career service offices for alums of universities or community colleges, because those centers have terrific resources. For people who didn’t go to community college or a four year institution, every state has an employment office which has great resources as well.

Anita Bruzzese:

Yeah, like I said, the Department of Labor is a good place to start too, because they’re constantly updating the data that they get in. So it’s a real good place to go and see, maybe you’re interested in a certain field but you maybe need to switch your focus a little bit. Or maybe you’re going to have to get some kind of certification. It’s best to know that before you start applying for jobs that you don’t have a chance of getting because you don’t have the required certification or degree or something like that.

I always say that education is your best bet, and when you’re looking around, look and see if you could get into some seminars. Lots of communities offer free seminars, job search seminars. The United Way, different church groups in town will often offer chances for you to come and network. Any of those resources that might be available if you’re not in the big city, those are all chances to look into and take advantage of.

Mac Prichard:

So we’ve talked about the importance of preparation and setting goals in the application process. Now, when somebody gets a callback, after having followed the steps you outlined, and they’re offered an interview, why shouldn’t they just wing it, Anita, when they walk into that interview room?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well let me first say, when you get the call, make sure you’re ready to get the call. I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard about hiring managers calling somebody and the person’s dead asleep and they answer. I don’t know about you, but I’m none too bright for about the first hour after I wake up.

Mac Prichard:

I’m the same, yeah.

Anita Bruzzese:

Or they’re giving their kid a bath, or they’re in a bar, or something like that. Just don’t answer the phone if you’re not prepared to talk in a quiet place and give a hundred percent of your time and attention. You can always call them back.

The other problem is, say you’ve sent out all of these resumes, and you did it two months. You’re not even sure who this person is who’s calling you, you can’t really remember the name of the company. You’re not really sure what to talk about. I always say, everyday refresh your memories. “Okay this is my pitch, this is why I’m qualified to do these jobs. These are my skills.”

The other thing I like to do is when somebody calls you on the phone and you either do a phone interview or you go in, you always have your good idea file. Your good idea file means that you’ve done your research on the industry, you’ve done your research on the company. You know the challenges that industry or that company is facing. You’ve done some research and maybe you’ve got some good ideas, “Maybe you all should try this product”, or, “Have you tried reaching out to customers this way?”, or, “Have you tried to generate interest via social media this way?” All of the different things that you can offer an employer makes you stand out from the person who gets an interview and gives yes no answers.

Mac Prichard:

Now I know from looking at your blog and your articles, that when you talk about the importance of preparation, you say that applies to networking as well. That we need to make strategic choices about the events we attend and the associations we get involved in. Tell us more about that, Anita. Why is that important?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well for one thing, when you’re searching for a job, you’re asking for something from your network, and if you’ve been a good networker up till now, they’re happy to hear from you and happy to help. But let’s face it, a lot of us are not really good about keeping our networks up, and then all of a sudden they hear from us, you know, “Joe needs a job and he’s looking in such and such area.” So if you’re asking something from someone, say, for example, you’re looking for a job in St. Louis, and you call somebody in New York and say, “Hey, I’m looking for a job in St. Louis”, what are they supposed to say to you? Or you call somebody out of the blue and say, “Hey do you know of any open jobs?” Well it’s not like there’s open jobs just sitting there on their desk. They’re wrapped up in the middle of something else with their work. The first thing they’re going to say is, “Gee, I don’t know of any at all, but I’ll call you if I find something.” You’re not going to hear from them.

So you need to be much more strategic in the way you use your network. Make sure you’re asking the right people the right questions. Approach them with the standpoint of, “This is specifically what I’m looking for. This is what I’m qualified for, this is what I’m interested in.” Help your network help you. Don’t just cold call a bunch of people because that’s a way to annoy your network, to burn them out, and also, you’re not using them effectively because you’re catching them absolutely cold. Asking them these questions, the first thing they’re going to say is, “No, I can’t think right now, but I’ll let you know if something changes.” You know, because you would do the same. So be a little bit more proactive, particularly in the way you talk to your network.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I like your emphasis here on being strategic in the requests you make. Because my experience has been, and the people I work with have had this experience as well, our contacts, professional, friends, and family, they want to help us in our job search, and are eager to do so. We need to think about ways to make it easy for them to say “yes”  when we ask them for help in ways that they can be helpful.

Anita Bruzzese:

Right. Exactly. It could be that there will be two or three steps from the person you’re trying to reach. Clue them in on to what you’re going on. “I know that maybe you don’t know of a job, but I see that you’re connected to Mary Smith from Philadelphia. I’m interested in a company that Mary used to work for. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with her?” That way when they make the introduction, they’re not going into this blind. They will be much more helpful to you if they kind of know where your end game is. What you’re going for. That’s another part of your strategic job search, you can’t just put out this generic request to people and expect them to help you. Be more specific and more clear in what you’re seeking. You’ll get much better results.

Mac Prichard:

Excellent advice. Well, Anita, tell us what’s next for you?

Anita Bruzzese:

Well, I’m pretty well committed to this career advice arena. I’ve been doing it a long time. When we went through the last great recession and so many people were out of work, I heard some of the most heartbreaking stories. It really solidified my commitment to helping people in their careers because when you have a job, it spurs everything else in life. It is the most fundamental thing of being able to take care of your family, take care of yourself, plan for your future, help other people. So I really feel that that’s the best way as a journalist that I can help a great number of people. Is to continue to help them get good jobs that they love, and then they reach back and help the next person.

Mac Prichard:

Well that is great, and we have certainly have that experience here too of just how much value we get from helping others in their searches. Well, I know people can learn more about you by visiting your website, and that url is www.45things.com. We’ll be sure to include that link in the shownotes, and I know there’s information about your books and your columns, and your blog as well which is full of great, great information.

Anita Bruzzese:

Thank you so much.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well thank you, Anita. Take care.

Anita Bruzzese:

Thank you.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Becky, Ben, and Jessica. What were some key takeaways you all took from my conversation with Anita?

Ben Forstag:

So, I’ll start.

Mac Prichard:

Oh boy, you’re jumping ahead of Becky.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

She’s leaning in.

Becky Thomas:

Go ahead, Ben.

Ben Forstag:

Well you know they say that…

Mac Prichard:

With Becky’s permission.

Ben Forstag:

Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. So I liked how she echoed the point I made earlier about having goals and knowing what you want. Both to save the employer a lot of time and energy, but more importantly, to save you a lot of time and energy, and stress and anguish. Because it takes a lot of time to fill out an application and do that, even if you’re not doing it well. It takes thirty minutes to do so. If you’re gunning for things when you’re not really focused or qualified, that’s thirty minutes shot down the drain. The likelihood of getting that job is almost zero at that point, so just avoid doing that, and you’re saving yourself a lot of stress.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, some of her advice felt like tough love for job seekers because if you want that nonprofit job, even if you’re not qualified for it, like you said, “Why not try?” But it was interesting from the employer’s perspective to understand what that employer is thinking when they get an application where it’s like, “This just doesn’t make sense to me. They’re not giving me a roadmap for how this would make sense for this person to have this job.” So as the job seeker, it’s kind of on you. If you’re not fully qualified, sell yourself. Or find a better focus with the tools that she mentioned and really figure out what your skills are and what your goal job is, or should be.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, I think that’s like the happy medium between “just try it and see what happens.” and “don’t do it at all.”

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

Which is, if you don’t perfectly fit that job description or if there’s something in your application, like you’re located four thousand miles away, it’s really on you to go above and beyond and show them why it’s worth their time to talk to you.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah. Like, you always say, build them a roadmap, so you can walk them through how you might make this work.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah. Hold their hands through it.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, a lot of people I think, use the job search process for goal setting, and I made the same mistake in my twenties. I used applications and interviews to find out if I really wanted a particular job or not. The problem with that is it’s a lot of work to send in the applications, you don’t get a lot of interviews, and I never got a job offer when I was uncertain whether I wanted to work in that field or not. Because I think my hesitation always came through.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

I think a lot of people get stuck in that trap too. So I love her emphasis on goal setting at the start and getting clear about what you want before you hit send on an application. Jessica, what are your thoughts?

Jessica Black:

I really liked her note about being ready when you pick up the phone. I really liked that reiteration of, you don’t have to jump for phone calls when you get them, even if you’re excited about them and it’s a great sign to get a phone interview and all of that stuff. But being in the right mindset and being in the right space is really important, and it will help illuminate you as a candidate as well. So that’s really important too, to make sure. So it’s okay to let it go to voicemail and then call them back if you’re not in the right space.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

So I thought that was really good as a reminder.

Mac Prichard:

I liked that point too. I think it was Hannah Morgan who was an earlier guest, talking about how to manage phone interviews. She says it’s okay, if you recognize a phone number and you could take the call and you were in a quiet place, as Anita said, to find out what the job was about and say, “Can I call you back at this time?” In other words, do the preparation that Anita was talking about.

Jessica Black:

Right. That’s always good.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

Ben Forstag:

I would just warn against not taking the call at all. I would definitely pick up the phone. Because a lot of people don’t want to leave a voicemail.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely. I’m thinking of her example of, you’re giving your kid a bath or something like that. That’s a point where you don’t pick up the phone, even to say, “Can I call you back?”

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

That’s a point where you let it go to voicemail. But other times, if you’re not just quite ready to talk, picking it up and saying, “I’m so excited about this opportunity. I’m not in a good location to talk. Can I call you back in fifteen minutes? Can we set up an appointment?” That’s where I’m saying that’s good advice.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, agreed.

Jessica Black:

I think that was a good note, Ben.

Mac Prichard:

Well great, well thank you all, and thank you, Anita, for joining us today. Thank you, our listeners for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

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Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

When it comes to interviews, there’s really only one secret: preparation pays off!

Many job seekers don’t prepare in essential ways before they apply for a job. Our guest Anita Bruzzese explains why casting a wide net is a bad job search strategy and she shares tips to help you decide what you want to do, set priorities for your next job, and be prepared to interview every time you send in a job application.

This Week’s Guest

Anita BruzzeseAnita Bruzzese is an award-winning journalist specializing in workplace and career issues. She has written two career-advice books and has been quoted in publications such as O, the Oprah Magazine, and has been on the Today show. Learn more about Anita on her website, 45 Things.

Resources from this Episode