Posted in Self-Management

Why Job Boards Are Important…But Not For Applying to Jobs

For those of you who know me, the title of this blog may sound odd. As you know, I am a firm believer in developing the steadfast spirit with the goal of reaching a point where you never have to apply to an online job again. I believe it is more than possible at some point before age 30 to develop the right relationships and skills that jobs find you and the jobs you find come through contacts, not job boards. However, job boards can be incredibly useful tools for two reasons.

Reason 1: You are not there yet. Many of my readers are still in undergrad or just a few years out of school and while they are pounding the pavement trying to build as many connections as possible job boards can still play a role. Many of the best professional contacts come through those you work with and if you are looking for that first job you obviously lack those great contacts. I talk in great detail to my D.C. Hopefuls Fellowship members about how to manage your online application process but early in your career applying to jobs through job boards may be necessary as you attempt to cast a wide net and follow leads. Online applications should always be secondary in time and priority to building professional contacts.

Reason 2: Understand the neighborhood. A key component of the steadfast spirit is knowing that information is power. Good friends of mine bought a beautiful condo last year. What I found odd for several months was despite having this beautiful home they spent a few hours every weekend going to open houses in their neighborhood. I naively thought they must not like their condo so I tried to be a good friend and tell them how they should be happy with their great condo. They laughed and explained to me they were happy and had no intentions of moving but it was important to know their neighborhood. They wanted to know which companies were doing rehabs, which home features builders were using, how quickly houses stayed on the market in their neighborhood, and what the overall market was doing.

Even when you are in a great job that you really enjoy I encourage you to be like my friends. Check out job boards, receive their daily emails, and take a few minutes each week to see what is out there. Over time you will notice upticks in openings in your field or you may notice the sudden decrease in announcements. You can also see what employers are looking for in candidates.

As I have said even the greatest jobs can go south in a hurry and you never want to feel like you are starting from scratch or scrambling when it comes to getting a new job.

I always keep my profiles on,, and other sites current as well. In the past, I’ve had recruiters reach out to me and offer interviews. Some may not feel comfortable with this, but I have taken interviews even when I was not interested in the position simply to learn more about the organization and in one situation was able to get an offer that was $10k more than I was making. I was able to take this offer to my boss and get an $8k raise!

At any age, you should always pair your networking with job boards. If you connect with someone from XYZ and two weeks later see an opening there you can reach out to them and see if they can help. I have had people reach out to me asking about an opening at my company that I did not even know was open!

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Posted in Self-Management

What I Learned From Talking Politics at Thanksgiving (Stop the Blame Game)

I love my family, but when it comes to politics, we do not agree. Over the years, we’ve just all come to terms with this and tried to avoid those types of conversations. D.C. Hopefuls is a totally non-partisan environment, and I will not be talking politics, but I will be talking about a lesson I learned through talking politics. As we sat around the table this Thanksgiving, my cousin could not contain himself and wanted to talk politics. I was proud of us both for really listening to each other and turning it into a civil and thoughtful conversation. One thing we both agreed on was that Americans really seem to like to place blame. Whether it is the President, the economy, government in general, their boss, or their family, it seems as though for every problem we face, there is someone else responsible. It is easy to blame big banks and the government for the 2008 crash (both should be held accountable) but what about the millions of people who bought houses they could not afford? What about the billions in credit card debt Americans have run up? I love to complain about student debt/loans and blame everyone else for it, but nobody put a gun to my head to take out those loans.

If you have read the ‘about me‘ section on D.C. Hopefuls you know that I entered a 2-3 year period where all I did was blame other people for my self-perceived professional shortcomings. It was the Republicans’ fault for cutting the budget, it was Obama’s fault for not doing more for me, it was my university’s fault for not better preparing me, it was my parents’ fault for not having connections, it was my boss’s fault for not finding me a new job, and it was my friends’ fault for not connecting me with the right people.

There was no single defining moment, but eventually, I learned that it was MY fault. Sure there were external factors at play, which were out of my control, but it was on me to get out of life what I wanted. I am the only person solely responsible for what happens to me.

A great example is Dan and me. I decided I needed to go to graduate school, so I took out $55,000 in student loans. Despite working full time I never paid a single penny towards my debt until after graduation and I was forced to start repayments. Afterward, I constantly complained about the broken system that ‘forces’ us all to take out massive debt.

Then there is Dan. Dan knew he wanted to be a lawyer and gained a clear understanding of the system. Sure he would complain about the costs and other factors, but he did something about it. Dan not only worked while attending law school but paid for school as he went. He took a different path than others in his class and graduated with $0 in student loans. Dan and I both complained about our situation, but Dan did something about it! It is ok to be like most Americans and complain about big external problems, but never let that seep into your personal ambitions.

There is a glitch in every system, so when the system seems unfair, find a way to make it work for you. I am not perfect but I definitely blame others much less, and it is incredibly liberating!

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Posted in Self-Management

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy (Track non-tangible results)

Job-hunting is often like losing weight in the sense we are always our own worst enemy. It would be very odd for someone to actively try to prevent you from losing weight, so the only thing between you and weight loss is you! The same is true for job hunting.  Countless times in my life I have got discouraged about not being in the right job and was often quick to blame anyone besides me. I blamed the economy, Congress, my school, my boss, and anything/anyone else.  It took me a long time to realize that I was always my own worst enemy. Much like that person dedicated to getting in shape I’d get really excited at first. I’d apply to a bunch of jobs four days in a row much like joining a gym then going 4 straight days.

Then I’d get tired and give myself a few days off or worse I’d get very discouraged because I had not received any interviews. Knowing I had to have some type of measuring stick to motivate myself I would set application goals for each week and month then nearly break my arm patting myself on the back when I hit my goals. Predictably months went by with no leads or interviews. I was the person who hit their gym attendance goal, didn’t change their diet, and was dismayed when the scale did not move.

Finally I realized that proper job hunting meant leaning on contacts, meeting new contacts, perfecting my resume, and doing things the right way with the steadfast spirit. The only problem was that I once again quickly became my own worst enemy. Doing things the right way was not the fastest way, and I quickly became discouraged again. I would complain to mentors and friends that I was doing the right things, but the interviews were not coming.

A good friend of mine taught me to track non-tangible results. Sure it felt good to count all the job applications I had completed, but I needed to also count and track all the people I had met. I began to log all interactions and brainstorm future questions and interactions. I set ‘investigation’ goals to find people at desired organizations and meet them.

I stopped becoming my own worst enemy because my spirits stayed high. I was able to see on paper all that I was accomplishing and took faith that the job would come. Just like the person who would change their diet, track what they ate every day, and stopped becoming a slave to the scale because they had proof on paper they were doing the right things. That person is going to lose weight at some point and because of the habits they have developed will keep the weight off. The same was true in my job hunt because I did things the right way and tracked it to keep my spirits up the right jobs have come my way and I have developed the appropriate habits to grow my career.

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Posted in Self-Management

Finding Balance

During my undergraduate years, I often encountered two types of people: what I call the library dwellers and Stretch Armstrongs. The first group had no life other than school, thus it seemed like they lived at the library. Sure enough, they would finish with a 4.0 GPA and zero job prospects. That big beautiful 4.0 only took up one line on their résumé. When working with students/recent grads I still see those resumes. The student who lists all his/her classes because all they have ever focused on is school.

I recently found a great quote by David Allen that says “You can do anything, but not everything!”

The Stretch Armstrongs were the people who joined EVERY club on campus. They joined Greek life, biology club, student government, history club, young republicans, young democrats, religious campus groups, etc! When the time came to write their résumé, they were a mile wide and an inch deep. Sure, they were in every organization, but they did not make an impact in any of them and their GPA often greatly suffered.

Although I was quite naïve in college, I did understand it was better to work smarter than harder. I knew my limitations in certain classes and didn’t waste countless hours trying to get an ‘A’ when I knew I could get a ‘B’ with little time spent. I joined organizations but always made sure to invest my time to rise to leadership positions.

I recently found a great quote by David Allen that says “You can do anything, but no everything!”

Find balance in your life so you are excelling in more than one area, but not treading water in several areas. This habit and mindset will be crucial when you begin your career search in D.C. The library dwellers often focus on one specific job and become so narrowly focused that they are often doomed for failure when through no fault of their own, that specific opportunity does not work out. The Stretch Armstrongs cast such a wide net that they never put in the necessary time or effort anywhere for it to eventually pan out for them. Finding balance is essential.

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