The career secret everyone is keeping from everyone else: we’re all just winging it
The job search is hard, often made harder by the feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing. I thought this might be a good time to set your mind at ease and say, don’t worry about that. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either.
When I was a child I thought my parents and teachers knew things, like why stuff happens and what to do in any situation. I thought that when I got older I too would know these things. I was wrong. I’m older now and I know nothing.
I act like I know what I’m doing a lot of the time, but I don’t. I’m totally faking it. We all are.
I’m a mom and I have no idea what to do on a daily basis. Is this too much screen time? Should I be feeding her this? Is she sleeping enough/too much? I own a house, but I still feel like I’m playing house. I go to work every day, and while I have a pretty good idea how to do my job, there’s still a lot of guesswork involved and I am constantly plagued by the feeling that I should instinctually know everything there is to know, and that everyone else knows more than I do.
I think someone from the People In Charge of Everything Office is going to storm into my office one day, handcuff me and drag me away.
“You’re under arrest for fraud,” they’ll say. I’ll immediately know what kind of fraud but they’ll explain it anyway: “The fraud of living like a regular person in the regular world, and acting like you know what you’re doing. We know you have no clue.”
I’m not actually committing any fraud (well, that I know of), but I think it anyway. Just like I always think the alarm is going to go off every time I leave a store even though I’m not shoplifting.
But I realize that this doesn’t actually matter, because nobody else knows what they’re doing either. In life and in work, there’s no secret well of information to which everyone but you has access. Nobody knows how much screen time is going to warp my kid’s mind (even though lots of people claim to), just like no one knows all the psychological secrets of a target market or why this product or service performed while this other product or service – in which everyone actually had more faith – didn’t.
So, why am I writing about it? Because I got to thinking today about how this knowledge applies to the job search and how understanding that the hiring manager is winging it, just like you, can give you an advantage.
Of course, I should clarify that you should never actually wing it during the job search. Do your research and always be as prepared as possible. What I mean is that understanding that the hiring manager has a problem and doesn’t know exactly who they are going to fix that problem is your key in.
- The problem: Hiring manager needs to hire someone who will do an awesome job, be good for the company and make them look good.
The solution: You
They don’t want to spend hours agonizing over who to hire. They want the decision to be clear. All you have to do is demonstrate that you are the most obvious choice. How? Identify what needs to be done and show that you can do it better than anyone else.
They’re just as concerned about making a good impression as you are. They’re just as scared of you as you are of them. OK, maybe not. But they do often have as much riding on making the right hire as you do on finding a job.
Also remember: the people who act like they know exactly what they’re doing are often the ones with the least idea.
So, relax. Just do what you have to do and wow them.
On the other hand, don’t listen to me. I have no idea what I’m doing.