Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sorry, no guarantees

In a consumer society, it's quite customary to expect a guarantee when you buy a product or service. My new Hyundai water boiling pot, for instance, has a one-year guarantee, with conditions spelled out in a tiny book.
I can't say how easy it would be to collect on the guarantee, but it does exist. If my dentist makes me a new crown, and I pay a lot of money for it, I expect it to stay in place for 10 or 20 years, and would go back to ask for free repairs if it fell off in two weeks. Again, I can't say he would fix it free, or at all, or even that he'll still be a practicing dentist, but there's some reason to think he will try to fix his work if it's unacceptable.

So it's not unexpected that people would like a guarantee when they get help finding a job, especially if they are paying for the help. In fact, some trade schools do make guarantees: many TOEFL language instruction courses guarantee that the school will get you a job offer. Whether it's a job you'd like, or will accept, is another story.

In New York City in the 1980's a time of recession, I co-founded a career counseling firm that helped laid-off and/or fired high-level excutives make a career transition. If, as was often the case, a firm hired us to do outplacement for its "excess" executives, we would help the people in these ways:
  • to come to terms with losing their high-paying jobs,
  • to do a personal inventory of skills, talents, accomplishments and values,
  • to decide what career and job to pursue next,
  • to strategize and develop their job campaign,
  • to prepare effectively for interviews,
  • to do all that was necessary to get offers for new jobs, weigh the offers and accept the best one.
Nowhere did we promise to get anyone a job. In fact,we stressed in every counseling session that no one can get you the best job for you except yourself.

We also had private clients who came to us for the same kind of career help as individuals. Again, we offered to help in any reasonable way we could, but did not promise that the client would end up with a job.

In this sense, our counseling firm offered no guarantees, only that we would help as best we could, under the conditions outlined in the contract we signed with the client. We guaranteed that we would try to help, but that's a weak kind of guarantee to a desperate person who needs a job right away.

rushing to get a job
Because the rather bitter truth is this: no one can guarantee to find for you, much less give to you, the job that you can like and do best. This is something that only you can do.

Or, to put it another way, you will never be sure of getting the best job for you until you decide to do it for yourself--to do the necessary work of self-exploration, career research, networking, getting interviews, analyzing your suitability for and interest in a particular job, and so on.

One of our clients, a Frenchwoman living in Prague who wanted to establish her own design firm, got the message loud and clear--she commented after going through two career seminars with us, "it's up to me to take charge of my own career. No one can do that for me." She's launched her firm and is well on the way to building a clientele.

No one can guarantee to you that you will do something that you must do for yourself. A coach, for example, can urge an athlete to get into good physical shape, exercise properly, get enough sleep, keep learning new skills, and so on...but in the end, it's the athlete himself or herself who must make the mental and physical effort to succeed in athletics. The coach can make no guarantees to the athlete other than guaranteeing his or her own good will, successful experience as a coach in the past, confidence in the coaching techniques he or she uses, and sincere desire to see the athlete succeed. The rest is up to the athlete.
Barbora Spotakova, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist in the javelin event
Thereare no guarantees for the most precious things in life: no guarantees that the people you love will always by in your life, that your best efforts will be immediately rewarded, or that you'll even live to see another day. No in one can guarantee you the job you can like and  do best, but you can get solid professional help to envision, design and carry out your career goals.

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