Archive for the ‘Social Proof’ Category

How NOT to Get Hired in a Recession

December 6th, 2009

Unemployment has been kept under ten percent nationwide and everyone is celebrating about that…except those in the ten percent (thanks @bradmontgomery)

But for a very long time in this country there has been a trend that has crippled and undermined the people who most need to be helped right now. For the past few decades there has been a growing quest to celebrate victimization. As each socio-ethno-political group and sub-group strives to prove that they are more put-down, held-back, shut-out and suppressed than the other socio-ethno-political sub-groups (or at least more so than the other gender in their own sub-group) people have slowly come to believe that rewards go to the most down-trodden. The sadder and more pathetic you can appear, the more likely you will be to gain favor from those in a better position.

It is as if we have lost our identity as a nation of survivors and instead adopted the idea that we are a nation of victims. Every news report tells about the victims of crime and the victims of a storm and the victims of automobile accidents, even when these people are NOT victims but SURVIVORS. The difference is much more than semantics. It is about how we internally identify ourselves. And our self-identity is a critical element in how we address problems. It affects how we relate to others and even how others relate to us.

This is point number one. If you want to get a job during a recession or to move forward in any endeavor at any time, begin thinking about yourself as a survivor and not a victim; in all situations, no matter what. And here is another, even more important insight about human behavior: People place a higher value on things that are in-demand or that are scarce enough to not be easily obtained.

Among those who are unemployed right now there is an almost uncontrollable urge to let others know how bad things are for you. I was listening to a radio segment where callers can offer their “verbal resume”. One of the questions the DJ asked each caller was “How long have you been unemployed?”, and each caller seemed to want to out-do the caller before, with greater tales of woe and hard times.

In spite of the fact that society lately has been training people to believe that the more down-trodden you are the more entitled you become, the truth about the way humans actually behave is the opposite. Human beings are attracted to those who are successful, active, engaged, in-demand, and even those perceived as “lucky”. There are countless studies that reveal our natural disposition to want whatever others want. Robert Cialdini, in his book “Influence” calls this phenomenon “Social Proof” and it is a double-edged sword. Not only do we want what others want, but we will avoid what others are avoiding.

The callers on the radio segment I listened to who were recently let go seemed like a far better catch than the ones who had been looked over and refused employment offers for eight, nine, or ten months. This seemed true not because they were more convincing or even more skilled, but because there was a natural inclination to wonder what was “wrong” with those who had been unemployed longer. Logically I KNOW there is nothing wrong. We are in the worst recession in at least 80 years and it might eventually prove even worse than the Great Depression. Very competent, qualified, dedicated people are unemployed through no fault of their own.

But even as an author and expert in human behavior I am not immune to the effects of humanity. I am as susceptible to the natural psychological triggers as all of us are. I recently brought on a very highly skilled person who had been laid off from a job that paid quite a bit more than I was willing to pay. One of the things that attracted me to having Paul on our team was the fact that even after being laid off, he was still very much in demand, in large part because he created the image of being in demand. He took on jobs that many people with his background and education would think would be “beneath” them. He even volunteered at places just to keep his schedule very full.

I don’t know if he did it consciously and strategically, or if he is just naturally driven to stay busy, but regardless I wanted him on my team. In fact, when he first approached me I wasn’t even in the market to take on a new team member and told him so. But like a survivor, he kept the conversation going and now I find myself worried that someone is going to hire him away from me.

This is not about playing “hard to get” games like a teen-ager in angst. It is not about posturing to pretend you are in demand. It is about filling your schedule with real, meaningful activities so that you ARE in demand. It is about taking charge of your situation. It is about becoming a survivor, which means you have to act like a survivor.

Down Economy, Scarcity, Social Proof, Success