Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Does a Pitching Machine Have to Do with Job Searching?

Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine

Recently, while at my son’s second Pee Wee baseball practice, I had an interesting experience.  I’m one of several volunteer coaches, and during batting practice it was my turn to use the pitching machine (which I was excited to try out by the way—what a cool device).  So, I would prepare, aim, and release--only to then watch my pitch fly wide left or low . . . or even come up short and explode dirt in front of home plate.  Fortunately, as I got accustomed to the machine and did some tweaking, a number of the pitches were pretty good—right down the middle for the boys to hit well.

My experience is similar to a typical job search.  We prepare (e.g. network, brand ourselves, leverage LinkedIn), aim (target specific employers/jobs and tailor our cover letters/resumes), and release (apply/see what happens).  If all goes well, we get an interview(s)--only to then hear a number of our answers go way off target or fall flat right in front of the very individuals who have the decision-making power to hire us.   

Yet, if we:
--truly know what an employer’s needs are (the obvious tip is the job description—the answers to the test; research the employer's website and other sources, speak with alumni at the company, etc.)

--have a good understanding of ourselves and can articulate how our experiences/skills can benefit the employer (see things from the employer's perspective)

--practice/do a mock interview beforehand (make any mistakes prior—and of course, be encouraged by good answers)
. . . then the questions thrown our way will indeed be hit well.

Interestingly, in baseball, players are considered really good if they get “3” base hits every 10 at-bats or 30 out of 100, and so on (that’s only 30% or .300); however, during the job search, frustrated job seekers usually lament they just don’t have what it takes when they only get a handful of interviews after many, many submitted resumes and applications.  Even those few interviews, statistics show, usually don’t lead to job offers.

During the job search, just like in baseball, we will “fail” much more than we will succeed.  Let’s mirror baseball and “stay in the box,” make adjustments, and remain focused on what we’re trying to accomplish.  Amidst the many frustrations of a job search, it’s far too easy to get discouraged.  The job search can be a long, challenging process; dig in and stay positive.  

All it takes is one “yes.”  10 employers may pass, but the 11th suddenly is ready to not only offer the job but a signing bonus as well.  Success won’t happen though if we don’t prepare, practice and really “get into the game.”  Finding suitable employment requires serious desire, time, and effort.  More importantly, how we handle adversity during the job search will often determine the end result. 

During my pitching-machine fiasco I could have asked my fellow baseball coaches to “bail me out” or take over for me.  Honestly, I almost did several times.  Instead, I resolved to somehow make it work; I made a few adjustments, re-aimed, and released again. Success followed.  Oh, and I tried not to get hit by a line drive.

Darren L. Noble, M.A.
Director, Crown College Career Services

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