The Job Search Maze

With yesterday being Halloween, I had the opportunity to participate in one of the nation’s fastest growing new industries – agritainment. What is agritainment? It is the use of agricultural areas or resources as sources of entertainment rather than food production. My experience was with a haunted corn maze – 50 acres of corn field cut into a huge maze and filled with volunteer ghouls who do their best to scare you.

After making it out alive, it occurred to me that the corn maze is very similar to a job search (yes, career issues are never far from my mind). In the corn maze, you have decisions to turn left, right, go forward, or backtrack to find your way to the destination. In this particular maze, they had numbered markers spaced throughout the maze. Each marker represented a trivia question. Getting the right answer would tell you the correct direction to go. That is very much like a job search. You jump in with a destination in mind but you are not sure whether to go right, left or straight. Along the way, you are required to answer questions (in interviews) that can speed up the process if you answer correctly.

Another aspect of the haunted corn maze that is similar to a job search is the fear factor. People who progress through the corn maze enter with some trepidation and expectations that they will be startled, frightened, or even terrified along the way by unexpected events. They are wandering in the dark with no guide and hoping to not get lost. Job search can feel that way.

Most people are nervous about the job search process. The interview process even terrifies some people. Many never get further than ten yards into the job search because they are afraid of future events. They just hang around the entrance talking trash and trying to make them and others believe they have good reasons for delaying.

I entered the haunted corn maze with expectations of getting a good scare. I had two young friends along who were convinced they were going to die in the maze before they could escape. Our expectations were different and thus, our experiences were different. I came out of the maze a little disappointed because I expected it to be a lot more frightening. My two friends came out shaking, noodle-kneed, and white because their anticipations throughout were more frightening than the reality.

Job search can be that way. We fear everything in a job search – “What if no one will hire me because I’m (fill in the blank)?” “What will I do if I can’t find work at all?” “What will everyone think of me?” It can go on and on. Everyone has some fear of some kind. Those who have the most difficult time with their fears have the most vivid fears. The fear of what MIGHT be in the future is more scary than the reality.

Upon leaving the corn maze, I asked my two friends what was the scariest part for them and they replied “What I imagined would be there.” They didn’t say they were afraid of the guy in the hockey mask or the guy with the chainsaw. Their imagination made it seem worse than reality. The same applies in job search. What you expect will occur. If you are afraid of the job search, it will be frightening. If you are sure you will not get hired, you won’t be. The key is to manage your expectations to assure your success. We’ll talk about that part in the next blog.

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