Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Job Hunter’s Guide to Bagging a Trophy

For those of you who are familiar with the vernacular associated with big game hunting, ‘trophy’ hunting can be viewed as an extremely dangerous sport the ‘spoils’ of which most often go to those who are best prepared for the challenge.   Among the many ‘trophies’ sought after by ‘seasoned’ hunters are ‘HIPPOS’.  By definition, hippos in their native habitat are incredibly thick skinned beasts that are almost impossible to move and are particularly treacherous when they decide to throw their weight around.  In the world of job searching, a ‘HIPPO’ refers to the ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’ [usually the decision maker] and it is this person’s opinion that you will need to ‘bag’ in order to be successful in your quest for a new job. 

Successful job search safaris reside in the ‘hippo’ culture of company where the final hiring decisions always seem to be deferred to the most senior person in the room.  I, like many of you, bear the scars of many hippo safaris some of which my have been wildly successful and others that failed in what can only be described as a sorrowfully dramatic and bone-crushing experience. With that experience in hand, please let me share a few of the lessons that I have learned along the way.

Step One – Educate yourself about the prey you are seeking to bag
Know everything there is to know about the ‘beast’ you are trying to bag and be especially cognizant of its vulnerabilities.

Step Two – Prepare for the safari:
·         Shooting practice [Interview preparation] - Practice shooting with someone who knows how to shoot, whether it is a friend or instructor, or just the guy next to you at the range. If you are nice, they will most likely also be nice — shooters want to see more people shoot. You will get better with each practice session.
·         Make a checklist -  Gather and pack all of your supplies:
o   Utilize the proper tools and ammunition
o   Suitable attire is critical for your success - Wear the right clothing and shoes for the climate and terrain
o   Map your strategy – Use care and common sense, and, never shoot at any target without a safe backdrop

Step Three – While on safari:
  • Approach the prey slowly and with caution - Enthusiasm is a good thing. However, excitement can also mean your pitch may be interpreted as overly ambitious, particularly if you have a ‘HIPPO’ standing right in front of you.
  • Don't flaunt your kills or your skills. Sometimes it makes sense to transport and flaunt your ‘kills’ [as expressed, albeit perhaps indirectly, by your wardrobe and choice of accessories] in the direct view of others, and sometimes it doesn't. Strive to use good judgement at all times.  Know that whatever strategy you use to bag the ‘TROPHY’ could negatively affect the way non-hunters view the sport.
  • Respect other hunters [job seekers]. We would all love to have the woods all to ourselves, but that isn’t possible for most of us.
  • Keep the woods [interview space] clean. Leave the area cleaner than it was when you arrived and don’t forget to carry out all of your trash.
  • Be respectful of the non-hunters in the woods. Even though it can be tough to be patient when a group of idiots on mountain bikes barrel past your stand during hunting season, there is no sense in acting like a jerk about it.
  • Respect the belongings of others. Most hunters won't mind finding another hunter using their stands, as long as it hasn't been abused. Don't mess with chairs and the cushions and don't leave a mess.
  • Show your respect for the ‘TROPHY’ [That Resource-rich Organization-savvy Person Hiring You] by taking only the best shots. If the game [interview question(s)] cannot be hit in such a way as to put down immediately, then, you should not take the shot.
Please know that there is no infallible way to bag the ‘TROPHY’. Even the best hunters bear few hippo-sized footprints/scars on their backs from previous and unsuccessful safaris.  Don’t give up. Instead, Get out of the mud, take time to heal and approach again from a different angle. Your accomplishments are testaments that prove you have been a valuable asset to other organizations in the past and now it is your job to convince the ‘HIPPO’ of the present that you can do for them what you have done for others.  The proof was in the doing.

Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at