Like many CEOs, my academic Iditarod slid me through lectures on economy and marketing with textbooks layering the icing of social work, administration, and business ethics and dropped me off at the doorstep with a toolkit unfit for MacGyver. When it comes to recruiting, instead of diving into books and swimming around the pages of academia, it was in the ocean on my surfboard where I learned the art of job hunting.
Here are the five things I’ve learned about job hunting from surfing:
- Wax your board before getting in the water. Out on the ocean, the only thing separating me from Mother Nature is my surfboard. Once I’m in the ocean, what is done is done and there’s no time to quickly patch up a hole, apply some wax, or buy a better board; it is the time, money, and effort that I put in before surfing that pays off when the adrenaline is pumping, the wave is towering above me, and I’m nothing but a wrinkle in Poseidon’s carpet. I’m amazed at how often candidates go into interviews unprepared; it’s not enough to just check out the company’s website. True preparation is knowing their competitors, bios, where they got their funding, and asking in-depth, interesting questions. When the wave is coming, it’s too late to wax your board; don’t kick yourself for not learning enough about the company when you’re sitting in the interview.
- Check your leash. As I learned the hard way, my expensive, stylish surfboard is useless to me when it’s detached, leaving me to fend for myself against the overpowering waves and make it back to shore. As a digital media professional, you must constantly refresh your knowledge, add to what you already know, and update your network and relationships so that when the opportunity arrives, you are poised to take advantage. Your hard work and preparation are only helpful when they’re at your fingertips, so don’t let them float away in your memory. Mentally, you can plough ahead with full force knowing that your foundation is tied to you at all times.
- Get up when you’re down, or more importantly, know how to lay low so that you’re ready to get up. Moving from Manhattan to Long Beach, NY, I left the business homeland and gained a healthy, fresh perspective. Similarly, unemployment can be either viewed as a negative situation, or a time of growth, rejuvenation, and preparation. From an outsider’s perspective, you may appear weak, but it is precisely this deception that is your advantage over the competition. Outside the daily working routine, you gain an alternative perspective and can evaluate your passions and purpose. Always alert, aware of your surroundings, and in position to jump up and ride the next best thing is the distinct advantage of your position; knowing what you’re looking for is the first step to finding it.
- Never stop paddling and moving with the tides. Most people are surprised to hear that surfers spend 90 percent of their time paddling and only 10 percent of their time riding the wave. Looking for a job is exhausting, but often people don’t put the effort or the attention to detail they need to secure the interview and make it to the final round. The devil is in the details, and that might mean sending a thank you note to each person you met, researching and calling the hiring manager instead of just blindly sending in a résumé, or attending an event where a hiring manager may be at.
- Stay ahead of the wave. Complacency is dangerous, especially when you’re set at your current job. Jobs don’t wait for you so don’t wait for them! Whether you are unemployed, actively seeking a new job, or content in your current position, you should always keep track of industry updates; know what’s popping up and what’s fading away. Social networks, digital media news aggregates, job boards, and recruiting agencies are your catheter into the heart of job opportunities. Comment on articles, start threads, and contribute to digital blogs and forums; with a curious eye and a positive attitude, you will find opportunities before they open. If you’ve been cooped up in the office, make it a priority to get out and meet new people and check in with old relationships – you’ll be amazed at the fruits hanging from your networking tree.
You may not be ready to tackle 20 foot waves, but grab your board and get your feet wet because you can’t watch the next big thing if you’re not in the water.