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[MMM] What do Grocery Shopping and Careers Have in Common?

This past weekend I was in the grocery store doing some grocery surfing — by that I mean that I was wandering the aisles, buying stuff in both an intentional and random type of way. I felt entertained, confused, satiated and tempted all in the course of one hour! There are two lessons I learned from the experience that I think I can apply to career management: Don’t go to the grocery store on the weekend.
 
The first lesson is the more obvious one. When you grocery surf in the same lane as everyone else, you end up bumping into each other. There just isn’t a lot of room in those aisles – either that, or they have made the shopping carts larger!
 
Strangely enough, this also applies to careers. For example, imagine that an ad for a lucrative position at an excellent firm has just been posted in a major paper. Bingo, it catches peoples’ attention, and, shortly after, bingo! 122 resumes are submitted within the hour (thanks, email!). Now, imagine the same 122 people in the pickle section of the store — do you get the picture? A sure-fire Strubs riot.
 
There is a better way. When you go to the grocery store on a Thursday night at 9:30, all those Strubs – garlic, sweet & sour, non garlic, small, medium, large — are waiting there just for you. So it is when you are pursuing an opportunity BEFORE it hits the market.
 

In my previous life, I ran a search firm. It was very, very rare that clients actually wanted to hire someone. They wanted to fill the role, of course, they just didn’t want to go through the hiring process. People are busy and generally risk tolerant. If they meet the right candidate at the right time, they are happy to hire them, thus avoiding the process of advertising or using a recruitment firm. The trick, then, is to get there on Thursday, before they write the ad for Saturday’s paper.
 
In career speak, we call that "networking". Yes, I know it’s a word we rarely enjoy the sound of, but your network is how you learn about the next potential opportunity. Then, and only then, will you find yourself in the enviable position of being the right person at the right time – you will have the aisle all for yourself!
 
Leading, along the road with you!
 
Alan
 
P.S. You might be asking yourself, “What are my options for training and professional development within the Public Service? Am I in the right kind of role within the Public Service? How do I leverage my previous experience to move toward more senior levels?” Join our lunch and learn webinar for public servants on May 22 from 12 – 1 pm EDT to learn how to we can help.
 
P.P.S. You may be wrestling with the question of whether you are in the right career for you, and where to go from here. Perhaps you know precisely the role that you are looking for, but are having a hard time finding it in today’s competitive market. Register to join our CareerClass “Career confusion? Ask Alan – Find clarity and take control” on Wednesday, May 23 from 12:00pm – 1:00pm.