The job market is a crazy place these days. As pandemic life slowly recedes (despite flareups in some areas), people are rethinking what work means to them. They’re reassessing how they are valued and how they spend their time.

Record numbers are leaving their jobs. And they aren’t just quitting their jobs. They are redefining success.

One result is that it’s arguably more important than ever that workers sharpen not only their work skills, but also their job-seeking skills.

An excellent resource in that effort is Rob Barnett. A seasoned headhunter, Rob has discovered, hired, and led hundreds of talented creators and senior executives for MTV, Audible/Amazon, CBS Radio and other companies.

Rob uses a baseball analogy to sum up a job-seeker’s challenge and opportunity: “With the right strategy, candidates have the power to get ahead of any other candidate by over-delivering and to ‘steal second base’ before the first pitch is even thrown.”

He’s author of NEXT JOB, BEST JOB: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now.

Rodger Dean Duncan: You advise job seekers to “Fire the ‘no’ police.” What does that mean?

Rob Barnett: No. You’re too junior. No. You’re too senior. No. You have to settle for less.

These self-defeating bad cops stay in your head as long as you let the anger and sadness of job loss mix with fear.

The “No” Police enter without a warrant. Ask them to leave.

You’re always just one human being away from getting the right opportunity. Fire the “No” Police and you’re one step closer to reclaiming your mojo and the essential confidence you need to win again.  

Duncan: Much of our society seems to be focused on Millennials and Gen Xers. How can older job seekers deal with ageism?

Barnett: Ageism is a prison in your own mind. Break out of this jail. If you’re telling yourself you’re not going to find a job because you’re too old, you’ve already given up on the idea that you can outshine the competition. 

Duncan: You can cure ageism when you’re more positive, effective, motivating, likable, attractive, smart, fun, inspiring, generous, confident, strong and approachable than candidates of any age.

Barnett: Two words: Betty White. If age is the problem, then intuition, inspiration and intensely brilliant ideas are the antidotes. People filled with fire and passion, ideas, and constant forward motion to solve any issue in the workplace are ageless. Let that person be you.

What’s in your heart and in your mind is ageless.

Rob Barnett

Duncan: What are the first two or three things you recommend be done by someone who just lost a job?

Barnett: It’s best to vent all the anger and resentment as quickly as possible. Then you’re ready for an “emotional rescue” by adopting positive daily rituals to keep you sane and help restore the confidence and focus you need to start the search. Drop all the old habits that lead you on a wild goose chase, surfing random job listings and wasting precious time. We recommend you make the most important decision to speed success. Find your new North Star. People who define their best next job title will beat out every candidate who presents themselves as a Swiss Army Knife with transferable skills.

Duncan: You suggest that people out of work should “calendarize.” What exactly is that practice, and what’s its value?

Barnett: The least sexy app on your phone has the power to create the most successful job search of your entire career. We teach people how to fill up their calendar every day with a prioritized list of actions to ignite traction.

Most seekers suffer the shiny object syndrome. When you “calendarize” the most productive working hours of every day, you become the CEO of your own search. If you treat every scheduled task and appointment the way you used to treat showing up for your last boss, you’ll build superpowers to get ‘er done.

Duncan: Whether they are unemployed, underemployed, or simply unsatisfied in their current employment, what can people do to reinvent themselves to be more competitive in today’s job market?

Barnett: Millions of dollars of free media and advertising are yours for the taking the second you get over every hesitation about how to market and sell yourself online.

Social media is as important as breathing if you put this magic to work on a constant daily basis to increase your visibility and viability in front of every pair of eyes who needs to hire you now. Drop every personal post during your job search. Build your most compelling professional voice by posting content that’s already the most shared topics in your industry—with your own take. And interact—immediately—with everyone who engaged with your posts. Some job seekers think this is too hard. If you spend 15 daily minutes of smart time on your social presence, you’re a lot closer to winning the work you deserve.

Duncan: Hiring managers give only a fast, initial look at job candidates online. What’s the key to creating a LinkedIn profile and résumé that can rise above the noise and get serious attention?

Barnett: Please stop writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles like a robot without a soul. There’s nothing wrong with adding relevant key words to your documents. But we all need to drop the obsession with creating resumes that look like carbon copies of all the rest. Climb to the top of the stack by sounding like the real YOU. We offer endless tricks you can steal in our book about how to blow up your current LinkedIn and resume and replace it with documents that will remove all the pesky questions that slow down every job interview, if you’re lucky enough to get that far.

Duncan: Some of your clients have what you call an “entrepreneur’s ‘tude.” What exactly is that, and what’s its advantage?

Barnett: After weighing the pros and cons of working for someone else vs. working for yourself, almost 99% of the people I counsel think it’s much harder to go out on your own. Only 1% have decided they will be more fulfilled on the path as an entrepreneur. These clients have what I call an entrepreneur’s ’tude, and it’s an attitude you may want to adopt, even if you’ve decided you’re better off working in a company run by someone that isn’t you.

An entrepreneur’s ’tude constantly builds muscles designed to withstand change. These smart muscles know the walls could fall down at any time.

There’s great heart and strength of conviction inside every true entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs always act like they’re protecting their own child.

Even if you work for someone else, an owner’s mind-set for every project you handle is magnetic inspiration. People love being around someone who doesn’t panic every time there’s change. Entrepreneurs are famous for having a B plan, a C plan and a D plan, because failure is never an option. This ’tude will serve you well in a constantly changing job market.

Duncan: What are your tips for mastering a virtual interview on Zoom or any other platform?

Barnett: Be on time, exactly. Perfect lighting, simple background, great eye contact, excellent audio, strong WiFi signal. These are obvious points we all know by now.

I share unique tricks on how to nail your perfect 30-minute interview.

Here’s one: tame the elephant. If you know there’s a high likelihood you may be judged as being “too junior,” “too senior,” “too expensive,” or any other roadblocks that could end up disqualifying you in the end—bring up that elephant in the room yourself. Tackle potential objections and concerns by succinctly making your best pitch that removes those obstacles.

Example: Although I’ve had a few roles with more senior job titles, this opportunity isn’t about the title. I’m more interested in the company and the responsibilities because … and then you’ve got to finish your tight speech with a few specifics about them, not you.)

Duncan: Why are so many people quitting their jobs now?

The pandemic left millions of workers asking themselves fundamental questions about whether the work they were doing before Covid is the work that they’re meant to be doing now. We’ve all just taken a master class to learn that life is too short to be wasted. “The Great Resignation” is also a great reassessment for every one of us in search of more than just our next job. It’s time to consider and capture our best job.

This column was first published by Forbes, where Dr. Duncan is a regular contributor.

Rodger Dean Duncan
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