Reversing The Perspective

When a car arrives at a level crossing for a train, the driver, while cautious, finds that most of the time there is no train present or even near the crossing. On the other hand, whenever the train arrives at this same level crossing, the train engineer finds that most of the time there is a car present or approaching. Both drivers and engineers are at the same place, but each has quite a different perspective about the situation. This is also true about looking for a job. The job seeker and the job provider approach the same situation from very different, almost opposite perspectives. Since you want a job, how can you enhance your probabilities of success?

You must view things from the employer's perspective rather than your own traditional perspective.

I. Reviewing the Situation

Specifically, the contrasting situation as it relates to employment would have a job seeker, say Bob, an accountant, finding upon approaching companies for accounting openings that are closed to him. However, at these same job opportunities, the employers find that most of the time there are many qualified candidates available. Both the job seeker and employer are at the same place, but each has quite a different perspective about the situation.

II. The Remedial Approach

To remedy the situation the solution for you lies in reversing the perspectives. That is all there is to it. What should you turn around? You should reverse your approach on:

  • How you describe the job opportunity
  • How you lay out your resume
  • The job specification
  • Where you look for a job
  • How you look for a job
  • How you approach an employer

To describe each would take quite a lengthy paper. In this instance we will focus on the last one, how you approach an employee from a reverse perspective beginning with the idea that people like to be in control.

III. People like to be in Control of their Choices

You know that you prefer to make choices yourself rather than have them imposed from someone else above you or beside you. This is true of everyone and even babies, as any new parent will quickly agree to make their choices know to crawl or todle in a direction opposite to that selected by the parent.

If you enter a clothing shop, you prefer to make your own choices and are quick to reject the salesperson's offer of "Can I help you?" With "No thanks, I'm just looking." Yet this salesperson has knowledge of the shop layout, of the products on display, of clothes on order, of fashion trends etc. However, most people consider having control as being more important than an obvious knowledge base of the store and its products.

If your boss tells you to do something that you do not like, you might resent it. Whereas, if that boss had asked your opinion first on the topic and then you talked jointly about what you would do about it, the situation would have become far more palatable to you.

The expression, Everybody likes to buy but nobody likes to be sold to , offers an obvious example of coming to the same level crossing but viewing it from two different perspectives: the seller's and the buyer's. We want to decide what we need and will buy accordingly; We do not want someone to coerce us to buy.

If you plan on offering the waiter in a restaurant a tip of 15% and then he tells you that for this type of meal, the usual tip is 15%, how would you react? Here the waiter is giving you exactly the same information you had in your mind, so it should be a useful confirmation. Instead, your reaction would be negative towards the waiter (and perhaps towards his tip) because you are no longer in control of a small part of the cost of the meal (the 15%) even though you had full control of 85% of the Meal cost.

Another way of looking at the two aspects of the level crossing is covered by the expression: You can not push a rope. So here we are at the same spot with a universal object, the rope: you can pull it very nicely but you can not push something with it. As for people, you can draw them toward you or you can try to push them. Which approach do you think will work in the long run?

IV. Drawing a Parallel with the Job Search

When you approach an employer for a job, submitting a resume or making a call, you are saying, employ me because I have all the skills you need and I am a good worker. Although, you would not likely use those exact words.

The employer like all humans wants to be in charge and without the employer is desperate in the absence of a job opening you will be returned with a polite "No, we have no jobs here." They will not even talk to you if you request a meeting to learn about the business. Why? Because when you do the approaching for a job, they are no longer in control. On the other hand, if the employer places an ad in the paper, the employee returns to an in control situation (it becomes imperative for you to give the control to the employer in some other way). However, rivaling against 50 other applicants puts you in a statistically disadvantageous situation (50: 1 odds against you). The other practical reason for the employee to reject your proactive efforts is that most people do not have job offers in their back pockets and therefore most people will have to say no to you. Humans seek other people's approval continuously and saying no works against that approval. So most people do not like saying no.

Note the paradox here. Job studies show that over 70% of jobs come from knowing someone who knows somebody, through through the proactive approach. And yet we are saying your proactive approach will turn

People off. Everyone likes to buy but nobody likes to be sold to. You can not push a rope. We must deal with the above paradox if we hope to be successful.

V. Dealing with the Paradox

Above we indicated that we can not push people to our way of thinking but we might be able to pull them there slowly. We can not sell them on how great we are but we can have them buy into how helpful they might be to us and to their business as well as to their feeling good about themselves. And we must nurture an environment where the other person feels very much in control.

The paradox is that most jobs come from connecting with people; Yet most people do not want us asking them for jobs. How do we deal with that? (I) We stop asking for jobs. Instead we chat around things related to the job; In this way we give other people control. (Ii) We do not want to force anyone to feel they have to say "no". (Iii) We must make other people feel good about an interaction with us. (Iv) Next, we must let them make a choice their way, for them to have control, instead of our expecting or trying to entice them to make a choice our way. Thus, our actions must always embody the concepts above as follows:

  • (I) We do not ask for a job. However, we must engage them in a conversation that is indirectly connected to a job. Therefore we connect with people in businesses or industries related to those we would like to work in. We ask if they will agree to see and talk to us.
  • (Ii) We ask of NOTHING that would elicit a "no". Asking for a job, sending in a resume, requesting references will put the person in the position of usually having to say no. Instead we stay quiet on this front but ask for things to which they can say yes; Like a few minutes of their time, their opinions, their background history, information about their businesses or their markets.
  • (Iii) Specifically we ask them if they would be willing to assist us. Most people do want to help others. Most people feel good when they are helping as long as it does not require too much of a commitment from them (or force them to say no). We ask for 20 minutes of their time to discuss their businesses or themselves. When we are at that 20-minute meeting we ask them about their jobs or their lives and they are interested because the focus is on them not on us. There is no requirement to say no. Since people feel good if they can help a friend or an associate fill a vacancy quickly, you may not only have the solution to their problem but also the means to make that person feel good because day because they have been able to help two people; You and the associate.
  • (Iv) We must be patient and wait. We let them tell us if there is an opening somewhere that fits us. They will if they can. If they know about an opening and they feel we might be able to fit in that opening, they will suggest it on their own very quickly. However, we can not expect an opening to exist at each meeting. We might expect that if we meet 10 people, one of them will lead us to an opportunity. On the other hand, if they do not mention a job we must not question it. If they do not suggest an opening, it is because either there is not any opening or they do not see us as being suitable for the opening they are aware of. If they are not willing to help us, there is nothing more we can do. We can not push a rope. It does not matter how hard we try. Asking for specific help will have us encounter a brick wall of resistance. Instead, move onto the next meeting. If the waiter does not get a 15% tip this time, he will move onto the next client, anticipating success down the road.

Another must in giving control is to create easy escape routes for the other person. As soon as you demand or expect a meeting, a time or even information, it is you who is in control, not them. Therefore offer escape routes to every suggestion. People will move into your pleasant trap if they know there are easy escape paths. Advise them of an escape: "if you are available" is one, "at a time of mutual convenience" or "only 20 minutes of your time".

Using this approach allows them to decide themselves if they want to help us or not. Most people will help if they can because it makes them feel good. Have you ever asked for street directions and been refused? They will refer us to others if they feel both parties will benefit. It is like setting up a blind date: you will do it only if you feel both parties will suit one another. The prospective helpers can refer us to a job opportunity or they might give us a reference.

VI. Avoiding Deception

You may feel you are deceiving people by not talking about a job when you really want a job. However, it is not any different from the waiter not talking about a tip when his living depends on the tip. However, if that logic does not satisfy you try to think of this job search method as two stages. Stage one is gathering information while stage two is the job-search itself (which occurs only at the moment that your host suggests a job). So, with a clear consciousness you can say to the potential host, "While in the grand scheme of things I will be looking for a mechanical engineering position, I am only in stage one, gathering information to help me make choices. Stage one. I do not expect a job from you; nor do I expect you to even know of a job.


You must believe in this approach if you are to use it. You must believe that no single visit will yield you a job, but a multiplicity of visits will cough one up. It is why most people in a recent survey indicated that they got their jobs from knowing somebody who knew somebody.

Good luck in your job search!