Everything I Learned About Work, Careers, and the Job Search Process I Learned from My Barber.
Updated: Jan 16
For the last 56 years, I have gone to the same barber. That’s me on the left and George,
my barber, on the right. On my first visit in 1963, I was three years old, and George, unbeknownst to my mother, was only 15 years old. Having come to America only several months earlier from Sicily, he had chosen to start a career as a barber. My brother and I thought he looked like George Harrison (of Beatles fame). My mother thought he gave good haircuts. Six decades later, I still visit George every two weeks for a haircut, or as my late father would say, a hair count.
What could all this possibly have to do with your career and the job search process? Maybe nothing and perhaps everything. A good headline and a compelling story got you to the second paragraph of this article. I believe that there are lessons to be learned everywhere we look. My lifetime relationship and friendship with my barber is as good a place to look as any I can think of this week. So, here are three lessons.
Simple and efficient beats complex and fancy.
I don’t think the layout of George’s barbershop has changed significantly since the late 1970s. Two barber chairs. Comfortable and clean seating for the waiting customers. A large screen TV (usually playing a soccer game). And always a copy of the daily newspaper. No fancy décor. No espresso machine. No background music. But that’s not why I come to George. I am there for a haircut (and some conversation). George knows
exactly what his customers want and need. He delivers the product simply and efficiently. And for not a lot of money!
Job Search Tip: Think about your resume. There are all kinds of services that will build you a fancy resume to put your skills on display. A complex layout and fancy graphics. And not a small sum of money out of your job search budget. But what does your customer need or require from your resume? The reader wants to know if they should invest more time learning about you and invite you in for an interview. “I interviewed this candidate because they had the fanciest looking resume,” said no recruiter (ever). Keep it simple. Spend your time on tailoring the resume to align your story with the reader’s job requirements. There is no shortage of resources on the web that you can use to learn more about crafting an effective resume. I am a big fan of Ladders Resume Guide written by Marc Cendella. And if you want some tips on steps to take before drafting your resume, read this article I wrote last year.
Ears were built for listening. Use them wisely.
George is a man of few words. He is not going to talk your ear off while he’s cutting your hair. Of course, my haircuts clock in at around 4 minutes, so there is not a lot of time for deep conversation. But what George does very well is listening. He listens to his customers and what they tell him about their lives, families, and careers. Despite a large number of customers, I marvel at his ability to remember my children’s names, their career stories, and he never forgets to inquire about my 94-year-old mother’s health. Because he listens, he makes me feel valued and that is part of the reason I have stayed a customer for all these years.
Job Search Tip: Developing and maintaining a viable job search network is an essential element of a successful job search network. And the exploratory meeting is the building block of any winning job search networking process. If you find yourself in an exploratory meeting and your lips are moving more than your ears are listening, that’s a problem. Listen and learn from your network contact. If you have not read the book yet, get yourself a copy of The 20 Minute Networking Meeting. Read it, and you will quickly advance your exploratory meeting game. And if you want to learn more about how to leverage the right LinkedIn subscription plan to improve your networking, read my article here.
Passion without skills is just…passion.
George has been cutting hair for almost 60 years now. He’s good at his craft. But in all my visits to George (700+ by my count), I never got the sense that he was passionate about his work. I don’t believe he wakes up with passion in his heart, shouting, “I get to go to my dream job today” as his daily mantra. Instead, he developed a skill and used it to build a life for goals and values that mattered to him. Those things would be making a home here in this country and creating a solid foundation for his family. He stayed
focused on those goals and achieved his dreams. There is something to be said for work and career as a means to an end and a better life.
Career Tip: I am not trying to be the dream crusher here. If you want to follow your passion and find your dream job, go for it. But be sure that your skillset aligns with both your passion and that dream job. Mark Cuban (of Shark Tank and Dallas Mavericks NBA fame) wrote an article a couple of years ago about how passion alone for your dream job is not enough. You also must possess the skills to support that passion. And if you want to learn more about how to match your skills to a job that you can love, read this article that I wrote last year.
In truth, George didn’t teach me everything about the job search process. I have had to learn the rest on my own, through life experience and research. And I’m still learning something new every day. But what George has given me is far more valuable. A living reminder, every two weeks, of what dedication and work ethic look like in real life. And of course, friendship.
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.