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Teddy Roosevelt, Night at the Museum, and Mastering the Hard Stuff in Your Job Search

Note to the reader: This article uses the term "manhood" in reference to historical quotes. I take the non-gender view of the term and believe the principles shared here apply equally well to both men and women.

This past spring, my wife and I visited our youngest son in New York City for a long weekend. We went for our first visit ever to the American Museum of Natural History on the upper west side of Manhattan. I confess that museums are not at the top of my list of potential tourist attractions! I am more of a sports bar and microbrewery kind of guy. I could not have been more wrong.

The museum was terrific, and our two-hour tour was not nearly enough time to comprehend all that the exhibits had to offer. We capped the day off by watching Ben Stiller in the movie Night at the Museum, making for a fantastic one-two museum-related combination in a single afternoon.

My favorite part of the museum (and the movie) is the statue of Theodore Roosevelt, along with the inscription of his famous Manhood quote.

“A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can. It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune make for a finer, nobler type of manhood. Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.”

In my head, I hear Robin Williams reciting those words. He was a rare talent and was my favorite character playing Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum movie. In real life, at the turn of the century in the early 1900s, I suspect Teddy Roosevelt was not thinking about the job search process when he uttered those famous words. But as job seekers, we can draw inspiration from them, nonetheless. I take away one key message that carries real weight with the job search process: “Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die.”

Perhaps a little morbid for the job search process. I am not saying that anyone is going to die searching for the next job! To me, these words are all about courage and not being afraid to try. Being stuck in a job or career path that feels like a dead-end. Losing your job and facing the prospects of a long period of unemployment. Attempting to return to the workforce after a prolonged absence. Looking for your next job over the age of 50. Finding that first job after you graduate and before student loans come due. Each one of those situations is fear-inducing.

Fear can be paralyzing and often leads to inaction or taking the path of least consequence. Conducting your job search in the right way takes courage. Fear is natural, but how you respond to that fear in your job search is what makes all the difference. Find time in your job search to do the hard things. Take on the tough challenges. You will put fear in the rearview mirror and the next job will be just over the horizon.

Take the first step by mastering these four challenges.

1. Start with a plan:

When you need a job, the apparent path forward appears to be to polish up your resume and start hitting the online job boards. But the odds of landing that job through an online posting are slim (and well documented). Instead, take a breath and first do the hard work to build a job search plan and a structured process. Starting your job search without a plan is like starting a road trip without programming your destination. You will ultimately get where you want to go, but the trip will be long, and you will make a lot of wrong turns along the way. More on job search plans here.

2. Develop an elevator pitch:

It’s scary to look inside yourself and answer the questions of who I am, what is my value, and why you should care about me. But get over it. I call elevator pitch development the heavy lifting of your job search. Put your answers down on a piece of paper, assemble them into a 60-second pitch, and start practicing in front of the mirror. Practice and preparation are a great antidote to nerves and fear. More on the job search elevator pitch here.

3. Expand your network beyond friends and family:

Cold calling a stranger to ask for a meeting requires intestinal fortitude. Most of us are afraid of rejection. For me, it conjures up memories of trying to find a date to the senior prom. The key is understanding that not everyone you contact is going to say yes to a meeting and become part of your network. Rejection is not personal. Instead, it is very normal. Remember that building your network is a numbers game. Put enough targeted prospects (from your 30-50 target companies) at the top of your network funnel (300-450). Follow the networking process, and the right number of prospects (100-150) will come out the bottom of your funnel and into your job search network. More on the math of building your job search network here.

4. Own the interview:

You lose all the interviews you never get. So, when you get the invitation to interview, you need to make the most of the opportunity. You need to conquer your fear and calm your nerves. With an active job search network of 100-150 contacts, over time, it will produce (passively and actively) seven to ten interviews. You need to treat each of these interviews like it is your chance at the plate to hit a home run. That means you need to research, prepare and practice for each interview you get. Do that, and at least one of these interviews will deliver a job offer for you. More on interview preparation here.

When it comes to the job search process, perhaps we should all be a little bit more like Teddy Roosevelt. You can decide to face the hard challenges and learn to conquer your fears. You may not lead the Rough Riders or end up on Mount Rushmore. But you will surely win the job search and land that next job.

If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.

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.


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