How I Used Broken Windows Theory to Improve My Job Search
If you are unemployed and your job search is returning poor results, you need to fix your mindset before you can properly represent yourself in job interviews and land the job you want.
Trust me — I’m talking from experience.
I was unemployed from 2016 to 2017. Using a new strategy, however, I was able to end my unemployment by making changes in my life. I acknowledged and addressed the things that were holding me back, which led to better job search results.
And you can do it, too.
Apply Broken Windows Theory to Your Job Search
In 1996, I started my career in the old Times Square of New York City, when it was overrun with criminal activities. I did this after Disney signed a deal to open a new theater in the area in 1994. My gut instinct told me Disney would never have signed such a deal unless some changes were being made to Times Square.
My gut instinct was correct. In 1994, then Police Commissioner William Bratton implemented his quality of life initiative to clean up New York City.
Bratton’s initiative was based on a theory of policing called “broken windows theory.” As Encyclopedia Brittanica explains, the broken windows are “a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods. [The] theory links disorder and incivility within a community to subsequent occurrences of serious crime.”
So, to reduce crime in the city, the police focused on addressing smaller issues with the assumption that doing so would lead to reductions in the bigger issues as well. In just a couple of years, felonies dropped by 40 percent in New York.
What does this have to do with job searching? Well, in early 2017, I got the idea to apply the same mentality to my job search. If I fixed the “broken windows,” then the bigger aspects of my job search would follow suit.
Here’s what I did:
Broken Window No. 1: Facebook and Negative Social Media
People told me for years to stop using Facebook. They told me I appeared depressed, that Facebook made me act like a failure when I was not.
They said, “Steven! Facebook is a waste of time. You cannot fix every problem or win every argument. You can only kill yourself trying. You should not connect with old friends. They are old friends for a good reason! People change!”
I got into social media as an online community manager in 2007. A decade later, I finally listened to everyone saying it was no good for me. I deleted Facebook from my phone and no longer involved myself in the toxic interactions that were preventing me from thinking about success.
Importantly, I came to one realization that made this easier for me: I was Facebook’s product. They sold me to advertisers. My content didn’t do anything but allow someone else to profit.
As Seth Godin puts it, I decided to “accept the lack of perfect” and walk away. I wanted to go create something important.
In one week, I started feeling better about my chances of finding new work. My mind was also clear enough to start thinking like the innovator I was back in 1996 Times Square and in 2007 when I first became a community manager.
Broken Window No. 2: Watching TV News
I had an acting career back in 1992, during which I learned these important lessons about how to succeed in media:
- Create performances based around the dramatic extremes of life.
- Sell these performances as “real” or “something that could actually happen.”
- The better you are at selling these performances as real, the more you find work.
- The more you embrace the reality you sell, the nobler you appear.
- The more you convince others to do the same, the more you profit.
Television news programs are very good at creating performances, and you can assume these “performances of news” do not always have your best interests in mind. Focus on your interests instead.
I turned off the news. I stopped reading shocking stories on unemployment rates, on how no one likes to hire Americans anymore, on why we should never trust anyone in business, on how our jobs will be automated away.
I stopped listening to people telling me to be afraid.
Broken Window No. 3: Not Listening to the Right People
In the last 23 years, I have worked in four industries across four continents. I know brilliant people who gave me priceless advice when I was too young and stupid to listen to it.
So, I got smart and started listening to the following people:
- The CEO who told me I should really focus on customer relations management
- The senior product manager who said, “Your tech skills are not what tech companies need, but you write better than most people I know”
- My wife who ask, “Can you give me some help with consulting my staff at work?”
- All the positive people coming to me for assistance on LinkedIn
In the process of listening, I learned what I was meant to do next with my career search.
Broken Window No. 4: Not Reading Positive Sources of Helpful Information
It is very easy to find advice online. It is extremely hard to find advice that is helpful.
Unfortunately, online content often represents what people hope really happens instead of what really works today and why.
This was a game changer for me. It got me thinking again about all the opportunities out there and the value I could provide to others.
Broken Window No. 5: Being Feelings-Focused Instead of Action-Focused
Dwelling on your feelings will not help you take action. You have to take positive action to give yourself positive feelings. Then, use those new feelings to push yourself to take even more positive actions that help you advance toward your goal. It’s as simple as that.
It took three months to fix these broken windows after I began my initiative. I shook the unemployment blues and was hired in July 2017 after being unemployed since April 2016.
Steven Lowell is an account executive at Find My Profession.
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