How to Breathe Life Into a Dead Job Search

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I once had a neighbor who loved his cat as much as his girlfriend, if not more. He carried this cat around everywhere he went. Phil Collins was practically attached to him!

(Yes, the cat’s name was really Phil Collins.)

The cat wasn’t fighting the affection, either. He honored his owner’s obsession with complete submission and purrs. That happy motor ran continuously, and it was always a show to watch the two interact.

You could say it was a groovy kind of love.

And then, one day, the cat died.

I didn’t see my neighbor for several days. I assumed he was grieving Phil Collins’ death. His car stayed parked in the same place, adorned with cat artifacts: a rosary attached to a small but clearly visible picture of the cat dangling from the rearview mirror, and a CD sitting on the passenger’s seat, which I remember being “A Groovy Kind of Love” by — yes — Phil Collins.

I and some of my other neighbors decided to go to this neighbor’s apartment to see if he was okay. Let me say this guy was not totally strange. He was very friendly, always helping people in need. He just loved his cat more than anything.

Something must have been in the air that night, as we were stunned to find our neighbor had visited the local taxidermist. Phil Collins was stuffed.

There he was on top of the TV. Our neighbor referred to Phil Collins by name and in the present tense, stroking the stuffed cat as if it were still alive. And while our neighbor stopped carrying Phil Collins everywhere, I did see him place the cat in the car as if it were still alive on more than one occasion.

What does any of this have to do with you and your career? Many of us approach our job searches the same way my neighbor approached his cat: Refusing to let go of the dead techniques and methods that are getting us nowhere.

Your Sentimentality Is Killing Your Results

Are you looking for a job like you did in 2005? Those strategies may have worked then, but they don’t work now. The market is different. Technology has revolutionized industries. Employers are looking for new skills. Even you, yourself, have progressed as a professional.

Your sentimentality may also keep you stuck in a job you hate. Sure, it doesn’t pay you enough or fulfill you — and the environment may even be toxic — but you don’t want to leave because you like your coworkers. You’re used to the work. You’re scared to let it all go.

My advice: Ditch the outdated ideas. Leave the job you hate. Concentrate on finding a job in this brave new world.

Have You Become Your Own Obstacle?

My neighbor couldn’t possibly offer a positive spin on stuffing his cat except for lower vet bills. What would petting a dead cat do for you, other than distract you from reality?

Similarly, why would a job seeker use tactics and strategies that yield no results? If you’re trying to secure employment, realize you’ll need to continually seek new strategies and tactics if the old ones aren’t delivering results. You can’t hang on to your methods simply because that’s the way you’ve always done things.

Just as my neighbor focused on his stuffed cat, many job seekers stay focused on their current coworkers and achievements, rather than heading for the bright future they could have at a job they really love.

My neighbor did eventually get a new cat, by the way. But I’d bet it was hard for him to pay attention to the kitty when he was still fixated on his dead cat. Similarly, if you’re still lugging around your dead job search strategies, you’ll have a hard time embracing new tactics and opportunities. And employers probably won’t look so fondly at that. Even if you seem great on paper, your outdated methods may make you seem out of touch.

There are a few things in our lives we hang on to even if those things no longer serve us — cars, books, relationships, and even jobs. But why let the weight of the past hold us back from the fulfillment of the future?

Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers ” podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.

By Mark Anthony Dyson