Fight or Flight: Job Seeking for the Faint of Heart


“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill


I’ll often critique digital marketing resumes for new graduates or professionals looking to break into the industry. I do it 100% of the time I’m asked because I so deeply wished someone would have helped me when I was starting out but “social media” and “professional experience” weren’t exactly found in the same sentence a decade ago. But I digress. As I was saying, I accept these requests and often those I help come back to me in a week, a month, six months with an excited email letting me know that they had been successful and were starting or loving their new job.

And then there are those that go dark.

The hard part is, those who usually go quietly away into the shadows of job hunting are not ungrateful – they’re just unsuccessful in their pursuit.

I called one of them recently. A very ambitious graduate from McMaster who was formally trained in IT management but was marketing-minded. His pet projects were the stuff of real-world companies, and his technical acumen made him that much more deadly.

“Yeah… I just… I couldn’t find anything so I stopped looking and sort of, kept working at my current job. It’s fine. It’s good”

Before I could even get a word in, he had hurried what was left of his excuses and told me he had to go back to work. And that was the beginning and end of his digital marketing career. I sent him an email. “Just out of curiosity” I asked, “how many applications did you send in before you called it quits?”

Seven. Seven.

He quit after seven rejections and non-responses. I appreciate that some of us are more thick-skinned than others, but surely all job seekers know the statistics about application submissions and response rates, right? If you don’t, I’ll tell you.


From personal experience, this ratio holds for me. For every ten applications you send in, you get one call back. I like to think I only apply to jobs I think are attainable, that I have met the hard requirements for and that relate to my current career path. In other words, this doesn’t count your dream job applications, or pipe dream submissions. These are applications grounded in reality. And I still lose 90% of the time.

So this young would-be digital marketer was almost to his first interview, presumably, when he just called it quits.

And what if the ratio doesn’t hold? What if it takes longer?

Then it takes longer. Then it, like many other things in the real world, are harder than originally anticipated. Your response to a little adversity should never be to fly instead of fight. This is no longer a lesson in job seeking, this is now a lesson in life.

When things get hard with your job search:

  • Appeal to your network – ask for a CV critique, a cover letter review, a mock interview or ask how a professional in your network managed to overcome the challenge
  • Adapt – resume isn’t working? Change your keywords, your choice of template, expand on your responsibilities, cut down on your extra-curriculars. Do. Something. ANYTHING.
  • Learn from the successful – if you didn’t get the job, odds are somebody did. Give it a week or two and run a LinkedIn search for the role at the company. When you find the individual, look at their qualifications and see why they may have been more attractive than you. More experience, more education and better marketed are the three most common answers I see.

All I ask, no matter what kind of work you’ve been looking for, or how hard it’s been, is that you do not lay down and die. You’re better than that. And for any of you who’ve asked for my help – I wouldn’t have spent the time if I didn’t believe in you.

Do great things!




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