Situational Leadership and job search: Are you stuck in Stage 2?

In my last post, I discussed the 3+ Million ‘hopelessly unemployed’ people in the United States. This category is defined as people who would like to find a job, but haven’t actively searched for a job in a year or more. In short, they’ve given up hope.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and most are not easy or simple. I don’t claim to have a fix for this problem, but I do know what it is to be unemployed for a few months and how discouraging it can be.

There’s a management theory called Situational Leadership. It has 4 stages that a new employee (or existing employee taking on a new project/role) will likely pass through:

  1. Low competence/high commitment: The enthusiastic beginner
  2. Low competence/low commitment: The disillusioned learner
  3. High competence and low/variable commitment: Capable but cautious
  4. High competence/high commitment: The self-reliant achiever

I think the SitLead categories are very transferable to the stages of job search.

Stage 1: Many job seekers new to the market find some jobs online that are possible fits and apply. They send a few emails to people in their network and receive back positive messages (“Wow, sucks to hear you’re looking, you were better than that place, sure I’ll keep my ears open for you…”) that bolster their confidence and spirits. They pass their resume to a couple of people who tell them that they will pass it along ‘to the right people’. It seems like there is a lot of positive movement without a ton of heavy lifting; spirits are good. Then…

Stage 2 hits. Those resumes you forwarded to friends don’t produce a result. The only thing you hear from the jobs to which you submitted resumes via an online application site are emails entitled “Thank you for your interest in. . .”. Those friends you emailed a few weeks ago must have all been deaf, as their ears don’t seem to be hearing anything that’s resulted in a job lead. Weeks pass without much positive response.

It’s easy to get stuck in Stage 2. The rejection can be a big blow to self-worth. “I am pretty good at what I do–so why aren’t I even getting an interview? I thought I had a better network…why isn’t it helping me find my next job?” Also, it seems like the options most available–searching online, contacting a few former colleagues–just aren’t working. It’s hard to get past that–trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s critical to push through, because otherwise it’s an infinite loop of less investment, even less return, and greater disillusionment. So you soldier on to…

Stage 3: Frustrated and discouraged, but realistic, you recommit and redouble your efforts.

  • Create a schedule for yourself each day.
  • Get up, get EXERCISE, shower, and dress like you’re going to a business casual work environment.
  • Leave the house (I cannot stress how important this is): Go to a coffee shop, the library, or to your local WorkSource center (or similar in your state).
  • Get professional help. How are you presenting yourself? Are your hair style or clothes out of date? Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot to look good. Target has great, contemporary clothes for men and women–and a suit there will set you back $100. For that price it ain’t Prada, but it’s sure as hell better than that thing you dragged out of the back of your closet from 1994.
  • Have someone at the WorkSource center review your resume and give you feedback; while you are there, practice interviewing (because we ALL could use practice interviewing–trust me).
  • Are you part of a professional association for your industry? Good–go to their monthly meetings and network like crazy. No? WTF? Join ASAP! Find ways to add value to your community (and resume) by putting your skills to use in a volunteer capacity.
  • Spend quality time on LinkedIn building a killer profile and ensure you get recommendations from key people you’ve worked with; Join and add value to professional groups; following your target companies; and answering questions in the Q&A section.
  • Research the crap out of the companies you are most interested in on sites like Hoovers and Yahoo Finance, and figure out who are in key positions within the departments you want to work.
  • Most importantly: You are CEO of your own job search firm. This is a startup business, and you have to work at it like someone that’s just been given $5 Million in venture capital with the expectation you multiply that figure by an exponent in a very short time.

Did you do all of that? Congratulations. You’re a Stage 4 job seeker. You are connecting with people and talking about future opportunities that aren’t posted yet. People in your professional community know what an asset you are–and what you could be to their company. Board members of that non-profit–which happen to be CxO’s of companies in your area for their day jobs–are getting a taste of your capability. More than that–your self-worth no longer hinges upon an email reply that begins with something other than, “Thank you for your interest in. . .”.



4 thoughts on “Situational Leadership and job search: Are you stuck in Stage 2?

  1. great post! love the tips for job seekers … i’d add; “do not be a stage 4 clinger”
    this means, if you get yourself to stage 4 then CONGRATS. if you are “networking” with someone, be careful not to follow-up with them too much. don’t be desperate 😉

    Posted by jerl206 | January 24, 2013, 8:35 am
    • Thanks Jer!

      That’s a very valid point–there’s a fine line between maintaining connections with key network contacts and being too pushy/desperate/overbearing. A good rule of thumb is to ask, “I’d like to keep in contact–when would be a good time for me to check in with you again?”

      Posted by Jon J-B | January 24, 2013, 8:48 am


  1. Pingback: Long-term unemployment and job search, Part 2: Taking action | Are YOU the Right Candidate? - May 28, 2013

  2. Pingback: YOU are in charge of your career. Don’t ever think otherwise. | The Right Candidate - June 19, 2013

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