guest post: don’t let job-hunting advice drag you down

The first post for Emerging Museum Professionals Week is brought to you by Greg Landgraf (@greglandgraf).

Greg is currently a volunteer at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. After more than a decade in publishing, he is currently seeking a position in museum marketing. He blogs at

There’s not a shortage of job-hunting advice. My online portal (Yahoo) seems to feature “news” stories on the subject daily. Since I am job-hunting, I always click through… and I always feel a bit dirty afterward.

The advice these stories give varies, and often they contradict one another, but there’s a consistent subtext: blaming the reader. If you didn’t get that job, it’s because you made some grievous error that’s incredibly obvious and you should hang your head in shame and boy is it lucky you’ve got me to point your flaws out.

I’m not sure it’s possible to give advice, even good advice, without the “I’m better than you” subtext. But the recipient needs to keep perspective. Advice is not gospel, even from someone you respect. And from a random person on the internet? That might well not be worth the electrons it’s sent with.

Of course, that won’t stop me from offering my own. Hopefully it will at least be a bit more uplifting than most of what’s out there.

First, if you’ve ever gotten a job before, you know the basics of how to get one. You need to sell yourself, and there are a lot of techniques and tools to do so. Some will be a better fit for you than others, and each potential employer will respond to each technique in his or her own way. But those nuances are things you’ll discover through trial and error rather than online click-bait.

Second, you’re probably going to have a lot of opportunity to try your sales technique out. That’s a function of numbers, rather than your ability: Job-hunting is tough in good times, and these are not good times.

The job interviews I’ve been on in the past year have had a consistent theme: 200. That’s how many applicants the interviewers have said they’ve had to choose from.

That’s a discouraging number, but discouragement is the worst possible reaction to it. Being discouraged only helps other job-hunters by taking you out of the running.

That’s not to say that I never feel overwhelmed by the simple 1-in-200 math. I do, and often. At those times, telling myself that even a small chance is still a chance feels like a shameless lie. But I think it’s still right to do so. No matter how hollow it may feel, it’s true: Any chance is significantly better than no chance. And more importantly, when you start piling a lot of little chances on top of one another, they start to look a lot more like a bigger chance.

Persistence isn’t necessarily exciting, and it’s not necessarily fun. But it will, eventually, turn even very bad numbers in your favor.

FREE STUFF: Leave a comment on any of the posts during EMP Week (April 16 -20, 2012) to be eligible to win a copy of How to Become A Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career by Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris.The winner will be randomly selected and notified via email on April 23, 2012 (so please don’t forget to include an email in your comments).

6 thoughts on “guest post: don’t let job-hunting advice drag you down

  1. Pingback: Emerging Museum Professionals Week | Museum Beyond

  2. I am lucky to have a job at the moment (although part-time and with recent staff lay-offs bound to be more hard work without the benefit of extra pay or benefits) you’re right. Perserverance is key. As is not shooting yourself in the foot. There are many aspects of my current job which I loathe, as are there many that I love. It is important to keep mentally aware of how you present yourself and how those you’re asking to represent you in the form of reccommendations see you as well.


  3. Job advice is one of the many frustrating aspects of job searching. I do think most people mean well when they offer advice, and some advice has been very helpful (like letting me know of lesser-known websites where jobs related to my field might be posted). But other advice takes the form of “Have you done X?” (example: “Have you sent your resume to [insert name of major museum or collective of museums here]?” “Have you looked online?”) I am best at appreciating the good intentions behind advice when the advice-giver appears to have some faith that I’m not completely clueless about job searching, and just wants to give me an extra tip.


    • I would agree. And it takes as many hours a day as actually working in some cases. Dealing with the level of frustration involved can be exhausting. One of the tips that I received is to let everyone know you’re looking. Often our networks are more diverse than we realize.


  4. I think that is especially pertinent advice for those in the museum field. You can absolutely do everything right, and sometimes a job still just doesn’t work out for reasons that are completely beyond your control. Persistence is key, and while it’s very difficult to remember that sometimes, the best thing that you can do is keep trying.


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