The Responsible Job Search

With the privileges of working come responsibilities that start even before you are hired.


Working can be a real privilege. For one thing, it’s a great adventure.

Every employee from the top to the bottom of a corporation’s org chart gets to be a part of the adventure — the daily challenge to create value, let people know about the value created and attempt to sell that value for a fair reimbursement. It’s also a privilege to make a living, especially if it’s doing something you enjoy and about which you feel passionate.

Like any privilege, work carries responsibilities that start even before you are hired. You are accountable for your statements and actions on the job search. Practice a responsible job search, and you are more like to be rewarded in your work.

Responsibility No. 1: Be Honest

Nothing ruins the adventure faster for everyone than when business people lie about their actual results. From Madoffian lies about billions of dollars to lying about an expense report, every act of dishonesty hurts the adventure. If we are not honest about the actual costs and profits of creating, marketing and selling value to customers and employers, the adventure has no integrity. It’s just a game of make-believe. After a while, it’s no longer an adventure. It’s more like a game of deception. There’s no privilege in being a part of that. (It’s also illegal.)

Responsibility No. 2: Be Competent

If you say you can do a job, actually be capable of fulfilling that role. Lying about your skills and passions just to secure a paycheck hurts the organization and your long-term career. If you can’t do a certain role and don’t want to do the role, be willing to walk away from a great salary and keep searching for the role you can perform well.

This doesn’t mean you must be fully prepared on Day One. It does mean you require the capacity to do the job and the desire to develop the necessary skills to do it well.

Make a list of your strengths (what you do well) and your passions (what energizes you). Look at the job opening, and ask yourself if you have the necessary skills and passions to eventually do the job at a very high level. This goes back to being honest.

Responsibility No. 3: Be Realistic

Setting unrealistic expectations almost became the status quo over the past decade. Companies would brag about expecting to achieve 20 percent annual growth in sales and profits every year. Didn’t quite work out that way, did it?

I would love for a business manager to say honestly, “Our intent is to create the best value for customers that we possibly can with the hope that they will invest in that value for a good return on our investment.” Same goes for the job seeker making promises to a hiring manager. Who really knows what that return on investment will be before it happens? Making wild predictions as though they were guaranteed to happen has done a lot more harm than good.

Responsibility No. 4: Be Practical

You know that whole deal about “pie in the sky” thinking. It became famous because there are no pies in the sky. From the dot-com explosion of 1999 to the supposedly infinite and never-ending growth of the stock market in 2006, we kept thinking that we could get something for nothing. It doesn’t work that way, at least not for very long.

Every day in your business career, stay practical. Keep going back to the basic questions:

  1. Who is my customer (employer)?
  2. What value can I create for that customer that will help him to achieve what he wants to achieve?
  3. How can I demonstrate the value that I can deliver to him?
  4. How can I convince him to invest in the value I have to offer?
  5. How can I deliver that value with exceptional quality?
  6. What is the right price for me to request for the value that I have to offer?

Responsibility No. 5: Strive for Excellence

This is the mother of all business responsibilities. My definition of excellence is to do an activity as well as you can do it right now and keep searching for ways to do it better in the future. This is the ultimate responsibility that you have in your business career. There is no, “I’ve reached the mountaintop and can coast from here.” The day to coast is the day after you retire. Of course, by then the great performers have such an engrained striving for excellence that they never really stop.

Being a part of the Big Adventure of Business is extraordinarily exciting and rewarding in so many ways. However, the cost of playing is living up to your responsibilities.