“Activity generates success”. Those three sage words of advice were the first I received on my first job after graduating from Queen’s University in August 1978. I was offered a position as Coordinator of Co-operative Education at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. The person who was my first full-time boss was the Manager of the Program and about seven years older than me.

During the first month on the job Bob and I travelled across Ontario visiting dozens of co-op students on their work terms. Those three words were delivered in response to a question I asked on what he felt was the central quality to being successful in the role. Nearly forty-two years later these three simple words still resonate with me.

Activity Explained

What do these three words signify? As Bob explained to me later, the key to being successful was to apply oneself intensely to the work that required completion, and to persist in the face of repeated obstacles and roadblocks. It meant bearing down, working consistently and regularly, and being self-motivated.

The role of Coordinator was a multi-faceted one. The part of the job I liked was interacting with students, whether visiting them on their work terms, providing counseling, or interviewing prospective applicants into the program. The part I disliked was contacting prospective employers regarding the program with the aim of securing their participation in hiring our co-op students.

In essence, the job wasn’t radically dissimilar from being a Sales Rep, including cold-calling and prospecting. However, for someone who had no sales experience, who was reserved by nature, and who didn’t possess the “gift of the gab”, it was a formidable mountain to climb. Still, I persisted, and despite all this I became quite good at it, and achieved more than a modicum of success. In fact, over the course of a year I made more cold-calls, visited more employers and secured more jobs than the other three Coordinators combined.

Was my success due to luck? Perhaps? Was it due to fortuitous timing? Maybe. Was it due to natural talent? Absolutely not. As I said, I wasn’t’ a natural sales person. This aspect of the job didn’t come easily to me.

Simply, what made me successful was that I just worked a lot harder at it than others. I planned well. I knew what I had to do. I made sure I committed the time and resources available to this undertaking. And then, most important of all, I executed through to finality. I sat myself down, psyched myself up, picked up the telephone, called employers, introduced myself, and proceeded to schedule appointments. I didn’t ask for a lot of time, and I made it difficult for them to say “no”. 98% of the time I got into see the person I wanted, and well over 20% of my calls ended with a successful placement.

What is the Relevance to Job Search?

One of the questions I like to ask clients when I start working with me as their career coach is:

How many jobs have you applied to in the past month?

Over the years the answer to this question has ranged from “none” to “over a thousand”. Generally, the average would be about ten. My follow up question invariably is this:

“Do you feel that is a sufficient level of activity”?

Nine times out of 10 the answer I receive is “I don’t know”.

Some Perspective of Job Postings

Based on my recruitment experience that level of activity isn’t anywhere near sufficient to secure employment in the near term. Here’s why:

  1. Many advertised positions are filled internally. Gone are the days when employers considered internal candidates first before deciding to advertise externally. Today, consideration of internal and external applicants occurs concurrently.
  2. Not all advertised positions are eventually filled. Some are cancelled. Some are pulled and re-posted later with different job specifications.
  3. Casually interested as well as active job seekers are searching and applying online.
  4. The competition is stiff. A typical job posting for a middle management position can easily receive 300 applications.
  5. Some positions are bogus. A job posting is a comparatively easy and simply way to advertise and promote your business even if that same employer doesn’t have a bona fide vacancies to fill.

Metrics Don’t Lie Story

One of the first articles I wrote on my blog was about the importance of metrics in an applicant’s job search. (Available here: https://competitiveedgecoaching.com/using-metrics-job-search/). That which gets measured gets done! So, what is the threshold for the number of job applications that a client needs to initiate each month in order to be successful?

While to some degree the answer to this question is a function of age, seniority, the type of work, regional labour markets, time of year, etc., I would submit that anyone at a middle management level who isn’t applying to at least 30 postings a month (roughly one a day) isn’t sustaining an intensified job search. For an entry level position that number is probably around 50. Similarly, based on what I have seen, including my own experience, if an unemployed client isn’t devoting at least 15 – 20 hours a week on their job search the time required to secure renewed employed will be considerably extended.

An Old Fashioned, Hard Truth

While there is lots of good and credible advice about how to increase one’s chances of job search success, the fact remains that it can and likely always will be a numbers game. The chances of success, whether it be securing an interview or landing a position. are considerably heightened when the number of applications increases, and that is a direct function of the time devoted to the activity.

A Final thought….

If you are unemployed and your New Year’s Resolution is to secure renewed employment setting the simple goal of applying for one position a day is a small, practical step towards a new future. And if sticking to that goal is a priority for you one simple way of maintaining focus is to hire a career coach who will hold you accountable to that goal.