Home > Career Development, Job Search > “Mystery Gardening” – A Job Search Parable

“Mystery Gardening” – A Job Search Parable

I’ve recently had conversations (OK, several conversations!) with clients about the seeming lack of progress they were experiencing in their job search. In talking through this ever present phenomenon, I realized that thinking about the search in gardening terms may help with this conundrum.

Allow me to start by suggesting you are planting a garden. Basically, here is how it works:

You go to the local garden store to buy some packets of seed for planting. On the shelf you discover some discounted containers. The packets are very inexpensive, primarily because they’re old and the labels fell off a long time ago. Oh well, the price is right, so you decide to give them a try. You have very little to lose, after all!

When you arrive home, you dig a furrow in the ground, guessing how deep to go and how far apart to place each seed (you have no clear instructions, remember?). You then cover them up and give them some water (guessing again).

You follow this procedure for each of the packets of “mystery plants” that you have purchased.

So, what do you have? You don’t really know! Here is what I can say so far about your Mystery Garden:

  • You don’t know if anything will come up at all.
  • You don’t know how long it will take if something does manage to push its way up towards the sunlight.
  • You are unsure if anything you planted will turn into something you will like.
  • It’s likely that some of the seeds are completely dead, providing no results at all.
  • Some have a longer germination period and may appear to be dead but are just working their way towards the surface under their own time frame (which is probably not yours!).
  • Some of them will produce plants that hold no interest to you.
  • And, some of them may actually give you excellent results!

I’m not really much of a gardener myself, but here is something else I know: if you simply dump the seeds on the ground and walk away, you’re virtually guaranteeing little or no success. Yet, if you take the time to care for these “mystery seeds” by planting, weeding, cultivating and watering, sooner or later something will show up!

In a real sense, your employment search is quite similar to Mystery Gardening. As you start to plant the “seeds” of search through your various techniques (want ads, agencies, Internet, research, social networking, kibitzing, etc.), you have little or no idea WHAT is going to happen, IF it is going to happen or WHEN it may happen!

All you really know is 1) you’re “planting seeds” of opportunity and 2) these “seeds” need to be cultivated.

Oh, there is one more thing you should be aware of: if you fail to “cultivate” these “seeds” through continued networking and research, follow-up, even continuing to add “seeds” to your Mystery Garden, your chance of being able to “pick” the best plant from your vocational harvest is significantly reduced.

The moral of this little parable: Start planting, keep planting, watering and cultivating and don’t stop until you have the “harvest” you want.

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