The Dangers of Assumptions in Your Career and Job Search

You’ve probably heard the old saying about assuming things. (If you haven’t, then I recommend Googling the phrase, “old saying about assuming.”

That saying is often used because it is often correct. Making assumptions is a dangerous proposition. That applies to not just your personal life, but your professional life, as well. To go one step further, it also applies to both your career and any job search that you might be conducting now or in the future.

As regular readers of my articles and blog posts know, I’ve been in the recruiting profession for 20 years. As a result, I’ve built up a ton of examples and case studies to support my points. It should come as no surprise that I have two more case studies for this article.

Case study #1

I recently reached out to someone to let her know about an employment opportunity for advancement in her career. This opportunity was a higher-level role than the one she currently had. This was her response:

“Sure, I will talk with you, but I doubt that I’m someone who can help you.”

There were two aspects of this response that struck me:

#1—I was calling to tell her about an opportunity that may be better than the one she has now. I was calling to help her by offering an opportunity. I wasn’t calling to ask her to help me. However, before she knew why I was calling, she assumed she couldn’t help me.

For many people, getting a call from a search consultant with an opportunity is a welcome phone call. In fact, it might even be cause for excitement. How many people would like to hear about a job opportunity that could be better than the one they have? How many people do you know who love their job SO much that they would never entertain the possibility of going somewhere else?

If you do know somebody like that, it means they’re going to retire with their current employer. Or they’re going to eventually be laid off. One or the other.

#2—How did she know she couldn’t help me if she didn’t even know why I was calling?

This is the part that really puzzles me. It goes along with people who say “No” to an opportunity without even knowing what the opportunity is. This person didn’t outright say “No,” but, she had a negative attitude before I could even explain that I was calling to speak with her about an opportunity to help advance her career forward.

From an objective point of view, there’s absolutely no reason to make a decision about a situation until you have all of the details associated with that situation. There is no decision to make. Which also means there is no assumption to make.

Case study #2

In another instance, I called a candidate to help her prepare for an upcoming interview that I had scheduled for her. Unfortunately, she did not seem to be interested in my preparation suggestions. It was almost as if I couldn’t tell her anything and she knew everything.

Instead of being humble and thanking me for my time in helping her get ready for her interview, she acted as though she didn’t want to hear my advice. It appeared as though she thought she knew it all already.

In my career as a search consultant and recruiter, I can count on no hands the number of candidates I’ve encountered who “knew it all” about their upcoming face-to-face interview.

Even if a candidate knows a great deal about the interview process, there is most likely a limit to how much they know about the company and the people who are going to interview them. The search consultant/recruiter, on the other hand, has more knowledge about the following things, among others:

  • The position
  • The organization
  • The hiring officials
  • Who might be the candidate’s supervisor
  • The company culture
  • Other information relevant to the position and the company

All of these things are extremely important factors in a candidate’s ability to interview well. They are also extremely important in terms of the decision that the candidate will make if they receive an offer of employment. Remember: the number-one goal of the interview is to get an offer of employment.

In my experience, candidates who listen to my advice before the interview are the ones who come out of the interview with a job offer. The ones who don’t listen usually don’t get a job offer. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed over the years. I’ve even had my clients tell me that they can tell during the interview who has paid attention to my advice and who has not.

Assumptions aplenty with NO crystal ball

When it comes to your career, you can not assume that you know what’s going to happen. Anybody who has ever been laid off can tell you that based solely on their first-hand experience. Here is a (partial) list of the things that you should not assume in regards to your career and your job search:

  • How long you will work at your current employer
  • How long you will work in a particular field
  • How quickly you will climb the ladder at your current employer
  • Whether or not a new employment opportunity is the right fit for you before you check it out
  • Your knowledge regarding the employment marketplace
  • Your knowledge about your own job search
  • How much a recruiter can help you to find a new job

And this is just a partial list. People make assumptions all the time, every day, about nearly every aspect of their career and their job search. Making these assumptions is a mistake. Nobody has a crystal ball and nobody can see the future.

What IS valuable, though, is experience. When a person has seen a certain situation play out over and over again, they can make a pretty good guess about what to do and what not to do.

Can I predict the future? Of course not. However, I’ve seen thousands of scenarios during my time as search consultant for more than 20 years. I’ve seen candidates and job seekers do the right things to land a great job, and I’ve seen them do the wrong things to sabotage their candidacy to the detriment of their career.

Do NOT make assumptions regarding your career and your job search. Rely on the experience of others to help guide you through the process. They may not have a crystal ball, but they do have the experience, knowledge, and expertise needed to increase your chances for long-term success.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of organizations. If this is something you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.