If you’re on the job hunt, it can feel like a jungle out there. The savvy job hunter has to be increasingly strategic in order to capture the attention and interest of recruiters and hiring managers. There’s a lot of competition – especially for the plum positions. Here’s where the rules of the hunt might just come in handy to help you gain an edge in the job market.
Not every job seeker is comfortable with the hunter analogy. But many of the tactics that hunters of all species use in the wild have a lot to teach us about being smart and successful in the career marketplace. You don’t have to identify as a “Type A” personality or think of yourself as assertive, to benefit from these concepts.
Why Think and Act Like a Hunter?
Civilization has made survival for our species more, well, civilized. But make no mistake: we still operate with the same instincts that drove our ancestors.
If you’re a student of psychology, you’ll be familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which lays out the progression of achievements humans must have before they can become more realized. The foundation of that hierarchy includes our basic needs: food, water, rest, security, and safety. To ensure these basic needs, we had to be smarter and more responsive in order to catch our prey and to avoid being eaten by bigger or faster predators with sharper teeth.
While our old hunting instincts may have their downsides, especially in a resource-challenged modern world, they can serve as a helpful model in defining and developing working strategies for our contemporary careers.
A Mental Exercise
Think of the hunter analogy as a way of thinking differently about yourself. It’s an opportunity to be more strategic and more assertive, even if you don’t think of yourself as an aggressive person.
Perhaps it will give you cover, or permission, to be a little bit more forthright and to stand up for yourself. Or it may help you to think of your job more elementally as the survival mechanism that it really is.
1. Always Stand Downwind
Hunters don’t want to reveal themselves to their prey. So they take their position based on which way the wind is blowing. This way, they pick up the scent of their prey before their prey is even aware of them.
This has many parallels for job seekers.
First, competitively, you don’t need to tell everyone your business when it comes to your job hunt strategy. Take a position where you are on the receiving end of information regarding leads and connections. Build up a collection or a database of job and company information. Do your research on the people, functions, departments, business processes, and other data or information that you’re going to need when you apply to a given position.
Armed with this research, when you hear about an opportunity or a potential connection that fits within your research parameters, you’ll be ready to act and take advantage of it.
If you’re looking to get hired by one of a number of companies that offer the kind of job you’re looking for, go where you’re going to meet people who work for those companies, or know people who work for those companies. This could include formal networking groups, but could also be more casual, informal venues or volunteering opportunities.
2. Take the High Ground
Just like a hunter holds a vantage point where they can see their prey at a great distance (think the leopard on her perch on a high branch), so should you find a similar vantage point as a job seeker.
Your high ground starts – again – with gathering information on what’s going on in your company or your industry. Since information is power, it can give you a sense of perspective over current and relevant events that might affect your current position or one that you’re applying for.
The high ground can also include the knowledge or skills that you can use to better support your value proposition. Make yourself the strongest candidate for an internal promotion or an external opportunity. Use your expertise to elevate your credibility and reputation and make you stand out from your competition.
From this higher ground position, you are in a better place than others to get noticed and get considered for the opportunities you’re seeking.
3. Wait For Them to Come to You
Play hard to get. Tactical job seekers know that it’s never too smart to play all your cards up front. Employers and hiring managers have plenty of power in the hiring process. Don’t make their job too easy. Create an aura of unavailability about yourself. Don’t look too hungry. Don’t let them know how much you want the job. You’ll be in a much stronger position if they think they have to persuade you, or if they think you could be more interested in working for a competitor.
Your mindset has a lot to do with how you are perceived. Even if you are between jobs, always think of yourself as a consultant who is continually looking to provide value and offer services to clients. Never think of yourself (or represent yourself) as unemployed.
4. Pack vs. Solo
Some hunters go it alone. Others hunt in teams. Which way works best for you? You may feel more comfortable as a solo job seeker. But you should also consider the multiplier effect of working together with other close colleagues to mutually support one other in your short-term job hunt or long-term career goals.
Your school classmates are perhaps the first, and definitely one of the best, career packs. Even though you may have all studied in the same career-focused program, and may be going after the same jobs, think of yourselves as collaborators. If one of you gets a job, that person is now “on the inside,” and can channel information and referrals back to the rest of the pack.
This model works throughout your career as you develop close working relationships in your field. Help one another throughout the ups and downs that you will all certainly encounter. When one of you is having career challenges or needs to find a new job, the pack can rally around you to make that happen.
5. Share the Spoils.
Smart hunters know that to ensure support and loyalty from the pack, they let everyone share in the winnings. For millennia, smart rulers have always doled out rewards to their supporters. Modern politics works the same way. Top campaign supporters and donors get appointed to job positions in the winner’s administration.
Pay your success forward and make sure that the people who have been helpful are at the top of your list when it comes to sharing information, making introductions, giving testimonials, and advocating for them when they need some support.
6. Eye On the prize (or: don’t sweat the small stuff).
Hunters are single-minded about targeting and landing their prey. They don’t let themselves get dissuaded or distracted by corollary concerns. And they don’t give up.
Business is more fast-paced and competitive than ever. Distractions are everywhere. Successful people are the ones who know how to focus on the task at hand, avoid multi-tasking (aka “task switching”) and close the deal.
Pace yourself on your quest for a promotion or a better job. Build stamina. Don’t let discouragement, bad luck, or setbacks dissuade you from your goals and ambitions. Keep picking yourself up and persisting.
Don’t settle for less than your goal. Don’t stop short of what you really want. Yes, over time your goal may shift. But don’t confuse fine-tuning your goal with compromising or abandoning your dream.
7. Follow Your Instincts.
Your *enteric nervous system* is a “second brain” located in your gut. Recent research is learning more about this extensive network of nerve cells and their role in mood, awareness, and cognition. “Trusting your gut” may turn out to be more than just an old expression.
When you’re looking at job postings, interacting with recruiters, or sitting in meetings and interviews, pay attention to your gut instinct and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. If you have a bad feeling about someone, or something someone says doesn’t feel right, pay attention to that feeling.
Listening to these non-verbal feelings and understanding their significance may help you to avoid harmful situations. But they can also draw you to opportunities. In both cases, your rational, cognitive perception may try to intervene, objecting to the lack of concrete evidence to support the feeling.
Don’t dismiss either side out of hand. Your instinct can be a powerful ally to your rational mind. Work with both aspects to support you in your job hunt.
8. Stake Your Territory.
Every hunter has their range. They know the landscape and its features. They know the best places to stake out their prey and the best places to wait.
In your world, territory can be physical – such as the office or desk that you work from. As a salesperson, it can be your client accounts and the physical territory that you’re assigned to cover.
But it can also apply to your expertise, your credentials, or your personal brand.
When it comes to your job hunt, your territory is the range of roles and situations you’re aiming for. Be clear about the kinds of jobs you’re interested in pursuing. Don’t dilute your energy, your focus, or your purpose by applying to any open position that “looks good.” You’re not looking for the jobs you “can” do, you’re looking for the best jobs that suit the strongest and most useful aspects of your experience, ability, and aspirations.
Engage in a narrower search (“territory”) than you might have done in the past. Go deep and really mine the opportunities you find in that niche.
9. Set Your Boundaries.
Just as a hunter knows to hunt within the boundaries of their territory, you need to be clear on what is and what isn’t “on target” for you when it comes to your job hunt.
As Clint Eastwood (as Dirty Harry) once said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Once you’ve decided on what you do best, and where you want to focus, don’t let yourself get drawn outside of your territory.
Others may try to persuade you to apply for a job that isn’t the right fit. You might find yourself scrolling through open positions on Indeed or some other job board and thinking “Oh, I could do that job” when it calls for far less experience than you have – or different skill sets that you don’t have.
Don’t go there! Don’t waste your time.
Which of these nine concepts resonates with your personality – or with your current job hunt if that’s what you’re engaged in?
Looking for a new job can make people feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Try shifting your sense of yourself. Don’t be a supplicant hoping that some employer will look favorably upon your application. Instead, try thinking of yourself as a hunter who deserves that job, and who has worked long and hard to be worthy of that offer.
Now go out there and claim it!