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No Competition

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Published Apr 1, 2008 8:00 AM


By Arlene R. Barro Ph.D. '71

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What are the secrets of a winning job hunt? Few experts offer advice as intriguing — or usable — about that quest as Arlene Barro, president and CEO of L.A.-based barro global search, inc. and a nationally recognized educator, educational psychologist, search consultant and career coach. In her new book, WIN Without Competing!, from Capital Books, Barro reveals her Right Fit Method, described in the media as "an almost Zen-like approach" to job hunting. Now Barro offers her unique insights to her fellow Bruins looking for their own career Right Fit.

Find your right fit

When I was 6 years old, my dad, Cantor Tevelle H. Ring, and I would walk hand in hand through the streets of Brookline, Mass., the birthplace of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I watched him greet and talk to person after person. After each conversation, he asked me, "What did we say?" He did not want me to recall the words that were exchanged, but the meaning behind the words. He wanted me to explain "with whom he was dealing," so I would never miss the "real" message. As an adult, I implemented my dad's teachings, which I call the Right Fit. I began to create standards for everything — my career, friends, and even food. In the market, for example, I select the Right Fit fruit using the standards I learned as a child. I don't compare pieces of fruit and select the best from among them. If, for example, all the bananas are brownish and overripe, I don't select any bananas. They are all the wrong fit. I only want bananas that match my standards.

Create a blended blueprint

After spending many years in high-level health-care management, I switched careers. I joined an executive search firm and quickly realized that I would not give my client-employers an array of candidate resumes from which to select. I wanted them to work with me to create what I call the Blended Blueprint, a set of weighted standards — for example, 10 percent, 20 percent, 35 percent, etc. — with criteria for each standard describing the Right Fit candidate. I then took their Blueprint and searched for the candidate who matched, like the interlocking pieces of a puzzle. The result: I presented one candidate to the employer. As long as the chemistry is right on both sides and the employer made no major errors in providing the information, the search is done.

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How to win without competing

Comparison and competition go hand in hand. To compete, candidates compare themselves to other candidates and worry about their competitors. They ask the same question as employers: "Who is the best?" Frequently, candidates accept wrong fit positions because their focus is on winning, not on selecting the right job. Many switch from one wrong fit job to another, never really understanding the problem. Instead of e-mailing their resume to cyberspace hoping that someone will find them, job seekers must define their Right Fit job and then search for it. Candidates should forget the competition and focus on themselves, setting high standards of performance against which no one can compete. When we exercise, we continue to raise the bar. In our careers, we need to use the same approach. Compete with yourself, never against others.

Manage the job interview process

In order to determine whether a job is right for him or her, a candidate needs to take charge of the interview, which I refer to as Manage the Process. As the candidate, it is your responsibility to present a personal brand to match the employer's Blended Blueprint. If the employer's specs are vague, then you should probe the employer to define the position and match the specs. If after probing, you determine that the position is not the Right Fit and the fit cannot be fixed, then do not pursue that position.

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Also, do not have the interview if you know that the location is unacceptable. Geographical location and acceptable regions constitute a standard, and should be a component of every candidate's Blended Blueprint. Clearly define the acceptable regions or cities to which you would move.

Don't assume a potential employer knows what they want

Candidates assume that by the time an open position is posted, companies and organizations have a clear and well-defined understanding of the opening they seek to fill. But they frequently do not. That's why they search for the best from among a parade of candidates. Employers use comparison to help define the position. They squeeze candidates like tomatoes and compare them. Clever candidates can use employer vagueness to their advantage, probing to define the fit and broadcasting how they match.

More WIN Wisdom

Learn more about the author on UCLA's alumni Web site here. Create your own blended blueprint, read excerpts from WIN Without Competing! and discover more secrets to successful job hunting at her Web site, or e-mail her.

Don't flood the Internet with your resume

Candidates in search of a perfect opportunity assume their odds of finding one are greatly improved when they broadcast their resumes all around the globe. But if you are working, that tactic might jeopardize your current position. If you use company e-mails to broadcast your resume, you could be fired on the spot. And perhaps most fundamentally, remember that if you broadcast your availability from Burbank to Bombay, you'll appear desperately mediocre, and who will want to hire you in that case?

Can you use the Right Fit Method to select the president of the United States?

Absolutely. We are our president's employer and we are conducting a job interview. Don't compare presidential candidates. If they are all the wrong fit, we will elect the wrong president. Create the Blended Blueprint of the Right Fit. Be sure to weight the importance of each standard. The total should equal 100 percent. Then, determine which presidential candidate matches. Be sure to include war, economy, and taxation standards. I'd love to read your blueprints.

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