Getting on the career train; or how public transportation is a metaphor for job hunting

Feb 13, 2012 by

I take my work home with me a lot (literally and figuratively). One perfect example is my love of and nerdy interest in public transportation. I have been a public transportation rider by choice for most of my adult life; I don’t even have a driver’s license actually. After I started my current job, I developed an interested in transit from a public policy point of view. And recently, because I think about blogging on careers all the time, it occurred to me that navigating your career – especially when job searching – is a lot like riding or using public transportation. How?

  • You need to be polite – One of the best things about transit, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the ability to interact with other people. Everyday I get to meet interesting, funny or sometimes annoying people during my commute; many of them I know because we ride the bus together regularly. In your job search, you will come into contact with all kinds of people and you will need to coexist with them, sometimes in a very tight space. You need to be very polite because there is a good chance you’ll see that person again – and next time, they could be the one making the decisions.
  • You’ve got to know where you’re going – One of the scariest parts of encountering a new transit system is trying to figure out how to get where you’re going, where to transfer and where to get off. The same is true for job searching. If you’ve been out of it for a while, you need to take some time to get familiar with it again, learn the key players and figure out exactly how and where to start the process. Ideally, you will have been thinking like a job seeker the entire time so you’ll be ready when the next chance arrives.
  • You’ve got to have a bit of a thick skin – You’re going to get jostled and shoved and occasionally stepped on – if you don’t learn to deal with it, you won’t come out whole at the other end of a job search or transit ride. I don’t mean that you need to jostle or shove others yourself (see the politeness bullet above), but you should be able to take the knocks in stride.
  • You have to deal with the inevitable delays – Whether it’s the bus or a job search, there are going to be delays. Sometimes really, really long ones. You may be frustrated or angry, but neither of those emotions is going to eliminate the delays. Instead, try using the time to focus on other productive things you can do…like looking for a different job while you wait for the first to make that decision. Eventually the delay will be resolved – they always are.

Good luck in that job search and on your next foray onto transit!

Photo credit: courtesy of Flickr user camknows

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