by Liz Ryan

There are scams that prey on job seekers everywhere.

There are fake job ads that make you think somebody has a job for you, and end up being ads for background checks or certification programs you don’t need. There are companies that run job ads continuously just to be able to interview candidates and get free advice (and sometimes even free work) out of them.

The worst and most common job search scam is the one I call the “basic job search scam.” Way too many employers pull this trick and way too many job candidates fall for it. The basic job search scam is a recruiting process that serves mostly to cow and bully job seekers into thinking that qualified candidates are a dime a dozen, so they had better accept whatever measly job offer they get.

You can tell when you run into the basic job search scam. You feel very honored to have been selected for a phone interview or even better, a face-to-face interview. Everyone is very formal with you, maybe even dismissive. They convey the message, “You are no one special. You’d better step your game up if you want to work for us!”

You might kill yourself getting through the entire hiring process only to get the job offer and find out that the people who told you a million times how lucky you’d be to get hired are actually halfwits and poseurs. You bent over backwards to please them, and then you got the job and found out that you got scammed. The company itself is a joke. The managers have no idea what they’re doing, and they’re mean and petty on top of being stupid.

You realize that you won’t last long in this toxic place. You’ll need to start job hunting again soon. You got scammed! Everyone around you acted like the company was God’s gift to working people so you went along with the charade.

Some companies are experts in running this con game. They write their job ads to sound very exclusive. They talk about the “Successful Candidate” in the third person, to make sure you know that you are highly unlikely to become that candidate. They don’t bother selling their company to job seekers at all.

If they did, the scam wouldn’t work anymore. Candidates would feel more at ease and more confident. They would ask more penetrating questions at job interviews. That would be bad!

Employers who run the basic job search scam need you to stay in supplicant mode. They need you to forget that you have choices.

They would hate for you to think that you have a choice about where to work and who to work for. They want you and every job seeker to believe that you will be lucky indeed if they should stoop to interview you.

Job seekers fall for this scam because of their fear of being unemployed and unwanted. They forget that in the course of a normal day or week, they interact with a lot of people. How many of those people are really switched on, alert and awake? Maybe ten percent of them are. You are, and that makes you marketable — but only if you know it.

How many people are switched on and awake who also have your skills and background? Now the number becomes vanishingly small, but when we’re job hunting we forget that. We might start to think we aren’t good enough or smart enough for employers to want us.

We think we have to grovel and beg for a job. We’ve been trained to seek approval from authority figures since we were tiny, and when you’re job hunting anyone who wants to interview you can look like an authority figure.

You can say no to bad opportunities and I hope you will because the more doors you slam in your job search, the more doors will open. When your gut screams at you, you must listen to it. When all your job search energy goes to bowing and scraping and desperately trying to please people, you are not in your power and everyone around you will feel it. People who interview you will feel it. Scammers love to meet a candidate whose mojo has run out.

You can job hunt a different way, from a place of trust rather than fear.

When you focus your job search on meeting the manager who gets you and thus respects you, everything changes.

You don’t need every recruiter or hiring manager to like you. Is it hard to stand strong when the rent is due? Of course it is. It can be nerve-wracking, just like every heroic journey.

Learning to find our voice and our backbone is a lifelong pursuit. We are all on our paths, taking steps and getting stronger every day. The first step in following your path is to know that you have a path to follow — even if it’s not clear what the path is. You have to know that it is part of your mission to get stronger yourself and help other people get stronger, too.

I advise every job seeker (and every working person, too) to get a business card and launch an independent consulting business, no matter how small.

Decide what services you will offer, even if you only offer them for four hours a week, and decide on your billing rate. Becoming a consultant isn’t just a great job search channel (although it is that) and a way to earn money. It’s also the best way I know to grow your entrepreneurial muscles — the muscles we all need to survive and thrive in this new-millennium workplace.

The minute you perform a consulting service for someone, your mojo grows. At that moment you see clearly how your brains and your hard work benefit somebody who needed your help and got it. You feel like a CEO, and that’s the way I want you to feel all the time.

Your job search is no different. You are still the CEO of your own life and career. You don’t have time or energy to beg anyone to hire you, or to put up with nonsensical hiring processes or nasty people.

Don’t fall for the basic job search scam. You are valuable and marketable, and people who don’t see that are not worth your time or trouble. Get using to saying, “Thanks anyway! Doesn’t sound like a fit for me” over and over again.

Watch your muscles grow!

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