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Career Advice

No Logo for job seekers

In conversation with Cathy Keates, author of Not for sale! Why we need a new job search mindset

BY NICOLE ARBOUR | MAR 09 2009

While the prospect of the job search process is daunting at best, it can be outright paralyzing for those who hate the idea of selling themselves to potential employers. That’s why Cathy Keates,  a career coach with over 10 years’ experience, including as associate director of the career centre at York University, has written a book for the job hunt, called Not for sale! Why we need a new job search mindset.

In the book, Ms Keates challenges the prevailing metaphor, of job search as sales pitch, as demeaning to the job searcher. She explores a new job-search mindset, the “integrity mindset,” which values the job seeker not as a commodity but as an individual. She challenges job seekers to continue their quest for employment with ethics, dignity and authenticity. Here, Ms. Keates answers questions about the book.

Nicole Arbour: Who does this book target? Who do you think would most benefit from the integrity mindset?

Cathy Keates:  I find that the ideas in the book are most appealing to people who are already dissatisfied with their experiences with job searching, or who are really open to re-thinking the whole approach to the job search. The book requires the reader to stop and reconsider a lot of things that are quite ingrained in our society’s thinking – which isn’t always easy.

While I find that both gregarious and shy people are often uncomfortable with selling themselves, in particular shy people are often intimidated by a lot of job search advice and often feel like they can’t live up to the standards set by instructions to think and act like a salesperson. In contrast, focusing on [one’s] integrity can be a relief.

NA: In the introduction, you compare this book to other recent books against consumerism and commercialization. Do you think it’s this commercialization that has further pushed people towards a sales mindset?

CK: I think commercialization and commoditisation are symptoms of a larger framework in which everything is for sale, including us. We seem to live during times in which an economic metaphor of life and society is the dominant paradigm. “Job search as sales” neatly fits this paradigm – so if we are not questioning this economic metaphor, “job search as sales” just seems like the way things are.

NA: In your experience to date, how receptive have people been to the integrity mindset?

CK: I find people really relate to the idea of integrity, and especially authenticity. Many times I have heard a sigh of relief from job seekers: “you mean I don’t have to sell myself?” or “you mean I can be myself?” Even these simple ideas seem to have a big impact on how comfortable and enthusiastic people are about their employment prospects.

NA: Your advice to readers about sales mindset vs. integrity mindset seems very black and white, and all about the power of positive thinking. Is it not possible to have the integrity mindset co-exist with and even complement the sales mindset?

CK: I think it is more than the power of positive thinking – it is the power of a metaphor – and all the baggage, healthy or unhealthy, that that metaphor brings with it.

In my experience the sales metaphor brings too much unhealthy baggage that severely gets in the way of people job searching – and especially impacts people’s dignity and sense of authenticity. My suggestion of an integrity mindset is more than just “always look on the bright side of life” (to quote Monty Python), but is meant to recommend that we start by re-examining how we choose to frame our world, and our experience in it.

NA: In bad economic times like these, how do you convince the average job hunter to abandon the sales mindset?

CK: When you feel better about what you are doing, you make better, more authentic connections with employers that are more likely to lead to job offers. And although it can be hard to hang on to hope, even in times of turmoil, there are still opportunities to find, and to create.

NA: How do you apply the integrity mindset in your life?

CK: I’m the kind of person who lets the server know when they’ve missed something on my restaurant bill – I can’t take the food for free just because they made an error. And I have found that being authentic with others, both inside and outside of work, opens up much more meaningful and deeper relationships.

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