quot;I have tried everything; nothing worksquot;
By Shireen Naqvi, Director and CEO, SoL
The story of a person seeking a job who tried all the tricks of the trade, but didn't get very far;
and how, after overcoming resistance to try new ways, he is not only achieving more in his
studies, but has a satisfying and exciting part-time job that pays for his education.
quot;I have tried everything, nothing works,quot; Khurram pleaded after returning from his fifteenth job
interview. Once again, he was told, quot;We will inform you of our decision.quot; That was a nice way of
saying, quot;We don't have a vacancy for you.quot;
Khurram was more perplexed about the reasons for being turned down. He had followed every
rule in the book concerning writing job applications and biodatas. He had even used a
specialized software package that 'guaranteed acceptance by whoever sets eyes on this job
The application was attractively worded, used all the 'correct' language. His biodata was a
magnificent presentation of superb qualifications, past experiences, interesting hobbies etc.
Khurram had graduated from a well-known business school in Karachi. Throughout his two year
MBA program, he dreamt of the day he would receive his job acceptance letter; the day he
would adorn his blue suit and a smart tie and be welcomed at his desk by his new colleagues.
He was eager to learn, get into action and make it up the corporate ladder. There was so much
excitement about the future. He would get a car soon and take his parents, sister and friends to
the beach at Seaview; to spend an evening having fun bowling at Area 51; to treat them and
show his gratitude for all they had done for him. How he longed to see the expression on his
mother's face when he'd get his first gift for her - a gold chain. She had spent hours on the
Janamaz praying for his success and well-being.
Now Khurram was ridden with disappointment. His mother was understanding and kept saying,
quot;It's only a matter of time.quot; His father was running out of patience and had started doubting his
ability to get a job. His little sister kept making fun of him and calling him a 'loser'. Friends came
up with new ideas and suggestions everyday.
One day, Atif, Khurram's friend, recommended that Khurram come with him to the computer
institute he was attending, 'just to have a look around'. Maybe Khurram should consider taking
up a computer course, between interviews, instead of wasting time. Reluctantly, Khurram
That day Atif saw an invitation on the institute's notice board. It was an announcement of a short
course on how to successfully conduct a job search. Atif turned to Khurram and silently pointed
to the notice board - the silence saying it all. Thinking it was a job notice, Khurram rushed to the
board, only to read yet another promise of the one-and-only way to get jobs. He felt sick and
giddy and turned away.
Atif, however, persisted and got more information from the institute's office. He was told that on
that very day, the team that was going to conduct the course would be making a half-hour
introductory presentation on the subject. Instead of telling Khurram about it, Atif simply dragged
him into the classroom where the presentation was about to start. Ten other youngsters sat in
the room. The scene was so typical. One group was the macho types, who thought they knew it
all, have it all and are the ultimate. That was a good cover up, thought Khurram; they, too, will
soon encounter reality. Some youngsters sat staring into space, their doleful expressions like a
tragic story from an open book. Still others were discussing how they would make fun of the
team of trainers who would make the presentation; cynicism dripping from their remarks.
A young couple walked in. Something was different about them. Instantly, the room was flooded
with energy. The man started loading a floppy on the computer for his multimedia presentation.
The lady, with a friendly and warm smile, distributed handouts. They were driven by something
extraordinary. Their brisk movements, acknowledgment of our individual presence, their sense
of urgency, all this could only come from knowing what you are doing and where you are going.
The machos, the cynics, the depressed, all fell silent and waited. The clock in the room struck 4
p.m. and the young man began his presentation. He held out a copy of the 'Yellow Pages' and
stupidly asked, quot;Who knows what this is?quot; There, that was the beginning of the end of it. What a
silly question, thought Khurram. He had spent days with that book, even slept with it at night.
The question was too dumb to answer.
Someone in the audience did dare to reply, quot;It is a book of addresses and telephone numbers.quot;
The young man had the audacity to ask the question again from another fellow listener. The
same answer was repeated. And again, and again. Khurram was about to get up in disgust and
leave, when the young man said, quot;Your answers are correct. However, this book is something
Khurram felt himself involuntarily sitting down again. What else could it be? Here come the
gimmicks. quot;It is a book of job invitations,quot; said the young man. quot;Each address is calling out to
you to come and join the company. You only have to give what they want.quot;
quot;Would you take a person in your company, who has a great biodata and a beautiful application
letter, but apprehension, indecision and pleading is pasted all over his face? His body language
shows lack of confidence and already a disbelief in getting the job?quot; asked the young man.
Suddenly, the audience woke up. Everyone said, quot;No,quot; almost spontaneously and
simultaneously, with a gasp, realized that the young man had just painted a portrait of their own
quot;What must change? The organization you are applying to for a job or you? What about you
should you change? What aspect of the process of searching for a job should you change?quot;
The young man went on. quot;Some of you may have been expecting different results from your
efforts but have been applying the same process again and again. You first have to change the
process to get different results. There are infinite ways in which something can be done.
Whenever you find yourself saying, 'I have tried everything, nothing works,' you are closing the
doors of choices in your mind.quot; Khurram remembered that, only yesterday, he had made that
statement. The young man continued, quot;Whenever you find yourself making that statement, think
of Thomas Edison, the man who invented the light bulb. After trying 9999 different ways in
which to make a light bulb and after his family and friends told him to quit, his reply was, 'I have
invented one more way of how NOT to make a light bulb. There are still infinite ways to go.' The
bigger the demands on you, and the bigger the constraints; the bigger the choices. As long as
the ways you try are different each time, you will get different results.quot;
quot;You may not know of the choices you have or be able to see them, but they always exist. After
all, there wouldn't be a problem without an accompanying solution. That is the law of opposites
i.e., everything exists with its pair.quot; The young man said.
The lady asked us, quot;What do you think a company wants from a person who is applying for a
job?quot; Khurram found himself joining in the brainstorming session. The list of responses included:
good résumé, smart person, lots of qualifications, ability to speak English, job experience,
interesting hobbies etc. Although we came up with about twenty points, yet the lady insisted we
suggest more points. She divided us in two teams to generate two lists. She encouraged us to
go deeper into each point that we had written earlier. And deeper and deeper we went.
In just fifteen minutes both teams came up with over fifty points. We would never have thought
of them earlier. We were amazed at ourselves. The lady then asked us to prioritize and
categorize the points.
After half an hour, we came up with three main points. What a company wants from a job
applicant is to add value by 1) Contributing to its profitability, 2) its reputation and 3) to its
teamwork. That's more or less it. If job applicants can show this in their CV, in the application
letter, and in their job interviews, the probability of getting the job increases manifold. At times,
even a new position is created for such a person; a position that may never have been
advertised before. After this, there remains little need for certificates, diplomas or medals.
quot;After all, the company wants you to bring solutions for its problems, not become a problem to
them.quot; The lady went on, sending shock waves in the room. How could they have missed on
these obvious truths? quot;You may have the best qualifications and experiences, but if you are not
able to show the organization that, in hiring you, What's In It For Them (WIIFT) all your
qualifications and experiences come to nothing. You may have all the knowledge in the world,
the best skill to do the job, but if your attitude is that you know everything or that you deserve
more than what the organization is offering, or that your fate is entirely dependent on their
decision and not your own, you will have lost the opportunity. A good company would not hire a
person with a lousy attitude. Would you?quot;
And so on the couple went to explain what benefits their three-hour course, spread over five
days, will offer.
Besides Khurram, four other people joined the course. The first couple of sessions were spent
forming a new set of empowering beliefs. Since giving up on or changing beliefs is
phenomenally difficult, there was lots of discussion and resistance to accepting new ideas. Two
participants couldn't hack it; they wanted a magic potion that will give them a job instantly. They
left the program.
As the hours rushed past, Khurram slowly but surely understood not only what he had been
doing wrong, but also what he had to do now. His patience grew, his attention expanded, he
acquired new wisdom. He felt in control, realizing how much time and energy he had wasted in
pursuing the ineffective courses of action. How much heartache he could have saved himself
and his family from, had he known these simple facts before. But now he understood. He could
see the light at the end of the tunnel more clearly. It was beckoning to him. He became crystal
clear about his goal. More focused. All other matters became trivial.
For the first time Khurram realized that it is not a matter of getting a job, expecting a pay
cheque, working 9 to 5; but that it was about having a purpose; living, striving and enjoying the
journey towards it; benefiting and serving those around you and making sure you don't harm
anyone. In the entire process, you actualize your potential and prepare others to carry on with
the idea you have initiated and built.
It was only a matter of altering the way Khurram thought. Suddenly, the whole world looked
different. Khurram spent almost two days in his room, analyzing what he enjoys doing, how that
would benefit others. This he called 'his purpose'. Equipped with it, he felt he had wings. His
confidence escalated; his fears fell away. Faith made it possible - Faith in his Creator, who gave
him the attributes, the aptitude and the attitude to decide his fate. Now it was up to him, how
much he wanted to be or where he wanted to go. He decided that he would be cautious, but not
fearful; desire victory, and also expect to fail; surge forward into his future, and take others
along with him. Time and life suddenly acquired new meaning and became more worthwhile.