"What was she thinking?" a lot of us asked when we heard that Democrat Martha Coakley, the supposed shoe-in for Ted Kennedy's Senatorial seat, had let the election slip through her fingers and into the hands of Republican Scott Brown. I mean, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that you shouldn't take a Caribbean vacation just when your campaign should be kicking into high gear.
And yet, that's exactly what many of us do when we start our own campaign for a job. We might be inclined to say, "I'm going to take my severance package and take a long vacation while I have the time, right now, because when I start my next job, who knows when I'll be able to get away for awhile?" Wrong strategy, even if you think your brother-in-law will probably have an opening for you when you return. While you're out sunning your buns, others are busily stumping for the few openings that become available. Those opportunities that you thought would be there when you get back will be snapped up by people who are hungrier and willing to work harder than you are.
Besides, one of the biggest mistakes people make when they get laid off is not starting their new job search fast enough, according to John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a company that helps downsized workers transition. He says there are many employers who are waiting to snap up top employees just as soon as they become available, but after a certain amount of time, they start wondering, "Why hasn't anyone else hired this person yet?"
Reach out and touch everyone
Another major mistake campaign Coakley made was not having a field program in place. In other words, she didn't reach out to her supporters in the field, and at the last minute, hired an independent organization, Organize for America (OFA), to reach out for her. The job search equivalent of that is thinking that you don't need to network, or reach out to family, friends and colleagues, no matter how far removed from you they might be.
When searching for a job, it's imperative to reach out to everyone, everywhere, that you possibly can, even if they seem rather far removed from you and your job category. The bottom line is that someone might know someone who needs someone like you. Their uncle might have an opening in your field. I currently network with school chums from 30 years ago, long lost ex-relatives, friends of friends of friends, you name it. And I'm not even looking for a job!
Give credit where credit is due
Perhaps Coakley's biggest mistake was not giving Brown credit for being a worthy candidate. He was exciting, he was engaging, he had a good story, and he was great at networking. Coakley thought that none of those things could rival her position and experience as the Massachusetts Attorney General and choice of the Democratic party--the late Senator Kennedy's party.
When it comes to the job campaign, no matter how much confidence we have in our experience and position, you should never underestimate the competition. You need to act as if all the other candidates are every bit as qualified, if not more, than you are, and you need to make a point of going the extra mile. Employers always prefer the candidate who is willing to make the extra effort, rather than rest on his or her laurels. That's when the less experienced, but more enthusiastic, get the positions.
Most political pundits predict this election will have a major effect on the entire nation. While your job search may have a narrower scope, it means the world to you and your family, so listen and learn from the lurid tale of Massachusetts' most recent election.