In the world of information, there is a difference between what is real and what is spin. Real is substantial, backed with facts you can act on, and distributed without bias or filter; it just is what it is, and someone can explain it to you without editorial comment. Spin, on the other hand, says “Buy me.” Meaning the spin itself. When someone wants you to believe something, you ought to think about why they want that so very much.
In a job search or a career management context you may come across A LOT of spin. Here are some examples of what you can safely ignore:
Promises or guarantees. Whether you hear them from a recruiter, employer, or your bff, promises are not real in terms of a job, this one or the next one. A good example is a promise to move you to a higher paid position when one opens up, if you just take this lower paid one right now. That almost never works out very well for anyone. The antidote is an employment contract that spells out what is going to happen, when, and under what contingencies.
Feedback on your interview. As in, you are one of the top candidates but the hiring manager is going on an extended vacation and the decision won’t be made until he or she gets back. As in, he really likes you but we have four other people to see. As in, you did great but hang in there for six more months. It doesn’t matter, you see. You can’t do anything with that information except convince yourself you might get this job, which can only encourage you to stop looking for other opportunities. Not in your best interest; spin designed to give the employer the upper hand.
Self-reported salary information. Not useful ever, whether on a website, in a newspaper article, or over lunch when delivered by a coworker, mentor, friend, or stranger you met at a party. No one gives good numbers, no one knows what they include (like pay at risk or ssi benefits), and the only useful numbers are on your own check or in your own offer letter.
News of the lousy economy. It will not help you at all to bring The Economy into your job search. Spin like that renders you helpless and erodes your confidence. Lots of people get great jobs and opportunities when The Economy sucks. That said, do your own research on your field to find out where the best chances are. Clues are in the news, but you shouldn’t over-personalize the drama that sells news.
Anything you hear about gimmicky solution sets. Elevator speeches. Speed-networking. Expert Resume Writing Services. Please. You are you and if any of these things provide you with insight into how you can be or do better, by all means accept a free new tool. But don’t get on elevators with the perpetual hope that your next employer is riding up and down 27 floors looking for you and your 50 second summary, or that instant karma is at the Chamber of Commerce event that you have paid a fast $20 to participate in…er, get whiplash from. And, don’t ever pay anyone to write a resume for you.
It’s not easy to sort through the voices and the language. Take it from a woman who loves feedback: it’s hard to be objective and harder still to be patient when you are looking for hope. You can be hopeful, though, without being naive.
Get commitments in writing and have an attorney check the language. Validate and verify all claims of truth. Read for ideas and understanding, not pat solutions or blanket philosophy. Push yourself out of your comfort zone but not into a circus. Pay attention to who is getting paid for what, before you buy into whatever you think you just heard.