Perhaps you've been riveted by the wildly popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars,” which pairs celebrities with professional dancers glammed up in sequined costumes, makeup and dazzling hairdos. The show is a good metaphor for today’s job search experience.
Each week, the couples on “Dancing with the Stars” compete by dancing slickly choreographed versions of the cha-cha, waltz and tango as they overcome obstacles and strive for high scores from the judges, plus votes from the public, to advance to the next round of competition. Like the job search, this dance competition involves a long process full of obstacles, setbacks and rejection, and it requires a similar winning formula for success. Here are seven lessons job seekers can take from the hit show. Believe in Yourself To win, the dancers must believe in themselves. They might be celebrities, but none has ever danced competitively. Watching each week, we see them evolve from self-doubt and frustration to poise and self-confidence. The job search journey has a built-in growth mechanism. It nudges the job seeker, through challenges, into a stronger sense of self. Turn Criticism into Welcome Feedback Dozens of hours of hard work goes toward preparing for each dance. No matter. After their live performance, many dancers receive rather harsh criticism. While some may argue and get defensive, the more successful dancers apply these comments to next week's dance routine. These couples make every effort to accept feedback from the judges as a gift for improvement, while those who argue are voted off more quickly. Feedback from prospective employers and hiring managers is vital to your search process, too. Getting defensive and feeling victimized only prolongs your search. Learning from your errors is the mark of maturity and enables you to win your next job. Focus Winning dancers learn to focus. As the celebrities master focusing, their dancing improves. This is true for job seekers as well. It’s impossible to get where you want if you don’t clarify what you want. Without focusing and becoming clear about your goals, your roadmap is confusing, and you wander in circles. Work Hard -- and Then Even Harder These dancers work harder than they ever dreamed just to keep up with their competitors. They keep raising the bar for each other. Likewise, a successful job seeker must be committed to hard work. Finding the right job is often much harder than doing the actual job once hired. No matter how hard the search seems, apply yourself even more. Keep going that extra mile. Develop a Winning Attitude After four seasons, no dancer has ever won “Dancing with the Stars” with a bad attitude. And so it is with your job search. It’s critical to view yourself as empowered. You know that rejection and setbacks are temporary and not personal. They are part of the process. You know that ultimately you’re going to win this challenge. You focus on positive thoughts and outcomes. You don’t accept defeat. You aren’t attached to the outcome of any particular set of interviews. You need to know that when you don’t get offered a particular job, it simply means there’s a better one in your future. Market and Sell Yourself The celebrities and professional dancers understand that while in front of the camera, they are continuously marketing and selling themselves to the judges and viewing public. Everything they do and say is a statement and a message about who they are. With your job search, every telephone call, email, letter, card and piece of information you send out, including your resume, must represent you well. It must be consistent and present you in your best light, with a focus on the employer’s needs rather than yours. Be Enthusiastic Some dancers show enthusiasm, while others express varying degrees of negativity. As the competition progresses, the enthusiastic dancers win over the judges and the audience. Enthusiasm is contagious. People who see themselves as winners project this image to their audience. Potential employers will often hire less-experienced applicants who exude enthusiasm and high energy over more experienced applicants who seem lukewarm about the job. [As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked, Turner has been interviewed on several radio talk shows. Discover more insider job search secrets by visiting Job Change Secrets.]