‘The hidden job market’

Motivational speaker and comedian Patrick Combs encouraged jobseekers to quit whining about the recession and rising unemployment rate and start being more proactive during an address at the Elliott School Tuesday night.

Combs, who has brought his motivational speeches to Fortune 500 companies, said the published job market only accounts for 15 percent of total jobs. Tapping into the other 85 percent, or the “hidden job market,” requires the ability to respond rather than react, he said.

“Right now what the news is trying to do is give you every reason in the world to justify why you can’t get a job,” Combs said. “The number one reason people don’t end up getting the job is the lack of responsibility.”

Combs cautioned the audience not to harp on the “how” part of getting a job, but to focus first on the task at hand and start moving toward a solution.

“Forget about getting hired, that’s the small part of the equation” Combs said. “In order for you to get a job even when they’re not hiring, it’s the underpinnings. It’s the foundational psychology that’s going to make the difference.”

The first move that job-seeking students should make, Combs said, is to join a professional association in their field of interest and work on increasing their social network. Social outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can all be used to build connections with potential employers and clients.

The last and most important thing to do when job hunting is to “take cool people to lunch,” Combs said. “There’s only so much you can learn in college.”

Combs urged students to find one successful person they admire, take them to lunch and take a genuine interest in their life and career. After talking about themselves all through lunch, Combs said, they will grow to like you “even though you never said a word about yourself.”

This trick is one that not only works at job interviews, but also at parties, Combs said. “The human response to somebody who takes a genuine interest in us, is to admire you back.”

Combs recommended a visit to the GW Career Center, which organized the event along with GW Housing Programs, to work on résumés and interviewing techniques before making lunch dates.

In the end, Combs said, employers aren’t looking for a long list of skills on a résumé, what they are really after is the person “who is on fire for life.”

The idea of taking responsibility for your own success resonated strongly with Alyssa Steinmetz, a junior in the Elliott School of International Affairs.

“It’s so easy to blame yourself, or everyone else and it’s so easy to waste your time thinking about all of that,” Steinmetz said. “But if you really just act before you think then good things can come out of it.”

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