16 Ways to be Just Another Mediocre Job Seeker

mediocre job seekerYou’ve been a job seeker for months, tried various tactics, read industry blogs, had some interviews…but nothing good has happened in some time.

Chances are, you’re mediocre.

You haven’t made yourself good enough to be hired, but you also aren’t bad enough to be completely ignored.

If you are offended by that statement, I’m sorry, I truly am, but we’re dealing in a cold, harsh world and if you’re going to break your own personal mold you need some cold, harsh reality.

Be frustrated, it’s OK.  Confused is OK too.

Interviewing without an offer, or even a meaningful follow-up, is like having someone break up with you when you thought things were going really well. You wonder, you examine, but usually don’t get closure.

If you aren’t quite sure exactly where you are going wrong, examine this list and see how many of these mistakes are in your repeat offender file.

16 ways to be just another mediocre job seeker Click To Tweet

1: Lack hard skills

Employers hire based on hard skills – What can you do?!

I’ve read all these industry blogs lately touting charisma as the new job requirement. Hogwash.

Every job seeker needs technical skills, even if they are only loosely related to your specific industry. If you don’t have actual skills that represent how you can improve on this particular business you’ll never get to the point of showing off how witty and cute you are.

2: Blend in

Conducting interviews has always been an enjoyable experience for me…until I get to my fifth or sixth interview subject, then it gets boring and repetitive.

If you are just going through the tactics written down in some free “50 steps to master every job interview” ebook, you are doing exactly what everyone else interviewing is and you are boring your interviewer.

Be slightly disruptive.

If someone asks you a question you think you can demonstrate on a wipe board, stand up, ask permission to use their board and start drawing it out. Maybe it’s your core structure for a marketing plan, or an editing workflow, or social media blueprint – start showing what you know rather than just talking about it. It shows confidence and command.

Don’t go nuts, you can just as easily become annoying, just be slightly different and memorable.

Be slightly disruptive in your job interview or you're just going to blend in with the pack Click To Tweet

3: Out of touch

job seeker advice against mediocre

Number #17 – Don’t wear this T-shirt

If you have a lot of job experience on your resume, immediately hiring managers think you are out of touch with the current world. They imagine you walking in and trying to sound hip by using words like “Facebooking” and “InstantGram”.

Learn what is current – you are not above it – and make sure your resume, reel or portfolio shows, near the beginning, that you aren’t some stodgy old curmudgeon yelling at kids to stay off your lawn.

4: Too current

Guess what – businesses actually made lots of money and functioned just fine before social media was ever considered. Social media isn’t a job; it’s a responsibility of a job.

Get too narrow in your focus and become irrelevant before you were even relevant.

5: Weak demo reel/portfolio

The entertainment industry is a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ business. Put time into your demo reel and/or portfolio, get other people to critique it, be open to new ideas, listen to feedback and really, really make it pop.

It’s your first impression and shows what you can actually accomplish if a company hires you.

I once had an aspiring reporter send me a demo reel that had their name misspelled on their opening slate. Their name!

The #entertainmentbiz is a show me world, you must have a great demo reel and portfolio Click To Tweet

6: Think small

During an interview most job seekers focus only on the tasks and responsibilities of the role. While this is smart and makes a lot of sense, find time to show you can think bigger.

Businesses are about making money, if you don’t know exactly how the company you are interviewing with becomes profitable, and think really hard about how you can help toward that goal in your role, you’re missing the big picture.

Every job can contribute to the bottom line, whether it’s by increasing ratings, brainstorming ideas with the sales team, operational efficiencies etc etc.

If you can speak to how you will help impact revenue, instead of just saying, “I’m a really hard worker” people will listen.

7: Demonstrate how clever you are

Stop trying to be clever, it’s hard to be funny, even most paid comedians don’t get laughs a lot of the time.

Face it – you are probably not funny in a global sense, more in just a ‘when I’m at my family reunion people think I’m hilarious’ kind of way.

Stop the kooky icebreakers, the non-sensical banter, the fish ties or the unique headline on your resume, you are making people uncomfortable.

Stop trying to be clever or funny in a job interview, you are making people uncomfortable Click To Tweet

8: Use cliché’s

“I just want to work hard” = you don’t actually have any skill

“I’m a team player” = can’t do much yourself

“I’m probably too loyal” = Bulls**t

“I’ll do anything, I just really want to be here” = you have maxed out your credit cards and are desperate

9: Talk negatively to yourselfjob seeker advice against mediocre

The job process stinks. You will be rejected without cause, ignored when you are a perfect candidate and told you just don’t have “it”. Pick yourself up, realize they weren’t your right match and you probably wouldn’t have been happy there anyway.

Negative self-talk isn’t going to make anything better; it won’t change things or make you more attractive to the next hiring manager.

Keep positive.

10: Follow all the rules

Before you break the rules you have to follow the rules.

If a job application says no phone calls please, nothing is more annoying that getting phone calls. Don’t be that person.

At the same time, don’t think that relegates you to sending in your resume and just sitting back because that’s what the rules say. Get creative, find someone else in the company that can speak on your behalf, send a creative letter, buy some Google ad space targeting their company name and why you are a great candidate.

I’m not here to give you all the ideas, but just sending in a blind resume and waiting is a little too passive for this scribe.

11: Think time is on your side

Young people tend to imagine there is always time, guess what, nobody can beat father time…nobody.

The more lackadaisical you take your job search the more distant you become from you last relevant experience. Don’t make the mistake of getting comfortable either in a dead end job, or in your parents basement, keep pushing, the longer you wait the harder it gets.

12: Use the same strategy for each interview

Every interview needs a completely new approach; there is no one size fits all when it comes to interviewing.

Study. Research. Know the business inside and out and why this particular position is important to their future.

Each job interview you have requires a new approach, there is no one size its all Click To Tweet

13: Think you are in control

job seeker advice against mediocre

This is one time you don’t want to look like Brad Pitt (photo courtesy: New Line Cinema)

Near the end of the movie Se7en (one of my all-time favs) Morgan Freeman sprints toward Brad Pitt while screaming into a walkie-talkie “Whatever you hear, stay away! John Doe has the upper hand!”

While your job application process isn’t quite as grotesque and pain-felt as the ending to Se7en, the same thing basically applies – someone else has the upper hand.

You have no semblance of control over who responds, what it means or doesn’t mean or how you are being perceived.

You also have no control over the questions that are asked, the direction an interview takes or the personality of the person across the table from you. Be flexible, roll with the punches and think on your feet.

14: Talk too much

Nervous talk is one thing – being infatuated with your own voice is yet another.

Interviewers know that you are in the position of doing the most talking, but that doesn’t mean they want you to blather on. If you take 10 minutes to answer a two minute question, interviewers start to imagine you as the person they dread approaching their office because they know you will waste their time.

Get to the point, be smart about it, support it with your current skill profile and how you would best execute and then STOP.

15: Lack a mentor

We all need mentors, whether we are 21, 38, or 52. Mentors don’t always have to be someone older, wiser and look like Yoda, they just need to be a sounding board from within your industry that can help provide advice.

Mentors should be able to be brutally honest with you, the last thing you want is a mentor that just tells you how great you are (Hi Mom!) . You need someone that knows you well and is still willing to point out your shortcomings and guide you towards fixing them.

16: Say stupid things on social media

I’m still amazed that people think deleting a tweet makes it go away, or removing a picture on Facebook vanishes it from existence. Companies will research you on social media, so make sure your LinkedIn is spotless, your tweets are relevant and appropriate and your Facebook posts aren’t drunk stumbles while flipping off a passing policeman.

Sorry to be the chairman of the ‘no fun club’ – but you are being watched, more now than ever, so be on your best and make smart choices.

Final Thought

Generally speaking I’m a slow writer, I ponder, I delete, I recreate. This article took me 45 minutes to write – a record for me –  and it’s because I’ve made every one of these mistakes as a job seeker.

But I pushed through, I learned, I tried new strategies.

The message here isn’t ‘look at me I’ve got this figured out and you’re mediocre’ – quite the opposite – it’s to not give up.

If you’ve made these errors then learn, move forward, change. And hopefully be a mentor to someone else a few years down the road.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. LOVED this blog post. Straight from the heart.

    • Thanks Hank! Glad you liked it – I mentioned to someone else I was in kind of a bad mood when I wrote it which I think made it more raw and truthful. – Brian

  2. Thirty plus years, as employee and employer in broadcasting and broadcast sales, I fully endorse every bit of what you advise as real. Too little of it exists for those who genuinely aspire to any job on any side of the microphone, so as to protect themselves from fakery, be it unintentionally theirs or intentionally that of the so-called pros. Often, the second best result of an interview is getting the job, while the best is not getting it. Knowing the difference is key to a successful career in the business and real help in getting that knowledge is golden.

    • Bob – thanks for the kind words, I tried to make the article as real and heartfelt as possible so Im glad it hit the mark. Please keep reading and commenting, enjoyed your thoughts and contribution here. – Brian

  3. Have any special advice on generally boosting one’s confidence in the process of job-hunting? I’ve lost mine somehow. I’m in media, but blogging stymies me. I read some, but I’m not into writing opinion pieces and blogging seems to be that or a “subtle” way to sell products.

    • Diane – thanks for reaching out, a crisis of confidence is no joking matter so I’m glad we’re talking about it. As I mentioned in the article job hunting sucks, it’s demoralizing and so often lacking feedback or closure. I once had an interview that went so incredibly well I was told by the VP of Human Resources the job was absolutely mine…then I never heard back from anyone. No one returned my calls, and I was left wondering…what the heck! (ok I may have used more vulgar words, but I’m keeping it clean here). Here’s what happened over the next 6 months – I realized that job would have been the death of me and every relationship important in my life. It was an absolute blessing I didn’t get it. It had a great title and job responsibilities I had always craved, but also required at least 12-14 hour days and being on call on weekends. I would have ended up with family problems, mental problems, burn out problems and more. The point is, without getting all tree hugger on you, things do happen for a reason, the jobs you aren’t getting may be a blessing. If they are not, and you really feel you are missing out on opportunities you deserve…time for some soul searching. What is going wrong – Is it skills? Is it attitude? Is it experience? Is it a lack of flexibility? I can’t sit here and give you a pep talk because I don’t know you and that would be shallow but I can tell you this – the best way to gain confidence is to figure out the problem and fix it. Be critical, analyze yourself and figure out what you need to do better.
      Here’s an offer to you – 90% of what I write is sharing my experiences and what I have learned through my decade plus in television – it feels good to share and teach. Write something for us – you aren’t selling, you’re sharing, teaching, advising. Trust me when someone comments “thank you – that was just what I needed to read!” you will feel confidence pouring out of you. – email me anytime bclapp@workinentertainment.com

  4. I work part-time in radio now and I am currently relishing in my own regret. I gave up my full time night gig (twice!) to follow another career path that didn’t work out. Even with the other job, I stayed at the station part-time, but I know my chances for a third full time chance are non-existent. I am paralyzed with fear just thinking of beginning to search for another radio job. I’ve always thought of myself as a confident person but the failure of my business has me questioning EVERYTHING. Who would want me, what can I even offer, what the hell is wrong with me? …… Etc …….. ANY ADVICE? I need help.

    • First off Melinda, I am totally going to steal the line “relishing in my own regret”, it’s the kind of phrase I love to use in my writing…I’ll give you a shout out every time I use it. As for your situation, I need a little more detail to help – what kind of a career path did you pursue that didn’t work out, was it a totally different industry from radio? Do you only want to work at this certain station? It sounds like you started your own business and it failed at that has damaged your outlook – let me tell you a quick story… after 13 years in the TV industry, working my way up to news director at a top 10 market, I walked away. My family needed me to take on a different role as a stay at home dad, so I quit. For 4 years I was out of the business, and I, like you, lost confidence. Guess what I found out when I really tried getting back in… skills are what matter. If you are good you will get hired for jobs. Make sure you have a good story to tell, master your personal narrative, don’t hide from it explain it with confidence. I had three job offers (in large markets) after a short time looking because I came right out and said “you’ll notice there is a gap on my resume, let me tell you why”…I answered the question before they could be concerned about it. The great thing is, I was filled with so much confidence I turned them all down and took this job as director of content work workinsports.com and workinnetertainment.com – because I love it, I love talking with people like you. So perk up – believe in your skills and get it done! – Brian

  5. Hi Brian,

    I’m 56, and recently moved to a place with more senior (e.g. Older) people because I endured 5.5 yrs. of unemployment where I was from…I like to think I’m aware of my foibles, but if anyone had ever suggested that I’d be out of work for 5-1/2 Consecutive years, I would have laughed them out of the pool. I just never thought it was possible. Live and Learn I guess.

    But I AM wondering what your take is on Age Discrimination in the workplace? Yes, the law says X, but American Companies just seem to laugh at the laws. I also wonder about the ADA, because as a disabled person with an invisible disability, my opinion is that American companies laugh also at the “requirement” to treat we disabled folks equally, or fairly, never mind both together.

    Any thoughts are welcome as I string together hourly work to earn some scratch, but a lot less scratch than I once earned as a White Collar person earning closer to 6 figures than mid-5 figures until the Recession started in 2008.

    Thanks, Paul

    • Paul – what you speak of is a real problem. While I’ve never witnessed age discrimination in any of the places I have worked in the sports industry, I think it would be naive to think it doesn’t exist. What kind of job did you work before? -Brian

  6. Kristopher Schoech says:

    Great article. I just retired at the young age of 52 (30 years at my last job). I really do not not want to retire but I do not have to take just any job. I have put out several resumes to companies but haven’t recieved any responses. I have made contact with several employees from those companies to try to get an in but nothing has materialized. As you can probably see I have very little experience in being on the other side of the employee/employer table. I had the opportunity to hire hundreds of people during my tenure but now I’m trying to remember why I hired those who worked for me. Thanks again for this article and I’m actually excited for first interview – whenever that may be. Trying to stay positive.

  7. Good write-up. I definitely appreciate this site. Stick with it!

  8. This article is appreciated, having been a student for practically my whole life, breaking out of theory into reality is daunting and demoralizing. It’s really difficult coming to grips with the fact that I’ve pursued a degree as a ticket to success, realizing after the fact that I chose a major that qualifies for jobs that aren’t resonant with my dreams. As a kid I imagined that I could make something truly revolutionary, now I feel like a cog in a machine. In other words I’d like to be in one of those positions working hand-in-hand with others in the creative process, but I’m getting offers only for positions far removed from the creativity aspects of entertainment. Should this come with regrets about the choice of my College major? Regrets, no, perhaps instead frustrations could help gain new perspective. As long as I can find a way in to a meaningful industry or project all is not lost, because it isn’t one’s occupation that defines them, there’s more to a person than that. Perhaps I can find fulfillment in being an unexpected part of something bigger than my individual dreams.

    Anyhow, I wanted to affirm that it’s a good idea to add skills to one’s portfolio that might make her more marketable for those positions she desires most. Perhaps this might help readers to choose more precisely related to their interests than this one has. Still, in the meantime, to disqualify unexpected roles we might find ourselves in at the present might be unhealthy, for self-centered ambition can cause us to overlook the good we might serve in the world wherever we find ourselves. This isn’t said to nullify desires for personal fulfillment, but rather is to share how I’m finding a sense of peace in the searching process. Let’s say that one lives, never having fulfilled their dream to direct, but is able to serve a valuable function in the making of a film, is this person’s life unfulfilled? Indeed that film might never have been if it weren’t for them, thus the future will value all roles that are served, even those less glamorous.

    Keep living!


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