Are you in the Kobayashi Maru job search simulation?

Hello Job Stalker readers … while I’m out of town for 6 days at a client’s location (revamping their web sites, and doing a social media “bootcamp” for their volunteer group), Gordon Dymowski has volunteered to pick up the slack and come up with an extra post for this weekend … leave him some comments, he’ll like that!

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As many of you have probably guessed after reading these, I was a guy who watched television and saw movies. A lot. So many of the ways in which I approach job seeking is framed by popular culture. In short, I’m a typical member of Generation X (the demographic, not the punk band), whose experience has been shaped by what he’s viewed.

Whenever I face failure or lack of success, or I have been frustrated in my efforts over a period of time, I do what many people I know do – sit down and watch Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

In the movie, we learn that Captain James T. Kirk is one of the few Starfleet cadets to beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation – a no-win scenario that served to test a cadet’s character in the face of defeat. However, we also learn that Kirk won…by reprogramming the simulation, and receiving a commendation for original thinking. (As well as being the second Job Stalker post with a blatant Star Trek reference). Granted, many of us will never captain a starship, but we are often faced with no-win scenarios….times where we feel nothing we do is right or effective. So how do we work our way out of it?

One of the key skills that I’m developing is an ability for lateral thinking – ways in which to succeed and ‘change the conditions of the test” (as Wrath of Khanframes it). Lateral thinking means sometimes throwing away the “rule book’ and taking a decidedly different approach to problem solving. (Given my non-profit/social service background, it tends to come slightly easier for me). It means that maybe instead of focusing on the obvious aspect, taking the time to make a more radical, instinctual approach.

A great tool to use in breaking creative (and thought) blocks are the Oblique Strategies, a series of cards co-created by musicial/producer Brian Eno, which are designed to help ‘think differently”. Although originally intended for use in more creative matters, these strategies are also good when confronting a job-related block. Questions like Should I revamp my resume? or Why isn’t my networking going well? get seen in a different context, allowing a job seeker to reframe and/or refocus on some aspect of their job search.

These strategies are admittedly abstract, and will not provide an easy yes or no answer. However, they do provide a way of thinking differently – this has been a busy week for me, with several projects starting up and ending in rapid succession. It has made for a little bit of intellectual “dead air” – looking at a blank screen and not knowing how to proceed. Thankfully, consulting a web site generated from the Oblique Strategieshelped me move towards a different way of thinking.

(Much in the same as, say, the classic Magic 8-Ball toy.And yes, I have one of those as well).

Even though it seems like a non-sequitur, learning how to rethink the job search not only helps keep the freshness and enthusiasm, but also becomes a critical job skill in some fields. Hopefully, there’s been a little something to help you, the reader, along – it may not be a concrete recommendation, but there’s a benefit to thinking “outside of the box”….or more appropriately, reinventing the box.

Please feel free to leave a comment, or connect with me via LinkedIn or any other social network. Until Wednesday, as always….keep reading!


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