The Stockdale Paradox and Your Job Search

The August 2020 unemployment rate dropped to 8.4%, but it’s still more than double our pre-pandemic rates from earlier this year. If you’re out of work and struggling to find a new position, you’re in an employer’s market, with the competition being high.

How you approach your job search can be as individualistic as you would like. Some people apply for hundreds of jobs blindly and hope that their hard work in getting past the applicant tracking system (ATS) will be the special sauce that will win them the prize.

Even though estimates are that only about 5% (and that’s the high end of the scale) of online applicants land a job, people keep pouring their time and resources into doing what they know.

Before spending time and energy on a job approach, what is your plan to make it through being unemployed?

Showing up at a computer and staring at a blank screen isn’t a plan. Nor is using a scattershot approach of applying for dozens of jobs online.

Stop a moment and take time to build your foundation. Your mindset and how you approach your job search is key to your success.

Back during the Vietnam War, James Stockdale survived torture and imprisonment as a prisoner of war. When asked how he survived, while others did not, he gave this explanation: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose —with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

He went on to share that those fellow prisoners who hoped to be “home by Christmas” would put all their faith into the date, but when Christmas came and went, they “died of a broken heart.”

For Stockdale, he knew that he wouldn’t be home by Christmas, but that he would survive and eventually be freed.

What does Stockdale’s story have to do with a job search?

We are currently in a pandemic with high unemployment rates, a once-in-a-lifetime Presidential election, and a reckoning in the United States on social justice. No one can adequately predict what the next year will bring for our country (or the world). And although a job search does not in the least compare to Stockdale’s harrowing story of torture and imprisonment, we can still learn from him and apply what he taught to overcome a crisis.

The brutal fact is that we won’t have all our economic, social justice, and pandemic-related problems solved by Christmas. However, we can have hope that eventually, the country will stabilize.

To make this more personal: you may not have a job for the next five months, but eventually, you will land a new job.

Understanding the Stockdale Paradox will help you prevail.

Once you come to terms with the challenges ahead, you then need to create your plan.

Your new work is to find employment, and how you do that is up to you.

A quick search online will net you the top ways to find a job. There’s no secret in the ways to find a job; however, perseverance and resourcefulness are a whole different matter.

Just as a financial advisor will recommend a diversified approach to invest, the same is true for your job search.

Talk to people, network, and reach out to other professionals and ask for a 15-minute informational interview call. And when that doesn’t work, consider alternative ways of finding a job.

Finding a job will take time, patience, and a lot of work. The more irons you have in the fire, the better.

If you’re struggling on where to start, here are some daily recommendations to repeat each and every day:

● On your first day out of work, make a post for LinkedIn that lets your connections know that you are out of work. List a few of your last job achievements and share with everyone what you’re looking for in your next position. After day 1, share a tip or article to help others in their job search. Make sure that you use hashtags to get more eyeballs on your posts.

●     Meditate. Seriously. Make time to settle your mind. If you wanted to run a marathon, you would need a training plan; the same is true of your mind.

● Each day reach out to 1-2 LinkedIn connections and let them know that you’re looking for work, would appreciate any recommendations of people to speak with to help you find a job and let them know that you will gladly help others in return.

● Exercise. Walk, run, do something to get your body moving. If getting up is a challenge, practice chair exercises.

● Set up daily job search alerts, review the listings, and apply for relevant jobs (after seeing anyone in your network works at the company).

● Read books to learn something new in your field and/or listen to podcasts (and then share this information on LinkedIn).

● Attend online professional networking sessions/webinars. The Great Careers Groups & BENG has dozens of thought-provoking webinars. Sign up for one, meet new people, and connect with everyone on LinkedIn.

The list above is only a high-level overview and is simply a recommendation. Once you settle on what works for you, write the list up on a whiteboard, and after you complete them each day, check them off.

The most critical tip to help you find your next job is a deceptively simple one: Be open-minded.

Schedule one-on-one calls or Zooms with people you met in a webinar, consider opportunities that you might not have thought of in the past, and talk to as many people as you can. The more people you connect with, the more chances you’ll have in finding an opportunity.

Most of the time, jobs won’t fall into your lap, but if you are persistent and willing to talk with people, an opportunity will eventually present itself to you. The secret isn’t really much of one: Be persistent, helpful, and positive.

Remember, you make your own luck.

Author Bio

Ron Vitale is an accomplished director of digital project management and has successfully overseen the launch of more than a dozen websites and is currently seeking employment opportunities.

His colleagues have come to know him as a diplomatic problem-solver with a proven ability to envision people’s web needs and then launch viable new web-based systems on time and under budget.

Ron is also the author of more than 15 fiction and non-fiction books and uses his author career as a platform to learn new technology and online marketing techniques. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Career Education Organization Receives Award as They Help Job Seekers
Even nonprofits that help job seekers can scale as a small business.

Help job seekers is the answer! The question is … as a small business owner, whether a for-profit or a nonprofit, what do you do when you want to scale your business? How do you get help so you can help others?

First, let’s define what scaling means. According to SCORE, “Scaling a business means setting the stage to enable and support growth in your company. It means having the ability to grow without being hampered. It requires planning, some funding and the right systems, staff, processes, technology and partners.”

SCORE provides further details for these five steps to accomplish scaling:

  • Evaluate and Plan
  • Find the Money
  • Secure the Sales
  • Invest in Technology
  • Find Staff or Strategically Outsource

Let’s add a few more challenges. Let’s say you are a nonprofit and have little to no money, you just built a website to begin to monetize, are volunteer-based with no employees (yet), and have emotional attachments to what you do. Now what?

How do you get out of your own way and get a fresh set of eyes to have someone review your business? How do you get helpful advice and recommendations?

Contact SCORE, of course! There are chapters across the country, so you can find a chapter near you to get help and request FREE mentoring sessions!

Although I volunteer for more than one SCORE chapter, there is one particular SCORE chapter I want to highlight today, which is Chester & Delaware County SCORE.

Why? Not only have I been a SCORE volunteer on the SCORE speaker’s bureau since April 2013, but I reached out to SCORE to request a mentor as a small business owner.

I got great ideas from my mentor, Frank Millheim, that I shared with my Board of Directors and steering committee to scale. Our success story and others written about this 10th-anniversary awards celebration will be added to this Google doc.

Register for the virtual celebration.

The annual celebration for the small business award winners is on Thursday, September 24, 2020, from 12 to 1 PM, and it’s virtual, so register here.

Thank you to Citadel Credit Union for sponsoring this 2020 event and honoring me with the 2019 Community Hero Award.

To let my network know about this award and ceremony, I will be leveraging LinkedIn and will also be driving traffic to my website. Could you do the same for your business with your story?

Here are four tips of what you can do on LinkedIn, even with a free account:
  • Publish a full article on LinkedIn or write an enticing first paragraph on LinkedIn that makes people want to click your read more link that leads them to your blog, which drives traffic to your website. Or include your BIO with website links in the article.
  • Share short posts with a link to your article or blog on the feed on your homepage. It’s best to post on your company page and then share that company page link (three dots at the top right) on your home page. LinkedIn’s algorithm likes it when people stay on the platform longer, which is a way of accomplishing that.
  • Share short posts in groups following the same technique as above, but sharing the link from your company page.
  • Include a native video in your post (rather than take people off LinkedIn to Youtube or Vimeo), so they remain on LinkedIn longer. Again, the algorithm will like it more if people stay on the platform longer. Speaking of video, watch the 3-minute video about my SCORE story on our home page or our Youtube channel.

This article was originally published on,, and

BIO Lynne M. Williams

Lynne M. Williams, Ed.D. Candidate is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group, an all-volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides career education and networking connections for: 1) jobseekers in career transition, including veterans and 2) employed and self-employed for career management. In addition, Lynne is also the owner of Around the Clock Executive Helper, a writer of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Lynne presents unique research-based workshops on LinkedIn, resumes, the Applicant Tracking System, the Art of Networking In Person & Online, and other career-related, social media, and technology topics. She is currently working on writing her doctoral dissertation and is a contributing author to Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing the Job You Love along with the late Dick Bolles, the author of What Color is Your Parachute?. In addition, she writes a weekly career column in Vista.Today Montco.Today and Delco.Today and other publications with LinkedIn tips and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn at with a personalized message and visit the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group website and read our SCORE Success Story!

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