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June 10, 2011
The Job-Hunting Triple Crown
There has not been a Triple Crown winner for more than 30 years, and there is a reason. To win a Triple Crown, one must have a special diversity of talents and skill sets: simultaneously being able to dominate a short race while having the endurance for its lengthiest counterpart. Incidentally, that same horse must also be able to find the compromised balance somewhere in between. While it is certainly impressive to win any one of these crowned jewels, the characteristics to win all three find themselves in only the rarest of breeds.
Those of us who have participated in the job hunt over the last few years recognize the similarities between finding a new career path and the challenge of winning a prized nationwide athletic competition. Some will find the similarities in the relative competitiveness while others recognize parallels in the overall determination required. Either way, it is beneficial to make sure that race you are running is suited appropriately for the competitor involved.
The shortest race of the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes. This type of race is won by the sprinter, the one who can get out of the gate fast and maintain a lead even if the horse does not have the greatest endurance for the long term. In this type of race, there is often not quite enough time to come from too far behind. This is the type of person who has the ability to step into the action and complete a task quickly; he or she is instinctive and tends to have the ability to think very well on his or her feet without compromising results. He or she is the type of candidate who is comfortable with a fast-paced, even chaotic work environment, someone who will not second-guess him or herself and are able to muddle through any kerfuffle and still come out in front.
The Belmont Stakes is the relative marathon amongst the three. This race is won by the horse that can continue its stride and power on over the greatest distance. This type of racer is aware of the big picture: he or she is therefore able to conserve and use necessary resources at the right time and in the proper circumstances in such a way that, ultimately, the project will get completed successfully. These individuals have long-term commitment ability and always have the end-goal in their sights regardless of the distance: they are willing to sacrifice and compromise for the sake of an eventual satisfactory outcome. These individuals are able to focus on more long-term tasks and understand the steps required to complete projects with the greatest quality and the best results.
The best balance between the two occurs at the foundation of the tournament: the Kentucky Derby. The winner of this race will not necessarily be the fastest starter or the one who can endure over the greatest interval and distance, but he or she ultimately knows how to get the job done over the course of time. This type of competitor is often a strong closer, one who knows how to make that extra push as it gets down to the wire and ultimately be successful. This person may often be underestimated and more reserved, even very unassuming, but given a little bit of patience, time, and commitment will ultimately generate success. More often than not this person is a very diligent worker without much fanfare: he or she is persevering, knowing and understanding how to recognize the opportunities that will inevitably present themselves and ultimately result in victory.
The ability to land a job that fits your personal skill set is a horse race that many run on a daily basis. The trick, however, may be recognizing the pack in which one should be running. If one is more prone to instant gratification, than perhaps he or she should not attempt a distance race. Similarly, not everyone can handle a fast-paced environment, so he or she should avoid the sprints.
A sprinter will run out of steam and overall quality will suffer when he or she burns out in any race that involves a moderate level of distance. He or she is also unlikely to have the planning and tactical skills that lead towards success. Details will fall through the cracks and everyone suffers.
Without the luxury of time to evaluate, an intermediate may be too pensive to win a sprint and not conservational enough to go the long haul. He or she could potentially squeak out a few short-term successes, but ultimately they will not be able to plan accordingly for a long term.
A distance runner will still be trailing, potentially barely out of the gate in a shorter term. He or she may be too focused on the big picture to recognize immediacy and time-sensitivity that required by the sprint. Similarly, there likely lies an inability to balance reaction speed and persistence, each of which that must exist to generate success in the intermediate distance.
While it is true that there are a few Triple Crown winners lurking in the market, they truthfully are few and far between. Fortunately, there are also very few positions and companies that even require the all three sets of characteristics. Here is where a strong sense of self-awareness and personal evaluation must become one’s preliminary and most essential resource.
The problem ultimately becomes that, if one finds him or herself in the wrong race, there is almost no way to win over the long term. This, ultimately, will create the circumstance where one finds him or herself starting that race over again, and maybe even sooner than one would hope.
So the questions now become:
What type of thoroughbred are you?
For which race are you trying to qualify?

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Jared Kohn is a marketing professional in Tampa, FL who spent five years studying consumer buying behavior with top companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Sprint. More recently, he has developed both regional and national new product launches for Coca-Cola.  Contact him on LinkedIn or friend him on Facebook.
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