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August 31, 2012
Best of TZM: Why Preparing For A Job Search Is Like Going Through Airport Security
The other day I was at Portland International Airport, headed to Orange County, CA for a speaking engagement, and in one of those crystalline moments, a striking similarity suddenly dawned on me.

Standing in the security line, it was an interesting array of people who were preparing to head off on separate journeys.  Some people were dialed in to what was needed to prepare for the trip, and for others, it was painfully obvious this was not something they were familiar nor comfortable with.

The odd similarity I discovered is that going through airport security is just like preparing to launch a job search.

1. If you don’t know how to pack for the journey, you’re going to be in trouble. Knowing what to bring and how to plan for it can either make or break your journey. Bringing the wrong things can sideline you just like being pulled out of the line by accidentally packing a sharp object. Just ask the lady in front of me who forgot about some shears she packed into her carry-on! Job seekers, in turn, must understand what they need to take with them from other jobs (accomplishments and wins), and what they need to leave behind (anger or other emotional baggage).

2. Efficiency matters. Savvy travelers already have their laptops out of the bag, keys in the dish, and shoes in the tub so they are ready to go through X-ray machine; people that haven’t traveled in awhile are the ones fumbling ineptly at the last moment to retrieve anything that might set off the detector. For people who haven’t job searched for awhile, if you don’t know what you are doing, you’re going to slow yourself down while you fumble around.

3. If you meet the criteria, you’ll get through to the other side. Hitting “send” in submitting a résumé means that it likely passes through an applicant tracking system software the same way you pass through the airport metal detectors. If you meet all the criteria, you pass through to the other side. 

4. Treat people badly, and you can expect the same. The brusque businessperson about 10 spots in front of me didn’t need to be snarky when dealing with the TSA agent checking his I.D.  But he was, (apparently, he was in a big hurry) and that earned him an extra close screening from agents. Same thing goes in a job search: if you are in a hurry to get where you are going in looking for a job, be careful about who you might trample on along the way. They could become an obstacle.

5. Who you say you are has to match with reality. When reviewing my I.D., the TSA agent double-checked my face twice against me (standing there) and made notations on my boarding pass indicating that they had validated my identity on the ticket. When conducting a job search, it is imperative that you keep your personal brand consistent and true to who you are. People can sniff out fakes quickly!

6. If you have nothing to fear, keep cool if questioned in-depth. For the folks that are pulled aside for closer screening, don’t get defensive. Take it in stride. The TSA agent wanted to learn more to satisfy their concern. If you are concerned about yourself, that too will also show whether you are standing in the security line or sitting in an interview setting. If there is nothing to fear, then just let the process take place and you’ll emerge on the other side.

What other similarities have you experienced in launching a job search that might be like going through airport security? I’d love your thoughts!

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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