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I’ll admit, a lot of what motivates me in my writing and coaching can be boiled down to something I’d call “professional outrage.”

I know I’m supposed to be non-judgy and infinitely patient. And I am with my clients because they’re cool people and they deserve that from me, always.

But there are some things that I straight up loathe. (As in, when I come across them, my eyes narrow and my nostrils flame and I acquire a Draco-Malfoy-worthy sneer.) And while there are many things I could hate on, for now I’m going to focus on only one.

When it comes to looking for a job, here’s a sampling of things that ruffle my professional feathers:

Just writing this made me angry.

Because nowhere in that list — and I see these things happening to people over and over and over again — is anyone advocating for YOU.

So much conventional career advice is about you shape-shifting and manipulating who you are to “fit in” and become someone that other people want to hire.

I find every bit of mainstream career advice woefully freakin’ lackluster. And in my professional outrage, I refuse to let it stand as is.

I’ve got a pretty damn good case for why you should NEVER alter who you are to get a job.


So why do we buy into the lists, the bad advice, the “best” practices?

It’s certainly not because it feels good. In fact, I’d argue that in most cases it feels actively bad to mold yourself into what you believe other people want in a prospective employee.

Fear. It all boils down to fear.

We buy into all of it because …

I could probably go on, but I’m sure you can relate to at least one of those. The bottom line is that it’s easy to follow the mainstream advice when you’re being motivated by fear.


I meet most people — clients, people in the PPVE, or even people who just randomly email us — directly because conventional advice has done absolutely nothing for them.

They’re frustrated. They did all the “right” things, they got the job … and it’s still not fulfilling.

I spoke to someone recently (I’ll call her Eva) who compared the job search process to this cartoon she used to watch when she was little. I’d never heard of it, but the premise involved shape-shifting creatures who could turn themselves into anything they wanted — chairs, cars, houses, whatever — and their subsequent adventures.

She told me, “I feel like one of those shape-shifters. I’m constantly trying to mold myself into what I think people want to hear or see, and I’m exhausted. I’m not hearing back from anyone, and I keep getting rejected … I’m not getting anywhere.”

Eva has become an expert, over the course of many years, at following mainstream advice. And it’s let her down.


My guidance boiled down to three words: Stop shape shifting.

twitter-bird If you’re shape-shifting in order to get a job, you’ll never experience real career fulfillment.

Instead, do something that feels pretty radical: Be yourself at every step of the job search process.

This felt scary to Eva. If she’s just being herself … then she’s probably going to get rejected a lot. She won’t be saying the “right” things. She can’t “control” the process anymore.

But it’s going to work for her, and here’s why:

When you’re focused on quality, you’ll spend a LOT more time on just a FEW applications … but that effort is incredibly obvious to anyone on the receiving end.

So, are you bought in? How has shape-shifting failed you in the past? I’d love to hear, in the comments.

Much Love,

Rachel (& Kristen)


A former recruiter tells all (& helps you get hired) with Emily Liou (September 2018)

How to negotiate anything (even if you’re a people-pleaser) with Devon Smiley (May 2019)

A master recruiter shares 40 years of job search wisdom with Susan Levine (July 2019)


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  1. I was thinking about this mainstream advice epidemic recently myself. What I’d gotten really sick of was this attitude that there’s some “technology” to mastering life, like there’s a one-size-fits-all right way to do a specific thing. I’ve seen and heard people in life and on the Internet try to claim there’s a technology to happiness, to becoming a great athlete, to getting a person to fall in love with you, and so on and so on…

    And most of the time, this “here’s the secret, one size fits all tip” fails us, like you’ve mentioned. I’ve had following mainstream advice compromise tons of things for me for the worse, and have found that often, these people giving advice really didn’t know what they were talking about. They just got off on the idea that they were experts because either 1) they were scared of how uncertain and messy the world is, and thought being a know-it-all would make them feel more secure or 2) they had an agenda and wanted to sell people things, or wanted to get their article in a magazine, etc. so they did “what sells” – which brings us back to the mainstream-advice epidemic.

    What I’m finding is the one incontrovertible truth is what your own experiences on the real road of life teach you. It’d be insane to ask for advice traveling a part of the country from someone who’s only imagined and theorized what it’s like, and who then circulates the “secrets to doing it.” In the same way, it’s insane to lean on circulated advice that proposes models of life that the person speaking it found pleasing – rather than measuring the results of what happens to you when you live a certain way.

    Loved this article. 🙂

    1. Thank you for really getting it, Michael. I’m so with you … there’s no way to “hack” life. And you’re right, the people who’d tell you that there *is* such a way are often too afraid of uncertainty to admit that there could be infinite ways to succeed and be happy, and so end up projecting their fear onto everyone else in the form of bad advice. Being really careful about who we take seriously is so important!

  2. Yes! That cartoon was Les Barbapapas! YouTube it :).
    What a refreshing blog. I’m currently doing a job hunt in order to get out of the toxic environment I currently find myself in and your tips reflect the thoughts that have been going through my mind over the past few days. Your post comes at the perfect time and reinforces my belief that by simplifying and being myself will increase my chances to find something that is a perfect fit for me as opposed to having to morph into something I’m not. That’s simply not sustainable in the long run. Thanks for your refreshing blog!

    1. You’re so welcome! I love when our blogs coincide perfectly with what’s going on in the lives of people who read them. 🙂 I think any quality job search will require more patience and faith than most people are comfortable with, but I’ve seen it happen SO many times that when you DO focus on a quality search, you’ll get really quality results. After all, what you put in to anything is exactly what you’ll get out of it.

  3. Seriously, your advice and articles are the best I have read….and I have read a lot! Such a great perspective! And the title….Clarity on Fire….Love It! The word clarity grabbed my attention. I followed the Link and read the article you mentioned….and it was fantastic! Thank you and keep up the great work!

  4. I work in HR and this is spot on! An interview is just as much for the candidate to see if he/she wants to work for the company and manager as much as it is for the company to see if you are a good fit for them Don’t forget that part! We spend so many hours at work, so it is extremely important to choose a job, environment and co-workers (if applicable) that you enjoy.

  5. Pingback: Clarity on Fire

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