The Job Hunter

By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger

The first, most critical step in a job search is to identify the job that you most want to do. Now, there is a subtle assumption lurking in that sentence: that there is a job that you want to do. For far too many people, the job search is doomed from the start, because the truth is that there isn’t a job they want to do. For as much as they need a job, they really don’t want one. So I’m making up a new term for them. They are not really job hunters, but “job needers.”

Sometimes the job needer has a very real conflict between the many demands in her life. (This hits women much harder than men.) She has taken off several years to raise her family, or to take care of a parent, and now she needs to go back to work to help pay the bills. But the demands of homemaking are no less real, and she’s having a very hard time seeing how she can spend however many hours a week at work and still keep up at home. From the moment you meet her you can sense the discomfort. And any potential employer is going to sense it, too.

I’ve seen résumés that tell of jobs that don’t last very long. The job needer tells me that his last boss was anti-Semitic and he had to quit. The one before that treated him so unfairly that he complained to a higher-up, who fired him. And he has an interview next Monday, but that certainly won’t work out because that boss is a friend of his old boss who is surely saying lashon ha’ra about him, and on and on. . . . See the pattern? It’s always somebody else’s fault; there’s nothing he can do.

A lot of hard-working, talented people lost their jobs in the downturn of ’08—’09. And many ended up taking lower-paying jobs that didn’t fit their skills at all. They ended up with a triple whammy of a job they hate, a salary that doesn’t pay the bills, and atrophied skills that give them no way out. And, for good measure, a spouse or caring friend that urges them, “Be a man. Just stick with it, do what you have to do, be glad you’ve got a job . . .” So they come to see me and they say they want to get back to their field, and we draw up a plan. Which goes nowhere. Because the truth is that they’re scared. They’re scared that they can no longer compete, that someone who should help them will let them down, that it just won’t work.

Then there is that tenure-track adolescent known as a “slacker.” Some go through the motions of job search; some don’t even try. Lacking a work ethic and a drive to succeed, slackers get called many things. “Employee” is not one of them.

Anyone who has not been able to find the job that’s right for them should be looking for guidance. Not “expert advice” that leads down the same dead-end streets, but real insight that opens new options, that reveals a “pathway” never seen before. But they must also carefully consider their own motivations and attitudes that may be leading them to failure before they even start. That’s how a “job needer” can become a real job hunter, ready to take the steps that lead to success. v

Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at

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