Skip navigation

3 ways job hunting is like running a marathon


DATE: 22 August, 2017

Now, before you ask me, as matter of fact I have run a marathon. Quite a few in fact. And more than a few ultra-marathons as well. That's anything above the 42.2km standard marathon distance. I've run more than 20 at last count, so it's something I know a bit about. And it was inevitable that I'd find a way to write about running in one of these articles sooner or later. While I'm not particularly good at running marathons, and won't be on the Olympic team any time soon, I have a go and get it done. And that's the first way job hunting is like running a marathon.

You don't have to be good at it, you just have to keep going

It's true. There's a start, a finish, and a bunch of steps you have to take in between. Some people will get there fast. Some will give up and DNF (Did Not Finish). But if you keep going, you'll get there. My first marathon took so long, they were already handing out the prizes by the time I crossed the finish line. But I got there. Keep going, and you will too.

People who spurt cliches deserve a good throat punch. So I'm not going to tell you: It's about the journey, not the destination

But, ah, you know, how about this:

It's all about the training you do, and who you become, along the way.

The job hunting journey

Just like a marathon, job hunting is about the lessons you learn along the way. During your journey. Because here's the thing — not many people just turn up to the start line of a marathon and run. Most people, and certainly the smart ones, do a whole bunch of training in the lead up to it. So in a funny sort of way, the 42.2km isn't actually the race, just the final 42.2kms of a much longer race. One that usually starts months earlier. And job hunting is the same.

If you think of your interview as the marathon itself, there's usually a whole lot of work that gets done in the lead up. And you know what? Just like marathon training, if you approach it with the right mind set, that ‘training' is making you smarter and stronger.

You're learning how to deal with rejection and frustration. Something that will come in handy when you land your job. You're learning to be resourceful. Also vital for any job. You're learning to connect and engage your audience. To communicate and convince. If you're going to be in advertising, marketing, or a similar field, those things will all be critical skills to have as well. And you're learning to persist when you really want to give up. An awesome thing to develop for your job. And for a marathon too, by the way. You know, just in case you want to run one of those sometime.

How many miles will you run on your way to your next job?

I can't even begin to imagine how many kilometres I run when I'm training for a marathon or an ultra, but it's a lot. Sometimes 75+kms a week. For months in advance. That's a lot of kilometres. Because that's what it takes.

At my little company, I sometimes ask people to come up with 100 ideas for a brief. Yes, 100. Because more often than not that's what it takes to come up with a really good one. It wasn't my idea to ask people to come up with 100 concepts, I stole it from somewhere. And we rarely get to the full 100. But it reminds everyone not to stop after three or four or even a dozen, which a lot of people are inclined to do. So I set an expectation that there's a lot of work to be done before we get to the finish line. We go and go and go until we get there. And that idea can be pretty easily translated to job hunting.

Imagine if your brief was to get a job, (which it is), and you knew in advance you'd need to come up with 100 applications, (which you may well have to!). Same thing. And seriously, if you're not landing a job after applying for 100 jobs, you probably need to take a good long hard look at how you're applying or the kind of jobs you're applying for. But if you go in with the expectation you have to do that much work in order to get the result you want, you'll be a lot less frustrated along the way.

When I've run races, I've gotten blisters, cramps, I've thrown up and even ended up in the medical tent on a drip once. But I've always kept going and finished. Except the time I was heli-vac'd out of a 200km mountain race in Nepal. To this day, the only time I didn't make it to the finish line. Although technically, I still did. After I got out of hospital, I spent two days travelling to the finish line in the back of over crowded local jeeps and buses with chickens and goats to cheer everyone else across. Because sometimes that's what it takes to get to the finish line. So keep going. You'll get there eventually. Blisters, cramps, chickens, goats and all.