Surf’s Up: What Surfing Can Teach You about Your Job Search

I am a surfer, or at least aspiring to be one.  Recently, I was out on my board on a day with few good waves and plenty of downtime to ponder this addicting sport and life in general, and began to realize that there are many parallels between the job search and surfing.


Like the job search, surfing depends as much on one’s skill and experience as it does a host of conditions that we have zero control over.  Weather.  Crowded surfing areas and beaches.  Wave size and frequency.  Swell direction.  The list is endless, just as it is when you are seeking a new job in a competitive market or industry.


Once you have decided to get in the water (or start looking for your next career opportunity), you paddle out and try not to bump into others.  In the job search, this can be those baby steps that are really critical to overall success, such as writing your resume, crafting solid cover letters, beefing up your LinkedIn profile, and letting people in your network know that you are open to a new opportunity.


Experienced surfers will have multiple boards to choose from to suit their mood or the conditions. Savvy candidates will do the same. Perhaps your “board” will be resumes that highlight different skills and career objectives depending on the jobs you are interested in, or cover letters that will be the differentiator. Knowing yourself and the tools that are available to you is key to success.


Like choosing the right job to apply to, choosing the right wave is key.  It would be physically and emotionally exhausting to paddle out, attempt to get in the right spot at the right time, pop up, and stay balanced if surfers went after every wave that came along.  Be selective so that you are fresh and energized when the right one comes along.


Hang ten.  Surfs up.  Cut the curl.  These are not sayings that you will hear on a golf course, tennis court, or basketball court. They are specific to the sport of surfing. An industry will have its own language and catch phrases.  Do your research so that you can communicate better with the people you are interviewing with and gain their trust and confidence.


Enjoy the ride, even if it is not the perfect wave.  There are days that I get out on the board and I am just not feeling it, but I still enjoy being out there.  The same can happen in an interview when the job and company look great on paper, but in the light of day you just do not feel that spark.  Relax.  Every interview is good practice and experience as well as a chance to expand your network.   Surfers talk about catching the perfect wave, but in reality we try and try and keep getting back on the board, even after falling or not doing our best.


Having a good instructor helps.  Even the most experienced surfers sometimes need a fine tuning on their technique, someone who can help them to look at their style and approach and make suggestions.  In the job search, working with an Executive Recruiter can be invaluable, as we will take a fresh look at your resume and help you to identify the skills and experiences that you should highlight in the interview.


Ultimately, you may need to try a few waves before you find the ideal one, but in the end, there is no feeling as satisfying and euphoric as catching that perfect wave.  The same holds true for the job search.  Keep at it, and you will catch the right job and have the ride of your life.

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