March Madness: What College Basketball Can Teach You About the Job Hunt

By Melissa Ripp
Marketing Coordinator, Drake & Company Staffing Specialists

BasketballsSimilar to our obsession with the Olympics (which we wrote about a few weeks ago on the Drake blog), Americans seem to love the March Madness of college basketball. A recent survey estimates that over 176 million Americans tune in for the flurry of games each year, and of those, 50 million participate in March Madness pools, either within offices or as part of friendly bets with friends.

At Drake, we had a record 16 participants in our March Madness pool. After two tumultuous weekends of upsets, overtimes, and many surprises, we are down to a handful of us that have a chance to win (those of us who were smart enough to put Wisconsin in our Final Four, for starters). However, that’s the best part about March Madness – you never know which team is going to win on any given day. In that way, these tournaments – and the countless hours of practice and games that are put in to get teams to this point – aren’t so different from a job search or an interview process. If you’re currently searching for work, keep these strategies in mind:

Be Bold with Your Picks

According to a recent survey, over 50 million Americans will participate in March Madness office pools. Of that number, a majority of those participants like to bet on the underdogs. For many of us, it is part of our psychology—we like to see a person (or team) defy the odds.

Use this “underdog” mentality in your job search. When you peruse listings and see one that might not be an exact fit, but it’s an area in which you have expertise or one you’re looking to get into, go ahead and apply. Tailor your resume to the position by highlighting your skills, your education, and your willingness to work quickly—and use your cover letter to further outline why you’ll succeed at the position.

Prepare Yourself for a Long Road

43 games are mathematically possible in an NCAA basketball season if you count pre-season tournaments and March tournament games. Add in a player’s academic responsibilities, and it’s an extremely packed schedule for a number of months.

Job searches can be difficult for a number of reasons. If you’re employed and looking for a job, you might be balancing family, volunteer, and education commitments in addition to your work responsibilities. If you’re unemployed, it can seem like a long, drawn-out process.

No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum, make sure to shake up your search process if things start getting stale. Attend networking events, use online tutorials to brush up on your skills, update your LinkedIn profile, or meet with a friend for coffee to gain a fresh perspective. Regardless of where you are in the process, know that there is an end in sight—and that part of the job search is not always having control over when it will come.

Keep Your Composure, Even Without the Win

March Madness—or really, any professional sports championship situation—is gut-wrenching. Some of the players on those courts are seniors that may never play basketball professionally. Perhaps a long-time coach is retiring. All of these factors, heightened by an all-encompassing desire to win, can take a toll emotionally, and it’s not uncommon to see a coach or a player in a post-game interview with tears streaming down his or her face.

Similarly, it’s a huge bummer when you’ve gone in for two, three, or even four interviews at the same company and then be told that they’ve selected another candidate for a position you really wanted. However, before you get too frustrated, be sure to keep that composure and thank the potential employer for the opportunity. It’s this small gesture that might have you in line for a similar position down the road.

Keep these strategies in mind for your job search, and next year, you’ll be in prime position to win your office’s March Madness pool.

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Melissa RippMelissa Ripp is the Marketing Coordinator at Drake & Company, a staffing firm based in Madison, Wisconsin. Drake & Company specializes in temporary, temp-to-hire, and direct hire administrative, clerical, and legal placements. For 36 years, Drake has reached beyond skills and qualifications to match candidate personalities with a company’s culture. You can find Melissa on Google+, and you can find Drake & Company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.