Updated: Mar 19, 2020
I asked my friend the poker expert what separates the poker pros from the rest of us. He recited four characteristics that enable the pros to consistently win.
As he explained each point, I realized the mind-set and behavior that make a great poker player can make you a great job-hunter!
Here are 4 things you can start doing right now to act like a pro, gain an edge on your competition, and land the job you want.
Professional poker players study the game and research the competition before the tournament. During the game, at every step in the hand, they know the math and the odds of receiving the cards they need. Having studied the opposition, they play the player, not the cards. Every decision is calculated with the odds and opposition in mind, even bluffs. They also realize the other players are doing research too. They ask themselves, “What does he think I usually do in this situation?”
Job-seekers can act in a similar manner.
Research yourself. What is your DiSC type or your MBTI type? What are your values, strengths, weaknesses? As Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (or job interviews!).
Research your target occupation. What are the usual duties and responsibilities? What is the average salary? What are the necessary skills? What is a typical day like?
Research your target company. What is their reputation? What are their values and do they align with your own?
Research the people you shall meet for interviews. Have you read their LinkedIn profiles? Know anyone in common? If so, ask for info on their management style and anything else they you deem important.
Understand the long odds of gaining a job by applying online versus through networking. Read some books on networking.
2. Be patient
Poker pros understand how playing poker for a living is a grind. You spend a lot of time doing nothing, folding your hands and waiting for good spots. It can become quite boring rather quickly, especially on days when you’re getting almost no playable hands whatsoever. It’s tempting to start playing when you know you shouldn’t, because you can’t take it anymore. But to be successful, you need to wait for your spots. Lose patience, and you’ll be heading for that exit sign sooner than you thought.
Job-seekers: The job-hunt can be a long, boring grind. A good job-search includes making good marketing materials (résumés, cover letters, business cards), a heavy dose of networking (meeting people), and applying for jobs. It can quickly grow tiring.
There are no short-cuts. You may get lucky and be in the right place at the right time to meet someone who wants to hire you right away, but don’t count on it. Be patient; do your research; network.
3. Be Disciplined and Stay Focused
Some professional poker players view Discipline and Focus as the most important factors for long-term success. Discipline tells a player to make good folds when frustrated, reminds the player to put in more study time; and to leave the table when a game isn’t worth playing.
Focus enables players to ignore distractions, concentrate on the hand, and keep their eyes on the prize. With focus you see the situation more clearly.
Job-seekers: Discipline and Focus are critical. Without them you may forget your job is to land a job; you may forget it’s a grind, and thus, lose patience. You could grow lazy and distracted.
With them, you’ll do better at crafting your cover letters and customizing your résumé. You’ll stick to a routine that supports the job-search, including doing lots of research. You will be patient. You will make better decisions.
4) Deal Positively with Adversity
Poker players win very few hands. They lose some and fold even more. While the folding can grow boring, it’s the losses that really hurt, especially when one suffers a bad beat. That’s when you make the correct decisions; the odds favor you; and you lose when the other player makes bad decisions and wins against all odds. Aargh—he got the inside straight!
The ability to bounce back and carry on is critical for a poker pro. That ability is just as critical for the job-seeker.
You thought the phone screen went great. You nailed that interview. Why haven’t they called?
You expected an offer; they emailed a standard rejection.
These are the job-seekers’ bad-beats. You really thought you had it. Now, you feel like crap.
How well do you handle adversity? Can you bounce back? Do you have emotional resiliency--the ability to "roll with the punches" and “forget the bad beat”?
Research by Sociology Professor Ofer Sharone indicates resiliency is possibly the single most important success attribute for a long-term unemployed job-seeker. Resilience gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. You need it, because job-hunting is one of the most stressful long-term activities we will ever experience. If you gain emotional resilience, you’ll have an edge on many other job-seekers.
To sum up, here again are the 4 poker player attributes you must master to job-hunt like a pro:
Act intelligently; perform lots of research.
Be disciplined and stay focused.
Deal positively with adversity.