Working Wounded Blog: Keep It Simple, Stupid

ByABC News
April 12, 2005, 10:43 AM

April 13, 2005 — -- News Flash: Purdue University won the annual Rube Goldberg contest when its team of students took 125 steps to change the battery in a flashlight. And here I thought it was just a matter of unscrewing the top, exchanging old batteries for new and screwing it back together.

I guess any seemingly simple task can be made more complicated. But still, there's something to be said for keeping it simple, and I think I'll stick to my three-step plan next time my flashlight conks out. Sadly, too many job seekers choose the more complex path when looking for a new career.

But before I connect the dots between Purdue's Rube Goldberg-winning team and trying to get a job, let me provide a brief backgrounder on Mr. Goldberg.

The late Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who drew remarkable pictures of complex machines that were designed to do the most rudimentary tasks. The contest is held each year as a tribute to the man and his art.

(BTW, I've heard a rumor that the IRS is hot on the trail of those 125 steps-to-change-a-flashlight Purdue students -- they want to hire them. After all, someone has got to develop tomorrow's ridiculously complex procedures for filing and paying taxes, don't they? And these students should also have career possibilities with whoever designed the unsubscribe feature on most spam and e-mails. I wish I could get my name off most of these mailing lists in only 125 steps! This, of course, is totally unrelated to the subject at hand, but I felt the need to vent. Thanks for indulging me I owe you one.)

Most people who look for work act like they are applying for Mr. Goldberg's contest. They create their own incredibly complex strategies for getting a job. For example, they go to online job boards, they mail out resumes at random, they answer ads in professional or trade journals, they answer local newspaper ads or they go to private employment agencies or search firms. Each of these avenues requires complicated strategies and approaches. For example, each job board has its own hoops that you have to jump through for posting resumes, searching for jobs, etc.

Ironically, according to career guru Richard Bolles -- author of the perennial best seller "What Color Is Your Parachute?" -- the approaches listed above are some of the least successful ways to get a job.

It's not easy to jump from the esteemed Mr. Bolles to bank robber Willie Sutton, but here goes (Sure that is a big leap, but isn't that the sort of thing you expect from a blog, isn't it?) Mr. Sutton, of course, said that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is." Pretty smart, simple insight. And in a job hunt the smart money is always on networking.

But don't take my word for it. Think back to the last time someone you trust suggested a restaurant, or a place to buy shoes or a wonderful spot to take a vacation. Did this personal recommendation hold more weight than reading a company brochure or talking to a stranger? You bet it did.

It is no different when looking for a job. People who are hiring often give extra consideration when someone is personally recommended to them. And often, they'll even overlook a lack of experience or other red flags when the person comes to them from someone they trust.

So don't make your job search too much like a Rube Goldberg drawing. Use your network and get personally connected to the people who are hiring. It's simple, and it works.

Now it's your turn. Get out your soapbox and tell me what you think about this topic below.

Quote of the Week:
"It is the foremost task -- and responsibility -- of our generation to re-imagine our enterprises and institutions, public and private." -- Tom Peters

Weekly Book Excerpt
From The Lessons of Experience: How successful executives develop on the job" by McCall, Lombardo and Morrison (Lexington Books, 1988)

"The five types of hardship executives experienced were:

1. A personal trauma threatening the health and well-being of the executive or the executive's family
2. A career setback involving demotions and missed promotions.
3. Changing jobs, in which some executives risked their careers to get out of a dead end job
4. Business mistakes, in which bad judgment and poor decisions led to failure
5. A subordinate performance problem forcing the executive to confront people with issues of incompetence or with problems such as alcoholism

As research has shown, the recognition and acceptance of limitations, followed by an effort to redirect oneself, are characteristic of successful people in general. It was how the executive responded, then, not the event itself, that is the key to understanding hardships."

The Blog Mailbag
"Our company mandated that all papers posted in our cubicles must have 4 push pins, all equally spaced from each corner. All documents had to be stapled at a 45 degree angle 3/4 inch from the upper left hand corner. Disciplinary action would be taken if we did not follow these very important instructions!""

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:
What do you think of the court cases against former CEOs?

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.