Getting a Job With a Voodoo Doll?

Expert: Magic mojo method not superstition so much as finding a way to cope.

September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

March 4, 2010 — -- After a long stretch of unemployment in 2009, Mindy, an office manager, used a voodoo doll to try boosting her chances of getting hired.

Dee, a New York communications professional who was laid off last year, called an astrologer to gain some insight about when she would find work again.

And before heading off to interviews, Jill, a Seattle editor who's been job hunting for almost two years, tried mopping her kitchen with "Do As I Say" Bath and Floor Wash -- a cleaning product that promises to make "others obey your instructions, carry out your suggestions or change their minds to favor your plans."

None of these job seekers consider themselves superstitious or new-agey. But like baseball players in a slump who shave their arms, rub the bat handles of teammates on a hot streak or wear women's underwear beneath their uniform (remember Tim Robbins in "Bull Durham"?), they're willing to try anything to get back their mojo.

Jill, who normally doesn't throw salt over her shoulder or avoid black cats, said she's already tried all the conventional ways to find a job: networking her tail off, jumping on job leads the moment she gets them, tailoring her resume for each position and the like.

But after applying for hundreds of jobs and racking up more interviews than she can count, she decided embracing a bit of superstition just might break her losing streak.

Enter the magic floor wash. When that didn't work, Jill tried another tack: bargaining with a higher power.

"Call it deals with the devil, bargains with God, whatever you want," she said. "I'm trying to show the universe, the gods, whatever, that I'm willing to make this sacrifice. It can't hurt."

Her first sacrifice?

"I went out with an ugly guy for a month hoping it would change my juju," Jill said with a chuckle.

When it didn't, she gave up drinking in the hopes that it would encourage the employment gods to look kindly in her favor.

Forty days have passed, and so far, so good.

"I got contacted by three recruiters this week alone," Jill said.

A Way to Cope

The magic mojo method isn't about superstition so much as finding a way to cope with an incredibly stressful and, at times, painful circumstance, said Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist in private practice in Sharon, Mass.

"When people have been out of work for some time, it's truly a loss -- loss of self, identity and what you thought your life was going look like," she said.

"Bargaining is one of the reactions to loss. Even people who don't normally talk to God, when they've been through a loss, they find themselves wanting to talk to something outside them. That is very common."

Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist who practices in Wexford, Pa., agreed.

"People think, 'I've done everything else, so rather than feel completely helpless and hopeless, I'm going to do this,'" Lombardo said.

"In moderation, that's not a bad thing, especially if it motivates you to keep going out there for interviews instead of curling up in bed in a ball."

For Diane Hansen, who's been unemployed since July, it's not bargains with the universe, but lucky interview shirts, belts and pieces of jewelry that help her get through.

"I buy something new right before the interview," e-mailed the Torrance, Calif. marketing professional. "There's something about [it] that gives me confidence. I walk in at ease and ready. It takes an amazing amount of pressure off of me."

It doesn't matter what Hansen's lucky article of clothing or accessory is, so long as it's new.

"I had four interviews for this one position," Hansen said. "Each time, I brought something new with me. By the fourth interview, it was a bottle of water. I am by no means rich."

Like baseball players with their lucky hats, socks and pendants, bringing a talisman to an interview gives job seekers something they can control in a situation that is wildly uncontrollable, Lombardo said.

"The whole goal is to feel better, to have less stress, and that's their attempt to do it," she said.

Of course, a lucky shirt or tie is no replacement for honest-to-goodness interviewing skills.

"A lot of times, people will go to something -- their magic spirit, that special shirt -- because that's easier than addressing that they're not good at interviews or their resume needs fixing," Lombardo warned. "It's not helpful if you're only relying on that."

The Good Luck Ritual

For Mindy, the office manager with the voodoo doll, embracing superstition while unemployed meant having a positive ritual to focus on each day.

Her ritual?

Sitting with her small "goddess to help you get the upper hand" doll a relative brought back from New Orleans. It came with instructions to light a candle, state "the object of your desire" aloud and concentrate on it for three minutes.

"After a few days, I stopped the candle part but would still spend three minutes thinking about my dream job," said Mindy, who admitted she found the whole candle-lighting ceremony "silly."

But taking a few minutes out of each day to focus on her goal helped her keep a good attitude even when the job hunt wasn't going well.

"It was also three minutes a day that I didn't focus on resumes, and interview skills, and chasing leads and networking with the right people," she said. "I thought solely about what the reward would be, without thinking about all of the obstacles I still had to overcome."

In October, Mindy landed a job she adores.

"Now I keep the doll sitting on the desk at my new job," Mindy said. "I can't say that the voodoo doll helped me get the job, but I can't say that it didn't help either."

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

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist and former cubicle dweller. She is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube". For more information, see

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