Bart Simpson University

At the risk of sounding like a Bart Simpson groupie, I have to tell you about my favorite episode of “The Simpsons.” Of course, I’ve only seen three or four. Here goes.

The show begins with Bart’s sister Lisa trying to come up with a science project for a school report. She decides on a test to determine who is smarter, Bart or a mouse. The test involves a treat rigged with an electrical current to shock whomever touches it. For the mouse, it’s a block of cheese. For Bart, it’s a cookie jar. Lisa allows the mouse and Bart access to their respective treats and then counts how many times each is shocked before realizing the problem and giving up. For the mouse, it only takes one or two shocks before he hangs up his gloves. Bart is another matter, however. A good chunk of the episode is devoted to watching Bart getting shocked over and over again. He’s so focused on getting a cookie, he’s unable to see how pointless his efforts are. Instead of applying his energy towards getting a different snack, he keeps at the cookie, never learning or adjusting. The closing shot of the episode shows Bart with his shaking hand hovering over the cookie jar and getting ready to give it another try.

That episode stuck with me because it reminded me of what I see all too often with job seekers. They allow themselves to be beaten and battered over and over with strategies that aren’t effective and don’t generate results. The focus on the prize is so intense, little attention is paid to the means of winning it. Many swear they’ve tried everything with their job searches. When I quiz them, more often than not I find they too are hovering over an electrified cookie jar and reaching in over and over again. I don’t see them foraging through the cupboards looking for other options. And they wonder why they hate looking for a job so much?

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