Editor’s Note: This blog is an adaptation of a chapter in “‘Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!” by Skip Freeman.
In previous blogs we’ve examined a variety of the substantive, “nuts and bolts” methods and approaches you can use to create and maintain the “brand” that is you. In this blog I am going to take a slightly different, rather unique approach and share with you a method that not only will help you establish and maintain your unique “brand,” but one that will also help you prepare your mind and your spirit to effectively meet the challenges that lie ahead for you in your job search. The method is known as The Daily Misogi, which is actually an ancient Japanese cleansing ritual once practiced by Japanese Samurai warriors.
To be sure, in the days of the Samurai warrior, it was literally a “kill or be killed” existence. Make no mistake about it, in today’s fiercely competitive job market, it is, at least figuratively speaking, essentially the same thing when it comes to your economic well-being and survival. Every contact you make with a potential hiring manager or company, every email and every phone call you make to advance your job search makes an impression (good, bad or indifferent). Taken together, how well (or how poorly) you create and implement such contacts during your job search therefore becomes your personal brand. Obviously, you’ll want to ensure that you are perceived as someone who is unique, different—and better!—from other job candidates.
If you’re anxious about the possibility of losing your job, have actually lost it, or you’re simply so fed up with your current job that you feel you must immediately find a new one, you quite likely have a very strong urge to take action! Now! This is very understandable and a very human reaction under the circumstances. You want to pick up the phone and call a recruiter, contact people in your social and professional networks. You want to hit the job boards and start sending out résumés by the dozens, if not by the hundreds! You’ve got to get something going, and you’ve got to do it now!
My advice: STOP!
It is absolutely critical at this point that you take the time to collect your thoughts, to get adequately prepared and to formulate your plan. Oh, and did I mention that you will also want to make sure that you properly brand yourself before rushing headlong into today’s job market? Who are you, really? What do you have to offer a potential employer? What are your unique skills and talents? How are you different from other candidates who will be vying for the same positions as you? Chances are, if you haven’t ventured into the job market lately, you will be hard pressed to answer such questions well, and answer them well you must, if you hope to be successful in today’s brutal, ultra-competitive job market.
Applying the daily Misogi to your job hunt
The majority of us start each day with at least some general plan regarding the activities that we would like (or have) to undertake. But most of us don’t fully prepare our minds and spirits for the day. Oh, some of us may start our day with prayer, reading a holy book, or even by going to a religious service. But how many of us really ever stop to think deeply and quietly about the issues of the day ahead and make a definite plan of differentiating activities?
Back to the Japanese Samurai warriors for a moment. Each day, before dawn, these warriors would get up, sit cross-legged and sharpen their swords, often for a couple of hours. Did their swords really need to be sharpened for two hours? Of course not! While it may have appeared to the casual observer that the warriors were merely sharpening their swords, actually, they were really “sharpening” their minds.
Since, as I said, the Samurai warrior lived in an essentially “kill or be killed” world, each day he would narrowly focus his mind in order to visualize the day ahead. He would analyze the results of previous battles. He would visualize victory. He would do “success/failure” analyses. What must he do to replicate past successes? What had he learned from past failures?
Preparing for the “job hunt” each day requires this same kind of intense focus and daily preparation of the mind and spirit. And once you find your next position (or even if you are currently employed), you would do well to continue such daily preparation. Before the start of each new day’s activities, you should quietly and deeply reflect upon and then set “drop dead” targets and/or goals, i.e., those things that you positively, absolutely must accomplish, as a minimum, for the day. Equally importantly, you should also quietly and deeply reflect upon the targets and/or goals you set for the previous day.
Ask yourself this: “What successes did I achieve?” “How do I replicate those successes?” “What failures occurred?” “How do I learn from those failures?”
There are two types of failure: Honorable and dishonorable. Honorable failure means that you didn’t achieve your objective(s) for that day. However, you analyzed the failure(s), discerned lessons, applied them and simply collapsed on “the battlefield,” exhausted, having failed, but still knowing that you didn’t “surrender.” Dishonorable failure means one of two things: Either you didn’t learn from your failures or you simply surrendered (quit) before completing the task(s) (“drop dead” minimums) that you had set.
How I practice the daily Misogi
Here is how I practice the daily Misogi. When I get up in the morning it is still dark. The coffee has automatically brewed. I savor the aroma. I stumble downstairs and pour a large cup, groggily make my way back upstairs and turn on the shower as hot as I can stand it. I get in the shower, sit down with my legs crossed, let the hot water flow on my neck and back, and I slowly sip the coffee. (Taking care not to let water from the shower get into my cup, of course!) I am still groggy and sleepy. I let my mind wander. I think of the known issues of the day ahead. I think of the successes and failures of the previous day.
After sitting in the shower for about twenty minutes, suddenly the synapses in my brain start firing rapidly, “dots” are instantly “connected.” Ideas surface that I hadn’t previously thought of. Solutions to persistent problems seemingly occur out of nowhere. My mind and my spirit are on full steam ahead by the time I exit the shower.
None of these things would likely have happened had I merely jumped out of bed, hopped in for a quick shower, dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee and made a mad dash to get out the door and head for my office. For what? So I could quickly fire up my computer and check my email, taking the day largely as it unfolded? Or, another way of putting it: I would be letting the day seize me rather than my seizing the day!
This isn’t magic, of course, or any kind of “voodoo.” It has, however, proven to work remarkably well, time and time again, for me, and it can also work for you! Actually, it wasn’t until just the last couple of years that I learned that the practice (now a habit!) actually had a name—Misogi. (Some “purists” may debate me on this and say that I am not actually doing a Misogi. But again, the point is not what we call it. The point is that we do something each day to prepare our mind and spirit for the day ahead!)
Misogi – a whole new way of preparing for the day
Again, Misogi is different from praying, reading a holy book, or a “how-to” or motivational book. This is a practice of intensely focusing on the day ahead and the specific tasks that must be accomplished, in light of both the successes and failures of the previous day, in order to develop creative solutions.
So, whether you do what I do or get coffee and just go sit in a swing or rocking chair on the porch, find a way to spend about twenty minutes waking up slowly, keeping your eyes closed and truly, thoroughly contemplating the day ahead. Consider some “hard” questions/issues such as these:
• What interviews do I have today?
• If I don’t have any interviews, what must I do to start getting them?
• How do I best follow up on the ones I have had?
• How do I identify new companies and hiring managers to contact?
• What can I do today that is unique versus the other “job hunters” out there, so that I will be perceived as adding value to a potential employer?
Performing a daily Misogi has helped me uncover the secrets for successful hiring. I began asking myself questions such as these: “Why didn’t the candidate we represented get the job?” Or, “Why was the offer so low?” “What happened to enable the offer to be so high?”—higher, actually, than any of us imagined? By letting the brain ponder such things in solitude and quietness, solutions and answers can come together that most of us probably would never otherwise think about! In essence, then, practicing the daily Misogi has allowed me to shape and define my “brand” as an executive recruiter. It can accomplish the same thing for you as a job hunter. Give it a try! I strongly suspect that you will be surprised—and delighted!—by the results.
Note: Want to keep track of your daily Misogi activities? You can download a form (Word document) that allows you to do that. Simply click on this link:
Select “Daily Thoughts (Misogi)” and download the form to your computer (assuming you have Word, that is).
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.