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Career Curb-Appeal: Job Search Lessons from HGTV


I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a sucker for HGTV. I love settling in for marathons of House Hunters, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper and scores of other house-related shows. There’s something strangely appealing about watching people search for their dream home in Malibu or renovate their mid-century modern in Kansas City.


I won’t call it a guilty pleasure, because, believe it or not, I’ve learned some very valuable career lessons from HGTV. What I've learned after hundreds of hours of HGTV is that buyers abhor uncertainty and will either put off buying or will require a big discount to overcome the associated risk.


I’ve learned some very valuable career lessons from HGTV.

Hiring, like buying a house, can be fraught with risk. Organizations make a tremendous investment when they hire a new employee. Interviewing takes time. Once a candidate is hired they need to be trained and introduced to the people they’ll work with. They may need to meet and form relationships with clients. And all this happens before the new employee ever starts creating value for the company. If the new hire doesn’t work out, a lot of time, money and political capital will have been wasted.


I’ve heard this refrain hundreds of times: “All I need is for someone to take a chance on me — once they hire me, they’ll see I was worth the risk.” At times in my career, I’ve said these very same words myself. It was very frustrating when I was ready to move up and it seemed like no one was willing to take a chance on me. However, I understood it much more clearly once I became a manager. Given what is at stake for the hiring manager, most aren’t keen on “taking chances” without ample evidence that it will pay off.

Given what is at stake for the hiring manager, most aren’t keen on “taking chances.”

This is where the lessons from the HGTV gurus come in… When a home owner is trying to sell on a home on HGTV, the professionals will advise the seller to get their home ready for the market — clean it up, de-clutter, paint, cut the grass, get new carpet, and even pay a company to “stage” the home. This allows the home to be shown to potential buyers in the best possible light. It eliminates the need for potential buyers to overlook the stains on the carpet or the neglected garden. When a home looks like it’s “move-in ready," buyers are inclined to believe what they see and want to buy.


Alternately, when home owners list their homes “as-is” and make no investment in fixing up the home before listing it, the home is typically sold at a big discount. The uncertainty of potential problems is priced in. The beauty of many of the programs on HGTV is that experienced real estate and building professionals will examine a fixer-upper and can tell if the issue is just cosmetic or if it's an expensive fix. Your average buyer doesn’t have the time or expertise to do that and therefore shies away from buying “as-is” homes. They just want to close, move in and get on their life.

Like the average home buyers, most hiring managers don’t have time to examine each candidate’s potential in any depth. When candidates hope that a hiring manager will “take a chance” on them, what they don’t realize is that the hiring manager is like the home buyer that just wants to buy a “move-in ready” house. Having to take the time to hire a new employee is a huge disruption from their day-to-day job. The last thing they want to do is take a chance on someone, not have them work out and have to go through the ordeal all over again AND have to repair any damage to their reputation that the poor hire may have caused.


Invest in yourself to reduce the perceived risk of hiring you.

So what can you do if you’re someone who wants to pivot to something new or you’re a new graduate who doesn’t have any professional experience? Invest in yourself to reduce the perceived risk of hiring you. Learn to tell your story in a concise and compelling way, spruce up your resume, get your LinkedIn profile to all-star status, get some additional training in areas where you have gaps, go to a stylist to make sure your image fits the role that you’re aiming for -- in other words, get yourself some career curb-appeal.


If you’re not sure what blocks are standing in the way of your career goals, hire a professional. Like a realtor advising a home owner on how to get their home ready for market so it appeals to the largest number of buyers, a career coach can help you get yourself “ready for the market” so that you're also in demand. Let me know if you can use some help with your career curb-appeal.

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© 2018 Terry B. McDougall