• Tamara Harris

The Secret to Avoiding Scams During Your Job Search

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein


Welcome to the Great Resignation of 2021, as many experts have been calling it. The expansion of remote work and the shifting priorities of our workers have caused people to leave their jobs in record numbers across the country. Even with expanded unemployment expected to end in September many experts still believe that this trend will continue.


In some ways, this is a very exciting time for the average worker. I’m not trying to downplay all of the stress, anxiety, and destruction that COVID has wrought, but now, emerging from the pandemic, people who have been diligently working from home have found time to develop new skills, pursue new passions, and realign themselves. The journey from the country baking bread and watching Tiger King to completely turning the job market on its head isn’t one that many saw coming, but it has some pretty significant impacts.


Now if you’re one of the many people looking to break into a new industry or field with all of those skills you’ve developed over the past year and a half, let me start by saying congratulations. Taking that leap, regardless of how prepared you are, is brave. If you’ve been applying to jobs online nonstop, keep it up. I know how tiring and draining it can be to be rejected over and over again. It really is a numbers game when you consider that 75 percent of resumes don't even make it to a human being.


So after being faced with multiple rejections in your job search, seeing that first response email is exhilarating. Someone saw your application and wanted to know more about you. You impressed someone, at least a little bit. It’s a hopeful moment, and it should be celebrated, but it’s also one of the moments I want to talk to you about today.


Hope is not only a powerful emotion, it is also a strong coping resource. It has helped many people get through their darkest times. But if we are not careful, hope can also blind us to a lot of red flags that, in different circumstances, we would notice immediately. With the most people applying to jobs online in history, there has been a myriad of scams emerging. Some are easy to notice. Others are incredibly well thought out and well planned. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter how savvy you are, if you’re vulnerable enough, you can get scammed.


One of the people I work with, a tech-savvy 20-something-year-old, recently talked to me about a scam he nearly fell for and said that I could share it with you. He has applied to hundreds of jobs in his career already and thought he could catch anything a scammer might throw his way. But this time was different. This time it was a job in his dream field that he really wanted. He told me about it and he was over the moon. He had a two-hour-long text interview, had looked over several detailed procedure documents, and had been offered a job at a reputable, giant company.


A week later, the other shoe dropped. It turned out that the whole operation was just a scam to try and get access to his bank account. As he looked back at the materials they sent, they were riddled with spelling errors and weird requests. They hired him after one text interview without even so much as a phone call. The email they used was from a recently purchased domain that mimicked the real company they were trying to emulate. It was just one red flag after another.


He told me that he found a justification for each inconsistency, because when he considered each flag in isolation, it made sense to him. But to an outside observer, it was clear what was happening, and after he learned the truth, he openly admitted what he thought was the problem. He wanted to believe in this opportunity so badly, he wrote off anything that could prove it wasn’t true. He was blinded by hope.


That doesn’t make him a naive person. That makes him human and scammers know human nature. We have all experienced confirmation bias, the tendency to focus predominantly on information that confirms our preconceptions or beliefs, at emotional times in our personal and/or professional lives. But what I think is most interesting is what finally caused him to be able to see the scam for what it was: his friends and family, his support system. As he shared his success with them, they helped him see through the illusion.


So what’s the lesson in all of this?


Scams don’t work because they are good, they work best when we are emotionally and financially vulnerable. They are designed to feed off of our hopes and fears. Scammers aggressively target us in those times when our confirmation bias is in overdrive, when we are most willing to suspend our judgement, ignore our gut checks, and hesitate to ask “too many” challenging questions.


The constant rejection of a job search, the stress of the pandemic, and the uncertainty about the future have put so many of us in situations where we are just scrambling to get by. We don’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to look deeply into every lead and we are all just waiting to jump when opportunity comes knocking. So when a scammer promises you the moon, all you can think about is the relief of not having to struggle anymore: no more struggling to secure a job, no more struggling to pay the bills, and no more struggling to stay optimistic as your savings dwindle or your frustration increases at your current job. You are not thinking about what the scammer will ask of you in order to secure that “incredible opportunity.”


Make no mistake, as we increase our reliance on technology to conduct our job search process, tech savvy scammers have become more efficient and their reach is global. It is important to remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Leaning on your support system during a difficult time like navigating a job search is crucial. Not only can they help support you emotionally, but they also provide clarity when your judgment is impaired.


If you do fall for a scam, don’t take it as a personal failing. It could happen to any one of us at any time. I encourage you to reclaim your power and report it. Share your story with others in order to help them learn from your experience. Scammers are always going to exist, but the more connected and supportive we are of each other, the fewer of them that will succeed.


Do not allow one bad experience to take away your hope for a better tomorrow!


The academy's second course, How To Navigate A Job/Career Change, is launching in August 2021. Be one of the first to pre-enroll and become a member of the Transition Tactician community.

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