Executive Careers Blog

Job Search Lessons From "Jaws"

Source: jawsmovie.com

Jaws is one of our favorite movies.

So much so, in fact, that we routinely pepper our normal conversation with lines from the movie.

Luckily there are job search lessons to be had, so we can write about the movie and you can “catch” your dream job.

Power of storytelling.

Remember how drawn in Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss were to Robert Shaw’s story of the capsized submarine in shark-infested waters? Jobseekers, you need to get your interviewers similarly engaged. I don’t mean to imply you need stories of secret missions (unless you have them — I did have an ex-Israeli commando tell me about his Afghanistan rescue mission). But you do need to enrapture your audience and have specifics. When Quint (Shaw’s character) talks about the soldier floating in the water…and he had been cut in half at the waist…you get the scope and the scale of what they were dealing with. Tell stories, be specific.

Power of opposite thinking.

I thought Hooper (Dreyfuss’ character) was done for when Jaws crushed his underwater cage and he had to swim out. I imagined he’d swim up in a vain attempt to get away. Instead, he dove deeper and hid till it was safe to reappear. In the job search, sometimes you don’t want your job aspirations in plain sight (remember not every networking contact is about you, you, you, and your job search). Oftentimes, you need to dive deep, establish a relationship by getting to know your target, and reappear at the opportune moment.

Power of focus over size.

You don’t need a bigger boat, just good aim. When Brody (Scheider’s character) sees Jaws for the first time up close, he remarks, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. Many job search candidates think they need the big boat – a brand name school, lots of resumes sent, lots of job postings. Instead what you need is to focus on your target companies and use the resources you have to penetrate them. If Brody can get the big shark with a shotgun while perched on a sinking boat, you can slay this job market.

Power of mastering key job search skills.

Quint was the only fisherman that used “piano wire” to catch the really big sharks, and it worked. The other bozos were throwing their wife’s roasts off the docks. Brody got the help he needed when Hooper came to the island from the Oceanographic Institute on the mainland. So don’t hesitate to consult someone who knows what they are doing and that includes Career Services and perhaps Career Coaches. They will ensure that your resume, interview skills and pitch are where they need to be.

Power of Research.

After Brody was slapped by the Kintner boy’s mother, he read everything he could about sharks. He learned that most attacks occur in just 3’ of water and that territoriality was probably more of a reality than a theory. So learn everything you can about the company you are interested in. Check your career services library or college on-line resources for any and all information about your company of interest. Read the Vault Guide on your company/ industry of interest. Ask career services for a list of alumni that work in that company or in that industry. Search LinkedIn and ask everyone you know if they know someone at the company. Conduct a Google Search which will send all news items directly to your email.

Power of Not Biting Off More Than You Can Chew.

The shark made a fatal error when it tried to swallow the air tank whole. Brody was then able to kill it by blowing it up. Don’t network unless you know how to do so effectively. Observe others that do it well and learn from them. Don’t rush into an interview situation if you aren’t ready. There are many introductory things you need to do before interviewing. These include assessing and knowing your strengths and weaknesses, researching various companies, and preparing your marketing materials. You should practice with a friend, or a career coach because they can give you the feedback you need to improve. In this market, you have to shine at every contact with the employer.

Once you land your dream job, you will no doubt be tired. So you can then sing: “Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed.” Happy job hunting!


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio is a career coach and co-founder of  and has worked for the bluest of blue chips for the past 25 years. Her companies include Citigroup, Pfizer, and most recently as the COO of Campus Recruiting for Merrill Lynch. Connie also co-authors a career blog for Vault.com.

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