Watching a movie has never been more educational. Here are major job search lessons from High Fidelity.
In 1995, Nick Hornby penned , the story of a music-obsessed man-child counting down his top five relationships after being dumped (again). In 2000, John Cusack starred in a movie adaptation of the book and a cult classic emerged.
The film has serious staying power — and not just for audiophiles. Why? Its lessons about love and pop culture also apply to work, specifically how to find a job that belongs in your list of all-time favorite careers. ( to tweet this list.)
1. Treat your resume and cover letter like the perfect mix-tape
Job search, like music compilations, is a subtle art with “lots of dos and don’ts,” as High Fidelity’s protagonist, Rob Gordon, notes. “You’ve got to kick it off with a killer to grab attention … then you have to cool it off a notch. There are lots of rules.” Your resume and cover letter should be customized for every job you pursue.
With each version, make it easy for hiring managers to from other applicants flooding their inboxes. Lead with a strong, need-to-read intro about your standout accomplishments and in-demand talents. But hold up.
Showing off only helps if you show employers you have their best interests in mind. Job search might seem like it’s all about you, but by focusing on the company’s objectives, you’re much more likely to snag an offer. Rob Gordon finally got the message and made a mix for his ex full of music that would make her happy.
Make your application less about you and more about your audience. That’s how you woo people and get hired.
2. Lust isn’t love — or long-term satisfaction
It’s not just fear of that keeps Rob Gordon from everlasting love. His biggest hangup is the inability to shake that first buzz of instant chemistry with someone new. Even as he tries to win back his ex, he flirts with an attractive journalist over shared music obsessions. “When is this going to stop?!” he screams and ejects the mix he’s working on for this new lust interest.
He knows that eventually they’d run into their own set of issues as a couple. His energies are better spent working things out with his current flame who’s out of his league. Similarly, in today’s job market, it’s tempting to get caught up in a cool company’s shiny perks or new startup smell.
So what if the place involves a two-hour commute, pays less than your serving job and doesn’t include benefits? Here’s what — you might be single, healthy and up for anything, but will you be satisfied at this place in a year? As you get older, will the beer pong Fridays be less tempting than stock options? Are you a good fit or are you both just on your best behavior?
Write down a list of your short-term needs and long-term goals to see if they align with each company before you accept an offer.
3. Turn your passion into a career
Rob Gordon might be all mixed up about relationships, but he struck gold in the career department. He starts by owning a record store where he gets to listen to music all day, then risks it all to start his own label. Of course, he makes a lot of sacrifices along the way — mostly not making the big bucks. often means living paycheck to paycheck.
This is true whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or climbing the corporate ladder (hey, some people are passionate about finance). Start saving money and make the most of lean years by turning every freelance gig or long night at the office into valuable lessons. Find a mentor and hang with people who share your professional interests.
It worked for Rob and his employees: “I hired these guys for three days a week and they just started showing up every day. That was four years ago.” Obsession, when used wisely, can turn a day job into living your dream.
is a freelance writer and Lead Content Strategist for , an innovative EdTech company delivering Career Services software for colleges and universities. You can follow her music-obsessed updates