The Science of Chutzpah

Why Being Ordinary Will Stunt Your Career

by Zev Asch

A big part of our reluctance to “deal with reality,” especially after college or graduate school graduation, is a legitimate fear of the unknown. There are literally thousands of resumes for each job opening. The odds are stacked against us and we quickly realize that we are no longer “protected” by school or being a student — we’re on our own and the future, as scary as it seems, is ours to shape and conquer.

How will I get the job of my dreams? Can I make a difference? Will I be noticed?

And the resounding answer is, “YES, YES, YES” BUT….

There’s an old saying that, “A Smooth Sea Never Made A Skillful Sailor,” in other words, if you want to make a difference and an impact in life, dive into the murky, shark-infested waters and fight for who you are and what you believe. The sobering reality for all of us, not just recent graduates, is that no employer wakes up each morning and says, “I have to find Iris a job.”

If you want to get closer to your dream job, you’ve got to fight for it and get noticed, which brings me to the “Science of Chutzpah”. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines chutzpah as, “personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.” This is a kind and gentle definition.

The Perfect 10

After graduate school, I decided it was time for me to find a job that would enable me to implement years of knowledge and great academic training. I noticed an ad by a high-tech firm looking for a marketing director. The ad’s headline was, “We’re looking for a perfect 10” and listed 10 qualifications for the right candidate to get the position. Sadly, I could squeeze just about two: highly motivated and advanced degree in marketing. I researched the company and felt strongly that I could do better and so my cover letter stated (chutzpah) just that: “With all due respect, after reviewing your marketing, I feel strongly that I can do much better.”

I was called for an interview by the V.P. of Marketing, or as he told me, “I wanted to meet the person who had the guts to tell us that.” You see, chutzpah for the sake of just getting noticed is going to get you tossed out of the office. But chutzpah, the courage and confidence to pursue your dreams and the quest to make a difference, is one sure way to get noticed.

Chutzpah isn’t for everyone, but we all have it in us. If you ditch your dependency on others for help and approach your career (and life) as claiming that for which you are entitled and able, you’ll do fine.

Know Your Strengths

Do your homework! Make sure you clearly identify and can articulate what makes you different and better. Stay focused. Write your vision and your goals and don’t hold back. Employers seek extraordinary employees who are focused and confident. Not all, but many employers seek those with a certain level of chutzpah. People who are self-starters, independent thinkers, future entrepreneurs — not “Yes-Men or Yes-Women”

So go ahead and conquer, young and old graduates. And for those, like me, who worked full-time while pursuing an education, don’t compromise, don’t settle, pursue the career you’ve dreamed about in school. It isn’t going to be easy, but a little bit of chutzpah will go a long way toward bringing you closer to achieving that goal.

Zev Asch, Adjunct Professor Of Marketing at Touro College Graduate School of Business

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