The Barbell-Shaped Job Hunt

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You don’t want middle benefits for middle cost. That’s a death sentence. Wal-Mart or Bespoke. Taco Bell or steak house. None of this Applebee’s shit.

At least that’s true in several big important areas.

Take hiring for an open position. There are two ends of the candidate spectrum that can work.

  1. The person who won’t try to get the job at all
  2. The person who tries like hell with the most amazing pitch in history

Who doesn’t get hired? The person who submits an application like everyone else. They signal that they don’t care if the job happens to them. They can’t even bother to not want it. They have zero way to signal anything else. They sit in a giant middle cluster of unread resumes.

Person #1 is a candidate the company wants based on their reputation. They have to actively recruit them, and convince them to consider the role. This person is already doing something else valuable and needs to be sold on taking this new role. Employers will do anything they can to make the decision easier. No apps, resumes, forms, interviews, just direct call to convince them. If you are provably valuable enough at doing something others want, you won’t ever have to apply for anything. People will recruit you. That’s hard, but a big enough brand and reputation makes it true.

Person #2 realizes they aren’t person #1. But they also realize they are competing with person #1. Most applicants to jobs think they are competing against other applicants, and they think the way to win is just like you win in school: follow the rules and don’t stand out. They are totally wrong. Person #2 gets this. They must create something so interesting and valuable that they get into the conversation with person #1.

This uneven barbell shaped distribution happens elsewhere too. In a startup, founders kind of think of investors this way. You either want VCs who bring nothing but money to the table and don’t try or pretend to “add value” or take any of your time, or you want investors who add so much freaking value it’s insane and worth any time they take. You don’t want investors who bring some money and a little value and eat a medium amount of time. That’s a killer.

Jobs themselves can be like this. A totally thoughtless job just cranked out for the cash so you can do other stuff off the clock or deeply meaningful work that you never put down are both pretty useful depending on contest. Middling work that occupies medium mental space and brings medium rewards is a silent killer.

You want a cheap A to B car, or something truly exciting. You want a roof and four walls without maintenance or a dream home. The effort and energy spent on medium medium stuff is like the taste of nothing. Not even exciting enough to give an adjective.

Get so valuable that you are on one extreme. Until then, be so cheap/different/interesting that you can win on the other.

Go to to launch your career.

Written by

CEO of, founder of Praxis.

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