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A career coach finds wisdom in a popular online word game
I've never much enjoyed doing crossword puzzles. But this past summer, I got hooked on Wordle.
For those who are unfamiliar, Wordle is a free web-based word game that became wildly popular during the pandemic. Each day, you're given six attempts to guess one five-letter word. The goal is to solve the puzzle in as few turns as possible. It's a fun, challenging and delightfully compelling game.
Recently, it occurred to me that Wordle holds some interesting life lessons. As a career coach, I couldn't help but notice how those lessons relate to a job search. Here are six to consider:
1. Every "no" brings you closer to a "yes." Play on Wordle begins with a blank grid, so your first guess is essentially a shot in the dark. Most days, you'll guess at least a few letters that are not in the winning word, and they will appear in gray; letters that are in the word but not in the correct order are in yellow; letters in the right place appear in green. On each turn, you eliminate more letters and learn which are in the correct spot. The process of elimination makes it more likely you'll solve the puzzle with each turn.
"Rejection is never fun, but it can be instructive."
Job Search Lesson: Rejection is never fun, but it can be instructive. So, pay attention to what isn't working in your search. Do you get more rejections from certain industries or roles than others? Perhaps it's time to pivot to a different but related industry. Is your lack of technical skills an issue? Maybe it's time to invest in skills training. Often, just a few small but strategic tweaks will lead to better results down the road.
2. There can be several equally viable solutions to a problem. When playing Wordle, you'll sometimes guess four out of five letters correctly, and then have to select the fifth letter from several equally plausible choices. For example, a word that ends with ODGE could start with "D" or "L" or "M." When this situation occurs, it's impossible to know which letter is correct and so you need to venture a guess.
Job Search Lesson: In real life, there is rarely one "perfect" job or career. Rather, there are a variety of situations that could be equally satisfying. So think through what you want, and then cast your net wide to generate several "good enough" opportunities. If you find an opportunity that meets 80% of what you're looking for, odds are good that you've got a winning match.
3. Success comes from small steps. Unlike other popular word games, Wordle involves guessing just one word each day. It typically takes less than ten minutes to solve and is easy to fit into your morning routine. It's a fun way to jump-start your day with a quick hit of accomplishment before moving on to more consequential tasks.
"Winning habits evolve from small steps."
Job Search Lesson: Finding time to search for a job can be challenging, especially if you're already working full-time. But there are several things you can do to advance your job search in less than 10 minutes a day: Post an interesting article on LinkedIn, read an industry newsletter, send a note to a friend who was recently promoted or set up a lunch date with an old colleague. Winning habits evolve from small steps.
4. Taking a break can speed your success. Some days you stare and stare at a Wordle board but can't make progress. Yet if you take a break, it often is easier to solve the puzzle when you return. Walking away from it gives you a fresh perspective that allows you to see possibilities that were previously blocked from view.
Job Search Lesson: Breakthrough moments in a job search can happen when you least expect them — while on a walk with a friend, watching an inspirational movie or hiking in nature. So schedule time to periodically relax, refresh and clear your mind.
5. Simple sells. Wordle is remarkably easy to access, learn and play. You don't have to download an app; it has few rules, and you're only allowed to guess one word each day. Thanks to its simplicity and ease of use, millions of players are devoted fans.
Job Search Lesson: When it comes to your resume and LinkedIn profile, practice the old business adage KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. You only have a few seconds to grab a recruiter's attention, so make sure every word counts: Limit the use of jargon and acronyms; eliminate dated skills; avoid fancy graphics that confuse computerized tracking systems and explain relevant accomplishments in as few words as possible.
6. Track what works — and what doesn't. One of the most useful features on Wordle is the color-coded display beneath the playing grid that tracks which letters you've tried and which are still available. The visual makes it simpler to decide on next steps than if you had to rely on memory alone.
Job Search Lesson: A job search involves multiple decisions and action steps, some of which are more effective than others. So keep notes on what you have done and what's working best. It's much easier to see patterns and track results when you write them down instead of trying to just think them through.
Most importantly, Wordle reminds us that no matter how difficult life is today, there is always hope for tomorrow. So even if the job search has you really down, keep at it. As the old lottery ad proclaimed, "You gotta be in it, to win it!"
It’s a confusing and unnerving time in our world.