Don’t Let an Assumption Kill Your Job Search or Its Progress

fender bender


Chief is going to get a new truck because someone is going to hit his.

Let me clarify two things here. First, Chief is the boyfriend. He is a Chief in the Navy hence the moniker.  He has waned back and forth about getting a new truck. It is time for an upgrade, he’s done a lot of research but yet he hasn’t pulled the trigger just yet.  Second, I am not willing or hoping for this accident; I just noticed a pattern and realized someone hitting his truck will be the catalyst in pushing him into that decision.

Every morning we go to the gym at an ungodly hour. On our way back, we pass a school. Sometimes, if we are running a bit late, we pass by when parents are dropping off their kids early. The road in front of the school bends to the left, which takes us back home.  Immediately before the bend is an entrance on the right into the school. Most people leaving this entrance turn left, crossing in front of us.

I noticed almost every single person leaving the school assumes we are turning into the school and therefore whip out in front of us. We have had several near misses. Even using the turn signal indicating we are turning left, they still whip out there. I can understand the assumption as this is not a well-traveled road and most people would assume the only ones on this road are parents or teachers heading to the school.

This is a dangerous assumption and at some point, I am going to look down from the truck and see the hood of a Nissan stuck in my door.

My brother helped me learn how to spell assume with the little tidbit of “never assume, it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’”. Yes, I know he didn’t make it up himself, but he was my big brother and one of my heroes so I’m giving it to him.

This tidbit got stuck in my head forever. It has helped me beyond remembering how to spell the word, it has been a sage piece of advice.

I normally find I assume in two situations. One, when I am being lazy.  I make a quick evaluation of facts, act quickly to save time and if I was wrong, telling the other person that ‘I just assumed’ is my half-hearted apology.   The second is when I am fearful. I assume I didn’t hear back because they didn’t like me.

Some things I think are in our general nature to assume. Face it, if you see a seven-foot tall man walking down the street – doesn’t the word ‘basketball’ immediately come into your mind?  People make assumptions about me all the time based on my size and height. That’s fine. It’s pretty harmless.

But when you make assumptions during your job search, it can be like looking down at a Nissan buried in your door.

Just because you had a great interview, do not assume you are a shoe-in for the job. Follow up with a thank you maintaining professionalism and interest.  They may be assuming you are no longer interested in the position because you have not expressed a continued interest after the interview.

Just because you have not heard back from the interviewers, do not assume you did not get the job.  There may be an internal snag in the process or the decision makers have to focus on another priority at the moment. You just do not know.  Reach back out respectfully and professionally to remind them of your interest and ask if you can provide any additional information for their consideration.

Just because you landed the job, do not assume that you know everything to know about it. Every job, even if it is a lateral move, is an opportunity for growth and learning. You are the new kid; take a look at this environment with fresh eyes. Take it all in to see where you can improve yourself or the system.

Just because you are not employed, due to termination, downsizing or your choice to leave, do not assume this is a negative for the next employer. Life happens. Companies downsize and people are let go. Sometimes we recognize it was a horrible place to work. As mentioned before, every job is an opportunity. Find the positives in that last one and speak from that perspective. Do not bad-mouth anyone or any company. It comes across as bitter.

Just because you are on either end of the age scale – too young or too old, do not assume you won’t or can’t get hired. Everyone has valuable qualities to bring to an organization. Youth brings fresh perspective, a willingness to learn, adaptability, more of a mindset that anything is possible. Age bring maturity, life experience, ability to stay calm during storms having been through them before and patience. 

Just because you have only done this one thing throughout your career, do not assume you cannot change careers. The skills you developed in that one thing are probably a good match to another field. Take a step back and analyze what it takes to do the new thing. What are the underlying skills needed to complete the tasks? Communication, relationship building, working with cross-functional teams, organization, some financial aspects? Now take a look back at your old thing and see how you used these skills. That is your common denominator and the value you bring to the new field, industry, company.


Give yourself a break. Before you act upon that assumption, take a moment to ask yourself where is it coming from. Is it a bit of slacking or a bit of fear? If either of these are the root cause, take a deep breath and either ask the question or take a more bold action.  This can save you a lot of headache, heartache and damage to your vehicle.




A little about me: I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career, position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

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Stop Assuming

Dunce CapI think the phrase “Don’t assume it makes an ass out of u and me” was meant to help remember the spelling, but it also hold a pretty valid point.


Making determinations which lead to actions based on assumptions are normally not a good idea.  That’s because we are naturally inclined to lean toward the negative assumption.


I’m sure I didn’t get the job.

I’m sure they are not interested.

I’m sure they are looking for more than what I have to offer.

I’m sure I won’t get it so why try.


What is amazing to me is assumptions normally start with “I am sure…”  How can you be sure – you are assuming!


You don’t have all the facts, you have what you think, but you don’t really know unless – here’s a novel thought – you ask.


Now in job searching you cannot always just be so blunt and say, “So are you going to hire me or what?”


But you can open the lines of communication and continue to keep them open.  Ask questions, not just about you but about them.  When are they looking to fill the position, what are the most important qualities they are looking for in the next candidate, where does the department or company want to go in the next 1, 3 or 5 years and so on.


Ask the questions, don’t just assume.  Your assumptions are excuses for your fear to talk you out of going for an opportunity.


Yes, fear drives assumptions.  I’m afraid and therefore I am going to come up with an excuse to talk myself out of potential failure, pain or looking like a fool.  I’ve already covered the fool part in yesterday’s blog.


I still make assumptions and that is when I have a wonderful best friend who gently reminds me that I am doing so and points out that I do not have all the information; perhaps the words and deeds are not matching so it is causing confusion and therefore I am trying to fill in the blanks.


I love her to death but some days I really just want to smack her.  It is more comfortable in my assumptions.


Don’t always go by the actions, they can be misleading.


Remember, you have a stake in this – if it is important to you than you owe it to yourself to find out.


If you are not willing to open those lines of communication than stop whining, it really isn’t that important after all then, is it?


Isn’t it better to know for sure rather than walk away with that nagging little thought behind all those assumptions, “yes, but what if they are….”



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

Try Listening

I was given a Kindle for Christmas and I’ve been having a lot of fun browsing books. I love the description of one I saw yesterday regarding dog training: “Learn how to talk to your dogs.”

Hell I have four dogs, I know how to talk to them – I need to know how to make them listen!

Then it hit me – it’s not always how we talk to people sometimes the problem is how we listen. Taking it a step further problems arise when we stop listening or never listen to begin with.

We hear what someone says and we assume what they mean. You know what they say about assuming….

One rule that I discuss in detail with my clients is to ask clarifying questions. If you are in doubt – ask! This is a limited opportunity to shine so you want to make sure you are addressing the correct ideas, issues or questions.

It is easy enough to do – simply state, “There are a couple of ways that I could interpret that question, just for clarification do you mean X or Y?” This shows that you are engaged, care about what you are talking about and give thought to your answers rather than trying to brown nose.

Sometimes when we hear a statement we assume it is a finite end. For example if an interviewer says, “Right now we are not in need of an XYZ.” It could be easy to think this is the end and walk away with your tail between your legs. However if you were listening you would have caught the “right now” part. Go ahead and ask, “Do you see that changing in the near future?” or “What factors could affect that?”

If you are listening you will know what questions to ask to get to the answers you seek.

Listen to the visual clues as well, but remember don’t assume there either. I remember seeing someone walking out of an interview and they seemed very chummy with the interviewer. I immediately thought, great, my chances are shot. I was wrong. It was their sister’s boyfriend asking for tips before he interviewed with someone else in the company.

We are so quick to misinterpret non-verbal communication because we make it a sport. It’s called people watching. I love people watching! I’m going downtown tomorrow to experience all the pre-Super Bowl festivities and you better believe half the fun will be the people watching.

Because it is a natural past-time of so many of us we regard it lightly and just assume what we see is what it is. Wrong. Making assumptions can cause you to miss out on opportunities. Sometimes it just makes you look like an ass. When in doubt – ask.

The interviewer leaning back in their chair, crossing their arms and looking at you intently after you answer a question does not necessarily mean they did not like the answer you just provided. Perhaps you said something that they had not thought of and they need a moment to digest it. For goodness sakes fight the urge to fill the empty space with more talking. Give them their moment – they will continue and then you will have clarification.

I have fun with people making incorrect assumptions. It is right up there with people watching. When I was in compliance I had several brokers assume because I was petite and a woman that I was meek and not very knowledgeable about the business.

It would have been very easy for me to go on the defense and immediately start the conversation with grand statements and bold gestures to let them know exactly who I was and what I knew. That would have been a career killer.

Instead I let them talk and assume. I let them lead the conversation and watched their body language. I let them grandstand, talk down to me, make assumptions and just waited. When they were done laying it out as to what they thought it was and would be I waited for the pause to let me know they were done.

Then I professionally and politely informed them of how it truly was, what needed to be done, the best course of action to complete it, the ramifications if it were not done properly, the benefits of doing it correctly, how I would help/guide the process and how we would start, implement and complete the process successfully. I win.

If there were a challenge that appeared later they knew not to make the same incorrect assumptions about me again and we worked beautifully together.

I get it personally, too, always have. I grew up a tomboy and most of my friends have always been men. In college I was the “little sister” to the first floor, a diverse group of great guys who looked after me as if I truly were their little sister. It scared away a lot of dates – not always a bad thing.

While my son was growing up his father and I attended every practice, program and game that he participated in together. For years most of the parents didn’t realize that we were divorced because we arrived together, sat together, talked, and left together. He lives a couple of blocks away from me so to us it made logistical sense to go together. The fact that we became good friends after the divorce meant that we could easily have conversations. And the most important fact of our son is our first priority made it all make sense to us.

Getting back to my point – be aware that it is not always that someone is not communicating clearly with you, it may very well be that you are not listening clearly to them.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.