Tortoises, Hares, and Morals to the (Job Search) Story


You’ve probably heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. It is an ancient fable attributed to the Greek figure Aesop, who may have lived around 600 BC.

So what does that have to do with your job search? Read on to find out!

Just in case you haven’t heard the story of the tortoise and the hare, here are the key points:

  • The hare challenges the tortoise to a race, thinking he’s got it in the bag.
  • The tortoise accepts the challenge.
  • The race begins, and the hare shoots off, leaving the tortoise in a cloud of dust.
  • Along the way, the hare decides that since he’s so far ahead, he’ll stop for a rest – and he falls asleep.
  • While the hare sleeps, the tortoise creeps past him and crosses the finish line.
  • The hare wakes up and kicks himself squarely in the behind.

Typical of Aesop’s fables, there’s a moral to the story, a lesson to be learned. When asked to name the lesson of this particular story, many people would probably say, “Slow and steady wins the race!”

Well, sort of, but not really.

sleeping hare

It is true that the tortoise won the race by proceeding at his slow and methodical pace. Not speeding, not pausing, but proceeding steadily to the finish line. But, you must also wonder: what would have happened if the hare hadn’t stopped to rest?

That’s a crucial question. If the hare had not assumed victory, and had not stopped to rest… he would have won. Flat out, hands down, no contest. The hare would have won.

But, he did stop, and he lost the race.

So, the moral of the story is not really “slow and steady wins the race,“ but rather “don’t stop until you cross the finish line.” Ultimately, the point of this story is to warn us against complacence, against taking it easy because we think we’ve got everything covered.

When we get complacent and sit things out, we run the risk of losing the race. At the finish line, it doesn’t necessarily matter how fast we are, how good we are, how smart we are, how much we know, or anything else. What matters is who crosses the finish line first.

How Does This Relate to Your Job Search?

This article is a cautionary tale against getting complacent in the search for your next job. This means that you should take nothing for granted, never cut corners, and do everything you need to do in order to cross the finish line.

Listed below are a few hare-like behaviors to be avoided while conducting your job search.

The Hare Doesn’t Network

you must network

He sits at his computer all day, firing off resumes. He has good experience, and assumes everyone should simply understand that from his resume and call him for an interview.

The Moral of the Story: Networking should be a regular part of your job search. Those who network are more likely to get hired, and usually get hired more quickly than those who don’t network.

The Hare Doesn’t Customize His Resume

He has one resume, and uses it for every job he applies to. The hare thinks customizing his resume for each job application is a waste of time, and he has better things to do.

The Moral of the Story: You must target your resume to every single job. For every job application, your resume should immediately communicate the skills and experience that make you specially qualified. Targeted resumes are more likely to get you an interview.

The Hare Doesn’t Prepare for Job Interviews

you must prepare for interviews

He assumes his natural charm will win the interview. The hare doesn’t research the company, or learn as much about the job as he can. He doesn’t practice his answers to interview questions. Instead, he just wings wings it, figuring that will be good enough.

The Moral of the Story: For every interview that you get, know as much as you can about the particular job you’re applying for, and about the company. Prepare ahead of time, so that you can explain to the interviewer why you are such a strong fit for the job, why you want to work at that company, and to provide relevant details about your experience and skills

The Hare Doesn’t Get New Skills or Certifications

The hare thinks his current skill set is just fine, and he shouldn’t have to bother with learning anything new.

The Moral of the Story: Standards, tools, methods, and technologies change constantly, and your skills need to keep pace with current developments. Acquiring new skills and/or certifications will help you be more competitive on the job market.

winning the race

The Moral of the Story

I’d hesitate to advise anyone to imitate the slow pace of a tortoise, but you definitely should not be like the hare in Aesop’s fable.

Do not take anything for granted. Do everything you need to do in order to be prepared for your job search, and competitive in today’s job market.

And don’t stop until you cross the finish line!

Assistance With Your Job Search

The workNet DuPage Career Center offers many services to help those who’ve been laid off. These services range from workshops, to one-on-one assistance with your resume, to the possibility of getting up to $10,000 of funding to help you get new skills or certifications.

Learn More about our Job Search Services »