Offense, Defense, Whyfense: How We Got To The Defensive Job Search

Last Column I put out the theory that there’s Offensive and Defensive job searches, and we may want to focus more on “offense” and active career planning and pursuit.  This begs the question – if my theory is correct (let’s assume I am of course) then how did we end up in a state where there was so much defensive job searching – or when it became such a bad idea.

First I think that people have often played defensive with their jobs because that’s where the money is.  There’s an inherently conservative approach to where the cash-flow is.

Secondly, I think for years (but not the last 20 or so) that people often didn’t worry career-wise as much as they do now.  Paths were more defined.  Companies had promotion systems.  The economy hadn’t been ruined by morons.

Third, though I feel that people got more “careerist” 20-30 years ago, more aggressive (coinciding non-coincidentally with globalization, the tech booms, and ideas about economic ownership), this didn’t last a long time.  I think people need to be more “On Offense” in careers, but the idea we’re all Internet-dot-bomb era super-go-getters who lapsed is terribly wrong.

Fourth, then we had repeated economic meltdowns all engineered by various “go-getters” who were unethical, greedy, and ignorant.  Also, probably ugly.  Anyway, you then had people playing Defense on careers because we kept having dot-bomb meltdowns, economic collapses, and of course finally the big ol’ financial meltdown.

Of course people play Defense a lot – they always have, they didn’t have to in a lot of cases, and any era of super-careerist go-getterism was short and got wiped out by the big economy-go-booms of the last decade or so.

So now we’ve got to play more Offense and I don’t think the “cultural infrastructure” is really there for it.  But it’s time – we don’t have much choice, and I think more active engagement may let us solve the problems.

Kind of makes me wonder if we’d had more people on Career Offensive if they’d have stopped some of these problems – and how many aggressive people actually helped cause them . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at