Job seekers

6 lessons older job seekers can learn from Wordle

By Nancy Collamer, Next avenue

I’ve never really liked doing crosswords. But last summer, I got addicted to Wordle.

For those who don’t know, wordle is a free web-based word game that has become very popular during the pandemic. Each day you have six attempts to guess a five-letter word. The goal is to solve the puzzle in as few turns as possible. It’s fun, challenging, and delightfully compelling.

Recently, it occurred to me that Wordle holds some interesting life lessons. As a career coach, I couldn’t help but notice the connection between these lessons and a job search. Here are six to consider:

1. Every “no” brings you closer to a “yes”. The game on Wordle starts with a blank grid, so your first guess is basically a shot in the dark. Most of the time, you’ll guess at least a few letters that aren’t in the winning word, and they’ll appear gray; letters that are in the word but not in the correct order are in yellow; the letters in the right place appear in green. With each round, you eliminate more letters and learn which ones are in the correct place. The elimination process makes it more likely that you will solve the puzzle each round.

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 releases of certain industries or roles than others? It may be time to move on to a different but related industry. Is your lack of technical skills a problem? It may be time to invest in vocational training. Often a few minor but strategic tweaks will yield better results down the road.

2. There may be several equally viable solutions to a problem. When playing Wordle, you 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 in ODGE may start with “D” or “L” or “M”. When this situation occurs, it is impossible to know which letter is correct, so you have to take a guess.

Job search lesson: In real life, there is rarely a “perfect” job or career. On the contrary, there are a variety of situations that could be just as satisfying. So think about what you want, then expand your network to generate several “good enough” opportunities. If you find an opportunity that meets 80% of what you are looking for, there is a good chance you have a winning match.

3. Success comes in small steps. Unlike other popular word games, Wordle involves guessing a single word each day. It usually takes less than ten minutes to solve and is easy to incorporate into your morning routine. It’s a fun way to start your day with a little accomplishment before moving on to bigger tasks.

Job search lesson: Finding time to look for a job can be difficult, especially if you are 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 recently been promoted or set up a lunch date with a former colleague. Winner habits evolve in small steps.

4. Taking a break can accelerate your success. Some days you stare and stare at a Wordle board but you can’t progress. Still, if you take a break, it’s often easier to solve the puzzle when you return. Stepping away from it gives you a new perspective that allows you to see possibilities that were previously blocked.

Job search lesson: Decisive moments in a job search can happen when you least expect it – on a walk with a friend, watching an inspirational movie, or hiking in nature. So schedule time to relax, refresh, and clear your mind periodically.

5. Simple sales. Wordle is remarkably easy to get into, learn, and play. You don’t need to download an app; it has few rules and you are only allowed to guess one word per day. Thanks to its simplicity and ease of use, millions of gamers are devoted fans.

Job search lesson: When it comes to your resume and LinkedIn profile, practice the old KISS business adage: Keep it simple, stupid. You only have seconds to capture a recruiter’s attention, so make sure every word counts: Limit the use of jargon and acronyms; eliminate obsolete skills; avoid fancy graphics that confuse computerized tracking systems and explain relevant achievements in as few words as possible.

Pay attention to what employers like

6. Track what works — and what doesn’t. One of Wordle’s most useful features is the color-coded display below the reading grid that tracks which letters you’ve tried and which ones are still available. The visual makes it easier to decide what to do next than if you had to rely solely on memory.

Job search lesson: A job search involves multiple decisions and action steps, some of which are more effective than others. So take notes on what you’ve done and what works best. It’s much easier to see the patterns and follow the results when you write them down instead of just trying to think about them.

More importantly, Wordle reminds us that no matter how difficult life is today, there is always hope for tomorrow. So even if the job search really gets you down, keep going. As the old lottery ad proclaimed, “You gotta be in, to win it!”