1. Home
  2. Insights

4 Survival Tips to Avoid Becoming a Zombie (Job Applicant)

woman phone brick casual office

Zombies are everywhere. From TV shows to movies to comic books and even video games, it’s hard not to run into zombies these days. You know the story: the dead to return to life, infecting everybody they bite and causing worldwide mayhem.

Are there zombies in the job market? Definitely!

Not real zombies, of course. Zombies aren’t real.

But in a metaphorical sense, there is such a thing as a “zombie job applicant” — somebody who went on an extensive job search, landed somewhere that ended up being a bad fit and now… they’ve come back to life… on the job market.

Needless to say, it’s a situation worth avoiding.

But while most people know to seek high ground and cover your face in the event of a zombie attack, fewer people know how to avoid becoming a zombie job applicant.

Here are a few survival tips that can keep you from haunting the job market.

  1. Be wary of counter-offers

    Survivors of a zombie apocalypse don’t often move backwards. After a hideout is overrun, they never say, “Maybe we should go back to that abandoned train station to see if the zombies are still there.” Instead, they know it’s in their best interests to move on to something better for their survival.

    The same can be true of counter-offers from a current employer.

    If you’re applying to other jobs, take it as a sign that something about your current position just isn’t right. And if your employer only makes you feel valued after you’ve told them you’re leaving… you might consider running for your life.


    Read more: For more in-depth information about this subject, check out “Should I Accept My Employer’s Counter-Offer?"

    Accepted counter-offers are a common reason people turn into zombie job applicants. According to the Harvard Business Review, over half of people who accept a counter-offer end up back on the job market within 90 days.

  2. Trust your instincts about company culture

    There’s usually a “Don’t go in there!” moment in horror films when a character ignores an obvious warning sign. While dealing with zombies, lack of awareness can be just as big a problem, since knocking over some pots and pans can easily trigger a super-loud crash that will reveal your location.

    While deciding on a position, focusing on pay rate alone and ignoring what your instincts tell you about workplace culture can just as easily turn dangerous. After all, a slightly better paycheck is rarely worth starting every day with that “ugh, not again” feeling.

    Read more: Want to know more company culture warning signs? See “Not Sure About a Company's Culture? Trust Your Gut.

    Before accepting a new job, consider culture as part of your decision-making process. Go in with a clear understanding of your preferences research what it’s like to work there and pay close attention to the signals you get as you walk through the work environment during an interview.

    Your instincts are often dead on.

  3. Maintain positive relationships in the workplace

    After an initial high-budget action sequence, zombie movies soon focus on how well the survivors work together. Usually, it’s survivors from different backgrounds sharing stories and building the trust they need to survive. Good thing too, as arguments and mistrust can often have catastrophic consequences.

    While navigating your career isn’t as treacherous as surviving a zombie attack, you’ll still need to rely on a trusted crew of co-workers, mentors, collaborators and partners. Open communication is key to maintaining relationships and can make the difference between good and bad results.

    Read more: For more advice on making good working alliances, see “Building a Solid Relationship with a New Recruiter.”

    Get in the habit of communicating early and often to make sure the people you work with understand your expectations, and address any frustrations directly with the parties involved. Encourage the same from members of your crew. By being as clear as possible about everybody’s goals and motivations, you can make the right moves without burning bridges.

    After all, how many times have you seen a group in a zombie movie split up, only to have a lost member show up again later and save the day?

  4. Try making a few changes

    Sometimes in zombie movies, after a particularly gruesome turn of events, the hero claims leadership by giving an inspiring speech that motivates the team to stay together at all costs.

    Avoiding becoming a zombie job applicant — somebody who pops back up on the job market relatively quickly after having accepted an offer — is sometimes as simple as sticking things out in your new position for long enough to not be labeled as a job-hopper by future employers.

    That can be a tall order, but there are a few things you can do to alter your perspective, set more clear boundaries or change your circumstances.

    Read more: Want to learn about changes you can make to help you stick it out in a tough situation? Read “Four Tips to Build a Better Workplace Culture” and “Three Ways to Set Boundaries with Your Employer.”

  5. Sometimes taking charge of your situation, making active choices and insisting on a positive attitude can make a big difference.

    If you’re looking for a better opportunity or a better crew, now’s a great time to evaluate your options.