Success and Progress in #JobSearch

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Yesterday I was at home, Netflixing a television show I’ve come to love, and I heard this bit of advice, “Life will knock you down more times than you will ever image, so you can’t knock yourself down.”  It came when a high school junior didn’t want to attend college interviews because she felt she always ruined her good opportunities. What seemed at first like depressing reality ended up being motivating wisdom.  If you don’t believe you can do something, or succeed at something, why would anyone else believe you could?

This ties in to job search and any other career struggles we may face.  If you don’t believe you’re the best person for the job, is that same feeling becoming apparent to your boss or the hiring manager conducting the interview?

With all of the troubles life throws at you, don’t have your own negative self-talk be another obstacle. Success comes from trying.  You can’t fail if you don’t try, and sometimes the greatest successes come after what seems like the biggest failures.  I could share the countless times I’ve felt like I completely messed up in my career- some experiences ranged from being too young to understand professionalism with proper communication, and some have just been downright embarrassing- and although it might make some of you laugh, it would detract from my overall message.  The point is it was during those points that I really began to shape who I was.  We have the freedom to make choices; in how we act, what we say, how we treat others- and those choices influence our opportunities.

Routine means both a regular schedule and unsurprising, predictable, and monotonous.  If everything always runs smoothly, there will never be a reason to change or analyze your actions.  How we recover and progress forward from the obstacles in our lives, professional or otherwise, will shape the course for the rest of our lives.  That is why when you’re job searching, it is most advantageous to keep a routine, but vary the ways you job search every day.  If while you were working, you woke up at 8AM every day, continue to wake up at 8AM every day.  If you went for a run every other day at 2PM, keep doing that.  During your job search hours, switch the activities.  Perhaps one day you can complete applications, and another you can work on your resume.  You could take a free workshop on interviewing techniques at a local job center, and later on attend an industry networking event.  Maybe every Friday you attend a job search club as well.  Keep a routine, but don’t make your job search routine.  You have to vary the ways you market yourself to get results, and part of that comes from trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone a bit, and not being afraid to fail.

If networking in person or writing an email to someone you’ve yet to meet gives you some anxiety, then meet with a career advisor or research best practices so you don’t try to “go in cold.”  Education is one of the biggest ways to gain confidence because the more you know about a topic, the more comfortable it is to approach that topic.  If you’ve had a bad experience at a potential networking opportunity, remember that we consider an experience “embarrassing” when we think we are not meeting our own standards of what is acceptable.  There’s no need to over-apologize for embarrassing moments, but try to learn from it or laugh about it.  We are our harshest critics.

It’s okay to be afraid, and you have to put yourself out there to get noticed.  Just don’t let the fear of something going wrong stop you from doing anything you want to do.  Things will go wrong.  Something always does.  The question is, will a failure set you back from progress, or will you keep trying?  Success is temporary, but it makes all the struggles in between worth it.

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It’s not your experience, it’s your ringback tone…

……….Imagine you have to make over 50 phone calls today, calling applicants to try and schedule an interview.  Most people don’t pick up, so you have to leave a voicemail.  You’re sitting there, halfway through the pile that feels like it will never end, and now… you have to listen to 3 minutes of reggaeton with the same bass thuds of every reggaeton song you’ve ever heard.  Ringback tones!  Now in a bad mood, you still leave a message instead of just hanging up like you want to.  Then you call the next applicant.  No answer.  Howling songs of how “my woman/dog/goldfish” took off and other country music standards that just… aren’t anything similar to what you would choose to listen to.  That’s it.  Missing a standard ring, you just hang up, choosing this as a simple screening method…………..

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In previous positions, I had to contact hundreds of people at least once monthly.  Overall, I listened to a lot of reggaeton and country.  Even classical music grew irritating, and I know I sound absurd right now, but if there is one thing that is a simple fix in a job search, it is not spending money on a ringback tone.  What you enjoy may not be what a hiring manager enjoys, and it’s best to keep it professional.

…This is all coming from the girl that had a sketch from the Jerky Boys as her voicemail message until a hiring manager told me he thought it was, “Hilarious, but wildly inappropriate if giving my number out to employers.”  Ooops.  When do we really ever call our own voicemail?  I don’t think I even remembered I had that message set up, but needless to say, I changed it as soon as I left.

Let’s ditch the ringback tones and silly voicemails.  Keep it simple, and there’s no chance you’ll get screened out for this reason alone.

Email Addresses are also a cause for concern.  I grew up with thinking the internet was a place I could download and print out coloring books in elementary school.  I’ve been using it since I was a kid, which also means I have had more email addresses I can count.  “heyugoonies” was one that stuck around for years.  I liked the Goonies, so why not?  “SlurringElvis” was another, which I think I have MSN random-generators to thank.  But when I began to seriously job search, I knew these email addresses were embarrassing.  I told employers I didn’t have one.  I felt like it was better to lie as opposed to being remembered as “heyugoonies.”  Ugh.  When I got home, I quickly made a simple one based on my real name, and updated all applications.

If you have a common name, you may have to get creative or add “jobs” to the end of the username, or use your initials instead of full first or last name.  Personal email addresses can be anything your heart desires, but create a new account for job search.  The benefits of this are two fold; you have a professional email address that doesn’t raise any red flags, and any invitations from employers won’t be hidden from all the cat forwards Aunt Jo sends you.

I’m not spam, I’m fabulous.

Don’t let these easy changes hold you back from your next great opportunity!

It’s Over: When Your Last Job Ended Poorly

By George Bernocco, CPRW

boss yellingA common question people bring to me is that they have difficulty selling themselves because their confidence was shaken. Most recently, by their previous employer terminating them, or even tormenting them. The reasons these job seekers bring to me can vary from unfair treatment, they couldn’t stand the work, unreasonable requests from the employer and making a mistake. Whatever the reason may be, you are looking for a new opportunity and you are stuck on what you should disclose to your new potential employer about your last job. I have a few pieces of advice about how to handle this delicate scenario.

It’s not you, it’s me.

No matter how bad things ended, it is best to not go into why you hated your last job at an interview or with anyone you network with. Whether it was the work you had to do, your bosses, coworkers or people you served that drove you away, keeping the emotional aspect out is important. This may be difficult in the middle of the interview or networking event when you are asked the question: “Why did you leave your last job?” So what do you say if you can’t tell the story about your boss being a complete jerk? Let’s step back and look at the larger picture. Employers are well aware people look for jobs, and then move on to look for other jobs. Very few people stick to a one job career, especially in this economy. So why do people transition to new careers, whether willingly or unwillingly? The most general and simple response is that the last job was not a good fit. Now why it wasn’t a good fit varies from person to person, whether it was career goals to disagreeing with the company’s policies and procedures. My advice to you, when asked about what happened at your last job, is to start off about how the company was not a good fit. From this point on, several things can happen:

  1. The interviewer will push for more information about what specifically happened.
  2. The interviewer will ask why it wasn’t a good fit, and from your answer try to determine if the company you are interviewing for IS a good fit for you.
  3. The interviewer will understand and move on to the next question.
  4. The interviewer will push you to bad mouth your last employer.

Number three is ideal, but more than likely number one and two are the most common. If number four occurs, you may want to reconsider working for a company that encourages bad mouthing an employer. If you are asked to give more information, you should keep things general and focus on what you want for your career. A great way to answer is to mention how you are looking for an opportunity that is a better fit, and go into how the position you’re interviewing for is that opportunity. This may come off as avoiding the question the interviewer is asking, but in reality they are looking to disqualify you immediately if you start bad mouthing your last job.

Why can’t we be friends?

Job seekers often make the mistake that professional references are supervisors. They forget about coworkers or even clients they’ve served that can vouch for the work they’ve done. Employers sometimes do want to call your most recent supervisor. Do not make the mistake that they will call them every time. Employers need to verify that you’ve worked at the company you listed on their legal document (job application). To do this, most of the time they contact human resources. Human resources usually states three simple facts to your potential employer:

  1. Date of hire.
  2. Last day of work.
  3. If you are eligible to be rehired.

If you are curious as to what your last employer would tell an employer, I advise you contact your last employer’s human resources department and ask. Some jobs do request if they contact your previous employer on their application. Answering “No” may be problematic in that you may be viewed as you have something to hide. Just remember that when they ask the question, this does not mean references. Usually they will ask for references on a different section of the application, or a different sheet of paper. When you cannot use anybody from your previous employer (coworkers, clients, supervisors), you should utilize other professional references from different employers or volunteer work. You may also use personal references that can attest to your personal attributes.

Letting go is the hardest part.

Your resume is a marketing tool to get you in for the interview. You don’t have to put your entire employment history on this document. Usually you are supposed to put relevant employment history, or any jobs you want them to consider as important, on a resume. The resume is not a life story, and I’ve critiqued my fair share with reasons why the person was let go. Some fast facts as to why to never include separation reasons on your resume:

  1. Putting why you were let go can disqualify you from any jobs.
  2. The conversation about how your last job ended should be at the interview.
  3. It wastes space.

If you choose not to include your job entirely on your resume, that is within your right. There are problems with that, however. You might end up with a large gap in your employment history, and employers will want to know what you have been doing. Just remember that the resume and job application are two separate items. The job application might ask for your most recent employers, in which it is a legal document where you sign it to verify it to be true. Just remember: Resume is a marketing tool, job application is a legal document. Read through the job application carefully, as they may only be asking for employment history you wish to be considered relevant.

Don’t be discouraged as most people are not at one job the rest of their lives. Moving on to a different job could be a great opportunity for you to grow professionally. It can be difficult to accept what you have lost, or there may be feelings still surrounding the departure. Just remember that you can pick up the pieces and move forward. Focusing on your career goals is a way to start the process into your new employment opportunity. Focusing on what you want, and not what happened, will get you into the grove again.

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Thanks, but no thanks…

Strategies for dealing with post-interview rejection.

By Uri Allen, CPRW

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Having worked with many individuals in transition to their next career, I’ve found that many of my most frustrated and unsuccessful clients all suffer from the same thing…no follow up plan after a rejection. With no follow up strategy, many clients fall into a pattern of negative self-talk (I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, etc) and self-anger, all of which have detrimental impacts on the way they approach their future job search activities. Now, while there is no magic formula to take away the dream job rejection blues, having a strategy in place to address problem areas can help to soften the blow of rejection and give you a new and refreshed focus on your approach, which could in turn make you the dream candidate for your next dream job.

You weren’t the most qualified candidate/fell short on the interview/not enough recent training/ not experienced enough and all the other things you don’t want to hear! 

These are typically the toughest pills a job seeker has to swallow…especially when this news is coupled with the call/letter that the job they have been dreaming and pining over has been given to a “more qualified candidate”. Often times, they begin to question their skills and ability to be an asset to a company and more often than not, this negative outlook leads them down a path of hurtful self-talk and self-doubt. Sometimes job seekers get angry, resentful or depressed…all of which are normal reactions to rejection.  Rejection is never easy or pleasant but it’s what you do with the information that you weren’t the #1 choice that can really make a huge difference in your future attitude.

So back to the scenario…dream job found, applied, interviewed and subsequently the employer rejects you as a candidate. Now what?! Well, you have two choices after you receive the thanks, but no thanks. The first consists of getting wrapped up in the anger and hurt surrounding rejection…which usually equates to nothing productive (or nice!). The second option is taking some personal and professional inventory as to why you weren’t the most qualified candidate. One way that you can accomplish this is by asking the interviewer that rejected you. This may seem foreign or uncomfortable and some interviewers might not be willing to share that information, but most will and can lead to some great insight as what you can work on for your next interview. And if they say no, you are no worse for wear than when you approached them.   

Another strategy is to do post-interview assessments to examine areas for improvement.  Look at the questions that you had difficulty with and think about preparing strategies to tackle these in the future. Take an assessment every time that you go for an interview and it may begin to reveal some weak spots in your interviewing process. Do you get stumped on the biggest weakness question? Do you fall short when explaining to an interviewer why you were involuntary discharged from your last position? Come up with strategies to answer these questions and practice, practice, practice!

Maybe it wasn’t the interview but a lack of skills. Are you lacking in the computer area? Perhaps your math skills weren’t up to par? Maybe you needed some experience under your belt. While these may seem like impossible to conquer feats, there are many free and low cost options for job seekers to address these issues. A trip to your local job center (in Connecticut we have fantastic, awesome, amazing CTWorks Centers located throughout the state-*end shameless plug*) can help get you connected to free and low cost training and education opportunities in your area.  Local libraries and community centers are also great places to access free or low cost training and often times will also offer workshops on topics such as computer usage, résumé writing, keyboarding skills and the like.

Another problem many job seekers face is a lack of experience or not enough recent experience in their dream field. Consider volunteering! Volunteering is a great way to get experience under your belt, appear even more attractive to an employer and do something that makes you feel good. Volunteering can also lead to some great networking and potential paid placement opportunities. Did I mention that it makes you feel good, too? You can find out about local volunteering opportunities by contacting your local  211 assistance line or getting in touch with local community service organizations in your area.

While rejection is something that many job seekers may have to face during their transition, coming up with strategies, learning from mistakes and addressing problem areas are ways that a job seeker can lessen the sting of a thanks, but no thanks. And as Journey said…don’t stop believing! Your dream job is out there waiting for you!