A fall from grace and structure is oftentimes perplexing, paralyzing and perilous. The loss of one’s employment is very personal, to state the obvious. Less obvious, perhaps, is the ripple effect it casts in its wake. The community of family and friends that surround the affected party are quick to converge to offer support and guidance.
Rare are those who are immediately grateful to be liberated from a job we had come to simply accept. Most of us would prefer to depart on our own terms.
A composite of emotions, anger, fear, grief, depression and self-doubt, seeps into our core. Our identity bears a fracture, sometimes slight, other times devastating. Questions jam our senses… “How long will I be out of work?” “How will I pay my bills?” “How do I tell everyone I lost my job?” “What do I do now?” “Who will want me?”
The scars that form from this painful experience are remnants that sometimes never completely vanish. At times our pride may direct our behavior. Our friends don’t know how to penetrate it. Loved ones are at a loss with how to be most effective and supportive. We convince ourselves, “I’ve always been on top of things. I’ll get through this, too.”
Please join me in committing to being there for others, those who may be experiencing this most difficult journey. Don’t let them travel alone.
As the New Year came upon us, I was invited to lead a workshop for the Job Assistance Ministry (JAM). The audience of nearly eighty was in varying stages of job transition. Some were attending the weekly gathering for the very first time. They were generally the most vulnerable and uncertain. Others were veterans of JAM, having been attendees for many months (unfortunately). They offered their warm hand, their solemn nod of understanding and reassuring voice of comfort. For more than five years JAM has ably assisted others in their time of need.
Below is an encapsulation of my talk:
The most critical first step in preparing for a job search is to possess a commanding presence, aka, self-confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others believe in you? I was having lunch recently with a seasoned technology salesperson whose self-confidence was wavering. “I was doubting myself,” she said to me. That’s a low point for anyone, much less for a salesperson. I was able to reinforce her accomplishments and qualifications, and by the end of our lunch her confidence had been restored, at least for the time being.
- Believe in yourself.
- Keep telling yourself, “I am good. I am talented.”
- Consider building a support group around you. Sometimes you need people to reinforce this self-belief. Allow people to build you up when the need arises.
- Stay active. Do. Not. Dwell. On. The. Past. Put it behind you. Focus forward!
- Only when your confidence is in check do you dare move on!
II. Personal Marketing Plan
Another critical element of your job search is taking proper aim. What is it you’re going after?
- Geographically, how far will I reach for my next job?
- Does industry matter?
- What size company am I best suited for?
- Are there groups or companies I can’t support or work for?
- Identify and sequence the top 10 companies that meet your criteria.
- Engage the list from bottom-up (you will get better as you move toward #1).
- Begin identifying those you know within your target companies.
- Establish your networking strategy.
Once you have established your confidence and understand your aiming point, it’s time to begin expanding your network.
- Set weekly goals for networking contacts.
- Have a defined plan for each meeting (what do you hope to accomplish? How can I make this session mutually beneficial?)
- Expect to get one chance to meet with a given individual. Make it count!
- Grade each networking session (A, B, C or F) and evaluate your weekly report card – Be Brutally Honest!
- Hold yourself accountable for networking results and improving your grades.
- Measure your networking success against your set strategy – refine it as necessary.
An important element in networking is your ability to deliver a passionate story to your listener.
- Find your passion and capture it inside your story – your story is your elevator pitch, your Starbucks moment.
- “What I’ve done has prepared me for what I want to do… and that is…”
- Practice telling your story with others – the more you tell it, the more you believe it, the more you own it, the more you live it!
V. Resume Building
Owning a powerful resume can be a defining moment – it will build your confidence. You are representing that person – that person is You!
- Consider having a tailored resume for each targeted opportunity.
- Your resume should speak to accomplishments, not responsibilities.
- Accomplishments drive revenue, reduce expense and/or improve efficiencies. Express your accomplishments in business terms.
- Take credit for shared (group, team, department) accomplishments (do not invent or fabricate – precision is not the goal).
- Triple check your resume for errors – have another set of trusted eyes review it (the quality of your resume is a testament to quality preparation – There must be NO ERRORS!)
- Take the one-time initiative to identify and catalog ALL the accomplishments you have accumulated across your career. Use this super set to extract the most relevant accomplishments for a particular opportunity.
- Build your resume to best market yourself for that specific job interest. This is best defined as one-to-one marketing, not a one size (resume) fits all (job prospects).
- Select the most salient and impactful accomplishments that speak most directly to the job you are seeking.
- Find ways to introduce yourself – who you are – to the reader. Let them “feel” you.
- Know that your resume will not land you a job. Its aim is to open the door and generate inherent interest.
The act of interviewing is the single point of execution. You need to be on your game.
- Remember to be present, authentic and expressive.
- Do your homework! Research the company, thoroughly evaluate their website, read their annual reports (particular emphasis on Chairman’s Letter to Shareholders).
- Anticipate questions and know your answers. Know what successes (and failures) you are going to refer to when responding to their questions.
- It’s ok to be quiet and reflective – silence is not a bad thing.
- Your mindset going in should be: “Do they deserve…ME?”
- Leave them with a sense of mystery. Engage, but be succinct with your answers. They’ll ask a follow-up if they want more detail.
- Remember, when you’ve made the sale only one thing can happen if you keep selling – and it’s not good!
- You’re looking to invest in this company (You are that investment!) Should you?
- Capture business cards and remember to write thank you notes that same day and get them in the mail the following day.
In summary, build and maintain your confidence. It will become your foundation. Have a support unit around you to encourage you and to restore your confidence as it wanes. Don’t consider carrying this load all alone. It can be a very lonely and, at times, dejecting journey. Don’t let it defeat you. My wish for you is that you find quick success, commit to paying it forward for others who are yet to travel your path, and that you realize greater satisfaction in your new job than in the one you left.
This information, and much more, is detailed in my book, Hello, Old Friend: A Resource Guide For Career Development. Consider making my book your personal companion along your career journey.