It’s never been a practice of mine to blow smoke up someone’s rear so they can feel better about being unemployed. My approach is a pretty pragmatic one. If you’re not working, aren’t financially independent and have full responsibility for taking care of yourself, then you need to make some money and/or get a job. For most people, their level of urgency is inherently driven by their financial circumstances. If you don’t have a source of income and need one, then waiting for a perfect job doesn’t really make sense. Your circumstances require urgent attention. Another reason to make a case for urgency is that, typically, the longer someone stays unemployed, the longer it takes to get reemployed. Like perishable goods, your value diminishes with time.
The goal here is easy enough to figure out, but a strategy is required, and your plan for reaching your goal needs to be carried out. Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen. Developing a strategy for getting where you want to be will lead to the development of your plan. Although the exact details may not yet be clear, you can start by moving random thoughts from your head into something tangible. First assess your finances and know what you need to earn and when. (Not what you want, mind you, what you need.) Then assess your interests, skills and marketability. If you don’t know how marketable your skills are, you can research this on your own or get help from a career coach or mentor. Next, outline some options and research the validity of each. This research needs to be planned with your end goal in mind. Break your plan into actionable items that can be accomplished each day and enter these tasks into your calendar. Then take action immediately!
Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen.
While you are conducting your research, other options outside of what you have considered may surface. You could receive suggestions about possible roles that have not yet been on your radar. Having a strategy and a plan can show you what generally makes sense. Although urgency is good, recklessness and desperation are not. Taking absolutely anything when it is not connected to where you want to go can lead you away from your long-term goals. If not connected in some way to your long-term goals, the wrong role can cause intense dissatisfaction that ultimately leads to more unemployment. There really needs to be a connection between your need for income, what you do about it and how it relates to your longer-term goals. If something very relevant, doable and immediate presents itself, you need to act right away. For someone who is serious about changing their circumstances, it means making hay while the sun shines (how corny is that?) and jumping on every strong lead as if it is the only one. Why? Because you can’t turn down work or a job that hasn’t been offered! Taking your time to respond may lead to a missed opportunity.
Focusing on how a role could in some way lead to perfect is far more productive than being stuck on the fact that it is not perfect. You may not be ready or marketable for your idea of a “perfect job.” Waiting around until one turns up is wasting time. It’s much easier to move yourself in the right direction once you are off the bench and in the game. (I don’t think I’ve seen any sports teams pull people from the stands and onto the field when it was time to press forward.) That means you need to be up, prepared and on top of each lead before the next 500 people respond. It means you need to turn over every rock and give every possibility your best shot. It is only after you get an offer that you have a choice about what happens next. Once that is accomplished, you can move forward with the rest of your plan.
If you think responding with “urgency” is a few days or weeks after you learn of something, think again. It’s always been a curious thing to me that unemployed people may sleep until noon and take Mondays, Fridays and weekends off when they are down to their last dime. It’s even more curious when they have broadcast their desire for a job to anyone who will listen but end up taking days to respond to an email from someone who has offered helpful information. If this sounds like anything you could be guilty of, please rethink what you need and what you expect. Your demonstration of urgency is far more likely to gain the help of others, and your excitement to respond to an employer’s need may put you ahead of the pack. Waiting until you are done with your long weekend or vacation, or procrastinating while you “think about it,” could make your response no longer relevant.
Finally, if you are simply stuck, get help. Don’t languish in your own confusion. The clock is ticking.
People who have been working continuously through this most recent recession have been impacted by it in some way, even if it is not obvious. Many of us have experienced earlier recessions (although they weren’t always officially called that) and learned firsthand how to make ends meet during tough times. If not directly, some of you may have parents or grandparents who have described how they weathered tough times in their lives. Through personal experience or through someone else’s, we can see there is no magic pill. There are skills that can be learned to survive adversity or financial downturn. Using planning, perseverance, willpower and grit, we have found a way to succeed.
The economy is improving and the employment market is following, as is customary following a recession. Having an optimistic attitude about the future is helpful and must go hand in hand with an understanding that the employment market will recover far more slowly as businesses get their bearings. As you are considering making a change in your work or workplace, consider what you actually have control over, and put your mind to accomplishing it.
A handful of small projects can build a portfolio of successes that set you up for bigger and better projects.
To begin with, taking stock of what your real position is will help you get grounded. For example, if your expenses exceed your income, then there is a practical reason to consider the consequences of your actions. Consciously deciding NOT to spend money on anything unnecessary allows you to have more options than when you are tied to overhead you can’t afford. Going forward, creating an action plan with accountability features built in will keep you focused on what you are actually doing and what you could be doing. No mention of a magic pill in this recipe.
As you establish goals and set your sights on an improved circumstance, it is important to remember that nothing is perfect. Even the best laid plans can be set askew when changes in the economy occur or when you face stiff competition. The point to be made is that once you develop a plan and make yourself accountable for completing it, you must still be aware of when it is necessary to change course.
The improved economy makes things brighter but doesn’t provide a sure shot at anything. Many of the people who remained employed (perhaps underemployed) over the past five years are now in a position to move forward. Those entering the market expecting to make a leap into their “dream jobs” may be unpleasantly surprised by how steep the competition is. That’s not a reason to give up but more of a reason to persevere. It’s time to get in the game and position yourself. This may require deeper planning and some grit to work your way into the position you desire.
Looking forward, map out a path that is most likely to lead to success. Start with small steps. Set objectives that are connected to your long-term goals; e.g, identify roles that you are most competitive for now that are attached to your long-term goals. Or, if you are a consultant/business owner, identify business targets that may be small but easily attainable. A handful of small projects can build a portfolio of successes that set you up for bigger and better projects.
Whatever your challenges, build a track record of smaller successes that will give you confidence when facing the really tough challenges. Getting your arms wrapped around manageable challenges helps you establish habits that will support you in any endeavor. And weathering a small mistake can be a learning experience that doesn’t crush you. It can teach you what to do next time and provide you with ammunition for persevering. Practice behaviors that move you forward. Develop the willpower to avoid the old, negative habits that used to drag you down.
Willpower is a skill that can be learned. Grit and perseverance can also be learned. You can do it!
If you are like many people, the beginning of a new year is prompting you to make some changes. New year, better economy…time for a new job? If the thought of leaving your current position has crossed your mind, take control of the process and make it a move that counts. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction to apply for a posted position that catches your eye and start the year fresh with a solid plan for making a strategic change that steers you toward your ideal situation rather than yet another dead end.
Randomly applying to a posted position with a company you know nothing about is much like playing the lottery. Certainly it could turn out to be better than your current situation, but the odds are you’ll simply be trading known issues for new ones. The beginning of a new year prompts many people to evaluate their circumstances. They desire more yet stay stuck on why they want to leave rather than focusing on what they want to move forward to. This year, prepare yourself to make a meaningful and sustainable change of your circumstances. Make the most of your time and resources, by developing a plan for moving forward. The following are some key points for getting started.
Clarify your interests. If you focus only on what you don’t want, you still don’t have a target for what you do want. Establishing a concrete list of what you hope to gain from a new position/employer/business endeavor is the first step to heading in a new direction with favorable results. Refrain from using vague words like “better” or “more” and be as specific as you can be. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to measure or weigh one opportunity against another.
Give it a reality check. Do your research. Learn about today’s conditions rather than relying on memories from ten years ago. Learn how work is getting done and, more importantly, why certain skills are in demand. Know what the market will bear and how your skills/experience measure up to competition. If you need additional training/development to be competitive for your “dream job” or to get your foot in the door with your “dream organization,” then integrate that into your plan. The process from Point A to Point B may seem like it takes longer, but you will probably save time by avoiding attempts at throwing your hat into the ring for work you are not competitive for.
Nurture your network. (Ok, so I say that a lot.) The surest way to learn if a new circumstance will be better than what you are in, or will offer you more of what you want, is by knowing someone who is already in it. And, if you are not an exact fit for the roles you desire, you are much more likely to be considered with the help of a valued internal referral than by submitting a blind application. Use the freshness of the new year as an opportunity to reconnect with people you have lost touch with.
Establish timelines and benchmarks. Don’t just say you want to make a change — act on it and commit. New Year’s resolutions are typically out the window by mid-February because of the failure to create a plan, develop new habits or commit to dates. A vision or image of where you want to be is great! The next step is to make it real by establishing timelines and accountability.
Plan your activities. Unless you have a magic process for adding hours to the clock, you have 24 hours a day and seven days a week to work with. It’s important to plan out what has to be done ahead of time (regular work, doctors’ appointments, special events) and work around that schedule to fit in the work required to make a change. Research (by Internet and through conversations) takes time. It won’t happen unless you plan out when you can do it and stick with it. Break big chunks of work into smaller bites and determine exactly when you will complete them. Don’t leave this to chance, or you will be wondering in June how the time flew when you find you are still exactly where you were in January.
Don’t knee jerk. Many people have taken roles that have left them underemployed or bored, just to pay the bills. If that is your situation, then use it to your advantage. If you can do your job in your sleep, then stay put while you take the time to do the research you need to complete to make an educated decision about changing. Chances are no one is watching you, and you can actually carve out time to talk with people and read about companies/roles that are more to your liking. Watching job boards for the next posting and throwing a resume at something isn’t likely to reap a satisfying or sustainable reward if you are hired before you really know anything about the company, department or role.
As you head into the new year, concentrate on what you want and check out whether it really is for you. Making impulsive gestures based on what you don’t want might bring about a change, but researching and putting together a plan for making that change is much more likely to take you where you want to go.
There is a big difference between random acts and keeping an open mind. Random acts tend to take a person in many directions, without much discrimination or evaluation, and can use up considerable energy. Having an open mind will still allow a person to add new possibilities to the mix, but the outcome is based on a specific goal, with a focus on many elements related to that goal, and it involves careful consideration of the possibilities presented. Are you thinking it is only semantics? I don’t think so, so I’ll illustrate the difference.
When a person does not evaluate the reasons they have chosen to pursue a job, and are solely basing their actions on “needing a job”, they can be led down roads that are dead ends or end up with less than satisfying work/work places. Following all or any leads without a goal in mind, and without carefully considering how it fits into a life plan, is what I consider “random job search”. In my experience, when job seekers break out in any direction that leads to a pay check, the employment scenario rarely ends up in something satisfying or long term, and is only a short term fix or stop gap. When job seekers carefully consider their motives, the long term implications of decisions, and the potential benefits from each and every employment scenario (which may not be obvious on the surface), they ultimately end up spending less time and energy over the long haul. They end up with a workable situation that may even be temporary, but it is in alignment with their long term goals. The energy spent produces results that lead to a sustainable win over the long haul.
Does that mean you should ignore leads? No! It means you need to start out with carefully considered goals, and be willing to evaluate all leads from the perspective of what can be gained beyond the moment. Once you have a clear purpose behind the goals you have established, you can ask yourself these questions related to any new lead or possibility:
• What tools will the experience allow you to add to your kit?
• How will you be able to expand your network?
• How visible is the role?
• Where can you move inside the organization once this door has been opened?
• What similar organizations might look favorably on this experience?
• How would a short term assignment build a bridge to something more sustaining?
Taking a controlled approach to your job search may actually lead you to having more options than you previously thought were possible. It may also lead you to ways of bridging the gap on your resume in a more relevant manner, which makes it far easier to explain to the next employer.
If you have re-directed your search activities by setting a clearer goal, or considered new options than you had previously thought possible, please let us know.
How fast are you able to take action when an opportunity surfaces or a lead comes your way?
People say the first step to success (winning) is showing up. The next step is knowing how to play the game. Knowledge, strategy and timing are critical. (If you don’t have a strategy then please read all of my previous blog posts.) The third step is taking action.
Immediate responses are much more likely to bring results, but the key is in how well prepared your response is and how it is delivered. There is a big difference between an urgent, yet controlled response and a knee jerk reaction or over reaction. If you have done your homework, then you will have:
Researched the industry you are pursuing. The only way to present yourself well, either through a cover letter, or resume or during an interview is to have an understanding of the industry you are stepping into. That doesn’t happen overnight.
Researched the players. This means all the companies you might be interested in, in advance. Why? Because a last minute prowl on Linked In or Google cannot produce what you could have learned over time by contacting people in the company, long before a position is posted. Waiting until a posting appears is simply too late to learn about internal political issues, project failures, attitudes that have an impact on the role you are pursuing. Developing a strategy requires an awareness of all of that. Interviewing without background information, and having only a mission of getting the job leaves a candidate at an extreme disadvantage.
Prepared a “Master” resume. In order to quickly tailor a resume to fit each and every position you pursue, a detailed “Master” needs to be available to work from. Working from scratch will require too much time to carefully tailor carefully a resume in time to meet the demand of an urgent request. A sloppy resume or a “generic” resume will miss the mark.
Prepared a list of references. The time to notify your references is long in advance. Advise them of what you are looking at and why. Your list of current, relevant references should be ready to take with you when you are called in to interview.
Researched market information for salaries. You can count on being asked the money question. Know the market; know your value. Don’t wait until you get the question to think through your answer.
Resolved any unfinished projects/issues. If you need to go to work, then your house needs to be in order. Repairs to home, car, mind and body need to be completed. If there is anything at all that needs to be done that could interrupt your ability to report for work, then a plan needs to be in place before you interview. Schedule the dates and plan on how you can work around it, so that the needed time can be negotiated at the time an offer is made (not before!). If that is not possible, then you aren’t ready to go to work.
What have you thought of that might throw you into “reaction mode” rather than “response mode”?