Some Things Are Easier Than You Think
Having worked with employment issues through some of the worst economic times and some of the best, it is difficult to ignore some of the seemingly obvious reasons people stay unemployed. In tough times, the following behaviors can make the difference between saving your home and car, and in better economies, they can make the difference between securing an ok job and the job of your dreams.
As I listen to people complain about the economy, I am struck by the fact that I receive new job announcements daily, and, that many of the people that are in such desperate need for paying work may take hours or days to respond when I forward information to them. It also continues to baffle me when people that have been unemployed for more than a year (maybe even 2 or 3 years) compare their past salary with an opportunity, and won’t pursue it because it is less money than they consider themselves to be worth. (Mind you, it may 20-30% less, but that is still 100% more than making nothing.) In the mean time, what they are worth continues to decline, the longer they are out of the market.
Now, none of this is new behavior. It just seems to be more obvious when we are in severe economic times, and more people are losing their homes or filing for bankruptcy. I am not suggesting that the behaviors listed below will guarantee a change in employment status. But I can easily say, they provide a stronger likelihood something can or will change.
1. Get up and get started. This means starting a work day when others start the work day, not when you feel like getting started. Many hiring managers are rolling by 7:00 AM or earlier. If you are not getting started until 10:00 AM, (or in some cases I see, 11:00, 12:00 or 1:00!) you are missing several hours of productive time that others may capitalize on simply by being accessible if something comes up.
2. Pursue any opportunity that is in line with your skill set. If you have been unemployed for over a year, then your market value has already dropped. You are no longer considered “current” or necessarily “competitive” compared to someone that was doing the same thing yesterday or last week. You have a stronger chance of negotiating for more money if you show up and are able to illustrate your value. It isn’t always possible, but not responding pretty much ensures nothing will happen. You can’t turn down an offer that hasn’t been made.
3. Follow up! Many of my clients complain that hiring managers or networking contacts don’t follow through with promises to return calls or provide information. Ok, that might be true. Since when is your priority supposed to be theirs? If it is important to you to know something, then set yourself up to get what you want by defining touch back times when the promise is made, to ensure you get what you need when you expect/need it. Own the process. Don’t rely on others to keep track. Waiting days to follow up after something was a hot topic will most likely kill any possibility of something coming through.
4. Ask for clarity. If someone says something that is left to interpretation, then ask then to clarify or specify their intent. So many times I watch people drop the ball because they “thought” someone meant something other than what they intended. The result was that nothing was done because the party that was expecting to follow through believed the person requesting the information or action was no longer interested, since they didn’t follow up or answer a question that had been posed.
5. Be available. You don’t need the most advanced electronics to do that; you just need to be responsible. Check email frequently. (Can be done at the library or WorkSource). Get a voicemail box you can access from anywhere. Oddly, the people that seem to be most delinquent in responding are people with the latest technologies – palm pilots, iPhones, etc, yet their responses might come hours after the opportunity was already lost. And, I also find many entries on Facebook or Twitter during a time I have tried to reach someone, yet emails and phone calls about immediate opportunities may have gone unheeded.
6. Improve your communication skills. Communication is vital to moving opportunities forward. Answer requests from others in a timely way. If a question has been posed, then answer it. Reading an email and thinking through a possible answer is only half way there. A reply is still required. If you need more time to think about something, then say so! Ignoring a request or question is simply rude. Is that how you wish to be treated when you need something?
7. Stop pretending. Get real about your situation and what you are really doing about it. Be honest with yourself before you tell someone you have “done everything you can”. Is that really true?
Harsh you think? Perhaps not. Minutes before posting this blog I received this email from a client:
“Wow, you sure are keeping me busy! I am looking forward to you going on vacation.”
Perhaps this will spur some people into changing behaviors that have been creating self defeating circumstances. Please share where you can make (or have already made) some simple changes in behavior that could lead (or have led) to different results.