Do you know why you are unemployed?
If you are thinking this is a dumb question, you may want to think again. Unless you are aware of the circumstances that led to your layoff or termination and are also very clear about your current market value, you’ll be unable to craft a strategy for moving forward. Although statistics may show there are more jobs available this year, what you actually do and how you do it will play a significant part in determining whether you will be selected for one of the more attractive jobs that are currently available. It takes more than an alluring resume or a newly acquired certification to compete in prime markets.
The first step in developing your strategy for becoming re-employed is to understand your former and potential employers’ perspectives.
Being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and working on the areas that have created challenges in the past will help you prepare for the pursuit of your next role or next project. No matter what you know how to do, a new employer (or customer) will still expect you to share examples of how you have applied your knowledge and will want to see evidence of the results you produced.
If you are ready to get to the root of the issues you may be avoiding and start to take a turn in a better direction, the following steps will help you get a handle on your search for work.
Set clear goals. Without a clear vision of what you want, it is impossible to develop a path for getting there. It also makes it very tough to know when/how to adjust, change gears or reprioritize. That doesn’t mean an employer needs to know that you plan on starting your own business; you simply need to deliver what they need while you are gaining the specific experience needed to be successful in running your own operation. When you are clear about what is required on both counts (your employer’s goals and your personal and professional goals), you have a much higher probability of delivering. You will also have more reason to stay in touch with what is actually going on around you. If you are spending too much time daydreaming about what you wish you could be doing, you’ll miss the opportunity to pick up necessary skills and run the risk of dropping the ball. Any way you look at it, dropping the ball has consequences. If you fall off track from what your employer wants, you can lose your job. If you lose your job and don’t have a clear idea of where you were headed when it happened, it will be extremely difficult to develop and present a convincing case to the next employer.
Evaluate past performance and influencers. Sure, every day is a new day. But pretending there has been no past is pretty naïve. You may have heard the old customer service adage that states: “you need to make 10 deposits into the “good deed” account to make up for a customer’s one bad experience.” This is true for employers as well. Unless you spend the time figuring out how to make up for a callous statement, missed deadline, lost account or publishing error, the memory of a mistake will be harbored indefinitely. It shouldn’t be a surprise when headcounts are dropping and you end up on the list if you have not made amends and then some. If you have adversary relationships with people and haven’t fixed things, their opinions can be louder than your transgression was. Know and own your actions that may influence your job/career security. Be prepared to face the consequences of a lapse in judgment or a mistake and be equally prepared to describe what you learned from it. Be willing to move forward with the understanding that you may have to make allowances for a scenario that negatively impacted your brand.
Find out what the companies/customers really need. Relying on what an HR department describes in a job posting or what your job description states is dangerous. Relying on superficial statements and not digging into the core of a company’s business purpose for your role or, for that matter, ignoring what a customer really needs can lead to less than desirable outcomes. The research you do into what had been needed in the past and what is thought to be needed now can be applied to what is really needed. Taking anything entirely at face value can lead to discrepancies. Ferreting out more precisely what a role entails puts you in a much stronger position to deliver value and makes you less likely to be caught off guard when any outside influences create the need for a sudden change. Use your network to help you stay aware of how valuable you are in your own company and how competitive you are in the marketplace.
Prepare examples of your results. Don’t be caught with your pants down when it is time for a performance evaluation or budget reviews. Be prepared to be specific about your accomplishments with a supervisor or potential customers. Either way, being prepared to describe your VALUE may be the points that save you from being thrown to the curb. Even though you may not be actively looking for something new, preparing statements that illustrate examples of your cleverness and ability to produce desired results, using the STAR process (Situation, Tasks/Actions and Results), will also prepare you for your next interview or discussion with a new boss if there is a change in management or the company is sold. Overall, the important message here is to know why things are happening to you and around you so that you can do the best job of picking yourself up by the bootstraps and moving on.