Are you committed to your job search or just interested in it?

In a recent Spartan Up podcast Joe Desena quotes Ken Blanchard saying:

There are people that are committed and there are people who are interested

The difference is that the people who are interested do it when it is fun and people who are committed do it all the time.  So I ask you… Are you committed to your job search or just interested in it?  I get it, searching for a job SUCKS!  It is a job in and of itself and the pay stinks.  You apply online and never get a response.  You feel like you are back in high school and everyone is breaking up with you by not calling you.  Going through your job search can be isolating and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are only interested in finding a new job then you won’t break through the uncomfortable feeling you get when you think about reaching out to people you don’t know.  Or maybe you haven’t even posted on Facebook that you are looking for a job because it would be embarrassing.  You need to learn to only be embarrassed about the things worth being embarrassed about.

It’s time to be committed to your job search

First and foremost you need to start reaching out to your network.  I have had several friends over the years who know I am a recruiter and they never tell me they are looking for a job.  No, I am not end all be all when it comes to job search advice (no one is) but I probably could have saved them some time in finding a job or maybe they wouldn’t have missed that opportunity they REALLY wanted.  Start today.

It is still more about who you know than what you know

Start by making a list of people in your network already that you want to reach out to.  Think of church, past co-workers, organizations you have been involved in, etc…  Break it down in to small goals, say one or two people a day.  Next, set a goal of also finding one new person to add to your network each day.  You can use LinkedIn, Twitter, Associations, etc…  Then get to it!  Don’t wait till the end of the day either.  Do these things first thing in the morning.  Your morning is often the only time of day you can control.  As the book Eat That Frog says, if you had to eat a frog each and every day would you rather wait till the end of the day and dread it all day or do it first thing and get it out of the way?  First things first!

I could go on and on but you know the things you NEED to do.  Stop reading this and go do them!  No really, go on… get!

Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.
Mason Cooley

Get comfortable being uncomfortable in your job search

Most of us take the path of least resistance in our job search.  Unfortunately, that is usually the longest path and it may have the greatest cost.  Taking the most direct path to any goal is usually the most difficult and the most uncomfortable.  But taking the easy and comfortable road can cost you in your job search.  Ever heard of opportunity cost?

op·por·tu·ni·ty cost

noun: opportunity cost; plural noun: opportunity costs

the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

The cost of NOT doing something is often times much greater than doing it.  For instance, in your job search.  How many people have you NOT connected with on LinkedIn?  How many friends have you NOT told you were looking for a job?  That can have a REAL cost.  I have known plenty of people that have missed out on opportunities because they were late to the game.  Even the lowest hanging fruit of all in your job search, job postings, have an opportunity cost.  I personally have only posted some positions for only 24 hours while others have dragged on for months.  Companies fill some openings before the current employee works out their two week notice.  What are you NOT doing that is costing you?

Just Do It!

Nike made that phrase famous but we all need to keep it in mind.  Any time you think about contacting someone… Just Do It!  Yes, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable but what is the worst that can happen?  The could say no.  Big deal.  Bigger deal… they could say YES!  Get creative when looking for people to connect with.  I encourage job seekers to find the people that have the type of job they want then look how those people got there.

Do you have a superficial attachment to what others think?

Tim Ferriss often references stoic teachings in his podcast and this is one that hit me between the eyes.  How many times do we not do something just because we wonder “what would other people think?”  We need to be ashamed of the things only worth being ashamed of.  Is contacting a hiring manager directly worth being ashamed of?  No.  Remember that article you read about the candidate that took their resume to the company directly and asked if the hiring manager was available?  Have you done that?  But to overcome this superficial attachment we have to what others think we need to practice.

Intentional practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Some of the ways to practice can be VERY helpful and quite simple.

  • Ask for a discount EVERY TIME you buy something – I heard one guy asking a clerk “do you have a good guy discount?”
  • If something, do something about it – I often times see people walk by trash on the floor and not pick it up.  Unless you work in a union environment, pick it up!
  • Instead of searching for that item at the store, ask someone – yes gentlemen, I am speaking to you!
  • Ask people to borrow things – that neighbor who has an awesome saw you could use… ask to borrow it.
  • Help people – If you see someone unloading a grocery cart as you are headed into the store, tell them you will take it back in for them.

If you start looking for these things you will realize there are opportunities EVERYWHERE!  The most uncomfortable thing I have done lately?  An older gentleman was unloading his groceries from his Walmart scooter into his car.  I told him I would return it for him.  That was the longest trip into Walmart!  As a bonus, I felt great about it the rest of the day.

Have your really tried everything in your job search?

I hear people say this a lot in their job search.  Maybe you have, but I bet you haven’t or haven’t tried it for very long.  The more money you want to make or the more specific the position, the longer the job search is likely to take and the more effort it will take.   If you find yourself saying “that will never work” when someone gives you some job search advise then you have not tried everything.  Keep in mind you do want to start with things that have the greatest ROI.  Handing out resumes at your subway stop might work but if you have not already spent time networking you can spend your time more wisely.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Sometimes follow your passion is crappy advice

I just read another article talking about how important it is to love what you do.  Follow your passion it says.  I am not saying that getting paid for doing what you love is not awesome, it is.  But guess what, most people do not have that luxury and telling people to do that usually just makes them feel like a failure.

What is your purpose?

Many people who write articles about following your passion they really mean PURPOSE.  Your passion is what drives you towards your purpose.  People who talk about following your passion also usually leave out or forget about the process and time it took/takes to get there.  I am not saying don’t follow your passion, I am just saying you need to be patient and realistic about finding your purpose.  The real challenge comes in separating out what you want from what you were created for.  You can be passionate about chasing fame, money, etc but they fleeting.  When you are working on discovering your gift THEN you are on your way to discover your purpose.  Once you find your gift and your purpose then your passion cannot be taken from you.

Don’t get hung up on figuring out your purpose it will come.  As we say at work, you need to:

Trust the process

So, what is the process.  I am still working on the details but step one is getting out of your comfort zone.  You cannot and will not grow if you only do things you are comfortable with.  Try listening to people that you disagree with?  I mean REALLY listen.  Find out why people believe the things they do and how they came to that belief.  It is also a good idea to challenge your beliefs.  Many times we build the walls that later imprison us.  Talk to people that believe differently than you.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  This is why things like Spartan Races and Tough Mudders are so popular.  People are finding power in pushing their limits.  Me?  I push my limits through building community with and for others.  Think an obstacle course is tough?  Try pouring into the lives of others or better yet, your own family.  OUCH, I know that one hurts, it hurts me too.  But to me step one is to get kinetic.  Start moving, do something and do it now.

Pay the bills

Sometimes you gotta suck it up an take what is available to you.  I will use my story.  After graduation with a stellar 2.48 in criminal justice I got not one, but two jobs.  I washed cars at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and bused tables at Elijah’s restaurant. Very glamorous, I know.  Family reunions were really fun!

I still remember the Manager at Enterprise telling me that when they have a full time opportunity as a Management Trainee they would interview me for it.  I was smart enough to say that sounded great but the truth is it didn’t.  I did not go to college to rent cars!  But after 3 months of washing cars I learned that they actually taught you about running a business and you could make good money, after a while.  The manager was a graduate from UNC, Chapel Hill.  The rest of the crew had degrees from schools including Duke University and Maryland but renting cars was not my passion.  What is was though, was an opportunity.

Set goals

Setting goals is another thing you hear a lot.  Unfortunately I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I did not have a “passion” that I could tell let alone a purpose.  But through my career at Enterprise I pursued opportunities that allowed me to try new things.  I believe that by pushing through your comfort zones you will find things will help you find your gift.  Mine is helping people and building community.

I am not saying don’t set ANY goals.  Daily, weekly, monthly and career goals are good for you.  You should not feel bad if you don’t have a five year plan but you do want to know what direction you are moving in.  Without a direction on a journey you will find yourself stumbling over the same rock again and again.

Live in the moment

This is both good and bad.  I totally agree that we need to learn on being present.  Tim Ferriss quotes someone as saying:

Anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past

I know several people who have rushed through life working to retire early only to realize that they missed what they really wanted out of life… LIFE.  It is one thing to sacrifice for something you really want; not having that latte every morning to save for a vacation.  But is a whole different thing to not spend time with your family so you work more and retire early.  You need to ask yourself:

Am I doing what brings me life or death?

If what you are doing does not lead to life, then you need to make a change.  My litmus test these days is asking this question:

Does what I am doing create, build or foster community and relationships?

If the answer is no, then I do my best not to do it.  Watching TV?  If I do it with someone else or maybe I then discuss that TV show with others later then it might meet my minimum threshold.  Even video games can pass the muster if I am playing with someone I know.  The trick is to start building community.

Even without movement there is change. But without movement someone else is choosing your direction.
Al Pollard

You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

Reference checks in your job search

Reference checksWhat will your references say about you?

Some companies still ask for references as a part of the interview process.  Think this is antiquated?  Think again.  A good reference can seal the deal with an employer or derail an impending job offer.

I just saw an ad for someone willing to check your references, for a price.  Really?  Did you know you can do it yourself or at worse, have a friend do it for you?  It is always a good idea in a job search to know what your past employers will share about you.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal for employers to share information on past employees.  Most don’t because while it may be legal, it may also get them sued.  The sad part about this is that a truly bad employee can continue to jump from job to job with little information following them.  Now you know how that idiot next to you got hired!

When you check your own references you want to call the company’s main number, your local office’s number AND your supervisor.  You are probably fine calling the human resources departments unless they know you but you will want a friend to call your boss.  Some companies will ask for a signed background release form.  If so, just create your own.  Yes, you can pay for someone to do all this for you but if you are out of work, what do you have more of?  Time or money?

Reference check questions to ask

After you introduce yourself you will want to ask some of the generic questions that most companies ask to start with then move into the ones you want answers to.

"Hello, I am calling to check references on a previous employee of yours..."

OK, here is where the honesty line gets a little fuzzy…  What you wish you could do is call and ask “If a company calls you to ask about me, what will you tell them?”  But if you did that, what do you think they would say?  You think they would tell you everything?  Because of that, if you want to know what they will REALLY say you need to, or have someone else) play the role of a potential employer.  That means they need to have a story.  Name of the company, their name/position, a call back number, what position you are applying for, etc… Wait, maybe it is worth it to pay someone to do it for you.

But let’s assume you press on and save your money.  Here are some questions to ask.  The first two you should always receive answers to, the others… maybe not.

  • What was the position they last held at your company?
  • What were their dates of employment?
  • Are they eligible for re-hire?
  • How much was their salary and bonuses or commission?
  • Did they provide a 2-week notice when they resigned?
  • How would you rate their performance in the position?
  • What were their biggest strengths / weaknesses?

If they keep answering, you keep asking.  When someone calls your manager/supervisor they need to ask more direct questions.  Many managers will refer them back to human resources but not all.   Previous managers are sometimes the most damaging or helpful references.  It also helps if the person calling says they are your potential new manager.

At the end of the day, doing a little social engineering to check your own references might feel (is) a little dishonest but if you are worried that you will get a bad employment reference you are better off knowing ahead of time.

References Provided Upon Request

This one KILLS me!  In many of my past jobs we have requested that people provide us with references for us to call.  They are usually past supervisors or coworkers but the key here is that the candidate is providing us with the names and numbers of the people to call.  Think they are always good?  Think again.  Here are some of the funny comments I have gotten when calling references provided by candidates:

They put ME down as a reference? (laughing)
The only reason they didn't take anything is that it's all screwed down. (hotel manager)
They will be great for the first 30 days.

If you are providing references for a potential employer to call you better know what they will say about you!  You want to call each person and ASK them if you can use them as a reference before you start your job search.  Then once you submit their names to a potential employers contact them again and let them know a little about the position(s) you are applying for and what company it is with.  That way they can tailor their information about you to the specifics of the job.  It is very helpful to send them the job description.

At the end of the day references are not always a make or break part of the interviewing process but sometimes they are.  Do you want to risk it?

There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

How much money are you worth?

I recently read an article that stated job seekers hate being asked what they made in their last or current job.  It went on to say that the question is “not relevant to the job interview and it’s impolite.”  The writer further throws fuel on the fire by saying “it is none of an interviewer’s business what you are earning now or what you’ve earned at any job.”

My Current Pay is None of Your Business

This style of writing is popular these days.  It fans the flames of dislike until they burn with disgust and hatred.  As was said in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing “Yo! Hold Up! Time Out! Time Out! Y’all Take a Chill!”  Anytime you are asked a question that you do not like or do not want to answer first chill out and ask yourself “why are they asking the question?”  If you do not want to discuss what you currently make you could always re-frame the question by answering it this way:

My current employer has very strict rules around sharing our compensation.  I am seeking a salary between $x and $y as part of the overall comp package.

As a recruiter I want to ask; why is this an issue?  Some interviewers ask what salary you are seeking rather than asking what you have been making but the fact of the matter is, money is an issue.  Usually, when someone asks about your current or past pay, they want to know if you are within the company’s price range for the position.

Many people talk about equal pay.  Is everyone’s work equal?  What if it takes you 20% longer to produce the same product as the person next to you, is that equal?  Or how about if you have a bad attitude and people do not like being around you?  I think we should re-frame the compensation discussion around what is fair.  I fully admit this is from the perspective of a white male but this will always be an issue when we have a free market.  There is an interesting perspective on the gender pay gap from Freakanomics.

Before you start talking comp with a company you need to be sure you do your research.   You want to research both the industry and your budget.  Both are important for different reasons.  You want to know the pay in the industry so you know where their salary range should be and you need to know your budget to have a minimum you need to make.  Just as a company may be willing to hire someone with a little less experience or skills if they cost less, you may be willing to take a position you are more interested in for less money.  But you still need to pay the bills.

Here are a few sources for compensation research: – You (supposedly) get the information from people who currently or previously worked at the company.  They also review companies. – You can do research on your current position, research another field or evaluate a job offer.

O*NET Your tax dollars at work.  You can see median wages, projected job growth and more.

The One Who Talks Compensation First Loses

I do not believe this statement.  In my interviews I always bring up compensation first and I tell people what our compensation range is before I ask about theirs.  After I tell them ours I do frequently ask what they have been making so I can tell them if that is possible here or how long it would take to get back in that range.  I hire sales people.  It is a real concern for employers if we are offering less money than you made at your last position.  Why?  Mainly, once you make a certain amount it is difficult to go backwards.  I know because I have done this twice personally and once as a family.  It sounds easier than it is.  Also, many people measure their value in dollars and cents.  Making less is possible but it is tough and leads many people to keep looking for more, which can lead to turnover.

As a candidate you need to understand that a company / department has a budget and they usually have a bean counter somewhere that has budgeted a certain amount of money for the position in question.  That means that if they offer at or below budget it is easier, above is more difficult.

I Changed My Mind

What to do if you tell the company a number then you change your mind?  You better have a good reason.  Is is VERY frustrating for a company if you tell me your number, then I offer that number only to have to say that is not enough.  Think of it like dating.  You ask someone out to lunch and ask where they would like to go.  They tell you tacos sound good and you name the local taqueria, they agree.  But when you all get there they say that they changed their mind and they want steak.  Frustrating?  You bet it is.

But it can be done with some tact and discretion.  There are a few guidelines  I suggest you follow:

Don’t ask for too much – If you first told them $50k and now you are asking for $60k that is a 20% jump.  Maybe a 5% – 10% ask is easier.

Why are you asking? – State a reason.  Maybe you are moving for the position and housing is more expensive than you thought or their insurance costs are higher than in your current position, which changed your personal budget.  Maybe the increase would allow you to move out of your parent’s house.

Ask the question – I encourage candidates to start by asking something like “I am excited about the position!  Since we last spoke I started looking at housing in the area and it is more expensive than I expected, is there any flexibility in the offer?”

Know your number – If their offer is below your bottom number and you know it won’t work, just tell them.  Be nice but be direct.  The earlier in the process the better.

Reiterate your interest – When renegotiating terms be sure to remind them why you are the right person and confirm your interest level.  “I really hope this can work.  I found the perfect place twenty minutes away and I am looking forward to starting next week!”

My salary situation at ‘Morning Joe’ wasn’t right. I made five attempts to fix it, then realized I’d made the same mistake every time: I apologized for asking.
Mika Brzezinski

Don’t let your job search become a fantasy

The podcast Hidden Brain had a very interesting episode called WOOP, There It Is.  It seems there is a fine line between positive thinking and positive fantasies.  Positive fantasies come out of having goals (wishes), which are good to have, but they can seduce us into already feeling accomplished, thus taking your energy away.  In her book; Rethinking Positive Thinking, Gabriele Oettingen says that positive fantasies are the beginning of action but they are terrible at helping us put the effort needed to accomplish a goal.

Positive Thinking vs Fantasizing

You have probably heard the old adage “whether you think you can or you can’t, you are correct.”  Visualization is a positive thinking technique where you create a mental image of what it will look like and feel like for you to achieve a goal.  There are a TON of people that promote positive thinking and visualization from Tony Robbins to Tim Ferriss.  I do believe that the more you believe something will happen, the more likely it will come to be.

To me positive thinking turns into fantasizing when you stay in that place and never stop to think…

What will it take for me to achieve my goal?

Gabriele Oettingen says that positive fantasies are helpful if you also ask yourself “what stands in the way?”  But you must be specific… you must ask “What is it in ME that stands in the way of achieving this goal?”  She also mentions that your goal must be attainable, but I will save that for my next post from a different podcast.

Oettingen says that to use these positive fantasies we need to use mental contrasting.  BTW, there is also a WOOP app that works with her strategy and yes, it is free!

Mental Contrasting with Implementation and Intentions

Mental Contrasting with Implementation and Intentions is a fancy way of goal setting.  But it goes beyond just setting the goal, it assists you in taking steps to achieve the goal, specifically four steps:

  1. Identify a goal (wish) that you want to attain within a limited time frame.  Oettingen suggests four weeks or less.
  2. Think about what would be the BEST outcome for that goal.  Imagine the best thing.  This is positively fantasizing, so don’t stop there.
  3. Ask yourself “what stops me from reaching this goal and experiencing this outcome.”  But you have to be more specific than that.  You must ask “what is my inner obstacle that prevents me from reaching this goal.”
  4. Lastly say to yourself “if this obstacle occurs then I will…”  Envision what behavior you will show or thought you will have to overcome that obstacle.

What is it in me that stands in the way

It helps if you have a little humor and a good bit of honesty to answer this question.  Remember, no blaming others.  Look, I know the world is set against you.  It is set against all of us in one way or another so stop making excuses as to why you are not able to do the things you want to do.  You are the only thing standing in the way of your happiness and success.

WOOP there it is

Oettingen renamed this process WOOP.  It is an acronym for WISH, OUTCOME, OBSTACLE, and PLAN.  This is what her app walks you through.

  • Wish – what is the goal you want to achieve and in what time frame?
  • Outcome – what is the best outcome and results of achieving that goal?
  • Obstacle – what is it in YOU that stands in the way of achieving your goal?
  • Plan – what behaviors or thoughts will allow you to overcome those obstacles?

Break it Down

You need to use WOOP to break your goals down.  Remember, we are eating the elephant called a job offer.  You need to eat it one bite at a time.  For instance if you goal is a job offer what do you need to get a job offer?  Interviews.  What do you need to get an interview?  A good resume.  Why don’t you have a good resume?

I realize that it is not that simple but you get the gist of what I am saying.  You may not believe that WOOP can help but that is an obstacle in you 🙂

Blaming is so much easier than taking responsibility, because if you take responsibility … then you might be to blame.
Jennifer O’Neill, The Pursuit of Happiness: 21 Spiritual Rules to Success


Science may help build a better resume

Most people will tell you to leave the personal stuff off you resume; marital status, how many kids you have, religious affiliations, etc…  But it seems there may be instances when you should give a company a peek behind the personal curtain.

No, I do not regularly read Marie Claire (I don’t regularly read any one source for information) but when I saw their article about resumes I had to learn more.

The Totally Counterintuitive Thing Science Says You Should Do to Your Résumé

As a recruiter my first reaction was “No **** Sherlock.”  We often times forget that our world of recruiting is a mystery to people on the outside and what seems like common sense to us sometimes goes against norms.  Two Vanderbilt Law School economists did a study that involved resumes with a 10 year job gap.  Some of the resumes explained the job gap by stating it was due to a divorce or to raise children. The other resumes gave no explanation.  The resumes with the explanations raised their chance of being hired by 30 to 40 percent.

The reason that their chances went up was not WHY they had a gap but rather that they had a reasonable explanation.  I bet they would find the same increase if the applicants said they hiked the seven summits or decided to live with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon.  The reason for the increase is that they answered the question a recruiter always has… “Why the gap?”

How was your time in prison?

My first reaction to a large gap is “hmmm, prison?”  If you don’t explain something most HR people and hiring managers will assume the worst.  I even encourage people to put a reason for job changes on their resume.  Nothing big, just a short explanation under each position, maybe in a smaller font and italics; Laid Off, Recruited to XYZ Company, etc…

Remember, your resume’s job is to get you the interview, the interview gets you the offer.  If I have 100 applicants (not uncommon) for a position I am first looking for ANY reason to kick people out.  Unexplained gap… GOODBYE!  Harsh?  Yes, but do you want to know what really happens to your resume / online application or do you want me to be nice?  As I say “The truth hurts some people but I have learned to live with it.”

Stay at Home Parents

When I was looking for a full time job three years ago I had some gaps myself.  I stayed at home for six years to raise our triplets.  One thing I did that helped was doing some contract work during those six years.  I think it is AWESOME if someone stays at home to focus on their family.  But I always encourage people to begin with the end in mind.  You need to volunteer or work periodically on a contract basis in the profession you want to work in later.  If you don’t you could get left behind.  These days business moves just a bit beyond light-speed.  You must keep up or you will have a large skill gap (perceived or real) when you decide to re-enter the working world.

Volunteering or periodically working on a contract basis can also fill resume gaps.  Let’s say you stay at home for 6 years till your kids get into school.  This is all hypothetical 🙂  You look around and find a mother’s day out program.  I am not going to mention that the name of these programs is sexist 🙂  This is a GREAT opportunity to give the kids some socialization with others and it gives a stay at home parent a chance to volunteer or look for a part time or contract job to keep their head in the game.  That sounds like a win-win to me.

The best way to handle employment gaps is to prevent them.


Being told no is feedback you can use

Once again Question of the Day has provided a great perspective that you can use in life and more specifically, your job search.  Unfortunately, we usually take criticism personally.  There are many reasons that we take it personally:

We are too close to the event – After a public speaking engagement I like to get feedback from people on what I did well and what I can do better.  But I ask them to send me their feedback via email or tell me the next day.  Right after I talk I am still too close to the event to even be reasonably objective.

We are too close to the subject – Being in HR I write a good bit of what becomes “policy” that others need to be able to understand.  That means that there are usually 5 – 10 revisions with a lot of red ink on them.  I quickly learned that what I write is not me.  These people are not saying I am bad.  Although my writing has been aAnd I am sure it will be again 🙂

We think the person is criticizing us – OK, they may also think that they are criticizing us but they are also wrong.  You are NOT a sum of your actions / decisions… you just think you are.  You need to separate yourself from your work.  While your work does reflect on you it is not who you are.  Even if you still think it is, don’t you want to get better?  That takes the courage to be vulnerable and to accept criticism.

Rejection is a form of feedback

Stephen Dubner says that he looks at rejection as a form of feedback.  If you can make this leap to making rejection impersonal, you can learn from rejection and use it to your advantage.  If not, you shut down and it takes much longer to learn from your mistakes.

Rejections can be a positive thing.  Every time you are told no in your job search you then know something didn’t work.

You are the problem

I don’t mean this in a negative way but as my mother always says, “If I (you) are not part of the problem, then you cannot fix it.”  True, sometimes companies have a hiring process that is truly broken.  I even know some companies that are aware of this but sometimes it takes a long time to make changes.

Let’s look at an analogy… If you are like me, you know the rule for turning valves on / off; lefty loosy, righty tighty.  At my kid’s school some plumber either has a wicked sense of humor or they think it is opposite day.  The knobs on some of the sinks are backwards.  So, I could either focus my time and energy on trying to get them fixed or I can just change my behavior and get on with things.  Yes, there is an argument for taking the time to fix it, but let’s fix it after you reach your goal.

Ask for Feedback

When you get turned down for a position ALWAYS ask (politely) for feedback.  Most people will not give you feedback but some will.  Here are a few ways to ask for feedback in a positive way:

Thank you for letting me know you are no longer considering me for the XYZ position.  Are their any other positions at ABC company that you feel I may be a better match for?
Thank you for following up with me about my application.  I am really excited about starting a career in XYZ (marketing) but I realize that it takes experience.  What positions would you suggest I apply for that could lead to a position like the one I applied for?
I appreciate you updating me on my status as a candidate.  Any feedback from the interview process would be much appreciated.

Many people will not reply or will reply with something that says they do not give interview feedback.  If they don’t give feedback don’t get angry, there is usually a good reason.  In my experience I do not give feedback because I have had people get in arguments with me.  Remember, they are not saying YOU are a bad match, they are saying your KSAs, goals, or personality don’t fit.  Those you CAN change, if you want to.  When following up there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Be Polite: No one likes a jerk.  Plus you never know when you will need to cross that bridge again or where that recruiter or hiring manager will work next.  Yes, we remember these things and those people.
  • Be Patient: Like most people, recruiters and hiring managers have more hours of work to do than a day will allow.
  • Be Persistent: Don’t just call / email once, but also don’t be a stalker.
  • Be Thankful: Always thank anyone for feedback and even when they tell you no.  At least you know where you stand with them.

Now get out there and get some feedback!

An inability to tolerate feedback is an inability to allow yourself personal growth.

Maybe you are asking the wrong question

A lot of people ask “Where can I find a (insert position) job.  It hit me the other day while listening to Question of the Day.  Maybe the job search is so tough for some people because they are asking the wrong question.

You may have the correct answer, but you asked the wrong question

This happens all the time in business and life.  Look at the gay marriage debate…  rather than asking should it or should it not be legal very few people are asking what I think is the real question “Why is the government in the business of deciding who you can marry?”  or better than that (this one I have not heard anyone talk about) “Why is the government allowed to discriminate on the basis of marital status?”  OK, I am off the libertarian soapbox 🙂

Many people in their job search are asking all the wrong questions.  You need to first realize that this is a sales process.  You are the product.  Your knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) and your background are all the attributes of that product.  Your first question is…

What are you selling in your job search?

Take a look at your KSAs and your experience.  Notice I did not just limit it to “work” experience.  Maybe you have done things as a volunteer that could transfer over to your work.  It is helpful if you have the job descriptions and reviews from your past positions.  Many times you don’t realize how great you are.  It is also helpful to look at the job posting for jobs you have had in the past.

Pull out the key words and phrases.  You can use them in your resume and to help in searching for positions.  Keywords are used by applicant tracking systems and recruiters when screening or searching for resumes.  You also want to be sure you use them on your LinkedIn profile.

Who is buying your product?

After you know about your product (you) it is time to identify your target market.  Who are the companies, industries or professions that need your KSAs?  One trick is to look and see who has previously held the same positions you have and find out what they are doing now.  They are also great people to network with and it can give you an idea of where to look for your next job.

Good questions outrank easy answers.
Paul Samuelson