by Mary Glynn
Job search insights from an executive who has weathered the storm a few times over.
|The job search is an arduous and often frustrating process. Couple that with the record high levels of unemployment and the challenging economy, and an organized and optimistic approach is even more essential in ensuring success in the process. As a middle-aged executive who has weathered this storm a few times during her career, I’m happy to share some of my best practices in a job search.
You have to be optimistic in your approach. Reductions in force are a common circumstance and a harsh reality of the business environment today, not a reflection of your performance or personal value. While it’s often easier said than done, you have to project yourself in a positive manner as you conduct your search. Optimism is contagious, so be positive. It sends a strong message to your family, friends, network and most importantly, the hiring manager.
My first transition allowed me to watch my new-born nephew when my sister-in-law was unexpectedly hospitalized. I was also able to spend the summer with my daughter before she started high school. My next transition was a few years later and was an opportunity to explore a new career path. Since I have a lifelong passion for fitness and well being, I obtained a number of fitness certifications and started a small fitness company, teaching cardio-kickboxing and boot camp classes several times a week. My current transition allowed me to help my Mom get into an assisted living facility. This project has also helped me expand my career explorations and greatly diversify my job search network.
All of these transitions have rendered valuable lessons of experience. I hope that others can benefit from these learnings as well. When faced with the ongoing challenges of staying focused in my search, I’ve learned the following lessons:
THE CHALLENGE: Not knowing where to start, the job search process is overwhelming you.
THE RESPONSE: Create a marketing plan that includes your preferred work functions, target industries, companies, market, recruiters, key networking contacts and resources. Detail key action steps and reasonable timeframes to help stay on track. Revisit this plan regularly and distribute it to your network. You will be surprised at how many contacts and leads this will generate.
Also create a networking log to help keep track of your contacts and follow-ups. If you are fortunate enough to have outplacement services in your severance package, be sure to take advantage of them. Seminars, job search tools and networking groups offered by these programs are extremely helpful in brushing up on your skills and staying organized.
THE CHALLENGE: Feeling like you have too many plates spinning in the air and you’re having difficulty staying motivated.
THE RESPONSE: Revisit your marketing plan and goals. Ensure they are realistic and getting the results you expected. Ask a friend or networking contact to review your plans and brainstorm new approaches with you.
THE CHALLENGE: Spending too much time on the job boards, not connecting with people in person.
THE RESPONSE: Keep track of your hours and set productivity goals. Do not spend more than 15-20% of your time with on-line postings. The likelihood of getting a response is minimal with the vast number of people posting for these jobs. If you find a job that you are interested in on the boards, find an internal contact at the company to help network your way into the hiring manager. Use LinkedIn or one of the professional networking sites to find someone at that company. Chances are that someone in your second or third level in your network may be willing to help you make a connection at the company.
Use the job boards to help feed your network. The more people you feed good leads to, the more likely that you will get some in return. Also, set a weekly goal for networking in person. If this is intimidating, start with a few people you are comfortable with, a good friend, neighbor or former co-worker. Set dates to meet in person for coffee or a quick lunch, at the gym or for a walk, attend a networking group, sports events, concerts, etc.
THE CHALLENGE: Concerned that your skills are getting rusty or that you need to learn new skills to compete in this job market.
THE RESPONSE: You can pursue consulting opportunities to keep your skills current and maintain some cash flow in a prolonged search. Volunteer and community programs also offer a great venue to make new contacts and update your skills. Giving back to the community is rewarding and involvement in charitable programs uncovers new networking contacts and can lead to new job opportunities. If there isn’t a group that is of interest, you can start one of your own!
THE CHALLENGE: Getting depressed or negative about the prospects of ever finding a job. Sleeping in late, not wanting to get out of bed.
THE RESPONSE: Be self aware. Recognize when you are getting depressed and do something about it. Surround yourself with positive people. Call a friend that you know will help pick up your spirits. Take some time off from the search and do something fun! It is often difficult to accomplish something when it becomes an all consuming quest, kind of like trying too hard to get pregnant or looking for the right person in a relationship. The job search can present similar challenges.
Also be sure to take care of your health. Another important factor is the state of your health and well being. If you are not exercising regularly, use this time to get started. If you do not want to spend money on a gym membership, find a workout buddy, get a home work out video from the library or go on line to a fitness site and start a plan that works for you. A little exercise, self reflection and a break from the frustrations of the search will help you come back feeling energetic and motivated.
THE CHALLENGE: Making the most of this time off.
THE RESPONSE: Learn to connect your activities and leverage your networks for business and enjoyment. This way you engage more people and make the networking events more fun! I’ve leveraged my business network, family and friends across all of my activities. Whether it involves my fitness classes, job search, networking events, fundraising, community programs or neighborhood block parties, they are all opportunities to engage my network and make new contacts.
In closing, be realistic, focus on continuous learning, learn to deal with self doubt and rejection and find ways to have fun!! I am getting ready to launch a new nonprofit club in town, Optimist International- dedicated to helping kids and the community. Do you see the pattern here? Optimism in your search brings optimism to those around you and right back to you. Be a positive influence and learn to catch yourself when negativity creeps in. Look for that silver lining in every cloud and know that brighter days are ahead…...
Consider a favorite quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine”. So get out of your way and on with your journey!