Anticipation Redux

(This is an update to a post from August, 2014.)

What are your great memories of anticipation? Trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve? The last day of school? The last day before school started? How about right before you got married?

Now think again about some of those times. Mixed with that excitement, was there also a touch of fear, or a note of doubt. You were sure that whatever was going to happen was going to be great – or at least you were pretty sure – right?

Your job search will probably be filled these times. Maybe you’re a finalist for job, going in for your last interview. It would be great to get back to work, this sounds a like a good place to work, the people have been very nice, but … the work seemed a little tedious – not exactly what you’d like to do. What if you take the job and it starts off great, but after a few weeks the newness wears off and now it’s just a job. Did you make a mistake? Should you keep looking?

Recently a friend of mine had a similar “problem.” He was getting ready to interview for two jobs. He was more interested in Job A than Job B, but both were better than his current job. He had sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do if Job B made him an offer before Job A did.

Here’s the deal, you need to control what you can control – and that is you. Rather than stress before (or during) the interview about what you’ll do if they do (or don’t) offer you a job, be in the moment. Put 100% of yourself into the process and wait to see what happens. If you are in a new job and feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse – set it aside and do your job the best you can do it.  If, after you’ve tried it you decide you made a mistake, look for a new job.

I heard the phrase once that worrying was “borrowing trouble” – taking tomorrow’s problems and making them issues in your life today. As best you can, don’t do that. Live in the present, do what you can to be successful today, and let tomorrow take care of itself. Take it from a guy who’s lost his job six times. Things work out. Control what you can control and let the rest take care of itself.

BTW – Here is some real life anticipation. In 1998, I had an idea for a book and started writing. In 2015 I’m Fired?!? was published as an eBook. Last week I held a proof of the paper version in my hands and it should be available in about a month. Sometimes you just have to learn to be patient.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available as an eBook and soon in print! Click here for more details.


I Want You To Want Me

In 1977 the band Cheap Trick first sang:

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me
I want you to want me

While this is a great classic-rock song, it should not be your mantra as a job seeker.

Too many times, I have talked with a candidate and I could hear the desperation in their voice. They really wanted me to offer them this job. Maybe it was the perfect job for them. Maybe it was an okay job that they though could grow into something better. Maybe they had just been out of work too long and were ready for anything. I don’t know, but their desperation did not help get them the job.

Success in job search, as in much of business life, is about self-confidence. As Max Ehrmann wrote in Desiderata, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

If you are reading this blog, it is likely you are involved in a job search. Please remember that you are a unique individual, who is not defined by your job or your employment status. If you don’t get this, you’ll get the next one. I understand the financial need to be employed. I understand the emotional needs to be connected to an organization and to find value in working and providing.

You may really want this job, or you may really need this job. But you need to make sure that as you interview, the interviewer hears a calm, professional voice that tells them why you are the best candidate they will find for this job, and not a voice that sounds like three-year old who really, really, really wants another scoop of ice cream.

Believe in yourself. Work hard. The next job won’t be too far away.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


Summer Doldrums

I don’t know about you, but where I am it is HOT. Everything slows down in the summer. Don’t be surprised if the same thing happens to your job search.

The employment process is usually cyclical. At the first of the year companies are launching new strategic initiates, have new budgets, and job postings explode. Managers are anxious to fill new jobs and things can happen quickly. As winter turns to spring, other interests take over and the process moves to less frantic pace.

Then, as spring becomes summer it is as if someone throws a switch and everything goes into slow motion. Fewer jobs are posted. It takes longer to schedule interviews. Vacations, retreats, and conferences occupy more time, and the hiring process is set aside.

Around Labor Day that mysterious someone will flip that switch back and the activity will be frantic again, trying to make up for the time lost over the summer. In October, it will level off and come Thanksgiving things will virtually shut down until the first of next year.

As a job seeker, these cycles can be very frustrating. You can hardly keep up in the busy times and in the slow times, you can’t get anyone to even return a phone call or look at your resume. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to alter the cycle.

Know that you are not alone, and it’s not just you. Be diligent; follow up periodically to make sure they know you are still interested – but not so much that you become annoying. Be as flexible as possible to accommodate other’s schedules. Practice patience and understanding – these can be great life lessons.

Summer will be ending soon. Use the slow time to perfect your resume, practice your interview questions, and research your targets. While summer is slow, early fall can be frenetic. Get ready. That job you’re looking for will be here soon.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


Focus

Imagine this – you sit down to a networking interview with a guy who just lost his job. You ask, “So what work did you do?” And he responds … “I used Excel, I audited accounts, I did reconciliations, I made journal entries, I filled out tax forms, I oversaw inventory, I prepared financial statements, I managed cash, I worked with banks, I managed the fixed asset system, I calculated depreciation …” Soon your eyes glaze over and you wonder why you agreed to meet this guy.

What was missing from this answer to your question was focus. What he probably should have said was “I was an accountant.” Then through follow-up questions could have learned about what type of accountant and gradually picked up as much detail as you needed. But, by leading with the details he lost you.

Likewise, your job search needs focus. Learn to lead with the general and move to the specific as needed. Help people see the whole you, rather than just the tasks that you know how to perform. While focus is required in all aspects of your search, there are two key areas where that summary comes into play.

The fist is your elevator speech. This is a 30-second description of who you are and what you want. This high-level summary needs to be focused and be the door opener for you to be able to provide more detail. A typical job hunter has only one elevator speech, but if your search is taking you in very different directions, you might have two ready, depending on whom you meet.

The second key area for focus is your resume. I recommend that the first thing on your resume, below your name and contact information, should be a summary. This is no more than two sentences or four bullets that tell the reader exactly why you are the person they should hire for the job you are applying for. This summary leads them into the accomplishments, career history, and education that support that summary – again working from general to specific.

When you are out of work and just want to find a job, you may be tempted to tell everyone everything with the hope that there will be some scrap of information that you throw out that captures their attention. Unfortunately, that technique does not often work. Find your focus and sell the whole package. You have something to offer and someone is going see that in your focus.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


The Four Agreements for Job Search

Don Miguel Ruiz has written a very powerful book called “The Four Agreements.” First published in 1997, the book lays out four agreements that you can make with yourself that will change the way you see the world and interact with others. To be completely honest there is a spiritual side of the book that’s simply not for me, but I love the practical applications of the four agreements and I try to live by them every day. I also think that making these four agreements can be very powerful in your job search. Here is how I would interpret and apply the agreements.

1)  Be Impeccable in your word

You words are powerful – they influence you and those who hear them. Only speak positively about yourself and others. Only speak the truth. Avoid gossip and speculation. In networking and job interviews don’t oversell yourself and suggest that your skills or experience are greater than they are, but at the same time don’t undersell. Skills are transferable, you can learn and grow, so even if you don’t have the exact experience they are seeking, show them how you can compensate and learn. Say exactly what you mean.

2)  Don’t take anything personally

Job search can be brutal. There will be jobs that you want, but are offered to others. People will be rude to you. Doors will be closed to you. Take a step back and realize two things. First, hiring managers are trying to do what they think is best for their business. If you are a finalist for a job and they offer the job to someone else, that decision is not because you are a bad person; it is because they felt the other person was a better fit. You wouldn’t have been a finalist if they didn’t think you could do the job. It’s not personal, it was their business decision. And second, take some satisfaction that sometimes they make mistakes – it’s their loss, someone else will get to work with you.

3)  Don’t make assumptions

If you have a question, ask it. Don’t assume others know what you know or feel the same way about an issue. Don’t assume they know you are very interested in the job. Don’t assume they know you are interested in relocating. Don’t assume the job comes with health benefits. Bottom line – don’t assume. Ask questions – share information – try to make sure that everyone is crystal clear on the important parts of the job and about you.

4)  Always do your best

At the end of the day that’s all you’ve got. They talk about athletes leaving it all on the court. If you’ve done your best, given it everything you have, followed the other three agreements and don’t get the job, then go after the next one. You can’t beat yourself up if you’ve done your best. On the other hand, if you’ve cut corners, we not quite honest (with the recruiter or yourself), and tried to wing-it during the interview, think about it – would you want to hire someone like that?

These are four hard things to do. They are hard in life, and they are hard in job search. But, I guarantee that if you make these four agreements part of your core values, you will be successful in more than just your job search. I encourage you to read the book and understand Ruiz’s full message, but more than that, I encourage you to embrace these four agreements.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


How much are you worth?

Inevitably, in your job search the topic of money is going to come up. Maybe you left your last job because you needed more money. Maybe they let you go because you made too much. Regardless, before you accept your next offer, the company has to decide how much they can pay you to do the work, and you have to decide how much your time and effort is worth.

Unfortunately, unless this job is covered by an existing union contract, there is no simple answer. Every organization has a unique perspective on total compensation – a blend of base pay, benefits, paid time off, working environment, career opportunities, performance expectations, and job security – that makes every job offer different. You may be in a position to have competing offers for similar work, but you need to compare so much more than the salary. Will the job provide meaningful work? Will I like my coworkers and the work culture? Will I be able to develop my career and learn new things? Will I have the time to spend with my family? Will I like my boss? Do I identify with the mission of the organization? There are hundreds of questions you need to consider beyond base pay.

But, let’s talk money. One of the best indications of your worth, purely from a base salary perspective, is what you were paid in your last comparable job. Much like the market value of a house is what someone is willing to pay for it, the first step in determining the value of your labor is too look at what someone else paid you – keeping in mind that this amount was wrapped in that organization’s view of total compensation. That organization had to balance what they paid you with what they paid other employees (internal equity) and what other organizations pay their workers (external competitiveness).

You can get a sense of external competitiveness by looking at sites like salary.com, monster.com and other salary surveys. Please understand; the information they are reporting on these sites is a) supplied by the individual, not the company, so there is no accuracy check, and b) they are consolidating this information based on a one-sentence job description. You might be paid more or less, because while the job has the same job title, the responsibilities are very different. Consider that data, but take it with a large grain of salt.

A key component of your worth needs to be what you need. Do you need base salary, medical insurance, retirement contributions, educational assistance, on-site daycare, on-the-job training, a supportive environment, flexible work schedule, lots of paid time off, a career development program, a busy job, a chance to prove yourself, or a place where you can take a step back and not be stressed? All of those things need to go to into evaluating a job offer.

As I said, there is no easy answer to the question. Take time during your search to evaluate you, and figure out both what you need and what you want. Then take time during the interview process to see how the organization aligns with your wants and needs. Then, when you get to the salary discussion, you have a context and you’ll be much more able to figure out what you’re worth.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sometimes the job search doesn’t start because you get fired. Sometimes a friend tells you about an opening, or you happen across something on the web, or maybe a headhunter calls you out of the blue. You like your job and your boss – the pay is okay – you didn’t think you were in the job market. What should you do?

There are those who advocate you should always have your resume up to date and be looking for your next job. They stress you have to look out for yourself and jump at every chance. I’m not one of those people. I don’t think it hurts your career to have periods of stable employment and I don’t like to look at resumes where someone changes companies every few years.

But at the same time, you do need to have a good sense of the world outside of your cubicle. You should always keep your network fresh, meet new people, build relationships, and help others with their job search. And occasionally, when a recruiter calls, answer the call.

Here is the first reality check. You are not the best thing since sliced bread, and just because a headhunter calls you does not mean you need to give your notice. Just because you choose to apply for another job does not mean you should pack your desk – or even that you’ve made the decision to leave. There is always that chance, and it is a very good chance, that you won’t be offered the job, or if you are you won’t like it.

Going on an interview with another company is not like cheating on your wife. You committed to your spouse until death do you part; you committed to your employer for as long as the relationship continues to work for both of you. If an opportunity looks interesting, pursue it. The worst case will be that you’ll get your resume updated, you’ll meet some new people, and you’ll get some reinforcement that you like what you do and where you work. Maybe you’ll find something even better, but don’t turn in your resignation until you get that job offer.

So, here’s the other question, do you tell your boss you have an interview? Probably not. If you have made the decision you want to leave your current employer and you are actively pursuing other opportunities then, maybe, but rarely. If this is just a whim, you don’t know if it will lead to anything, you’re not unhappy, then no – keep that information to yourself. There is little to be gained and plenty to be lost by being overly transparent.

So in short, just because you apply for another job does not mean you plan on leaving your current job – occasionally exploring other jobs is good for you – and if you do decide to look around, keep it to yourself until you accept another offer. (Oh, and thanks to The Clash for my title today!)

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.