Welcome to … The Holiday Zone (redux)

This is an update to a previous post        

For those of you old enough to remember this – imagine some twinkling music in the background and Rod Serling’s voice saying …

“Job seeker, you’ve noticed something has changed – there are fewer openings – no one returns your calls – everyone seems distracted. It’s because you have entered —— the Holiday Zone.”

I don’t have any factual data to back up what I’m about out to tell you, but I do have 30 years of experience. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a frustrating time to be a job seeker. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it is reality.

From an organization’s perspective, this is not the time to try to fill a job. They know that people who have jobs, stop looking for new jobs during the holidays. They likely have spent their recruiting budget, and they wont’ be buying any new advertising or creating any new jobs until after the first of the year. Everything slows down until January.

The same is true for the employed job seeker. They will spend their weekends and evenings shopping, wrapping, and attending holiday parties, not looking for jobs.

So, if you are unemployed, what do you do? Just put your search on the shelf for a month? No, you keep working, but you work smart.

Use holiday parties as networking activities. Meet new people, tell them your story, and ask if you can connect after the first of the year to exchange information and contacts.

Take this time to do some more intensive corporate research. Look at the local news websites to find which companies are in the news for charitable giving or other social outreach; then add them to your Target list and make plans to contact them in January – and when you do, mention how you support their good works.

Volunteer to work for a community organization that helps families over the holidays and do some networking with other volunteers. If you do schedule a networking meeting, take a few holiday cookies as a thank you gift.

Spend some time on your resume, maybe it is time for a complete resume makeover; reorganize, rewrite, and refresh.

The point is, you can’t control the calendar, you can only control how you respond to it. You can curl up in a ball and wait for January, or you can spend your time productively. You won’t see as many postings, you won’t get as many interview, and people won’t be as available to network; but that does not mean you can’t keep looking and making yourself better so that come January, you are ready to knock their socks off.

Enjoy the season, recognize your blessings, and get ready for a fantastic 2016.

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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. Now available as in both print and eBook formats! Click here for more details.


The Bottom Line

(This an updated combination of two posts from late 2013)

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Does the same sentiment apply to losing your job?  Here are a few words and phrases that I’ve heard over the years that all basically mean the same thing:  terminated, fired, made available to industry, sacked, canned, separated, exploring other business interests, discharged, axed, RIFed, laid off, whacked, given the opportunity to be successful elsewhere, dismissed, and let go.  Did I miss any?

There are subtle differences between some of these words but otherwise they are all variations on a theme with different levels of sensitivity or compassion mixed in.  As you might have been able to tell, I’m compassionate, but I’m not an overly sensitive guy.

The bottom line is that for whatever reason; you don’t work here anymore.  It’s time to move on, start networking and find out where you are going to work next.  That may be easier said than done, but what’s the alternative, sleep on your mother’s couch?

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called On Death and Dying that changed the way that we looked at the grieving process. Kubler-Ross identified five stages in the grieving process that, with some perspective, can be applied to being fired.

  1. Denial – No, there must be some mistake – they can’t fire me I’m a good person and a hard worker.
  2. Anger – It’s not fair! I do way more work than Joe, fire him! This is discrimination!
  3. Bargaining – There has to be another way. How about if I take a cut in pay? Could I work part-time for a while? Maybe if I get some more training?
  4. Depression – Whatever – I’ve seen this coming – there is nothing I could have done – I probably deserved it – I should have left when Bob quit.
  5. Acceptance – Okay, what’s done is done – time to move on and find that next job.

The deal is, that you will not be effective in looking for a new job until you get to stage five. While this may sound harsh, you just need to get over it and move on. You might have been discriminated against; there might have been a chance for you to take a cut in pay; maybe there was a mistake; but at the end of it all, you’re sitting at home on the couch watching Judge Judy when you should be out looking for a new job. No pitty-party, no woe-is-me; it is time to get up, brush off your resume, start networking, and get to it.

Looking for a new job is a full time job. If you let your anger at your former employer come out in your interviews, no one is going to hire you. If you pout and whine during a networking meeting, no one is going to refer you to their contacts. If you can’t get off the couch and make some phone calls, your network isn’t going to grow.

It’s hard, but it’s life. I’ve been there. I’ve seen lots of other people and I am confident that you can too. Now get up, get to work, and let’s find that next job.

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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. Click here for more details.


Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings … (redux)

(This post was first published in December, 2013. It’s been awhile and I think some of you need to read it for the first time and others need to read it again.)

Anybody a fan of the movie Big?  I love it when Tom Hanks sings this Barbara Streisand song to his mom to prove that he is really her missing little boy.

How does it feel to get fired?  Simple – it sucks.  It’s like getting punched in the stomach. Even when you know its coming it is an awful feeling.  I’ve been blindsided a couple of times. The boss calls you in.  You think everything is going great.  Then she says, “I’m sorry but we’ve decided to make a change.  We’re eliminating your position.  Your last day will be …”

You don’t really hear much after that. Your head starts to swim.  You feel a little nauseated.  Depending on how quickly you move through the stages I wrote about in an earlier post you may get angry. You may try to plead.  Your fight or flight instincts kick in and sometimes you just want to get the heck out of there.

You’re probably reading this because you’ve already been fired and know what I’m talking about. If so, then you may be wondering why I’m wasting your time recalling bad memories.

Here’s why.  You need to remember what that feels like.  I don’t know if you got fired yesterday, last week, or 10 years ago, but look at where you are today.  You’re alive.  The world continues to revolve, the sun rises and sets.  Life goes on, and no matter how bad you felt when that happened, you survived.

It might have been difficult to talk about – maybe it still is.  It’s always hard to tell your family – believe me I know that.  But you’ll go on.  Follow this blog. Read the book (soon I hope).  Build a network. There are people who can and will help you.

Now let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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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. Click here for more details.


What are you afraid of?

I have a friend who lost his job following an acquisition. He was over 55 and had 30 years with the company. He hated networking. He tried it and then he simply refused to do it anymore. He mailed resumes, and mailed resumes, and mailed resumes. Ten months later, he took a job that he hated. Two years after that, he simply retired. The reason that he hated networking and his search failed was fear. He was afraid of rejection and did not want to put himself in a position where someone would have to tell him “no.”

Any Star Wars fans out there? What did Yoda say to Luke Skywalker when they first met on whatever jungle planet that was? That Luke was filled with hate and fear. He would have to control or release that fear or he would not be able to control the force, and the dark side would get him.

One more movie reference – what was one of the top songs of 2013? Let it Go, sung by Elsa in the movie Frozen.

So, what’s the connection here? If you’re reading this it is likely that you’ve lost your job. You may be angry with your former employer for putting you in this position. You may be upset with your former boss who wouldn’t listen to you. You might have issues with the last company that said they were going to make you an offer, but didn’t. You might be concerned that you are going to run out of money before you find a new job. You might be angry with your spouse who thinks you aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe you have been rejected so many times you just can’t take one more! There are lots of emotion during the job search process, and not many of them are helpful in finding a new job.

I am an NPR addict and listen every morning and evening. A few weeks ago, they aired a story of a man paralyzed by fear. To help himself he invented a game called Rejection Therapy. Click here to listen to that story. I’m not recommending that you start playing this game, but I’m also not saying you shouldn’t. It worked for him.

If you are consumed with fear and anger, it will deeply effect you, and your job search. You will be unable to convey confidence and positive energy if you are angry at the world or desperate for someone to hire you. As Elsa says, “let it go.” I’ve been in your shoes and I understand the frustration. But whatever has happened has happened and there is nothing you can do to change that. The only thing you can control is your behavior right now. In this very moment, you can act in the manner that is most likely to move you forward in the direction you want to go.

The poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann says, “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.”

You will find a job. Accept that as a given. Let go of the anger of whatever happened to put you in this situation. Face your fears of rejection or failure and put them behind you. Move forward with confidence and purpose. Embrace the future and you too, may become a Jedi.

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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. Click here for more details.


Time to Reconsider?

If you lost your job in the last 30-60 days, this may not be the post for you. About 30 years ago, my outplacement counselor gave me this rule of thumb and even as the economy has gone up and down, it still holds true. If you’re looking for a job, you should plan for your job search to take about 30 days for every $10,000 you want to earn in annual salary. If you want a $40,000 job, plan to look for 4 months – $60k = 6 months. That isn’t a law, it’s just an average and I’ve seen it repeat over and over. If you have an active network, it can go faster. If you’re starting from scratch or if you are in a particularly competitive field, maybe it will take longer. As I’ve said before, I’ve done this 7 times and it’s taken between 2 weeks and 13 months.

This post is directed to those in who are approaching or have passed that average. If you’ve been looking for months and months and are not having much luck, maybe you need to reconsider a few things. The popular press suggests that kids coming out of college today will change jobs every few years and will change careers 4-5 times before they retire. Those of us old enough to have children who are out of college find that hard to comprehend. I’ve been an HR guy for 30 years and I really can’t imagine doing anything else, but if I’m out of work for more than 6 months again, you can bet I will be thinking of what else I could be doing.

In the midst of an extended search is a great opportunity to be introspective. Who are you, and whom do you want to be when you grow up? Is there a passion in your life that is not being met? Is there an area where you can serve that will bring out something different in you? Would a little schooling help you to find a new spark and a new direction?

I’m not suggesting you abandon all hope and take a leap of faith into a new field, but I am suggesting that you open your mind to it. Network in a new direction. Volunteer where you can learn or use a different skill. Take a part time job that lets you explore a new industry.

You may find that you know who you are and you need to keep your career search on your original track. You may also discover a new energy, passion, and direction. Be open-minded. Let the search take you where it takes you. You just never know what you might find – or what might find you.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.


Persistence

One huge key to job search success is persistence. Here are two real stories.

One day I was at work, doing normal stuff and my boss, the company president, came in at sat down. He said, “Roger, I’m afraid I have to use one of things you’ve taught me. We’ve decided to eliminate your position and today will be your last day of work.” I was blindsided – I had absolutely no idea that was coming. He went on to tell me about a meager severance package and then I was done. That was in early September. The following May a friend told me about a new company that was just starting – maybe they’d need an HR person. I networked into the President and met him. He felt I would be a good person for that job, but they needed to complete an acquisition first – he’d be in touch. I followed up with him about every 30 days while I continued to look for other opportunities. Finally, in October – 13 months after I’d been fired – I started with this new company. That turned out to be a great job for me.

Here’ another – in 1999 the company I was working for was struggling. The family that had owned the business for 3 generations was trying to turn in around and had brought in a turn-around specialist. Then one day the President gathered the senior team and announced he’d sold the company to our cross-town rival. The new owners would decide if they needed us or not. (In the end, they decided not.) But, during that transition I had an idea. I would take my experiences of finding jobs and write a book. My plan at the time was to be leading edge and publish the book along with a CD-ROM of resources. I wrote that book and then put it in a drawer because by then I had a new job and no time to work on it. Ten years later, I took the manuscript out and brought it up to date. Then I started shopping it to publishers. After three years and over 20 rejections, I found Lighthouse Point Press. There were some other issues and delays, but in August, 2014, I’m Fired?!? was published. My 15-year-old baby was finally born.

My message is that I know being out of work sucks. And I know it is hard to wait and to keep looking and looking. I know what it feels like to be rejected, to have your resume ignored, to be a finalist but not get the job, and to have to come back and try to explain to your kids why you don’t have a job. But I also know that good things come to those who wait. Not wait by sitting on the couch, but wait by working to find those good things. Persistence pays off. Tenacity is an excellent character trait.

Make the plan, work the plan, and keep the faith. The right job for you is out there. If you work for it, you’ll find it. Now, let’s go find that job!

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.


Anticipation

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 your wedding ceremony?

Now think again about some of those times. Mixed in 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 shine is off and now it’s just a job. Did you make a mistake? Should you keep looking?

My advice is to do your best to ignore that little voice of doubt. 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 interview 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.

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. Check back to this site soon. I expect I’m Fired?!? to be available as an eBook in the next few weeks with a paper version to follow not too long after. Details soon!