New Years: Remembrances and Resolutions – Part 2

Yesterday we talked about remembering 2015.  I hope you did that and celebrated how far you’ve come in life.

Okay, now spin your chair around 180° and let’s look into the future.  What does 2016 hold and how are we going to be prepared for it?  Inc.  Magazine asked people what they wanted to accomplish in 2016.  The number one answer was to enjoy life to the fullest (read the full list here).  Your resolution might be to find a job -not just any job – the right job.

If finding that new, better job is one of your resolutions, allow me to make a few suggestions to increase your likelihood of success.

Make a plan – Regardless of what your resolution is, there are three things you can do that will help you live it: 1) write it down, 2) include milestone dates and measures, and 3) make it public.  For your job search, set goals for how many people you are going to network with each week, how many emails and phone calls you will need to set up those networking meetings, how many new companies you will to research, etc.  Remember, looking for a job should be a full time job.  Make a plan that uses 8 hours a day – productively – two finding that best job then share that plan with a few key supporters – maybe even post it on Facebook.

Network – I can almost guarantee that you will not get that next BEST job, unless you network.  My suggestion is that each week you meet 5-10 people you have never met before, tell them your story, and ask for their help.  You will be amazed and what happens.

Be prepared – Every time you go to a meeting or an interview, be prepared.  Have your polished resume and target list with you.  Know as much as you can about who you will be talking to and the job/company you are interviewing for.  Be sure to have and practiced (aloud) your answers to common interview questions.

Be thankful – Say thank you – send thank-you notes – let people know how much you appreciate their time, their energy, their encouragement.  Even when you don’t think they were very helpful, thank them.

Be persistent – The economy is rebounding.  There are more jobs available, but I still tell people to plan for their search to take one month for every $10,000 in annual salary they hope to earn.  A $50k job might take 5 months to find.  Not any $50k job – but the right $50k job for you.  Plan the work, and work the plan.

If you are reading this blog thinking “but I don’t know how to do these things,” then you’ve come to the right place.  Search this blogs for tips on all of these subjects.  Or, buy the book (see below).  Or read someone else’s book or blog.  The help is there – the jobs are there – we just need to get you connected with one of them.

Speaking of resolutions – I resolve to help you find that next-best job in 2016.  Happy New Year!

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


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.


Attention Holiday Shoppers!

Just in time for your holiday shopping, I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another is now available in print! Whether your company calls it a layoff, a termination, or a reduction in force, the bottom line is that you are out of a job and need to find a new one. So how do you do that? There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but there are some straightforward techniques that in the end may mean you don’t just find a job, but you build a career.

Buy the book here for a great stocking suffer for the job seeker in your life. Or, if you prefer the ebook, buy the Nook version at Barnes & Noble (also available in other formats from Smashwords).  If you want advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out the I’m Fired?!? blog.

Happy Holidays!


But Do I Have To?

I talked to a guy last week who had recently lost his job and was struggling with finding a new one. His former company had provided him some outplacement assistance, but he told me, “All they want me to do is this networking stuff and talk to all these people that I don’t know. I don’t really want to do that, do I have to?”

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that of course my answer was “No, you don’t have to do that. It’s hard, and I know you don’t want to do it. You don’t have to. I’m sure that if you put ‘new job’ on your Christmas list that Santa will hook you up. Plus, if you expand your financial investment strategy via playing the lottery, that will easily provide enough income for your to live on. And didn’t your parents just finish off their basement?  I’m sure they won’t mind if you sleep on the couch for awhile.”

Okay, I recognize that sarcasm may not be an effective communication tool. My apologies.

The real answer is; if you want access to the best jobs, and if you want to find your next job as quickly as possible, then yes, you need to network. And the more you do it, the faster it will work.

To maximize your job search, you must use every available avenue, simultaneously. You need to look at job boards, you need to look at company websites, you need to read the want-ads, you need to do volunteer opportunities, you need to use social media, and you need to network. You need to make sure that as many people as possible know who you are and what you do best. You need to create the situation so that when a job comes open, somebody in that loop already knows about you and calls you, rather than posting that opening online.

Networking will do much for you beyond finding you a job. Networking will build your self-confidence, improve your communication skills, and allow you to meet a whole lot of wonderful people who are willing to help you. And then, when you flip that around and become a networking resource for someone else, networking allows you to teach, guide, and give back.

For many people, networking is uncomfortable and unnatural, but I’m afraid it remains the biggest and best key to effective job search. No, you don’t have to do it, but be prepared for a longer and less effective job search.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


Change – But Don’t

So, how goes your search? Have you been at it a while? Frustrated? Here is one of my favorite quotes (from Einstein), “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Can you apply this to your job search?

The secret to finding your next job is networking – meeting people, telling your story, learning from them, and asking them to introduce you to others so you can repeat the process – over, and over, and over. Sounds like insanity doesn’t it?

It can be, and it can be tedious, exhausting and frustrating; but you have to do it. So how can you change, and still stay the same? Here are some ideas:

  •  Shake up your “elevator speech” and try different variations
  • Meet at different locations
  • Hold some meetings virtually via Skype, chat or over the phone (face-to-face is best).
  • Try arranging the meetings via email instead of telephone
  • Try to meet with two people from the same organization at the same time (group networking)

Yes, networking can be draining, but it remains the primary key to the kingdom. So, shake it. Find some ways to make it fun. Make it a game and compete with yourself. Do whatever you need to do, but don’t stop – AND, don’t let those you are networking see that you are tired and frustrated. Your appearance of desperation will not improve the quality of your networking.

Now, take this Memorial Day holiday to step back, stretch, reflect, and remember those that have meant so much in your life. Then, tomorrow, 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.