You might feel like you have made some pretty big mistakes, too. And, it’s okay. You can recover.
Last year I was camping with some friends, one of which is a specialty pharmacist. His specialty is working with emergency room and NICU doctors. Talk about high-stress, fast-paced! I asked him what he has seen in his job that has amazed him the most about medicine, or the human body. After a minute to reflect, he replied:
“I’m amazed at the body’s ability to heal itself.”
This, coming from someone who has seen people coming back from near-death trauma.
Our careers can actually heal, too. As a job seeker we feel like we are getting a black eye, or have introduced something that is irreparably harmful. It will forever impact our brand, reputation, or marketability. In reality, though, our careers can heal. We can heal.
Just stick with it, continue to do good things, and this will pass like water under a bridge. I know it might not feel like that now, but it can later.
Nine and a half years ago I lost my job. The emotions are so intense that I can recall them as if it were just yesterday. Some things are hard to forget.
I was fairly new in this town, not knowing many people, and feeling quite lost and unsupported. Other people had either grown up around here and had friends from high school who were now in a position to help them network… I didn’t have that. And some people had professional services that their ex-company bought for them, commonly known as “outplacement.” My company would never, ever have paid for outplacement.
So, where do you turn for help, when it seems there is not help for an out of work person with no money to spend? Here are some ideas:
Job Clubs and Job Ministries
Have you ever heard of job clubs, or job ministries? This is one of the greatest secrets in our local communities that should be our first stop. Many (not all) communities have them. If yours doesn’t, look for the nearest one. It might make sense to drive an hour or two to go to one. The value you get out of attending a job club or job ministry goes beyond just sitting in a chair and learning for a speaker. Networking with other job seekers was one of the most important things I did in my job search. Partly because job seekers are well-networked, and partly because I learned that (a) I wasn’t the only one in this pathetic situation, and (b) there were people more qualified and awesome than I was, and they were in transition too (which means, I could stop thinking I was broken, or at fault). Also, at these job clubs, you’ll find volunteers who have been there for years, sometimes decades, who are well-versed in all-things-job-search, and they can help you avoid the inevitable pitfalls you would otherwise fall into.
I have spoken to groups at job clubs over the years and job clubs will always hold a special place in my heart.
Check the state resources
When I went to my local workforce services office, I knew it wasn’t for me. I walked in, they didn’t quite know what to do with someone with my education and skills, and looking for the level of job I was looking for… they sat me down at an old computer from the 1800′s, with a 14 inch monitor that was almost impossible to use, and asked me to do something (I can’t remember… work on a resume, fill out a form… whatever it was, it was a useless cookie-cutter exercise). The services seemed to be geared at entry-level positions, and the staff was accustomed to working with people who were chronically unemployed, hoping they could get an entry level job. Classes on grooming, showing up on time, etc. were not what I needed. I hope that has changed in my state…
But what I’ve seen in other states is mind-boggling. In California the EDD is amazing. I’ve spoken at various EDD events and they are well-attended by higher level professionals who are anxious to network and help others. In Minnesota the state money went to private parties that created environments that reminded me of outplacement offices in Class A facilities (that is, expensive buildings). They were clearly geared towards executives and professionals in transition. In Maryland the state’s Professional Outplacement Assistance Center is amazing, offering excellent job search training and help that you would expect from any for-profit outplacement company… all for free to state residents.
Give your state offices a chance… you might be surprised to know they have services that fit your needs (better than they fit mine, almost 10 years ago).
University career center
One of my programming professors would tell us to never go to the career center. They were a waste of time, not effective, and didn’t even know how to help people going into the IT. Unfortunately, that colored how I would think of career centers. When I lost my job they weren’t even on my radar. Finally, though, someone suggested I reach out to them. Unfortunately, they weren’t really designed to help someone like me who had been in a professional capacity for a while. HOWEVER, I’ve spoken at a few universities since then, working with career services, and I’ve seen some great programs and counselors and directors who are awesome.
Not all schools have resources that will or can help you, and sometimes they charge a small fee for alumni who have been gone from the school for a certain period, but it’s worth a phone call to see if they can be a resource to you.
If they can’t help you, call your alma mater’s alumni office… sometimes they offer career services that the career center doesn’t know about (because a lot of career centers focus on helping their undergrads and new grads).
Find one person who can be your accountability partner
Of utmost importance to any job seeker is a weekly accountability partner. This is someone, typically NOT YOUR SPOUSE, who you will meet with once a week and report on what you have done, and what you will do the following week. I can’t emphasize how important this is, even for self-motivated individuals! Just knowing that you’ll have to sit down with someone, look them in the eye, and say “no, um, I didn’t do all those things… I got caught up finishing a game of Sudoku on Tuesday that went a couple of hours longer than it should have…” or “I haven’t called that person yet” thinking (I’m too afraid – they might say… NO! to me). An accountability coach should help you (a) do what you think you should do, and just as important (b) make sure you aren’t implementing ineffective job search tactics (which is what I spent way too much time doing in my job search).
Who can do this? Perhaps someone you met at a job club. Perhaps someone you met at church. Perhaps someone who lives by you. Maybe it’s a brother, cousin, nephew, or a current or past mentor. You are simply looking for someone who will spend 20 to 30 minutes with you once a week (it can even be on the phone), who will ask you the hard questions (“WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THAT THING?”), and help keep you on task. INVALUABLE.
Get some money from family or friends to hire a coach and a resume writer
Finally, even if you don’t have any money, don’t discount the idea of hiring someone to help you, even if it means you borrow money from family or friends. There are some very affordable, very good coaches and resume writers who can make sure you are doing the right things. The reason I love good coaches and resume writers is because they are in the trenches with their clients, and they have been-there, done-that, and know how to best help you make progress. If I would have found a thousand bucks to find a good coach and a resume writer I would have been pointed in the right direction, not wasted months and months poking around trying to make up my own systems, etc. I know a thousand bucks seems like a lot of money when you don’t know how you’ll pay rent in three months from now… but a coach could make the difference between having a job within those three months, or continuing to spin your wheels and growing more and more hopeless.
What do you think? Good ideas? Have you exhausted them? What other resources have I missed?
A few years ago I found myself jet-setting around the U.S., speaking at job clubs, universities, non-profits, etc. I thought my message was sharing (a) strategies and (b) tactics to help you take control of your career.
Susan Joyce (brilliant owner of Job-Hunt.org) was at a a presentation in Massachusetts and said “your next book should be titled On Purpose Branding” (or perhaps Purposeful Branding), since that was a big part of my presentation.
I love hearing what others think my message is, because it helps me clarify what I want my message to be. After Susan gave me this feedback I found myself using on purpose and purposeful a lot more. I find myself thinking about doing things on purpose, instead of letting them happen to me.
Going to college, without any idea why, and choosing an easy major, might be a good example of letting things just happen to you.
Getting a job that is comfortable, but doesn’t provide you with a career path, or even a good income, is an example of letting things just happen to you.
Doing a job search without a smart strategy for 2015, but spending more time on job boards and reading blogs and playing online sudoku, is an example of not being purposeful.
Fake networking, the kind that is painful and doesn’t get you anywhere, just to turn in metrics at the end of the day or week (“I talked to three people today!”), is an example of letting things happen to you.
Purposeful, on the other hand, is knowing what you are after, and doing what it takes to OWN the results.
Instead of “there are too many things out of my control, so there’s really nothing I can do,” you say to yourself “Today I’m going to do A, B, and C, and that will help me get what I need to get! I can do this!”
Purposeful actions show that you still hope. You hope there is a better future, you hope that what you do will have an impact, and you hope that you can make a difference in the world, or at least get back to paying all of your bills and having some fun money at the end of the month.
If your job search lacks hope, or is not purposeful, you better talk to someone. Mine lacked both, and all I did was spun my wheels and got deeper and deeper into a bad place.
I was reading an interview on TheJobInnerview.com with Lou Adler. Lou is well-known in the recruiting space. You can read his interview at the link… but here’s a snippet that caught my eye:
Okay, three things that are common in people that Lou, a hiring expert, hires:
Don’t mislead or fabricate
Good asker of solid and insightful questions.
Seriously, of all of the attributes of successful hires, 1/3 of them is stating that the people DON’T LIE?
I get the other two… be confident, be smart… hm, maybe there were other things, like able to communicate their expertise, good hygiene, heck, even if he said they were all college-educated I wouldn’t be surprised.
But the fact that Lou felt like adding such a negative, horrible thing makes me wonder how prevalent this issue of lying (aka, misleading or fabricating) really is!
Seriously, if that is what we are coming to, we have issues.
Checklist for doing well in today’s interview:
__ Act confident (but not overly confident
__ Try really hard to not lie or embellish
__ Ask smart questions at the end
As Homer Simpson would say: “Doh!!”
All I know is I hope Lou’s experience, and response, isn’t influenced by anyone who uses JibberJobber! We’re smarter than that!
In 2007 Ben Yoskovitz was involved in the job market, and he wrote a post titled 9 Signs the Online Job Market is Broken. His 9 reasons are below, click to his page and see his reasoning as well as over 60 comments. Not much has changed.
When people ask me about the broken job search, job market, dumb interviewing and hiring practices, etc., I have one answer: it is broken because it’s all based on people. People who, by nature, are flawed. We hire the person with the better smile, or the right skin color, or the person who dressed “better” (whatever that means), or the person who is more like us (in age, religion, etc.). We aren’t supposed to discriminate, but we do. As long as there are people involved, it will be flawed. It will be unfair. It will be unpredictable. And sometimes, it just won’t make sense.
I’m not suggesting that we should get people out of it, and have applicant tracking systems and artificial intelligence take over. We’ve already seen how messed up that is. All I’m saying is that these processes will always seem broken, because they are, and it’s all due to our flawed human nature. Even people with the best intentions will make mistakes.
So that’s my answer. Here are Ben’s 9 reasons, with my commentary:
Companies can’t differentiate themselves. Ben’s company (now defunct, he’s moved on) was about employer branding…. so that explains #1 here. But there are consultants around the world helping companies stand out… still an issue, but not sure if that’s why the job market is broken.
Job sites like Monster.com are loaded with too much spam. Yup, not much has changed. Although, people do get hired from monster and other job boards. Realize that there are different reasons for fake job postings on job boards… none of them help the job seeker.
Jobster.com now offers free job postings. Jobster went the way of the dodo bird, but the message here was that free meant more spam and junk and phishing.
Niche job boards don’t offer enough. I think niche is a good idea, and a good response to the one-size-fits-all that isn’t working.
The best candidates aren’t surfing job sites looking for work. I absolutely, 1,000% disagree with this. The premise, and what Ben says, is “The top talent doesn’t spend time surfing job websites for fun. They’ve already got jobs. They’re busy.” This, my friends, is discrimination and ignorance. Sorry. I meet many highly talented people when I speak, and through JibberJobber, who are “best candidates.” They might be overlooked because they are “overqualified,” or because their resume wasn’t targeted enough to pass through the ATS, or because a hiring manager is intimidated by them, or because of crazy industry or market circumstances… the employed are not necessarily the best, and the unemployed aren’t necessarily the worst. Ben continues: “And even if they find themselves unemployed, you can be sure they don’t spend much time surfing for work. They know how to stand out, and they’re busy making that clear through referrals and their network of contacts.” Sorry, but this is also flawed. What about the “best candidate” who has been working, heads down, for 30 years? He’s an expert in his field, but not an expert in networking or job search? Just because a person knows how to stand out, and work referrals, and network, does not mean they are the best candidate… it just means they are a really good job seeker.
It’s too easy for candidates to apply. Yes, it’s ridiculously hard for people to apply for jobs.
It’s too hard for employers to assess talent. I agree… employers are not necessarily trained to assess talent (unless that is their job, but many hiring managers aren’t trained deep enough, so they default to discriminatory thoughts, like “do I like this person, or are they too different from me?”). Again, the human issue.
Companies use the services because they’re there, not because they work. Agreed.
Lots of money and time is going into the online job market space. Yes, but that isn’t a reason why the job market is broken.
My purpose of sharing Ben’s post wasn’t to disparage his writing and opinion, but to show that 10 years ago there were problems, and frustrations, and today there are still problems and frustrations. I don’t see that changing any time soon. I don’t think it will ever change.
I hope this gives you a different insight into why things are so hard, as a job seeker. Here’s my parting though: if it is so bad because of human nature, what could YOU do to make it better (as a job seeker)? There’s actually a pretty good answer to that question.
Before JibberJobber, I worked at a company (Varsity Contractors) that did over $200M in building maintenance (janitorial, taking care of big buildings, etc.). I was the first IT Manager, and did things like web development (internet and extranet), networking management, user support, buying computers, upgrading the server room, etc. I was a jack of all trades.
Before I got there, the CFO managed about five contractors who did all of the IT stuff. Taking that over was a blast, and I learned and grew a lot. I am forever thankful for that chapter in my career, where I learned a lot. One thing that I’ll never forget is the power of a company culture. Varsity had a rich history, and great contracts. But the margins were super-thin, and we all know janitors don’t make a lot of money. But I entered a world where culture was highly touted, and one of the most critical things in the organization. And the fruits of having a strong culture would be hard to believe, had I not witnessed them myself.
One thing that stands out: watching people do ANYTHING (legal, ethical, etc.) for the company. Not to the point of giving up their family or integrity, but managers would really do anything for the interest of the company. They would do it gladly. It was as if they had ownership in a big machine, and they were immensely proud of this machine. I witnessed this for years, and was in awe at how powerful the culture was.
Why? How? That is for another post. In this post I want to just talk about the idea of culture… it is real, and it is powerful.
I share this with you because of three blog posts I recently read:
Company Culture Is A Myth, by Laurie Ruettimann. I’ve followed Laurie for years, and love her thinking. But I don’t agree with her post. Many of her commentors, who are in HR or recruiting, don’t agree either. Read the comments, and note the big difference between “culture” and “fit.”
Does your job search plan address company culture? by Martin Buckland. I also love how Martin thinks… he’s an executive job search coach in Canada, and puts out great stuff. This question reminds me of someone I know who transitioned careers and chose to go into a company that paid well (for a while… then they did a bait-and-switch… snakes!), but had a demoralizing, soul-crushing culture. This was a first-hand example that proved that money isn’t everything, and that money can’t compensate for certain horrible things. Go after money, and disregard culture, at your own peril.
Why Am I Here? By Kylie Hunt, a new Pluralsight author. Kylie is in Australia and in this inaugural blog post, she talks about why she left the company she has been at for over 10 years. Specifically, the leadership and the culture pushed her away, to a point of being unhappy, and she had to leave. Is it any surprise that her first course in Pluralsight is titled Boost Productivity Through Employee Happiness? Note: I can give you free access to her course, and to all of mine… just watch the short how-to video on this page. Bonus: watch any of my courses, and you get an additional 7 day upgrade on JibberJobber.
You can poo-poo the concept of culture, but having been there, and hearing from hundreds or thousands of job seekers over the years, I know, and cannot deny, the existence and power of company culture. That could be at the meta level, or within a small team, or anywhere inbetween.
What are your experiences, positive or negative, with culture within a company?
I started JibberJobber as a frustrated job seeker. While other people use JibberJobber, including entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, people who don’t work (but want to manage their network), I regularly go back to my roots as a frustrated job seeker.
I wanted to organize my job search with a spreadsheet, but that didn’t work out. It was a mess. A rat’s nest. What if you just give up, and wing it? Impossible. Once you get deep enough in your job search, you have to stay organized, or else too many opportunities get lost. I’m not talking about job offerings, I’m talking about opportunities to follow-up with people.
Using Excel is a great option, for about two weeks. Then the amount and complexity of data, and what you are trying to track, get’s too messy. And you’ll be tempted to create more and more columns and sheets, only muddying things up worse.
Using a paper-based system (spiral notebook, sticky notes, day planner, writing on your arm, etc.) is an okay system, until you can’t read your writing, and can’t follow anything.
Both of those systems, though, are not long-term solutions. I bet a month after you find your dream job (the one that will end in two to five years), you’ll not be able to decipher what you wrote. It will become garbage, encoded to the point where no one can make heads or tails of it.
When we designed JibberJobber, we were looking for something that would be:
Fairly easy to use: This is a significant challenge because of the complexity of the task. We try and hide as much complexity behind the scenes, but simplifying the UI is always on the top of our list.
Long term: I wanted something that you could use after you land your job, and in five years, and between job searches, and when you got freelance gigs, and even after you retired.
Actionable: collecting and organizing data is one thing… reminding you to act on something is another thing. I missed a key call with a hiring manager because my spreadsheet was messed up (hard to read), and it didn’t say “CALL THIS PERSON TODAY AT 10!!” Instead, I missed the call. I wanted JibberJobber to put those reminders right in front of you.
I learned from recruiters that they hate calling a candidate, asking about their interest in a job they had applied to, and the candidate not knowing what they were talking about. I get that – it’s hard to remember everything, and sometimes we are trying to remember if we had sent a resume, or which resume we sent… or maybe we just mowed the lawn and our brain was somewhere else. But the message we send to the recruiter is that we don’t care. That we’ve forgotten and our interest level was low to begin with.
Why have an organized job search? So you can talk to people, even recruiters, and know what you are doing! So you can sound interested!
JibberJobber helps you stay organized by allowing you to keep track of:
Interactions you have with any of those (aka, Log Entries)
Follow-up you need to do (aka, Action items)
You can even use your email to add new records (email2log).
Look, I know this can be overwhelming… here’s a video that will help you put all of this into perspective:
Have you ever heard of these? Let me put this into perspective:
If I was in a job search right now, I would spend about 80% of my time trying to get, and doing, informational interviews. I could only do that because I would use JibberJobber to manage the administration of who I meet, when to follow-up, etc. Otherwise I’d spend about 60% of my time doing that, and the 20% difference monkeying around with the spreadsheet trying to keep track of it all.
This is the single most important tactic I can think of, for job seekers.
I agree with everything Barb wrote. I would like to suggest this additional tidbit:
Do not come across as a job seeker. When you go into these meetings, you want to be a peer or colleague of the person you are meeting with. Job seeker usually means “needy.” Worse, the way you start your relationship is they have power, you need help. If you are a peer/colleague, you are equal.
Something I learned many years ago is that even though we are in a job search, we are still professionals. Not professional job seekers, mind you, but professional marketers, or executives, or whatever our last title(s) were. Job seeker is a temporary status, not who we are.
Let me cut this blog post short, right here, so you can read Barb’s article, and then email some people to ask for these meetings. It’s that important.
I didn’t hire a resume writer when I was in a job search. Why? Because I couldn’t afford it.
And, because I was smart enough to write my own resume. Heck, I had worked my way through a CIS degree, and an MBA, and by that point, had had a great career. SELF MADE. I was smart, motivated, etc.
Why should I hire someone, for hundreds of dollars, to write a one or two page resume?
One or two pages. Bleh. I had written papers in college that were many times that length.
So I wrote my own resume, and I spun my wheels in a depressing job search, when the economy was strong. I got nowhere. And I didn’t understand why.
I didn’t understand that an experienced resume writer would have been able to help me understand why.
What I’ve come to learn is that a “resume writer,” many times, is much more than a resume writer. Let me rewrite that: A resume writer is much more than a typist.
When you hire a resume writer, you are hiring someone who is in your corner, rooting for you, cheering you on, and sometimes, coaching you. I’m not saying they are a coach, but if you email them and say “I am not getting anywhere… what am I doing wrong?”, they might put on their coaching hat and say something like “my other clients are doing this thing, have you tried that?”
If I had hired a resume writer, I know that writer would have said “Jason, you are doing this thing wrong… fix it!”
Resume writers are in the trenches with you. And they have been in the trenches hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. They have seen many successes, and many failures. They learn from job seekers that have gone before you. Many have seen the cycles of great economy/cruddy economy. They have an understanding of the past, and a vision of the future, and can be your lighthouse helping you navigate a seemingly hopeless and dangerous journey.
Resume writers get a thrill when you email them and say you landed a job. They share that huge win with their Facebook friends (I’m friends with many on Facebook, and see these messages shared regularly). It’s a second payday for them. Sure, they charge money, and they should. This is not charity work. They are experts at what they do. More important, they bring value to you…. and they should be rewarded for that. Their first payday is when you pay them money. Their second payday is when you say “I landed!!” Honestly, I’m not sure which is worth more to a resume writer. In many cases, the second payday is more meaningful.
Think I’m blowing smoke yet? I’m not. I know these people. I’ve been to conferences with them. I email them. I have broken bread with them. They genuinely care about your success, as much as they care about being experts in their field. They want to bring their best game to you, so you can move forward in your career.
Recently I saw a Facebook message from my friend in Wisconsin, Julie Walraven. This message shows her passion and excitement, and level of concern that she puts into her client relationship. This message could just have easily been shared by Charlotte Weeks in Chicago, or Adrian Kelly in Australia, or Dawn Bugni in North Carolina or Shahrzad Arasteh in Maryland or Kelly McClelland in Florida or Robyn Feldberg in Texas or Ann Brody in Chicago or Carrie Luber in New York or… the list could go on and on. These career professionals are not mere typists (although they do that very well). Here’s Julie’s Facebook post:
Find the right resume writer, career coach, or career counselor, and I guarantee they will echo this same enthusiasm and commitment to your success.