Finding Work in Tough Times – The Hunt for Reality, Optimism and a Job
Jessica Miller-Merrell | Career, Job Search| By
Teresa, a 40-something manager, rode a career wave that peaked and crashed. The major telecommunications company where she had worked in Silicon Valley for many years showed signs leading up to the lay off. When Teresa lost her job, it marked the third round of layoffs at her company. The first had occurred four months earlier…
Finding Work in Tough Times
”You could see a trend,” says Teresa. “I knew my position was in peril because I was finished with a large project and was looking for things to do. I was not surprised, but it was disturbing.”
The company dwindled from 700 employees to 400. Last to be laid off were well-paid managers and directors. When Teresa found herself in that group, she deployed a seven-tiered approach to facing the job market anew. You can use these tips too. Use them to get a new job in your current field or to pave a new career path.
1. Seek Training and Support
Get the training you need to sharpen your interview skills and update your resume. Career transition companies like Lee Hecht Harrison (http://www.lhh.com) offer courses to give you a roadmap that optimize your job search results.
Certified career coaches, like the author, are also available. Coaches work with you one-on-one or in groups (typically with over the phone convenience) to build your communication and confidence. You can use your sessions to practice interviewing and receive feedback on strengths and weaknesses. Coaches point out where you’re going astray, how to maximize your efforts and keep you on track so you can obtain the best possible job options.
Other resources such as professional organizations offer job leads, an opportunity to network within your industry and can provide subgroups for job seekers. Join existing job seeker groups within an organization or start your own. Form a “success team” with four to eight people. Get together with them to share job leads, successes and failures. You can hire a facilitator to direct the group and offer guidance about tough job obstacles or take turns switching off leadership for each meeting.
The success team that Teresa joined provided her with support during a time of uncertainty. It offered shoulders to cry on and a cheering squad to motivate each other onward.
The group also provided answers and self-esteem boosters. Teresa explains, “When people get laid off, it really is a loss. When it happens each of us needs to address the lingering issues and come to terms with: why was I laid off? Why not this other person?” Bringing these questions to a facilitated group helped build morale.
Whether you are pondering these questions in a group setting or on your own, also consider these questions: What can I learn from this? And, what is next for me? You may or may not get to the bottom of all the “whys” but you can learn from your experience and build the courage to move forward into your next opportunity.
2. Set Goals and Work Toward Them
Take some time to set both short term and long-term goals. Do you want to work toward a new career path? Do you need to find a job right away? Based on your professional and personal needs, form goals directed toward your next employment move. Sometimes setbacks can hold the gem of an exciting new opportunity. For example, let’s say you enjoy designing web sites for friends and you have your own blog. You’ve dreamed about taking this hobby to a professional level. Does the ending of your current job give you the chance to go for your dream? You may opt to work either full time or part time while you get trained for and launch a new business. There are many ways to make it happen. Look for the opportunity in the setback. Shape a goal around it.
It may be challenging, but set at least one goal that is three to five years in the future. This will give you a bird’s eye view of what you’re moving toward. Write down your future goal with a date associated with it, such as: To advance my career and get a marketing manager job by June 30, 2011. Let your goal stretch you. Also make it real enough that you believe you can do it. Your longer-term goal will inform goals you need to set today.
Facing reality: what goals do you need to set today to get a job or make a career change? Set a four to six week goal. Make sure to write down what you intend to do by when. For example: To obtain a product development job at the same salary or greater by April 15, 2008. Once you put a specific goal with a target date out there, you can map out daily and weekly action steps to move you toward your outcome.
Each person in Teresa’s success team created six-week goals and shared them with the group. This created instant accountability. Teresa’s goals were: Join two volunteer organizations and to have a job offer at the end of six weeks. Teresa accomplished her goals. You can too by mirroring what she did. No matter how scared you are take action anyway. The next tip will give you what you need to create a plan and go…
3. Create a Plan and Go
Your goals are in place. Now post them in a visible area to remind yourself of them every day. Then let the rubber hit the road. Take at least one hour to figure out how you will achieve them. Develop a marketing plan featuring you as the product. Don’t know where to begin? Seek the advice of a certified career coach or talk with a successful colleague. Bouncing ideas off of someone and saying your thoughts out loud can clarify next steps.
To discover her personal job roadmap, Teresa asked herself these questions: What are my job search objectives? How will I position myself in the job market? What skills and experience will I emphasize? With whom will I network? What companies will I target? What types of jobs will I seek?
Ask yourself the same questions. Also ask: What is my purpose? Why do I need a new job?
Answering these questions ignites fire beneath your job hunt. What are the compelling reasons that motivate you to wake up in the morning and search? Examples include: advance your career, learn new skills, support your family, connect with people and build a sense of personal accomplishment. Your purpose provides the key to unlocking your drive and motivation. Become intimately acquainted with the why behind your job pursuit. Remind yourself of it daily, especially if you are resisting taking action.
4. Set and Hold Daily “Work Hours”
If you are unemployed, your job is now to get a new job. That means that you must dedicate part or full time hours to a structured job pursuit.
You went from having set works hours to the vast open space of free time. We all long for it, but when it’s before us free time can be daunting. Make sure that you set and hold “work hours” each day. That is, dedicated and focused time toward your job search. Know in advance what you’ll do each day.
Teresa set regular 9 to 5 work hours. To lock in this schedule four days a week, Teresa rewarded herself for hard work. She says, “I took one day off as an incentive because you know how demoralizing it can be to find a new job.”
You can also set up rewards or consequences to help you stick to your job search schedule. Another professional woman, for example, enjoyed spending summer weekends at the local water slide with her kids. She decided that if she didn’t get her focused tasks done during the week as planned then she would have to spend the weekend working while her family was off playing. Her family wanted to spend fun time with her so they all rallied behind her to get her job activities done during the week. It was a strong incentive to keep her going even when she didn’t feel like picking up the phone or dressing for an interview. She managed to follow her set schedule and avoided the “no fun” consequence. She found herself splashing away in the rush of water with her kids and husband: her reward for putting in a week of concentrated efforts.
5. Broaden the Range of Jobs You Will Consider
You’re sending email blasts to get the word out. You’ve researched companies of interest and tapped into your network. But still no results. To get back out there, earn some income and re-build your confidence, you may need to broaden the jobs that you’ll consider.
Perhaps you have been out of the market for a while to raise children, for example. The available jobs today may differ from those available when you were in the job market before. There may be a larger or smaller number job openings in your field of interest.
Put yourself out there and find out. Ask around. Search the net. Discover what people currently in your desired industry have to say. You may have to expand the types of jobs you are willing to accept and that match your skills.
A colleague of Teresa’s, Jim, approached the job market as if the economy was still robust. As an ex-director, he pursued vice president and director-level positions, which made high salary demands. But, given the rapidly declining market and changed hiring needs, potential companies were not interested.
Jim started looking into government postings. But city and government positions, once overflowing, had been dramatically cut. To avoid a prolonged job search like Jim’s, Teresa offers the following advice.
When you’re faced with accepting less than you are accustomed to, Teresa suggests, “Lower your expectations about what you’re going to get. When your gut feeling says to take the job, do it. Don’t let pride get in the way.” Do not stall. You never know where the position will lead. With often 100s of people applying for every open position, jobs can fill quickly. If it is not your dream job, it can be a temporary place holder until you find a more suitable career move. Here’s how…
6. Fill Your Job Search with Leveraged Tasks
What actions will give you the highest return toward getting a new job?
Whether you’re dedicating 40 hours a week to a job search or devoting an hour a week outside of your current job, continue to take steps toward your next position.
As mentioned, Teresa filled four full days a week with the targeted actions. You can take the same steps to accelerate your job search.
– Research job search engines like http://www.monster.com and Yahoo’s http://www.hotjobs.com. Also peruse local on-line job listing sites to check out openings in your area.
– Contact hiring managers to ask questions by phone or in person. Or try contacting someone in a department of interest and see if they’ll chat with you for 10 minutes about what it’s like to work there.
– Submit resumes and always follow up by phone and email to make sure that the company received them. Don’t just be another sheet of paper in the stack. Get noticed by making personal, voice-to-voice contact.
– Network. Contact colleagues for job leads. Set up lunches and coffee meetings to let people know you’re searching. Friends and colleagues can be your greatest allies in finding work.
– Research companies before interviews. Even reading a press release about a new product the company created can let the interviewer know you did your homework.
– Interview. Getting an interview alone is a positive step. Be prepared with questions and clear examples of how your work fits the position. Greet the interviewer and a firm (but not bone breaking) handshake.
– Follow up with prospective employers. After an interview, call the person who interviewed you, send an email or a hand written thank you note. Re-emphasize your commitment and enthusiasm for the job.
– Attend trade shows and industry forums. This will give you direct access to recruiters and employees from targeted companies. Job listings are commonly displayed at trade shows.
– Join new business organizations. Get connected with members and build relationships with those inside of companies you would like to work for. Professional organizations often share strong leads with members.
7. Find Meaning Outside of Work
Many of us define ourselves by work, work, work. But when we lose our jobs, our identity in work is gone. There’s a pause in those dinner party conversations when someone asks, “What do you do?” Before you could happily say, “I’m overseeing the Benefits Department at Seagate Technology.” Now you fumble for words explaining your situation. Finding meaning outside of work will help you define yourself beyond your job. You are still worthy. Your job loss may even connect you with dormant parts of yourself. Was there a time in your life that you did a fun hobby? Did you used to enjoy wood working classes? Are there recipes you used to love to cook? What’s that volunteer organization that you used to joyfully devote time to?
As you recall, one of Teresa’s job search goals was to join two volunteer organizations. She says she did this to “get out there and do something. It was a way to make myself feel valued during this time of uncertainty. If I’m not working, I might as well be doing something.” She enjoyed spending one Saturday a week leading tours at a historical property in Palo Alto, California.
We humans are wired to be productive. Dig your hands into volunteering at the community garden or take that Pilates fitness class one day a week. Do something that increases your energy and reminds you that there is more to life than work. Spend a full stretch of time doing something purely fun. Or commit one night a week to that cherished hobby you’ve almost forgotten about. It will lift your spirits and motivate you to keep going on your job search.
And while playing and pursuing work, you will remember the balancing act of life with its opportunities and challenges. If you look at life as a series of cycles and phases, you’re in the midst of one to the next. Ideas and answers will point you toward new job beginnings. Teresa took her job hunt as an adventure saying, “You can’t take it too seriously. As long as you have a roof over your head and food to eat with a little spending money… there is always much to be grateful for.” With gratitude for what you do have and a willingness to let go of what is lost, you will be well on your way for what the future holds.
So step into the river, one step at a time, feeling the rocks beneath your feet until reach more fertile ground.
And are you ready to learn more about how to turn your goals into reality?
Then “[N]aked Desk” author Sue Brenner invites you to visit [http://www.suebrenner.com] to get access to her free success tele-seminars.