March 2, 2011
If you don't respect yourself, no one else will (including hiring managers)
I talked to a group of frustrated job seekers today. Their motivation seemed to be at an all-time low. Just two weeks ago, I had given them instructions on how to construct their job-search marketing plan, target their top companies and create a research plan that would make them knowledgeable about their future employers. This research was supposed to help them have better informational interviews, networking meetings and better-targeted resumes and cover letters.
Except for a handful, most of them hadn't done the assignment. Excuses included family medical issues and that they hadn't yet found their passion or were too busy preparing for an interview or networking, just to name a few. Yet, they were wondering why they hadn't yet made progress in getting closer to being hired.
I asked myself, "Are these people ready for work?" If they were currently employed at my company, and they couldn't deliver on a simple one-day research project with two weeks to complete it, would I even keep them on? Or would I instead start recruiting for other motivated job seekers in the market?
Why weren't these professionals taking their job search process -- which is now their full-time job -- seriously? To take it a step deeper, why weren't they taking themselves seriously or showing themselves some respect?
The other day, I was conducting an interviewing seminar on how to profile hiring managers, tailor your communication style and present more effectively. One person said, "I've tried all this stuff. It doesn't work. I mean, employers bring me in for interviews and ask me questions that aren't on the job description. They don't even know what they want. If they don't know, how am I supposed to? This happens to me all the time and I'm so frustrated that no one is hiring me."
She was putting herself in the role of victim. Her attitude was poor, her motivation was low and hope was lost. As I made suggestions for how she might try things differently, she would interrupt and say, "I've tried that" or "that won't work for me" or "you don't understand what's going on." She wasn't showing herself, the audience, or me any respect. She had all the answers figured out and, in her mind, she was doomed.
From training more than 4,000 professionals in the last two years and coaching hundreds individually, I've seen that if you don't take yourself seriously, if you don't show yourself some respect, no one else will. When you lose your motivation, you radiate negative energy. Others don't want to be around you and hiring managers, in particular, don't want to hire you.
Many of us have been there. But staying in this mindset doesn't help anyone.
So, you're asking, what should I do?
1. Interrupt your current thought pattern. Shut off that internal dialog by changing your activity. Does swinging a golf club take your mind off negativity? Is it doing yoga, calling a best friend, getting outdoors or reading fiction?
2. Devise a plan. Unless you move forward, the negativity is going to hold you back. Even if you haven't figured everything out, don't use the excuse that you're "soul-searching." I know folks who are in their late sixties who are still soul-searching. It will never end. You have to sketch out your future in order to give yourself the light at the end of the tunnel. Some books call it "vision boarding," some call it simply creating a list of what you want. You need to do more than just pure positive-thinking, though. I suggest you come up with an actionable plan, no matter how imperfect it might be.
3. Find a knowledgeable, motivated, and successful peer group. You won't be able to carry yourself forward all the time because you won't have all the answers, motivation or knowledge required to be successful. But others will. Take advantage of their generosity and surround yourself with those who can help you.
4. Give yourself a break. This situation is temporary. We've all been through this; chances are we'll go through it again. It means nothing about you, your self-worth or how good you are. As some say, "life happens." No matter how difficult and stressful this process may be, find a way to make this positive for yourself. See it as a journey to your brighter future.
I've coached enough people to see that at the end, everyone succeeds. Some are more fortunate than others, but if you follow these suggestions, you can dramatically shorten your transition time.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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