If someone asked you today to solve a complex mathematical equation or to fly a small plane, you’d laugh—unless, of course, you have skills and experience in these areas. Why, then, when you lose your job for the first time (often after many years of working), do most people assume that they naturally should know how to look for work? I wish I knew the answer to this one.
If right now job searching is all new to you and feels overwhelming, please know that you have a lot of company—that many people faced with sudden job loss are shocked and unsure. Just admitting that this is new to you is a great place to begin because it invites others to help you. The “I’m new to this” message is a good one, unlike “I’ll never get hired again, so what’s the point?” And running a good job search doesn’t require advanced degrees or stunning credentials, but it does call for openness and a willingness to learn. Take small steps, consult with others, keep track of what’s working and what isn’t, adjust your strategy, and you’ll make good progress.
I’m sometimes asked about my success rate (how many of my clients land new jobs). After trying to answer this, I came to the conclusion that I can’t. There are too many variables; and of course, some clients land new jobs after their programs are over and they don’t let me know about it. So my data is inconclusive. But here are factors that affect how successful job seekers are:
- Previous experience in the job search process
- How up to date they are in their field
- Their attitude
- The economy (and this can be very industry specific)
- Mergers and acquisitions (Is their market expanding or shrinking?)
- Their willingness to commit to a process that requires patience, persistence, courage, and good communication skills
To be one of the success stories, you need four qualities:
- Patience: The hiring process is never fast enough, whether it takes a week or many months
- Persistence: Effective follow-up will set you apart from many job seekers, and it gives you the chance to show your determination and professionalism.
- Courage: Looking for a job is a little bit like being lost in the woods without a compass. There are days when the frustration of it all brings you down, but you can’t let it beat you.
- Focused communication: You need to be able to articulate who you are, what you’re good at, and your goals. And you have to offer specific proof of your value.
There’s a lot you can’t control in the job search process, but there are many things you can, including the qualities mentioned in the preceding list. Focus on these, be systematic, keep at it, and you’ll land a new job. This is what career counselors see every day: There are ups and downs, high points and low points, events that are logical and ones that aren’t. But if you stick with it and learn from the process, you’ll be working again.
Resources and Ideas
Some people find it helpful to draw on their own past experience, specifically how they got through other difficult times. Did they join a support group? Did they find books or audio resources that were helpful? Did they start walking five miles a day?
If your pride is hurt and you’re having a difficult time getting past your frustration and anger, see if you can
- Look at the big picture. By this I mean seeing that what has happened to you isn’t personal (although it feels that way). Realize that thousands of others have recently lost their jobs and have to go through the same process that you do.
- Find ways to take advantage of this involuntary change in your life. That could mean doing some career planning, helping an elderly parent, spending more time with your children, or simply giving yourself time to consider what you might want to do next.
- Consider that you might end up in a better job than the one you lost. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen, but of course it’s hard to believe in the early days when you’re stunned.
- Help someone else. By reaching out to another person who is in transition or by tutoring a child, you’re getting your focus outside of your own situation. This often helps you gain perspective.
- Figure out how to build tolerance for the search process. It’s easy to think you can just do it, but because there are often many ups and downs, it’s good to consider who you know who’s been through this recently, what groups might be helpful, and how you’re going to create a schedule that you can sustain.
- Lastly, make your workspace attractive. I love flowers, so I try to always have a vase on my desk with roses or lilies or whatever is blooming in my garden. This makes it easier for me to get my work done.
Jean Baur, author of Eliminated! Now What?, is a senior consultant with the nation’s leading outplacement firm, Lee Hecht Harrison. She has partnered with thousands of clients to help them overcome job loss and recession-proof their careers. In addition, she designs and delivers workshops to improve clients’ interviewing and overall search skills. Visit her online at www.jeanbaur.com.