job loss

It’s Not About Me

This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on LocalWork.com.

Until the Great Recession, I never had to look for work. When I was in college, I needed beer and pizza money so I answered an ad in the student newspaper. I was screened, hired, trained, and began working that same day. Within six months I received two promotions so I decided to stick with it after graduation. A few years and a few more promotions later I received a call from a headhunter offering a chance to do more of what I liked to do and less of what I didn’t like to do at twice the pay, so I took it. I continued my upward movement over the next few years until finally, in 2009, I was let go during a company merger. For the first time ever, I had to learn how to job-search.

My first and most important lesson:

It’s not about me.

It is about what companies need and the benefits I can bring to them.

Companies do not hire out of compassion. They may feel for you on a human level, they may wish they can do something to end your unemployment, but their business is not to create employment opportunities. Their business is to increase profit for the shareholders.

A company increases profit by one of two ways: by increasing sales, or by decreasing costs. Companies hire, then, based on their belief that you can help them, increase sales or decrease costs (or, ideally, both).

The average job seeker talks about their experiences and job responsibilities.

The successful job seeker demonstrates in their sales pitch/elevator speech, their resume and cover letter, and in the interview that they have experience in increasing sales and/or decreasing costs.Be as specific as possible. Use numbers. If you can put a dollar sign in front of the number, or a percent sign after, then so much the better.

  • You didn’t just create a marketing campaign. Instead, you created and managed a $1.7million marketing campaign that led to a 12% increase of sales year over year.
  • You weren’t just an administrative assistant. Instead, you increased efficiency by automating a reporting technique, resulting in 4 hours per week of saved time.
  • You weren’t just a cook. Instead, you prepared 400 meals per weeknight and 600 meals per weekend with a 50% decrease in dinners being returned.
  • You didn’t just work in a warehouse. Instead, you consistently exceeded packing and shipping goals and had zero returns for incorrect product.

If I was an employer, and you gave me one of those examples, you would have my attention. I would want to know more.

It is no question that job searching is tough. But you can be better than the average job seeker and give yourself the best opportunity for success, if you always remember:

It’s not about me.

I would love to hear what you think! Please leave a note below, or contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Stay encouraged

Job Search is tough. You submit dozens of applications online and never hear a response. You go to job fairs, and the only companies that are hiring for what you want tell you to apply online. You finally get an interview, only to find out the position has been filled.

Feeling down

It is easy to get discouraged, especially as days turn into weeks, and your budget grows tighter as you try to support your family and bills still need to be paid.

But to be successful, you can’t give up. You have to remain positive.

You may allow yourself time to wallow in self-pity, but to be successful in your job search, you have to snap out of it.

My suggestion:

Success breeds success, so set small, attainable goals.

In basketball, when a 3-point shooter is struggling, a coach will draw up a play to give the player a layup. Gain a little bit of confidence, then he or she can move back and start firing away with confidence.

For job search, start shooting layups. Set small goals such as:

  • Attend two networking events in the next week.
  • Meet and connect with five new people. Follow up.
  • Set up one informational interview next week.

These are very attainable goals. If you want to be more aggressive, then go to it.

Keep applying for the jobs you want, for which you are qualified, but I would not necessarily advise an artificial goal like “5 applications per day.” At that point, you likely are applying for jobs where you are not qualified, then you will not get the interview, and you just get more frustrated.

These in themselves will likely not lead to a job offer, which is the ultimate goal. But as you start checking things off your “job search to-do” list, you will gain more confidence, you will show more confidence, you will be more positive, and will start to have more success.

Time and time again, I hear from job seekers (myself included) that their big break came on or shortly after their darkest day. You have to hang tough.

To quote the great sage, Rocky Balboa, “Life isn’t about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

And don’t forget to visit your mother.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to know what you think! Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Dealing with job loss

According to one frequently-cited health survey, job loss is one of the most stressful life events that a person experiences, and is a significant contributor to a potential health breakdown.

Maybe you saw the writing on the wall before a layoff. Usually, job loss comes unexpectedly with little warning. You show up for work one day, are summoned to the HR office, and before you know it, Security escorts you out the door carrying a box with your belongings.

Your feelings of shock, denial, anger, fear and grief are valid. Friends and family members will empathize but urge you to, “Go get another job.” These suggestions are well-meant, but not always very helpful.

You have to work through Anger, Denial, and Depression to get to Acceptance.

You have to work through Denial, Anger, and Depression to get to Acceptance.

That said, if you are among the three out of four Americans living paycheck to paycheck, sooner rather than later your family will need to replace your lost income. You will have to get a job.

Which means, you will have to quickly get through the grief cycle to Acceptance of your current reality.

This helped me:

1)    Establish a schedule. Just because you are not working does not mean you are on vacation. Your full-time job is “job search.” Treat it as such. Go to bed at a decent hour, wake up early, get dressed, and get your day started.

2)    Eat right and exercise. Avoid the temptation of stress-induced overeating — make a point to bring home more vegetables and fruits and fewer cookies and cupcakes. Cook at home more often; why not try out a new recipe? Maybe now is the time to train for that half-marathon, or to finally use that exercise DVD you bought last year (or found for free from the library). Take care of yourself.

3)    Devote time to hobbies. Find something that you enjoy and can occupy your mind. Finish that book(s) sitting next to your bed, or write the one you always wanted to. Dust off the guitar in the closet, or spend more time in your garden. CAUTION: Remember that while you cannot do it 24/7, your current full-time job is job search. I do not recommend as a goal that you catch up with all seven seasons of your favorite TV show on DVD.

Maybe limit to one episode per day

Maybe limit to one episode per day

4)    Volunteer. Find something that you are passionate about (pets, children, the poor, the environment, your faith, whatever), and go do it. It gives you a reason to leave the house. It allows you to experience accomplishments, which helps rebuild your confidence during a depressing time. And it just feels good to give back to society.
More practically, Volunteering occupies your time and provides an answer to the question, “What have you been doing since your last job?” It can give you additional skills and accomplishments to include on a resume. And, volunteering is an excellent way to broaden your personal network.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it. 

Why a one-size-fits-all resume misses the mark

In 2009, I faced my own career transition when my company eliminated my position during a corporate restructuring. My now former company did the honorable thing and hired an outplacement service to assist me (the one takeaway I still remember: employers do not like facial hair. Goodbye, goatee!).

George Clooney could probably get away with facial hair. Not me.

George Clooney could probably get away with a beard.

A week later, I received a box in the mail with 200 finished resumes on nice paper.

I immediately did two things that turned out to be the among the smartest decisions during my career search:

  • I had the outplacement service send me an editable copy of my resume, and
  • I turned the 200 copies into scratch paper.

Quite simply, job seekers who send out the same resume to every employer are doing it wrong.

Successful job seekers cannot have a one-size-fits-all resume, because really, it is one-size-fits-none.

Employers receive, on average, 250 applications/resumes for every open position; many receive two or three times this. They will spend, at most, seven seconds with each resume before deciding to either read further or discard.

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Additionally, two employers in the same industry, hiring for the same type of position, will have different needs.

All this together means that the successful applicant:

  1. is the one who meets and exceeds the needs of the particular employer as specified by that employer, and
  2. who also speaks the employer’s language, and
  3. who conveys their qualifications in the top-third of the first page.

I recommend, instead of an Objective, to have a section for Key Qualifications. Tell the employer why you are qualified, matching their words as much as possible. The Work History section of your resume then supports the Key Qualifications.

For example, both Employer A and Employer B require three years’ experience. The successful applicant will have a bullet point under Key Qualifications that explains she has four years’ experience; the Work History section will show that she has two years with Company X and two years with Company Y.

Employer A also emphasizes the Customer Experience. The successful job seeker will change the “customer service” references on her resume to “customer experience” for Employer A.

Employer B talks about Loss Prevention where Employer A was silent. The successful applicant will add a bullet point under Key Qualifications to explain how he learned to rack merchandise in a way to aid Loss Prevention (he might want to include this in the resume for Employer A, but must include this for Employer B).

Therefore, the successful job seeker will have a separate resume for each position with each company for which they are submitting resumes.

This does not mean that you have to start with a blank page every time; however, the successful job seeker is the one who puts in the effort.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedInand Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

Becoming glass-half-full during your job search

Job loss is one of the most stressful life-events we experience, depending on the source behind only death, serious illness or injury, divorce/separation, and oddly, marriage on the Life Stress-o-meter.

If you have lost a job, then your feelings of anger, betrayal, fear, relief and anxiety are normal and to be expected. So, you have my permission to scream, to pound the desk, to cry, and to complain to your dog. Get it all out.

But as a job seeker, you will need to “get it all out” if you are going to be successful. Otherwise, you are sabotaging your job-search efforts. Because employers want to hire and work with people they like, and employers like job seekers and employees with positive energy and good attitudes. Even if you feel betrayed, or even if it is not your natural behavior, you have to become a “glass half full” person for your job search.

Technically, the glass is always full — half with water, half with air

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Easy to say, but how do you do that? These steps helped me when I faced my own job layoff:

1)    Accept that your job loss is (probably) not your fault.* Companies do not exist for the purpose of providing jobs, or job security. Companies exist solely for the purpose of providing a profit to its shareholders. Thus, companies will do whatever they have to in order to survive. If that means staff cuts, then that is what the company will do.

(* Unless it was. Maybe you were let go with cause, or did not schmooze enough, or turned down one-too-many assignments, or simply became too expensive to keep. Regardless the reason, at this point, the decision to let you go has already been made. Accept it and move on.)

2)    Take care of yourself. Just because you do not have an office to go to, does not mean that you can slack off. Successful job search requires a full-time effort:

— Set your alarm
— Get enough sleep
— Eat healthy
— Exercise

3)    Occupy your time (and not just with TV!). In my case, I started running again and joined a training group to prepare for a 10K in the fall. I joined a new church and read through the Bible in six months (which usually takes me over a year). I tried some new recipes so I wasn’t eating out as much. I volunteered my time.

Just be careful that your extra-curricular activities do not crowd out time for your main purpose, which is job search.

Get out of the house. Remember, success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I also networked like crazy, and I learned how to job search. I’ll share more thoughts about these in future posts.

How do you keep yourself positive during your job search?

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn andTwitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!