Remove Humiliation from Your Job Search

You’ve found the perfect job, the perfect job for you, and with tenacity, grit, and stellar preparation, you made it to the finalist round.

It’s been a week since the last grueling interview, and you’ve heard nothing. You’ve spent the week dreaming into the job, imagining your new office, considering what you’ll negotiate for your salary and benefits, and strategizing about who you want to eat lunch with.

Yet, time ticks by and no word from the company. Silence.

As it becomes increasingly clear that you weren’t the Chosen One, you wonder what you did wrong. Your confidence starts to slip, you ask whether your judgment is off about other things you thought were a sure bet in your life. Why didn’t you even merit a courtesy phone call? What’s up with THAT?!

The emotional fallout from a job search can be difficult.First, know that this crushing experience isn’t something that just descends on you. We all feel our guts twist at some point in the job search process. You’re not alone, and this decision isn’t a referendum on you and your value and worth and what you can command in the marketplace.

Everyone, every single person, experiences doubt about their career progression. There isn’t a single one of us who dodges this agonizing “will I measure up?” gremlin.

The universality of this painful process doesn’t lessen the impact of it, but knowing that you’re tapping into a process that sits squarely in the world of Human Experience brings you company, and hopefully encourages you to reach out and connect with your supportive community so that you’re not suffering alone.

The good news is that there a key insight that you can use to combat the squeeze of pain that a job search inevitably brings to your life.

Know that It’s Not Personal

It’s a buyer’s market in the world of work right now. Hiring authorities have the advantage because they can draw upon a very qualified pool of applicants. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have a place or won’t soon get an offer. It just means that there’s no simple mechanism for hiring managers to get feedback that their silence and slowness has enormous impact on job seekers.

Plus, almost every company out there is having to stretch existing resources further than ever before. People in corporate America are often buried in work, stretched beyond their normal capacity, and they’re doing all they can to stay afloat. They’re often doing the work of more than one person due to cutbacks and demands from those at the next level above them.

When hiring authorities get mired in overload and don’t surface long enough to attend to common courtesies (like returning phone calls and formally closing the loop on a job search), it’s easy to jump to conclusions about your own value and worthiness rather than see the big picture that drives their behavior.

It’s not that they’re rude – some of them certainly are — but most of them are just surviving themselves. They probably don’t have formal training or guidance about how to handle the hiring process, and they don’t recognize how much it means to people waiting to hear about their decisions. They may bungle the process in many ways:

  • Taking an extraordinary amount of time to give you the formal “no” (or, worse, never getting back to you)
  • Giving you no feedback or bland, completely meaningless feedback (“we went in another direction” – what are you supposed to do with THAT?!)
  • Giving mixed messages during the interview (“Our top priority is X” and then later “We’re putting all of our resources this year into Y” or “We’re paying particular attention to candidates who have A qualification” and then a few minutes/hours/sentences later, “It’s important that the person we hire have Opposite of A characteristic”)

Forgive them.

They’re usually tired, getting mixed message themselves, and lost in the sea of their own worlds.

It has nothing to do with you, your merit, your fit, your value. It’s just a sad commentary on our busy world, one that admittedly has you as collateral damage, but one that doesn’t have to define you.

Sick of the Cattle Call? How to Distinguish Yourself from the Herd

The process of searching for a job can be discouraging with so many people clamoring for just a few coveted positions.

I had a client recently find the perfect position for herself:

  • In her field
  • One step up from her current level
  • Compelling projects that matched her strengths
  • A nice bump in salary and better benefits.

Her excitement level skyrocketed when she read the job description, and she hurried to consult with me on her cover letter and resume customization for the position.

After she submitted for the position, the confirmation email that she received included instructions for checking on the status of her application. She quickly clicked the link to see the site that provided a chart with the status. The company had a great system that included a status that changed categories to signal where the search was in the process of selecting the final candidate, a system that my client found helpful. The categories included:

  • Accepting applications
  • Reviewing submissions
  • Invitations sent for phone screens
  • In-person interviews in progress
  • Search completed.

What my client wasn’t prepared for was the box in the status chart that listed the number of applicants for the position: 319.Cows

She was stunned, and her confidence plummeted. In the space of a heartbeat, she went from giddy excitement to devastation.

It’s a scenario that many of us face time and time again. We find the position that suits us so well, it’s almost as if we wrote the job description ourselves. Then, we get a big picture view of the process, and it’s discouraging (to say the least).

Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to combat this situation:

Get in the door before the job is posted

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Personal Marketing Plan as the launch point for your job search. Once you develop a list of target companies, start gathering intel on them, and forging purposeful connections within an organization. You get so much out of this approach:

  • You can find out what will be emphasized in the decision-making criteria
  • You can tailor your resume and cover letter to speak directly to those issues
  • You can align your interview prep with what you already know about the company
  • You also may have a champion inside the process, either someone on the hiring team, or someone who might be able to influence the hiring team members.

Bypass the search process

It’s true what you hear about the hidden job market. When I worked in outplacement, we collected data from our clients as they were placed, and the figures I heard were that as many as 75% of jobs are never advertised. They’re filled by people making proactive inquiries using their target companies list from their Personal Marketing Plans.

Know your competition

If you can’t answer these 3 questions about the jobs you’re pursuing, you need to do more research:

  • Who else will compete for the jobs you’re seeking?
  • What qualifications do they have that you don’t?
  • How can you position yourself to be the clear winner when you’re compared to those others in the top tier of the candidate pool?

Cast your net widely

If you’re not generating 6-10 viable opportunities for yourself in your search, your scope isn’t broad enough. Most positions will disappear through no fault of yours:

  • The funding will be cut at the last minute after the finalist has been selected (and perhaps even extended an offer).
  • The position gets pulled to be rewritten and revamped.
  • An internal transfer will be forced on a department.

The possibilities are endless about what makes positions vaporize without warning. What’s important is that you make sure that you have other options so that you don’t slip into a sinkhole of despair when a position you’re dreaming about goes away. If you’ve got 6-10 other opportunities in the works, you may feel a sting from one falling away, but you’ll refocus quickly and turn your attention in another direction.

My client made it through the phone screen to the in-person interview, but she didn’t get the offer. She learned a massive amount from the process, and she’s applying that information as she doubles down on her search. She hasn’t yet given up on that particular company, and as she revs up for another go at them, she’s armed with much more information than she had at the beginning, particularly because she’s using the tips that I suggested, and she’s expanded her search and anchoring it with a Personal Marketing Plan.

Have you ever had a dream job slip through your fingers? How did you rebound and redirect your efforts?

You May Be Surprised About Where to Begin Your Job Search

Almost everyone who contacts me for career coaching begins in the same place:

Can you rewrite my resume?

What they don’t realize is that a resume isn’t the starting point for a successful job search. It’s certainly an important tool, but it comes later in the process than most people expect.

A Personal Marketing Plan is the linchpin and the beginning point of a well designed and systematic job search. It’ll take you from a reactive, job board troll to a proactive, intentional strategist in a matter of hours.A personal marketing plan is like a compass, helping you navigate your job search.

What is it? It’s a document that outlines exactly what you want in your next job. It’s a road map to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. In short, it’s the magic wand of a job search.

Here are the building blocks of a personal marketing plan:

  • Target job level (entry-level, VP, director)
  • Target job function (broad categories such as Social Media, IT Support)
  • Scope and skills (imagine yourself writing your own job description here)
  • Target geographic location
  • Target company attributes (such as company culture, benefits you might seek like educational reimbursement)
  • Target companies (aim for 30-45 companies)

Once you outline all of these parameters, you’ve got a GPS for your job search. No more late nights on aimlessly wandering through postings, hoping for something that’ll bail you out of where you are now.

Instead, you plan your month, your week, and your day using your Personal Marketing Plan. Who can connect you with someone in one of your target companies? What events can you attend that will put you the radar of people you want to meet and companies on your list? How can you leverage LinkedIn to reach out to specific people and groups where you’re likely to encounter people who work (or have worked for) your target companies?

You’ll set up Google News Alerts for your target companies, subscribe to their newsletters, and follow them on social media. You’ll track your connections and loop back to people who may be able to make vital connections for you. You’ll monitor the job boards for these specific companies.

Finally, when there are openings at your target companies, you’ll be positioned to craft your resume and cover letter to weave in the intel that you’ve already gathered on the positions you’re seeking. You’re no longer at the bottom of a list of hundreds of applicants in a massive Applicant Tracking System. Instead, you’re at the top of the pool, on the phone screen list, and on your way in the door, all because you stepped back and got a big picture view of your job search, made some strategic moves, and refined your marketing materials later in the process.

I’m happy to supply you with a sample Personal Marketing Plan and blank template if you contact me.

I learned about Personal Marketing Plans when I worked in outplacement. When I was trained for my job as a career consultant, my boss opened up the job search book (it was as thick as the phone books of my youth) and turned to the page where the Personal Marketing Plan was displayed. “When clients complete this page, and they use it to drive their job search, they land much faster than the ones who don’t. If you teach them only one tool, teach them this,” she said.

Have you ever heard of a Personal Marketing Plan? Have you used one? I’d love to hear about your experiences with this amazing tool.

Do You Have Career ADHD?

Do you find yourself trolling job search sites and imaging yourself in the jobs you see there?

When a friend describes her job, do you quickly assess whether it might be something that you’d enjoy?

Do you look at graduate programs and do a budget in your head, calculating how lo
ng and how much money it would take to reinvent yourself?

If you’re wandering aimlessly across the career tundra, wondering where you belong, you’re not alone.

Just like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has verifiable roots, there’s a real foundation for your musings and your behavior.

Which career direction should you choose?

Logic Reigned at Key Pivot Points

At each milestone moment in our lives, there are clear roads with neon signs pointing, “This way!” When you graduate from high school, the next logical step is college, and when you’re in college, the typical formula for figuring out your major can be summed up as

Classes in High School You Liked + What You’re Good At + Good Job Opportunities + Decent Salary = Your Career

If you’re like most people, you flooded your college career center with resumes, counted yourself lucky to have a reasonable offer before you went through the commencement ceremony, and started calculating your car payment and surfing online for your first vacation spot with paid leave.

All of those decisions made sense at the time, but once you’re settled into a job, and even if you’ve switched around a bit, there comes a point when you realize that you’re solidly in a career track and you wonder if maybe you made the right decision.

And the truth is, you did make good decisions. All of those decisions were great at the time and they took you towards success. To question whether you still have the same definition of success makes perfect sense a few (or more) years out of college.

Now, it’s time to integrate the other dimensions of your life that you’re developing.

  • Does your job/career leave you room to spend time with people doing activities that matter to you?
  • Does it align with your values?
  • Do you feel invigorated and recognized at work?

There’s No College Course in Developing Your Internal GPS

No one teaches us to listen internally for our internal guidance. Maybe people asked you, “What’s your passion,” but that question can be paralyzing if there’s not a clear, easy response. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to make something up that sounds good just to have a ready answer for that question.

  • How much of what we gravitate toward is a reaction to what has been taught and modeled for us?
  • Are we really heading towards something, or are we trying get away from a fear or some discomfort?

It’s a Simple Question, but a Complex Answer

As you reflect on what to do next in your career, there aren’t straightforward answers.

Passions don’t always pay the bills, and there’s more to this question of which direction to take than what lights you up. Even when you set aside the question of clear barriers (your partner has a job in this town, but there are no other opportunities for you here beyond what you’re doing now, for example), there layers and nuances to this process.

  • How can you craft mini experiments to determine whether you’re on a track worth pursuing rather than take a leap that bets most of your security?
  • The job market is shifting so rapidly that it’s tough to make predictions about where opportunities lie. How do you know whether a direction you’re exploring has a solid foundation?
  • How can you tell the difference between a bright, shiny object and a true calling?

Give yourself a break if you wonder whether you’re in the right spot professionally. You got here honestly, and just like ADHD, there are treatment protocols and strategies that can point you in the best direction for you and your long-term sense of satisfaction and meaning and security.

Where do you think you went astray? Post your pivot point in the comments below. It’ll help others recognize that they’re not alone in feeling cast adrift.