“The surest way to obtaining employment is to stop complaining about no work, get off the couch and go knock on doors with resume in hand. If you do that all day, every day, you will then be choosing which job you are willing to take. This tactic is independent of any economic times. They don’t call them go-getters for nothing. Anything less than that and you’re hoping someone feels sorry for you.” – wikihow contributors
Danielle is 59, and a former colleague from the early DotCom days in San Francisco. I hadn’t seen her in a long time when we met up for dinner recently in Boston. She looked healthy and tanned—something that came with the territory of living in Florida – and I was excited that she had looked me up after all these years.
Danielle had recently discovered that I had written my book Carry a Paintbrush: How to Be the Artistic Director of Your Own Career, and although career development was not the reason for our visit, it ended up being a big part of the conversation. Danielle, it turns out, had been out of work for three years.
When I asked her why, she told me that she was “spoiled” and “scared”. Spoiled, she explained, because for three years she had been living a semi-retired, relaxed life in the sunshine of Del Ray Beach, scraping by on the profit she’d made from selling an investment property. Spoiled, she continued, because she didn’t have to go into an office to work, wasn’t accountable to anyone, and could do environmental volunteerism at her leisure. Spoiled, she said, because she didn’t want to give up this life.
Danielle was also “scared”. Her money had run out, her other investment properties were underwater, and she didn’t know what marketable skills she possessed. paralysed by her circumstances, she had no idea what the future held, and she didn’t know what to do about it. Danielle, like many other un- and under-employed people that I’ve met, had forgotten how to survive.
Charles Darwin, the famous 19th century naturalist who introduced the world to the theory of evolution once said, “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent. It is the species that is most adaptable to change that actually survives.” Danielle had lost her ability to adapt, and needed a good kick in the pants to remember how to evolve and survive. Here are some tips I shared with her.
Survival Tip #1: Getting a job is a full-time job. It really is. And if you think it’s any easier than that, you’re in for a big surprise. If you’re currently in a job and looking for a new job, your nights and weekends are going to be taken over by your quest. If you’re not currently working, your new job is to find a job, and you should spend a typical workday (eight to 10 hours) researching companies, meeting new people, having information sessions, following up on meetings, connecting with new leads and going to interviews.
That’s what I mean when I say that getting a job is a full-time job.
Survival Tip #2: Work harder than everyone else. You’ve all heard that networking is the only way to get a job these days. It’s true, so you have to become an expert networker, and that starts with the hard work of reaching out to strangers and asking for their help.
On your worst day, you should make a minimum of five phone calls and send five emails reaching out to people who work at companies where you’d like to work, even if there are no job listings. Dig through the Internet and find an email address or phone number of a specific person. Force yourself to make contact, and ask them to give you five minutes of their time to tell you about themselves and the company. Don’t ask for a job; simply make a new connection, and a new friend. Each of these connections could turn into something in the future.
To know who and where to call, spend 20 minutes researching a company for the first time. Spend 20 minutes researching a person you are reaching out to. Spend 20 minutes writing an introductory email, follow-up letter or thank you note, making sure that you read and re-read them to make certain they are clear and free from typos and grammatical errors.
This is what working harder than everyone else means.
Survival Tip #3: Stay organised. Set up a system for yourself to keep track of the companies you’re interested in, the people you’ve met, and those you’re in correspondence with. Use the folder system of your email program to keep track of messages as they come in and out. Use calendar software (Google has free email, called gmail, and calendaring tools online), to track your appointments and add reminders to follow up with someone at a certain date or time.
Use these systems to keep in touch with the people who make up your Career Network. Send occasional emails checking in. Perhaps send a link to an interesting article you read that you think they might find helpful. Ask your new connections to help you out by making introductions to new contacts. Keep connected and keep organised.
Survival Tip #4: View rejection as an opportunity to grow. No one wants to hear this, but failure is awesome. Get used to it, embrace it, and learn from it. If you don’t get a job you interviewed for, see if you can speak to someone who can help you better understand what you could have done differently to secure the position. Ask what qualities the selected candidate possessed to make him or her the winning choice. Accept rejection as an opportunity to learn.
Sometimes rejection comes in the form of silence. Not hearing from a person or a company where you submitted your résumé is as disheartening as being outright rejected. But keep this in mind: Every person you’re trying to reach is busy.
It’s completely appropriate to follow up on unanswered emails, as long as it doesn’t turn creepy. And, after one or two inquiries (over the period of a couple of weeks) go unanswered, it’s time to graciously move on. Perhaps the hiring manager was deluged with prospect résumés and didn’t have time to get back to you, or the executive was travelling on business and couldn’t respond.
Despite feeling like you’re flapping aimlessly in the wind, you have to get comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing. It’s OK. You will survive. Just keep in mind that when someone doesn’t hire you it’s not personal. They’re making a business decision, and you need to learn to separate your personal feelings from your professional feelings so that it doesn’t sting so badly.
Survival Tip #5: Learn to adapt. If your emails are consistently going unanswered, if you’re not being selected for an interview or not successfully landing a job, it is time for you to think about changing. Rethink your résumé. Is it good, or did you just throw it together haphazardly? Consider your skills. Is there something missing in your toolkit that is preventing your forward progress? Maybe you need to sign up for a government-funded retraining class and learn some new tricks.
Think about new fields where you can apply your passions, interests and skills. If you’ve been in financial services your whole life, and can’t find a job there, consider other industries that could benefit from your financial skills. Most companies need someone to look after their money matters. Consider using your skills in a completely new direction – one that speaks to your interests and passions. Who knows? You might find yourself working in the finance and budgeting department of a movie studio and having a brand new career!
No matter what, continue to adapt. It is the ONLY way to survive and thrive.
Survival Tip #6: Stop complaining. No one likes a complainer. If you’re complaining about getting a job, how are you going to be when you have a job? No one wants to hire a complainer. Plus, what is it you’re actually complaining about?
Do yourself a favour, regardless of your age, don’t be one of those people who feels that they deserve that things be easy and always go their way. It’s a great disservice to yourself and it’s not going to endear you to anyone at all. The best thing you can do for your career development is enjoy the process, engage positively, and get things done!
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