The old saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” It sounds good in theory, but when you find yourself out of a job and you’ve suddenly lost your source of income, your self-identity, and your sense of purpose, that wise piece of advice can be hard to follow. I know just how you feel. I’ve been there before – several times!
After the shock of it all wears off after the first week, you think, “Okay, I’ll be back to work in no time. I’ve got great experience, a bunch of skills, and some connections. This should be easy.” Except it isn’t.
In fact, finding a new job can be damn hard. You’ll go through a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment you will be at the peak because you got a call to schedule an interview and then your ride goes racing down after getting a generic email from them that they have filled the position with another candidate. Then there are all the agonizing days when you hear nothing at all. It’s enough to make even the strongest person frustrated, angry, and depressed.
I have had plenty of clients walk into my office after months of going through this in tears. They have lost faith in themselves. What I always tell them, and what I will tell you now, is that this too shall pass. It is not a matter of if you get a new job that you love, it’s a matter of when. So, don’t let these moments of self-doubt get the best of you.
Here are some of my pieces of practical advice to help you overcome what will later be nothing more than a blip in your career.
1. Develop and Maintain Good Habits
Out of everything you read in this blog, this will probably be your biggest challenge. Why? Because in a way our energy is very much like water, it flows in the direction of least resistance.
It’s hard to consistently wake up early. You might not like getting in some morning exercise. It’s more comfortable to walk around in your apartment or house in pajamas. It’s easier to binge watch something on Netflix than it is to apply for jobs. All this job searching is so much…effort.
You can see why it’s important to instill good habits from the beginning and never, ever, get out of them. So, I suggest waking up at the same time you did when you were getting ready for work. Do your normal morning routine. Schedule your day and block out times for different activities, so that you know what you’re going to do. Eat right and get enough sleep. Learn new skills. Set mini-goals and create a system that’s going to work for you.
Finally create a workspace devoted to your search that is not at the dining room table or on the recliner in front of the TV. Make sure that it is free from distractions and is for you alone. This way you can focus and get in the flow better.
Great habits lead to great results. You’ll see.
2. Rediscover Yourself
Sometimes we get so caught up in the minutiae of our daily lives that we forget what makes us unique and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. This period is a chance to slow down and re-think what’s important to us and what we have to offer the world.
When I’m working with a client, one of the questions I ask them when we first meet is why they got into their field of work in the first place. It’s always interesting hearing their reasons. Many times they can’t give me an answer. They just sort of fell into what they were doing and didn’t give it much thought.
So, this is the best chance of your life to do some soul searching. Ask yourself a few questions. What are you really good at? What are your greatest strengths? What do you like doing? What are you interested in? Are there jobs out there that match my interests and strengths?
Doing this will lead to incredible results. It will open you up to other opportunities that you’ll be better suited for and enjoy. In the end, isn’t that what we all want?
3. Revamp Your Resume
Once you know the general direction of your career and what sets you apart from others, it’s time to write about it in your resume.
As you read through the old resume you’ve been using for years, ask yourself, “Does this make me excited about me?” Did you answer no? Then put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. If you can’t get excited about yourself when you read your resume, how on earth do you expect a hiring manager to get excited enough to call you?
Besides spelling and grammar errors, there are a few other common mistakes I see made in resumes that will lead to a lack of calls for interviews.
First, most of the resumes I have ever read when I was a recruiter and now as a consultant are dry and boring. They are mostly listing out their job duties. There is nothing in their resume that shows me their strengths or accomplishments. Secondly, many are either way too long and full of fluff or they are too short and lack enough details. You have to find the happy medium. Third, they don’t have good organization, structure, or design. In other words, they look like they were just thrown together in a rush. You don’t want the appearance of your resume to give the wrong impression about you. Instead, you want your resume to be aesthetically pleasing to the reader so that they decide to read your resume on looks alone. As important as content is, humans are very visual beings, so looks do count for a lot.
I have re-written hundreds of resumes and every client I’ve worked with are surprised at how much more excited they are about themselves. A good looking and well-written resume is a huge confidence booster. Suddenly, you can’t wait to get back to applying for jobs and networking.
4. Prioritize Networking
Speaking of networking, do you make sure that you take the time to do it? Most clients I ask during my consultations say no. Don’t be like most people. You should be networking all the time, whether or not you’re employed, but when you’re in between jobs, this should take especially high priority.
Why, you ask? Well, there’s three very good reasons.
For one, you’re not just relying on what everyone else is relying on to help them get a job, online job boards and applicant tracking systems. If you take that strategy, you’re going to get lost in the sea of other applicants. Networking circumvents that by getting you in front of a hiring manager directly, sometimes even before a job has been posted. Now you’ve just been put in the front of the line. It’s sort of like those scenes in a movie where everyone is waiting impatiently in line to get into a popular night club, except for that one group who can walk right in because they know the owner. Does this happen all the time? No. But it happens often enough that it’s worth the effort. I can speak from experience as a recruiter, there were plenty of times when a hiring manager would come to me to ask that I talk to a candidate they recently met or had referred to them.
Secondly, networking gives you the opportunity to learn more about the field or industry to help you be sure that it’s right for you. Also, if you talk to someone in a company you targeted, you can get important details about what they are looking for that you can add to your resume or cover letter, as well as talk about during an interview.
Finally, after you get the new job, it’s important not to stop networking. Continue having conversations with the connections you’ve already made and also start making networking connections in the new business you’re working for. Go to the events the company hosts, volunteer for things that allow you to work with people in other departments, and ask to meet managers of teams and departments that you think you’d be interested in working for. This makes you more well known throughout the organization and more opportunities will present themselves the more you do this.
Right now, during the pandemic, where networking in person or meeting over a cup of coffee isn’t always possible, LinkedIn and free virtual meeting platforms, like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet, are great tools to start developing relationships. The key is to start your relationship with someone online by building trust. Don’t just start off asking for a referral or a job – they don’t know you yet! I always advise clients, when they are networking online to begin the conversation by asking for career advice instead. Read over their profiles and say what you’re impressed with. Then ask if you can set up a virtual meeting with them. In your meetings, don’t make it feel like a sales call, rather ask them thoughtful questions and be genuinely interested in them. To paraphrase Dale Carnegie’s advice, in order to be interesting to others, you have to be interested in them. Don’t worry, the discussion will eventually lead to you and what you are wanting to do. Then you can segue into your elevator pitch. But don’t force it, otherwise it feels too much like you’re trying to use them. And no one wants to feel used.
The one exception to this is that if you are networking with a recruiter, you can lay out what you are looking for much earlier. They are usually looking for talented people to fill their roles, so you’re making their job easier.
5. Make Time to Decompress
This is a stressful time in your life. Don’t let the job search be all you think about during the day. It’s important to give yourself a breather here and there. If there’s an old hobby you loved doing at one time, pick it back up. Get outside and take a quick walk or jog. Do some gardening or read. Reconnect with old friends or family. Start learning how to cook. Do whatever will take your mind off the situation for a while.
People want to hire candidates who have a positive attitude. Doing things that make you happy is the best way to achieve this.
And remember, this is a time you can reinvent yourself and your career. Take advantage of it so that you can look back on this part of your life as one of the best kicks in the pants you’ve ever had!