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iStock_000012681402XSmallJust about everyone acknowledges that making contacts through networking is one of, if not the best ways to land a new position.  In fact, some estimates suggest that about 80% of all jobs are not advertised, and the openings are communicated through word of mouth.   So it stands to reason that the best way to learn about these opportunities is through the contacts you make. You can go to dozens of job events, hand out countless business cards, join the hot online groups, and connect with the universe, but the best way to make networking pay off is to turn those contacts into relationships. 

As a psychologist I am acutely aware of the importance of building relationships with clients.  By relationship I mean a state where people trust one another because of openness, honesty, and a sincere demonstration of willingness to help. An article in The Wall Street Journal by Dennis Nishi (March 24, 2013) reminded me of the critical role that the development of relationships can play when seeking a job.  Nishi’s article emphasizes going beyond brief contacts by developing ways to get in front of the right people.  Nishi relates the experience of a job seeker who, instead of asking for help, offers to help, thereby building strong relationships with individuals who might in turn be helpful to her.

A colleague of mine does a lot of networking to build his business and employs the same strategy.  He meets a lot of really nice, successful, energetic people, but often there is little they have in common.  However, when he comes across someone whose interests are aligned (professionally or socially) he starts to build a relationship by asking, “What can I do to help you? “  Sometimes there’s payback, sometimes there’s not, but on balance my colleague believes that giving is a good way to start getting.

Sometimes being more open about your situation with casual acquaintances can also be helpful.  I had a client who found himself engaged in conversation with another father while both were watching their daughters’ soccer match.   At first, my client focused on a conversation about the game and raising daughters.  At an appropriate time he mentioned that he had been laid off from his job as a salesman for a building supply company. It turned out that the other dad owned a roofing and siding company and was looking for a salesman.  He invited my client to come in for an interview and hired him.

Certainly there’s no harm in asking everyone you meet if they know of any jobs.  It’s just more likely that people will give it extra thought and go out of their way to help if you have some kind of relationship established.  It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment, just a mutual demonstration of interest and caring.  You’ll find It helps to build a connection as opposed to just a conversation about your need to find a job.

BookCover_v1Unemployment has more than just an economic impact on our lives. M. Harvey Brenner (1973, 1999) in Mental Illness and the Economy estimates that every 1% gain in unemployment over 3 years is accompanied by 20,240 cardio failures, 495 alcohol deaths, 920 suicides, 628 homicides and 4,227 admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Yet, little attention is paid to the psychological impact of unemployment.

In my new Kindle book, How to Stay Up in a Down Job Market: Survival Skills for the Unemployed, I address 9 strategies you can begin implementing immediately to start fighting the emotional storm that often accompanies unemployment. This concise book is not meant to be a panacea; I can’t give you a 30-day money back guarantee. However, I can assure you that there are psychological strategies you can learn to employ that will prove helpful. Because unemployment is such a threat to our well being, it is critical that you reduce the psychological impact of job loss. While it is hoped this book will be helpful, it cannot replace the help a physician or mental health professional can provide when needed.

The research clearly indicates that unemployment creates a level of prolonged stress which can be debilitating in terms of one’s physical and mental wellbeing. There are a number of simple strategies presented in the book that focus on reducing the stress you are experiencing.

Central to my approach is that if we want to change how we feel there are two buttons we can push. We can change our thinking and/or change our actions. When an event occurs, we immediately begin to evaluate it. Our evaluations might be rational and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes they are irrational and lead to emotional upset and self-defeating behavior. This can especially occur when confronted with adversity. The book addresses how you can challenge irrational thoughts and the necessity to replace them with positive thinking. A simple example would go something like this: “I lost my job, I’ll never find another in this economy.” A more helpful and rational thought would be: “It will be tough to find another job and might take awhile. I better work on it everyday.”

If we want to change how we feel, we also need to focus on our actions. Of course, we need to engage in job search activities, but the book emphasizes the need to also engage in activities that improve our mood and motivation. In my opinion, it is critical to include activities such as reading, gardening, walking, exercise, or anything else you enjoy.

We can use such activities to reinforce the completion of less inherently interesting chores like searching job boards each day. It has been my experience with clients who find themselves really stuck, that focusing on activities proves more useful at first than attacking irrational thinking. For one of my unemployed clients, taking the time some mornings to drive her children to school gave her a sense of satisfaction and helped start her day. When she was working, she never had been able to drop them off or pick them up. Another client, an unemployed father for the first time could help his children with homework. It helped him feel he was contributing to the family’s welfare even though he was out of work.

While we know that finding a new position takes hard work, we often ignore our physical and mental health. Just reading this book will not change how you feel. If you want to limit the potential damage of unemployment to you and your family’s well being, you will have to work just as hard everyday to sustain your physical and emotional health. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

economic crisisSo one day it’s a sunny Fall day and you’re watching children play football and soccer, and the next, 60 mph gusts are launching tree branch projectiles at your home, snapping massive tree trunks in two like so many toothpicks, and driving record tidal surges into coastal homes and businesses.  The storm’s aftermath is a period of shaky calm as people try to assess the damage and contend with life without running water, power, phones, Internet access, the ability to get to work or school or the grocery store (if it’s open and if it has items on the shelves), or even worse…

So just what does a hurricane have to do with losing your job unexpectedly?

It’s not so much the storm that brought you to your “here and now,” since that storm has come and gone.  It’s the aftermath that matters….how you pick yourself up from the devastation, dust (dry?) yourself off, and begin moving forward to stabilize and rebuild.  Recovering from a hurricane and coping with an unexpected job loss are very much about clearing out the debris (the wreckage of your home, yard, career) and focusing on the essentials you need to have/do to move forward to a better place.

You need to:

Stay positive — believing in yourself and a positive future outcome,
Have the necessary tools available and functioning (e.g., Flashlights, Batteries, Resume, References)
Roll up your sleeves and work hard to rebuild, and
Reach out to people for mutual support (aka network)
And all this is done, one step by one step at a time.   So, what are the detailed steps you have to take to power up your job search and find your next job?  Be ready to do some:

Soul searching – It’s time for some healthy introspection.  How did I land here? What went wrong? What went right? What am I good at?  What can I become good at?  What am I lacking?  How can I fill any gaps?  Where do I want to be?  What do I really want to do?
Researching – What’s the current job market like?  What companies would I like to work for? Are they hiring?  Do I know anyone who works there?  What other companies are out there that I might have overlooked with my first pass?
Packaging – Think of yourself as a “product” to be packaged and marketed.  Your primary tools are: your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile (and other social media pages), and your own blog.  Each of these elements needs to be mindfully constructed so it is clear, crisp, and consistent.  Ideally, working with an experienced resume writer is the best way to devise “stand up and be noticed” marketing materials.  But even if you can’t afford specialized help, you can do-it-yourself with help from Ivy Exec’s numerous webinars on the nuts and bolts of creating “wow” career documentation.  Above all, do not work in a vacuum or your resume will never make it to the top of the pile.
Applying  – Use company job boards and job boards offered by premier career resource companies.  Ivy Exec’s job board posts over 60,000 premium jobs that have been hand selected for our elite members.  Our premium level members receive daily job alerts tailored to their search specifications directly in their inbox. Only apply to jobs you are well qualified for, otherwise you are wasting your time.  Make sure you submit a customized cover letter with every job application that clearly delineates why your skill set and experience map perfectly to the job’s requirements.
Networking – Network! Network! Network!  Reach out to colleagues from prior jobs, friends of friends of friends, and classmates you’ve lost touch with.  Be very open to renewing contacts with people from your past.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter are all ways to connect and re-connect.  And these social networks can be used to uncover and connect with company insiders if you are patient, yet appropriately persistent.  You just never know, but someone, who knows someone, who knows someone MAY be able to help you.  Additionally, reach out to the alumni offices at schools you attended.  Alumni offices often have networks of alumni who are more than happy to meet with job seekers for informational interviews, and alumni just might have job leads to share with a fellow alum.
Interviewing and Closing… – If it has been awhile since you interviewed, be sure to sharpen those skills before your first interview.  Scheduling informational interviews can help you polish up rusty interview skills.  As a starting point, Ivy Exec offers member access to a library of webinars on Interviewing.  Our premium members have access to a Mentor Network comprised of seasoned executives who can help you prepare tough interviews.  Ivy Exec also offers career coaching services.  Though it may seem “quaint,” make sure you follow up with every interviewer in writing to thank them for their time,  and to reaffirm your interest in the position.  Ivy Exec’s webinar library also includes materials on Negotiating – a key skill you need to master that will help you ensure that your compensation offer is in line with your expectations/requirements.
…and Working Again! — Once you’ve regained your professional footing make sure you nurture your career by growing your skill set and remaining plugged-in to the bigger picture.  Most successful careers require constant care and feeding.  Careers that are going places don’t “coast” there…

Greg Olsten is an Associate in Professional Services at IvyExec.com.

1. “How long have you been looking?”
Always say that you’ve just started looking in ernest and had been doing something else (such as traveling, or helping a friend start their business) until 1-2 months ago. This is why it is key to stay involved during unemployment, whether you’re consulting for free or active in industry organizations/the community, keep your skills and experience fresh.

Mention how great your job search is going, that the economy is really picking up in your industry, and you’ve been meeting with a lot of companies.

2. “Why did you leave Company X?”
For involuntary departures, always begin by complimenting your former company, boss, and team. Then explain and “agree” with the company’s business reason to eliminate your position.

Always keep it positive – you could mention that you still see your old boss and colleagues regularly. And again, reinforce that you’re in a fortunate position regarding your job search.

3. “Tell me about yourself.”
If you are asked this, try to postpone any lengthy answers until you have gotten them to talk about their priorities. Once you hear those, discuss your prior performance and successes that match the 3 key needs the company has for the open position.

4. “Take me through your resume.”
If you’re speaking with a hiring manager, they don’t want to hear every single bullet or line from your resume. You should give a very abbreviated version that is entirely relevant to the position. If you’re talking to a recruiter, you can be a little more complete in your response. Unless they are asking you for more detail, skip over irrelevant jobs.

Keep in mind, they are looking for red flags, so make all your transitions sound logical and very positive.

Sarah Stamboulie is Ivy Exec’s Senior Career Coach who helps executives accelerate careers and build company and industry visibility. As a Career Coach, Sarah helps clients conduct a more efficient and effective job search in a wide range of industries and functional areas.  Contact Sarah at http://www.ivyexec.com.

Social isolation is a major threat to people who have been unemployed for a prolonged period.  One obvious cause is the loss of daily contact with co-workers and other professional colleagues.  Another cause arises from people withdrawing from friends and family because of embarrassment and/or the need to cut back on the expenses associated with socializing.  Certainly, there are other possible factors.

The devastating impact of social isolation was highlighted in a recent “60 Minutes” telecast entitled “Platform to Employment” which described a successful program to help long term unemployed gain re-employment.  Interviews of the participants brought home the debilitating psychological pain, which often accompanies unemployment.  Repeatedly, those interviewed referred to the loss of self-confidence and self esteem as well as feelings of shame and embarrassment.  Over time they began to view themselves as failures.  One participant shared her biggest worry; namely, for the first time in her life she feared she would not be able to take care of herself.  It is feelings such as that which cause the unemployed to slowly withdraw into themselves and become more and more socially isolated.

Our bodies are programmed to respond to danger – or threats to our security — by releasing the hormones which lead to the Fight or Flight Response.  We are built to endure short periods of stress.  Prolonged stress or worry has been shown to lead to physical and mental illness.  In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky refers to research, which indicates that social isolation for prolonged periods can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones.

In today’s economy, the unemployed can be subjected to prolonged periods of worry and stress.  The resulting self-doubt and loss of confidence leads to their social withdrawal and inevitably increases their stress levels.  It therefore is critical that the unemployed seek social support, which Sapolsky recommends as an antidote to stress.

A few years ago, I presented a workshop for at a local community college.  The workshop focused on psychological strategies that could be effective in combating the emotional storm of unemployment.  It quickly became clear that an unintended benefit of the program was providing participants with social connections.  In fact, on the last night of the workshop, the group decided to approach college administrators to request a room so that they could continue meeting on a regular basis.

A couple of months later, I presented the same workshop to a similar group, which had been meeting at a church.  It struck me that this group was coping better with the stress of unemployment because of the support they provided each other.  One example of their efforts was a clothing drive for members to replace worn out items as well as obtain acceptable clothing for interviews.  They also canvassed local merchants who were willing to provide unemployed members with discounted services and products.

My experience with these two groups convinced me to encourage unemployed people to find or start support groups.  To find an existing support group, consult the community activities section of your local newspaper, or look into nearby faith organizations.  I have found these support groups to be open to anyone who is interested, regardless of religious affiliation.

If you want to start a group, a faith organization, community college, or volunteer fire department is a good place to start looking for free space.  Topics can range from helping one another with resumes, to providing job leads, to discussing strategies for salary negotiation, how to explain gaps in your resume, or how to handle tough interview questions.  Material need not be prepared in advance.  My bet is that you will be amazed at how many really good suggestions can be inspired by people of like minds.

Many years ago I tried to start a new business.  It had many moving parts and included a large group of people.  It failed to get off the ground.  I spent the next year and half ruminating over my failure.  During that time, a colleague was attempting to entice me to join him in a new venture.  Still hurting from the failed experience, I kept refusing to get involved.

Eventually, my colleague and I sat down and began to map out a plan.  We started a company that proved financially successful and lasted for twenty years.  The lesson I learned from that experience was that it is not failure that defines you but how fast you recover.  When I took the time to analyze the failure of the first project, I began to see why it didn’t succeed.  Essentially we had not developed back up plans for the roadblocks that inevitably developed.

Because of my personal experience, I have often counseled clients and participants in my workshops to reframe how they view failure.  I have urged them to review what went wrong and then to move forward with new endeavors.  Unfortunately, many of today’s unemployed hold themselves responsible for their situation. They dwell on past decisions or what they consider missed opportunities.  A more realistic assessment would lead to the understanding that the present economy has had a tremendous impact on the availability of jobs.   It is important to take a look back and not get caught up in self-blame, but to discover if there are clues that can lead to one’s next job or career.

Resilience refers to the process of recovering from adversity.  Psychologists have examined how people deal with setbacks. In fact, the American Psychological Association has developed a pamphlet entitled The Road To Resilience that can be found at http://www.apahelpcenter.org.  I recently came across another great resource that examines resilience.  Rick Newman has written a book entitled Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.  Both of these resources present the major characteristics associated with resilient people.

There are some common traits among individuals who quickly move past failure and indeed benefit from it.  They are able to step back and evaluate their failure.   Their evaluation helps them pinpoint the factors that contributed to the setback.  They learn to plan for failure in the future.  More simply stated: they always have a plan A and a plan B.  In this way, they use failure to adjust their approach to new ventures or projects.  Essentially, they extract positive information from their failed experience.   Profiles of individuals who have recovered from failure always point to their persistence and confidence.  Unlike me, they do not become paralyzed by their failed experience.

You can strengthen your ability to deal with larger setbacks by keeping small adversities in perspective.  Begin by avoiding catastrophizing them.   Try to learn from small setbacks and move forward incorporating what you have learned.  It is also important to maintain social support in your life.  Many times after a failure, such as loss of a job, people tend to withdraw from family and friends.  Social support is critical if you are to move forward.

As Rick Newman points out, some of the most successful people have met failure.  They ultimately succeeded because they learned what they could from the experience and continued to take on new challenges.

It’s a cardinal sin to go into a job interview without planning and preparing to manage the opportunity for maximum impact. First of all, be aware of the six criteria by which most interviewers will rate your interview skills and qualifications for the job.

1. Personal impression you make: neatness in dress and manner; self-confidence; and maturity.
2. Preparation for the interview: knowledge about the business of the potential employer; list of questions to ask the interviewer.
3. Communication skills, written and oral.
4. Attitude: enthusiasm, sincerity and interest in the opportunity.
5. Competence: education and experience.
6. Personal chemistry: suitability and “fit” with the culture of the organization.

By way of preparation, learn as much as you can about the kind of interviews the company usually conducts. Are they formal or informal? Are they deliberately stressful? Should you expect “tricky” questions? How long do the sessions last? Are you likely to be interviewed by more than one person? Get a fix on the people who will be conducting the interview. You can develop this kind of information by reviewing the history of the company and its current activities as reported in the news media. Seek out others who have been interviewed by the company, as well as those who work there or do business with the firm. What is the environment like? How do people dress?

Use Negative Thinking In Your Planning

Negative thinking has an important role to play. Ask yourself what could ruin your chance to get the job?

1. Being late for the appointment.
2. Making a negative physical appearance in dress, neatness and posture; reflecting low energy or a lackadaisical attitude.
3. Being too informal and familiar; trying to be humorous.
4. Letting attention and eye contact wander.
5. Being unprepared, indifferent and unresponsive.
6. Dropping names and relating irrelevant life experiences.
7. Being overly concerned with benefits and compensation.
8. Talking too much; interrupting; not listening.
9. Being evasive; unable to explain voids in file.
10. Criticizing past employers.
11. Failing to ask intelligent questions about the job.
12. Being overconfident or under confident.

Interviewing Is A Two-Way Process

Be guided by the fact that interviewing is like any other form of communications process. It’s a two-way process: sending and receiving messages. Unfortunately, a great many people spend too much time with the former and too little with the latter. Here are five tips that will help you improve your listening skills:

1. Be aware that waiting your turn to speak is not listening.
2. Focus like a laser beam on what the interviewer is saying. Listen to the words as well as the spaces of silence.
3. Assure the interviewer you are interested and that you are listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and occasionally acknowledging you understand.
4. Concentrate on the facts. Collect them carefully. Take notes. Don’t get diverted by looking for hidden meanings. You’ll have time to analyze what you hear and see later.
5. Don’t get sidetracked by the interviewer’s personal appearance and mannerisms. Overlook any biased or irritating statements.

Greg Olsten is an Associate in Professional Services at IvyExec.com.

 

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