Everyone who has experienced a forced job transition knows that there are a host of emotions to deal with during that period, many of which are not very pleasant. For the majority of the people with whom I do job search coaching, the most powerful of the “not too pleasant” variety are a lack of self-confidence and growing sense of self-doubt.
Both of these emotions can stop a job search in its tracks. A good interviewer/hiring manager can quickly detect self-doubt or a lack of self-confidence in a candidate through tone of voice, body language, lack of eye contact, lack of passion in the delivery of answers/exchange of dialog and weak resume or LinkedIn profile.
That said, the real question for candidates then becomes, “OK, then how can I overcome these negative feelings?”
Start by embracing what we’ve all heard so many times over the years that we control our own destiny. Try thinking of that concept in this manner, “E+R=O”. What this short equation really means is that the outcome (O) of an event (E) is determined in large part by a person’s reaction (R) to that event. For example, two marketing professionals (Ron and Sue) are laid off from their respective employers with each having tenure of 20+ years (same event). Ron sees the forced separation as something personal and almost immediately feels the reason for such was because he is “old”. Ron can’t seem to shake the bitterness.
Sue, although not thrilled with losing her job, sees this as an opportunity to find her “dream job”. Both Ron and Sue eventually find new jobs, but Ron’s search takes significantly longer than does Sue’s. Sue is perceived to be a potential game-changer, Ron is not, which is due mainly to the fact that Ron goes into interviews with a defeatist attitude (“you’re probably not going to take me because I’m old”), while Sue’s passion and excitement related to her finding the “greener grass” comes through clearly in her resume, LinkedIn Profile and interview dialog.
Same Event, different Reactions, significantly different Outcomes.
I have had many, many hiring managers relate to me how candidates with basically the same skill set and experience can be perceived so differently during the search process with much of that coming as a result of their overall approach (passionate and motivated vs. “woe is me”).
Here are some tips to help you create a more positive outcome:
Embrace the change – Once you’ve lost your job, you can’t undo it. You can spend time complaining about it or invest that same time towards finding the greener grass. That’s a nice way of saying, “Get over it”…quickly. Experience has shown me that the “glass half full” people find re-employment much faster than those who see the glass as half empty.
Don’t underestimate your value to a potential employer. Recently I had the opportunity to meet and speak with a gentleman who had just retired after 20 years in the Air Force. He retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He told me, “I’ve not had to write a resume during the last 20 years and not sure what to do to look like an attractive candidate to a hiring manager (outside of the Air Force). This person had several assignments during his time in the service with much of that in the HR field, yet he was convinced that civilian employers would not see a twenty-year veteran as a desirable candidate (for an HR position). When I asked him to tell me what he felt were the top three skills that an HR professional would need to have to be considered seriously as a candidate, he replied, “Leadership, attention to detail and communication”. When I said to the former Lt. Colonel, “So, you did not lead people during any of your time in the Air Force?” and “You never paid attention to details and you were a poor communicator?” he laughed and said, “I guess that I never thought about it in those terms.”
I advised him that many hiring managers in my network have a high degree of respect for veterans and almost always associate them with the following skills/traits: leadership, disciplined, good listening, team building/motivation, self-starter, very professional, strong loyalty and good communication (giving clear directions). My message was simple: Military service is a plus for many employers, not a minus. Thus, it should be used in that manner when seeking employment as a civilian.
It’s not about a former employer or title, it’s what candidates accomplished that really matters. Ultimately, everything candidates write and what is written about them, what they say and what is said about them must provide the hiring manager with the perception that they might be a potential game-changer. Titles are most often meaningless, while quantified accomplishments that include a context of comparison (e.g., “highest degree of revenue improvement by a relationship manager in the 50-year history of the company”) can seal the deal. We live in a “what have you done for me lately” society and thus, employers are seeking candidates who they perceive as being able to quickly contribute towards taking their team/group to the next level.
Project your self-confidence. Remember that if I perceive that you don’t believe in yourself, then how do you expect my boss, my best prospects/clients or me to believe in you? Passion plus posture (body language) and dynamic presentation projects self-confidence.
So, instead of allowing the “tail to wag the dog”, I suggest quickly getting past the negative emotions that seem to come along with the separation package. Sell the value of YOU and allow your passion and self-confidence to convince me that you are my ideal candidate, my game-changer.
In an impassioned speech at the ESPN ESPY awards in 1993, basketball coach Jim Valvano (nicknamed, “Jimmy V”), who was at the time dying of cancer, spoke to the audience about his family, his love of coaching and working with athletes and his approach to dealing with the many challenges throughout his life, including his fight with cancer. He basically summed up his remarks with what later became a mantra for millions who heard his speech then and as it has been replayed many times since:
“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up”