Read an Excerpt
The Unofficial Guide to Landing a Job
By Michelle Tuller
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7413-2
Chapter OneGET THE SCOOP ON ... What makes some job seekers more successful than others Why your attitude may be more important than your qualifications Common pitfalls to avoid with resumes and other tools of the search The roles that focus and strategy have in job search success
Twenty Secrets of Successful Job Seekers
What is it that makes some job searches hum along as well as a finely tuned sports car while others cough and sputter, barely lurching out of the driveway? In the career transition firm where my colleagues and I coach thousands of job seekers each year, we see all kinds of searches. We see job seekers who secure so many interviews they can barely juggle the scheduling and who end up with multiple offers to choose from in no time. We see others whose searches drag on with no end in sight. They struggle to get even one interview; their phone calls don't get returned; and when they do finally land interviews, no offers materialize. Are these job seekers less qualified than the more successful ones? Usually not. Is it just lousy luck? Not really. The disparity often is linked to critical differences in the attitude, focus, tools, and strategies (or lack thereof) of the two types of job seekers.
Certainly economic, geographic, and industry-specific factors also make some job searches more difficult and lengthier than others. In the post-9/11 era, alaid-off middle manager from the airline industry faces a much tougher search than an agile Web developer who's worked for all types of companies from start-up to Fortune 100. Similarly, after the downturn of such industries as telecommunications and manufacturing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, job seekers with all their experience in those sectors would take longer to find work than someone coming out of the more vibrant healthcare field, for example. In any economy a senior executive coming from the narrow tip of the organizational pyramid with a compensation level high in the six-figures, will be at it longer than a more junior job seeker who just needs any old job to pay the rent.
Online Bonus Chapter 4, "What to Do When Nothing Seems to Work," addresses ways to cope with these and other major obstacles that can slow down-or even completely stall-a job search. (Find it at wiley.com/go/michelletullier.) Meanwhile, however, let's take an "all things being equal approach." Let's assume that you have two job seekers with similar backgrounds looking for the same type of position at about the same compensation level in the same industries. What makes one more successful than the other? That's where attitude, focus, tools, and strategy come in.
Job seekers with a positive attitude who are confident in their ability to find work no matter what the odds, who know what they want and can make a case for why they deserve it, who equip themselves with all the best marketing tools and use a smart strategy-those are the ones who are successful. The remainder of this chapter lets you in on 20 secrets of successful job seekers, grouped into the four categories of attitude, focus, tools, and strategy.
Successful job seekers have the right attitude
Countless studies examining the impact of attitude on emotional and physical health have shown that a positive attitude works wonders at reducing stress and staying healthy. In fact, a recent study out of Carnegie-Mellon University even found that people with positive attitudes-energetic, happy, and relaxed- are less likely to catch colds than those who are depressed, nervous, or angry. What do the common cold and a job search have in common? Well, a lot, come to think of it. Both can be stressful, annoying nuisances that won't ever seem to go away.
I've seen so many discouraged job seekers let the process get to them by becoming negative, bitter, and lacking in confidence, which only ends up making the job search last longer and be less successful. However, those who maintain as much of a positive attitude as possible, who feel confident and powerful, and who relax about the whole thing, find that their job hunts go more smoothly and often reach a successful conclusion more quickly.
In addition to problems with a negative attitude or pessimism, some searchers have what might be thought of as simply a "bad attitude." Some job seekers feel a sense of entitlement-the world "owes" them a good job-and may be unrealistic about what type of position they can land and how soon they will find it. These types also don't always show appreciation for the kindness and generosity of others who take time to help them. Even worse are those searchers who go so far as to be dishonest- embellishing their resumes or lying in interviews-to get what they want.
Ways to avoid these common attitudinal pitfalls are covered in the first six of the twenty secrets of successful job seekers, which are as follows:
Positive in the face of adversity
I've got the power
Doin' what comes naturally
Honesty is the only policy
I'd like to thank the Academy ...
Realistic expectations are great expectations
#1 Positive in the face of adversity
No one likes a whiner, or someone who even hints at being negative, angry, or bitter. No matter how irritated you are that you've lost your job and are having to look for a new one, you must try to project a positive attitude. If job loss is not the issue, you might be annoyed that you're currently employed in a dull job or lousy company, have a nightmare boss, or whatever circumstance is causing you to have to get out there and pound the pavement. Under those circumstances, too, you must try to embark on your search with energy and enthusiasm. Still another situation is that of the job seeker who starts out with high hopes and enthusiasm but finds all that waning as the search drags on with no results. Negativism starts to creep in and sabotages a formerly productive job hunt. No matter which situation resonates with you, if any, it is critical that you make every effort to have a positive outlook.
I know how easy it is to say, "Oh, just put on a happy face and be positive," and how much harder it is to actually do it. I've been in your shoes, looking for work when I resented having to do so, and tired of a search that was taking too long and not turning out how I wanted it to. I know how easy it is to slip into a negative mode. It's easy to lose energy, hope, and any sense of enthusiasm. The first secret of successful job seekers, however, is that they are more positive than their counterparts. They project enthusiasm, confidence, and an interest in what they're doing.
How do they do it? There are four tricks to becoming and staying positive, even when you don't feel like it:
Give yourself time to transition
If you're angry, disappointed, or demoralized as you embark on your search, recognize that making a transition into a more positive place in your life takes time. Don't deny the negative feelings. Go ahead and cry, scream, hide under the covers, vent, punch the wall (not too hard!), or do whatever you need to do to get it out. Only then can you start to feel ready to move forward and take action in your search.
Take baby steps
Don't dive headlong into a job hunt expecting to accomplish great things from day one and every day after that. You do have to take action-don't sit back and do nothing-but take action that is realistic and manageable given your less-than-motivated state of mind. Successfully completing one or two things each day-a draft of your resume or a couple of networking phone calls-is more motivating than overloading your to-do list and not getting enough of it done.
Keep your eye on the prize
Always keep your goals in sight. Of course, your primary goal is to land a new job, a good job. You will most likely have interim goals, however, such as choosing a career direction before you fully launch your search. You may also have goals beyond the new job. You might be aspiring to reach a certain point in your career or to transition into a new industry or field, and the new job you're seeking now will serve as a bridge to that longer term goal. Keeping any of these goals in mind will help motivate you and remind you what all the hard work is for.
Maintain balance in your life
Nothing sends attitude into a tailspin like burnout. Although your job hunt will demand large amounts of your time, make sure to take time to have some fun, relax, and spend time with friends and family. Don't forget about exercise also, which has been proven to serve as nature's own antidepressant. Exercise brings about chemical changes in the brain that relax you and improve your mood, so if you're not doing it already, start now!
#2 I've got the power
The second secret of a successful job search is to realize that you have more power in the process than you think. Most job seekers fall into the trap of thinking that the employers have all the power. After all, they're the ones who make the decision to return your calls or not, to invite you to interview or not, and, of course, to offer you a job or not. Although there's no arguing with those realities, the reality most job seekers aren't aware of is that they, the job seeker, hold much more power over the outcome of those "or not" situations.
You see, employers want to find the right person for the job as badly as you want to find the right job. Even though a given prospective employer, meaning an organization for which you would like to work, might seem like the almighty Oz, the reality is that the human beings responsible for hiring in that organization are worried that they'll choose the wrong person or that they won't find the right person quickly enough. They're human beings who lie awake at night worrying that they're costing their employers thousands of dollars in lost productivity by not having an open position filled or worrying that the decision they made that day to hire a certain candidate could be a big mistake. And, you thought you were the only one lying awake at night worried about making a match! They're not Oz, and you're not a girl with ruby slippers. You are both human beings who share a balance of power in the job search-candidate search process.
#3 Doin' what comes naturally
Employers like to hire people they know. That means that getting to an employer through a mutual acquaintance, for example, by networking, is the best way to go. But, it also means something you might not have thought of. It means that even if the employer got to you in the completely opposite way, say through a random search on the Internet, you still must make an effort to have that employer end up feeling like they know you. That may sound like an impossible task, but it's really quite simple: Be yourself.
Most job seekers go into networking appointments and interviews on their best behavior. With shoes polished, smile fresh, and a firm handshake, they greet the prospective employer with a proper, professional demeanor. They start the meeting with polite conversation, dutifully answer questions throughout the meeting, sit with an erect posture, and try to do everything just right. Although there's certainly nothing wrong with being cordial and professional and following the rules, there is a downside. You might come across as insincere, aloof, distant, or just hard to get a read on. You might even appear downright robotic.
Every time you leave a networking meeting or interview, or even when someone finishes reading a job search letter you've written, you want the person you just interacted with to feel like they got to know you. That doesn't mean letting down your guard so much that you come across as too casual or cavalier. It simply means being down-to-earth, personable, genuine, and even humorous when appropriate. Assuming the real you is a nice person, let the real you come through!
#4 Honesty is the only policy
Setting and maintaining the highest standards for personal integrity throughout your job search is not optional. Every move you make during your search is a reflection of how you would operate as an employee if hired. Do not even think about lying or merely stretching the truth, whether in your resume, on an employment application, in an interview, or during a networking conversation. In recent years a number of stories have made the headlines about prominent figures lying on their resumes and then enduring the embarrassing situation of having their lies revealed after they're on the job. As a result, employers have become more stringent than ever about checking references to verify that your claims are true.
Even if you could never imagine committing such an egregious sin as claiming a degree you never earned or listing a job you never held, it's very easy for people who are usually honest and sincere to get caught up in the "I-must-land-a-job-at-all-costs" mentality and find themselves embellishing the truth to a dangerous level. If you can't back up facts and figures on your resume and can't live up to claims you make in interviews, you will sorely regret your lapses of integrity. It just isn't worth it. Stick with the high road.
#5 I'd like to thank the Academy ...
If you do your search right, you'll end up having a lot of people to thank, both throughout the search and after landing. The reason I say, "if you do it right," is that the best way to conduct a search is to involve large numbers of people. From the family and friends who will be your support system, to the career coaching professionals who'll provide advice, to the recruiters who'll connect you to job leads, to the many and varied people who make up the professional network that you will tap into, your search will be far from a solitary effort.
You will be amazed how helpful most people will be in your search. The old idea of "what goes around comes around" is very much at work when you set out to look for a job. Chances are, the people you seek help from got a leg up themselves when they were last in need of career assistance. They know what it's like to be in need of ideas and leads, not to mention a shoulder to lean on, when looking for a job and are usually more than happy to be on the giving end of the support this time.
Many of the people who help you will be very busy and have lots of higher priorities on their plate than your job hunt. Nevertheless, they will go out of their way to find the time to help you. No one owes you a job, no one is obligated to help you, but they will. I can make few guarantees when dispensing job search advice, but one I have no qualms about making is that I guarantee you will be incredibly amazed and pleased by how many people-many of whom barely know you-will be willing to go out on a limb to help with your job search. These people deserve your thanks. No question about it.
Excerpted from The Unofficial Guide to Landing a Job by Michelle Tuller Excerpted by permission.
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