Chapter 1: Success in the job search
Success in the job search depends on investing time in the right activities and actions and having the right attitude. Tough job markets can skew job seeker perceptions and psychology, making all three of those things a challenge.
In times of high unemployment, it’s easy to feel like the odds of success are very low due to the economic climate and the amount of competition for the same job. In a good economy, the stress of the job search may lead many job seekers to the perception that everyone else is “winning” but them.
These thoughts, whether they are fact or fiction, are based on the job seekers’ inner beliefs that the odds are stacked against them, that finding a job should be easier and faster, that if companies aren’t lining up with offers there’s “something wrong” with them, and when they receive no replies to their online applications, it must mean that their skills and abilities aren’t as stellar as they believed.
Regardless, no matter how great you are, there is more to a successful job search than simply putting your resume out there, sending off online job applications, and waiting for your dream job to fall into your lap. The reality is, a successful job search is a job unto itself. You might be the most talented, skilled, experienced, accomplished person in your industry (according to your mother), but you are not a professional in job searching. Let’s look at the external, as well as the internal aspects of the search that you can control which play into your success.
A job search has many moving parts, all susceptible to change based on market and industry conditions, fluctuating technologies, and the emotional reactions of the job seeker throughout the process. A job search can be a massive project to manage. In addition to the tactical to-do’s like updating your resume, submitting applications, and preparing for interviews, it includes knowing how to deal with the ups and downs that will be part of your search.
Throughout this chapter, we’ll look at ways you can ensure you are getting the right support from external resources, maintain an overall sense of wellbeing, and include the right combination of activities that set you up for success when it comes to staying emotionally healthy throughout the job search.
Building Your Super Team
The most valuable support you’ll have during your job search comes from the people around you. I call this your “Super Team.” You need to build one. These are the people that you can trust, ones who won’t sugar coat the truth and just tell you what you want to hear. Your Super Team should have people who have an understanding of how others see you, people willing to listen to your elevator pitch, and people objective enough to do mock interviews with you. They then need to tell you the truth about how you did in a kind, constructive, and honest way.
When looking for these individuals, take into consideration past relationship history. For instance, if getting negative feedback from your mom drives you up the wall, whether on your career decisions, your choice in romantic partners, or your taste in shoes, then it’s best not to ask her for feedback on your job search. Seek out people outside your “emotional walls,” which could include former coworkers, a sibling, your pastor, your financial planner, or a neighbor. A spouse will be a crucial player, but because of the interdependence and the stress involved it’s not a place to engender objectivity. More on that later. Some people will want their spouse or partner on their Super Team, some won’t. Take a moment to stop and assemble a few names for your Super Team. The sooner you make a list, the sooner you can access their wisdom and compassion.
I’ll refer to this group regularly throughout the book, because you’ll want to lean on them as a key part of your success. There’s also a resource especially for members of your Super Team (especially for spouses/partners or close family members) in the Appendix, so they can be best prepared on how they can be of service to you.
Maintaining Personal Wellbeing
While there are bound to be challenges in most job searches, part of maintaining strong emotional fitness through the process is to proactively manage your thoughts and your energy. The PERMA model, developed by psychologist Martin Seligman, identifies five “essential elements” that we need to create an ongoing sense of well-being. It stands for: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. This is a simple model that can easily be applied to wellbeing in the job search. Let’s break it down.
Positive Emotion: Identify at least one positive emotion every day that you can choose to actively engage in. Gratitude is a good example. No matter what is happening in your job search, no matter how bleak things seem, make a list of things you’re grateful for; nothing is too small.
Engagement: You’ve heard athletes talk about being “in the zone” - that special flow where you’re enthusiastic about what you’re doing, you lose track of time and you’re operating at your peak potential. This might not necessarily apply to sending resumes or filling out job applications, but what other activity can you incorporate into your day to put yourself in this state, for even a brief period of time? A hobby like painting, reading, meditating, exercise, or journaling perhaps? As long as it puts you in the flow, add it to your schedule. Being between jobs doesn’t mean that your only job is to look for your next one. Taking time for yourself (you - the human being, not the full time job searcher!) creates normalcy and helps keep your emotions in balance.
Positive Relationships: Humans are social creatures and it’s important to acknowledge this aspect of yourself, no matter how busy or stressed you are with your job search duties. Make it a priority to find some other humans to be around - preferably ones that you like and who add meaning to your life in some way. Seligman’s research showed that those with “meaningful, positive relationships” are happier.
Meaning: Consider how you can invest even a small portion of your time to being of service to others less fortunate than you (p.s. there is always someone less fortunate than you) or to a cause bigger than yourself. Adding meaning to your life directly contributes to your sense of well-being. This is a great way to build your job search network as well!
Accomplishment: Celebrate all your daily job search wins, no matter how small. On some days, that might mean literally dragging yourself out of bed and to your computer to bravely check for messages from potential employers. Everything counts, so give yourself credit. Research shows that the forward motion of working toward a goal and celebrating your accomplishments on the way creates momentum, helping you reach that goal faster (and with a happier attitude).
Overall, The PERMA Model demonstrates the significant role of emotions, in this case happiness, in our lives. It also reinforces the impact of our daily actions on our emotions.
The Reality of the Job Search
“I know I’m great so why isn’t anyone hiring me?”
It’s okay to think this. A little healthy self-esteem never hurt anyone! If you’re not getting bombarded with job offers, this does not take away from your value. However, it may be a sign that you need to work harder and more strategically to better market your value to potential employers. That’s part of your job as a job seeker. Here’s the rest of the job description. Take note that it is far more extensive than perusing job ads and submitting job applications!
Job Description of a Job Seeker
Keep Learning: It is your job to constantly be learning about what is going on in your industry and field of work. Rather than reactively responding to job postings, you should also be researching potential employers. What companies align with your interests, career goals, and values? Who are the key decision makers for jobs you are applying for? What are they looking for in their employees? The more you know about the market, your potential employers, and their needs, the better positioned you’ll be to find out where you fit in.
Stay Connected: It’s your job to stay connected with your network and your industry, whether via social media, in-person networking, or otherwise, to learn about industry trends, directions, and potential opportunities. This also means keeping your network informed of your job search status so they can support you. Make sure your contacts know what you’re looking for and what you have to offer, so that when they do come across something that’s a potential match, they will think of you. There’s a fine line, of course, between keeping your network informed and pestering them. Aim for follow-up every few weeks, not inbox clogging daily requests.
Maintain a Positive Mindset: It’s your responsibility to look inward and examine your beliefs about yourself, your worth, and your potential to get the job you want. It’s also your job to adjust those beliefs as needed, especially if they’ve grown negative and are getting in the way of your job search. While we all do this from time to time, women are especially prone to negative self-talk - (me included!) the loop of negativity, fear, and self-doubt constantly playing in our minds, convincing us that we don’t deserve success or happiness. It’s important, especially in the job search, to be hyper-aware of such negative beliefs, get them out of the shadows of your mind, because your beliefs drive your thoughts, which in turn drive your actions. So get negative beliefs and thoughts into the light of day and find ways to convert them into positive thoughts. We will get into specifics on how to do this later. Are any negative beliefs coming up as you’re reading this? If so, stop right now, get a journal or notebook, and write them down. For each negative thought that you’ve written, write next to it FIVE positive beliefs about yourself (they do not have to be connected). The best way to banish shadows is by shining a light at them!
Practice Gratitude: Also in your job description as a job seeker is to develop a consistent practice of giving thanks for what you do have and celebrating even the smallest wins during your job search process. It has proven time and time again, that an “attitude of gratitude” and recognition of your successes can build confidence and impact the quality and ultimately the outcome of your actions.
Don’t Take Things Personally: Yes, this might sound trite, and it’s definitely easier said than done, but let me tell you loud and clear: your resume, job application, and interview skills do NOT reflect your worth as a human being. Learn how to compartmentalize “you: job seeker” from “you: whole person.” Depersonalize the overall job search process. Rejection, no matter how bitter a pill it can be to swallow, is not a personal judgment against you. It’s simply the impression by the hiring manager that someone else was a better fit for the job. Don’t read into it beyond that. Look at each “failure” as an opportunity to identify what you did have control over on your end, take an honest look at how you did in those areas, and make adjustments. For example, you do not have control over whether another candidate is a better match for the skills and experience of the position. But you do have control over how much time you put into your interview preparation. As my mother, Laura Herring (the founder of IMPACT Group) said in her book “No Fear Allowed” - the “F” in failure is for “feedback.”
Stay Healthy: The physical body of the person seeking the job has needs too. When you ignore those needs, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage, like trying to win the Indy 500 in a broken down car. With all the information and resources available to help you maintain a basic good state of health, I won’t go into great detail other than to remind you that good health generally includes a balance of proper nutrition, daily physical activity, and some type of mind-body health (such as yoga, meditation, or spirituality in some form). Prioritize your health like all the other pieces of your job search.
Get Your Finances in Order: Being out of work can be a financially stressful time, depending on how much of a financial cushion you may or may not have. We’ll discuss this more in the chapter on anxiety, but if you are worried about money, that anxiety will come through to potential employers, especially in interviews. One of your responsibilities as a job seeker, is to do everything in your power to calm those worries. I recommend connecting with a financial planner early on if possible to get help understanding your financial situation. Also, it’s important to be realistic about the length of time a job search could take. It’s not unusual to underestimate the amount of time it will take to find a new job, which could have a lasting effect on your long term finances if you don’t make adjustments to your lifestyle early on. Another consideration may be taking on a “side hustle” of some sort - a method of earning money to make ends meet so you can stay clear headed and focused in your job search, and avoid making bad choices out of financial desperation. Having a side hustle will also prevent you from sitting and staring at your computer screen hour after hour, day after day, in a state of acute anxiety, holding your breath as you wait to hear from a recruiter. A life in purgatory is no life at all, so don’t allow any side hustle to keep you from landing the right job down the line. Think of a side hustle as an anxiety-lessening tool if this is a serious concern for you. I recommend doing this from day one - NOT months down the line when the bills are piling up and you have no choice but to accept the first job offer that comes along. Why not give yourself that financial flexibility from day one so you can then move forward without that worry, like an elephant you’re carrying around on your back?
Be Honest with Yourself: The entire search can be a learning process. Here are some factors to self-assess as you move forward through the job search process. I recommend journaling or reflecting on these questions regularly through your search.
What do you need to continue doing that’s bringing you results?
What could you be doing more of?
What do you need to start doing?
What do you need to stop doing?
Who else can you invite in to help you with these tasks?
Throughout this book I will present several topics for job search related discovery, any of which can benefit from journaling and reflection. I hope you will put in the time and thoughtful effort a successful job search warrants.
That’s the baseline description of your responsibilities as a job seeker - the behaviors you can consistently commit to that will put you in the best possible position to market yourself to potential employers.
The reality is, being without a job is a mental and physical stressor that can trigger the full range of emotions covered in this book and then some. Through no fault of your own, you may end up on an emotional roller coaster leaving you feeling out of control. Trying to convince yourself that what you’re feeling is “no big deal,” and denying the problem only allows the emotions to build up with no outlet. One rejection might not be the end of the world, but 20 per week can do a number on your psyche. The constant grind and build-up of negative emotions, sometimes with no end in sight, can leave you feeling defeated and hopeless. Left to fester long enough, these emotions can stop you in your tracks, paralyze your forward progress, and when certain emotions cross the line into more serious states like chronic anxiety and stress, they can cause physical harm.
My coaches and I have seen this happen to quite a few very successful people, and it can be debilitating. It's terrible for the job seeker, their family, everyone around them, and even for the potential employers they’re in contact with. Nobody deserves that. This book exists because I don’t want you to have to go through it, or if you do, I don’t want you to do it alone. Remember, this book is a virtual coaching tool of sorts, to help you spot and stop the cycle of negative, paralyzing emotions before it potentially damages your career future. Depending on your own personal journey, you may want to consider using other behavioral health tools such as counselors, therapists and peer support groups.
Emotions are undeniable. But with the right self-awareness, knowledge, and job search tools and tactics, they are also controllable. I’m glad you’re here reading this and on behalf of my coaches and myself, thank you for trusting us to help you!