Authors: Stephen M. Pollan,Mark Levine
Tags: #Psychology, #Self Help, #Business
As soon as you can after being fired, do a self-analysis and try to figure out your reason for working. What is it you’re looking for from work…besides money? Once you come up with an answer, immediately address that need through your personal life. If you want to be of service, go out and volunteer one evening a week, even if you’re out of work. Feel the urge to be creative? Splurge on a set of watercolors and dedicate one afternoon on the weekend to painting, or do whatever it takes, within reason, to fill that artistic need. The sooner you address your psychic needs through your personal life, the sooner you’ll be able to focus on just getting a job — any job — in order to generate a stream of income.
That’s really the key: regenerating a stream of income as quickly as possible. It doesn’t have to be a job with long-term potential. Feel free to minimize your experience if you think it will hurt your chances on an interview. If your motivation is questioned, say you’ve taken early retirement, or just came into an inheritance, or are thinking of changing careers, or want to get insights into a new industry or business. Say whatever it takes to get the job.
Having a stream of income coming in will do two things for you. First, it will relieve some of the economic pressure you’re experiencing. Obviously this emergency income may not be what you were used to. But something is better than nothing. Remember, this is just temporary, and no honest labor is demeaning. Second, a stream of income, however small and whatever its source, will improve your self-esteem. Some clients don’t believe me when I tell them that. But that’s because they’ve never been out of work for a long period of time. I have. And I can tell you firsthand that your self-image takes a nosedive. Did it feel good for an out-of-work former CEO and banker to work part time teaching adult ed classes? No. But it felt better than not working at all, sitting home in my bathrobe feeling sorry for myself.
If nothing else good comes from your being out of work for a time, at least you’ll have finally put an end to this destructive pursuit of meaningful work. Once you discover you can satisfy your nonmonetary needs through your personal life, you’ll be free to focus on working for the money.
In the eighteen months since he’d lost his job at the consumer electronics firm, Jason’s pursuit of meaningful work had abated, but not vanished. He admitted to me he still looked for more than just money from work. When I pressed him about what he was looking for, he had a hard time answering me at first.
We talked about his work life and the choices he had made. As we spoke it became apparent to Jason that he had always been looking for respect from work. He told me his parents had been disappointed that he never pursued a profession. His father, a career garment salesman, had made it clear he was upset that after graduating college Jason chose to get a job selling audio equipment. He told Jason that he hadn’t sent him to college so he could end up being just a salesman like him. Jason said that, on some level, he felt his climb into management was at first done partly to gain the respect of his father. He added he probably still harbored some feelings that being “just a salesman” wasn’t enough.
I said to Jason he clearly wasn’t “just a salesman.” He was a loving husband and father. He had been a Democratic committee person. Besides, there was nothing wrong with being a salesman. Just because his father felt inadequate was no reason he should. I suggested he do something else in his personal life that would provide him with the feeling he was respected. After a few moments’ thought, Jason admitted he had been approached to serve on the board of his synagogue, but had hesitated because of the time commitment. I said maybe he should reconsider, and meanwhile, he should just look for a job — any job — to bring in some income and make himself feel a bit better.
A week later I got a telephone call from Jason. He had accepted a spot on the synagogue board. It meant a one - night - a - week commitment, but Jason admitted it gave his esteem a boost. He had also applied for a floor sales job at a local consumer electronics superstore. Jason didn’t hide all his experience in the industry from the manager, but explained he had taken early retirement and was looking for something to “keep busy.” He didn’t explain that it was a forced early retirement or that he intended for it to be only temporary. While the starting salary wasn’t even half what he had previously been earning, it would provide the family with some much needed financial relief. Both Jason and his wife already felt more optimistic about their lives and their futures just with the possibility of Jason’s getting a paycheck.
Focusing on your boss’s needs, rather than your own, is the route to success and increased security once you’ve gotten a job. But it also has an application if you’re unemployed.
Far too many unemployed job seekers go into job interviews with the wrong attitude. Early in the process, still fresh from employment and confident you’ll soon be back in the saddle, you may come off as overconfident. You may signal to the interviewer that the job in question maybe beneath you. I’m all for projecting confidence and making the interviewer feel like he must compete for you…when you’ve still got a job. In that situation your confidence is understandable. If you’re unemployed and yet you’re acting superior, you look conceited and maybe even a little out of touch. After not getting any offers for a few months people with such attitudes often shift to the other extreme. Desperate for a job offer, you signal this desperation to the interviewer. He’s usually made uncomfortable by the excessive toadying and begins to suspect there’s something wrong with you and that this, rather than market conditions, is why you’ve been out of work for so long.
The solution is to adopt a middle ground right from the start, and then maintain it throughout the process. You need to show an immediate interest in the needs of the interviewer and his company, rather than your own, and that you are ready, willing, and able to meet those needs. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company. You’ll have some initial hints as to what the company’s or interviewer’s needs are by the way the position is advertised or described and by the skills and experiences stressed. But the best way to find out exactly what’s needed is simply to ask. Be direct and ask what the ideal candidate would provide for the company. Then show how you match that description. This two-step approach demonstrates an eagerness to please and self-confidence. That’s a terrific combination.
Earlier in this book I wrote about how bosses will say one thing about what they want from employees, while actually wanting something else. I haven’t changed my mind. That’s still the case. But in an interview process when you’re unemployed, it’s essential that you buy into the charade. If you ask and the interviewer says he’s looking for a straight shooter who’ll be an agent for change, talk about your integrity and explain how your innovative streak will shake things up. Then, after you land the job and find out he really wants someone who’ll protect him from
boss’s demands for change, transform yourself into his stoutest defender. Believe me, he will never question the transformation. In fact, he’ll thank his lucky stars for having found the absolutely perfect person for the job.
As soon as I heard Jason had applied for a retail sales position at the consumer electronics store, I suggested he make sure he maintained and projected the right attitude. He agreed, noting that he himself was worried about not being able to keep from showing how much more he knew about the business than the store manager, and acting as if the job were beneath him. We talked for a few minutes about how to keep the focus on the manager’s needs.
The next day I got another call from Jason, letting me know he had gotten the job at the store. He said he directly asked the manager what he was looking for. The answer was someone knowledgeable about high-end audio equipment, who could relate well to customers, and was reliable. Jason told of his lifelong love of audio equipment and portrayed his long affiliation with the industry as having been as much hobby as work. He talked about having been successful in retail sales and about having learned a lot from all the retailers he had worked with in the past. Jason noted that since he was a close match to the demographics of the average customers, he shouldn’t have a hard time relating to them. As someone with experience in business, he said, he knew how important it was to be on time and reliable. Jason was offered the job on the spot and told he could start whenever he wanted.
The principles of job fishing are to look constantly for work and to concentrate on getting offers rather than on getting jobs. Once again, while I developed these principles with the employed individual in mind, they have relevance for the unemployed as well.
Some unemployed job seekers engage in what I call a serial job hunt. They find one or two potential jobs, or perhaps focus on a single industry. Then they follow through on those possibilities, to the exclusion of all others, until they are exhausted. If they don’t land a job, they look for another industry, or find another couple of openings, and pursue these exclusively until they are exhausted as well. This kind of linear, systematic approach is almost guaranteed to increase the time it takes to find a new job. And it definitely guarantees that you will never be in the enviable position of having more than one offer to choose from.
That’s why I encourage my unemployed clients to pursue as many leads as they can develop, all at the same time. Answer all the help wanted ads that fit. Contact every employment agency that seems a player in the market. Call every headhunter. Tap into every resource. Sure, it means having to keep lots of balls in the air at the same time. You’ll need to keep track of where you’ve sent your résumé and when, whom you’ve contacted and met with, and whom you’ve e-mailed and telephoned. Since you’ll be pursuing opportunities in different industries and of different types at the same time, you’ll need to be able to switch hats quickly and have a conversation about the aerospace industry right after sending an e-mail to someone in the fast-food business.
I know this kind of multitasking isn’t easy, but it is essential. If you don’t know how to do this by the time you’re unemployed, use the extra time you now have on your hands to become a master of it. You’ll need it once you’re back in the workplace. That’s because from now on you’ll be perpetually looking for work…unless you want to find yourself in this position again.
Rather than being selective about pursuing opportunities, based on prejudgments, go after every possible opportunity. The idea, whether you’re working or unemployed, is to have multiple offers to choose from. Not only will having multiple offers give you a chance to pick and choose the one that’s best for you, it will make you feel better about yourself.
Even after Jason landed the job at the consumer electronics store, I urged him to keep on looking for job offers, wherever they might come from. He agreed and spent every Thursday afternoon — which was one of his days off from the store — answering ads, researching industries, and touching base with his business contacts. A month after taking the job at the electronics store, Jason was offered another retail sales position, this time at a camera store. He turned it down, but admitted it felt nice to be “in demand.”
Jason also signed up with a temporary agency that specialized in filling executive positions. Seven months after starting at the consumer electronics store, Jason was offered a temporary position developing a marketing package for a health food supplier looking to expand into new retail markets. While he realized it wasn’t a long-term solution to his situation, it would pay $20,000 more than he’d earn at the store. He took it…but still kept on looking for work.
I believe it’s vital for someone who’s unemployed to work on expanding his or her personal network and use that as a source for job leads. I understand, however, that it’s a far more efficient strategy when you’re still employed and can give those new relationships more time to develop and turn into leads. That’s why, if you’re unemployed, I think you should look to bring in a stream of income as soon as you can, rather than waiting for the job of your dreams to appear. Grab a job that will help you keep food on the table and your head up. But keep scanning the help wanted ads in newspapers, on Web sites, and in professional journals. Keep hounding employment agencies and headhunters. Work your business network in the traditional manner. Yes, it’s a real long shot these days, but you’ve nothing to lose other than the time it takes. If your fishing yields an offer that pays more than the job you took to keep food on the table, grab it, but don’t stop fishing for other offers.
While you’re working hard with all these short-term, traditional techniques, make the most of your personal life. Pursue your hobbies. Get active in the community. Volunteer. Do all the things you always said you’d do if you ever had the time. Well, you now have the time, so make the most of it. Not only will it bring you psychic benefits, but it’s also probably going to be the way you find your best long-term job leads. Be inquisitive, interested, and optimistic. If you have a closed mind you’ll end up facing only closed doors in your life. Keep an open mind and you’ll find doors open for you, sometimes in the places and circumstances you don’t expect.
Jason kept up his job-fishing efforts after getting the temporary marketing job through the agency. In fact, knowing the position was temporary actually spurred him to step up his efforts. But he didn’t let that interfere with the expansion of his personal network.