I would like to share a personal story with you. I remember a couple of really lean months after I started my business. My husband and I would sit down at the table and I would start to tick off all the things I had done to market my business properly. “I have done everything right. So what’s WRONG!?” I would exclaim.
The truth of the matter was, I hadn’t done anything wrong, per se; it just felt like that because I didn’t have the amount of clients that I had expected.
Interestingly enough, in all other ways I had succeeded in meeting all of my business goals and timelines. However, those achievements were overshadowed by the anxiety caused by not having a long line of clients waiting to work with me.
Turns out, after about 6 weeks (which felt more like forever), I had plenty of wonderful clients.
You would think as a job search coach, I would not fall into this trap! But when we are going through “the fire” it’s easy to panic and quickly lose perspective.
When you are in a job search, it’s not much different. There are highs and lows. Sometimes the phone never stops ringing; sometimes it may feel like all potential employers are purposefully avoiding you. Inevitably one wonders, “What have I done wrong?” No doubt, it can be a confusing time. So here are some tips that will provide you with a very helpful dose of reality.
Tip #1: Expect the peaks and valleys.
It’s true: every job search or career transition has its peaks and valleys. And yes, it’s uncomfortable.
If you are experiencing a dry spell in your job search, you need to look at a few things before you can accurately determine the cause. These include:
- Is your resume powerful enough to get attention? Have you had it professionally written?
- Do you have a plan to focus on a particular industry and position? Does that plan include strategies that you are implementing?
- Have you investigated the health of the industry you are targeting? Is it in a growth mode or is it shrinking?
- Do you know how to tap into the unadvertised job market? And if so, have you been using those strategies consistently and persistently?
- Have you given your job search enough time? The average search in a good market can take 2 to 4 months for a mid-level professional and 6 to 12 months for a senior executive.
Tip #2: Get realistic about marketing figures.
Direct mail campaigns do the heavy lifting for you and I recommend them. They usually yield a 1% to 7% return.
Unadvertised job market strategies can take your positive responses up 20% to 60% in a good market and slightly less in a bad economy. Regardless, pursuing the unadvertised market beats out using large (major) job boards by a long shot. Large job boards are the toughest job market in which to compete. Period.
The bottom line: even when you do it right, most companies are not going to respond to you. I am not trying to be negative, but rather, demonstrate that it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough or not doing something right. Job searching is marketing. It’s a numbers game. The solution? Check your search against tip #1 and then increase your numbers.
Tip #3: Don’t get down on yourself.
There are loads of things you can do that can actually help emotionally, mentally and physically in a job search. A few of these include:
- Use a coach to keep you motivated, make sure you are using the right techniques to leverage yourself in the market, and to keep you on track with setting and reaching your goals on a weekly basis.
- Work (i.e. job search) and life balance are incredibly vital! Set several hours aside each day to work on your job search and write out what your main activity is for each day. Take the rest of the day off (yes you heard me right!) to rest, relax, be with your family, enjoy sports or other activities, work on continuing education, read or whatever else you like to do. This will keep you sane and balanced while you are waiting for your efforts to pay off.
- Join a church group or a support group. The positive support helps. Just trust me on this one.
- If you hit a dry spell, remind yourself that it’s not you and it’s not personal. Getting depressed and feeling desperate is not the vibe you want to be taking into your upcoming interviews.
- Do what you have to do. One executive client I know took a part-time job in a grocery store while he was looking for a full-time executive position. He said that it helped him feel like he was still contributing monetarily to his family, and just getting out and working part-time kept his head clear.
The wise job seeker and career changer knows that dry spells in a job search don’t signal the end of a career as they know it. 🙂 They use the time to market even harder.
Remember that every marketing effort is an accomplishment in and of itself and does contribute to action, forward movement and future activity. By looking at the situation realistically, using techniques to boost your activity, and keeping your focus on what you want (not what you are afraid of), you will maximize your leverage and move consistently forward to the results you want.
I am often asked by potential clients what my success rates are. They usually follow with, “I know it can be hard to say…”
The truth is that with the right planning, marketing collateral, and job search strategies, job searching and career transitioning can be easy. And it is for A LOT of people that hire me to help them. However, for some it is not.
So why is it easy for some but hard for others? Let’s take a look.
Generally speaking, the job seekers who enjoy an easy experience have these things in place:
- They know what they want and where they are going. They are focused on a particular industry and title. They align themselves with opportunities: industries that have solid growth and a good long-term economic outlook. They fish where the fish are.
- If they are changing industries, they have a game plan and now what they need to do to keep moving forward toward their goal. This could include establishing a stronger foothold with the thought leadership in their industry of choice, or immersing themselves in new associations or additional certifications. In other words, they are on it. They hustle.
- They take responsibility for their job search. They are fully aware that they are the ones who are responsible for not only implementing strategies, but keeping a leadership/positive attitude. They realize that they are the only ones who have the power to maintain that.
- They are willing to learn and embrace new job search strategies that help them leverage themselves in the market. They hire certified professional help, because they know that help and support accelerates their results.
- They understand marketing 101. Much like how businesses spend roughly 10% for their marketing budget, executives should set aside at least 1% to properly market themselves in their job search; and just like a business, they expect a much higher return for their investment.
So who calls and emails me telling me I helped them change industries, get 50k pay increases or triple their salaries? It’s these guys and gals. Is there a guarantee their salary will increase by 5k or 100k? No, but we can minimize the guessing through good strategy and planning, which is why the large majority of my clients land in this category!
For those job seekers who have difficulties, it may be that they are:
- Looking in an industry that is in decline or in an economically soft geographical area, and for whatever reason, are unwilling to change or move.
- Call it quits too soon. They unfortunately try something once or twice and give up when “it doesn’t work” instead of reaching out for help. They end up trying so many things, they can’t get any traction.
- Struggling with maintaining a positive attitude, which has a boomerang effect.
- Unwilling to step up and perform the extra effort it takes to move into a new industry.
- Expecting to get all of their interviews by submitting to jobs on job boards.
I am sure there are other factors I haven’t covered here, but the main point is that it all comes down to a positive attitude. We have much more control of our destiny – at least when it comes to our career transitions – then perhaps we realize!
When you are setting up a turnkey job search campaign and trying to tap into the hidden job market, you may happen upon some hurdles that can stop you in your tracks, shake your confidence and cause you to doubt yourself – or tempt you to settle for much less than you know you deserve. Here are 8 common pitfalls and how you can avoid them:
Pitfall #1: Thought Paralysis
Do you find yourself talking your way out of multiple potential opportunities? You may have job search thought paralysis! This can lead to hours of heavy contemplation and internal dialogue concerning each move your make in your job search. Soon hours turn into days and days turn into weeks!
Don’t fall for negative internal dialogue! No one can know what company is hiring internally and you can’t read the minds of potential employers. Countless times my clients have told me that their incredible job opportunity came from the most surprising place or out of the most unique circumstances.
The solution? If in doubt, send your resume anyway.
Pitfall #2: Fear
Bill Briggs was the first man to ski Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. His friends told him it was impossible and he was crazy. On top of that, Bill had a surgically fused hip. He knew he would have to reckon with cliffs thousands of feet high, falling rock and potential avalanches.
Regardless, he took the challenge. Bill stated simply, “If there is no risk, there is no adventure. Adventure is a part of life.”
Your career – and certainly the wild ride of changing jobs – is indeed an adventure, and one that makes demands on your virtues, including your bravery. It is worth giving your job search 100% simply because you are worth the job you want.
How do you get through the fear? By facing it head on. Break the inertia caused by fear with action. Make a list. Do at least one thing right now. Do two more things tomorrow. Three simple steps will get you traction and lead you quickly and positively to more action.
Pitfall #3: Perfection Paralysis
Do you feel like everything has to be perfect before you can move forward? This is a common pitfall that can stop your job search before it even begins. Your goal needs to be progress, not perfection. Although this might not be your motto in other areas of life, when it comes to your job search, the key is implementation.
A client once said to me regarding making follow up phone calls, “I just can’t get it right.” Of course we all need a solid and effective phone script, but the secret isn’t in getting it right as much as it is just getting it done.
The best way to move forward is to make a list regarding whatever project you are working on. Detail each step you need to take. Now make a note of what tasks you can do, what tasks you don’t know how to do, and what tasks you know how to do but don’t want to do. Now you can figure out what you can start on right now, what you need to farm out to someone else, and what you need to hire someone to help you with.
Pitfall #4: Doing Everything Yourself
Not knowing how to do something often acts like quicksand and can stop your whole job search in its tracks. Conducting a job search involves a lot of small parts. One of the reasons why it is so tempting to fall back on job boards is because it has a system. You do A, B, and C and then you’re done. And you feel like you have at least done something.
To avoid this you have to make the things you should be doing manageable. You must create a system so that your job search is turnkey.
There are also the mundane tasks that are associated with a job search. Have you ever figured out how much you make by the hour? If you make around 100k per year at an 8-hour a day / 5-day per week position, you would be making about $48 per hour. So, if you spend hours and hours trying to rewrite your resume yourself, printing out resumes and licking envelopes, you need to ask yourself, “Are these tasks worth $48 an hour?”
Sub this energy draining work out! Hire a resume writer. Go to InstiPrints. Hire a virtual assistant or your own teenager and get them to help you with the administration for a third of the cost of doing it yourself. This way you can concentrate on the big payoff activities that are worth your salary. This will ensure that these important tasks get done and you stay motivated!
Pitfall #5: Not Being Open to Try New Job Search Methods
In this job market you are going to have very little success if all you do is answer a handful of posted jobs. My clients who are having success right now are the ones that are using direct mail programs, learning how to research and use strategies to tap into the hidden job market (actually quite easy), and learning about social networking.
Pitfall #6: Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket
I worked with a client once who secured three interviews a week after I sent her final resume copies. She was so excited and I was excited for her. But when I asked her how her job search strategies were going, she said she was just waiting for her immediate interviews to pan out before she did anything else.
Though I encouraged her not to do this, her mind was made up. Six weeks later, all three potential job opportunities fell through and my client was left with an empty basket and the daunting task of starting all over again from scratch. Moral of the story: keep your pipeline full and your job search activities consistent until your first day at your new company.
Pitfall #7: No Strategy
In order to be successful in your job search, you have to have a foundation of basic goals and a clear understanding of your driving motivators. If you don’t, you’re not going to know what to focus on or where to best invest your time and energy.
I have worked with job seekers who, when they first came to me, shared that they had been in “I’ll know it when I see it” job search mode for over a year with nothing to show for it. So, know what industries you are targeting and why, what your salary goals are, your timeframe and your basic game plan before trying to move forward. You’ll be so glad you did!
Pitfall #8: Work/Life Imbalance
You can’t job search 8 hours a day. Well, you can – but if you do, you will probably be feeling drained and burnt out in no time at all. During a job search you will most likely be experiencing more stress than normal, so it’s important that you take better care of yourself and take more time off then perhaps you are accustomed. This isn’t a luxury! It’s actually a vital part of your successful job search.
Eat right, get plenty of rest and do plenty of those things you love to do. This way you will have enough energy for creativity and strategy. You will be rested, clear-headed and enthusiastic in your job interviews, which will make a positive impression.
So if you see yourself in any one of these pitfalls, take heart and use these simple techniques to break through the hurdles so you can stay focused and confident as you move toward the career opportunity you really want.