Job Search Blues – Networking

Barbara told me that she has exhausted her network. She said “I’ve contacted everyone I know, and I’ve had many informational meetings. It’s not working. Nothing is happening. I haven’t gotten any interviews from my networking.” Barbara was convinced that she no longer could use networking as a key element in her job search.

I suggested we write a list of every networking or informational meeting she had in the past 2 months. Barbara came up with five specific situations where she actually met with someone and three phone conversations.

In Barbara’s mind, she had a lot of meetings. In my mind, she had only scratched the surface.

It takes a lot of time,energy and planning to really network. It often feels like we have been networking our butts off, when in reality there are many more connections to be made.

If you are feeling like you have exhausted your network, get specific. Who have you actually met with? What did you talk about? Do you have a spreadsheet to keep track of all meetings and conversations? Have you followed up with everyone? Have you attempted to try to help your contacts?

Networking is not really an activity that you can ‘cross of your list’ – it’s ongoing and it becomes more effective the longer you do it.

Survival in the business world today depends upon keeping your network alive, giving back and staying connected. Whether you are in the job market or not, if you are not networking, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

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Job Search Mantra – ‘Keep the Faith’

A colleague of mine (Carla) just told me that she landed an incredibly exciting executive position. Now that things are looking up, it’s easier to talk about the long road to get here.

Carla has been actively engaged in a job search for almost two years. Yep – two years. In the past eight months, she was a finalist for four different positions and they all fell through. One fell through AFTER they had made an offer – the economy slid and they put things on hold. Talk about discouraging.

Carla has had many ups and downs during the past several months. She is a dynamic, intelligent, sharp and highly experienced woman who was finding her spirit and self esteem going through harsh and (what seemed to be) bottomless pits.

Now that she has landed a key leadership role with an exciting and solid firm, she can look more objectively at the process. Hindsight is always 20/20.

She said two very important things that I want to share with you.

1)”The most important thing I learned through this is that one MUST keep optimism alive in whatever way one can. It’s easy to get caught in a mind game and think doom and gloom. Share your fears with your trusted friends and keep the faith outwardly if you can. It makes a huge difference in how you come across. As compassionate as many people might be; no one wants to hire a gloomy or negative person.”

2)”I’m so glad I maintained my authenticity along the way. I fought against the tendency to try to be all things to all people. I let people see my true personality and know who I really was. Some people were uncomfortable with that, but now that I landed in the right place, it was worth the discomfort. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was worth the long months of agony. Now I have an incredible opportunity in front of me, and I’m grateful.”

These are tough times. A job search can be very discouraging even in a thriving economy, but in these times it can be downright depressing. Stick with it. Push ahead. Organizations are still looking for good people.

By the way, Carla was offered a salary that is more than double what she was willing to accept in her more vulnerable moments. She deserves every penny and more.

As Tavis Smiley would say, ‘Keep the faith’.

What is it about work?

Work is so important to most of us. Why? So much of our identity, in western society, is attached to the work we do.  That’s one of the things that makes our country so great – and so obsessive. It’s the yin yang of our society.

Physicists define work as the transfer of energy. I think this applies to the everyday world of work as well. Think of how much energy most of us invest in either doing work, explaining work, loving work, hating work, looking for work, searching for happiness through work or avoiding work. It’s an incredible amount of energy.

I think it’s about time that we took control of the work in our lives and made conscious decisions about it rather than having it control us.

Too many people feel trapped. Break out of the victim mode. Take back your life. Schedule time with a good career coach. Get moving – the time to begin is now. Every long journey begins with the first step.

We must find a way out of here

In the past two weeks alone, I have seen three new clients whose primary complaint is the increasing volume of work expected of them without additional resources. In other words, these clients find themselves doing the work of two or three people as opposed to the one person they are. Often, it is impossible to accomplish everything that is expected. A very common complaint. It seems to be getting worse.

Too many clients are saying, “All of a sudden I am being questioned as to why project deadlines aren’t being met. This never happened to me before. It’s not like I am a slacker; I believe in hard work and take pride in results. No one acknowledges that in the past week, I was pulled into five unexpected emergency situations and had to attend an extraordinary number of ‘mandatory’ meetings. Everything is a priority. How can one person do all of this in a normal work week”?

There are two simple things I’d like to put on the table about this issue.

One is directed towards leaders and managers. If you care about retaining valuable employees (you’ll need them desperately in the coming years if you are up on worker statistics), get real about your expectations. People are only human. You may be willing to work 18 hours per day/ 7 days per week and disregard other aspects to life, but most people want to work hard and then spend time with their families or with other interests.

Free time actually helps employees be more productive and loyal to the company cause. Studies have shown that people think more creatively if they have some room to breathe and play. Suggestion: Read the book A Whole New Mind or A Whack on the Side of the Head. You may not know it, but your employees would jump ship in a second if they had a good offer. This puts YOU at a competitive disadvantage.

Two is directed towards people who find themselves caught in this trap. You like your work, you want to work hard and and get positive results, but you can’t seem to do enough to please the powers that be. In order to accomplish every expectation, you’d have to work at least 16 hours per day and put in some hours at home every weekend.

Your kids want to have you attend their programs, your partner wants to get to know you again. You have other interests that need time and attention. You’d like to relax and enjoy life once in a while. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN WORK LIFE. First, communicate often with your boss. If they are reasonable people, plan out an approach to talk about realities. Work with your coach to find the right approach. If no one listens, strategize a plan to network and find other organizations who have cultures that really support work-life balance. It’s not easy – but you can pull yourself out of this trap and make a transition. Don’t make rash decisions, strategize carefully.

Life is short. Reclaim your spirit. Don’t let work become a prison sentence. You are too talented and have too much to offer to settle for that kind of disrespect. Other organizations could use your talents. Get help with this transition process – it’s not easy, especially in these uncertain economic times, but it CAN be done successfully.