Defeated, demoralized, bitter & twisted – this is the new face of the perpetually unemployed and underemployed. Where once this was an older generation of workers in struggling industries finding it difficult to keep up with new technologies and market conditions, today the underemployed are from every walk of life and vocation. Teachers – graduating by the tens of thousands each May, are often faced with extremely poor job prospects. Taking babysitting or ESL jobs or working for years in challenging underfunded school districts on short term contracts – some time working YEARS on short term contracts for the chance to get hired on full time. New immigrants, challenged by the unfamiliarity of the local culture, their heavily accented English and work experience and skill sets that while they looked good on a VISA or green card application, just don’t seem to stack-up against the local talent. New graduates across any number of disciplines – smart, keen and hungry for work but woefully unprepared for the rigors of the Job of “Job Searcher”. Colleges and Universities fill young impressionable minds with tons of useful information and skills – but don’t prepare them for the entry level jobs (in their field) that they will have to take to get job experience to move onto more challenging roles in the future. Grads want it all and they want it now. And they have Payscale.com and their University employment department salary guides to prove it.
As a recruiter for 22 years I’ve dealt with my fair share of candidates and candidate expectations. The last 3-4 years in my recruiting practice I have come across more and more of what I call the “Bitter & Twisted candidate”. The qualified but “beaten” person who seems to have aimed too high for their experience and skill set for so long, months and often years have passed since their last job with only token short term jobs or contracts in between to keep them busy and often not in their field. The “great on paper” candidate who fails to impress on the phone or through a Skype interview. Seemingly unmotivated and unenthusiastic they often discuss their employment gaps with a chip on their shoulder about all of the reasons they haven’t been hired or can’t find work. The victim mentality of the 21 century job seeker is here and recruiters see it daily. I can sympathize and I’d like to help so here’s a few thoughts I’d like to share to help you get in that successful mind set for your job search, interview(s) and future career.
Simply wanting a new job or career is not enough to make an opportunity magically appear. You are never truly unemployed IMO. When you aren’t working for yourself or for a company, your full time job is to find a job! If you were working you would be in the office at 9am and out at 5pm. A standard 8 hour day. Your job at “Job Search CO.” is much the same, an 8 hour day, 5 days a week.
Keep track of your job search efforts daily. Set daily and weekly goals. Start with your resume. Did you have it reviewed by someone in your industry for format and spelling? Does it properly showcase your skills and experience? Your resume is often the 1 contact (and the all-important 1 impression) any Recruiter will have of you. Make the best of it by being a standout in well-presented skills and experience and not a standout for basic spelling and formatting errors. Recruiters review hundreds of resumes every day. We’re an extremely busy bunch. We skim resumes and pick out the ones for follow-up e-mails, phone interviews and face to face meetings. If your resume, your basic “Hi – this is me and what I can do” falls short, you are only doing yourself a dis-service. Consider a professional resume writing service. While funds for such a service may be tight, consider it an investment rather than an expense. I cannot tell you how many resumes I review for the dozen or so I mark for follow-up e-mails and telephone calls each day. A poor resume is a deal killer before you get your foot in the door.
Know your value. Know what skills you bring to the table, both tangible skills (things that can be quantified by tests and certifications) as well as those that are very substantial, but hard to quantify (like a positive attitude). Knowing your employment value before you start your job search is essential so you can highlight this value in your job applications.
Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise and rest. Unemployment is stressful. Job searching can be even more so as the lack of success in a job search can be very disheartening and it’s easy to feel a sense of rejection and hopelessness. Even the best of us can get burnt out. But maintaining your body (and mind) at its peak will allow you to perform better when you need to – and in the case of a job seeker, that’s in the interview impressing HR and your potential supervisor that you have what it takes to be a contributing member of their team.
Have a Positive Mental Attitude. If anything, this is perhaps the most important issue that I see in struggling job seekers today. Having and maintaining a positive mental attitude throughout the job search and interview process. People who think negatively exude negativity in their e-mails and their interviews through the way they speak and their mannerisms. The way candidates carry themselves, carry their end of the interview conversation and the way they come across to a recruiter or to a potential supervisor in an interview is so important that the slightest hint of negativity on the candidates’ part can well shut the door for a job offer. The whiff of negativity is often a stench that can’t be ignored. To attract good things in life you need to think positively. It reflects in everything you do, who you speak with, how you speak to them and their impression of you. Negative thoughts about yourself have a direct impact upon your chances of success. “Perception is reality”. How people perceive you is how they will judge you.
Recruiters: Can you relate to this trend?
Job seekers: What have you done to turn the tables on your job search failure into job search success?