Recovering from Job Loss: Learning How to Be Happy
Recently I was at a professional development event learning about the finer points of corporate training. During networking time, I talked with a woman who had been laid off a few years ago, then called back to work for the same company (which is rare for my chosen field). What was her biggest concern? Figuring out how to be happy in her new/old position and not constantly worry about the possibility of getting laid off again.
To Worry, or Not to Worry?
Here in the land of having been laid off from various and sundry positions 5 times over the course of my career, I know from being worried about job loss. I can honestly say that I have never seen a layoff coming. Granted, the first time I was laid off, being laid off was outside of my realm of possibility since it had never personally happened to me before. After that, though, once I knew it was a thing, there are many times I’ve worried about being laid off. Maybe it was concerns about market performance, or new management, or rumors about reorganization, or any number of other things that caused my anxiety to kick in. In spite of my heightened awareness of the potential fragility of my job status, I always walked away from those situations still gainfully employed, and thankful for it.
On the flip side, the times I have been laid off, I have just plain not seen it coming. I’ve been busy dealing with my personal life otherwise falling apart, or too busy working on a must-succeed project, or coming back from vacation to realize that apparently, I was not long for those companies. Be that a good or bad thing, I’ve learned one key lesson. It’s not worth me worrying about being laid off because I lack the right kind of awareness needed to have an inner “heads up” when my job is in jeopardy. I’ve chosen another approach to the possible elimination of my position.
An Alternative to Worry
Way back when, I had two operating modes when it came to work: “I’m happy with my job” mode and “I need to find a new job” mode. “I’m happy with my job” mode included excelling at my day-job with a side order of inactivity. “I need to find a new job right this minute” mode is when I started to network, look for career opportunities, dust off my resume, highlight my skills, etc. Now I realize that I needed to change from those two to an all new “working professional” mode—which is a both/and way of being. As a working professional, I still excel in my current role, but I also remember to keep my skill set up to date, continue to make ongoing professional connections, and have a career plan B (and up through about J, honestly) just in case I need it. Regardless of my employment status, this mindset serves me well and helps me live my life without focusing on fear.
Learning and Growing
Once upon a time, I planned to be a high school English teacher. While I didn’t end up teaching in a school setting, I use that skill set to help adults who work for businesses learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable them to excel professionally and personally. I’m a lifelong learner, and I literally learn for a living—and help others do the same. I’m always learning new technology, reading up adult education theory, and gaining insights from those around me. In addition to having a formal background in education, I also attend regular professional development meetings, and I constantly read in and outside of my field. I make sure I can speak intelligently about trends in business, education, and beyond. Staying current and continuing to learn and grow keeps me doing well in my current position and future ready. In an ever-changing world, continued professional growth is the best way to manage whatever happens next.
Building (and Tending) My Professional Network
People talk a lot about “networking.” Too often, I think networking is depicted as a superficial act that involves shaking a lot of hands at a nametag laden event where people dread the next day’s “would you like to buy something from me” calls. For me, as an introvert, I approach networking differently. My goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people. These relationships are an opportunity to share information, help one another out, and feel more connected.
I keep track of my network using LinkedIn. When I meet people in person, whether it’s the first time we’re working together at a new job or because I sit next to them at a professional development meeting, I have typically had a real, in-person interaction with them before we connect. From there, I’m happy to help a friend of theirs look for a new job, or talk with one of my connections about how they might want design their technical certification program, or answer a question about a job applicant who is a former coworker of mine. I expect to help people in my professional network out, and know that they will be willing to do the same.
Regardless of the role that I’m in, and even if it seems to be going well, I always have a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan, and then a couple more backup plans after those. After 5 layoffs, and the unique challenges of each, I have a broad sense of the types of situations (like figuring out the health care exchange and determining when it made sense to do short-term contract work) I may need to mitigate. This means being ready to manage possible adversity or taking advantage of opportunities as they become available.
In addition to being proactive with my network, some of the things I’ve thought through have made me better equipped for issues as they arise. Here are a few of the things I’ve contemplated:
What Do You Think?
How do you manage career anxiety? Include your thoughts in the comments.
From "To Do" to "To Done"
Like many adults, I have what feels like a never-ending to-do list. No matter how much progress I make, I often dismiss what I have accomplished because I'm too busy focusing on all of the things I haven't done.
A couple of years ago, I had a boss who encouraged me to make a success list on a weekly basis. This was a great way for me to remind myself that I am making progress--even if it doesn't always feel like it's the case. In addition to my weekly success list, I decided to take personal inventory and do a quick list for the past year.
This Year's Success List
1. Added daily yoga to my wellness routine.
2. Applied for 21 jobs and had 12 interviews.
3. Bought running shoes I absolutely love and ran my first 5k.
4. Celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my husband.
5. Connected with over 100 new colleagues on LinkedIn.
6. Cut my daily commute time by 1 hour per day.
7. Decided to quit doing roller derby for a while to focus on being a roller derby mom.
8. Didn’t totally freak out when my daughter was on a two-week trip to Asia with a school affiliated group.
9. Enrolled my daughter a drivers ed class and started my role as a driving coach.
10. Found an awesome new chiropractor.
11. Got a new FitBit and finished 3 StepBet challenges.
12. Got our cat, Zippy, through ear surgery. (Now she has one ear hole, but two cosmetic ears).
13. Learned how to slow down on hills in inline skates. (Next year I hope to have a little more style in my slowing down.)
14. Logged over 80 gym visits.
15. Outlined a book on job searching and job transition.
16. Published 18 blog articles.
17. Ran over 70 miles and inline skated over 250 miles on outdoor trails.
18. Saw “Die Hard”, “They Live”, and “When Harry Met Sally” at the Parkway Theatre.
19. Skated my first inline 10K event and didn’t die, then skated my first inline marathon and finished in under 3 hours.
20. Started a great new job as the Director of Training at a software company.
21. Survived my second position elimination in 2 years and found a great new job in less than 2 months.
22. Tried spinning and enjoyed it.
23. Vacationed in New Orleans.
24. Watched all the episodes of Will and Grace and Friday Night Lights.
25. Wrote my very first knitting pattern.
What About You?
What is on your success list for this past year? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My Life in the Learning Business
I have always worked in corporate training, and I have a penchant (a gift, perhaps) for working for organizations that reorganize, get bought out, or otherwise restructure. For a lot of companies, when times get tight and push comes to shove, learning and development positions are categorized as a “nice to have”, not a “need to have”. Consequently, I know my way around a layoff, and I’ve had to become adept at all things job search as to keep my expensive habits of eating and living indoors.
Recently, for the fifth time in my career, I found myself unexpectedly in a position where I needed to change jobs. The last time around, my position was unexpectedly eliminated on the day I returned from vacation. That was about two years ago, and I was not expecting to have to do this again quite so soon. However, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I also know that of all the times I worried about an impending layoff, I have never seen it coming when I was directly impacted. Consequently, I’ve learned to try to be successful in whatever professional position I have, while also knowing that I need to be to seek out an alternate position given the ever-changing climate of business.
My Job Search by the Numbers
In a previous blog article, entitled “Job Search Insights by the Numbers”, I listed the statistics associated with my last job search. This time around, things moved a bit more quickly than I initially expected. Keep in mind, too, that about half of the jobs for which I applied have not responded. In their defense, I was on and off the market pretty quickly. It’ll be interesting to see who I hear back from eventually. With that, here’s how this job search shaped up:
Differences from Previous Job Searches
My last job search lasted 147 days. That's right. It was exactly 100 days longer. So what were the differences between then and now? What magic did I use to so quickly land a great new position?
Time of Year
Fortunately (as I look at the bright side), I knew I needed to make a change in late September. I’ve found that being unemployed over the holidays nearly guarantees about an extra month or two of job searching (or more likely, waiting). In fact, my longest two job searches included the holiday season, lasting 180 and 147 days respectively. The best advice that I have is to take some time off from job searching over the holidays. This time around, when I estimated the possible length of my period of unemployment, I surmised that I would either secure a new position before Thanksgiving or I’d most likely be waiting to start a new role until February or March of next year. Getting a jump start, even by a couple of weeks, made a big difference.
During layoffs one and two, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While I love Madison as a city, as someone whose chosen profession is corporate training, I knew that I needed to move to a larger job market or consider doing something else for a living. In the middle of my second big period of unemployment, I started targeting companies in Minneapolis. Even with the challenge of relocating (and managing all of the other areas of my life that were in transition right then), finding a new job took under five months. Being in the greater Twin Cities area, even with me being more selective on where to apply, I still had a lot of options. This gave me a better chance of one of the positions I applied for moving me along to the interview stage. It also made it easier for me to manage my job search related anxiety by applying for additional positions each time I was concerned about not hearing back from one potential employer.
I started using LinkedIn seriously in 2006. Since then, I’ve connected with coworkers, members of professional development organizations, colleagues with whom I’ve interacted, and pretty much anyone who I encountered and found interesting. I stay active on social media sharing useful content and attend industry meetings on a regular basis. Having this robust professional network and assisting individuals in my network when they are job searching or exploring new fields of interest, has helped me immensely. When encountering a position that interested me, I immediately looked to my network to see who might be able to put in a good word for me and help me get pulled out of the initial pile of candidates. I have also had more than one “informal interview” with a possible referer so they feel comfortable recommending me for a position. Since people are putting their reputations on the line, I don’t take their assistance for granted.
I’m at the point in my career where I know what kinds of jobs interest me. I have good formal education, recent job titles that are well aligned with roles for which I’m applying, and I’ve stayed current on the industry. While having someone refer me for a position helps, I know that I still need to be a well-qualified candidate. Those qualifications are what help me get from a courtesy phone interview to being considered a viable candidate for an open role.
Pure Dumb Luck
There is a certain amount of planet alignment that happens whenever something good manages to actually happen. In this case, a company in a field that interests me (software) had an opening for which I was qualified, and I had a former coworker who was willing to refer me for the position. The quotes “The harder I work, the luckier I get” comes to mind as does “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true job search strategies and secrets to success? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Earlier this year, when talking with a friend about her job search plans, I mentioned the idea of a “personal brand.” She asked me what I meant by that, which caused me to do a little soul searching. I realized I had bought into the idea of the value of having a strong personal brand while working with mortgage loan officers and real estate agents—two audiences who are all about getting their face out there to attract business. I took a step back and started thinking about how to better articulate the why and how of a personal brand.
Role of a Brand
As a consumer, a brand is a shortcut that helps me make a buying decision. If I want a good cup of coffee in an unfamiliar city, I find a Starbucks. If I need to buy a book, I typically go to Amazon, and for an audio book, I’ll visit Audible. If I want durable shoes for outdoor activities, I’m looking for a pair of Keens. There are also brands that are so prominent, they have become part of our lexicon. People Google instead of doing an online search, use Kleenex rather than tissue, and pick the version of Coke they want at a restaurant. Those brands mean something whether it’s quality, range of items available, or a predictable experience. Brands help us jump to a quicker answer instead of having to weigh multiple options for every single buying decision we make.
A Personal Brand
A personal brand is a similar idea. Instead of branding a product, though, it’s intended to help shortcut the decision-making process to promote someone’s credibility or value. When I think of the epitome of a personal brand, I think Oprah. Oprah tells us what pop health gurus to listen to, what books to read, who to vote for and more. Oprah has a television network, and a magazine and an empire. Everyone knows who Oprah is and what she’s all about. This is personal branding at its finest.
For the rest of us non-Oprah's, we also have a personal brand. When people meet one another in-person, oftentimes, we check out one another's online presences. In the work world, it's usually LinkedIn and potentially Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among others). Whether you're looking for a job, or connecting with a professional colleague, having an online presence is nearly a given. Make sure that presence is one you want people to be aware of (because they'll find it one way or another) and that it positions you in a positive light.
My Personal Brand
My personal branding aspirations are not at the level of Oprah. (My television network and magazine are on hold for now.) For me, my personal brand is showcasing my skills as a trusted professional in the learning and development space. I want to be known for sharing industry related information on adult education, conveying lessons learned, and communicating my personal insights. My goal is to position myself as a real life human with day to day challenges who is also someone you’d trust (or hire) when it comes to helping adults learn information to enable them to succeed.
I started to pay attention to my personal brand when I realized I wanted to start sharing my insights in blog entries. For me, a personal brand was an embodiment of what I wanted my blog to be about. In short, my blog is my way of sharing my learnings with others who could benefit from my trials and tribulations. Using the colors in my professional headshot and a fun photo of coffee, my personal brand was born.
When I think of what my brand includes, I think first of how I present myself online as well as in print. For me, that means I have a professional social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. On each site, I used BrendaLearns as my username, my professional photo as my avatar, and a consistent description on each site. I also have a background picture on my social media sites that showcases the same color scheme (shades of red and gray). In addition, this color scheme is included on my blog at (you guessed it) www.BrendaLearns.com. On my resume, I include a red line on the left side, which continues to emphasize my personal brand. In addition, my business cards feature the same color scheme and background image to keep my personal branding consistent.
Have Something to Say
My focus of my blog is sharing my key learnings with others. It’s about helping others navigate life’s trials and tribulations by enabling them to benefit from some of the things I’ve either researched or learned through experience. Whether it’s helping people think through personal finance questions, figure out how to navigate a job loss, train for an inline skating marathon, or just helping people learn in general, I am wired to want to help people learn and grow. I want to share information in a way that is understandable, and even fun.
Likewise, that same spirit is embodied in my social media presence, I want the world to associate my personal brand with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful. This is why I share articles on helping adults learn, leading strong teams of high-performing (and happy) individuals, and other business insights. I also share articles and posts that show that I’m human, too. I have 2 cats (Zippy and Meathook), a daughter who is into roller derby and learning to drive, a strong interest in inline skating, and a love of quotes that are at once funny and thought provoking. Without having something to say, and getting comfortable being human in front of others, having a personal brand is not worth much.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about personal branding in general and the value of having a personal brand? Include your thoughts in the comments.
There are several days each year where people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full or memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I look back at my life is Groundhog’s Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year old daughter would be like. The one stable thing I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing that I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meeting to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired. I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted the spreadsheet of my financial plans (which in just a few minutes had become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon to be ex-husband to tell him that I was now unemployed. His only response was “huh.”
Then It Got a Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the previous time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer came to my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face, was a low point in my life—second only to my dad’s unexpected death.
Then It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I got to see friends, connect with new people, and spend more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figure out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a pre-school for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, her dad found a job and moved, too, with his new girlfriend (who was a lovely person who was good to my daughter). Then, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I adjusted to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every major life change (save a death in the family) I could think to experience.
Then It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and still spend time with them regularly. I got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great—then bought a house with and married that guy (who my daughter still calls “Mikey.”)
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. My husband and I celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, my daughter is doing well, and my best friend and I get together most weeks to catch up. Life is pretty damn good.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who don’t seem happy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the house that I love, my husband sitting in the living room with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy teenage daughter (including her brown, purple and blond hair), and my challenging job that I absolutely love.
’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and automatic garage door openers. I treasure mother/daughter movie night, trips to the skating rink, and even playing chauffeur on the girl’s friend outings. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhogs Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
What Do You Think?
What reminds you to take time to be grateful? Include your thoughts in the comments.
'Tis The Season
I’ve been laid off 4 times, twice in the fall. In fact, last year at this time, I was “in transition” searching for a new opportunity. Being in job transition is rough. Being in job transition during the holidays—especially the week before Christmas through the new year—is downright futile.
I’ve read a ton of articles touting the benefits of job searching during the holidays--and I mean a lot, a lot of them. Reasons to keep going abound. No one else will be applying! You’ll get a leg up on other applicants! Tons of people are trying to fill positions before year's end! In spite of the articles I read that encouraged me to persevere, in retrospect, I would have ignored that advice and deferred to my own best judgement.
I look at the sheer number of articles on self-care during the holiday season. If the holiday season is hard all by itself, add the stress of unemployment and there are a whole ton of reasons to be extra sure to take care of yourself.
My Best Holiday Job Seeking Advice
Here’s the best advice I didn’t take: take time off from your job search during the holidays.
The Challenge of Applying for Jobs in December
Even in a fast-moving job market with ridiculously low unemployment, it takes a bit to find a job. Just given the linearity of time, there will be a gap between when you apply, interview, and get an offer you’d like to take. This process can feel like it takes an eternity when people at these potential employers are focused on working. During December, with people taking time off for all things holiday, finding gainful employment moves even more slowly. Take a break and let yourself move more slowly, and deliberately, too.
During my last job transition, which lasted 5 months, the most frustrating period was a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving until the end of the year, the last two weeks of December were the absolute worst. Aside from the darkness and winter weather, the sheer sucking void of job prospects hit me hard. In short, nothing came from my job searching at that time. I was either submitting applications to jobs that no one was going to pay much attention to for a couple of weeks, following up with employers who had other priorities, or bothering former colleagues for recommendations when they were in the throws of Christmas programs and family get-togethers. The job search picked up again the second week in January when people had their heads back in the game at work.
Take Time for Self Care
My advice to you as a job seeker? Take a holiday break. Go do things you’d like to do when you’re gainfully employed, but that are harder to find time to do. Go to a noon yoga class. Get together with friends for lunch. Read a novel with no obvious professional development benefit. Go to a matinee. Visit a museum. Walk around the mall on a weekday Take some time for you. Take a break from pounding pavement on your job search and just breathe. You’ll feel better for taking some time for you, and for not feeling like you’re working hard and getting few results.
Just like we all need vacation time to recuperate from our day jobs and be able to do good work, we also need to take a break from a job search so we can have the mental space to regroup. Take a couple of weeks off—like the week before and the week after Christmas—and reset. You’re future self will thank you for this act of self care.
What Do You Think?
What has your experience been applying for jobs in December? Share your insights in the comments.
From Job Applicant to Hiring Manager
Six months ago, I was in transition and searching for the next great position in my career. Now, I'm at a great company, in a job I love, and I'm in the process of hiring two new employees to be a part of the team I'm creating.
Having researched resume format and tweaked my resume again and again, and then sifting through the pile of resumes of people possibly interested in working for me, I have gained new insights into how to make your resume most effective.
Your Resume Goals
First, let's talk about what success looks like. In it's most simple form, the goal of your resume is to get you a job. However, let's break that down a bit and look at the first mini-goal in that whole process--getting a recruiter or hiring manager to want to get in contact with you to find out more. Let's focus on how you get to that critical first step.
The Initial Sorting: Yes, No or Maybe
As a hiring manager, I really want to hire someone amazing. Each time I see that I've received a new application, I'm little kid excited that this might be just the right person to round out the team and do the work that I need done. On that initial scan, I'm deciding which camp you fall into.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Sweet. They look like a great candidate! Let's contact them immediately to find out more!
No. Just no.
Ugh. Work experience doesn't seem related to this role. Long, rambly resume. No thanks.
I'm just not sure.
Not great, but may be worth exploring--or maybe not. I'm going to have to think about this.
Questions Your Resume Needs to Answer
As a hiring manager (or recruiter) who scans every resume submitted for the two positions for which I am hiring, I am looking for answers for the following critical hiring questions. Answering yes to most, if not all, of these questions, gets you into the "yes" pile.
Question 1: Does this person have the skills needed to do this job?
Does their work experience and education line up with what is needed for the position? Do they have the technical ability and interpersonal skills to succeed? Have the job responsibilities they have had previously positioned them well for what is required of this position? Did they paraphrase the job description and help connect the dots between their qualifications and the available position?
Question 2: Does this person actually want this job? Or are they looking for any old job?
Is the job application personalized at all? Do they look like they are mass-applying for jobs, or like they actually want this position with this organization? Does their summary of what they are looking for match what the job is? Does this position seem like a logical step from their current position? If not, did they explain that this makes sense for them? (Like emphasizing how their background in manufacturing has prepared them for this job in your industry?) Do they live in the city where the job is, or mention that they plan to move? Do they emphasize how their skills will help them do the job? Do they mention wanting to work for a company like yours or doing a job like the one that is open? Is this job really their thing?
Question 3: If they took the job, would they be successful?
Does the content of their resume or summary align with what the open job requires? Are things like the level of responsibility, travel percentages, expectations for remote work or managing or not managing people what they want to do? If they have worked at larger companies with a slower pace, will the fast-pace of a start-up energize or overwhelm them? Can they be self-directed, or follow directions, as will be dictated by the role? Does this fit in with their career trajectory? Are they taking a job that isn't really ideal for them? If so, are they going to leave right away to take the job that is a better fit? Does the improvement in job responsibilities, work culture, industry or opportunity create an environment that they will really enjoy? Have they addressed any of these possible concerns in their resume or cover letter?
Getting to the "Yes" Pile
While there is no magic formula to create the perfect resume for every situation, here area few resume best practices that can help you get to the "yes" pile. Here are a few characteristics of what I think "good" looks like:
Tip 1: Include a summary front and center.
Whether you call it a "professional highlights", "summary of qualifications" or something else, this section is the Cliff Notes for the rest of your resume. This targeted, concise summary should be tailored to the job. As a resume screener, this helps me know if I should bother to keep reading. For me, not having this quick paragraph really hurts your chances of moving on. It's like having a long, dry user manual handed to you with no table of contents. Give me a your quick elevator speech on what you bring to the table so I can see if the book is worth continuing to read. Address those critical questions so I know it's worth the time to connect with you personally.
Tip 2: Keep the length to two pages.
I have seen far too many 3 page and up resumes. One key skill I'm looking for is the ability to summarize and prioritize. Skip your street address, references, and information about the high school you attended. Get rid of the extras that add length, but not value. Your resume, which may need to cover 5-30 years of relevant work experience, is one way you can demonstrate your ability to discern and highlight the most important points.
Tip 3: Be clear, specific, and precise.
Write in coherent bulleted points or sentences. Include relevant industry keywords without overusing jargon to try to impress. I'm hiring educators who need to be able to take a complex topic (everything relevant you've ever done) and show me the parts that will be most directly related to the job. This includes formatting. Make sure I can, at a glance, tell your job titles from the company names from your job responsibilities. Use white space to make it readable. Show me that you can make even complex content easy to navigate.
What Do You Think?
What other tips do you have for getting your resume into the "yes" pile? Include details in the comments.
First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
The Networking Conundrum
As an adult human with (or searching for) a grown-up job, we often hear about the value of networking--but how does one “network?” And how does one do it in a such a way that we’re meeting people, building relationships and connecting with individuals in a meaningful way? How do we do all of that without being (or feeling like) the slimy person who talks with someone today in order to shamelessly use that person for selfish personal gain later on?
Overall, networking includes meeting people, keeping track of them and nurturing those relationships in a mutually beneficial way. Let's break down each of those key components.
Meet All The People
We meet people all the time whether we’re working on a project, attending a conference or dressed in our least attractive ensemble attempting to sneak in and out of the grocery store. The trick with networking is to figure out how to meet people who share your professional interests. Here are three key places to meet the people that will become part of your network.
Coworkers and Vendors
I’ve worked for 10+ organizations, each of which had some turnover and many new employees. After I met someone initially, or sometimes after I worked with them on a project, I would connect with them on LinkedIn. I also connected with coworkers at other office locations as well as point people working for vendor organizations. Since I have worked directly with all of these people, they have direct experience with me as a coworker, manager or project team member.
In the Twin Cities, I’ve been involved with the Financial Planning Association, Association of Talent Development, Professional Association of Computer Trainers, the League of Longfellow Artists and Fredrickson Roundtable for Learning Leaders. Each time I attend a meeting, I have conversations with people before, during and after each presentation. I make special effort to get their names and connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards by including a brief note on who I am and our conversation. These are people who have seen me in a professional environment and have had at least one personal interaction with me.
Friends, Family and the Community
There are people that we interact with all the time—like the server at my favorite restaurant, my daughter's math teacher, the guy who works from the same coffee shop I visit, the woman who knocked me down last week at roller derby. This also includes friends from high school, classmates from college and the friend of my sister’s that I struck up a conversation with a month ago. After I’ve had a good interaction with people, I try to connect with them since our paths may cross again, and there will definitely be opportunities for us to help one another out. Now, reaching out to them to talk more about a specific topic will be easier since we have had casual contact on one or more occasions.
Some could argue that these people shouldn't be a part of a "professional network" since I don't directly know them from work. I disagree. I'm a firm believer that there is generally zero benefit to being mean to people and only positives from being nice to people. Go forth and be nice to people--if only for the sheer pleasure that being nice to another fellow human being can give you.
Keep Track of Everyone
LinkedIn is the core tool I use to keep track of my professional network. This is a collection of people I have worked with over the course of my career, colleagues from professional organizations and people who are both friends and possible business contacts. I use LinkedIn to post my professional profile, link to my other professional social media accounts and stay current on who of my connections currently work for what organizations. In addition to LinkedIn, I also keep email addresses and phone numbers for people who I worked with more closely, and connect people with who are family or friends as well as professional connections through Facebook.
Interact in a Meaningful Way
The biggest mistake most people make with networking is staying silent until they need something. In order to network effectively, it needs to be a give and take relationship. This includes talking to people in passing when you see them, congratulating them on their successes, asking them how they are doing and offering help when you can. Is someone looking for someone to click through a webpage they are designing? Volunteer to help. Did they just publish a book that you read? Comment on how much you liked the book or share the book with other people who might find it interesting. Did someone just get a promotion at work? Send them a quick note of congratulations.
Even sharing insightful articles on LinkedIn on a regular basis is one easy way to give to, rather than take from, your network. In order to be successful, networking should be about an ongoing relationship that is mutually beneficial—not your list of people that you ask to do you favors.
What Do You Think?
How do you build and nurture your professional network? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Welcome To The Suck
The process of being "in transition" is like no other. Not only do you have no outwardly dictated plans on any given weekday, but you don't really know how long your unstructured time off will last (another week, another month, a few months?) or what your day to day life will look like once the transition is over. There's also the issue of figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not job searching--in addition to feeling guilty because you're not doing more job searching, that is. As an extra added bonus, there are the occasional freak outs about money, nervousness about career prospects and the once in a great while "I will never be employed ever again!" full-on panic.
Suffice it to say that job searching can be full of obstacles that make the process hard to manage. Knowing the possible issues is the first step towards figuring out how to mitigate each challenge and move forward. Here are five unfortunate truths I have discovered about dealing with an unexpected career transition and a few coping strategies for dealing with each.
1. You won't always get an interview for THE PERFECT JOB.
Congratulations! You just found THE PERFECT JOB! You have all of the required and preferred qualifications! It's at the right level, with your dream company, and you even know someone who works there who will say great things about you! Surely your days of job searching are coming to a close because you are the purple squirrel for THE PERFECT JOB!
Enter reality. I'm sorry to say that you may not even manage to get so much as an initial phone screen for this position. Even when you feel like the job was tailor made for you, someone in a decision making position may not agree. Why might that happen?
For one, the position may not actually available. Some organizations post job openings to gauge interest in the position even though they have no plans to hire anytime soon. Conversely, the role may have been open for a while and the selection process may be well under way. There could also be an internal person who will take the job without additional people being considered. In some cases, companies may have a policy that they need to post positions externally for a given length of time even though they already have a candidate in mind. Still other organizations may decide part way through the hiring process to leave a position unfilled, but not remove it from their posted jobs.
Assuming the job is really and for true accepting applicants, there may still be issues. For one, key stakeholders in an organization may have a lack of common agreement on what a job role will do and what constitutes being a well-qualified candidate. Decision makers may also each have their own non-negotiable requirements for the qualifications for the potential hire--which may or may not relate to the person's ability to do the job. Remember that, no matter what the issue is, it seldom has anything to do with you personally. It's just the life of recruiting for and trying to fill positions with the best candidates they can find--sometimes with people who are (unfortunately) not you.
2. People who aren't good at their jobs will make your life harder.
Remember a time at your last job when you had to deal with someone who was not good at what they did for a living? Like the salesperson who was rude, never did their paperwork right and missed deadlines? Or the recruiter who didn't keep good notes and forgot who they had phone screened? During your job search, you'll realize those people exist in other organizations, too, and they sometimes stand between you and the job you want.
It could come in the form of an administrative assistant who is supposed to coordinate your travel for an in-person interview--who didn't make reservations then went on vacation leaving you scrambling to find someone else to help. It may be the recruiter who doesn't realize that a learning management system and a learning content management system are roughly the same thing and wrongly screens you out early on in the process. It may be the hiring manager that is overly concerned with your lack of knowledge of their industry and doesn't believe that anyone could just LEARN what they now know. It might be an insecure possible future coworker who doesn't want to hire someone who might outshine them. Just like in the rest of life, things are not always "fair" and you may not get a job, even if you are a strong candidate. Such is life.
3. Along the way, someone will dislike you.
I don't know about you, but I am friggin' delightful. I'm also able to connect and get along well with most people. However, during the interview process, no matter who I am or am not, it's not going to match what someone else thinks the candidate for the position should be. Whether they thought I should have smiled more, made a different outfit choice or given more detailed examples, someone's negative reaction to who I am may take me out of the running for a job.
People often have their own pet theories about what they'd like in a coworker, manager or direct report. They may be convinced that having the title "account manager" is pivotal for success, that all candidates must have a master's degree, or that people who ride horses are pretentious. You might also have the misfortune of reminding them of the mean girl in high school and BOOM--instant dislike. Again, life isn't necessarily "fair."
4. The interview process may be extensive and/or disorganized.
The job interview process can be anything from one interview to many, many, many interviews depending on the organization and the role. Typically, I expect to have a phone screen with an entry level HR person to confirm that I can speak in sentences, an in-person interview with the manager and potential coworkers and a final interview to either demonstrate skills and/or meet with my potential boss's boss. In addition, a given employer may want to have you do more to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You might be asked to pass written assessments, submit work samples, present to a group or complete a project. They may even have you come into the office for the day and "work" as if you are already in the position for which you are applying.
Interviews could take place over the phone, via web conference, through email, in-person or (more likely) a combination of all of the above. Some companies will have a pre-defined, structured process for the pacing and format of interviews. Other organizations will appear to be making it up as they go along. You may inadvertently skip steps and realize near the end of the process that you missed talking about a basic topic like salary range or work location. You may have interviews one-on-one with many people who you might work with going forward including coworkers, people with whom you'd collaborate with and executives. Sometimes, it may seem that the interview process is never-ending because you have not yet talked with every single person in the organization.
5. Time passes more slowly when you're waiting.
I remember being a child, and how LONG the year seemed. It always took forever to get from my birthday at the end of August to Christmas. Enter adulthood. I find myself consistently marveling that it's already whatever day/month/season it is because it seems that it was just that other day/month/season. In this scenario, your employer is the adult, and you are the child.
Some companies will be motivated to fill a position and move things pretty quickly, while others might have days, weeks or even months between your contacts with them--all because something that wasn't filling that position became a priority.
What about that two days that the employer estimated it would take them to contact you? It may easily turn into a week, or two. Since they're busy addressing customer issues, traveling to client sites and doing their expense reports, they didn't even realize it took that long. Meanwhile, you're stocking your pantry awaiting the unemployment apocalypse because you will never get a job ever, ever again. (Except not really because, well, reality.)
I have also had cases where I've had one or more interviews that went well, and then not heard from the company for a week or two. I'll send a follow up message, which sometimes gets the process going again, but at least makes me feel like I've taken the action I can take to let them know I'm still a potential candidate. Keep in mind that holidays, summer, natural disasters, other company events and a host of other valid reasons may keep people from following up with you.
Or, as any job seeker really doesn't want to hear, you may not be getting the job. Responding to a candidate quickly usually shows that the potential employer is interested. In many cases, taking longer to respond may indicate lagging interest. Such is how the whole process works.
What do you think?
What unfortunate truths about the job search process have you found? Share your thoughts in the comments.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.