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How to Get from Despair to Hope

Or…Jobseeker Mental Madness Management

Time and time again, jobseekers tell me that the most difficult part of a job search is managing their mental traffic. As I listen to my clients they often begin a sentence with, “What if…” The remainder of the sentence is usually a negative event: what if question
  • “What if I don’t get an interview.”
  • “What if I don’t get a job?”
  • “What if I lose my house?”
  • “What if I can’t pay my college loans?”
  • “What if they call my former manager?”
…the list goes on.

These comments are rooted in their fears, which are reasonable—
given their situation.

Jobseeker attitudes have changed.
Fear can be overwhelming. Back in 2008, some people were laid off and took time off to “process and get-over” their lay off. One person actually said to me, “I’ve enjoyed a year of unemployment and now I need to get a job.” Today it is a different story. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t heard a number of horror stories about being unemployed.

Today, I find that most unemployed people feel unsure and threatened. They are not at all confident that they can get a job. The day of the cavalier jobseeker is past as we have seen the best, the highly business savvy, those who are at the top of their game, those with great education and experience—and they have all struggled to get a job. Some continue to struggle.

What do jobseekers fear?
A recent poll by AARP indicated that jobseekers deal with a lot of fear:
  • Older workers fear they are overqualified.
  • Younger workers fear they are inexperienced.
  • Older workers fear they are perceived as obsolete.
  • Younger workers fear they may have to live at home forever.
  • People who are overweight fear they won’t be evaluated on their abilities.
  • Introverts fear they will be seen as timid.
  • Extroverts fear they will overdo it.
…the list goes on.

The fears may change, but they don’t go away.
Everyone agrees that HOPE is a primary change agent.

How to change the mental traffic:
A quick Internet search shows that hope comes when people have a plan to get from where they are to where they want to be. They have something to look forward to and can focus their efforts and thoughts on positive activities to get them there.

Last week I spoke at a library on “Interviewing Made Comfortable: Fitting In and Standing Out.” Afterwards I received five or six calls from some of the participants and each of them wanted to spend time talking to me.

They talked about their job search, their home life, why they were laid off, why their family doesn’t understand. They told me what they’ve done and why their job search wasn’t working. Without exception their comments leaned heavily towards the negative. Without exception, they seemed reluctant to let me go.

Some wanted to know if I could help them, but most of the people were simply disheartened, discouraged, and overwhelmed about what to do next. I wondered what I could learn about how most jobseekers spend their time.

Time Management Concept What do jobseekers do with their time?
This article indicated that “jobseekers simply don’t know what to do or how to organize their time.”

According to the Examiner, jobseekers spend
  • 24 percent sending out resumes and applications
  • 27 percent looking at ads
  • 9 percent networking with friends or family
  • 3 percent going to interviews

The article makes the suggestion that: More time needs to be spent networking online or at networking events if the long-term unemployed can hope to end their plight.

What SHOULD unemployed jobseekers do with their time?
After watching jobseekers for eight years and working alongside them to shorten their job search, I would like to make the following observations and offer some tips.

  • The biggest concern that hiring professionals have about a long-term unemployed person is that they are not current in their technology, skill sets and industry knowledge. It isn’t about how long they’ve been unemployed!

    Therefore I suggest that a significant number of hours be spent working in these three areas. Identify ways to build your credibility every week and include this activity on your resume when appropriate:
    1. Technology:
      There are free courses that are offered online as well as through local libraries, work groups and the like. Also consider UniversalClass online programs. They are accredited and each class awards CEU credits (Continuing Educational Units). These courses are very reasonable, robust in their offerings. Some libraries carry licenses that are given to patrons at no charge.
    2. Skill sets:
      Again, UniversalClass or other training opportunities can help. Volunteering at a non-profit may be a place to keep your skills sharp. Just be sure that the work you are doing there is relevant to the jobs that you are applying for.
    3. Industry knowledge:
      LinkedIn should be every jobseeker’s friend. By actively participating in LinkedIn Groups, jobseekers (with rare exception) can demonstrate that they are active and current in their industry
    These three activities should take approximately 40 to 50% of your time. Figure about 15 to 20 hours per week, or 3 to 4 hours per day.


  • Networking is a critical component of every career, not just for jobseekers. However, this component is most often misunderstood. Here are some tips.
    1. Connect with jobseekers through jobseeker groups. You can usually find jobseeker support groups through libraries or through an Internet search: “Job seeker support group Connecticut” This link leads to a directory.

      Note: The purpose of a jobseeker support group is to learn how to talk about yourself and to practice your elevator speech and unique value statement. They can also help you with interviewing practice and sometimes resume writing.

      A certain amount of commiserating is important after a traumatic event like a layoff but the focus should be to develop your skill in talking about your experience, your value and your skill sets.

    2. LinkedIn offers a host of opportunity to network online. Connecting with people from your industry, especially through the LinkedIn groups, is an excellent way to build your credibility.
      • Choose your groups wisely.
      • Monitor and contribute to selected group discussions that interest you.
      • When someone makes a comment of interest to you, link to that person.
      • Consider a 30-minute “virtual cup of coffee” (both of you bring a cup of coffee and connect via phone for 30 minutes.)
      • Find an article in your area of expertise, write a review and post it as a discussion in groups where the content is appropriate.
      • Consider putting together a project related to your industry. Publish it in the form of a blog and ask for a peer review through your LinkedIn groups.
      Recruiters and hiring professionals will check your LinkedIn Group activity and see that you are active, a contributor, and current in your industry.
    These networking activities should take approximately 25% of your time. Figure about 10 hours per week, or 2 hours per day.
  • The remainder of your time should be spent on job applications and should include the following:
    1. Careful scrutiny of job postings. Avoid applying for positions that are not a good fit or where you are not qualified.

      In May 2013, A new study by online job-matching service TheLadders shows that job seekers spend an average of about 76 seconds looking at a job posting — and that’s for ones they determine to be a “good fit.”

      When they were asked how much time they spent, they thought they had spent about 10 minutes. So the difference between perception and reality. None-the-less, jobseekers tend to apply for positions that they are not qualified for and therein is one factor called, “the black hole.”

    2. Carefully prepare polished, well-crafted cover letters and résumés. This article has more detailed advice.
    3. Remember that getting a job is a process. It’s a process to learn what will get hiring professionals to call. It’s a process to learn to prepare for and manage the interviews. Learn as you go.
    hope
    Learn;
    Move forward;
    Repeat.

  • Finally, practice hopefulness:
    Back to our opening thought:
    • You do not have the luxury of being negative. It will hurt your job search, your loved ones, your friends, and your health.
    • Manage your finances and your time so that if your job search goes longer than you every thought possible, you will have no regrets on how you spent your time or financial resources.
    • Manage your relationships is a like manner—so there are no regrets.
    These three points will protect your dignity throughout your search.

    This article made a great point:
    Also if you get in the habit of focusing on the things you can control and not obsess about stuff that is totally out of your realm of influence, you will increase your feelings of hope.
  • I highly recommend this article: Is Your Thinking Killing Your Jobsearch?

    When the world says, “Give up,”
    Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
    – Author Unknown

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    2 Responses to How to Get from Despair to Hope

    1. Neil Patrick October 1, 2013 at 3:01 AM #

      Great post Marcia,

      This is a battle that people can win even in this tough climate. It’s just that it’s harder than ever before…but not impossible by any means. Part of the problem, is that most people try hard but they are unskilled in the technniques of job-hunting, because they’ve never been taught by a professional how to do it. These are invaluable insights IMHO. Thanks for sharing them.

      • Marcia LaReau October 1, 2013 at 7:10 AM #

        Neil,
        Thank you for taking time to comment. It grieves me that the times and technology created a hiring industry. We are making our way and many hiring professionals are trying hard to find the right people for the right jobs. But the rules haven’t been set, and we are all finding out way. We need people like you to help and guide both jobseekers and companies to define and follow ethical guidelines and open communication between employers and employees to craft a solid, ethical an secure future. It is my hope that Forward Motion will be a major player as well.