Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interviewing When You Feel Discouraged

I realized many years ago how very difficult it is to be "on" for an interview during a long job search. I had to be at my best just at the time when I was feeling worst about myself and my abilities! It was such a challenge to present myself with confidence and strength, when inside I wondered why no one had offered me a job yet. If I was so great, why wasn't I getting offers?

One of my job searches lasted two very long and painful years. It was then that I learned how to dig deep inside and latch onto what I knew I was really great at doing, knew to my core, deep in my gut and heart. Absent external validation, I found that I could only refer back to what I loved to do, what I was enthusiastic about, what brought light to my eyes and started my brain working feverishly, what made me happy about work.

Using what I loved to do as the starting point, I began to approach each potential job through the lens of how it would allow me to use those abilities and skills. When I did that, I didn't have to "perform" because I had no trouble getting enthusiastic about what I'd done before and the possibility of doing it again in a different arena or context.

When I was discouraged, it was tempting to think about all I lacked that seemingly caused me not to get a job I wanted. Yet that further discouraged me. I swear that recruiters can smell lack of confidence a mile away in a resume, cover letter, telephone call or in-person interview. And they turn away, moving on to the next candidate. I learned that I had to summon up my enthusiasm from deep within at each step in the job search process.

During an interview, it's especially important to focus on the job challenges you love and how much value you bring to the position. If an interviewer asks about anything you don't know, say you can learn. Don't dwell on your lacks - bring it right back to your abilities, strengths, and value-added. Confident enthusiasm is the attitude I recommend.

Employers are looking both for a specific skill set AND an attitude of someone who really wants to do the work. So allow yourself to show that you really want to do the work, and that will go a long way to getting them to make you an offer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Deciding Whether To Apply For A Job

I hear some people saying they don't want to apply for a specific job because they don't think they really want to work at the specific workplace. Maybe they've heard negative things about it from former employees, or they think it's too big or too small, or for some other reason.

Yet they identified the job as something of interest. There was an element in the title or job description or both that attracted them.

Now, if someone says they don't want to apply for a job because the pay is much too low or it turns out that they don't have at least 50% of the required qualifications, or it's in a city to which they will not move - then by all means, don't apply. That wastes your time and the employers'.

However, if there is no concrete reason not to apply, then I urge people to go ahead and apply.

Applying for a job is beginning your end of the conversation. It is not a commitment to accepting a job. It is simply the start of a possible longer communication and maybe relationship. Your application is your expression of interest in what the employer has to offer, and indicates your willingness to engage with them.

It is helpful to think about the reasons you ARE interested and focus on those. If you get an interview, you will have an opportunity to gather more information about the job and employer. Prepare for the interview by creating your own "must have list" of what you must have in order to do your best work. Most people "must have" a certain role and perform specific kinds of activities, work in a specific kind of culture and physical environment, get a definite compensation. Having your own sense of how and where you do your best work - meaning where you are happiest - allows the interview to be two-sided. You are checking out the employer just as they are checking you out.

You won't have that opportunity if you never apply. So go for it! Make your application the strongest it can be by following recommendations on preparing a fantastic marketing-style cover letter and resume. The worst that can happen is you don't get called for an interview. In that case, the job wasn't for you anyway.

Leave No Stone Unturned
Today's economy is relatively uncharted territory for most job-seekers, so abandon the idea that your road map is sufficient. It is NOT. So get off the beaten path, venture into the unknown, try something a little beyond your comfort zone. My philosophy is that if something comes up in your path - whether someone suggests doing something or a wacky idea floats through your brain - it is there for a reason. So take a couple of steps to follow up on it. You'll know soon enough if it's right or not for you - either because you get a big fat "no" or because the path turns too rocky and difficult (a sure sign it's not a road to keep following), or because you gather enough information to see that your minimum "must haves" won't be met.

Engage in what I call the "leave no stone unturned school of job search." Do EVERYTHING that occurs to you and is suggested by others. This is not the time to say "oh, I don't think that will work" or "I don't think I'll like that job." How do you know, until you get the interview? And you don't know where an opportunity or idea will lead you.