Stick It Out

There comes a time, especially often when you are in the beginning of your working days, when the bell tolls: it’s simply time to move on from your current position. Whether you have ascertained for certain that there is no room for growth in your position, your company has come under new management, or it’s just time for a new direction, it’s tempting to simply up and give your two weeks notice when you have that moment of realization. However appealing that might be, don’t! You’re infinitely more valuable employed than unemployed, whether your unemployment was your own choice or not. It’s back to that annoying paradox you encountered on day one of your non-student life: it’s near impossible to get a job unless you have a job. Don’t forget that lesson you learned- any job is better than no job! It’s simply the truth of how the market functions: when something is in demand, people fight to get their hands on it. When something sits unnoticed on a shelf, with back stock piling up, even the best sale can’t get someone to purchase it. If you are in demand by another employer, it’s a green flag for a potential employer- you are skilled and reliable, as certified by another company.

So, as much as you might want to jump ship and pour all your time and energy into seeking out that next opportunity, take a moment to assess your situation. Stay in your current position, continue seeking our opportunities for advancement or improvement, and search for a new career in your free time. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

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torture or titillating?

Sending out a new cover letter for each position you apply for can be daunting- but I think we’ve all been at that point when it just feels like torture.  If you’re creating little rewards for yourself (if I do one more I get to eat that truffle that’s been sitting in my refrigerator) just to make it through, it’s time to step back and take a look at what you’re doing.

Sometimes the job is perfect for you, your dream position, but what your potential employer is asking for is the bare bones, plain and boring: “Please send resume and credentials in cover letter.”  Well, in that case, you’re just going to have to power through, because it will be worth it in the end.  Other times the prompt is great, but you find yourself really struggling to sound excited in your cover letter, to connect your true interests to those that might best qualify you for the position.  In that case you might want to pause and ask yourself, Is this really for me?  Unless you’re financially obligated to take any job that comes your way (in which case, DO!), it’s important to take time every so often to reevaluate what it is you’re really looking for.  As I’ve said before, finding a job is like getting into a relationship- it’s equally important to know what YOU want as it is to anticipate what your potential employer is looking for.

If the words are flying out from beneath your fingers and your foot is tapping in anxious excitement as your trying to reign in your cover letter from exceeding a page in length- by all means EDIT and EDIT again- this is the job for you!  If you can’t decide which example to use in your cover letter because you have too many relevant ones, or which interest to highlight because all of yours seem to align perfectly with those the position entails, follow up with a phone call, send another email, don’t let your dream job slip away!

In summation?  If even applying for the job is torture, do you really thinking doing it forty hours a week will be much better?  If you’re short of breath even while crafting your cover letter, do everything in your power to demonstrate that you’re the best candidate for that job!

Go get em, tigers.

a bird…bush

What’s that saying? Honestly, who knows- but the MEANING is key: no matter what you think you have going for you, what job or interview or paycheck you have lined up, a SURE THING is different than a POSSIBILITY. 

So, the lesson here is to always keep your options open, never show all your cards.  Don’t leave a current job, or put in your two weeks notice, before you have a definite offer from your dream job.  Don’t withdraw applications before you’ve secured a position.  Keep playing the field, people!  Employers do it, so as a savvy prospective employee, it’s smart to do the same.

One of the complicated things about the job search process is that a job offer is hardly ever instant.  More than likely you will go through two, if not three, rounds of interviews.  In my experience this whole process can stretch out over three weeks.  Three weeks is a lot of time to let your job search lay fallow.  At the very least continue NETWORKING, keep the word out there that you’re seeking employment, talk about your interests with friends and former colleagues, reach out to former employers, professors, career counseling, the office of alumni relations at your alma matter.  It’s tempting to relax a little when you’re in the interview process, to hope for that job offer, and count on it, but the smart thing to do is act realistically.  Technically you’re still unemployed, or perhaps you’re employed but not in your ideal field or career, so keep sending out resumes, keep talking, and keep your eyes open for other opportunities, you might be grateful that you did in the future!

pause

I cannot help myself with this song.  Every time it rains for more than a day, I spend at least SOME (read: too much) time with this song on repeat staring out the window.  It came on the radio today as I was driving along doing some errands, and it made me stop and think- I know I don’t have a job, but I think I need a break.  I realize this might sound totally lazy, but when you devote all your time, energy, and resources to seeking employment, it’s almost more consuming than a full-time job since there’s the added stress of uncertainty.  I spent a good deal of time this week with too many balls in the air, in my opinion.  Waiting on a phone call, waiting on an email, waiting on responses and appointments and details.  Sometimes you’ve done all you can do, and waiting in anticipitory super-stress mode just isn’t going to help at all.  When you get to that point- whether you’re waiting on a possible job offer or not- when you reach that point where your stress level is uncomfortable, it’s SO important to take a moment and PAUSE. 

This can mean many different things for different people.  Whether it’s going for a run, baking cupcakes, grabbing coffee with a friend- do whatever it is that will take your mind off of things for a bit.  I’m not saying check out of the game, just take a breather.  My IDEAL breather is going to see a movie, but unfortunately the timing of my “breather day” was off- today was my day, TOMORROW is when a million movies are being released!  Plus my movie buddy is away at law school.  The stars didn’t line up for me, but after eleven this morning I didn’t check my email, didn’t make a phone call, and didn’t worry about a job, an apartment, or the course of my life.  Obviously I’m blogging again, so I’m back on, but I think even that afternoon free of concentration was worth it.  I zoned out, and now I’m ready to take on everything that’s currently sitting on my plate.

So remember, everyone needs a break, employed or not! 

THE interview

hello fellow employment challenged!

Today I want to talk about “THE INTERVIEW”- in particular, an interview gone SERIOUSLY awry.  Luckily it wasn’t mine, but I was there to witness it.  How, you may ask?  The dreaded group interview, a beast of its own.  I’ll confess, while it seems the majority of people loathe the group interview setting, I secretly love it.  Some combination of my ability to empathize and read people….actually, no, my love of the group interview stems almost entirely from the fact that I am a total SHOW OFF.  Can’t help myself.  I can reign it in in social situations, but when it comes to the working world, really job hunting in particular, watch out fellow job seekers, I am an expert at selling myself.

During this particular interview, the hiring manager asked all the usual questions: What is it you love about this company?  What previous experience have you had that translates to this position? Did you get along with your co-workers in the past? Did you have any complaints of management or your training? Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond your duties.  (Take note, these question almost ALWAYS come up in an interview, be prepared.)

I sized up my competition as I sat down on the only hard chair in the room.  **This is something I think is important: if there is a hard seat, choose it.  I feel like sitting on a cushioned chair or couch first of all makes you slouch, second of all, subconsciously communicates to an employer that you value your own comfort over professionalism.  Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but can it really hurt your chances to sit up straight and look bright eyed and bushy tailed?

Continuing on, my competition was almost non-existent, judging solely by the interview outfits they had chosen (one looked sloppy, the other looked totally out of place for the company).  My suspicions were confirmed when I tried to initiate small-chat with them: neither could maintain an informal conversation, or cared to.  If you’re in this situation, don’t get nervous, the only person you need to worry about is the person interviewing you.  On the same token, never bad mouth your fellow interviewees (the same goes for former employers), and always listen respectfully as they give their answers. 

The interview went relatively well for all three of us, until it came to the more creative questions, the first of which was, “Describe to me a situation in which you went above and beyond your job duties.”  After waiting a beat for another candidate to take the question, I answered first, and left the floor open.  The second candidate answered, leaving the third candidate to answer last.  She stared hard at the floor, clearly trying to recall a situation that might fit the question at hand.

So, in this candidates defense, her prior job did not require much of her, and it’s easy to see how she might have difficulty answering this question directly.  She stumbled, as she started to answer that she worked with Habitat for Humanity, which actually might not have been the worst example (if she highlighted how she thought going above and beyond, whether for humanity or a job, was something she felt strongly about).  Then, for some reason, she changed course.  The story that ensued was a horrifying example of what NOT to do in an interview. She told an elaborate and difficult to follow story of an encounter with a homeless woman, which in the end had very little to do with being a hard-worker or being committed to a job or company.  She took up at least five minutes of the interviewer’s time, and in the process most likely made the interviewer forget that all of her previous responses had been perfectly acceptable.

How to avoid a debacle such as this? Prepare prepare prepare.  There’s nothing else to be done.  Try to imagine every possible question you might be asked, and consider your answer.  Remember, job seeking IS your job at the moment, so dedicate all your skill and resources to being the best possible candidate.  ALWAYS play up your strong skills, and NEVER badmouth your former employers or job.  Be positive, be energetic, speak clearly and without “ums” or excessive pause, and you’ll always come off as your best self!  Good luck, job seekers!

am I funny?

Plenty of my fellow unemployed constantly reevaluate their skills, searching the annals of their lives for a missed accomplishment to bolster their resume, an overlooked skill to highlight in the next interview.  I myself have been doing the same, lately, and it’s not my meager sized list of “accomplishments” as a recent grad that irks me, but rather the skills I really *think* I possess, but can’t at this point reliably demonstrate to an employer through example.  So it seems like an important thing to do while unemployed is keep a list of things you are accomplishing in “the mean time”, as well as attempt to use these perhaps “lesser” (in demonstrated capacity) skills in ways that will allow you to cite examples.

So a skill of mine that I think is useful is that I’m funny (maybe? I hope!).  “Funny” might translate, in a way that’s more useful, to insightful, witty, etc.- point being, there are always a variety of ways to describe a particular skill that might be more useful for your desired career.
It’s often difficult to try to get the ball rolling on the various projects that might make you a more appealing job candidate, while also applying for jobs and networking, but look at your job search as your full time job.  You have eight hours a day to devote to this, you can do it!   Talk about great motivation for securing a job that will lead to a career- if you spend every hour you have working on finding that job and making yourself the best candidate, you won’t have a life.  Secure that job and you might!

As far as me improving my comedic skill (or lack thereof), well, you can be the judge of that.  The other day I absolutely ATE IT as I tried to step off the elliptical following a particularly show-off-y workout.  The best way to remedy embarrassment? Laugh about it.  Feel free to let me know if you’re laughing along with me…or at me. (LINK BELOW)

Just A Girl and Her Elliptical © Kristen Dillman 2011