If you dread job searching, you are not alone. A young woman, let us call her Jane, emailed me with a request to help her. The majority of her message about looking for a job is below:
I have always enjoyed your e-newsletters and your positive messages for resiliency. I am also a cheerleader in life! From my church groups where I volunteer to my social and family networks, my can-do attitude always shines through! What I would like is some help in finding my perfect job.
There is a position available and I was wondering if you could think of any other things I could do to make me the successful candidate.
Thanks so much for all you do, Jane
Demonstrate An Upbeat Attitude
Jane has the right attitude. Her email describes a positive and go-getting attitude. She will do well in a good-fit environment. Those who do not land their desired position, or lose it, poorly present themselves. Eighty percent of the time, that is the situation.
You see, employers only interview those with the needed experience and skills, as described in their job posting. Employers interview to check factors such as your likeability, teamwork, & strengths.
Ask for Help
Jane asked for help after giving me an acknowledgment and describing her strengths. Most people want to support go-getters. Get to know who in your circle is willing and capable of giving you wise counsel.
I felt honored when Jane asked me for assistance. I imagine she knew that for several years I was a therapeutic and career counselor for the Contemporary Woman Project.
Ideas to Help Jane and Other Job-Seekers
Prepare and Submit Your Resume and Cover Letter
- Based on your work history, decide on what kind of resume to write. Google can help you. Search for chronological, functional, combination, or targeted resume. Find examples and descriptions of these four types of resumes. Choose the best-fit template.
- Consider writing a tailor-made resume using as many words and phrases as in the job posting. You will then have a customized resume that speaks to the employer. Hopefully, it screams, THIS is the employee we want!
- Also in your cover letter include the same or similar words as used in the employer’s posting. List the experiences and qualifications they seek. Cross out the points that you cannot meet. Stay truthful with this process. Your cover letter might start with sentences and bullet points such as these:
Please consider my enclosed resume as my submission for the position of Nursing Supervisor, Sunrise Senior’s Residence . You will note that my qualifications and experience are a good fit for the position.
My qualifications and skills include:
- BA in Nursing
- Supervision Mentor
- Geriatric Certificate
- Proficiency in Word, Excell, and iCareManag
My experience includes:
- 10 years in the field
- 2 years as a supervisor
Bonus: Add to your cover letter one qualification, skill or experience that is not on the employer’s criteria list. But one that helps you shine in this job seeking competition.
Prepare for the Interview
- Review the posting. Prepare with a mini-story for each qualification, skill, and experience described. Keep the stories short and clear. Copy and paste your Cover Letter list into a separate document. Beside each point write a word or two to remind you of when you demonstrated that criterion. Read this sheet over before your interview. These mini-stories should show that you can handle various situations and responsibilities.
- Find a reason to visit the location where you want to work. Perhaps you hand deliver your cover letter and resume. Smile and be friendly to the receptionist. Once you enter the workplace, all people are potential interviewers. Notice how the staff dress. For the interview, plan to dress similarly or one notch up.
- Know your strengths. Be able to state them with confidence. If you do not know your strengths, take Martin Seligman’s free and well researched VIA Survey of Character Strengths.
- Prepare to answer: What is your strength? Or perhaps the question might be something like: What would you bring to our team? Prepare a short story or demonstration of your strengths. Add them to your list from point one. Here is an example: One of my key strengths is organization. In my last position, I put all necessary procedures to register residents into a simple form. Be prepared to share a second strength.
- Prepare to answer, What is your weakness? State your weakness. Then think of how you can give a short explanation of how you have turned it around. Use the past tense. Use the word but to say how you have your weakness under control. Here is an example: Because I like to be organized, I have had a tendency to be a perfectionist. For example, I sometimes want a perfect looking craft room. But I have learned from Recreation Coordinators that it is better to have some creative mess with a reasonable order. Note: Seligman’s Via Survey of Character Strengths will also help you identify your weaknesses. A score will appear with your number one strength at the top. The bottom strength will probably be your weakness. You might also want to read my article/blog on strengths.
In the Interview
- Listen carefully to questions and keep your answers contained and focused. Years ago, I lost a dream job opportunity by not containing my answers and not keeping on topic. Yes, I did!
- Do not ditz anyone with whom you have previously worked, not even supervisors.
- If your personality preference is extroverted, aim to keep your answers shorter than usual. If the interviewees want more information, they will ask.
- If your personality preference is strong introversion and you have been told to”Speak up!” push yourself to provide more details.
- See if you can find an opening to laugh, preferably at yourself. Those with a sense of humor are welcomed team members. At the same time, be careful about making repeated self-deprecating comments. You do not want to be perceived as incompetent.
- Avoid over-apologizing, that is saying you are sorry inappropriately. Women, in particular, have a nervous habit of being sorry.
- If a question is not clear ask, “Will you please say that in a different way?” This will help ensure that you will accurately answer what was asked.
- Prepare three questions to ask should there be an opportunity to interview the potential employer.
- Enter the interview process with an attitude that you are there to explore. You are exploring if this position is really a good fit for you. You are checking them out as much as they are checking you out.
- Be as authentic as you can so that you and they feel excited about a win-win decision.
Bonus Job Searching Ideas
- The next time you are told, “You have got wonderful qualifications but you do not have enough experience,” consider saying, “Will you help me get that experience? I am so determined to do this work that I will do whatever is necessary. Do you have any volunteer positions in this company? Do you have any contacts that might help me gain more experience?”
- When interviewers offer you encouragement or acknowledgment, ask if you can stay in touch. Phone briefly once a month to let them know how your search is going. People typically like to help.
- Volunteer to go on a committee or executive of the association of your industry or profession. For example, I served on the executive of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, Calgary. You will be perceived as a significant person in your field when you accept a leadership role and fill it well.
- Find someone who has the kind of job you want. Interview him or her. People love to talk about their work. Ask them for contacts. Ask them the fastest way to get to a similar position. Ask to shadow them for a day. Pay attention to the names, companies, and contacts that you hear during the day.
- If you feel genuinely liked and connected to a leader in your desired field, ask if he or she will mentor you. Most of us like to make a difference. It is an honor.
- Write down exactly what kind of employment you are seeking, the title, the responsibilities, the education required and the type of environment. Forward this description to everyone you know.
- Make sure you treat finding a job like a job. Promise yourself to do at least 5 actions a day from Monday to Friday—go to a networking event, make three phone calls and get out there.
- Feeling frustrated and discouraged is inevitable. Circle yourself with supportive family and friends.
The world needs your gifts. Keep offering. Stay the course. One day you will say, “I landed that job!”
How have you risen above the tough realities and disappointing rejections of job searching? Please share them with me.