I learned something yesterday and because I learned, I’m in a position to now help others even more going forward; that’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m disappointed in that what I thought I was getting across to people wasn’t always getting through and I didn’t realize that. Let me explain.
Every couple of months I run an intensive job searching group for a dozen or fewer people actively seeking employment. These people cannot refer themselves, but must be referred to me by one of my colleagues who in the act of facilitating workshops of their own, pick out those who rise above the others; demonstrate a keen interest, voluntarily participate, ask questions, show promise, and quite frankly come across as having a real honest desire and possibility of employment. Then I too contact them and lay the program commitment on the line and determine for myself if they have what I’m looking for. In turn, they can opt out before committing with no penalty.
So there I’ve been for the last two weeks getting people to target their resumes and cover letters, checking in with them to see how they are coming along, keeping them accountable for the number of applications they are making daily and the number of phone calls to follow-up or set up information interviews. All seemed well with the approach I was taking, until yesterday.
I have one young woman in the group whom I have great hope for. She’s seeking an Office Administration position, has good keyboarding skills, recent education training in Office Administration, pays attention and other than a very low self-esteem, comes across well. So I wondered why she wasn’t even getting one interview over a two-week period that ends today. For one hour I sat with her yesterday one-on-one and while she found it really uncomfortable to just have me sitting right next to her while she did her thing, I just watched.
What I saw was that she wasn’t changing both the job she was actually applying to or the qualifications on the resume to match the ad she was applying to, and was only changing the first line in her cover letter before sending it off. That’s not what I’ve been preaching for two solid weeks. In fact, her cut and paste while executed well, resulted in a disastrous outcome because she failed to proofread her cover letter. The first line went, “Please accept my application for the position of”…and then she named the company forgetting to insert the actual job title. Any employer would toss it right out and not read on. When I asked why she didn’t change the qualifications on the resume itself, she said she’d tell them she had all those skills in the interview itself. Except that interview isn’t likely to happen.
So what I learned was that I actually need to sit and watch ALL the people I’m helping to determine if they actually can in practice do what in theory they say they understand and can do. There’s a difference. Now of course, I’ve gone around and sat for short periods of time with all my participants for years. But what I learned from this experience is that I need to sit quietly and just watch from the start of the job search to the point where the ‘send’ button is about to be hit on an email application.
This process of sitting and observing gave me all the insight into what the thought process was that was really going on in her brain. And why did she do what she did? Well apparently her teacher in the Office course she took had a different take on resumes where you don’t need to change the qualifications to match each posting and she was just following her direction despite being in MY class for two weeks. And I got it; the old issue of two so-called experts, and which one do you believe and follow if suggestions collide and conflict? So with 16 applications done that teachers way in the last two weeks, she’s had zero interest from any employers in setting up an interview. My advice is to shift and try the style and approach I’ve been outlining and see if the results are different. Whatever works is what she should be using going forward from there.
This is the great thing about working with people and always being open to trying new approaches instead of doing things as they’ve always been done. Learning is truly a wonderful thing and no one should be too old to learn something new.