Job Application Rejection


There was a time in my life when I was fortunate enough to get an interview for every job I applied to. Okay, being entirely honest, I actually got selected and hired for all those jobs I applied to and was interviewed for. Hey, I thought applying for work was pretty straight forward. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that pattern didn’t last very long, because had things continued that way, I’d have made a very poor Employment Counsellor.

Over the course of my working life, I’ve applied to many jobs and not been successful. I’ve applied and heard nothing, received letters telling me the organizations have moved in different directions, been told in person and over the phone that I didn’t get jobs too. In my experience, the more I wanted a job I didn’t eventually get, the more it stung. The loss of an opportunity I was only somewhat motivated to get didn’t hurt near as much. Perhaps you’ve noticed something similar yourself?

Being rejected by an employer does damage to your self-image. It’s called your psyche; your self-perception. It’s not surprising that we should feel badly after being passed over for jobs we really want. Seeing a job ad for a position we could see ourselves doing is one thing, but once we get down to actually applying, we go from casual observer to active applicant. The more we invest in the application by conducting research, targeting our resume, writing a cover letter, having conversations with people – all in an effort to obtain the position, the more it stings when all that effort doesn’t produce the results we’d hoped for.

The solution is not what some would think; to only put in minimal effort when applying in order to minimize your losses. This is the logic I’ve heard some people use over the years. To avoid getting their hopes up and being extremely disappointed, they jus don’t get too excited or invest too much of themselves in any potential job application. Ironically, when these people do get rejected, while you think they’d be less affected than the person who goes all in on applying, they actually feel a similar level of frustration. Not only is this frustration similar in it’s impact, they are often left wondering if they’d have had a different result with some more effort on their part.

Now there’s been times in my life when I’ve been unemployed and had to go through the process of finding jobs to apply to, submitting my application, not getting hired and continuing my search with other opportunities. I have to say, I’ve never lost touch with that feeling of joyful relief that comes when you have an employer select you from the many applicants they’ve had. The degree of relief experienced seems very much related to the length of time away from employment. I have also felt immense gratitude for the jobs I’ve been hired to do after going without one for longer than I’d have liked. It’s the memory of these success following roller coaster periods of hopes and frustrations which now help me immensely in my role as an empathetic Employment Counsellor.

This is the way life goes for many people though isn’t it? The Employment Counsellor is better for having experienced the personal ups and downs of job searching, experiencing the blues personally often helps a songwriter make a connection with their music, etc.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to experience a prolonged job search, fraught with it’s financial, psychological and emotional hardships just so they could get a better understanding and appreciation for the process. Besides, there’s no guarantee that just going through a lengthy period of unemployment makes one more appreciative of the job they eventually land in. I’ve seen some extremely bitter people; changed negatively and intensely so because of their unemployment. Let me assure you I’ve no wish to see anyone come close to that experience.

Having this personal appreciation for being unemployed and through the course of my daily work seeing the potentially spirit crushing affect of the job search process on others, I urge you to get support. Believe me, there’s no sign of weakness in reaching out to a Job Coach, Mental Health Counsellor, Employment Specialist or Employment Counsellor. It’s not an exaggeration to say that partnering up with one or more of the above as you navigate your career exploration and job search might just save yourself. Unemployment has destroyed marriages, destroyed families, financially ruined people of their livelihoods, and broken many people’s spirits of optimism. Some have lost jobs and ended their lives too. Job loss is a serious business.

You see being isolated at a time when you’re experiencing the emotional ups and downs of being hopeful and then rejected, time and time again can stretch a person’s patience and is a genuine test of fortitude, character and emotional well-being. This isn’t a time to draw further into yourself as your normally sound judgement may become skewed. In short, you might not make good decisions when your under prolonged stress and desperate.

It doesn’t have to be me, but get yourself some support. This is a running theme of mine because I know first-hand just how important being supported is when you’re job searching. There’s so much at stake; and you my reader; yes you – the one reading this – you’re so worth it!

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Out Of Work, Not Out Of Options!


Imagine yourself sitting down in an interview for a job you actually want. It’s been a while since you’ve had a job, and you’re a little sensitive about that growing gap on your resume. Things get off to a good start and you’re feeling fairly good; better if truth be told than you thought you might. After all, interviews haven’t been coming as frequently as they used to, so you wondered how you’d perform, but like I say, your confidence is rising.

Just as you finish off an answer and notice the raised eyebrow on the interviewers’ face that seems to communicate, “Impressive!”, it happens. They ask you what you’ve been doing since your last job finished; apparently 2-3 years ago. All good interviewers are skilled at both listening to your answer and observing your body language as you process the question and start off your answer. That short sigh you took just now; was it more than just gathering your thoughts? Was that a quick look of exasperation? Was it your facial reaction screaming, “Oh great! Honestly I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself and done absolutely nothing you’d find impressive, but I can hardly say that now can I?”

This awkward moment can be avoided with some action on your part now. As long as we’re imagining, why not imagine you’ve got an interview in 4 month’s time. Between now and then you have this window of opportunity to get going on adding some things to your dormant employment record.

First up, you could volunteer. I know, I know, you don’t want to give away your talents for nothing. I don’t see volunteering that way though. No, volunteering gives you an opportunity to hone your fading skills, get a reference or two assuming you perform well and possibly try out a new kind of job or role without the stigma of getting fired or quitting a paid job if it doesn’t work out. Giving of your talents also benefits an organization and those who go there. And make no mistake, giving of yourself in a non-profit organization also looks good to a lot of employer’s. It can show a commitment to your community, a cause that’s near and dear to your heart or simply a way to pay back the help you’ve received in the past.

Another thing you can do is focus on your health, if in fact you have some issue that needs your attention. While you shouldn’t walk into an interview and say you took the time to address a recent heart attack, you can allude to making your health a priority through undergoing some changes in lifestyle; and that the commitment has paid off. You’ve been pronounced healthier, fitter, have the necessary stamina and perseverance requested in order to succeed. Depending on the job, you may or may not actually share the now rectified health concern. If you do, stress that it’s no longer a problem; precisely because you took the steps necessary to overcome the challenge.

Many organizations are big on training and development both on a personal and professional level. So during your unemployment, you could take a course. Hey something like First Aid and CPR training or Health and Safety training are beneficial in a number of professions. These are certainly in the realm or transferable training skills. Of course, something specific to your sector, field or industry is even more advantageous. Get your Food Handler’s or SMARTSERVE Certificate if you work in Hospitality. Update your Forklift training to include a Raymond Reach or Working At Heights certification.

Heading back to the classroom to invest in your future might be an option too. Get that Diploma, Degree or take a general interest course in the evening. Sharpening the mind keeps you in the know, using best practices and will pair nicely with your Life experience in an interview. You might come across as mature and up-to-date on new technologies, practices and procedures.

Invest yourself in getting active on social media; enough at least so you have a presence. It takes some time to build up a following and get some dialogue going that will result in a strong profile, but like I say, you’ve got the time and all that’s needed is the effort.

Doing a self-inventory is an extremely helpful phase to undergo. More than just your strengths and weaknesses, be able to articulate your preferred learning style and know the kind of environment you will excel best in. If you don’t know what you want to do next, talk to people and network to learn what they like, what the struggles are, how much a job pays and where you have to go to find it.

Other things you can do is seize this opportunity of time to get your eyes checked, have a physical, book a dental cleaning and check up. Visit the Nutritionist at your local shopping Centre, make an effort to get out more and go for a walk. Little changes can lead to bigger accomplishments.

The important thing about this time is to fill it consciously and deliberately. It’s going to go by and you’ll find yourself seated in a future interview either glad you took the time to make this productive, or wishing you had done so and kicking yourself for having wasted it.

Looking for work is one thing, not the only thing.

 

Think You May Lose Your Job?


There are several reasons you might find yourself thinking more often about losing your job. Has your company been downsizing and your seniority eroding so quickly your long-held belief that it couldn’t happen to you is eroding right along with it?

Maybe it’s restructuring, poor performance on your part, a change in Supervisor and it’s pretty clear they want to clear house and hire their own people or for some reason, the boss you knew and liked has changed and their new behaviours and actions have given you reason for concern. There are many reasons you see, for being worried about your employment. So what’s a person supposed to do?

For starters, and this is nothing really new, find your resume and start updating it with all the training, additional education and employment you’ve had since you last looked at it. Open up that drawer of certificates you’ve earned at work, or that computer file with the courses you’ve taken. Now is the time to get those things on your resume; and take these certificates home!

Why now? Okay let’s get to the worst case scenario. Suppose some people come to your work area today about 15 minutes before your lunch and tell you that you’re being let go. Suppose too they tell you they are here to walk you out, that your things will be boxed up and ready for you to pick up in a couple of days. You’re to take nothing but your coat, your lunch and they’ve brought backup just in case by the looks of it.

Not very nice I admit, but my point is to make it clear that you may not have the time to get things before the axe falls. Oh and by the way, employer’s walk you out not because they feed off the power of humiliating you, but rather they want to protect their assets, and emotional employees (and you will be) sometimes don’t act fully rationally, nor do employers and employees always agree on who owns what. While your personal photos and knick-knacks are clearly yours, other things that aren’t so clear might be materials you created on behalf of the employer, USB sticks, cell phones, personal computers, keys, access cards, etc. Yes, the escorted walk out off the property might be embarrassing but it could have you later wishing you’d taken the time to gather your things personally.

So it comes down to two things; is your looming departure beyond or within your control? If you feel your performance is the cause for your worry, then you must ask yourself if you’re interested and motivated enough to change your ways and up your performance. If you don’t care whether they fire you or not and you plan on behaving exactly the way you have been, that’s your call.

Now, another thing to consider is whether you’re up for a personal, closed door chat with the boss. Knowing where you stand is important for many people; even when the news is bad, a lot of people actually feel better knowing the situation they are truly in rather than stressing over the situation they think they might be in. You might not be called on to use your imagination much at work, but it will be working overtime creating all kinds of possible scenario’s in your mind until you know the truth of where things are.

Why does imminent loss of employment worry people so? Well it’s more than just the loss of a job. It’s the loss of a reputation, the loss of an identity as an employee and whatever your job title is at the moment. It’s financial worry too, and depending on your age and job prospects, it could have you fearing your days of having an ongoing income are done if you lose this job. When you fear this, you fear the future and however you imagined it is now in jeopardy.  There’s also the stigmatism of telling family and friends or doing what some do; leaving for work as usual but having no job to go to while they job search so they can avoid upsetting others in the hopes they’ll get another job immediately.

When you really feel the axe could fall any day now, best to start taking home whatever personal possessions you’ve got in the workplace. The last thing you want is to suddenly recall 4 weeks after being let go, some item you believe you left at work and having to contact the employer in the hopes of getting it. If they tell you it’s not there, you may be convinced they threw it out or possibly even kept it and this will just result in more anxiety, more bitterness and this isn’t healthy.

Start getting your references together too. You know, the phone numbers, job titles and emails of the people you trust at work will speak well of you if/when you’re gone. It’s so much easier now rather than later.

Whatever you do, don’t start stealing company property. This is one way to get fired for sure. Do check into your financial situation. Cut back on your spending now to buffer the possibility of a loss of income. If you have benefits, think about a dental or optical visit now too.

Start looking for other employment; put out feelers and network. Wouldn’t you rather leave on your own terms?

 

 

Been Out Of Work For Some Time?


One of the challenges for someone who has been unemployed for a growing period is when, at an interview, they are posed a question that asks them to give a recent example of their time management, organization and/or prioritization skills.  Now come to think of it, it’s a challenge to come up with a recent example of any skill if you’ve been out of work for some time.

And here we’ve hit upon one of the key reasons employers most often cite when they say they have a preference for hiring people who are currently working or have a small employment gap versus those with long-term unemployment. Recent experience using the skills you’ll be using in this new job is attractive to employer’s because your skills are likely more polished. When you’re trying to convince an employer you have the skills required but can’t back that claim up with recent history, you’re asking them to take a leap of faith.

Now, for a moment, let’s sit on the other side of the table; we’re the employer. From the many who have applied, our interviews have brought us down to three candidates. Of the three, one is currently working, one recently laid off due to downsizing of the company, and the third hasn’t worked in 4 years. As the interviewer, we know our own Supervisors have high expectations that we’ll select the right candidate; typically one with experience, skills, the right attitude and work ethic.

If we’re being honest here, that third candidate; the one who hasn’t worked in 4 years? That applicant has to have something, or some things,  that set them significantly apart from the others. It’s just too easy to eliminate them from the running as the other two have more recent experience; they have proven examples of recent work history. When making a recommendation to management that the third person be hired over the other two, their own credibility is on the line. If they work out, the interviewer looks great. If the third candidate is hired and is a bust however, fingers will start pointing and whispers about their lack of good judgement are going to start. Playing it safe seems the better way to go.

But hold on. Okay, now back on our side of the table. So, we’ve got this shot at a job, and for the moment, we’re still in the running. Walking into an interview in such a situation, it’s a good idea to imagine your up against people with recent experience; using the skills on a daily basis that you know you’ll need everyday. Imagine this because it’s highly likely the case.

We have preparation on our side though. We should be ready for the interviewer to ask about that gap. To stay in the competition, we need to not only convince them our skills aren’t rusty, we need to demonstrate that as a person, we’re the right fit. The things we can control have to shine through; our eagerness, friendliness, likeability, appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity, our ability to get along and be productive with co-workers.

There’s a shift in hiring going on at the moment which is growing in momentum. More companies are coming to understand that hiring the right people is the best option. The best people aren’t necessarily the ones who have more experience, more education, more proven work history. Sometimes the right person has less experience, but their attitude and how they go about things gives the employer the belief that they are highly trainable. Train the right person and you may have a long-term winner. Hire someone with a questionable attitude or work ethic based solely on their year’s of work and you may regret your choice.

Now, if you are currently unemployed and that gap is growing daily, this comes as good news. Still, consider taking some action now to address things. Volunteering, taking an online course, or even some free online training will put things on your resume. A Health and Safety course or First Aid training are two examples of transferable assets you could easily take and add as well.

Anyone who is unemployed for long will tell you it’s a mental struggle more than a physical one to stay competitively at a job search. It’s mentally fatiguing to constantly strive for work with an upbeat, all-in philosophy. Self-doubt, frustration, let-downs, flat-out rejections; all of these come at you and yet still you’re expected to be positive and optimistic. We’re talking stamina, focus, resiliency and tenacity. Say…. stamina, focus, resiliency and tenacity; those are some of the very qualities an employer might be impressed with, and these are the SKILLS you are using over this employment gap.

Now, whatever has happened in your personal situation that has you were you are today, you’ve got this chance to start a new chapter; and there’s no time better than now. It’s up to you of course, but why not get going on things here and now?

If you’ve been stuck and not done much, honestly it will take effort to get going. Do it. Momentum can’t be built on if you don’t start. When you get moving, you can build on the little things you do each day. String together some of those little things and you’ll start creating behaviours that lead to better results.

You can do this.

15 Resume Mistakes


Have you ever worked on something important, felt it was perfect, submitted it with confidence and only then discovered you made some fatal error? Too late, you frantically search for some recall feature but alas, there’s none to be had!

Your resume could be just such a document. The only thing worse I suppose is being totally oblivious to your mistake(s) and continuing the practice of sending out flawed resumes. Yikes! Could this be why you’re getting very little or no positive results?

Having no way to provide feedback on your personal resume without seeing it, I’ve listed here some common mistakes I see on resumes. Check your own resume and see how you compare.

  1. You mistyped your email. Just last week I came across a resume with the word, ‘professional’ as part of the email but it was on the resume as, ‘professinal’. No one had caught it as they reviewed her resume, as the mind sees what it thinks rather than what the eyes see.
  2. Bullets don’t line up. Get out a ruler if it’s a hard copy or click and hold down the left mouse button on the ruler in MS Word to draw a straight line on your resume where your bullets are. Do they line up or are they off?
  3. Inconsistent use of periods. Look at the end of each line on your resume which starts with a bullet. Do you have periods at the end of some lines and not on others? Get in the habit of not using periods; period.
  4. Irregular capitalization. Nouns should be capitalized and so make sure any job title has a capital letter at the start of each word if there is more than one as in, ‘Customer Service Representative’.
  5. Dates don’t line up. Look at the dates on your resume. Are the dates all over the place or are they uniformly lined up on the extreme right where they should be? Lining these up makes it easier on the eyes; your resume is less cluttered.
  6. It’s all about you. If your resume starts off talking about what you want, stop! Employers want to know how you’ll benefit them, not the other way around. How is hiring you profitable?
  7. You added the dreaded, ‘s’. When you add a simple, ‘s’ to the end of a word, it can change the language from 1st to 3rd person. Suppose you communicate effectively as a skill. See how there is no, ‘s’ at the end of the word, ‘communicate’? That’s you talking about you. Add an, ‘s’ and it reads, “communicates well” and this is 3rd person; someone else talking about you. This suggests you didn’t write your own resume; someone else is talking about you. The entire resume now comes across as less than authentic.
  8. ‘Responsible for…”. Don’t start a line with, ‘Responsible for…”. Being responsible for something doesn’t indicate whether you are or were actually good at whatever you are referencing. It only indicates you are/were responsible for it. Maybe you actually performed terribly, but hey, you WERE responsible!
  9. Photo included. Get your photo off your resume and do it now! A growing number of people in Human Resources automatically dismiss resumes with photos included because they don’t want to expose themselves to claims of bias or personal attraction based on appearance.
  10. “References available upon request.” It’s a given that you’ll provide references when asked to do so. Including this on your resume is outdated.
  11. Repeating yourself. Look at the first words that begin your bullets. If you see the same word repeated, (sometimes even on consecutive lines) alter the words. It’s boring to read when you start multiple lines with the same words.
  12. Your qualifications don’t match. Job postings for the most part list desired qualifications. So pull one out that you applied to. Look at your resume and see if what they asked for was what you gave them. If yours don’t mirror the ad, no wonder you didn’t get an interview.
  13. Spelling errors. I get it. If spelling is an issue for you, it’s hard if not impossible to know when you make a mistake. Using a spelling and grammar check is good but a second pair of eyes is also recommended; as long as those eyes belong to someone with excellent spelling and attention to detail themselves.
  14. You included personal data. Get your age, sex, marital status, religion and nationality off your resume. By the way, is your age easily guessed in your email of all things? Yikes!
  15. You named your resume what? When you send your resume, people at the other end see what you called it as they move to open it. You didn’t call it, ‘My 2nd best resume’ did you? Someone I worked with did. Let’s go with a combination of job title and company name.

Okay 15 general tips for you to read over and more importantly use to improve your own resume. Maybe cleaning up your resume can be your goal for today. Resolving a job search barrier every day is a great way to feel you’re making positive moves to increase your odds of getting interviews and getting hired.

The biggest mistake of all continues to be mass producing a resume and handing it to many employers rather than targeting it to jobs you apply to. No matter how many times I say it, for some this comes as shocking.

Out Of Work? Get Your Team Together


I think it’s a behaviour common to many people; when we’re embarrassed, ashamed or we feel we don’t quite measure up in some way, we do our best to isolate ourselves and keep the source of our embarrassment to ourselves. After all, the fewer people who see us in these moments, the less likely we’ll feel exposed and we hope to reintegrate ourselves back into our circle of friends and family when we’ve recovered.

Being out of work can feel very much like this scenario. Lose your job and you might tell a few of your closest supporters, adding, “Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want everyone to know.”

The irony of this behaviour is that we often miss opportunities because the very people who could tell us about job openings are kept unaware that we’re looking for a job. As you’re unaware that they know there’s a job opening, you don’t even know what you’re missing; but you’ve missed it all the same.

It’s our ego though that needs protecting; and I don’t mean this is in a self-centered kind of way. Protecting our ego, how we view and see ourselves, is a natural response. The fewer people who know about our unemployment the better; and if they want to assume we are still employed but on some vacation or leave, that’s fine. We’d rather they don’t even know we’re off in the first place. And this is the problem. We don’t want to have to explain why we’re not at work, so what we often do is stay inside our apartments, condo’s and houses; going out only to gather food and necessities.

Like I said, this behaviour is natural and instinctive. So having stated this, let me suggest you consider doing something which on the surface goes against your natural instincts; get your support team together.

Your support team isn’t just made up of Employment Coaches and Resume Writers. It isn’t made up exclusively by your spouse or your best friend either. No, your support team is composed of people you can trust to help you out while you look to regain employment. Just like many other teams you’ll be apart of in life in your personal and professional life, team members have specific roles.

Here’s some of the people you might want to enlist to be a part of your team:

  1. You

You’ll need to be the CEO or lead of your job search team. As you’re going to be recruiting people to help you out, you’ll need to prove that you’re seriously invested in this project. It will mean reaching out to people, getting them on board, checking in with them to make sure they stay committed – and they’ll work more for you if they see you working hardest for yourself. You need to be accountable therefore; show up for meetings, do your homework and work hard at finding work.

2. Emotional Supporters

Before we get to the technical helpers, you need people who will empathize with you, care for your well-being and understand the highs and lows of the job search. You’re going to have bad days precisely because you’re human. Emotional Supporters are those who get that and love you anyway. These folks pick you up and pick up the tab here and there when there is one. They keep you included in get-togethers and find the ‘free stuff’ to do is important to staying connected.

3. Technical Support

You’d be well-advised to have some expertise on your team when it comes to resume writing, employer and employment research. A good proofreader, a sounding board or Employment Coach to offer the critique you need but in a supportive and understanding approach. Whoever you have in this area might be your mock interviewer, helping you find and keep the confidence to do your best in those up and coming interviews.

4. Partners and Family

Obviously if you’re single and have no family you can pass on this one. However, when you have a partner, your spouse, boy/girl friend, etc. is critical to providing you with the stability you need when the assurance and identity a job brings is missing. Sure you might not want to, ‘burden’ them with your news and hold out telling them above all others, but your partner is a partner for a reason. It’s not your job that they value most – it’s you. If you want to deepen your relationship, trust them when you’re at a low point with being out of work. This is when partnerships often work best; you pick each other up and move forward together.

As for the family? Sure you might not want to tell mom or dad to protect them from worrying and protect yourself from all the dramatics of their concern; but that concern is genuine. You might end up with a few lasagna dinners being dropped off or depending on their status, a job lead to follow-up. Some moms and dads are really good at stepping up even when their kids are in their 40’s!

Now there are others too, but I leave it to you to decide who you need on your job search team. Essentially what I’m saying is go the counter-intuitive way and reach out to people instead of shutting out people. Take care of your physical and mental health while you find yourself out of work. This unemployment won’t last forever and will pass.

Getting Past, “So What Do You Do?”


Within the first few minutes of meeting someone for the first time, you’re likely to be asked some version of the question about what it is you do. When you’ve got a job or career, it’s a comfortable question to answer, especially if you enjoy your job. However, when you’re out of work and can’t find a job, that question can be irritating because for many, it’s hard to answer and not feel some embarrassment or even shame. A solid answer and we feel good, a vague answer or stating we’re unemployed and we feel bad. Why? Because either way, we can feel that we’re setting ourselves up to be judged.

The work we do is of course only one aspect of who we are as a person, but it’s the one thing that keeps coming up early in those introductions when first impressions count so much. I suppose it’s asking about something that’s viewed as a social norm and not too invasive. However, if you’ve ever told someone you’re between jobs or out of work and had them quickly walk away and begin a conversation elsewhere, you know that feeling and isn’t a good one. You just know that you’ve been judged and deemed in some way not up to par.

Like I said though, our occupation is only one part of who we are as people. Some of our other pieces include the state of our finances, social life, housing, spiritual, emotional, physical or mental health. There’s our use of personal time, beliefs, personal philosophies, values, leadership styles, the way we interact with the natural world, places we’ve been, accomplishments, hobbies, intelligence IQ, However just imagine your reaction if someone introduced themselves and said, “Hi, I’m Dave. So generally speaking, how healthy is your investment portfolio?”

The curious thing is that people with what society might regard as a prestigious job – say a Family Law Lawyer, Chief Executive Officer, Coroner or even a Teacher, aren’t automatically better people than the rest of us. They have problem marriages, dysfunctional families, stresses, mental health issues and challenges just like you and me. But still we start those conversations with asking about what someone does for a living.

If you listen to people talk about themselves, you can clearly hear them share what they want you to know. If they keep bringing up their job and the work they do, they might be doing so because this is an area they feel comfortable and proud talking about. They believe that this aspect of their life is one you’ll judge them favourably by and walk away with a positive impression of them.

Now when you’re not working but would like to be, talking about your unemployment can have the reverse effect. This isn’t an area where you feel on solid ground in a conversation and your fear of being judged negatively and leaving a poor impression is heightened. We constantly hear how making good first impressions is important, and we know this ice-breaker topic is likely to come up, so consequently some people will avoid social situations completely to limit the number of bad first impressions they’ll make. This ‘feeling bad’ about not having an answer to share with confidence and pride just reinforces our feelings of not fitting in until we’ve found work once again.

There’s some irony however in that the percentage of adults who have at some time in their lives been out of work is quite high. Being laid off from your job is something typically beyond your own control. When a company moves or shrinks its workforce, it’s well beyond your ability to keep your job. Still, when at that social gathering, it would seem weird to say, “Hi, I’m Joan and I was let go 6 month’s ago for reasons beyond my control and I’m now unemployed.”

This is however, part of a great answer if you’re introducing yourself at a job fair for unemployed people looking for work. Imagine what a relief it would be to be in a room surrounded by others out of work, where everyone is in the same predicament. Asking, “What do you do for a living?” would be replaced with, “So what kind of work are you after?” The feeling is more positive – you’re after something – being proactive.

Wait a second…maybe we’re on to something here…

Just imagine you meet someone for the first time and they ask you, “So what do you do for a living?”, and you said, “At the moment I’m pursuing work as a _____. It’s a great fit for me personally and I’ve got the education and experience. If you have any connections or leads I’d appreciate being hearing about them.”

What do you think? Instead of feeling embarrassed or dreading the question because of a weak response, you’ve taken an assertive position. You’ve told them what you’re after and you’ve shifted their thoughts to whom they might know, how they might help you, and all it takes is one person to give you a name that could lead to that next interview that results in a job.

Why, you might even give them your contact information, or ask for theirs and follow-up in a couple of days with a call or an email. Try it once and it’s new and awkward. Twice and it’s easier; often and you’re an assertive networker.