“Sorry, We’re Going With Another Applicant”

The call you’ve been waiting for finally came; the news you received however is not what you were hoping for. Another rejection to add to your growing list of rejections. This is one you’d really wanted too, which is why it hits a little harder and hurts a little more than some of the others.

It’s tough on your self-esteem though I admit. When you saw the number on your phone you lit up, answered with great optimism and had a smile on your face. As you heard the decision hadn’t gone your way, you moved from giddy anticipation to surprised disappointment. Like all setbacks, it’s not the setback itself but rather how you react to it that is going to define what you do now and whether you move further from or closer to your goal of finding employment.

First of all, I want to point out and commend you for one very important thing. The job you were competing for was a good one to go after; the hurt you’re feeling is indicative of the passion you felt for the possibility of working in the role. Had you felt nothing whatsoever in being rejected, I’d question how much you really wanted it in the first place. So the level of sting you’re feeling now is one good indicator of whether this job, or one similar to it is right for you.

Okay so now what to do. First of all, let me suggest you dash off a quick letter to the organization you just heard the bad news from. In this brief letter, share your disappointment at having heard the news and state your ongoing determination to compete once again when this or a position of a similar nature becomes available. Although you may not get a response, it’s professional and says a lot about your determination to move ahead beyond this setback if you also ask for suggestions on how to improve your chances in a future competition.

Why bother with such a letter when the job is lost? Simple really. Most if not all of your competitors will move on without any further contact. It would seem like a waste of time and energy, not to mention the cost of a stamp and stationery. This is precisely why you should pen one. With only 1% of people writing a letter of rejection, you stand out. So if another position opens up or the hired candidate doesn’t last long, they might just get back to you in a month or two and offer you the job if you still want it. Your character you see, came out in that letter.

With that letter sent, by all means it’s time now to turn to other opportunities. If you feel bitter and extreme frustration though, take the rest of the day you get the news off entirely. Scrap the job search for this single day and do other things you’d rather like read, go for a walk, soak in the tub, visit your son or daughter, work on a hobby or go window-shopping. You might even want to share the news with someone who will listen. Whatever you do to gain some broader perspective is good. The darkness of this evening will be replaced by the light of tomorrow’s dawn, the world will go on and you’ll go along with it.

This is a test of your ability to create a positive attitude which is needed to experience success. Your attitude is your responsibility alone. I know, I know, you didn’t want to hear that. You’d rather have had a sympathetic ear so you could commiserate with me and have me say things like, “oh you poor thing”, or “wow, you’ve got every right to just chuck the whole get-a-job thing.” Sorry to disappoint. Empathy I’ve got in abundance for you of course, but now it’s time to refocus.

You owe it to yourself you see. Those other jobs you applied to may just call with requests for interviews or the good news of a job offer. You don’t want your voice to showcase resigned apathy or profound ambivalence. You’ve got to respect yourself because the momentum you’ve built towards your goal needs constant attention. You’ve moved forward and come further than you were when you first made the decision to look for work. Don’t hurt your future chances by stopping now.

At any one time in your job search, you should have some organizations you’re waiting to hear from, some applications in the process of being readied to submit and an eye on new jobs and positions that you don’t want to miss. Interspersed among these should be some regular expressions of thanks to those helping you along, such as your references or supporters and networking both online and in-person. This balanced approach to your job search keeps you fresh and energized; active and engaged. Just sitting in front of a computer monitor day in and day out is a rough and isolating way to spend the hours you need to be successful.

I speak from experience my reader. Like you, I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been hunting down a job and it’s taxing times; filled with highs and lows. I do appreciate the disappointments are hard to take and keep coming back strong with a determined attitude. Ultimately though, no other approach has ever worked.

Lets Talk A Positive Attitude

Saying you have a positive attitude in a cover letter and resume might help land that big interview. When sitting in the interview itself, it will probably do serve you well to say it again just to reinforce the point. What however, does a positive attitude look like on the job? How would you prove by example to an interviewer that you bring this positivity to the workplace?

In other words, supposing you were asked, “Give us an example from your previous position where your positive attitude was tested.” Would you be able to answer this question? What would you say then?

You see it’s easy to say that you bring a positive attitude to work on a daily basis. To be believed however, you’ll need to have at a moments notice, a real, tangible example, (several would be ideal) of specific situations where your positive attitude was on display. A situation where your attitude was tested simply means that the situation or atmosphere in which you found yourself in the story you are about to relate was trying and where it might have been easy to join with others and be negative or complacent. The best answer for you could be where your positive attitude had the impact of changing for the better the mood and attitude of others around you; thereby increasing productivity overall.

Now you shouldn’t be surprised at this question if the job ad specifically mentions a positive culture, a winning attitude, etc. While it’s perfectly fine to pause when asked each question to gather your thoughts, you certainly don’t want a long, extended delay which could be interpreted as not having any specific examples to give at all; seemingly having come unprepared. Why, a very long pause could also give an Interviewer the feeling that what they will eventually hear is fabricated, made up, invented and never happened at all.

It is in the face of adversity; or in moments when you receive news that throws you off – such as having the boss tell you you’re doing something completely different on a given day than what you’d been looking forward to – that tests your positive attitude. The organizations that specifically go out recruiting people with positive attitudes believe that with the addition of such people, the workplace in which their employees create will itself become a more positive place to work.

I for one learned when I was in my 20’s that surrounding myself with positive people when possible was much preferable to being around negative thinkers; people who often cast a pall over conversations. I’d rather celebrate a sunny day than have someone point out there’s rain coming tomorrow. Now sure, there are times when people have good reasons to be less than positive. Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean you walk around with a smile no matter the circumstances, living in your own fantasy world. That’s artificial and really doesn’t need much effort if it’s your everyday, all-situations disposition.

People with a positive attitude however will generally be optimistic, look for the upside when possible, and they are generally good people to be around. Would you like to come to work surround by positive people or choose rather to surround yourself with others who’ve created a toxic environment of negativity?

Throughout your day, most of us have interactions with other people; be they on the telephone, in-person, video links etc., or what we choose to read in texts, blogs, newspapers, etc. In many of these situations, we have full control over what we read, what we say, how long we engage or remove ourselves. Some people advocate that if you’re feeling down you stop reading newspapers, stop listening to the news on the radio, remove yourself from the cancerous conversations in the workplace and in so doing, you cut your own exposure to the negative.

I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, some of which is bad. It’s equally good to know what might be happening with a co-worker you’ve come to value and appreciate that’s caused them to be sad, troubled or worried about. The challenge is to display empathy, express your concern and still remain a positive person yourself without allowing your attitude to dip. Telling someone to bear up and look on the bright side of things isn’t going to be helpful when they really just need to be heard, their feelings validated and above all listened to.

The situations you want to avoid are those where you hear a couple of people questioning the motives of Management, some are spreading gossip, rumours or you’ve got some co-workers who have become jaded in their views of their clients or customers. “They are all scamming!” “Everyone is cheating the system!” “It’s us against them you know old buddy boy!” Walk away clean my friend; walk away clean.

Positive people don’t wear rose-coloured glasses all the time. What positive people do is give the benefit of the doubt, be good role models for others, and most importantly, they attract other positive people to themselves simply by gaining a reputation for being a positive person in general.

Everyone has their moments and their days. Do you have the skill necessary to be self-aware and catch yourself slipping away from your usual positive self and correcting your own behaviour? That would be a great example to share.

Recreating Great Days

Yesterday was a really good day on the job. I’m fortunate in that I recognized it as such several times throughout the day as often we only realize how good something was after its past. So now I’m thinking about what I did and how I can re-create that great feeling in the present and the future so that more of those great days are yet to come.

Do you have days like that yourself? I sure hope you do, both at work and life outside of work. Even when you like your job as I do and you feel you have a lot of good days, there are some days that are just better than others.

Here’s the odd thing about yesterday. I was on the schedule to facilitate a workshop on Interview Preparation and Practice. I wouldn’t have guessed that this day was going to bring me the extremely high degree of satisfaction it did. Why?Job interviews are pretty low on many people’s list of things they like to take part in, especially if you’re on the applicant side of the table. While the workshop is offered free and is completely optional, it typically has a low turn out. Let’s face it, as humans we tend to avoid things we feel we will find unpleasant, especially if we have a choice and going to a workshop on interviewing isn’t a popular one.

Turns out that 7 people came out and all 7 had their apprehensions about the day. When I asked them what their thoughts were at the outset, they said the usual things; interviews are a necessary evil, they wished they could get jobs without the interview at all, they get all stressed and full of anxiety when they land one and yet made the decision to come and learn anyhow. 7 people making an excellent personal decision! By the way, does their opinions of interviews sound like your own?

So we started and like I always do, I told them my goal at the outset was to give them the benefit of my perspective on interviews and perhaps have them shift from how they see the interview to how I see it, because quite honestly I look forward to interviews and relish in the opportunities they present. I’m very comfortable going to job interviews and there has to be something I can pass on to them that may help them to – if not really love them – at least feel less anxious when preparing for one.

I noticed that one key thing happened almost immediately after starting and that was that when introducing themselves to each other, they spoke openly and honestly about their fears and their employment barriers. Just listening to them talk, I was struck by their trust in the others in the room as one disclosed a criminal record, another voluntarily spoke about her age, another person said how overqualified she felt and wondered if she should “dumb down” her resume as others have suggested she should. (Note to readers, I don’t think you should ever ‘dumb down’ your resume and hide what you otherwise are proud of having done.)

These people invested themselves individually and collectively in both the workshop and in my ability to impart whatever I could to them; taking on the responsibility to listen, engage, then process what they heard from me and others. Now they take what they believe will work for them and apply new ways of thinking and tools into their own interview experiences in the future.

The day concluded and no one ran out the door as typically happens with some groups. In fact, not one of those in attendance even wanted a break in the morning or the afternoon and they wanted a shortened lunch break at midday! It was truly a magical experience for me as a facilitator. If you’re a facilitator you understand how unique and exciting having a group like this is.

Like all great days we have, I wish I could have the same experience day after day. This was the kind of experience for me where I could feel my own energy sustained and fueled constantly and that led me to give more in return to match their enthusiasm. The same experience can be seen at a concert where the audience is so demonstrative in their admiration for the act that the performers put out more energy and play longer, invest more and everyone goes home thinking, “Wow, that was something!”

Here’s another thought though. Just as a band sometimes plays a gig for less than a sold out audience, theatre groups put on a show for half the house or less, facilitators likewise should in my opinion give it their all no matter what size of group is before us. Who knows; those 7 people who came to this workshop may spread the experience they had, telling others who in the future give it a shot and find it works for them too. Maybe, who knows?

I honestly think that I personally didn’t do much different yesterday than I do every time I run that workshop. It was I believe the chemistry in the room and all of us contributed to that. The one thing we collectively brought was a positive attitude and a willingness to be open to the ideas of others.

May you too have many of these moments to experience!

2 Stores, 2 Salespeople, 2 Experiences

Last evening my wife and I were out for dinner and decided on impulse to head on over to our local mall. We had nothing immediate in mind other than a walk around prior to heading home for the evening. Now I can tell you honestly there was hardly any traffic in the mall, and that set the stage for very different encounters with sales staff in different stores.

Given it was a Thursday evening the first thing I noticed was that many of the stores only had a single Salesperson on the schedule. As the night was light in terms of traffic, it was interesting to note as we entered each store how the activity the person in the store was engaged in and their behaviour changed or not.

One store in the mall is a primary destination for the two of us; it has unique items ranging from swords and fire pots to glass dragon eggs and wind chimes. Every time I go in the store, I’m immediately greeted with a, “Hello how are you today?” which I can only assume is in the training manual. I like that they acknowledge me upon entry, and the subsequent question is whether or not they can be of assistance in finding anything. Last night was no exception. We were greeted cheerfully and engaged in discussion – but only because I’m the talkative type. I had the feeling the Salesperson was happy for someone to both talk and interact with.

As it so happens, they didn’t have an item we were looking for, and so we browsed. The Salesperson moved in synchronization with us around the merchandise; close enough to hear and respond to any inquiry we might make, but just far enough away that she wasn’t a reason to leave. She smiled; she laughed and was the right mixture of attentive and respectful.

Now I contrast this experience with the lone Salesperson in a second store we entered. It was a women’s clothing store; a well-known brand name chain. Here the signs proclaimed up to 80% off and that the entire inventory must go. To me, it was obvious the winter stock needs clearing and the Spring line is the reason.  Upon entering, the person was occupied with a broom and dustpan, sweeping the floors. The word industrious would best describe her; efficient, focused on cleaning and keeping herself busy.

Now being a fashion store for women exclusively, I would have thought she’d attend to my wife; offer to help her and I’d be left to wander. She did something different however. She stood and talked to me about the lack of activity in the mall; told me that if she herself needed something she’d be in a nearby city because they have more stores and more selection. She went on about how the two or three large stores coming to the mall wouldn’t in her opinion; make much of a difference in terms of bringing customers to the mall over the long-term. She was intense, almost bitter, and I just wanted to exit the conversation.

Oddly enough, my wife was ignored throughout her monologue, and was creatively using one garment to lower another garment she was unable to reach directly behind the Salesperson. “Ah my wife could use a hand” I said. Turning she said, “Oh did you want to try that on?” and I was free. While my wife tried on the clothes, I wander to the perimeter of the store and the Salesperson again cleaned. She was thorough and dressed in black looked like a storm cloud moving about on her hands and knees dusting everything that she could find in a meticulous order.

The two Salespeople were very different, and I have to say I would not want to return to the latter one for fear I’d be again trapped into a conversation I didn’t want to engage in with a person holding a negative attitude. While she was an excellent cleaner and no one could find fault with her ability to keep herself busy when no customers were present, she didn’t encourage people to stick around when they did come in.

The first Salesperson on the other hand did have me leaving the store with a good feeling. I felt that I was in control of how much or little we engaged in conversation; and I’d certainly walk in again. Were the two people’s employers able to watch how they interacted with us and hear what they said to us, I wondered if they would be pleased and approve.

There was actually a third experience with another Salesperson; and my wife and I were drawn to her immediately upon entering the store and into an immediate conversation. In fact, my wife would have allowed me to shell out just under $800 on the spot for an item in the store we hadn’t planned on buying. Oh sorry, I failed to mention the Salesperson was holding a miniature poodle puppy in her arms. That’s a real attraction for many people and you can’t help but smile and go, “Awww” as you greet the Salesperson. I resisted any urge to produce my wallet and we exited shortly after before reality completely disappeared.

Wherever you’re employed, never lose sight of the customer; acknowledge their presence, offer your assistance and do it all with a smile. These things get noticed.

A Great Attitude But No Work Skills?

No matter who you are reader, you are an expert in some areas, in others you know a little, and in some you don’t know a thing. The same is true for me, and for every other person you’ll meet. We are all well-skilled in some things. I can prove it to you.

Take a woman who grew up supported by her parents, then married young, and because her husband had a good paying job, she raised a child or two, and then her partner passed on, left her or she left him. Imagine what you want, but she has never been employed and now suddenly must find work. I’ve known women in this situation, and when asked about their skills, many reply that they don’t have any. Really? None at all? I disagree.

Oh and the above example? Just to appeal to the male population out there, take a guy who grew up with his parents, married young, the couple had a couple of kids, and then she walked out on him. Male or female, there are people – good people – who for reasons of their own have not had a paying job in their lifetime, who don’t consider themselves as skilled in any real way.

Now humouring me a little more, let’s take a skilled roofer, bank executive, factory worker or bartender. They have specific skills in their areas. Are they necessarily capable therefore of continuing as professionals and at the same time seamlessly sliding into either of the above two situations responsible for raising two children as a single parent? Without help from anyone? Not automatically. Possible yes but guaranteed? No.

They might have to enlist the help of a child care provider, and they may need help getting kids from one activity to another, re-arranging work to accommodate parent-teacher meetings, band practices etc. And when they get home there’s no settling into the easy chair while supper is being made. No, they have dusting, vacuuming, laundry, ironing, dinner preparation, dishes to do, shopping etc. Their skills in their profession don’t make them an expert around the house.

That person who initially claimed they had no skills soon gets envied for the skills they have in managing to run the household. Are these same skills marketable to an employer? They can be if the job you are applying to requires organizational skills, budgeting, time management, memory use, negotiation, energy and hard work. Now I don’t want to be seen to be saying that employers equally value the skills one gets around the house with the skills one acquires in a paid job because that’s not usually the case.

Everyone however has to start somewhere. If you find yourself needing a job at say 36 or 40 years old and you’ve never had one, you need to take stock of what you do have. The skills you have may indeed qualify you for several jobs – assuming you have both a great attitude and can market your skills to the jobs you choose to apply to. But to be fair, don’t think because you’ve run a family, you can run a fortune 500 business.

When you are looking for employment, remember that one of the greatest assets employers look for in the people they consider hiring is their overall attitude. Someone with few skills but a great attitude will often get hired over someone with all the skills required but a poor attitude. Skills are usually easily picked up as long as the person learning the skills is interested and motivated to learn. On the other hand, someone with a chip on their shoulder or an attitude where they think everybody owes them something is a hard person to have working for you.

So start with a positive attitude. Sound enthusiastic and be willing to learn. That willingness to learn is also a skill. You see there are people who will apply to one company having worked in the same field but for other employers. They may think they know it all, have nothing new to learn, and if hired, may bring all their previous habits – good and bad – with them. As someone who hasn’t been employed, you on the other hand have no bad habits to unlearn. Your strength vs. the competition may be you are completely free of these bad work habits and therefore when you are shown what to do, you accept how to do it at face value.

The one liability which is almost universally shared among people looking for their first job is a lack of self-confidence. After all, if you’ve never worked in the past, going through job applications and then finally sitting down to your first interview can be extremely stressful. This is why it’s a good idea – almost essential I’d say – to get the help of a professional who can give you pointers on how to interview well, and this in turn increases your self-confidence, which in turn increases your overall chance of succeeding.

See yourself sitting at interview, and when they say, “Tell me about yourself”, you reply: “Sure I’d be happy to. I’m organized, positive with a great attitude, a quick learner who comes before you with enthusiasm and a desire to do well. I have demonstrated time-management skills, get along with others and will work hard to repay your decision in hiring me.” Could be the start of something great.