A Key Mistake Frustrated Jobseekers Make

Your own experience with job searching could be that it doesn’t take you long to find the right kind of employment. I can recall times in my life when applying for work was rather easy and it seemed like every job I applied to I was granted an interview; but that was back in the 80’s.

These days, looking for work has changed dramatically. With more people unemployed, the emergence of technology (especially with the rise of online applications and applicant tracking software) and many more jobs with unique titles than at any time in history, I’d be greatly surprised if you didn’t find it increasingly frustrating.

No matter what job or career you are after, it’s understandable at some point that you start to wonder if the position you are chasing is the problem. The thoughts that nag at your consciousness are, “I just need a job; any job!”, “What other jobs can I do?” “Will I ever work again?” Pretty soon you find yourself questioning your qualifications, skills and experience as with the passing of time these are getting further and further outdated.

It’s around this time that some people make what is in my opinion – a poor decision. This decision is made at a time when they are vulnerable, not thinking clearly and their self-confidence is battered and bruised. The decision I’m talking about is going from a very streamlined and focused job search to a completely wide open buck shot job search.

Rather than gradually expanding on the jobs or career originally set out to obtain, the person widens their job search to include all manner of jobs. This dramatic change in approach is extremely dangerous even if in the immediate short-term it seems like a good move.

First of all you’ve probably got other people alerted to your job search and keeping their ears and eyes open. You don’t want to confuse those people and have them stop looking to help you by telling them you are now just looking for anything. They may be making inquiries on your behalf wit their own contacts and the companies they work for and feel less inclined to vouch for your abilities and interest if they find out you’re no longer committed to a specific career or field.

Next consider the possibility of landing some job you applied to out of sheer desperation. So now you’re working as a Barista for a large coffee company chain making minimum wage instead of being a Production Manager in the Food Service Industry. While it felt great to find jobs you could apply to and to have received a positive call offering you an interview, you wonder why it didn’t feel as wonderful when they actually offered you the job itself. And here, on your third day, you’re already starting to wonder, “Is this it? Is this my life now? What have I done?”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a job as a Barista for those who seek it out as a desirable position. There’s nothing wrong too with expanding your job search when you either can’t find jobs to apply to that are an exact match for your qualifications and interests or you are having zero success in getting interviewed for. The real art of the thing is to expand the job search to include jobs which are similar or close to the job you ideally want, but not so much that you lose your focus.

Now you’ll get varying opinions on exactly how much time and effort you should put into looking for that ideal job. Some advice you hear may be to keep your focus 100% on your dream job and make no compromises. Others might suggest you set some arbitrary deadline such as three or six months; and if you’re unsuccessful, only then widen your job search.

For me personally, I would have to know you, the job you’re after, the market for that job in the community you live in, whether it’s entry, mid or a senior level job you’re after. I’d have to know you too and your attitude, financial health, stamina for a long job search, emotional and mental health needs in order to advise you personally on how long to commit to the job you’re ideally after.

Consider that when you are so ticked off you’re expanding on what you’ll look for, you may need to do so in order to pay your rent or mortgage, car insurance payments, gas or public transit money and of course eating well and staying healthy. Others out of work have significant savings set aside that they can utilize to offset the impact of a lengthy job search.

My general advice however is that before you go from a structured and focused job search to, “I’ll take anything”, just broaden your narrow job search goal a little. Can you for example consider taking a job in the same field, even if it’s not your dream job? If you did, you’d be getting somewhat relevant experience and would be able to apply for internal jobs.

If you can identify the company you want to work for long-term, can you apply for and accept an entry-level position (even part-time) doing something completely different but at least for the same employer? This could also give you the chance to become known, network and see internal jobs.

All the best with your decision-making to come.


Empowerment In Decision-Making

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were conflicted between two choices; you had to choose one option over another and were torn between the two?

One often-cited activity to help clarify which might be right is to make a list of the pros and the cons of each choice (rational). Yet, sometimes even after having done this, a person can still feel confused as to which choice they will ultimately make (emotional).

Yesterday I had a two-hour meeting with a person in this situation. This person has recently started a job but unfortunately the job hasn’t come as originally advertised. There is more to the job then they’d been led to believe. Of their first seven days on the job, the person providing the training and support was only there for the first two and then went on vacation for the next five, leaving a new employee to do the best they can until her return.

Now on the one hand, that sounds like a poorly run outfit. After all, why not just wait 7 more business days and have the new employee start then with a much better training program in place? If we assume the company was in a pinch, they may have figured the new employee with two days training could at least survive the next five days; kind of being thrown into the job and you sink or swim. Being positive, they may have felt the person they chose has the skills to just get by until the trainer returns.

However, what they didn’t take into consideration is that this has had an adverse impact on the new employee to the extent where being at the job is highly stressful and the person is considering quitting and looking for work elsewhere. Not everyone reacts the same to similar situations. So where one person might see such a situation as a challenge and an opportunity, another might become distraught and unable to perform at their best feeling lost and confused in the process.

And so it was that yesterday I sat down with the person and together we were talking out whether to stay on the job or quit. Quitting the job would be somewhat the easier decision of the two. Tell the employer of the decision to quit, pick up the Record of Employment when the employer has it prepared in a week and look for another job. In looking for the next job, take from this the lesson of doing complete research before accepting a job, and find a job directly in their field, not one close to it to ensure a good fit.

The more difficult option is to get through today; today being Friday. Survive the day, recharge over the weekend, and then with the trainer back on Monday, see if proper training and support come with the start of the new week. In other words, give the employer a chance to properly do an orientation and see if that makes a difference in a decision to stay or go. If there isn’t support forthcoming, walk away at the end of next week after having given them a chance to address shared concerns.

Now to you and me, it might seem like a no-brainer; it’s only a day after all, so don’t quit. However, you and I might be looking at this rationally whereas they are in the job, experiencing the turmoil of the situation they find themselves in, and we can’t fully comprehend the emotional rollercoaster that they are feeling. I was told by this person that they have headaches, feel like crying and can barely hold it together, can’t eat and feel entirely incompetent.

I didn’t make their decision for them. Oh eventually I did say what I’d do in that same situation, but I made it clear that the choice I’d make would be the right one for me only, not necessarily the one they might or should make to be right for them. I also said that regardless of the choice they made, I’d still be in their corner, still respect them either way, and think no less of them should they quit. I even went so far as to ask them if they’d quit if I told them to, and the reply was, “I don’t think I’d do that just because you told me to.” Between you and me, that’s a wonderful sign that she’s still thinking for herself.

In the end, no decision was made. Today however, a decision must be made to quit or go in and survive the day, get past the weekend, and see what next week brings. The one thing I did contract with them was to let me know either way today what they decided to do. I have my guess as to what they’ll decide and we shall see.

To really empower someone, you have to let them make their own decision. This isn’t a child who we as a parent would make decisions for and protect. This is an adult who in struggling to make an important decision, will grow from the experience if left to make the hard choice themselves. My part in this has only to be a sounding board, a voice of objectivity so they make a rational rather than emotional decision.

Making tough decisions for ourselves make us stronger and wiser.