Category Archives: job seeker

Are you ready for a professional emergency landing?

Many of us sit on aeroplanes, especially frequent flier business trips and watch the cabin crew go through the emergency procedures with tuned-out indifference. We know the drill because we’ve seen it possibly hundreds of times in our lifetimes. Despite the commentary that all should pay attention, we dutifully turn off our electronic devices as instructed, read our books and magazines, chat to our colleagues and fellow passengers or simply settle in for a good movie, a nap and perhaps an inferior meal. After all the odds that anything will happen to us are slim. Right?

Workplace parallels
Sadly, despite the pace of unwelcome change which has become a hallmark of our economies, this is not too dissimilar to the view many take of the workplace. We have all seen many excellent people blindsided and ill-equipped to make an emergency landing which causes us to flail around in search of life-vests and oxygen masks.  This can be because of redundancy,  a merger, a take- over or any other unforeseen business circumstance. As the cold winds of recession blow through our economies, the reality is that having a professional emergency landing procedure in place is now taking on increased significance.

This is the professional equivalent of knowing the exact location of the emergency exits.

So how can we do this? Here are 7 strategic career contingency measures:

  •  Up to date professional skills – it’s important to be current in this area. Many people take their feet off the pedal in terms of professional development , quite often in mid-career and find themselves lacking particularly in relation to newer (read cheaper) employees. It’s important not to become complacent and to view education as an ongoing exercise.
  •  Work on your network – many job seekers tap into their networks only when they have a need, by which time it’s too late. Networking should be an ongoing effort.
  •  Pay it forward – the more you can do for other people when you are in a position to do so makes it easier to ask for reciprocation at a critical time.
  •  Create a financial reserve – it’s hard to define in precise terms how long it could take to find another job. You could be lucky – but generally executive searches take about 3-6 months. Today the suggestion is that it can be as much as 9 months. So although it is hard in today’s economic climate, sound advice would be for all of us to have a reserve  “disaster fund“ of a minimum of 6 months to cover critical  expenses. One of the most terrifying aspects of job loss is the gnawing anxiety of how to meet fixed overheads.  It’s a good idea to make sure that key financial contact details are in your address book.  How well do you know your bank manager?
  •  Invest in professional support – many individuals seek career support when they are desperate: it might be when they have already lost their jobs or are facing any other sort of career blip. It is important to treat a career with the same strategic analysis as one might any other housekeeping exercise. In the words of John  F. Kennedy “ The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”. 
  • Look after you –  Job seekers with family or other obligations worry about letting down their families and their ability  to support their nearest and dearest.  But just as a cabin attendant will exhort  passengers to put on their own life jackets and oxygen masks first and then look after their dependents,  the same is true for the person looking for a job. Putting your own needs first will ultimately be in the best interests of the people who rely on you.
  • Leave your luggage behind  – this is always one I imagine I might struggle with if tested,  but the logic resonates nevertheless. Sometimes our baggage gets in the way and we have to let it go and take that step into the unknown to protect ourselves.

So are you ready for a professional emergency landing?

HELP! I hate my job!

I HATE my job!

What to do when you HATE your job with a passion!
I spent time last week coaching a young professional who hated his job in a small, family run organisation. In fact he hated it so badly that the things he claimed he would rather be doing instead, covered all manner of unspeakable things, too awful to mention involving finger nails, dentists and Kabul. You get the picture.

Stress
He hated the work, he hated his bosses, he hated his colleagues. He vented for a while, but when we got into specifics, mostly he hated the way he was treated and spoken to, but above all he hated the chaos and the stress. He outlined some of the issues that especially caused him grief and truthfully those practices at best would be considered bad management, and at worst, workplace bullying. Attempts to self advocate had been unceremoniously dismissed and there was no HR function.

Leopards and spots
I have worked in this type of family run, small business and know the environment well. The words leopards and spots, blood and water come to mind. It is unlikely that any employee will be able to make a dent in that can of worms and undo not just decades of working habits, but also family culture, when normal business protocols generally don’t apply. In a small organization, transferring to another department or changing job functions are not options, so for this young man there seemed to be 2 choices – stay or go.

Hating your job isn’t good. We spend 2000 hours a year in the workplace at least, so it’s hard to pitch up at the office to do something you passionately dislike. Usually if you hate your job everyone can tell and will interact accordingly. Being desperately unhappy will also affect performance and added stress leads to mistakes, creating a vicious cycle of poor interaction, escalating tension and mis- managed expectations.

Why
There are many of reasons people end up in jobs they hate: inadequate hiring processes and poor candidate decisions to name but two. During the recession many people took jobs that weren’t ideal simply to pay their bills. Jobs and situations also change after the start date creating unanticipated circumstances.

Work on you

In any situation the only person you can change is yourself.

Manage your emotions. Don’t resign in a fit of desperation. Pique doesn’t pay the bills, you do and they will not go away. It is also easier to get a job from a job.
Do some inner work. Time to review your life and professional goals and complete a C.A.R.S. analysis (Challenges, Actions, Results , Skills). Make sure you know what you’re good at and what you goals are.
Make a list of what you like about the jobs – there will always be something.
Change your attitude. If you go into the office looking down, are detached, act dejected and withdrawn, your colleagues will feed off that and respond accordingly.
Check your work. Stress impacts accuracy and you are more likely to make careless mistakes. Create a “To do” list every night for the following day, making sure you schedule the work you hate the most first or at your period of highest energy. Feeling that you have achieved something, even when you loathe doing it will make you feel better.
Find a mentor – someone who can guide you. Even in a small company there has to be one person you can ask for advice.
Silence is golden – don’t post your dislike of your work situation on Facebook or Twitter. Bosses use social media too.
Monitor your health – stress impacts everyone in different ways. Exercise, see friends, eat healthily, have enough sleep and make time for you. If you find you are struggling with anything seek professional help.
Start your job search discreetly and reach into your network. Let search and recruitment contacts know that you are open for a move.
Prepare your interview story. Don’t bad mouth your company. A skilled interviewer will be able to interpret what you don’t say if you focus on your future requirements.
Resign correctly – give the appropriate amount of notice and leave your desk and workload in mint handover condition.
Leave graciously – you may not realise it yet but you have had a substantial learning experience and developed many key skills: resilience, diligence, commitment, focus. If your colleagues behave badly you will always know that you did the right thing.

But above all , you will make better choices next time!

New year and new decade. Plunging into a crowded talent pool

Employed during the recession but ready to make a move?
The last 2 years have seen dramatic changes in the job search market characterised by massive job reductions and a significant discrepancy between the number of job seekers and jobs created. Those that were fortunate to remain employed during that period, kept their heads down, quite often tolerating salary freezes, increased workloads, longer hours and reduced teams. Frequently, these same people were involved in laying off colleagues, but as they were still employed there was very little sympathy left for them and they were just left to get on with it.

Recovery on the horizon
Now with small glimmers of economic recovery on the distant horizon this demographic is looking for change. A new year and new decade might be the catalyst that many need to get them started. In a recent report from Manpower 84% of employees polled in the United States indicated an intention to change jobs in 2011. Elsewhere, research shows that 60-65% of individuals expressed a desire to leave their jobs as soon as more solid signs of economic recovery appear. Although they have honed their workplace survivor skills, as job seekers they are still debutantes and much has changed in the last 2-3 years on today’s job market as we know. From a search and recruitment point of view, we will have a wonderfully high level of top talent open for discussion, creating great choice for hiring companies. For the job seeker , the talent pool will now have become very crowded and competition for open positions will be more fierce than ever.

So if you have spent the recession simply keeping your head above water, but are now ready to take the plunge into an unfamiliar and busy space, what do you need to do to make sure you are counted in those numbers?

Check if you have what has become known as a personal brand.
While you have been working like crazy, your ex-colleagues after an initial crisis, have been coming to terms with the job market in the 21st century. The savyy ones will have created and extended their personal brand. Do you have an updated modern CV and a well maintained professional online profile, both reflecting your career achievements and highlighting what you can offer any potential employer? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If any of this sounds like a foreign language, seek professional help.

Evaluate your life and career goals Create a strong mission statement with a clear job seeking strategy within a specified timeframe. Establish a plan A, B and even C if necessary.

Check your on-line visibility How easily identifiable and contactable are you? Can head hunters, recruiters and sourcers find you and easily reach you?

Network While you were keeping your head out of firing range how active were you at networking? If you are one of those who wonders why all these people from LinkedIn are contacting you, now is the time to pick up the pace. Make it actual and virtual. Attend professional conferences or any other networking events and if possible find a mentor, someone who perhaps has recent experience of changing their careers.

Invest in some personal development If the last 2 years have been spent keeping things ticking over this is a good moment to make yourself a priority. Make a commitment to personal development and learning. Take a workshop or course, extend your reading list, renew a subscription to a business magazine or blog and supplement your career goals with some dedicated research or study. The competition for any job is going to be tough, so it will be essential to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t burn bridges So now you have committed to making that change, tempting though it will be to slacken off slightly, don’t. It’s still important to maintain 100% motivation. This is the only job you have and will require the same energy levels as before. It could be months before you write that letter of resignation. Your ex-colleagues know well that the length of time an average job seeker takes to land that great job is at least 6 months or even longer.

The job seekers who hit the market during the last 2 years by now should have a modern and creative approach to the job seeking process. Many will have the heads-up on the employment market as it exists today. In a demand driven economy, sophisticated and strategic preparation will be necessary not just to get in the game, but to stay in it too.

Grey Matters: Workplace Wisdom

Recently I have had conversations with three very different individuals who wanted to return to the workplace for a range of reasons: Maria had recently lost her husband and saw returning to work as a way of supplementing her income and giving structure to her new life as a widow. Bob had suffered badly in the recession and had become anxious about the future. Gordon was just going crazy in retirement.

The common factor was that they were all in their late 50s! The other common element was that they were all approaching the process with a great deal of humour “If anyone asks me where I see myself in 5 years time – I tell them your guess is as good as mine! Could be up or down! The irony was that the guy interviewing me was in his mid 40s, possibly 30 pounds overweight and looked like a heart attack waiting to happen! I was too polite to ask where he might be in 5 years!”

Changing reality
However it’s not just about 3 seniors looking for work. Many older job seekers have previously complained that although anti age discrimination legislation exists in most countries, the reality of age neutral hiring practises is somewhat different. But now there does seem to be a growing and strong business case for wisdom in the workplace, with emerging evidence from many sectors suggesting that they are increasingly looking to older workers. This demand has created a group of `new elders’ – healthy and with a wisdom and strategic know-how that is making them an asset to employers. In executive search, I have also seen a willingness to consider older candidates especially as part of succession planning while younger , less experienced employees are being groomed for senior roles.

Miles on tires
Many of today’s seniors are seasoned campaigners with massive experience of a large number of economic cycles, who are not intimidated by gliches and downturns and know what to do to get out of them. They have large networks from decades in business and have experience in managing and interacting with all generations. In some cultures age is venerated and many financial institutions find it reassuring that there is a voice of wisdom somewhere in the frame, so it’s not surprising that their image as wise sages implies trustworthiness to the cynical consumers who are suspicious of Gen Y capabilities and fecklessness.

Declining birth rates mean that employers are having to start looking for employees among older workers – and for the first time, some are doing so more enthusiastically than before as social changes make older workers fitter and more adaptable than ever before. In knowledge based economies they bring significant added value, especially if they are in touch with current trends, so “age neutral” recruiting is seeing an increased acceptance.

Knowledge based economies
Charlotte Thorne, author of a report by the Industrial Society on the significance of the grey economy says: “Society and pressure groups have traditionally seen ageing as a time of loss and vulnerability, ignoring changing demographics and labour market trends which are making the over 50s a force to be reckoned with. The current requirement is for knowledge. Businesses need people who can employ their experience and understanding, their networks and their strategic vision to add value to organisations. What businesses are really after is wisdom and that puts older workers in pole position.”

But not only are 50 – somethings stepping in for the council of elders role, but changing careers altogether. Edward, with a background in finance and business consulting, turns 60 this year, always a dab hand at DIY, but with never enough time to pursue his gift and passion, has taken a different type of employment completely, with a company fitting wooden decks.

” The owner was a bit dubious about my motives to start with, but the pleasure of working outside after 40 years of being chained to a desk is very satisfying.” he told me. Would he fancy running his own company I asked? ” Yes I would, but very much as a solopreneur – it’s the change of environment that is most important and leaving the computer in the office”

New outlook
Some recent career research for the 50 somethings suggests a whole new outlook

  • Half (46%) of 50-plus adults in the UK say they are not too old to find their dream job and start a new career.
  •  Almost half (45%) of adults have more life goals they want to achieve now than when they were 30.
  • One in five (19%) 50-plus workers are seriously contemplating a career change to fulfil a lifetime career ambition.
  • More than a quarter (26%) want more job satisfaction in their next career move.
  • For 77% that means doing something “worthwhile”.
  • 61% of 50-plus workers want the chance to learn new skills.
  • One in six (16%) retired 50-plus adults want to learn a new skill

It’s about value added
Seniors are not looking for a long-term career but in today’s age, with shorter periods spent in post at all levels, 3-5 years of committed added value would not be out of step with current market recruitment and employment trends in any demographic. The length of time employees spend in jobs in today’s workplace is decreasing and we are seeing a shift in focus from possible length of tenure, to the potential to add value via strong transferable skills.

Sea change
So instead of feeling daunted by the prospect of returning to the workplace at a later stage in life or remaining there longer, we are seeing a sea change albeit a slow one, with perhaps more opportunities than before. But also the older demographic, for whatever reason, is re-assessing, re-defining and overturning previous notions about a fixed retirement age and how long, as well as the direction, any career should run.

Can you risk not having a career strategy?

Why strategic personal branding  is vital to career management
At the end of last year ,  I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture  and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching.    Although the central  theme,   slightly egocentrically,  focused on my own challenges and  frustrations of dealing with the  concept of  high on-line visibility, now a.k.a.  Personal Branding,   there was actually a key, underlying core message . The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.

What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis,  a personal brand and career strategy , regardless of our current age or place in our careers.    

Why?  
The recent recession has highlighted  not just unemployment trends, but  shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises.  Some companies have  been forced by economic circumstances to re – engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat.   Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace  flexibility to  instantly enhance  bottom line results . 

Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags  behind.  Permanent positions in companies  have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels.  Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas  and the reduction of  a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps”  is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level  is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of  consulting “,   but senior professionals  with  no other source of income.  

 In 2009,  according to the UK Office for National Statistics  there was a 31.5% rise  in unemployment for people over 50 ,  so at this age , there is a one in six chance of being out of work,  compared to Gen X  where  the  unemployment rate increased by  21.6 % .   However, even  if you do have a job  David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of  older,  more highly educated professionals  being employed in  lower skill level positions has  also  increased.  At the  other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships.  Their unemployment figures have hit 18%   with predictions  that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.

This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will  continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over.  At all levels.  The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a  planned career strategy will be more important than ever.    

Be strategic
Brian Tracy  suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ”  The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career.  They might take golf lessons or learn to paint,  but  the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation  and invests more money maintaining  their  cars, than  planning their careers.  So because they are unprepared,   any crisis ( redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments)   produces a flurry of activity,  not  specific or focused , but usually frantic  and urgent.  Deadlines  become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term.  CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed  and sometimes  in extremis,  even career coaches sought out.  We would never think of taking off  on a  road  trip in  an  un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college),  yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!  

Avoid brand prostitution
 @TomYHowe:    suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again”   that on going brand management  could lead to   “Life as sales”     and he is indeed correct ,  if not  applied strategically.  There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts  I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.  

Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as  @wpbierman:    amusingly quipped,  becoming ego related:   “I am being followed – therefore I am”.  Behind that funny one-liner there is for me  an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what   Rory Murray   describes as  ” maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.   

Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends  can be misleading.  Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post  suggesting that some  of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.

But for job seekers and headhunters alike there  is a great deal of strength in a weak network.    It is the new, global Rolodex and  why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely,  strategically and as early in your career as possible,  as the competition for permanent jobs hots up . 

Why? To stand out in a crowded market place 

  •  to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me.   That’s how you get noticed
  • To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation  and how you get those calls from people like me.
  • Build up  a strong  network as part of an ongoing career management  plan.

 That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.

Thanks to WP Bierman,  Lisa Braithwaite,   Rory Murray    and Tom Howe

 

Don’t be afraid of “NO”

" No" is your friend. It creates an opportunity to counter.

There was an amazing, interesting  and almost global response to my last post “Let’s go girls…. negotiate”. All sorts of questions and issues were raised around gender differences  related to salary negotiation. Many complex topics were covered  connecting  cultural and historical barriers that prevent women stepping up to self advocate. But I’m not even going to attempt to address those wider topics here and just want to concentrate on the immediate and practical. I’m  also just going to focus on negotiating for a new job  and will  deal with existing situations  later,  although the principles are  still broadly the same .

So let’s deal with what can anyone  of us do.. NOW.

Women are relationship builders
One  of the first  points  raised was that women are  relationships builders and as a consequence we are not good at “winning ” individual encounters and are therefore disadvantaged from the get go.  So OK… let’s look at this in real terms.

Yes,  we are excellent relationship builders – but  all good  functional relationships I believe  are not about winning. In fact if anyone feels like a “loser”   in a deal  ( male or female) , my feeling is that  connection is predicated to be dysfunctional long-term.  Negotiation  is  ultimately about building a relationship. It is constructive communication between two parties to find a mutually satisfactory outcome. Women excel at win/win solutions. Do male managers really see all negotiations as adversarial? Wise and effective ones surely don’t. I have actually tried to find some management theorists who might support this line of thinking- but couldn’t locate any, except perhaps when discussing situations impacting international security- which we’re clearly not. And even in those cases, as we have historically seen, punitive negotiations don’t always work then either.

Many women  also wrote to me and to paraphrase said   ” … You don’t understand ….negotiating a salary is different to other  types of negotiations.”

NO it isn’t.

Be confident

This is about confidence.  Without confidence we will always find a way to lose, so it is important is to normalise and neutralise  the negotiation process in our own minds and to understand that  as women, we all do it, all the time without a second thought.  We just don’t even notice. Once we realise what an integral part negotiation actually plays in our daily lives, half the problem has been overcome.

 Test yourself:

1. The TV repairman says “ Can’t come for 3 weeks”

2. You have a 4 figure quote from a supplier for a job you feel pretty sure should cost 3 figures

3.  Your 15-year-old wants a party

So what do you do? Do you roll over and  wait for 3 weeks to get your TV fixed  and say to your contractor  “ sure  no problem I’ll pay over the odds for that job?” or leave town and  turn your house over  to your teen for an all night rave?  No. Of course not.

You negotiate.

You research the market, evaluate what you need doing, decide what you can comfortably afford to accept. If it doesn’t work you let it go or change.

So salary negotiation isn’t different.

By becoming a candidate you have already made that  psychological  commitment  to change and have taken that leap into the unknown. You have imperceptibly started the negotiation process.   You have researched the company,  identified your skills, know your value in the sector and must have marketed them well , because  here they are now wanting to make you an offer. You are in a good place! If the hiring company lose you,  they may have to start the process from scratch or fall back on candidate number two. That is an additional cost,  not just in terms of  search fees,  but also in terms of elapsed time before a new hire is effective , which equals lost revenue. They will have done their homework and will know what the salary range for your skill set is on the market.  Generally everyone  should  be looking for successful outcome. Most companies settle at least 10-15%  above the initial offer.

The pre-question

When I started selling,  my boss at the time, a guy called Mike Lowe, the best sales person I have ever met and a formative personality in my career and personal development, gave me a  simple  nerve conquering mantra before I embarked on any project. The pre-question.”What is the worst thing that can happen?”

Mike  also tried desperately hard  to teach me to ski where injury, pain and  death  featured in my option choices ( not necessarily in that order.)  But these  downsides, generally speaking, don’t tend to happen around a negotiating table discussing anything legal.

In any ordinary negotiation process, the worst  case scenario is  usually and I always  unhapppily thought,  pre “Mike” , was a firm ” no” .  But Mike also taught me that “no” is my friend and how to use it .

Make “no” your friend

So even within this negative messagethere is a  hidden bonus which can open up a dialogue and lead you to make informed decisions. So instead of fearing “no” – it’s now a word you feel extremely comfortable with. Take a lesson from your own kids. If you say no to a pre-schooler – what do they say ? Exactly.  ” Why? ”

Why” is now your other new door-opening  buddy.

It hangs around with “no”. It allows you to take each objection and calmly overcome them with your elevator sound bites, which incorporate all your CARS,  USPs and overall added value. So you love “NO.” It can work for you! The evolved adult  you  have become,  may not stamp her foot  like a five-year old  and petulantly pout “why”, but you will counter with something  more grown-up, neutral and reasonable like “What makes you say that?”

Mike  taught me to de-emotionalise  “no” and view it as a vital part of the process. It’s wasn’t about me. “No” doesn’t mean that my value or self-worth are  on the line and reduced in any way, or I’m some sort of mini failure.  It’s only about the transaction.

Research & preparation

But first you have to deal with  negative thinking   and examine the facts and take steps to avoid  being over come by fear ( False Expectations Appearing Real.) So research and preparation are key. Understand the economic viability of the company and know your own market value.

Silence

Mike also taught me about the use of silence. It’s the last member of the  “no / why” trinity. We women are not great at silence. But there are times when the prudent use of silence can be as effective as delivering a great elevator speech. Used wisely it is a great negotiating technique. Deliver your pitch …. and wait….and wait…. and wait….

 Fall back position

It maybe that you will not reach your  first goal  – but  you should always have a secondary goal  in mind  before entering any negotiation.  In the words of Karl Albecht  “Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.”   If anyone in a negotiation situation that feels  their back is against a wall, trouble and resentment  are going to figure largely in their futures.

But if a compromise still  isn’t possible then  that leaves one  option – seriously consider voting with your feet.

Is it this  final step, which we as women fear most? That primal,  risk taking side to our personalities that keeps us in the metaphoric  “cave”  and prevents us taking that leap into the unknown which separates us from the guys?

The irony  is  of course ,  that  it is the ability and willingness to walk away which can be the single most powerful negotiating tool in any deal.

What do you think?

Special thanks to Wally Bock,    Ava Diamond, Colin Lewis, Rebel Brown , Susan Mazza,  Tim Douglas , Ellen Brown  Anne Perschel    Susan Joyce , Sharon Eden for stimulating contributions!

Facts Talk!

Last week I posted a blog about dealing with negative thinking. Surprisingly, two words prompted more response and questions than any other part of that piece. Facts talk. What did I mean? My response was met with disbelief!
 
Facts get us out of our comfort zones.
 
FEAR
 
 A commonly used acronym for FEAR is: False Expectations Appearing Real. I first saw that phrase in the early 90s, but ironically, I have actually seen it twice in the last week alone in blogs written by Lolly Daskal  and Conrad Palmer. It’s worth repeating.

When we feel any sort of pressure or stress, we all have a tendency to lose sight of things as they really are. This is no “holier than thou ” stuff, so don’t think I’ve got it all sorted . You are reading someone who has begged for air-rescue from a bunny ski slope! Essentially we become fearful (full of fear).

Back in the cave

When we all lived in caves that sensation very conveniently kicked in to make us more alert for any potential “attacks”. To protect ourselves against lions, tigers and bears our bodies are hard- wired to educate us to anticipate risk ( things that may or may not happen). So adrenalin kicks in and we shift into fight or flight mode, activated by the best kind of stress – motivation, energy, whatever you want to call it, the upward part of the curve. Now this good feeling switches to anxiety, when at a basic level we “fear” that we don’t have the resources ( physical or psychological) to cope with perceived threats to our security and well being. We believe rightly or wrongly, that ultimately we might fail. Good stress therefore becomes bad stress (de-motivation). When lions, tigers and bears are involved, one could reasonably be forgiven for preparing for a gory death, a horrific maiming, or perhaps a long hard run for it.

Clearly now in our more evolved state, that is less likely to happen. However, our primal response facilities are still in place. Nobody told our DNA that. These fears are activated by more subtle circumstances: the unknown, rejection, or people discovering who we are, with all our weaknesses and flaws and that we will be deemed unworthy. For most of us, being full of fear is not the greatest sensation ( racing pulse, churning stomach, sweating, high pitched voice) The best way to avoid feeling out of breath, nauseous, sweaty and sounding squeaky, is simply to avoid fear inducing situations. Makes sense right? This means that we withdraw into a nice safe place when we feel fearful. Or we don’t act at all. This means we stay in our nice safe place to prevent feeling fearful. In my case the hotel lounge!

What makes you anxious?

We all have different things that make us anxious ( our weaknesses, actual or perceived ), so it is impossible to make sweeping statements in any generic fashion. But happily that too enables us to escape discovery. Someone might skydive with impunity, but worry about writing a mission statement. An engineer might deal with complex technical problems, but feel nervous about interviews. A graphic designer might make brilliant lay outs, but have no idea how to write a CV. Who would have thought? Exactly! No one. We’re free and clear plus totally undiscovered. But wait…

Guilt

At the same basic level we know that we should be out doing the things that make us breathless, sick and sticky, ( aka guilt). We have bills to pay, expectations to meet and our partners or friends are asking probing questions, so we have strategies in place to convince ourselves and “others” to create smoke screens. A computer is great for “busy-ness” and not doing anything. We tell ourselves that it is simply events or circumstances that are conspiring against us. Today, more than ever we are able to pass on our individual responsibility ( blame) to something amorphous and unaccountable. The recession.

But sometimes “others” don’t buy into what we’re saying , because they have “other” fears and somewhat inconsiderately, they feel perfectly comfortable with the job search process. Then we start making excuses. I could fill a whole page with the reasons I have invented not to ski so I wouldn’t look “less than” or disappoint people who were important to me. Some of them were very creative. So in the words of Peter Williams Unworthiness is the foundation of the comfort zone” .

Facts provide messages

Finally we’re here. This is where facts talk. Facts are a big step. They get fear and guilt out into the open. You can then see that although everything is not perfect (nothing is ever perfect) , but they can be perfectly manageable. Facts provide messages. Messages lead to thought. Written thoughts leads to actions. Actions lead to solutions.

 When looking for a job everyone should keep a job search log/progress sheet whatever you want to call it. Doesn’t matter. You can make one yourself or use an online tool such as Jibberjobber (http://www.jibberjobber.com/) Keep an accurate record of all the positions applied for and each stage of the process with dates: position, company, contact, date CV sent, method ( direct, on-line), response( telephone interview, direct interview etc) feedback. Most people, when asked, have no idea how many jobs they’ve applied for. Most people claim that they spend 6-10 hours a day looking for jobs. I can usually tell by the results, how engaged they are. It’s quite often less than 6 -10 hours. If they need to network and only have 10 LinkedIn connections – I know they’re not putting in the hard yards and so do they. More guilt. Having all that information laid out in factual form enables you to easily track all the detail relating to your job search and time management. Even not having feedback sends you a useable message.

Facts and job search- be brutal

So, if you are sending off CVs (more than 10- 15 depending on level, function, geographic location) with no response at all, what is that telling you? You need to play around with the CV, change something and monitor that result. Change it again if that doesn’t work. If you get no further than a telephone screening – could it be that your telephone interview techniques needs some work? Same if you fall at the interview stage. If you can’t find any jobs to apply for ( and there are still some jobs, they are just not advertised as openly) then perhaps you need to expand your network or online presence. But unless you can see it written down you will convince yourself that you are active on the job market, when really, although you’re in front of your computer, perhaps spending more time reading something of personal interest (sports results, celeb gossip, international affairs) than researching openings. So track your time too – keep a time management log. Be brutally honest. Are you really engaged as much as you say, or just fooling around on Facebook or Twitter? Facts talk.

If you are struggling with any parts of the process over an extended period, please look at seeking support from friends, family, your network or a professional. You are your best asset – it’s an investment in your future. If you don’t act, you won’t fail, but you won’t succeed either.

Remember .. as Audrey Hepburn suggested, the letters in impossible also write I’m possible!