May 16, 2013

Not Knowing is OK – Not Believing is Not OK

Not knowing what you will do next in your life – whether it is at the end of the semester, at the end of your degree, or at the end of a job can be unnerving. Humans like predictability. They like to know what comes next. That is just not possible. No one can predict the future. No one really knows what will come next.

What matters is that you have some measure of control of the process of making things happen for yourself. Unlike other animals – humans have the ability to remember the past and plan for the future. We also have the ability to shape our future by our attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. Behavior frequently follows attitude. If you believe you will not get a job you probably won’t. You will probably sabotage yourself.

I worry about the people who come into my office contemplating all of the barriers they have to employment. The people that have some deficit that they truly believe will keep them from getting a job – lack of experience, disability, low gpa, shyness, freezing up in interviews, lack of confidence, an unfinished degree. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of reasons to believe you are not the perfect candidate… Well no one is. Everyone has something that they worry about. Something that is huge in their mind that will keep them from being the best candidate.

Some worry is good if it forces us to work harder. Just like when you take a test, you can sabotage yourself by failing to study. In an interview or job search, you can sabotage yourself by failing to study and failing to have a plan.

Do your homework!  

Make sure you know what your assets are relative to your chosen field. Do research. Find companies that hire in your field and look at the available positions, even if you are under or over qualified. Imagine your perfect job and mentally place yourself there. Then write down what you have to offer. Make a list of the skills and knowledge you possess that make you the best candidate. If you are in the early stages of your career life, remember to count your academic, volunteer and extra-curricular activities, and unrelated experience. If you are further along in your career and finding that you need to shift focus, be sure to identify your transferable skills and your professional and community involvement.

Get out there! Face time is everything!

The biggest mistakes that unemployed people make are:
  1. They hang around other unemployed people
  2. They hide, they keep it a secret – they let embarrassment dominate them
  3. They lull themselves into the belief that there are no jobs out there (so why look?)
  4. They use passive approaches like Monster or Dice thinking someone will find them…
Sitting alone at home, feeling sorry for yourself or relying strictly on the internet is not going to get you a job. Put yourself out there. Get yourself in front of people who are in a position to hire. Attend conferences, professional meetings, job fairs, workshops, speaker events, classes, training programs. Each and every week, there are opportunities to mix with people in a position to affect your future. Take the time! Take advantage!

A number of people told me that they had received job offers this week. Each and every one of them got an offer because they took the time to go to a job fair or an event where they met professionals in their field. They had face time! Then they followed up persistently. My favorite situations are the three guys in my Monday morning career planning class this semester – they all had babies this semester! Yes, three of them – it was a population explosion right there in my class!!! That is motivation to find a job like nothing else!

Have a good attitude! Believe in yourself!

Smile! Stand up straight! Relax! Practice!

The people who get hired are not always the ones with the most impressive credentials. More often than not, the person who gets the job is the person with the best attitude - who is confident about themselves and what they have to offer.

Amy Cuddy, Harvard professor and social science researcher, in her TED lectures shares how changing how you stand and your posture in interviews changes how you see yourself and how others perceive you. According to Cuddy, people make judgements based on body language - in hiring, in politics, and in love.  We are also influenced by our own body language. “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.” It is all interlinked.  Cuddy’s research strongly suggests that engaging in two minutes of “power posing” before going into an interview can alter the outcome: “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”

People who get the job are the ones who come across well but they are also the ones who have done the work and figured out who they are and what their strengths are relative to the employer’s needs. They embrace their strengths – not their weaknesses. They did the work to figure out what their assets were. When they arrived for the interview, or at the job fair, they knew what they had to offer. That made them confident. Being confident and self-assured makes a good impression.

One recent candidate got an operation management job with a major food processor in California. He had thoroughly assessed his assets and thoroughly researched the employer. He was confident. He made a great impression and had a very good experience at the on-site interview. He smiled a lot and he got an offer... reason to smile even bigger!

Get comfortable with not knowing what comes next!

Uncertainty is unnerving no matter what your status in life. Maria Schriver shared a most profound bit of advice that her mother gave her. She recalled it as she was thinking about what to do with her life after Arnold left office.

In an interview in the Washington Post, Maria responded to a question about what she is going to do next by saying: "Everybody asks me all day, ’Are you leaving? What are you going to do next? Are you going to run for office?’ ... That’s why I don’t do interviews, because people ask me that question all the time." Even being asked can seem like an assault when you don’t really know what is next.

New grads and soon to graduate candidates freak out at that question. They hate telling family that they really don’t know what will come next. Lets face it – they spent their entire life being a student. They mastered the look – jeans and Tshirts, skate boards, and backpacks; and they mastered the skills – registering for classes, listening to sometimes boring professors, turning papers in on time, taking tests and getting passing grades.


At a Women’s Conference in 2011, Maria Schriver shared how deeply she misses her mother and the sage advice her mother gave her. She said that she found herself sobbing as she visited her mother’s grave for the first time. Filled with uncertainty about what she would do next in life, she heard the echo of her own mother telling her that she didn’t have to always know what’s next ... it would unfold.

That is the beauty of a life well lived. It unfolds. Life can be planned to a degree, but it also unfolds. Believe in yourself. You will find your way if you keep working at it. I promise…