As a career coach, I am often asked the question, ’How did that person get that job?’ As a job seeker, you will compete against candidates who are equal to you in skills and experience. The person who lands the position will be the one who chooses to implement a winning approach to his or her activities by managing emotions and learning how to maintain an open mind and an optimistic outlook.
A successful job seeker recognizes that attitude affects outcome. Maintaining confidence, remaining non-judgemental and staying positive feed an individual’s ability to be resilient and to persevere until they succeed. While it is true that how you’re wired and external events will affect outcomes, they do not dictate results. From a job search and career perspective, a person’s mindset, actions and responses have the greatest impact on achievement.
a tale of two job seekers
Let’s explore how two different approaches to job seeking influence results by looking at two people we’ll call Robert and Casey. While these are not actual job seekers, their behaviors represent the most common ones I come across as a career coach. See if you have exhibited any of these behaviors in your search so far. Don’t be hard on yourself, but do look to change the ones that may be holding you back. If you’re more like Casey, congratulations. Keep doing what you’re doing.
the struggling job searcher: Robert
Robert is angry about losing his job. He feels embarrassed about being unemployed and tries to hide this fact from others.
Activity. Robert’s plan is to use online job boards and apply for as many opportunities as possible that are related to his experience and skills because he believes that flooding the marketplace is the best approach. His LinkedIn profile is minimal and continues to show he is still working for his previous employer because Robert believes that conveying he is currently employed makes him a more attractive candidate.
He plans to use the same resume and cover letter, perhaps with minor modifications, for each job application. When it comes to interviews, Robert prefers to wing it because he believes that preparation takes away from his authenticity. In his mind, employers will either like him or not.
After interviews, he doesn’t take the time to follow up with thank-you notes or emails because he isn’t sure that these will actually affect to the outcome. His approach has worked before and he thinks it will work again.
Managing rejection. When Robert isn’t selected for jobs, he tends to take the rejections personally and becomes disheartened. His inclination is to blame the companies and flawed hiring processes for his lack of success. Over time, Robert’s doubts about his qualifications grow and he applies for jobs he wouldn’t have considered at the beginning of his search. He finds himself becoming less active due to his feelings of discouragement and lack of positive results.
Results. Although Robert applies for a large volume of jobs, his results become diluted because of the minimal effort he puts into each application. Those involved in the hiring process are left with the impression that he isn’t enthusiastic about their company or proactive enough to build a strong case for how he meets the requirements of the position. His lack of follow up after interviews could potentially result in him not being considered for future roles in those companies.
Robert is also limiting his marketplace exposure because he doesn’t indicate on his LinkedIn profile that he is open to considering new job opportunities and doesn’t proactively network to uncover them. His fixed mindset and cloudy attitude negatively affect his activities, causing him to blame external forces for his situation. Robert is unknowingly sabotaging his own job search.
the diligent, proactive job searcher: casey
Casey recognizes that her job search may be difficult, so she decides she needs to have a plan to manage her stress and stay motivated. She is inspired by challenges and looks at her job search journey as a learning opportunity. Casey makes every effort to stay open-minded and do what it takes to land her ideal job. She seeks the support of others – friends, family and colleagues – and uncovers tools and resources that will empower her. To maintain her confidence and a positive frame of mind, Casey chooses a reinforcing mantra that she can use throughout each day to stay focused on moving forward.
Activity. Casey sets goals and benchmarks for her job search based on self-reflection and analysis. She approaches the search as a full-time endeavor, spending time each day learning about current best practices for job searching and uncovering opportunities beyond the job boards by networking, researching companies and conducting exploratory interviews.
Casey knows LinkedIn is a valuable tool to gain maximum exposure, so she makes sure her profile is complete, engaging and keyword-rich. She also joins professional groups on LinkedIn and connects with people who are doing the type of jobs she’s interested in. She’s hopeful that she may even find some mentors on the site and be inspired by ideas she hadn’t previously considered.
Casey learns how to write a compelling resume and cover letter that exudes confidence, achievement and professionalism. When she starts to interview but doesn’t make it past the first stage, she realizes that she needs to improve these skills. She discovers how to prepare more effectively for interviews by preparing SMART (situation, metrics, action, results, tie-in) stories and by researching the companies and interviewers more thoroughly.
After each interview, she follows up by sending thank-you letters or emails to the people she meets and connects with them on LinkedIn to expand her professional network. Casey also makes sure to balance her job search with social activities and integrates health-oriented activities into her week.
Managing Rejection. She keeps her momentum going by having a steady stream of job applications in play at all times. That way, if Casey is not successful in being hired for one job, she knows she has other opportunities to fall back upon. It’s natural to get discouraged by rejection – and she does. She may stop her activity for a few days, but she knows it’s important to avoid getting stuck in such moments. She is careful not to tie her sense of self worth to the outcomes. Because Casey puts her best effort into her job search activities, she knows that when she isn’t selected for a position, it’s likely because it wasn’t the right fit. She tries her best to remain confident that there is something better out there that she hasn’t yet discovered.
After receiving a rejection, Casey always follows up with friendly, gracious notes to communicate the positive aspects of her experience with the company in the hopes of keeping the door open to other roles in the future. In this way, she chooses to see every outcome in a positive light.
Results. Casey maintains good momentum throughout her search and does her best to avoid lengthy emotional pitfalls. She chooses to find wins, which drives her sense of achievement. Her preparation for job interviews conveys to companies that she is a serious candidate. Putting effort into her LinkedIn profile also increases her chances of being approached by recruiters and hiring managers. By investing her time in networking and relationships, Casey is building bridges and referrals for the future. She has intentionally worked to promote herself as someone who an employer would want to hire to represent their company. Her positive and diligent approach builds resilience and job search skills.
what it takes to get that job
Do not count on luck. Count on yourself. Take control over the outcomes. See the stressful process as a challenge, not a threat. All job seekers can choose to develop ways of thinking and behaving that will positively feed results.
It’s essential to remain open-minded and to reframe your viewpoint to stay positive. See rejection as an opportunity to learn and develop resilience. Create a supportive infrastructure. In the end, what you put into your search is what you get out of your search. Plan to win.