A job search is a stressful time for people. Even if you have a job, it is stressful. If you don’t have a job and the bills are looming, there is another level of stress – a bit of urgency added to the mix. On today’s episode, we are going to talk about managing your mental state during a job search. These are practical tips about actions you should be taking, or skills you should be focusing on during your job search. Although a good dose of positive attitude or positive self-talk may also be necessary during this time, I’m going to let other podcasts give you those. I want to give you some actionable business skills that will help you though the process.
Let me start by saying that a job search is a time that requires a high level of emotional intelligence. We talk about emotional intelligence a lot on this podcast because I believe it is a fundamental factor in success. Emotional Intelligence is defined as: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Its always important, but even more so during a job search.
First of all, you are under a lot of stress and stress will uncover any weakness you may have when it comes to the building blocks of emotional intelligence. Second, a job search can put you in a very vulnerable spot. If you’ve just been laid off or made redundant, you may also be dealing with feelings of betrayal or grief. If you lost your job for performance reasons, you are likely dealing with confidence issues. And, if you’ve made the decision to look for a new job while still employed, you may be dealing with stress that your current manager may find out, or feeling that you may being letting your current team down. You may also lose motivation to keep working for your current job. I know that I go through a stage of disengagement from my current job once I’ve decided it is time for me to move on.
So, for many different reasons, a job search is a time of high stress, which can be really challenging for even the most emotionally intelligent. Because of this, I think it is important to have a set of skills that you remind yourself about regularly during the time of a job search.
So, let’s dig in. Here are some tools that can help you maintain your mindset during a job search:
Set Appropriate Expectations
Every employee of the hiring company has an edge on you because a company is likely to fill a position with an internal candidate if they can. An internal candidate who is a known quantity, even if they don’t have the exact experience is hard for any hiring manager to pass up. Another thing you have working against you is networks. Any candidate who has a connection at the hiring company has an edge over you. You recognize both of these things are true when you look at it from the company’s side. As an employee, you would expect your employer to give an internal candidate or a candidate referred from an employee preferential treatment over someone off the street that nobody has any experience with. But, when you are that candidate, you don’t think about it that way. You look at the job description and your skills, identify a match and figure ‘why wouldn’t they hire me?”
Think about what you need to do to keep you mindset from letting the rejection turn into an excuse for inaction. When you get a rejection, what are you going to tell yourself about it? Thinking about this before you need it will help you separate the head from the heart when the time comes. For example, one of the things I tell myself is, “they must have had a referral from an employee that was a good fit.” Do I know it is true? No. But, it is not only possible, it is likely and if it is true, there is nothing I could have done differently that would have gotten me the job.
Look at it from the Hiring Manager’s Perspective
People with high emotional intelligence have the ability to see things from several perspectives. This skill is important when looking for a job because if you can see the job from the perspective of the hiring manager, you may be better able to position yourself for the job.
First, keep in mind that hiring is, for most managers, a painful activity that requires a lot of their time during what is usually a stressful time for them. They’ve likely just had someone vacate the role unexpectedly, they are having to pull double duty while they fill the role – or someone on their team is having to fill in. They want to get the role filled as quickly as possible, but at most companies, the process for getting jobs posted and candidates identified is usually frustrating. Interviewing takes a lot of time out of your day job. They need to find the right candidate because everyone they hire ultimately reflects on them.
So, when you are preparing for the interview, think about these things. Bring empathy to the conversation. Think about how you can make the process as painless as possible for the hiring manager. Think about how you would feel under the stress and realize that they are likely coming to your interaction in something less than the best version of themselves. Where possible, become someone who is helping them solve a problem.
I fully believe that an interview is as much about you ensuring that the job and company is right for you as it is about the company figuring out if you are right for them. Too many people approach an interview as if they are the commodity in the equation.
Of course, there are times where your situation or the economic situation dictates that you can’t be very picky when it comes to your next job. Sometimes a paycheck is more important than a job that is going to fulfill you. I get that, and recognize that you don’t always have the luxury of putting yourself on equal footing with the hiring manager.
But, when you are not in that situation, you need to remember that it is just as important for you to be interviewing the hiring manager as it is for them to be interviewing you. Of course you are selling yourself – your skills, your assets, your ability to get the job done. But, this isn’t a on-way street. If you are going to work for and with the people you are interviewing with, you need to be assessing them as well.
Activate Your Network
Lots of jobs get filled because of referrals. Your network is going to be critical during your job search. You are going to need to set aside time to reach out to people in your network and let them know that you are looking and what you are looking for.
I also find it helps to remind them that they may know someone in their network who has a position to fill. By reminding them of this, you are not only activating your network, you are activating their network. For example, you may be in finance. Someone in your network may be in education. It would seem like they couldn’t help you because they are in such an unrelated field. But, what if their next door neighbor is the head of Accounts Payable at a local company? You just never know what connections people might make. But, I find that you have to trigger people to think about their network. Just to tell your friend in education you are looking for a job isn’t enough. He may think ‘that’s nice, but my school isn’t currently hiring for any finance roles.” But, tell him that you are looking and though he might have someone in his network that is looking to fill a finance role and he’ll think of his next door neighbor, and bring it up on Saturday when they are both out mowing the lawn.
The other thing you need to remember about your network is that you are not the center of their lives. They may remember you are looking for a week or two, but eventually, they will forget. They’ve gotten on with life and the fact that your job search is a really big deal for you doesn’t mean it is top of mind for them. If your job search goes on for a while, your mindset can start to take a turn toward the negative and you can start to feel like your network has let you down. In order to keep your mindset positive, remember that you may need to remind people that you are looking. Don’t be a pest about it – but, just because they didn’t know about anything at the time you originally reached out doesn’t mean they won’t know about something now.
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