Like looking for a spouse / partner when you hear some loud form of biological / life clock incessantly ticking, the scent of desperation is something that job candidates should avoid. That vibe evokes caution on the part of would-be-employers, and can torpedo promising job opportunities.
For people who are locked into job hell, “between jobs” or just plain out of work, the feeling of despair may feel inevitable. It’s not.
Part of that palpable sense can come from generating no other options – a sort of waiting by the phone (or checking e-mail as the case may be) hoping you’ll get summoned for an interview. Instead – for those people who are constantly working informational interviewing (see Part 2 of this series) activities and options continue to be generated while you continue to network.
I don’t want to minimize the frustration and dead-ends that may occur: it is possible, particularly in smaller areas and smaller job markets, to top out – to have met with anyone and everyone who is appropriate to meet. But if you don’t want to succumb to the malaise of the Seussian “Waiting Place ”, what do you do?
If you are working for pay at a job, keep doing research. In particular, take a look at analogues to the type of work you were considering (purchasing contract management instead of building negotiations management for example) as sort of a brand extension project. It may open up a whole new set of networks and people to meet as you explore a Plan B approach to your job hunt.
It can also be a time to circle back with people with whom you’ve met and felt connected – a chance to recount what you’ve been doing, talk more shop and to ask for other advice.
If you are out of work, what do you do then?
For those who can afford to, stay busy by doing things such as community and volunteer work. While it may be seductive to take the time to cocoon and read, work-out, and (in my neighborhood) sip lattes at Ritual , that energy is “passive” and inner-directed. It’s unlike to cut that desperation edge. Far better to be outer directed and to get moving and engaged with other people.
There is no shortage of help that’s needed for volunteers and while it may not be glamorous (I have one friend who volunteers at an animal rescue shelter where one highlight is scooping up animal poop), it keeps you busy and doing things that are worthwhile. It also keeps you around people – frequently interesting people – who have other lives and other networks that may be of help to you.
That sort of volunteering and community work also gives you a structure – a sense of place where you’re doing something of value: good for the heart rather than good for the bank account. Hours are frequently flexible, giving you the ability to either interview for jobs and/ or extend networking – even if it’s circling back with people you met before. From an interviewer perspective, I think it also shows initiative, a quality that is generally desirable for candidate to showcase.
And if you’re out of work and need income? Find work – any work – and hopefully work that gives you some flexibility while you continue your job hunt. Apart for the value of a paycheck, the work (and it could be any work) provides structure to your life and gives you something to think and obsess about then each job interview.
My own experience with people who were working in jobs that were – as the polite phrase might be “less than their abilities” – is fine if the candidates were matter of fact about it. At times it bolsters authenticity (another admirable quality). Candidates who hide their in-between work sort of dishonor both themselves and the work they do: it’s much better to show that you’re focused on a certain goal and supporting yourself (and family) while you go about that pursuit.
My experience from having seen interviewers report back on thousands of candidates is that people respond generally better to candidates who are interested in the role for which they’re interviewing, and also have other things – and perhaps options – going on in their life. These candidates have a sense of momentum and energy that is palpable, and makes them more attractive as prospective employees.
That friend of mine who helps out at the animal shelter is a great case in point. Though she is blessed with the ability to take the time off (the benefit of having worked hard all of her life and made some wise financial choices), she is probably as attractive a candidate as you can be. She exhibits confidence in who she and what she is doing, and stays busy doing things that interest her, from serving on several boards to the glories of the animal shelter. The next fulltime job she takes – and I suspect she will take one – will be on her terms and informed in part by the approach she has taken.
Up Next: Part 9 of 9 – You Kiss a Lot of Frogs to find a Prince(ss)