Archives for June 2015

The Shoo-in Trap

Trapped by Christos Tsoumplekas on Flickr

Trapped by Christos Tsoumplekas on Flickr

Beth was certain she was a shoo-in at her dream company. The web administrator had gone through several interviews and even met with the company’s CEO. During each interview she was told that she was an excellent candidate and she was perfect for the job. Everything seemed to be going Beth’s way and she began to think there was no way she wouldn’t land the job. After receiving great feedback from her potential employer for a month, Beth quit searching for other jobs. She even turned down interviews and offers from other companies to focus solely on her dream job. Several more weeks passed and Beth received a phone call. The Web Administration job at her dream company had gone to a stronger candidate. She was shocked and devastated. She had put all of her job prospect hopes on one position at one company and the position fell through. Nearly two months had passed and Beth suddenly found herself having to rebuild momentum for another job search.

In Beth’s case she originally had momentum going into her job search. Momentum in the job search is like a steam train. It takes a lot of preparation to get the train to start moving and to get the fire hot enough to boil the water. Once that train starts, it takes less and less effort to keep it going. When you know there’s a mountain up ahead, you put a little extra coal into the fire to keep the train moving. It gets tougher toward the top, but once you reach the pinnacle, it’s an easy road down. Depending on one opportunity to come through, no matter how certain you are, is like getting the fire going to get the train moving, and then expecting that fire to create enough steam to move you up a mountain. The only thing about a mountain is you know when it’s coming, you have a map and can see it in the distance. In your job search, a mountain can be any obstacle and you don’t necessarily know it’s coming.  In that respect, it’s like any challenge or unexpected change in life. In a job search, anything can happen, and as a former recruiter I can tell you with 100% certainty that nothing is 100% certain.

The moment Beth thought her dream job was a sure thing she slowed down her momentum and stopped exploring her other options. In short, she placed all of her hopes on one job prospect, and when it fell through, she didn’t have another job offer lined up or other prospects in motion. Candidates can be turned down for a number of reasons and it’s always best to assume the job isn’t yours unless you’re actually offered the job.

Now, let’s re-imagine Beth’s scenario- Beth has a dream opportunity, and several other opportunities. She really wants the dream opportunity, but doesn’t want to slow her job search momentum. She uses another offer to entice her dream company into action. They might make her an offer just to prevent her from accepting a competitor’s offer, IF they really want her. And, if they don’t and they’re a good company, they will be fair and give her the information she needs to make a well-informed decision about her other offer. That company will set her free. This is an ideal scenario for when you’re seemingly a shoo-in for one company you love, but you also have strong prospects at other companies.

 

 

Don’t let your train run out of steam

 

Getting a call for an interview and acing several interviews can definitely build confidence in your job search. After all, getting called back for an interview and landing several more interviews means that an employer is strongly considering you for the position. That said, it is folly to believe that a few rounds of interviews automatically translates to securing the position even with spectacular feedback. You want to believe the position is yours, especially if it is your ideal company. At this point in the game, it may be tempting to put your job hunt on hold in order to focus on that one position. If there’s no offer, there are still concerns, questions and potentially other candidates. Former Marketplace host, Tess Vigeland describes being a shoo-in as the next host of NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered, only to not get the job.

Limiting yourself by focusing on one company means that you are potentially missing out on other great opportunities, and you are limiting your income. You have the ultimate leverage when a company really wants you, but another company gives you a great offer. (Note: there is a tactful and professional way to approach this, as well as a way that will cause both companies to revoke their offers. Proceed with caution.)

Even if you’re convinced that a possible employer is the very best fit for you, it is impossible to be certain without fully exploring your options. An employer who is a better fit for your criteria may offer you a job opportunity. If your current job pursuit is going extremely well and you love the company, nothing is truly a done deal unless you’ve signed an employment contract and have a start date, and even then I’ve seen job offers fall through. Focusing on one employer also means you’ve slowed down your job search momentum and potentially caused that momentum to grind to a half if you aren’t the final candidate. Here’s another scenario to consider: You could drop all of your other employment prospects to focus on one job, research the company and discover you don’t want to work for that company. Now you have to restart your job search. This extends the time, money and effort you have to expend to land your ideal job.

 

 

Why promising candidates are turned down

 

Promising candidates are frequently turned down for positions even if they seem to be a perfect fit. The most common reason why candidates are rejected is because someone more promising or qualified is given the position. Having a series of great interviews and being told you’re a great candidate may just mean you’ve made it to the final round of the job hiring process. You may find yourself as the runner-up, despite being a very strong candidate. Imagine it from the employer’s perspective- you’ve just had a great interview with a strong candidate and that prospect matches all of the criteria for the position. The decision process is coming to a close and at the last minute you interview someone else. Now you have two very strong candidates in the final round. Both candidates have great qualifications, but you go with the job seeker who’s a better cultural fit and has better chemistry with the team. If you have your employer’s best interests at heart as a hiring manager, naturally you’re going to choose the candidate who’s the very best match for the company. In fact, team chemistry really matters in the hiring process. I’ve seen SO many job seekers believe they were a shoo-in for the job because they felt amazing chemistry with a team and a boss. They aren’t able to see how another candidate can come in and have even better chemistry.

 

Other reasons for being rejected can range from surprising to petty.

 

  1. The funds for the position were never there, are reallocated, or spent

 

Perhaps the hiring manager was given the green-light to interview for positions, but they never received the necessary budget to actually hire a candidate. The job seeker and the hiring manager go back and forth, and it seems like a done deal until the funds for the position don’t materialize in a timely manner. When the funds and the position are finally available, you have given up on the job and moved on.

I actually experienced this first-hand. In 2002 I was looking for a recruiting job for 10 months. During that time a company that I really wanted to work for told me that I was the strongest candidate, and the only candidate, but the company was undergoing a reinvention, as did most companies during that time in order to survive the recession. For months I followed up weekly, eagerly hoping to hear that the position was ready to go. This was also true of another small recruiting company. I was the lead candidate, but was the position really open?

It was too tenuous of an economy for any firm to know if another recruiter was really necessary. I lived this and learned from this experience myself. Within those 10 months there were three jobs that I not only felt strongly I would land, but was the ONLY candidate being considered. It took me 10 months to learn that momentum was critical to optimizing my chances at landing a job, and I became more proactive AND responsive to EVERY job lead and introduction.

After finally landing, I was laid off again three months later, but the next time it only took me five weeks to land, because I had learned my lesson. Even if you have 10 to 12 months worth of savings in the bank to cushion a longer transition, that’s 10 to 12 months of income LOST instead of saved or invested for your retirement, your ultimate vacation or your own business. Learn from MY mistakes and save yourselves nine months.

 

  1. You had a bad reference

 

The position could have very well been offered to you, but near the end of the hiring process one of your references spoke poorly of you. A bad reference could have come from a client, co-worker, or a previous employer. This could be especially true if you left your previous job on a less than positive note. A bad reference isn’t always malicious. They might have said something as innocent as, “Yes, they were late more than three times.” BANG. You’re out of contention. It is also not uncommon for former bosses or co-workers to give a potential employer their opinion about your performance, especially if he or she didn’t like you. Or, a reference may not have been expecting a call, and a potential employer has a difficult time contacting them. This could also reflect badly on you. Recruiters can also call people NOT on your reference list. If they have their own contacts, they’ll be resourceful enough to reach out to people they know. Making sure you have references that are willing to say positive things about you, and letting them they will be contacted can help avoid inadvertently getting a bad reference. If you know you a former employer won’t provide a good reference, you may to warn your prospective employer about that reference. A quick tip: Stick to the facts and keep it simple; don’t go into your “story” about what happened.

 

  1. Someone at your potential employer recognized you

 

You could have aced all of your interviews, had great references, and you could have been the very best candidate for the job, only to have a former co-worker ruin your prospects. A co-worker you didn’t get along with may have landed a position at your potential employer. He or she may have recognized you during an interview and later told the hiring manager that you’d be a bad fit for the company. They could have not liked you, genuinely thought your work was subpar, or they may be jealous of your talent. Whatever the reason, they had enough sway within the company to completely halt the hiring process.

 

Recovering from a job rejection

 

No one likes rejection. It is easy to internalize a job rejection and see it as a personal failure. Feelings of depression and doubts about your self-worth can set in, sending you on a downward spiral. I wrote about positive ways to deal with job rejection in a previous article. It is important to remember that your ability to quickly land a job isn’t directly tied to your worth as a person. Job rejections are common and you’ll hear “no” several times before someone says “yes.” If necessary, give yourself a little time to recover from your rejection. You may need a few days or as long as week. Focus on your accomplishments and move forward in your next job search. You may have not gotten your dream job, but the opportunities to land another job are plentiful, as you search smartly and target your next employers.

 

 

Best practices

 

It can be easy to become fixated on one dream job at your ideal company. In reality, it is best to have several job prospects. You want to be in a position where several companies are extending job offers to you, instead of assuming you got the job without an actual offer. This means researching companies and making sure they meet your list of criteria, networking with and connecting to people at a potential employer, and it also means being the candidate employers don’t want their competition to hire. This can be accomplished by presenting a strong résumé, crafting a personalized cover letter, and having a positive social media presence that establishes you as a thought leader in your industry. Being a desirable candidate and having multiple job prospects at once ensures that your job momentum doesn’t slow down, and that you’ll always have additional opportunities if you ultimately aren’t selected by a particular employer.

 

 

Being a shoo-in for a particular job is a great feeling. The danger of being a shoo-in is that you may be tempted to ignore other job prospects in order to focus your energy on one job. Expand your self-image to see yourself as a shoo-in for multiple jobs, in a position of empowerment and choice. Your opportunities will be abundant, and you’ll never be limited to just one job. You won’t have to face the disappointment of not possibly getting that job. Think of it this way- your train is steaming ahead and a mountain is fast approaching. You know the mountain, like any challenge in life, has the ability to cause your job search to lose momentum. You want to keep your train moving, so you carefully stoke that fire to help you get over and down the mountain to your next destination safely with your valuable cargo. Don’t place all of your hope on one dream job at the expense of other jobs. It takes extra work to keep multiple job searches going, but the results are well worth your effort. Having more opportunities means you’ll recover from setbacks quickly, land your next job faster, negotiate the salary you want, and enjoy the freedom that overall financial well-being can bring.

 

11 Ways to Identify Your Next Employer

To Do List for 2009 by JD'na on Flickr

To Do List for 2009 by JD’na on Flickr

Having a target company list is not just nice to have in your job transition; it is a critical step to a strategic, proactive approach that accelerates and optimizes your transition. Having a criteria list, as well as a target company list ensures that your time is well spent pursuing opportunities that you have prequalified as good fits.

Think of it this way: do you think that recruiters spend their time looking at the larger candidate pool for anyone who might be available for a job? Or, do you think that they look for candidates who first meet their basic qualifications and possess skills that are necessary for success and then dig further to make sure that a candidate is also a cultural fit for the organization? Why shouldn’t you do the same during your job search? Doesn’t it make sense that if recruiters are specifically targeting potential candidates and you are specifically targeting particular opportunities and companies that you’ll meet sooner in the middle?

I would really love to eliminate from job seekers’ belief systems that the wider you spread your net, the faster you will transition. This proves time and time again to be inaccurate, and job seekers continue to experience frustration as they find themselves working that much harder to achieve even less traction. Then depression, resignation, and anxiety set in. These emotions are not good states of mind to be in when making decisions about the future. Assumptions are made about what is possible, and they become self-limiting beliefs. We’ve discussed this time and time again.

These self-limiting beliefs and assumptions can all be prevented by being more proactive than reactive during a job search. Last week we talked about criteria that you can use to qualify your next position. We demonstrated why creating a list of criteria can mean the difference between taking any job offered and landing the right job. Once you develop this list using the 11 categories we suggest, you can use it to identify companies that meet your criteria so that you can proactively and effectively market yourself to them, and beat out the competition for opportunities.

 

 

1. Workplace environment:

Choosing a workplace that you will like is just as important as the job itself. If you don’t like the workplace environment, it could quickly become a drag on your happiness and productivity. Consider what types of environments you like to work in. Do you need a large and well-lit office? Do you prefer a window that you can easily look out of from your desk? Do you prefer an urban setting with a visible city skyline, or a more suburban setting? Determining a potential employer’s location and type of workplace environment could be one of the easiest ways to look for target companies. But, this does require you to physically be in the environment that you want to wind up in and see what’s at a location.

 

2. Management:

What is the boss like as a person? Does he or she clash with employees? Or, are they loved as a leader by the staff? Ask specific questions of your network. It makes for a good, short agenda for phone calls that you can parlay into introductions and greater traction once you identify a company as a fit. Visit Glassdoor and Vault.com to get a general sense of management from employees, even as you call contacts within your network.

 

3. Passion and interest:

This is more internal. You can use a number of personal assessments tests, such as the passion test, strength indicator, Myers-Briggs personality test, and the DISC Profile to help you determine your personality and passions. But, all of these assessments depend on your ability to be introspective. Chances are, you’re going to have to ask yourself questions you might have been afraid to answer, or reluctantly answer because you believe those answers not real possibilities for your life. Answer them anyway, because the ideas you may have created about yourself may not be based on truth. After all, our thoughts and our ability to tell ourselves untruths is more powerful and common than we think. We all have a negativity bias because our brains are wired to think this way. Recognizing the untruths we tell ourselves and making a conscious effort to overcome these lies go a long way in realizing what is possible in our lives.

 

4. Flexibility:

Will you have the ability to telecommute? This one is pretty easy because most job descriptions for a company will include whether the position is remote. However, just because the company has flexibility for one position does not mean they’ll allow other positions to have such flexibility. You want to validate whatever your findings are by asking people in your network. If a company doesn’t offer the ability to work remotely as a policy, it doesn’t mean they won’t. You’ll also want to understand if the policies are written based on cultural decisions or security decisions.

 

5. Job structure:

Does your target company give you the freedom to work at your own pace? Or, will your supervisor always look over your shoulder? This is also information that you may be able to identify through Glassdoor, job descriptions, or your network.  Some companies experiment with their structure, and may even write case studies about things they have tried and if it has been successful.

 

6. Public perception:

What does the public think of your target company? When companies win awards it usually implies that there is a positive public perception of them. If this is important to you, check award lists. Awards may be granted by professional organizations, at conferences, and even industry publications to particular companies. Business awards run the gamut from local to international. Some prominent examples include the Best in Biz Awards (judged by members of the press and industry analysts), The American Business Awards, and the SCORE Awards. You can also search your local business journals, newspapers and magazines for companies in your area that may have won awards.

 

7. Force for change:

If you’re looking for a particular affiliation, look at companies that sponsor events like 5K’s, Black Tie events, or conferences. Attend these events whenever possible because the chances of you being able to ask questions of someone within the organization about your list of criteria are very high. If the company has a blog, a Facebook presence, or a Twitter presence, they will be promoting their change initiatives through these outlets and seeking engagement with the community. You will also want to check if they have a press page.

 

8. Culture:

There’s no better way to observe a company’s culture than by observing its people. Sit outside the company while people leave for lunch. Check to see if there are many cars outside when 5 o’clock comes around. You can gain insight into a company’s culture by observing how employees dress and what kinds of cars people drive. Do only the executives drive nice cars? Or do the employees also have nice cars? If so, the employees are doing well, too. Of course if you’re in the city, people may not be driving at all. You’ll still be able to get a good sense of what kind of culture a company has by observing the people who enter and exit the building.

 

9. Values

Values take more work to identify, because you’ll have to take a cross-section of people who work there and look into them a little bit further. See if your target company employees have social media profiles, and observe what they’re making public and posting. If the company employees are not posting anything sensitive such as politics or religion as a group, you may come to the conclusion that people are not going to be very verbal about these beliefs in the workplace either. Another way to learn about a company’s values is to look directly at its leadership. Is the CEO outspoken about his or her religious or political views? Does a company website directly state its core values? Check news articles, publications and other forms of press to gain insight about a company’s political views. Do CEOs regularly contribute to political organizations? Have they ever voiced support or opposition to a major political issue? It is possible that employees may not share their employer’s views, but learning about them can give you a better glimpse into a company’s values before you pursue a position.

 

10. Co-worker relationships:

You can make a lot of observations at 5 o’clock. Do multiple people get into one car?  Or do they all go their own separate ways? If there is a pub or restaurant in the vicinity, are coworkers going there together? If employees constantly gather after hours, it implies that co-workers have social relationships that extend outside of the workplace.  Dig a little deeper. Do the employees seem to just be executives? Is it a boys club? There’s a lot you can observe this way.

 

11. Best methods:

You can use a variety of organization methods to keep track of your target company list. Create a spreadsheet, use one column for your list of criteria, then add a column for each company, and cross-reference your criteria for each company. If a target company matches your criteria, further expand your spreadsheet with columns for contact information, companies you’ve sent a résumé to, interview dates, and times to follow-up. Make sure to add and remove companies from your list on a regular basis. Tools such as DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive will allow you to access and instantly update your documents on any internet connected device. Block out a period of time each day to work on your list and keep to your set schedule.

 

Creating a target company list allows you to take an informed approach to your job search. Instead of applying for a position at any company, being selective allows you to focus on what you really want from a potential employer. Casting your job search net too wide doesn’t yield better results; it just takes up more of your time. In the same way, recruiters and hiring managers focus their attention on a few promising candidates. If this approach works for them, it can also work for you. Don’t search harder for more employers- use your time to search smarter. The time you spend targeting and researching companies will pay tenfold in the future, as you land a job faster, negotiate the salary you really want, at an employer you know will be a good fit for you.

 

If you need or want more help developing a list of criteria, we’re here for you. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a great tool to aid in your employer research.

 

10 Creative Ways to Choose Your Next Employer

Day 291_the Big List by Ana C. on Flickr

Day 291_the Big List by Ana C. on Flickr

 

Alex loves being a Software Engineer, but he has been grumpy about work. The idea of going into work no longer excites him and the passion he once had is nearly gone. Deep inside of himself, Alex knew it was time for a career change. Logically, his current employer looked great on paper: but, he didn’t have a good gut feeling about the job. The work at Alex’s current company wasn’t what he expected based on the interview and he didn’t look well enough into the company before accepting the job. So, he approached his job search from a different angle. Instead of only looking at salary and benefits, Alex wrote down a list of criteria his new employer had to satisfy before he would accept the job. Much of his list focused on the workplace environment, workplace culture, his enthusiasm for the company, and his values. Using the criteria he developed, Alex found an employer that satisfied him. He landed a job with the company and his passion for work was rekindled.

You may be like Alex, dissatisfied with your current employer and ready to make a transition. Or, you may be looking for work, but you don’t want to choose just any employer. Which is wise, even if your are in need of a job, as per our last article. You want an employer that will pay you well, but your job is more than a source of income. You want flexibility, satisfaction, a culture that reflects your personal values, and to be fully engaged on the job. We all intuitively have a list of criteria that we want an employer to fulfill. Sometimes we dismiss our ability to land a job that meets these criteria, but this is seldom based on truth. We use a logical approach when we take a set of facts and form our reasoning based on those facts. An intuitive approach is based on our perception of facts and/or truth and isn’t always based on reasoning. Think your intuition as a split-second “gut feeling”, as opposed to a longer and more reasoned approach with logic. When you don’t use a logical and intuitive approach you wind up in the wrong jobs, which sets us up for failure, ultimately, and wastes your time when you could be fast-tracking your career and income.

When searching for their next job, people often fail to develop a list of criteria. In my article “The Correct Response to a Job Lead” I wrote about how a company needs to meet about 80% of your criteria before you create a connection with them. In that article, I also discussed how to research a company after asking a few practical questions such as company size, location, employee happiness, and how well you could fit a potential position. It is important to develop a criteria list because it will aid you in your development of a target company list.

 

Criteria to consider:

 

  1. Workplace environment:

A workplace environment encompasses everything related to the location of an employer. This includes a geographical location, immediate surroundings (an office park in the suburbs, office building in the city, being near a construction site or surrounded by a small forest), noise levels and even air quality. Would you prefer to work amid the hustle and bustle of a large city, or do you prefer the quieter life in the suburbs? Would a location with very few windows and lots of re-circulated air bother you? Or do you need constant access to fresh air?

 

  1. Management:

Will you like your boss? This is the person you will report to on a daily or weekly basis. If his or her attitude or demeanor is concerning to you, you may eventually clash with their personality. You will have to weigh the benefits of their leadership against their personality. By that, I mean that your potential boss could be difficult to like, but might be an amazing leader. Think of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bozos.

 

  1. Passion and interest:

Will your next job excite you? You may have the skills and qualifications to do a job, but will you feel passionate about your work with a new employer? If you only go through the motions with your job, it won’t be long before dissatisfaction catches up with you. If you don’t care about the work you’re doing it will become evident for everyone to see. Clients, co-workers and subordinates will notice the lack of interest in your work. A job you feel passionate and interested in can challenge you in new ways and provide you with the opportunity to expand your skill set. Will your next employer enable you to be exposed to the areas of interest that you want to further explore? If you find yourself at a job that doesn’t incorporate your abilities, you’ll eventually yearn for a new employer that will put your skills to use.

 

  1. Flexibility:

Will you have the ability to work remotely when needed? Can you take time off when needed? Balance between personal-life and work-life is important. If you have the freedom to create flexible work arrangements, you’ll find yourself less stressed out at home and on the job. Conversely, some people feel that working in a remote and flexible workplace is more challenging and need people there physically to complete the job with a certain quality. If you would be bothered by your co-workers taking advantage of flexible work arrangements, don’t torture yourself by working for a company where these freedoms are extended.

 

5. Job Structure:

How much freedom do you want at work? Are you fearful of micromanagers who are constantly looking over your shoulder? This boils down to what type of worker you are. If you like constant input and feedback, you should consider an employer that works closely with employees. If you prefer to do things on your own terms, you may want a more laid-back management style.

 

6. Public perception of the company:

Will your next employer be a high-profile company? Will you work for a household name, or would you prefer a company very few people know about? If your company is a household name, do they have a positive or negative image? For example, are they a well-loved hardware and software maker? Or are they a notorious monopoly in constant litigation? You may have to ask yourself if the perks and benefits at the company outweigh a negative public perception.

 

7. Force for change:

Will your new employer be a force for good in the world? Do you want your future employer to give back to local communities, donate to charity and place an emphasis on people and profits? And if so, with what non-profit organizations do you align with and that you also want your employer to align?

 

8. Workplace Culture:

A workplace culture is a big factor to take into consideration. A company may have a flexible management style, a causal dress code, and may be geared toward younger workers. Or the workplace could be traditional, with a business professional dress code and workers may be accustomed to greeting each other formally. If you scream for tradition, a culture that embraces a causal style may not be for you. Just as you would consider a company’s culture and if it matches your personal values, a potential employer is just as interested in making sure you’re fit for their culture.

 

9. Values:

Will your job align with your values? Do you care if your employer or your immediate bosses have strong religious beliefs? For example, your employer may insist on adhering to Christian values, especially if they are a smaller company. Does that idea excite or horrify you?  Are you okay with an employer who has different religious beliefs from your own? Or do you prefer an employer not to embrace any religious beliefs? There are also other values to consider, such as political alignment. Many of my clients scratch their heads when I ask them what they believe in, because they wonder why that would be relevant to a job search. However, if you hold your beliefs close to you, and it causes you conflict and stress to be around people who are staunchly opposed to the things you believe strongly, it can impact your quality of work and life. Even if you don’t talk much about these things, if other people do, conflict will be hard to avoid, and while differing views can be a source of growth, it is not always welcomed in the workplace.

 

10. Co-Worker Relationships:

How will you get along with your new co-workers? Unless you’re working remotely, your co-workers are going to be a major influence at your workplace. Will you socialize with them inside and outside of the office? Or do you believe that business and pleasure should not mix? Does your personal life stay at home or do you engage others about life outside of work? You’ll have to consider if your next employer will sponsor activities such as a softball or bowling team and whether you want to attend those events. Would you be comfortable working for a company that believes in team-building retreats and workshops?

 

Tapping into the subconscious to know what’s right for you:

 

Once you have idea of what criteria you want your employer to fulfill, you can use physical and mental exercises to help reflect on your list.

Muscle testing (also known as Applied Kinesiology) is great way to diagnose specific nervous system problem or nutritional deficiencies, and restore energy. Dr. Jeff Echols has a great video that demonstrates how muscle testing is done and its benefits. Some new age career coaches promote muscle testing as a way to help determine if a decision is in alignment with your inner wisdom. This practice can help calm your mind in order to better focus on an important decision. You can use muscle testing to help elicit a true “yes” or “no” answer on whether you should pursue a career opportunity. A sound body helps form a sound mind, and a sound mind helps make important decisions.

Meditation is great way to tap into your subconscious mind, reduce stress and improve concentration. By sitting and concentrating on your breath, you can keep your attention focused. It allows you concentrate on one thing and to block out other distracting thoughts. Once you’re able to sit quietly, focus on your breathing or even chant a mantra (a phrase to help you focus), you can tap into your subconscious mind to reflect on your work-related criteria. It may take some practice but your subconscious mind can help guide you that “yes” or “no” job-related decision.

 

Creating a list of job criteria is one step that far too many job seekers skip. Yes, good pay and benefits are extremely important, but a satisfying career consists of more than pay. Do you love what you do at your job or are you just there to draw a paycheck? Can you imagine waking up each morning and being excited by the work you do? How about the pride that comes with working for an employer who makes a difference in your community? Are you willing to take less pay for a more personally fulfilling job? For example, choosing employment at a non-profit company that directly works with a disadvantaged population, versus employment at a larger for-profit company in the tech sector that may only donate to charity. Your need to make a difference in the lives of others may outweigh superior compensation and benefits. Or you may strive to work at an organization that can provide you with a great salary and the ability to directly help others. We all intuitively know what we want from our lives and how our professional choices will reflect our desires. By developing a list of criteria and tapping in your subconscious, you can choose an employer that will personally satisfy you.

 

If you need or want more help developing a list of criteria, we’re here for you. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a tool to help you with your employer research.

 

3 Ways Being Unemployed, Underemployed and Underpaid Derail Your Retirement Plans

Happy_Retirement by Thomas8047 on Flickr

Happy_Retirement by Thomas8047 on Flickr

No one wants to find oneself unemployed and without a steady salary. The lack of gainful employment is a frightening scenario. How long will unemployment last? How much money is there in savings? What about the bills? What will be paid and what will fall to the wayside? What luxuries have to be cut from the budget? All of these concerns can come rushing at you like a tidal wave threatening to drown you. The consequences of being unemployed, whether it is for the short-term or the long-term can impact your financial future. The same is true of underemployment and under-compensation.

I’ve heard this story too many times, and I’m sure you’ve heard it, too. A woman was denied unemployment benefits and it took her nearly a year to land a job. When she did land, she settled for part-time work while she continued to search for a full-time position. To get by, she dipped into her savings accounts and borrowed money from her 401(k). At first she tried to keep up with her debt, but as the months passed, it became harder to make ends meet. Her house went into foreclosure because she stopped paying her mortgage, she let her credit card bills go, and eventually she had to ask her adult children for financial help. Her situation gradually improved as she found full-time work and made arrangements to save her home and repay her debt. That said, her financial future has gone awry, and it will take a lot of work to recover what was lost. Is there a way she could have avoided her unfortunate situation?

Yes, there are consequences to being unemployed, but there is also a solution. First, let’s dive into how unemployment can affect your finances and your future. Then I’ll discuss the solution and why an investment in your job search can save you tens of thousands of dollars.

 

  1. The short and long-term financial impacts of being unemployed without a salary:

 

When you’re unemployed, you may receive unemployment benefits. These benefits help stave off the immediate concerns of your day-to-day expenses. You temporarily have enough cash to keep the lights on and put food on the table. While you’re out of a job, you can focus on making ends meet. This means you’re no longer contributing to your savings and retirement accounts. Worse, if you’ve run out of unemployment benefits (or you were denied them), you may have to draw upon your personal savings and retirement accounts. If you spend savings before landing a new job, it may be tempting to live on credit. As time passes, the consequences become more severe.

The long-term effects of unemployment can be devastating to your psyche and self-confidence. The toll on mental health are particularly notable. A sustained loss of income can create stress, anxiety, and depression as a person moves from a higher socioeconomic status to a lower status. Depression can also make you physically sicker by increasing the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, job seekers suffering from an increased toll on mental health who had been unemployed for more than 12 weeks had a 70% reduction in their chances of finding a job, versus job seekers who weren’t suffering mentally. Long-term unemployment can also mean that you slowly drift away from your former co-workers and others in your personal and professional networks. A weak network makes it harder to find employment.

On the financial front, long-term unemployment can decimate your retirement funds and send you into a debt spiral. It isn’t uncommon for unemployed older job seekers to borrow against their 401(k) plans to make ends meet. Borrowing against a savings plan, or drawing from your personal savings means you’re pitting your present against your future. In other words, you feed your family today, but your ability to retire comfortably, or at all, is greatly diminished. The longer you’re unemployed and in debt, the harder it is to escape. As some bills are left by the wayside and go into collection, credit scores can drop, unpaid debt goes into collections, and lawsuits are filed. When someone in debt finally obtains gainful employment, they may find their wages garnished by creditors. Some may also discover it is harder to find a job because some background checks include credit checks.

 

No matter what unemployment situation you find yourself in, the anxiety can be overwhelming and lead to decisions based on fear. That leads to my next point…

 

  1. Opting for underemployment:

 

When we are staring into the abyss, there is a powerful temptation to latch on to the closest lifeline. A temporary job, a part-time job, and even accepting a pay cut may provide you with immediate income, but these employment decisions can be harmful in the long run. I wrote about it in my article “How Fear Limits Careers.” Not only are you accepting fewer dollars and benefits than what you previously earned, but it becomes harder to catch up on your salary, savings and retirement. Being underpaid means the majority of your income is going toward paying your current bills and keeping your head above water. There may not be enough money left over in your budget to consider fully investing in your future at the levels you need in order to retire when you want to retire with the quality of life that you’d expect, want and deserve. If you’re a few years away from retirement, it may even be tempting to retire early at the cost of receiving lowered social security benefits. It may seem counterintuitive to wait on a higher paying job if you can immediately land a job that will bring in income, but you are better off waiting for higher pay. Don’t settle for less than what you previously earned.

Once you do secure a job that provides you with your net worth, you can focus on paying your bills, getting out of any debt you may have accumulated and planning for retirement. And, there are ways that you can catch up for the times that you were not able to save, but it isn’t easy.

 

  1. Your financial plans for retirement:

 

If you’ve experienced a bout of short-term or long-term unemployment, the year you plan to retire has to be readjusted based what you can contribute. Most people haven’t planned far enough ahead to consider at what age they’ll retire and how much money they will need. In fact, ignorance seems like bliss—until you find yourself a few short years away from retirement. You realize you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, or you may want to travel. Not being prepared for retirement means you’ll have to spend longer working or get by with less income. Before the day of retirement comes it is worth your time and effort to consult a financial planner. Ask yourself a few questions:

 

A.  How has being unemployed affected my retirement funds?

If you take money out of your 401(k) before the age of 59, you’ll have to pay taxes and penalties on the amount withdrawn. You’ll also miss out on tax-deferred growth you could have been earning.

 

B. What strategy do I need to utilize to get my retirement funds back on track?

Once you do successfully land a job, you’ll need to recover the retirement funds you lost. That means calculating your expenses ahead of your retirement years, putting away as much money as you can from each paycheck, depositing more money in your retirement accounts and scaling back on expenses. MoneyRates.com has an excellent six-step plan for workers over 40.

 

C. Will I be able to retire at the age I want when that time comes?

If you take the time to calculate how much money you need to retire and the age at which you’d like to retire, you may have to rethink your plans. It may not be feasible to retire at 62 based on your funds. Instead, you may have to wait until 65 or older.

 

A financial planner can help you work out a new retirement year based on what you can contribute. But they can also help you determine how much income you really need in order to catch up or retire on time. This is a critical number to have! I don’t know how or why people ever make career moves without it.

Once you have a retirement plan in place that accounts for your lost income, you can go forward with those plans. You may discover you have to make a few short-term sacrifices such as buying a new car, going on vacation every year or even delaying a few home upgrades. (Just make sure you set some money aside for emergencies.) The temporary pain of having to cut back will be worth it when you can afford the retirement you want.

Now that we’ve raised your blood pressure giving you the scary truth, let’s talk about what is in your power to do about it. Hiring a career coach can help yield results from your job search much faster than searching alone. Think of a career coach as an investment and landing a job that pays you what you’re worth as a return on your investment. There is an accepted theory in the field, and I’ve never been able to locate the source, that calculates that job seekers can expect to be in transition one month for every $10,000 worth of salary. Based on this formula, we have helped our clients cut the length of their searches by 50% on average. With a focused campaign that is built upon a powerful personal brand and fortified with an effective social media strategy and activity campaign, you can regain control of your job search. That means creating bidding wars where employers fight for your talent, choosing your employers, earning what you’re worth, and accelerating your income. Our ROI calculator can help determine if you can afford to use our services.

Even if you ultimately don’t use our services, I still strongly suggest working with a career coach. You may have to put money upfront to give your job search the momentum it needs, but it is an investment that pays off in the long run, as long as you choose the right one! If you know of someone who landed swiftly, ask him or her if they used a career coach they can refer. Otherwise, do your due diligence.

Using the services of job search professionals may also be tax deductible, meaning you could regain some of the money you spent on those services. (Check with your CPA to verify. Certain conditions need to exist.)

There are consequences to being unemployed, underemployed and/or underpaid but don’t let fear and desperation guide your actions. An investment in your job search will pay off in the long run when it is invested wisely. Just imagine triumphantly returning to work earning the same salary as before you were let go, or an even higher salary. Imagine being so desirable that employers bid on your talent and you can work at your company of choice. You may have lost some ground on your retirement and savings, but with an accelerated income, you can recover.

 

We’re here for you if you want to sample our services with a free résumé and campaign evaluation: info@epiccareering.com

 

8 Ways to Put Your Career on Autopilot

No Title by Kevin Hale from Flickr

No Title Given by Kevin Hale from Flickr

“If you build it, they will come.” This iconic line from Field of Dreams is powerful. While this line makes for a fantastic movie plot, building a product (or in our case, a personal brand) isn’t enough to guarantee success. You can build your reputation at work as a great employee, but very few people outside of your company will know about your personal brand and all of the great services you have to offer if you don’t advertise. Let’s look at a scenario that outlines how advertising a personal brand can be immensely helpful.

Dan is a brilliant IT Project Manager. His projects are consistently done on time and within budget. He always kept his team motivated and on task. Dan has a reputation for being a clear, concise and effective leader. He always had a great relationship with his employer, but he knew he’d eventually like to move on to a larger company. He was confident in his abilities and knew he could command a higher salary from a new employer. Dan wanted to look for jobs on his own terms. That meant creating a two-way street where in addition to asking contacts within his network for leads, the leads would also come to him. The IT Project Manager decided to create a campaign to advertise his personal brand to achieve those results.

Dan’s job search took the form of an advertisement campaign, not unlike a political campaign. The level of involvement went beyond completing his LinkedIn profile and staying active on social media. Dan made plans to meet and greet influential people within his industry, attend events, and garner name recognition. A campaign allowed him to market himself to potential employers and raise his industry influence. He was literally “running” for his next job! Dan created a website to serve as a hub for all of his social media accounts and used a landing page to acquire more information from his visitors. He began to blog about the difficult problems he faced and the solutions he had devised. On his social media accounts, he shared the content of other influential leaders within his industry. He bought ads from Google in order to promote himself and his achievements in the search results. He attended industry events, volunteered and offered to help others. Dan’s efforts produced a constant stream of job offers, a big boost in confidence and the ability to control his own professional and economic destiny.

In my scenario, Dan was passionate about controlling and advertising his personal brand. Every small and large company advertises their brand in order to promote their services or products, raise awareness about the benefits of their product, differentiate themselves from the competition, and retain their current customers. The same can apply to anyone who’s serious about putting their career on autopilot. How else will people know you are great? A well-advertised personal brand can generate momentum in your job search, more leads and the satisfaction of being better able to determine your job search outcome.

Here are several tactics you can use to put your career on autopilot:

 

  1. Infographics:

Create an infographic postcard and mail it to hiring managers at companies where you would like to work. We offer our own one-page infographic services that can be fully customized to your style, tastes and personality. Once your infographic is developed we can distribute it digitally via social sites like Pinterest or in print. Our infographic can also serve as a training document to teach your network how to develop great leads for you. You want your infographic to convey the value you would bring to a particular company and why you’re the solution to their problem. An eye-catching graphic as a first impression can capture the attention of a potential employer. Combine your infographic with a customized cover letter and you’ll definitely elicit interest in your résumé. The point isn’t to ask for a job, but to bring awareness to your personal brand. Websites such as Zoominfo and Data.com can be used to find hiring managers within companies. I wrote extensively about using websites to find people in my article, “10 Surprising Websites and 2 Secret Places Where you Can Research Employers.”

 

  1. Build and drive traffic to a personal website:

A personal website can serve as a portal for your online identity. It is a simple and elegant way to invite visitors to learn more about you and to connect with you. Links to social media accounts, blogs and a landing page can be added to your website. You can consider creating a landing page to capture information about your visitors in exchange for something such as a newsletter, small eBook (if you have one), or even access to a webinar.  About.me and Flavors.me are great services that can be that can be set up quickly and easily as a landing page or a small personal website.

Once you have your personal website established, you can use Google Adwords to place an ad. When a potential employer searches for you on Google the first thing he or she will see is your personal ad. Set your website as the URL. The space you’re given for an ad is limited, 70 characters including spaces, so your ad needs to be tight and focused. Phi Rosenberg has an excellent tutorial on how to use Google Adwords in his reCareered article. You can use keywords and search terms to target your audience. Alternatively, you can also use Google Adwords to target a hiring manager at a specific company. If you buy the Adwords for their name, you can craft an ad grabbing their attention and direct them to your website. I wrote about how Alec Brownstein used Google Adwords in just this manner in my article, “5 of the Craziest Ways People Found Jobs”.

 

  1. Join a new social media site and connect with influential people:

You may be intimately familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Expanding your presence online and joining new social media sites is a great way to find and connect to a wider audience of influential people within your industry. If you have a person or potential employer in mind, search for them on a new network to see what you can find out. Here are a few suggestions: Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Reddit and Plaxo. And for good measure, if you’re not on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, join those services. Once you’re on those services, don’t just follow people in your industry, share their content and create content of your own!

 

  1. Create a SlideDeck and share it through social media:

SlideDeck is a service that allows you to tell an engaging story that connects with visitors and compels them to take the actions you want. It is a sleek presentation that lets you communicate the value of what you’re selling in an easy and simple manner. Once you’ve set up and customized your SlideDeck, share its content through social media. Start with SlideShare and integrate it into your LinkedIn Profile. Mark Williams has an excellent tutorial. Double check to make sure your network notifications are on so that your connections will know when you share new content.

Now that your SlideDeck has been shared on your profile and your network has been notified, write a status update to ask anyone if they’ve seen it and what they think of it. If your account is linked to Twitter, share there as well. You can also share your presentation through LinkedIn groups. Ask for feedback on the presentation and try to get a discussion going. Sharing with a group gives you the opportunity to create a message, tell people what you’re up to and what you hope to do for your next employer.

After you integrate SlideShare into your social media accounts, you can go beyond just being found by others. You can also search for others on SlideShare, which brings me to the next strategy…

 

  1. Find and follow presenters on SlideShare:

Follow presenters on SlideShare and share their presentations on social media. If they have a profile, find and tag them when you share their presentations. Reach out to three of your favorite presenters. Use more than one method of contact to ensure you actually reach them. Several methods you can use are:

  1. Call on the phone. (This is the best method, but it can be scary for some people.)
  2. Contact them through their social media profile. (LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are the best ways to make contact.)
  3. E-mail. (If your email doesn’t capture their attention it will be ignored.)

Choose two of these methods and prepare your pitch. Tell your favorite presenters that you saw their presentation on SlideShare and explain three things you liked about it. This will open up a conversation to talk more about the industry. Once you have their ear, tell them you’re looking for an opportunity to do X, in a certain organization and that you value their expertise in the industry. Let the presenter know you’ve shared his or her slides because of the valuable information. Also ask them how you can support their professional ambitions.

 

  1. Find and join a professional organization:

Search LinkedIn and find out to which professional organizations the executives in your target employers belong. Go a step further and find out when their events are happening. Some executives may have their groups publicized while others won’t. You’ll have to dig deeper to find those hidden groups. Try checking their biographies on the company website, check their LinkedIn profile groups section, and search for their information on Zoominfo.com. These areas will help show you online mentions for that person. After you identify an executive and his or her professional organizations, go to the website of that organization and browse the event calendar. Attend the event, join the organization and volunteer. Volunteering brings you to a greater level of visibility, and you may even be thanked publicly for your contributions. People are connected to others and an event at a professional group can lead you to more members, one of whom could possibly be your next employer.

 

  1. Guest post on blogs within your industry:

If you blog frequently about industry topics, you may want to try writing for someone else. Target influential bloggers in your industry, approach them with your ideas and ask them if you can create a guest post for their blogs. Posting on someone else’s blog can further expand your audience. You’ll gain more exposure on a platform that already has an established audience. You can also use this platform to build your credibility as an industry leader. Additionally, you can connect with other influential people and have your content shared with their social media followers. Guest posts are also a good way to help out a fellow blogger. These posts provide the fellow blogger with new content and credibility of their own as a destination where people want to guest post.

 

  1. Create a community or group:

Joining a group is one thing, creating your own group is an entirely different beast. Forming your own community is a major step in establishing yourself as a leader within your industry and to promote your personal brand. You can start a group on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or even on your personal website. If you go the personal website route, you can use a discussion platform on your blog such as Disqus, or you can go the forum route with a service like phpBB. Pick a particular niche within your industry that you’re passionate about and encourage others to join. You can help encourage and drive conversations, in addition to having a dedicated following for your content. It’s another great way to show potential employers that you have the ability to lead others outside of your workplace. You can take your community-building further by starting a group based on a personal interest. That professional momentum will be a byproduct of the personal connections you make. It has been said many times, in many ways that more deals are made on the golf course than in the boardroom. This is an opportunity to surround yourself with people with whom you already have something in common, and, therefore, a great foundation for building rapport and synergy.

 

If you brand it, you advertise it. Advertising your personal brand allows you to control the narrative of your job search and to put your search on autopilot. Just imagine the places you can go with a well-advertised brand. You’re constantly active in your industry and you’re one of the first solutions that come to mind when people have a problem. Your brand is visible and you’re a well-known leader within your industry. Suddenly, you’re a valuable commodity on the job market and your well-advertised brand has given you a huge competitive edge. When employers need a new position filled, they want to hire you. You’re a hot commodity and, like a popular and beloved product, people can’t get enough of your talent and your leadership. Just think of the opportunities that will be presented to you, and the greater economic stability and freedom that comes with choosing your next employer because of a strong and well-known personal brand.