Have you noticed how the downturn and recession have become the great new excuse for, well, virtually everything.
You may even find yourself using it frequently. If you’re struggling to find a job, it’s because of “the market” - or if you’re struggling to create sufficient career opportunities, “it’s due to the downturn.”
But having been a recruiter in the 2002 financial services downturn (which was similar to the current market) and now working with a number of recently laid off professionals - I can assure you that your level of success in finding the right job will have less to do with the state of the economy and the job market and much more to do with YOU.
You can sit around all day complaining about the market and the recession - but if you’re not making progress with your job search, stop looking at what is happening outside and take close look at yourself. How are you stopping yourself making progress?
Here are 10 ways that you may be stopping yourself - and what you need to do to snap out of it:
1. Your limiting beliefs
I constantly meet people who let generalisations and talk of ‘market conditions’ get in the way of taking major actions. The “It’s a terrible market, there’s nothing out there” mindset (which 80% of people have from what I can see) does a terrible thing.
You are so absorbed in following the news headlines and gloom-and-doom stories that you’re just paralysed into inaction.
Talking about the problems and lack of opportunities isn’t going to help you achieve any practical results.
Snap out of it. You only want one position, one job - but if you’ve convinced yourself that there’s nothing out there, then you have 0% chance of finding anything, because defeatist thinking just makes you retreat into inaction.
2. Hanging out with the wrong crowd
If you’re spending most of your time with negative people who talk constantly about how bad things are, that will immediately stop you making progress. Because it creates number 1 above -limiting beliefs.
Spend time with positive, open-minded people who are generous in sharing ideas and information; supportive people who you can be open with when you’re having a bad day.
I’m seeing a desire for perfection stopping really talented, bright people in their tracks every day - and it drives me nuts because I can see how they are stopping their own progress.
They don’t send resumes because they’re still trying to get them just right. They don’t apply for roles as they don’t seem 100% right. They are ‘waiting for just the right moment’ before speaking with their boss/contacts/recruiters about their careers or asking for help.
Do yourself a favour: focus on being successful, not perfect.
It doesn’t have to be 100% right - 80% is fine, just send that resume, apply for that not-so-perfect role; have those conversations now, not later. That imperfect resume or conversation will give you much more valuable feedback than tinkering with it for 3 hours on your laptop. It’s a competitive market and those 3 hours could well cost you an opportunity because others have beaten you to a position or conversation.
You’ve lost your job and it’s dented your ego. You feel embarrassed to announce it to everyone. You wonder what people will think of you if you start asking for help, so you decide to lie low and try doing it all yourself. Big mistake.
Listen - and listen very carefully - being made redundant in the current market is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not make you a loser. It does not mean you’re a poor performer. You should be telling everyone - family, friends, clients, counter-parties, vendors. They will be the people who help you when the chips are down - the people who will make calls on your behalf. The people you will lean on for introductions, advice and support.
Or maybe you’re too proud to accept help. You want to do it on your own merit. You feel you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to protect your career. Don’t let your pride (or indeed your ego) get in the way. Maybe you’re too proud to take a pay cut or shift into a less glamorous job or a less prestigious employer. We’re in a very different market now - completely uncharted waters in many respects. So, adjust your expectations and don’t let your pride get in the way.
If a basketball player is scared to take a shot at the basket he has no chance of winning. If a footballer is afraid to shoot at goal - again, he will never score. Fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of looking bad in your job search will guarantee you will not make progress.
But getting rejected, screwing up and having set-backs are part and parcel of job searching - in the same way that missing a shot and looking silly is part and parcel of being a basket ball player or footballer. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re not making progress. You learn nothing about the market and potential opportunities, or yourself, by not having a shot. So go screw up, get rejected and do it with an attitude of adventure and curiosity - that’s how you’ll learn and improve until you find the right opportunity.
6. Being a victim
By this, I mean blaming everything and everyone around you for your situation - the economy, the ‘greedy bankers’, your employers, your clients, your boss, the recruiters and even your computer for crashing at the wrong time.
Being a victim gets you nowhere fast. And it makes you a pain in the butt to be around, so you’re less likely to get help and assistance from people. So don’t go there.
Take personal responsibility by taking a close look at the points in this article and asking yourself how many of these ring true and what you can do to change your own outlook.
7. Knowledge gap
If you don’t know the answer to something - which websites you should be looking at, which recruiters you should be talking to, how to improve your CV/resume, how to become better at interviewing - just do something about it.
The internet and your network of friends and colleagues will have most of the answers you need. You just need to pull your finger out and find out
8. Being disorganised
80% of success in job searching is about successful follow-up. So if your papers are all over the place, you have no record of the leads you’re picking up or who you need to follow up with, your job search will be much tougher as you’ll be losing opportunities all over the place.
Get yourself a simple Excel spreadsheet, A4 pad or little black book and religiously record every lead you get. Then be thorough and persistent in your follow-up (for the perfectionists amongst you - it’s about being ‘organised enough’ to get the work done - not about building the most advanced database system).
9. Having all your eggs in one basket
You have one great job opportunity that you are confident will come off, so you take your foot off the gas and stop looking. Or maybe you’ve been promised an internal move and so don’t see the need to look at anything else.
But relying on one (or two) opportunities is very dangerous in a tight market. This is a market where decision-makers who seem secure one minute can lose their own jobs, banks like CitiGroup that look unsinkable need saving by the government the next month. So you can be assured that their vacancies go on hold, and internal candidates are preferred to external applicants.
So focus on building a pipeline of opportunities. And wait until you have at least a written offer in your hand before you stop looking for alternatives.
10. Hiding behind your computer
Technology is a great aid in the job search process. Using job sites, career blogs, articles on the web and social media platforms such as LinkedIn to help your search should be a big part of your week if you’re looking for work.
But technology is also a great excuse for sitting at your computer for 6 hours a day, telling yourself that you’re working really hard at job searching. Telling your partner, friends and family that “I’ve been working so hard and I’m still getting no interviews” may well convince them, but it does not convince me.
You and I know that you’ve spent much of that time on social emails, a few catch-up calls with ex-colleagues, some random internet searching and maybe some time on Facebook, if that’s your thing. But you’re doing exactly what everyone else is doing - the easy thing - looking for work online. So you’re getting the exact same market intelligence (which isn’t intelligence, as everyone else knows it) and applying for the same roles as hundreds (maybe thousands) of people - and so radically diminishing your chances of getting an interview.
Finding a job in a tough market requires you to come out from behind your computer and get out there, meeting people face to face: recruiters, ex-colleagues, friends, family - anyone who you have a relationship with. And doing it consistently, tracking and following up leads. The quality and depth of your relationships with people (not computers) will dictate how successful your job search is. You do that by getting out and meeting people.
The same thing applies if you’re still working - hiding behind your inbox won’t progress your career. Getting out, engaging face to face with your boss, your peers, internal clients and your own network is far more productive in protecting your role and helping create new opportunities.
It’s very easy to think that you have no control over your destiny in the current market. But that’s really not the case.
You’re not a jellyfish being thrown around by the tides of the economic current. You can very often control where you want to be and where you want to go by taking charge of your job search and your career. You do that by taking control of those elements above that you can control. Alternatively, you can choose to just sit back and be washed around by the market.
What are you going to choose to do..?