Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What May be Keeping You Unemployed

The job market is tough; there is no argument there. We are in a recession like no other in recent times. People are getting hired every day though, so what may be keeping you unemployed?

As a successful job search coach, I see mistakes people make in their job search that keeps them from finding and landing that job; mistakes that fall into three major categories. No, it is not the format of their resume. It does not help if the resume is not eye catching – that’s not one of the biggest mistakes though. It is not a lack of available jobs; there are millions of jobs out there. Here are the three categories of mistakes that can keep a talented, professional, and experienced person from getting a job. The good news is there is something you can do to correct these mistakes.

Mistake 1 – A Bad Attitude

At the moment you get called into the boss’s office and hear the words “I hate to say this but….” or realize that the job you are in is not working anymore, you are encountering change and a type of change most people do not enjoy.

You must allow yourself time to grieve. The stages of grieving for a job loss, whether by your choice or not, is the same as the stages of grieving for the loss of a loved one. Humans are made to go through these stages, although different people go through them at different speeds and in a different order. If you do not allow yourself time to grieve, your grief will come out at a later time and it could happen at a time when you really don’t want it to, like during an interview. You have to set a deadline for the grieving process though because you want to get to the last stage, acceptance, and then begin to move on and look forward to the opportunity that awaits you.

You may need help for pressure points. You need to keep a roof over your head, the car in the driveway, and food on the table. There are organizations out there whose sole purpose is to offer assistance to those who need it. There is no shame in being unemployed (read July’s article: The Truth You Need to Know but May Not Want to Hear”). Therefore there is no shame in asking for assistance; do not hesitate to reach out for help if you need it and do not wait until it is too late because if you do your options may be limited.

If you do not address attitude, it will come out in your body language, your word choice, or the energy you need to do the job search.

You may have heard that only 7% of your communication is verbal. That means 93% is non-verbal. While looking for the job, your mouth may be saying “I’m great! Hire me!” yet your body or tone may be saying “I don’t believe in myself, so why should you”.

Imagine a person who is slouching with a hand on the hip, eyes rolling, with a smirk on the face saying in a dramatic tone “Yes - I’m thrilled to be here”. Do you believe he is thrilled to be there? No. You trust his body language and negative tone more than the words he is saying. The same is true with you and your body language. Body language is the most honest and spontaneous form of communication. Your body may betray you if you do not have a positive attitude.

Words can betray you as well. Did you know the words “but” and “why” have negative connotations? If someone tells you “I agree with you but….” it really means “I don’t agree with you”. The word “but” negates everything said before it.

The word “why” also has a negative connotation. When you ask someone why she did something, she will feel you are asking her to justify herself. If you asked instead the purpose behind the action, it feels less personal; it is focusing on the action instead of the person. If your attitude is not positive, you may unconsciously use negative words.

A bad attitude can also drain the energy you need to conduct a successful search. The job search requires a fulltime effort and there is a lot riding on its success. You will probably find yourself out of your comfort zone when it comes to talking about yourself, getting out and meeting strangers, making calls to people you do not know yet need to talk to, and you will hear several no’s or worse a lot of silence. If you start with a negative attitude, you start in a hole that is hard to get out of.

The idea of “fake it ‘til you make it” does not work in a job search. Remember that attitude is a choice. Give yourself time to grieve; get to the point where you are excited about looking for that next opportunity; and be sure to get help for pressure points so your way is clear to concentrate on the job search.

A list of resources to help develop a good attitude can be found in the Resource section of RightChangeJobSearchCoach.blogspot.com.

Mistake 2 – Not Knowing Your Competitive Edge

Your new job is as a salesperson. You are selling your skills, your experience, and your abilities to the buyer – the hiring manager. There are some amazing sales people out there; it takes a certain personality to enjoy the hunt for leads and the victory in the close of the sale. Whether you like it or not and regardless of your career, you and all job seekers are salespeople while in the job search.

You cannot successfully sell an item, for instance a computer, unless you know how it works and what makes it better than the competition’s computer. You can’t get a job unless you know how you work and what makes you better than your competition. (See the April article: You Have to Know You to Sell YOU).

Starting your job search by updating your resume is like creating a marketing brochure and users’ manual for a product you know nothing about. Most job seekers and even some outplacement companies start the process by updating the resume and going from there. You, instead, should inventory your skills, abilities, interests, accomplishments, and more. Hiring managers can’t figure out why they should hire you if you don’t know and communicate it.

A list of resources to help you identify your unique skills and competitive advantage can be found in the Resource section of RightChangeJobSearchCoach.blogspot.com.

Mistake 3 - The Wrong Approach

When talking with job seekers, I often hear the frustration they feel when they do not hear back from the many applications they submit on-line. The problem is they are doing it wrong.

To understand how to do it right, there are some numbers you need to know about available jobs and success rates by approach.

Did you know that 85% of the jobs are not even posted? This is referred to as the hidden job market. “Why would companies have jobs and not post them?” you may ask.

1) Companies do not want to tip their hand

a. Take the case of a job that has a limited number of slots within a company such as a CIO (Chief Information Officer), the head of Information Technology, where there is only one per company. If a company is about to fire their CIO and wants to hire the replacement first, the current, soon-to-be-fired CIO might see the job if the company posts the position.

b. A company may be about to launch a new line of business. By posting positions for the new skills needed, their competition could be tipped off about their intentions.

2) Companies do not want a flood of resumes
For every job you see posted, so do thousands of other people. Too many people apply to any job that is posted with the misconception that it will get their foot in the door (by the way, it doesn’t work). Instead of opening themselves up to the flurry of unsolicited phone calls and flood of unqualified resumes, the company instead uses other approaches, such as employee referral, to get qualified candidates in the door.

There are other similar reasons a company does not post the majority of the positions they have available.

Now let us look at success rates by search approach.

• Less than 10 % of job seekers find their jobs by applying to ads in the newspaper or posted on the web.

• Less than 15% of people find their jobs through working with a recruiter. First, recruiters are not getting the percentage of job orders they did before the launch of web job boards. In addition, the recruiter’s customer is the company, not you. Recruiters want to present the best applicant to the company but they don’t really care if it is you or me. That is leaving your job search in the hands of someone whose primary interest is not you.

• Over 75% (some quotes are up to 95%) of people find and land a job through networking and it is through networking that you will find the hidden job market.

Given these numbers, you can see for yourself that you should spend the majority of your time networking. It is okay to use all of the approaches for a total of 100%; you need, though, to allocate your time proportionally. Note: In a future article RightChanges will include tips on networking and how to make the most of your network contacts.

If you are frustrated by the silence you hear when you apply on-line, get up from your desk, and go network!

As a job seeker, assess yourself in these three areas. With a great attitude, knowledge of your competitive advantage, and networking, you will greatly increase your chances of getting that next job.

For other articles and tips on being a successful job seeker, go to RightChangesJobSearchCoach.blogspot.com. Check the archives for a full list of the topics covered.

Judi Adams
The Affordable and Successful Job Search Coach


  1. "Given these numbers, you can see for yourself that you should spend the majority of your time networking."

    I have a question. I live in a rural area and the nearest suburb is 30 miles away. That suburb is at the farthest reach of the Chicago Metro area. So i am definitely in the wilderness. However, my job skills as a seasoned IT strategist and consultant for Fortune 100 executives use to place me in the center of metro areas, expenses paid, across the country. Where I lived was a non-issue.

    Now that I am unemployed - physically networking with limited resources is cost and time prohibitive. Writing to friends, family and business associates only goes so far, i.e., you run out of leads.

    What other forms of networking can i use to tap the hidden job market?


  2. John, There is an additional challenge when you are not in the heart of the action of the major city. However, you still have a big network.

    You have everyone that lives in that town with you. You would be surprized who knows who.

    You have all of the people you have ever worked with before in town and out of town. I was a road warrior in from 1998 - 2001 and someone I met in Canada helped me network into a contact in GA.

    Many industry networking groups hold webinars (seminars via the web) and they have everyone introduce themselves as they come onto the line. Make note of the names and reach out to them individually.

    Volunteering is a great way to network and you will feel good about helping others.

    In Chicago you have Crains business periodical to read about what is happening in business in town. Read it and reach out to people who are making news in your industry.

    You may need to go into town occasionally for the target rich meetings. Make the biggest use of those occasions.

    Happy Networking!

  3. As a volunteer at a career transition group near Dallas, I see bright, well educated people languish for months in their search. They seem to carry an unconscious I'm-not-ready-to-work-yet aura while still exerting the proper effort to find a job.

    Is this part of the grieving process? Do I say something to them or let nature take its course?

    Blane Cox

  4. Blane,
    First I want to say thank you for volunteering at the career transition group. You are being part of the solution. I admire that.

    I know exactly what you mean with the "I'm-not-ready-to-work" aura.They probably do not realize that their body language and attitude are giving off that message.

    I would suggest at one of your meetings you have someone speak on attitude and processing the job loss.

    One of the points I hit home when I speak on the topic is that there is no shame in being unemployed. Look around the room. There is usually so many talented people at a job networking meeting you could create a company with just the talent in that room. I have all of my clients read the book Who Moved My Cheese.

    Secondly - they need to understand the job market changed on them. We didn't get a vote.Not only are they on the job market now, they will be on the job market again (see my article The Truth You Need to Know but May Not Want to Hear). Their job now is to set a time limit on the grieving and to then put their energy into learning how to do the job search correctly.

    God has a plan for them; a plan that will prosper and not harm them - a plan that gives them hope and a future.

    Sadly some people will be like Hem from the book and choose not to move on. The only thing I know to do is pray for them.

  5. Blane & others,
    On this site I have listed books for people who are struggling with attitude. Most of these books can be found in local libraries.

    As Blane pointed out, job seekers are sabotaging their own job efforts if they don't address attitude.

  6. Blane,

    I also volunteer at similar fuctions and it's sometimes difficult for me to "bite my lip" and not try to "fix" their issues.

    Most of these job seekers are doing the networking / seeking activities without any real experience at selling themselves. Often these people have been in jobs where they performed "tasks as assigned" and have never looked at themselves as a salesman or a marketing rep. We need to give them the guidance that "The Coach" pointed out and see if they grow into it on their own...when they're ready.

    But if I have "repeat" guests coming to our meetings...people that are just "circling and not landing", I'll talk to them about their attitude and their new roles in "selling themselves". The job search today is not like it was in our parent's time...and it's not like the Dodgeball games we played at school where everyone lined up and someone picked you for their team without knowing your skills and strengths. Today it's a smile, a positive attitude, a visible passion to excel, and a clear desire to "be all you can be" to that prospective employer. Help them see it in themselves.