Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Other Skills That Will Help You Get the Job: Part 3 of 4 – Accepting Change

A person can have all of the experience and technical skills the company is looking for yet may not get hired if he does not demonstrate strong soft skills. Soft skills are the skills, abilities, and traits that pertain to personality, attitude, and behavior rather than formal or technical knowledge. It is the combination of abilities and soft skills that will set you apart from the crowd.

Soft skills include the following:

Active Listening

Body Language

Accepting Change

Good Attitude

Judi Adams, the founder and senior job search coach at RightChanges, the Affordable and Successful Job Search Coach, will address each of these in the four part series The Other Skills That Will Help You Get the Job.

In part one of the series we covered active listening and how important it is to all of us especially when we are in a job search.

In part two, we covered body language and how important it is to leverage the tool that comprises more than 75% of all face to face communications by monitoring your own body language and reading other’s.

In part three, we will discuss the importance of accepting change.

Change is inevitable and is happening faster than ever before in the history of man. You know this first hand if you purchased any new technology (computer, phone, PDA, etc.). By the time you get it home, the price has dropped and a new version with cooler features is on the shelf.

If you are in a job search, you have experienced a great change in your life; what you do with it is a choice.

First, you have to give yourself time to process the change. You may go through the stages similar to the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Give yourself time to process the loss; don’t suppress it. If you try to shortchange yourself on processing the loss, it will come out at the most inopportune time – like during an interview. After giving yourself time though, you need to get to the acceptance phase to move on.

Required reading for my clients is the small but powerful book “Who Moved my Cheese” by Spencer Johnson M.D. If you have not read it or not read it in the last three months, get hold of a copy and read it. It is about four characters, two mice and two men the size of mice and how each of them reacts differently to change. Which character are you?

I purchased the “Cheese” book when I was on the job market back in 2002. I had heard a lot about the book and knew of several companies that bought copies for their staff before the company went through a major change. I like change (trying different restaurants, traveling to new places, wearing something different) so I didn’t think it would have much to teach me – boy was I wrong. The writing on the wall (you’ll understand that when you read it) that meant the most to me was “What would you do if you were not afraid?” I now “move my own cheese”; the latest example is when I left a lifelong career in Information Technology to start my own job search coaching business.

Do I easily accept all change? No. It is human nature to not easily accept change. Familiarity breeds comfort. This applies to an old pair of jeans as well as to old friends.

When examining a new way to do things, it is human nature to look for any excuse to dismiss the change. But if you think back, there were problems and flaws with the old way too, we have just gotten used to them or found workarounds. We just need an open mind to fairly judge the new way.

In some cases we do not have the option to judge and accept it or not – it just is. For many years to come I will refer to the tallest building in Chicago as the Sears Tower. I will refer to the store on State Street and in Water Tower on Michigan Avenue as Marshall Fields. Sadly, one day people will not know these institutions by their former names though and instead call them the Willis Tower and Macy’s. One day, I will have to refer to these Chicago landmarks by their new names too if I want the taxi driver to get me to where I want to go.

Do you realize the job market changed? No longer do we expect a gold watch retirement and pension after a lifelong career with one company. A fact about the new job market is that your next job (the one you are searching for now) will not be your last. Do we like that fact? Many of us do not. Do we have a choice? No. The Sears Tower was sold and the new owners have the right to name it what they want. The job market changed; we didn’t get a vote on that – we have to adapt to get where we want to go.

Not knowing the realities of the new job market is like walking into a dark, packed warehouse and being told to go to the other side of the room. The room is so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face so you surely can’t see where the other side of the room is and how to get there. Without knowing the room, you will bump into objects and although you are working as hard as you can, you are wasting time and not even sure if you are making progress.

Instead, you have to turn on the lights to the realities of the new job market (good and bad) before you can navigate in it. It is not a pretty place, it is not where we want to spend a lot of time, but we have to know what it is to get through it. If you want to use the old approach to job seeking, you can. It is like using a horse and buggy on the interstate though. You may get where you are going, it will just take you a lot longer.

Many family and individuals were not ready for the sudden job loss and the length of time it takes to find a new job. You need to keep the roof over the head, the car in the driveway, and food on the table. The job loss also has an impact on the family dynamics. I refer to all of these as pressure points. Since all of us will be on the job market again, there is no shame in being unemployed.

There are organizations out there whose sole purpose is to provide assistance to those who need it. In the United States, you would not hesitate to call 911 for first responders if you needed it because you realize that there are times you need assistance that you can’t handle by yourself. We know the number 411, phone number information. In many states 511 will get you information from the Department of Transportation. Dialing 211 will connect you with the United Way and its network of organizations (like the church I attend) to help with many of your needs and mine. Do not wait until the situation is dire because there are more options available the earlier you call.

Just dial 211 and let them know your zip code and the type of assistance you need and they will connect you with the organization that offers the type of assistance you desire. They also offer counseling for those family dynamics that can be strained by unemployment. I give to the United Way so they are there when you or I need them so please contact them as needed.

Learn today how to adapt to change and pursue “new cheese”. Turn on the lights to the reality of the new job market and learn how to navigate in it to get that job quicker. Remember there is no shame in being in a job transition, we all will be at one time or another, so get assistance for any pressure points while there are more options available to you.

Accepting this change is a good step. In the fourth and final part of this series, we will cover the importance of having and maintaining a good attitude in the job search.

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