By Bob McIntosh, Career Coach
During one of my recent morning walks, I listened to a great podcast from NPR about the seven deadly sins, and like many times when I hear a story, read an article, or see an event; I think about the job search. There are actions, or lack of, that can affect your job search in negative ways. I wouldn’t call them deadly, but they are sins to avoid in the job search.
This is the first sin of the job search. Too often job seekers tell me they are just starting their job search after exhausting their six month severance. At this point they’re living off their unemployment insurance and have a gap on their resume that puts them in the long-term unemployed, or LTU, category.
Studies show that people who are out of work longer than six months have a much harder time landing a job than those out of work for three months or less. For various reasons, employers are reluctant to hire people out of work this long. Don’t wait until your severance has run out; begin your job search as soon as possible.
Ironically, this is one of the seven deadly sins. By this I mean job seekers who have been out of work for many months and still haven’t told their friends, neighbors, relatives, former employers, etc., that they are in transitions. It’s pride that’s hindering their job search because people, who could possibly help, are unaware of their situation.
I understand you may be embarrassed or shameful because you’re unemployed (been there). But most intelligent people know that the economy is still volatile and that layoffs, terminations, and voluntary separations, are a fact of the employment landscape. Give your potential networkers an opportunity to help you.
It is a sin to expect help from others but be unwilling or oblivious to helping others. In fact, helping others first should be your mindset, as help will be returned to you. Maybe not from the person whom you helped, but definitely from someone else. “Pay It Forward” is the mantra.
Kevin Willett, a local business connector in my area, makes it a point of helping people and organizations without expecting something in return. He’s been a guest speaker at our career center more than anyone else. Because of his desire to help as many people as possible, he receives help in various forms from local businesses and individuals.
This sin is particularly evident in job seekers who are given advice on their resumes, social media profiles, networking, interview techniques, and other job search strategies. Whether they feel they’ve done as much work on their documents as they’re willing to, or they don’t respect the opinions of others; they lose out on valuable advice.
I’m thinking of a woman who asked me to critique her social networking profile. As I was addressing her small number of connections, she adamantly argued that in her industry (education) people don’t connect with other industries. She also disputed my recommendations for her Summary. As our hour critique came to an end, I got the feeling she hadn’t heard a word I said.
This sin is characterized as staying within your comfort zone. What do I mean by this? When attending an organized networking event, you stand alone and make no effort to talk with unfamiliar people.You expect people to come to you. You think an opportunity will eventually come to you, and it may; but not as quickly as if you make the effort.
Here’s the secret to going beyond your comfort zone. Act natural and make others feel comfortable. Set the tone for a natural conversation. Don’t feel that the conversation must be about obtaining leads or giving leads. Show interest in others’ personal lives, or talk about current events, your favorite movies, etc.
To brag is sinful, to not promote yourself is also sinful. In my business–career advising–I encourage the appropriate amount of self-promotion. Someone who is too humble or degrade themselves is perhaps worse than bragging. It implies to employers a lack of confidence which results in a poor performance during an interview and, inevitably, no job offer.
Many times I’ll sit with our career center customers to talk about their accomplishments. Without failure they tell me they have no accomplishments. But when I ask probing questions, the accomplishments come pouring out. They don’t like to brag, they tell me. I don’t want them to brag, but I also don’t like them not taking credit for the great work they do.
This sin is unforgivable. People who take from others without expressing their gratitude have used their “Receive Help” card for the last time. Have you helped someone get a job and not received even a verbal thanks for your efforts? Doesn’t feel good, does it?
On the other hand, when I helped someone land a job, I was rewarded with a simple thanks. Some years after he landed his job, I went to his house to collect some mulch we agreed to buy together. After loading up my wheelbarrow, I knocked on his door and asked him what I owed him. He gave me a big bear hug and, in tears, said, “Bob, you don’t owe me a thing. You helped me get a job.” That’s all the thanks I needed.
Although the sins I’ve described are not deadly (Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth), they are detrimental to your job search. Don’t commit the following sins. Act immediately upon losing your job. Let go of your pride. Don’t be selfish. Listen to others. Leave your comfort zone. Promote yourself. And, finally, be grateful.
About the Author
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer at the Career Center of Lowell, where he leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. Bob is often the person job seekers and staff go to for advice on the job search. As well, he critiques resumes and conducts mock interviews. One of his greatest accomplishments is starting a LinkedIn group, which is one of the largest of its kind in the state, and developing three in-high-demand workshops on LinkedIn. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. Please visit Bob’s blog at www.thingscareerrelated.wordpress.com.