How to banish the anxiety and frustration
Shock and awe.
That’s what it feels like to be told you are losing your job. It’s an almost instantaneous flood of emotions, fear, anger, disgust, shame, sadness. You can’t think clearly, it’s like a bolt gun to the brain before the knife delivers the final cut, exsanguinating you of energy and will.
I know. I’ve been there three times. I also spent nine months on the sidelines after coming back from working abroad. Despite turning around a failing publishing company, I could not seem to get a break.
In the 18 years since, I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the same boat, helping them craft a CV that sets them apart and job hunt in a way that navigates the choppy waters of unemployment to a safe harbour.
Here are 18 things I’ve learned along the way about how to do that.
#1 Be clear on what you want
Nothing reeks more of desperation than applying for anything and everything. It saps your energy because you spread yourself too thinly when it comes to your valuable time. You are also more likely to be less successful, and every ‘no’ can feel like the ancient Chinese torture tactic known as ‘lingchi’ or death by a 1,000 cuts.
You only need one job. Be more like a laser-guided smart bomb than a blunderbuss.
#2 Proof read [sic] your CV
I published a story on here only yesterday, and in it, I said ‘pubic’ sector and not ‘public’ sector. A reader pointed it out. If someone has a pile of 30 CVs to wade through, they will look for any excuse to whittle that list down. Typos are one such thing. I know I’ve done it. After all, if you can’t be arsed to get your CV perfect, how can I trust you get the detail right working for me?
You’d be amazed just how many CVs have typos. Use Grammarly or better yet get an expert to proofread it. What the hell is a few quid? Invest in yourself.
#3 Do check your social media
What does your social media footprint say about you? One of my most read articles on LinkedIn (1,300 views and counting) was about that very topic. Employers will check whether they admit to it or not. I have, and I’ve de-selected candidates based on what I’ve come across. Expect other people to do the same.
#4 Don’t wear the victim t-shirt
Growing up, my Mum used to say, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and your cry alone.” I’ve been royally shafted by people in the past and lost my job, but I refuse to wear the victim t-shirt.
Find some other way of explaining it. Do it well, and the interviewer will get a sense of what happened but is more likely to be impressed by your mental grit and mindset.
No one wants to hire a whiner. There’s nothing so unattractive as a ‘woe-is-me’ story. It will kill your chances stone dead.
#5 Do prepare both ways
Interviews are two-way streets, don’t forget that and prepare accordingly. This is your chance to test if they are the right organisation for you. Nothing sucks your life force more than being in the wrong job and with the wrong company.
I was always suspicious of candidates that didn’t have any intelligent pertinent questions to ask. I’m hiring you for your brain, your wit, intellect, and curiosity. I want you to bring all those things to the job, so show me you have them. Also, it makes you more attractive if I think I have to work to get you because it shows me you value yourself. Don’t confuse it with ego and arrogance, but show me you know why you are good.
#6 Don’t be unfocussed
Job hunting is a job in itself. Treat it like one. So often I’ve heard, “Oh, I’m just going to take a few weeks off, and then I’ll start.” or “Yeah, I do a bit, but then I get distracted, being at home. Where does the day go?
Job hunting rarely goes as quickly or smoothly as you think, and the days can turn into weeks and the weeks into months. Then panic, frustration, and fear sets in. Structure and routine are your friends. Embrace them and set aside time every day to do the work, then play later.
#7 Don’t spend too much time job hunting
This is to be avoided too. I would say three hours a day, tops. The more focussed and organised you are, the more you can get it done and get out to do something else. Often I’ll hear clients say, “I’ve been spending all day job hunting, and I’m so fed up and exhausted. It’s soul-destroying.”
Of course, it is. So get it in, get it done, and get out and do something else in the afternoon. Personally, used to job hunt from 9–12, then check emails at 4:30, and that’s it.
#8 Don’t lose perspective
It’s effortless to lose perspective when you feel helpless and even worthless. We often attached too much of our identity to our job. You can read about why this is a bad idea in my article on how to beat the fear on unemployment.
Keep in touch with family and friends, and make sure you do things with your time that lift you up and elevates your mood. Exercise, getting outside in nature, eating well, and volunteering are all excellent examples. Don’t underestimate the power of these things.
#9 Do stay positive
Cultivating an optimistic mindset is essential. It’s a hard road sometimes, and there will be setbacks. One of the things that separate the resilient person from the un-resilient is their optimistic mindset. Just beware of the Stockdale Paradox.
#10 Do persist
Denzil Washington said, “Without commitment, you’ll never start, but without consistency, you’ll never finish”. That’s why I suggest breaking your day up as I described earlier. That will help you sustain the consistency required.
#11 Don’t bank on ‘The One’
This cost me dearly. You find a job you really, really want. The interviews goes well to the point where they say they aren’t looking for anyone else. “Yes, it’s in the bag, baby!” is what you tell yourself.
Then a week goes by. Nothing. Then ten days, so you follow up. Then two weeks, and suddenly you are no longer so confident. Then you hear something changed and they aren’t recruiting.
Meanwhile, you’ve missed two weeks of job hunting because you got cocky. The real ‘one’, the job that could have been yours, has passed you by because you weren’t consistent. Don’t bank on the one until the ink is dry on the contract. Take it from me. Please.
#12 Do cultivate resilience
Resilience is the ability to deal with setbacks and still achieve what you set out to do. There will be good days and bad. The more resilient you can be the better equipped you’ll be to deal with those days.
Here are 12 ways you can build resilience based on survivors of disasters and accidents, and the ones that didn’t make it.
#13 Do work every angle
Job hunting is an active process, not a passive one. Too often, I hear of people relying on what they see on job sites and boards or LinkedIn jobs. Your future is too important to be left to half-chance and job boards.
One guy I heard off was applying for 300 jobs a day! Three hundred! He believed that ‘spray and pray’ was a good strategy.
Be an active networker online and offline. Write blogs, share ideas and stories, offer to consult for free or expenses. Build relationships. The reality is people give jobs to people they know, like, and trust. Your job as a job-seeker is to build know, like, and trust with the right people in the right companies for you.
When I was starting out in my career, I was told I’d be good at PR. I had no clue what that involved, so I found the name of one of the best agencies in Manchester, Mason Williams, and I rang up their joint MD, John Williams. I got past his PA by pretending I knew him.
Then I asked for his advice. I said, “I’m interested in a career in PR can you tell me what you look for so I can go away and work on it.” He invited me in for a 30min chat.
At the end he said, they might be hiring in a month or so, and would I be interested in applying. I did, and I got the job. I also bagged a date with one of the other candidates.
The point is job hunting is an active process, not a passive one. The more you put yourself out there, the more you get back.
# 14 Give first
Receive later. Zig Ziglar said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” The same applies when job hunting. Provide value, be that in the form of insightful articles, posts, free talks, or suggestions.
Make connections for other people, give people genuine recommendations on LinkedIn and other platforms, online and offline. Comment on their posts and company success. Aim to be known as the go-to guy or girl for value in your sector. Soon enough, you’ll get what you want.
#15 Do have manners
“Manners maketh the man,” my parents drilled into me. Make sure you say please and thank you. It goes a long way. Brian Tracy reckons he could pretty much get by in any country in the world knowing nothing more than the words please and thank you in their language. Be gracious and appreciative; it goes a long way.
#16 Do play the long game
It’s a slow process, so set your mindset for that. Expecting things to happen quickly will set you up for a fall. When I came back from being abroad, I thought it was my Canadian wife who would struggle to get a job. She landed one in two weeks; it took me nine months.
During that time, I experienced bouts of severe low mood bordering on depression. Even if you get a job offer, sometimes it can take weeks. So start now and keep working every day and expect the long haul.
#17 Do be open to learning
Having a growth mindset and an insatiable desire to learn and self-develop is a must. Use the opportunity you have to add to your skills, read more widely, take online courses, try teaching people what you know. It’s amazing how much you learn when you teach other people.
You’ll never have as much time to grow yourself as you when you are unemployed. Don’t waste the opportunity. It will help buffer you against feeling useless too.
#18 Do tailor your CV
Have you got an item of clothing that fits well and makes you look and feel a million dollars? Your CV should make you feel that way too. Make sure every CV you submit is as tailored as it can be to the role you are applying for. It should give you a confidence boost. If it doesn’t, you are selling yourself short. Other people are only too glad to do that to you, don’t do it to yourself.
Which of these would serve you best to do or stop doing right now?
If you found value from this article, please share it with others. It can be dark place being unemployed, but by following these simple things, you keep the light on and the embers of hope burning.
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