Battling Job Search Burnout

January 5th, 2018

Job search burnout: the struggle is real. Even when the job market is booming and unemployment is low—in fact, ESPECIALLY when these conditions are in effect—an extended job search can be morally, financially, and even physically exhausting (ask any anxious person who hasn’t slept in a few days). After a seemingly endless series of rejections or disappointing feedback from disinterested employers, it’s natural to start looking around for other ways to spend the day, and if job seekers don’t recognize the signs of burnout, they may be tempted to simply stop looking for work and abandon the process, regardless of the consequences.

But giving up isn’t the answer, especially if it means a stalled career or remaining trapped in an unrewarding job that adds no value to your career. Before you’re overtaken by burnout, recognize the signs and fight back.

Don’t be relentless.

If you berate yourself for every minute that you spend awake and not looking for work, stop doing that. The job search is NOT a full-time job, counter to what you might believe. Set aside one hour, or four, or 30 minutes every day to work on your resume, and when that period ends, pack it up. Recharge your battery, turn your attention back to your current job, or spend time with friends and family.

Drop the pressure or you may be tempted to drop your standards.

If you’ve decided that your job search is a “failure” after a month goes by and you don’t have a new gig, the artificial deadline you’ve imposed may push you to make desperate decisions, and desperate decisions are rarely smart decisions. Don’t accept an absurd commute, impossible hours, or a salary that’s less than you deserve. Settle in for a long climb; you’ll get there when you get there. You won’t get there at all if you panic, give up, and accept a job you don’t want.

Get help from a recruiter.

If you feel like you’re getting tired and losing the energy and optimism you had at the beginning of your job search, it may be time to seek help from an expert outside source. An experienced, established recruiter with wide and deep connections in your industry and your geographic area can help you find and impress the employer who’s looking for you right now just as urgently as you’re looking for them. In the meantime, your recruiter can help you polish your resume and your pitch until they’re tightly targeted to your ideal opportunity.

Contact our Cleveland County career management experts at PSU to learn more!

Jump Into 2018 With a Plan

December 15th, 2017

The new year is appearing around the bend, and every time the clock resets and the confetti rains down, we all get a chance to start over. It’s a time for new begins, a time to let go of our past mistakes and move forward with our hearts set on better decisions and a brighter future.

In the career management world, this tends to mean one of two things: Either you’re leaving your old job behind and searching for a new one, or you’re buckling down and redoubling your commitment to the job you have. Either you’re facing a transition and 2018 will bring you into a new workplace, or you’re looking for ways to reengage with your current role and bring new passion to your daily tasks.

In either case, the STAR goal-setting system can help. During the remaining days of this year, star putting together a plan based on the STAR acronym and you’ll cross the threshold into next year with your path laid and your ambitions blazing. Keep your goals:

Specific

Instead of setting countless ambiguous goals like “Become more proactive” or “Start Self-Promoting”, try shortening the list and keep each item concrete and specific. Instead of becoming “more proactive”, set your sites on the specific actions you plan to execute each day. Try: “Send out five resumes each day, 25 per week”, or “Contact three network connections by phone each week”. If your plan emphasizes engagement at your current job, try this: “Ask for feedback twice each week” or “Ask to be assigned to the Jones project”. General efforts toward self-promotion might include: “Send out three manuscripts each week to potential agents” or “Start a blog and post one entry per week.”

Trackable

Measure your progress toward your goals as you move through the year. And if this seems impossible, adjust your goals so you can attach numbers to your definition of success. If you’d like to make more sales, track your increased cold calls and presentations. If you’d like to land more interviews, start with your baseline (four per month, for example) and raise that number to five.

Achievable

Unattainable goals are a fast track to discouragement. No matter what you decide to do, break your large goals into milestones, and make sure each milestone isn’t so ambitious that it’s unrealistic. If one of your milestones feels like a stretch, break it down into two or three smaller ones.

Relevant

Keep every step of your path focused toward a realistic and meaningful vision of yourself and your career. Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you forget the larger picture and get lost along the way. For more guidance as you lay out your plan for 2018, contact the career management experts at PSU.

Damage Control: Turn Your Mistake Around Quickly

November 17th, 2017

So you made a mistake on the job. And this time, your blunder wasn’t a minor typo or misunderstanding that could happen to anyone; it was a big deal. A really big deal. You have no easy excuse, since this blunder really was your fault and you passed up at least one opportunity to prevent it from happening. You also have no advocates rushing to your defense, since your teammates and coworkers don’t share culpability and may not even fully understand what went wrong. You’re alone, you screwed up, and you have nobody to blame but yourself. So what now?

Here are a few ways you can turn this epic crash landing into a long-term win for your career. All hope is not lost, but you’ll have to take a few critical steps—and you’ll need to take them now—if you intend to make a graceful recovery.

First, be patient.

The road back from a blunder like this will probably be long and winding. Don’t expect instant results and instant forgiveness, no matter what you do. Plan for the long term, and set a reasonable expectation. For example, you may not put this entirely behind you and return to a new normal within the next month, or even the next year. Settle in for a long climb.

Second, think about others around you.

Did your mistake hurt anyone other than yourself? Did you make someone else look bad? Did you compromise someone else’s career prospects? Did your blunder put someone’s life or health at risk? Did you undo hours or years of someone else’s hard work? If so, gather your courage, face this person (or people) and set things right. Own what you did, apologize sincerely, and if you don’t know how to get back what the person lost, ask.

If you lost your job, don’t sit still.

It’s easy to give in to despair if you find yourself happily employed on Monday and home in the middle of the day on Tuesday. But don’t wallow. Talk to a legal expert if you may have been treated unfairly, and again, if you hurt someone, do your best to set things right. Start putting together a job search plan and as you sell yourself to prospective employers, be ready to explain what you learned from this incident and how it helped you grow. You’re not a bad person, you just made a bad mistake. This incident does not define you. Give yourself one day to brood, then get moving.

For more on how to keep a workplace mistake from creating long term damage to your career and your life, turn to the Cleveland County recruiting and job search experts at PSU.

Remove Your Own Productivity Roadblocks

October 20th, 2017

If you’re like most of us, when you try to identify the obstacles standing between where you are and where you want to be, you don’t see other people. No specific person is trying to hold you back. You don’t see physical obstacles; there’s no actual wall between you and your next great job. And you probably don’t see any financial or practical obstacles that you can’t overcome with a little time, patience, and compromise. But here’s what you probably do see: yourself.

You want to get something done, but you can’t. Not because you’re literally locked in a basement, but because you’re locked in the basement of your own mind. And you aren’t exactly sure how to get out. If this sounds like you, here are a few steps you can take that will help you break out of your self-imposed prison and get back on the road to success.

The paralyzing power of excitement

Believe it or not, sometimes the work that excites us the most is the hardest to actually do, especially in the earliest stages. Stop and think for a minute. Are you spinning your wheels and staring in the fridge because you can’t move forward, or are you spinning and staring because you’re overwhelmed by the possibilities in front of you and you’re afraid you might mess up? The most exciting potential outcomes often send us straight into wheel spinning purgatory because of—not in spite of—our level of interest in them. If this describes your situation, recognize it. Don’t be afraid. Just tackle the first step and you’ll be on your way.

Are you hungry, thirsty, hot or cold?

Is something else bothering you, something unrelated to the work at hand? Give yourself five minutes to attend to that need. Take some aspirin if your knee is acting up, put on a sweater if you’re cold, and eat something if you’re hungry. If you have a bad conscience, apologize. If there’s a draft blowing on you, move your chair. If you need some data you don’t have, take steps to obtain it. Then get started. No more excuses.

Find a role model.

Sometimes it helps to watch another person sail over a hurdle that seems too high. Just watching this happen can unlock hidden gates in your mind and unleash a dose of inspiration and guidance that can be refreshing and energizing. Identify someone in your life who can—and often does—approach such obstacles like a horse flying over a fence. Watch that person in action.

Make a list.

Big projects seem less intimidating when we break them down into bite-sized baby steps. So take your big project (“plan industry conference”) and break it down into smaller and smaller tasks until the one in front of you is so small that you can complete it in five minutes. (“Call Steve to determine conference dates”).

For more on how to overcome the mental obstacles and bottle necks that are holding you back, contact the productivity and career management experts at PSU.

Can You Handle Workplace Stress?

September 5th, 2017

When employers sit down with a candidate, they’re typically interested in answering questions that can’t be addressed by a resume review. They want to see how well the candidate communicates during a spoken conversation, for starters. And they’d like to learn a little more about the candidate’s plans for the future and the things that motivate him or her to excel. They also want to ask questions that can help them assess the applicant’s readiness for the challenges of the job.

Since most jobs offer some element of stress, you can expect your interviewer to ask you— directly or indirectly- how well you’re likely to manage these elements. Here are a few things to keep in mind when the conversation turns in this direction.

Don’t just say “great” and move on.

If your employer asks what seems like a yes or no question, don’t just answer yes or no. Of course you’re amazing under stress; lots of people are. But what are some of the specific moves and habits that help you keep your cool? Talk about these moves. What steps do you take when your plate gets overloaded? How do you answer when you’re asked to complete a task you can’t accept? When you fail, how do you respond and what do you do next?

Tell a story (or two).

People enjoy receiving information in the form of narratives and stories, and studies show that when we’re told something in the form of a story, we remember the details more accurately. So instead of just explaining how you keep your legendary composure when the pressure’s on, tell your interviewer about a time when this actually happened. Search your memory and choose a meaningful situation—Your employer won’t be impressed if you were stressed by a circumstance that most people wouldn’t find flustering. Then explain the challenges you faced, how you navigated them, and how the story ended.

If you have a system, explain it proudly.

Having a system— or a defined set of actions and principles you deploy when things get tough— can make a few things clear to your employer. First, if you’ve had time to develop complex coping tools, it means you’ve had real experience in the workforce and real experience with pressure. Second, your willingness to develop a system, stick with it, and work out the kinks can demonstrate patience and perseverance. Third, if your system is unique and personal, it demonstrates the self-knowledge and self-awareness that wise employers value.

Focus on the big picture.

Your industry may or may not involve saving lives, but you’ll gain points with most employers if you know how put pressure and high stakes into perspective. Explain how your response to stress isn’t just about you— No matter what comes your way, you always maintain a cool head and keep the needs of others in mind, including customers, coworkers, and stakeholders.

For more on how to ace tough interview questions and during your interview, turn to the Cleveland County job search experts at PSU.

Just Doing Your Job is a Hazard to Your Career

August 21st, 2017

Here’s a piece of wisdom that most employers and career counselors won’t tell you outright as you step into your first entry level job: Doing that job—even doing it well—can actually be a hazard to your long term career prospects.

More specifically, the hazard lies in jumping up to do as you’re told and then checking out when your assigned duties are complete. If you fulfil your job description and faithfully execute the commands of your boss, and then go back to playing games online, your future may be in more trouble than you recognize. Here are a few reasons to keep yourself busy when you haven’t specifically been handed any tasks.

You’re still in school…sort of.

You won’t keep this job forever. This place, your desk, and your current boss will all be in your rearview mirror within about five years, and probably much sooner than that. But while you’re here, you have a unique opportunity to learn volumes of information about this business model and how your industry works. Take advantage of this golden moment to pack your head with information and pack your timeline with life experience; at this stage, questions of all kinds are encouraged, and mistakes are typically tolerated—but that may not be true ten years down the road. Ask for new projects, ask for feedback, and ask for exposure to other departments. Don’t do it as an obedient servant of the company; do it to give yourself a career advantage that can last for decades.

Impressing your boss can’t hurt.

You don’t need to stay late or complete work without getting paid (think twice before answering work emails at midnight). And apple polishing to impress your current boss may land you a nice letter of reference but not much more over the long run. So don’t go too far and don’t compromise your dignity… But do recognize the value of a friendly face in the industry and a positive relationship built on trust. A nod of approval from your current boss won’t transform the ladder of success into an escalator. But it certainly won’t hold you back.

Invest now, collect later.

A few extra miles, a few long nights, a few stressful peak seasons, and a few run-ins with utter burnout won’t cost as much now as they might later on. So face these challenges head-on while you’re young, ambitious, and able. If you have extra energy in your tank, dedicate it to your job. Years from now, other priorities may pull your attention away. But right now, if you can, do.

For more on how to make the most of your entry-level position and use it to launch your long-term career, turn to the Gastonia career management experts at PSU.

Not Hearing Back After an Interview?

July 3rd, 2017

You put everything you had into your interview. You practiced beforehand, researched the company, chose your outfit carefully, and created a perfect elevator pitch. And on the day of your session, you did everything right, from your eye contact to your firm handshake to your thank you note sent within 24 hours after the meeting. But weeks have gone by and you still haven’t heard back from you interviewers. What should you do next? And how can you prevent this from happening again in the future? Keep these tips in mind.

Accept that the job wasn’t a fit.

If you brought your best game to the interview and your employers just weren’t interested, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong. But if weeks have passed and you haven’t heard a peep, it’s safe to say they weren’t impressed. So let them go. The lack of connection lies on their side of the table, not just yours, and when a spark isn’t there, it just isn’t there. Forget about these employers and focus on the next opportunity. Stay in motion.

If you see a pattern, change your strategy.

If this is your first interview and you’re being brushed off, it’s no big deal. But if this is your fifth interview session and you’ve receive the silent treatment five times in a row, something’s wrong. You may think your interview performance was above reproach, but after repeated responses that all fit the same pattern, it’s time to recognize that you’re saying something, sharing something, or doing something during your interviews that’s sending up a red flag. Try talking over your approach with a friend or mentor; maybe a second pair of eyes can help you see what you’re missing.

Boost your qualifications.

You can’t go back in time and switch your high school grades from C’s to A’s. But if you’re pursuing jobs that don’t align with your qualifications, you’ll face headwinds during the job market. Be patient. For example, if you majored in chemistry but you’re looking for marking jobs, you’ll find a match, but it may take a while. In the meantime, consider taking night courses or doing some volunteer work that can help you increase and show off your business skills.

Change your target.

While you work to boost your skills so they better align with the needs of your target employers, consider changing those target employers. Maybe you’re looking for jobs in the wrong places, or setting a bar that’s a little too low, and maybe you’re overqualified for the types of jobs you’re pursuing. To fix the disconnect, aim a little higher.

For more on how to speed up your job search and win over your interviewers, reach out to the Charlotte career management team at PSU.

Small Gestures that Make a Big Impression

June 2nd, 2017

Your interviewer has an important task to complete within a limited time frame. So when he or she makes a hiring decision, only one part of this decision will be based on pure numbers and measurable data. The rest will be based on instinct, gut feelings, and the lessons of past experience. In other words, when you’re trying to impress an employer, your resume will only take you so far. To cover the remaining distance, you’ll need to generate an intangible sense of reliability and likeability. You’ll need to make the interviewer feel interested in you and excited about the idea of working with you. Here are a few small moves that can make a big difference.

Interest is a two-way street.

To spark another person’s interest in you, show interest in them. In this case, you’ll need to demonstrate genuine curiosity about the job and the company and express real—not fake—engagement with every word your interviewer says. Keep your eyes focused and your ears open. Don’t treat the interview like a pop quiz or a grilling session. Treat it like a fascinating conversation.

Stay cool.

There’s a fine line between interest and desperation. Keep in mind that you’ll hold more cards if your interviewer knows you have other options, and your cover will be blown if you’re ready to perform like a circus dog in exchange for a bit of approval. When you speak, speak calmly and quietly. When you sit in a chair, occupy the entire chair, don’t perch at the edge. When you’re asked a question, think and remain silent for two full seconds before you speak. Your interviewer will wait.

If you don’t know something, that’s okay.

Don’t bluster and sputter. If you’re asked a fact-based question and you don’t know the answer, just say so. Don’t apologize, just state your truth and move on. On the other hand, if you’re asked to solve a problem or think through something, give the answer an honest and reflective effort before you hand the floor back to your interviewer.

Dress thoughtfully.

Wear a standard, pressed interview suit if you choose, but if you’d like to go the extra mile, put some thought into your outfit and dress in a way that matches what you know about this company and its culture. For a more relaxed organization, skip the suit and opt for pressed khaki slacks and a buttoned shirt or a skirt-blouse-cardigan combo.

Be honest.

Honesty during a job interview is refreshing, memorable, and rare. If you were fired from a past position, just say so and explain why. Describe what you learned from the experience and express an interest in putting the episode behind you.

For more on how to leave a lasting impression during your interview, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing professionals at PSU.

What Makes You Unique?

May 19th, 2017

As you draft your resume and attend interviews with potential employers, you’ll be making one thing clear: you’re a great match for the available position. You have the skills, experience, and temperament that the job requires and you’ll probably get along well with your supervisors and coworkers. But you’ll also need to make a second case: you’re not just a good fit for the job, you’re a BETTER fit than any of the other candidates in the pool.

First you’ll have to explain that you can provide what these employers need. Then you’ll have to explain that you can offer something the other candidates can’t. The first case will be comparatively easy to make. The second one might be a little harder. Here are a few moves that can help you succeed.

Offer a few requested extras.

Most job posts provide a list of required credentials (like a master’s in accounting, five years of experience, or a willingness to work night shifts), and they also offer a few “pluses”, or skills that can help a qualified candidate stand out. If you happen to have any of these extra bonus traits, don’t fail to mention them directly in your cover letter and resume summary. Use the exact language you see in the post, in case your employers use these terms in a keyword search.

Highlight areas of overlap.

Most of the candidates who apply for your target job will hold the required credentials. But if you can offer all of these must-haves plus a few qualifications that aren’t specifically mentioned on the list, be sure to point this out. For example, your company may be looking for marketing experts to help with a product rollout in Brazil. If you have the required marketing expertise, that’s great. But if you also happen to speak fluent Portuguese, you’ll quickly move to the top of the list.

Show off who you are, not just what you can do.

You may have the skills to execute the job, but if you also have the personality and the personal experience to blend in well with this company and its culture, your employers will want to know. If you feel a unique connection to this business model or your company’s target clientele, tell your story. Explain how you have the personality and the background to shine in this environment.

For more on how to grab your employer’s attention and gain an advantage over your competition, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing and job search experts at PSU.

Do You Have a Great Work Ethic? Prove it!

April 3rd, 2017

Most managers want to know three things about their candidates: Can they complete the tasks assigned to them? Are they pleasant and easy to get along with? And finally, will they work just as hard for the company as they would for an endeavor in their personal lives? In other words, will they throw themselves into their daily efforts and treat company success and personal success as if they were the same thing?

It’s not exactly easy to convince someone that you “work hard” or that you are “a hard worker”. We all use that term, but we don’t all agree on what it means. For some, it means an employee who stays at the office till midnight. But for others, it means someone who leaves at 5:00 sharp after accomplishing a long list of goals. How can you prove to your interviewer that your work ethic is above reproach? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Know what the term means to you.

You can’t read your interviewer’s mind, so don’t try. Have your own definition of “hard work”, and your definition should be fixed and clear. You should be able to describe it to someone else, and you should know exactly how far your own actions fall from your ideal. If you believe hard work means staying late, that’s fine. If you believe it means trying again and again until you achieve a goal, fine. If you believe it means giving up quickly and revising your strategy, that’s fine too. Just know exactly what a “work ethic” means to you.

Tell stories.

Apply your own definition of the term, and tell a story (or stories) that illustrate your sense of hard work and determination. Tell your interviewer about the time you stayed in the office late to accomplish a specific goal. Or tell them about the time it took you a week to complete an important task because you wanted to do it flawlessly. Or describe the time you accomplished ten incredible feats during one five-hour workday. Start at the beginning, explain the circumstances and the challenges you faced, and talk about how you overcame them and triumphed through the power of hard work.

If they share their own definition, listen.

Listen to your interviewer and read their non-verbal cues. If they’re unimpressed by your definition of hard work (working extra hours), and they seem to place a higher value on leaving early after multiple accomplishments (efficiency, strategy, and focus), tune in. Change your tactic and emphasize stories and anecdotes that showcase your ability to get things done.

For more on how to show off your talents and pitch your skills during your interview, contact the Cleveland County job search and career management experts at PSU.

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