Is it wrong to enjoy the holiday season while unemployed?

I posted this article about a year ago and I think the advice is relevant again as the holiday season commences in Australia…

Sad puppyIs it wrong to enjoy the holiday season over Christmas and New Year while unemployed?  Short answer? No!

However, many of us who have gone through job loss – and subsequent search – very often feel guilty if we are not searching for jobs 24/7 even over the ‘quieter’ Christmas and New Year period.

What makes it worse is that we tend to project by saying things like ‘If I don’t have a job by Christmas it may be March or April at the very earliest before I can start work!’ This can be very distracting and demotivating and it constantly plays on our minds even when we should be having some down time and enjoying this wonderful time of year.

My advice – as someone who has been in transition (unemployed) over 2 summer vacations – is to:

  1. Take a break and stop to ‘smell the roses‘ – It is holiday season after all. The sun is shining (well, some of the time) and the kids are on school holidays (again). When you get another job – and you will get another job – you may not have the luxury of such a break again. Therefore, enjoy the time for what it is…Time off.
  2. Do some networking – The summer break runs for around 6-8 weeks and during this time, people who are working are in and out of the office but usually don’t take more than 2-3 weeks leave in one period. People take leave and come back and then others go and return. Logically, most businesses are quieter over this time and in fact some even close down for a mandatory period. This means that if people are in the office they are generally more ‘available’ for networking meetings, are also more relaxed and are likely able to give you more time as well.
  3. Keep busy – Give yourself some projects around the home or things you can do with your family such as day trips or other economical activities. When you are busy, you achieve things (and it’s always nice to tick things off the proverbial list and to feel a sense of accomplishment).

By continuing to network over the summer break, you keep busy in job search and are building a platform for the new year when others who only focus on the visible job market (on-line ads and recruiters) are downing tools, thinking that ‘no jobs are available over Christmas and the New Year.’ You will start 2016 with considerable momentum in your job search and it will ultimately pay dividends.

The guilt aspect of enjoying some time off is ameliorated because you are still busy, albeit in different ways. Having to prepare for, conduct and follow up on networking meetings keeps you busy and on your game, not to mention potentially leading to an introduction or referral that could result in that next great role…

So, by all means enjoy the break and make the most of down time with friends and family, but also be sure to meet with, talk with, engage with…network with others. Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season and new year!

For any help with job search, see my website at www.thecareermedic.com or contact me directly by clicking here.  You may also be interested in my book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which was recently published and is full of practical, no-nonsense job search tips for the over 40s.  You can purchase the book from this link  or directly from Amazon or Booktopia among others.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

Answering the ‘What are your salary expectations?’ question

The following is an excerpt from my new book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which is currently available on Amazon Kindle and will be available in hard copy from the 15th September 2015 on Amazon, Book Depository, Booktopia and Fishpond among others.

If you want an easy-to-read, no-nonsense and practical guide to job search, written by someone who understands job loss and search, this book is for you. Enjoy!

What are your salary expectations (Chapter 14: The Interview #3 Standard Questions and Responses

What are you earning/did you earn in your last job? While the inclination is to add a few thousand dollars onto your pay to get a bigger increase when joining, your best bet is to be honest. In the (unlikely) event you are found out, the employer will understandably be questioning the honesty of all your other responses and, worst-case scenario, could even terminate your employment.

What are your salary expectations? Always give an indication of what your salary expectations are, even if only asked about your last salary. Why? Because what you were earning at your last company may not be the best indicator of your worth.

Fundamentally, the market—or what most companies pay for a role in a particular industry—determines what you are worth.

If you were working for a company that paid low in the salary range and you ask for what you were earning there, you would be doing yourself a disservice. Instead, while in transition you have the opportunity to review job adverts, visit recruiters, study online salary surveys (generally produced by recruiters), network and interview with other organisations, and as a result have the information you need to determine your true worth.

You could respond to this question by saying something like, ‘Given that I’ve been in job search mode for several weeks/months now, I’ve had the opportunity to research the market via job ads, recruiters, salary surveys and other means, and on that basis I’m looking for a salary of approximately [fill in the blank], exclusive of superannuation.’

Thanks for reading about resume-reading software!  If you liked this information, you can receive many more tips and hints on effective job search for mature job seekers by purchasing the eBook on Amazon by clicking here.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

www.thecareermedic.com

The importance of first impressions in job search

First impressions

You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. (Will Rogers)

First impressions are the longest lasting. (Proverb)

 

 

These sayings are very true, particularly when it comes to job search. In such a competitive environment, the impact you make when people first meet you or come into contact with your job search collateral, is critical. Let’s have a look at some areas where you can make a strong first impression in job search and give yourself every chance of progressing through the selection cycle:

Online

LinkedIn is the most obvious online social media.  If you are not on it, the inference may be that you are not ‘up with the technology’ and therefore not a good first impression, especially if someone is wanting to find you or discern more information about you ahead of a meeting or interview.  If you do have a profile, what does it look like? Does it convey relevant details, your strengths, expertise and other facts about you that would intrigue the reader? Or is it incomplete, out of date and stagnant? A complete and detailed LinkedIn profile with a good picture (head and shoulders, professionally attired, looking at the camera, sharp with no distracting backgrounds), a strong headline, a brief outline of your experience, recommendations from others, following companies and participating in groups will all create a good first impression of you professionally.

In addition to LinkedIn, it’s always wise to do a Google search of yourself to see what comes up.  If there’s anything untoward or negative that you would not want a prospective employer to see, delete it if possible and review your privacy settings on social media like Facebook and others.

Resume

Many resumes are too long and devoid of achievements.  A good resume has your name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn URL at the top followed by a brief summary which outlines 4 key areas:

  1. Your profession (e.g. ‘An experienced mechanical engineer…’),
  2. Where you have worked (‘Worked in diverse industries including power and engineering for companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto…’)
  3. Your expertise or skills relevant to your profession (e.g. Computer-aided design using Autocad, knowledge of steel) and
  4. General strengths of the soft or leadership variety (e.g. The ability to work as a member of a team; led both remote and local teams).

A good summary will draw in the reader to want to find out more by reading further into your resume where the detail of jobs held, achievements and development reside.  This summary – like the entire resume – should be tailored to the role you are applying for and encourage the reader to eventually find out more about you at interview!

The interview

There are several opportunities to create a good first impression at the interview…

If you are given the opportunity to choose an interview time-slot, always take the first one (e.g. 9.00 am). Why?  You’d be amazed to discover how often the first person interviewed is the most impressive.  This is borne of good preparation (plus fresh and eager interviewers!) which means the first interviewee becomes the benchmark against which all other candidates are compared.

When the interviewer comes to greet  you, he or she will see you dressed and groomed appropriately for the role, along with a warm smile and greeting and firm handshake (not a ‘wet fish’ handshake as my mother once described the limp, clammy variety illustrated above!).

As you accompany the interviewer to the interview room, the interviewer will no doubt ask some questions of the ‘small talk’ variety, such as ‘How was your trip in today?’, or ‘What did you do on the weekend?’  While only small talk, the interviewer is gauging how you respond both in terms of your social skills and also if there’s ‘chemistry’ and rapport.  Most people like to work with people they like and feel comfortable with.  Don’t be contrived, but engage appropriately during the walk to the interview room.

Once in the interview room and when any further small talk and an outline of the structure of the interview is dispensed with, the interviewer then generally asks, ‘Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.’  This is the classic ‘opening gambit’ and being the first question is your chance to create a good impression.  In this case, you should use a verbal version of the summary you’d included on  your resume, which is matched up to the job you are applying for (e.g. ‘Thanks for asking.  As you can see from my resume, I am an experienced mechanical engineer who has worked both in the power and engineering industries for companies such as…’).  This is great for first impressions compared to most candidates who generally give a potted history of their work experience (or what I call ‘death by a thousand cuts’) and/or personal or family information (which is interesting, but off the mark).  Your positive first impression has been created!

Recruiters

Whenever you see a job advertisement placed by a recruiter and they have provided their contact details, call them!  Many people who call recruiters (and it’s only around 5-10% of applicants) ask droll questions like ‘What are you paying for the role?’ or ‘Tell me about the role.’, both of which are guaranteed to leave a less than favourable impression.  Instead, call with a purpose by saying something like, ‘Hi Paul, my name is John and I’m calling about the mechanical engineer vacancy you posted on SEEK.  I realise you are probably taking lots of inquiries and applications for the role, so I hope you don’t mind if I take a few minutes of your time to quickly introduce myself and to ask a few questions.’  A very different first impression as I’m sure you’ll agree!  As recruiters work in real-time, if they like what they hear, they are far more likely to arrange a chat with you fairly quickly.

Networking

If you are not networking as part of your job search, you should be.  Not only is it great for information gathering, but it also leads to introductions or referrals…From people who were impressed enough with you to provide them!  Is there a better first impression for the person you are going to meet than a strong recommendation from someone else they know and trust? Probably not. You get the idea.

Of course all of the above approaches require thought and preparation. You want to be able to stand out for all the right reasons and knowing that first impressions are critical, ensure you focus on these areas to support job search success.

For any assistance with career coaching covering resumes, interview skills, LinkedIn profiles or networking, contact Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) by clicking here.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s.

How to survive during job search

Surviving job searchJob loss can be traumatic and unsettling.  We are thrown from the familiar and relatively safe environment of busy employment with meetings, reports, travel, presentations and other tasks to a less structured and often lonely time of concern, uncertainty and unfamiliarity.  Not only that, we may harbour feelings of anger and disappointment at losing our jobs and questioning why the decision was made and if we could have done anything to prevent it from happening…

It’s critically important to be able to positively manage your emotions during a period of transition following job loss.  This keeps you upbeat emotionally and also in better shape when meeting with others either in networking or interviewing scenarios.  People like enthusiastic, positive and energised people, but if we don’t make the effort to feel this way, there’s a chance it may count against us during the job search process.

In my experience the financial side of job loss sorts itself out one way or another.  You’ve received a severance, your partner may work, your parents may allow you live with them (probably a last resort for most of us!!), you cut back your spending, cancel the Europe trip or there’s something else that allows you to manage things financially.

“The toughest challenge in job search is to manage what goes on between our ears…The emotional roller-coaster that follows job loss and continues until we find our next role.”

Transition should be a time to catch up, re-energise and indulge ourselves a little.  This provides balance and ultimately helps you to cope and better present yourselves to prospective employers.

There are 4 things you can do to help you cope more effectively during transition:

  1. Job search – I don’t believe job search is a ‘full time job’. 3-6 good quality hours in a day, with the option to take a day off occasionally is far more productive. It’s easy to waste 8-10 hours in job search if it’s not structured and focused (How easy is it to click on a few other websites when scanning job boards?). Keeping busy by sending off applications, conducting networking meetings, going to interviews, meeting your career coach and recruiters all represent positive and productive job search activity.  When we are busy we don’t have time to wallow in self-pity.
  1. Time with partner, spouse, friends and family – We invest a lot of time at work and work-related activity, therefore, being ‘between jobs’ is also a good time to reconnect with those we love and those closest to us. Have lunch with your wife, catch up with old colleagues, pick up the kids from school or travel a few hours to visit that uncle you’ve not seen for several years….All these activities allow you to have fun, be positive and enjoy someone else’s company which in the grand scheme of things is often of far more real value.
  1. Time for yourself – Do you like to paint? Do photography? Ride on steam engines?  Jump out of planes?  Visit museums or art galleries?  Something else you really enjoy which allows you to switch off and to savour the moment?  Great!  Then schedule time during the week to indulge yourself!  It’s important that you not feel guilty when doing these activities!  You deserve the time off and it provides great balance.
  1. Exercise – If this is not included in point 3, add it to your schedule! It has been clinically proven that moderate exercise a couple of times a week releases the so-called happy endorphins which reduce feelings of sadness, melancholy or depression. Don’t believe it?  Give it a go and see for yourself!  Make exercise a part of your ‘between jobs’ schedule!

As you jump back aboard the corporate hamster wheel, the opportunity to enjoy many of these activities is missed.  You’ll start to work long hours again, travel, bring work home etc. etc.  Weekends again become ‘too short’ and the opportunity would have passed you by.

Life is full of regrets, so don’t let this happen to you!  Instead, let your head hit the pillow every evening, knowing you’ve had a productive and enjoyable day – with another to follow.  This helps during your journey to your next role.

If you require assistance in career coaching covering topics such as resume preparation, interview skills, fear-free networking or the development of a LinkedIn profile, Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) can assist.  You can contact Paul by clicking here for an obligation free chat to see how he can help you in job search.

How long will I be unemployed?

How long will I be unemployed?When we lose our job, our first concern is usually:  ‘How long will I be unemployed?’ closely followed by How will I pay the bills if I’m out of work for an extended period of time?’.

You hear all the terrible statistics, how bad things are in the economy and how difficult it is to find a job, but what is the reality?  

What variables will impact my ability to get my next job?

Those most conspicuous to job seekers:

  1. Profession – Some professions are changing and others are simply disappearing.  Many managers used to have a dedicated Personal Assistant…Today, such resources are either shared among several managers or are done without.  Other professions disappearing include printers, production workers and roles in call centres and first-level IT support which are increasingly being off-shored to more economical locations.  If you are in or have come from a declining profession, you may want to look at undertaking some self-development and moving to a new profession based on newly-learnt and/or transferable skills.
  2. Industry – Think retail and the impact of on-line shopping. Automotive, mining, aviation, IT and manufacturing industries are also seeing headcount reductions.  You may need to look at other related industries as options during job search and again looking at the transferable skills you have.
  3. Age – If you are very young or of a more ‘mature’ age, you may find yourself in job search longer.  Those over 55 can expect to be out of work around 72 weeks on average.  You can’t change your age and the fact is, people within organisations may discriminate against you based on your age, albeit indirectly.  If that’s the case, you don’t want to work for those companies! Fortunately there are many others who would welcome your skills, professional experience and wherewithal.
  4. Location – If you live outside a major city you are likely to find it more difficult to get your next role.  There are more jobs in major locations (and of course, more competition) and very often, smaller towns rely on one or a few large employers to provide jobs.  If they go, the jobs go too…In that case, you may want to consider (5) below.
  5. Mobility – If you are prepared to move to find work, then understandably you cast your net further and the chances of finding a job are logically increased.  The trade off may be disruption to family and disconnection from established social networks so this does not work for everyone.
  6. Gender – Generally the unemployment rate for women is higher than that for men.  Similar as age, if a company discriminates based on gender, then they are reducing their available pool of candidates by 50%…Not a smart business and one you probably would not want to work for anyway!
  7. State of the economy – If there is ‘confidence’ in the economy, spending increases and businesses are more buoyant and look to grow and hire more staff. Even in down times there are still jobs available, and those who go the extra yard will get the job ahead of the passive job-seeker.
  8. State of mind – If you stay upbeat, positive and enthusiastic, despite the setbacks faced in job search you will move to your next job sooner.  You will be able to confidently convey your skills, experiences and knowledge and do so with the right frame of mind.  Needless to say, negative people are their own worst enemy in job search.  No one wants to hire Eeyore the pessimistic, negative character from Winnie the Pooh!  Unfortunately, I regularly see mature job-seekers create their own barriers in job search by verbalising things like, ‘No one would want to hire someone my age.’  Think it and it will be!
  9. Personality – If you are shy and introverted (or at an extreme ‘socially phobic’) then generally you may find it takes longer to find your next role. This is simply on the premise that you find it harder to ‘get out there’ and to perform well in interviews as well as tapping into the ‘hidden job market’ via networking.  Don’t miss the opportunity to use networking as a key part of your job search.  It does not have to be uncomfortable or awkward, but rather treated as a business meeting which most of us are familiar with.  Also remember that most people you meet WANT TO HELP YOU, so this should further allay any concerns.
  10. Time of year – Generally you won’t find a lot of jobs during the summer holiday season.  Frustratingly, there always seems to be excuses ‘not to hire’ at certain times of the year (e.g. Easter, before/after the end of the financial year and so on).  While there are fewer jobs, there are jobs available and it’s also a great time to network as recently returned or yet-to-leave hiring managers will have more time and inclination to speak with you.
  11. Full or part time – We’ll potentially see more part time and casual jobs in the future as companies become less inclined to hire (commit to) permanent full-time employees. However, at present, most jobs on the market are full time and suitable part time jobs are challenging – but not impossible – to come by…It’s all about creating the need in the eyes of the employer and getting into the market via networking!
  12. Educational level attained – While it’s tough to get any job, generally the less well-qualified you are, the more difficult it is to find another role.  In saying that, most employers are interested in the experience and skills (value) you bring to the table rather than educational qualifications alone.
  13. Currency of skills – You may have skills, but if they are no longer in demand then you will find less demand for them.  You may be great at manning the toll booth on the motorway, unfortunately these skills and also the role have been superseded by technology.  However, as a toll collector you also have great skills with customers, cash handling and reconciliation, and technology among others…Where else can these skills be put to good use?  Get out there and find out!
  14. Self-development – If you are willing to ‘go back to school’ or to undertake other development (to up-skill or pursue another vocation), you logically give yourself more chance of landing a role that you want.  It’s a case of one step back to take two forward…
  15. Luck – Yes, that’s right, luck, L-U-C-K!  Very often job search is about being in the right place, meeting the right person at the right time.  You can create your own luck in job search by getting out from behind your computer and meeting people!  The more people you meet, the more information you discover which may potentially lead to a new role.  Very often, companies don’t have time to advertise jobs or place them with recruiters, with the result that they ‘get by’ being under-staffed (with concomitant impacts).  Put yourself out there in order to be found!

Unemployment is a fact of life and affects many people. The way you address  and respond to your period of unemployment is critical in determining how long you will be out of work!

In my experience you will give yourself a significantly greater chance to land your next job in a shorter space of time simply by being ACTIVE in job search.

Don’t be passive, slouched over your computer sending off applications to already over-subscribed jobs or harried recruiters. Meet up with a few good recruiters, but predominantly get out and meet people (networking) and structure your days and weeks to incorporate high quality job search (along with some balance to spend time with family and friends and to plan time for yourself).  If you do these things, you can effectively counter a lot of the variables mentioned earlier and be able to move into your next role sooner.

Click here to contact Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) who can help you in your job search and offer guidance on how to get your next role sooner including resumes, LinkedIn profiles and interviewing.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

The #1 thing holding back job-seekers

Out of work unemployedI have had the good fortune to work with over 500 clients who are or were going through transition in the last few years.  As a result I’ve seen what makes some people successful in job search, while others remain out of work for extended periods.  I’ve also experienced job loss and search myself on 3 occasions and on one of those spent 8 months out of work, so I can speak on this topic from a personal perspective as well.

The number 1 thing that holds job-seekers back from success in search is themselves.  Not the market, not hiring companies, not recruiters, not the economy, not Human Resources, not the government, not the time of year, not your career coach or any other thing we can easily place blame on.  It’s us.  Now that’s not to say the other areas don’t play a part because clearly they do. But in terms of priority, we take the lead; we have pole position when it comes to success in job search.

When we are frustrated and not getting anywhere in job search, whether that be invitations to interviews or job offers, someone or something else is conspiring against us and keeping us from getting a job.  We tend to forget about or overlook the fact we are not 100% focused on a thorough job search and we spend more time feeling sorry for ourselves and doing anything else but job search because it makes us feel depressed.  The number of times I have had clients say they are ‘doing everything’ to find a job when in fact they are doing far less than everything is staggering…

I recently met a client who was so despondent and immersed in self-misery at his unemployed status he was belligerent.  I could tell that he blamed me (among many other scapegoats I’m sure) for his situation. But guess what?  He’d pretty much given up!  He had sent out a few online applications, done some networking (within the same circle of contacts) and now that he did not have a job after 5 months the world was ending!  I am not making light of his situation, but the point is that it was all of his own doing. He CHOSE to put himself in this frame of mind and surprise surprise, he was not getting any results or even progress in job search.  If he does not change his mindset and approach, I have no doubts he will spend many more months out of work…

During my 8 months spell on the sidelines, I became so despondent I never thought I would work again such was my state of mind and sense of being self-defeated.  I look back on this now and feel slightly ridiculous although the feeling was very real at the time.  It was easy to shift blame and feel like I had done everything to get a job.  The truth was, I had not done everything to land my next job.  After numerous negative experiences and let downs, I simply slumped to an emotional low point and it all became too difficult.

Most job-seekers suffer through several rounds of rejection and don’t want to have to face it again.  Why put our hands in the flame once we have been burned?  We then revert to ‘safe’ or passive job search approaches via online job boards and withdraw from interacting with others, despite the fact this is proven to be the most productive way to find a job.  Any distraction that takes our mind off the negative feelings associated with job search and unemployment becomes imminently attractive.

So, Mr Know-it-all career coach, what is the answer?

There is no easy answer, but if you are feeling down-trodden and defeated, YOU need to pick yourself up off the canvas and YOU need to get busy.  Not just busy with more online applications sat behind your computer in the safety of your home, but busy with activity in ALL facets of job search, namely:

  • Online search – Use LinkedIn, SEEK, Indeed.com and others.  Simplify your life and set up and save searches for your desired roles.
  • Recruiters – Establish relationships with 3-4 good recruiters you have been referred to and who operate well within your profession or industry.  Engage with recruiters you have met, have being interviewed by and who ‘get you’ and are therefore able to better market you (while appropriately representing your brand).
  • Networking – Get out there and meet people!  Learn about their companies, their jobs…Explore how they hire people and what sort of people they are looking for.   Outline your skills, experiences and achievements appropriately.  Ask for referrals to meet others and continually expand your network.  Most jobs are found via networking so you should spend most time here.  Not only is this practical in terms of finding work, but it is also a great way to stay busy, meaning there is less time to feel sorry for ourselves…
  • Balance – Dedicate several quality hours to job search each day, but also balance your time with friends and family as well as time for yourself. Once you start back at work – and you will start back at work – you will have less time for those close to you and any hobbies, pastimes or interests you have.

Persistence is critical.  If you go days, weeks or even months without a job, stick at it.  While I wanted to slap people that said that to me during my lengthy transition, it is actually true.  You get up each day and go again.  You don’t give up and you don’t throw in the towel.  You get up and get busy!  You are sending off applications, meeting recruiters, networking, learning new skills, going to interviews, spending time with your kids, getting fit and so on and so on.

No one can ‘do’ job search for you.  No one can go to an interview, attend a networking meeting or call a recruiter for you.  You may ask your mother or spouse, but hopefully they will decline and give you the kick in the rear-end you need (I have had some clients jokingly ask if I could attend an interview with them which conjured up images of me crouched behind them in the interview room whispering answers to them!).  However, career coaches can work with you to provide further skills in job search techniques that can facilitate your job search.

It all comes down to YOU!  So stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there and represent yourself in the best possible light.  You have the skills, experiences, knowledge and insights no one else has and which organisations want, but without relevant effort and promotion, they will never know…

For assistance in all aspects of job search, contact Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) by clicking here.   Paul provides services around resumes, cover letters, interview skills, and LinkedIn and fear-free networking.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s