Update: State of mind during the job hunt (Good habits vs. bad habits)

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Thread bump: Now (March 6, 2011), we are running a thread Job recovery? or "statistics don't lie, people do" which alludes to the state of mind of folks as a result of economic recession. I think the info in this thread is still valid and pertinent to the economic situation many folks find themselves in today.

One thing I've only alluded to in all my posts about engaging in an efficient, effective job hunt is the candidate's state of mind and how it affects both efficiency and effectiveness of the hunt.

For most folks, being out of work for more than a few days or weeks is depressing. When the weeks stretch into months and months, the various stresses and pressures attendant with being out of work can trigger clinical depression in almost anyone.

I can't tell you how to avoid depression, but I can tell you some things you can do as a "workaround" to minimize the effect on your job hunt.

I've copied a WIKI list, but most lists I've seen are pretty much the same
A person suffering a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood that pervades all aspects of life and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that formerly were enjoyed. Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.[3] Other symptoms include poor concentration and memory (especially in those with melancholic or psychotic features),[4] withdrawal from social situations and activities, reduced sex drive, and thoughts of death or suicide. Insomnia is common: in the typical pattern, a person wakes very early and is unable to get back to sleep.[5] Hypersomnia, or oversleeping, is less common.[5] Appetite often decreases, with resulting weight loss, although increased appetite and weight gain occasionally occur.[3] The person may report multiple physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or digestive problems; physical complaints are the most common presenting problem in developing countries according to the World Health Organization's criteria of depression.[6] Family and friends may notice that the person's behavior is either agitated or lethargic.[5]
Regardless of following any of my advice on the job hunt, if you recognize these symptoms as affecting you, you should find a way to get some professional help in treating the symptoms.

The symptoms for which I suggest a "workaround" mainly involve these symptoms - thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness.

If you've read through the advice in the threads listed below, you'll remember I talked about
Similarly, job hunting is a job with certain skill sets that make the job easier once mastered.

Here's a brief list of the skill sets I know about. Can you add more? Are you adept in all of them?
  1. Finding or creating job openings which meet your experience and ability
  2. Attracting the attention of the hiring person to consider your candidacy
  3. Writing effective cover letters and resumes tailored to the target employer to enhance your chance of being selected for an interview
  4. Finding and coaching references who will boost your candidacy when contacted by potential employer
  5. Interviewing well
  6. Negotiating a good pay and benefits package when considering a job offer
  7. Overcoming "seller's remorse" when everything about the new job is not what you envisioned
  8. Overcoming "buyer's remorse" on the part of the employer when he thinks you aren't everything he bargained for
  9. Adapting to the different company culture when you arrive at the new job.
  10. Preparing to negotiate a good exit package if, despite everything, the new job doesn't work out.
What is on this list that surprises you? What's missing?
Another item on your list should be assembling help to review your job hunting efforts to assure they are efficient and effective - if you are still looking after six months, nine months, or a year, you may be looking in the wrong places.
The point is: you need a good, experienced, but dispassionate friend who can review the letter and resume for EVERYTHING, including grammar, spelling, tone, content, typography, etc. For some of us, we may have to assemble a "team" to provide all that review. I have repeatedly said, "finding a new job is a job all by itself." All the tools folks use in making their jobs successful are also needed in making the job of job hunting successful. If you need a team to help you, assemble one to the best ability of your field of contacts and pocketbook. In my opinion, if you have a $100,000/yr job and want to move to a $200,000/yr one, you may have to "buy" a career coach who has the skills to help you make that step. If you are currently unemployed and facing eviction, you obviously need to target less expensive career help, but then you probably aren't aiming at the limited number of $200,000/yr jobs, but more likely a position in the REAL WORLD and the expertise of career coaches at the Y or church or unemployment offices may help you get past your current snags.
At any time, but particularly if you are depressed, you should avoid blind ads at all costs.

The important thing is start your research where most folks stop.
Most folks stop when they identify an opening. Then they go "brain dead" and send the same resume and cover letter they sent to 100 other companies.

It's not enough to just know the name of the guy you need to interview with, you need to know something about him, his organization, his customers, and his competitors, so you can craft an application and interview (when you get one) which will go right to the pressure points with your offer to solve problems they may not have recognized they had until you articulate them.

One of the tools you should have prepared is a grid or matrix of your skills, experience, and "attitude." If you've done this right (confirmed by checking with someone you trust who knows you and your abilities and shortcomings), you should trust it and not let momentary or long term bouts of depression sway you into thinking it worthless.
If you want to convince a hirer you are right for the job, you have to be convinced yourself. Any hint you are not convinced puts your resume in the trash.

So, let's hear some ideas on how to determine what a candidate is really good at and what kind of job he's suited for.

My beginning list (not complete):
  • good in school at what?
  • good experience in an industry
  • bad in school at what?
  • good big company experience
  • bad big company experience
  • really good at solving problems
  • take a personality test
  • take an aptitude test
  • ask my best friend
  • ask my boss
  • can relocate
  • can't relocate
  • have some special skill that is in high demand
  • really good at written and verbal communication
  • patient with fools
  • prone to swear at other drivers while commuting
  • lots of "book knowledge" about a subject
  • lots of "practical experience" about a subject
  • have special certifications
  • no special certifications

When we get a good "brain storm" list, we'll create a grid and determine which ones fit where on the grid and which ones apply to the specific candidate we have in mind (not everyone will have the same personal grid.) Ultimately, we will reach a point where we know the real skills and experience we have as "product" to sell. Next, we will identify the "market" (Industry, geography, and job function) where we'll have the highest success in finding a buyer. Next, we'll craft a "sales pitch" (cover letter and resume) to appeal to each buyer in that market. Once we get face to face with the buyer, we craft the "closing" (interviews) to bind the deal. Once we close, just like good Quality folk, we continually evaluate our status with an eye toward improvement.
One of the worst effects of depression I've seen in folks is paranoia that "someone is out to get them."

Throughout the history of these job threads, I've received email, private messages, and phone calls from folks who have slipped into depression during their job hunt in which they accuse me of having some secret ax to grind. When I reply asking what kind of ax, they either just curse or they accuse me of using my superior word skills to humiliate them.

I'm sorry. I can't cure anyone's depression. I don't diagnose and I don't treat; I just try to give workable advice on how to be efficient and effective in the job hunt.

For the record, I don't have a secret agenda. If you are convinced I do, then just stop reading what I write. That way, I can't possibly affect (or infect) you!

If you've read this far, you really owe it to yourself to review these threads
Thinking about a New Job for New Year?

Resume and cover letter - How good are yours?

The Job Hunt - Care and feeding of references

Tips to get past the "gatekeeper" when job hunting

Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

Contracting/Temping - Viable Alternates in Tough Times
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Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Re: State of mind during the job hunt

I'm just catching up on the three newspapers to which I subscribe. In Sunday's NY Times, I came across this article which I've excerpted under "fair use" rules to illustrate the phenomenon which makes the current recession so much worse than published statistics on the unemployed.

The folks outlined in this article are often so discouraged they actually sabotage their own job hunt. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of stopping your hunt just because you are discouraged with your results to date. Maybe you need to set your sights on a different target, or change your research method and have a new set of eyes look at what you are doing so far to give you an honest appraisal of the quality of the materials you are providing prospective employers. Are you focusing on the value you can provide versus the value you expect?
September 7, 2009
Out of Work, Too Down to Search On, and Uncounted

They were left out of the latest unemployment rate, as they are every month: millions of hidden casualties of the Great Recession who are not counted in the rate because they have stopped looking for work.

But that does not mean these discouraged Americans do not want to be employed. As interviews with several of them demonstrate, many desperately long for a job, but their inability to find one has made them perhaps the ultimate embodiment of pessimism as this recession wears on.

Some have halted their job searches out of sheer frustration. Others have decided it makes more sense to become stay-at-home fathers or mothers, or to go back to school, until the job market improves. Still others have chosen to retire for now and have begun collecting Social Security or disability benefits, for which claims have surged.

Rick Alexander, a master carpenter in Florida who has given up searching after months of effort, said the disappointment eventually became unbearable.

“When you were in high school and kept asking the head cheerleader out for a date and she kept saying no, at some point you stopped asking her,” he said. “It becomes a ‘why bother?’ scenario.”

The official jobless rate, which garners the bulk of attention from politicians and the public, was reported on Friday to have risen to 9.7 percent in August. But to be included in that measure, which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from a monthly nationwide survey, a worker must have actively looked for a job at some point in the preceding four weeks.

For an increasing number of people in this country who would prefer to be working, that is not the case.

It is difficult to assign an exact figure, because of limitations in the data collected by the bureau, but various measures that capture discouragement have swelled in this recession.

In the most direct measure of job market hopelessness, the bureau has a narrow definition of a group it classifies as “discouraged workers.” These are people who have looked for work at some point in the past year but have not looked in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available or that they would not qualify, among other reasons. In August, there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began.

The bureau also has a broader category of jobless it calls “marginally attached to the labor force,” which includes discouraged workers as well as those who have stopped looking because of other reasons, like school, family responsibilities or health issues. But economists agree that many of these workers probably would have found a way to work in a good economy.

There were roughly 2.3 million people in this group in August, up from 1.4 million in November 2007. If the unemployment rate were expanded to include all marginally attached workers, it would have been 11 percent in August.

But even this figure is probably an undercount of the extent of the jobless problem in this country. There are about 1.4 million more people who are not in the labor force than when the recession began. Some of these are retirees, stay-at-home parents, people on disability and students. But it is also rather likely that many of these people have given up looking for work at least partly because of economic reasons as well.

Here [some] people’s stories:
Ray Rucker: Feeling Counted Out With Years Still Left
Ray Rucker came home from a job interview several months ago, sat down in his living room with his suit still on and wept.

The meeting with the interviewer had lasted 10 minutes. The man did not even open a folder in front of him to study Mr. Rucker’s résumé. It was just “jibber jabber,” Mr. Rucker said later.

Mr. Rucker, who lives in Overland Park, Kan., had little doubt about what had happened. He is 62 years old and, as he puts it, “I look 62.”

He lost his job as a facilities manager for Starbucks in Kansas City and Wichita, Kan., last November, when the company closed hundreds of stores across the country. He had done similar work for years for other national restaurant chains and retail outlets.

He landed his first interview within a month, with a retail chain. He was invited back to talk to the vice president of operations and to the director of operations. He was also invited to meet with the company’s chief executive.

But as Mr. Rucker was finishing with the director of operations, she asked him straight out whether he was retiring soon. Shocked, Mr. Rucker answered, truthfully, that he planned to work at least 10 more years.

The meeting with the chief executive never came. Mr. Rucker said he thinks his interviewer simply did not believe he planned to continue working.

A month ago, he found a job posting that seemed tailored for him, a facilities manager for a national restaurant chain. He sent in his résumé and three days later got called for an interview. The company official said he was in a hurry to fill the position. But Mr. Rucker soon learned that this one, too, had slipped from his grasp.

“That’s the one when I kind of threw in the towel,” he said.
Mr. Rucker said he was done looking. His wife, who works at a small nonprofit organization, protested, saying there was more he could do to look.

“You don’t know what I’m going through,” Mr. Rucker said he told her.
“You send out so much, and you don’t get responses,” he said. “Then when you get called in, you’re treated like you’re too old. Why am I doing this?”

So he made an appointment with the local Social Security office to begin claiming benefits. He might try to get some kind of hourly job to help make ends meet. He has mapped out some home renovation projects he wants to do.

The Social Security checks will not equal even a third of what he used to make. But he is now preparing for semiretirement.

Jenny Salinas: From a Nonstop Career to a Focus on the Home
Jenny Salinas never envisioned being a stay-at-home mother, taking care of the children and keeping house. She was the one with the high-powered career, the six-figure salary, always jetting off to Russia or China.

She put her 5-year-old daughter, Mia, in day care when she was three months old. Mia got so used to her mother going away she would simply say, “Mommy’s on a trip,” and blow her kisses when she left.

But after searching unsuccessfully since January for a job, Mrs. Salinas, 37, said her priorities had shifted. She is now content to stay home and focus on her family. She and her husband are even talking about having more children.

“It’s just amazing how it changes your perspective on what’s important,” she said.

Mrs. Salinas had been a manager of corporate marketing and media relations at an oil and gas company in Houston, where she lives. She was so focused on her career, she said, that she never noticed her daughter had a lazy eye. Mrs. Salinas’s mother mentioned something to her, but only after Mrs. Salinas was laid off did she realize that her daughter needed to see an ophthalmologist.

“That’s how much I was on my BlackBerry,” Mrs. Salinas said.

Mrs. Salinas was initially confident that she would land somewhere quickly. She seemed to be doing well, too, scoring interview after interview for senior-level corporate marketing positions. But each of those prospects dried up, usually because of a hiring freeze or some other obstacle.

So, for the last two months, she has not looked at all. Partly, she has been busy, selling their old house, moving into a new one they are renting at half the monthly expense, seeing her daughter off to kindergarten.

She is helped by the fact that her husband, a vice president at an advertising agency, still has his job. After the couple realized that her job search might take time, they decided to cut back on their spending.

She has in mind a specific set of companies, but they are all still not hiring. Unwilling to settle for just any job, she said, she would rather bide her time.

But the process of searching for work and coming up empty has also left her feeling spent.

“I was just discouraged, fed up and angry, feeling like my career had betrayed me,” she said.

Her daughter used to be in day care or preschool from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Mrs. Salinas began dropping her off later and picking her up earlier. Some days, they skip day care completely and while away the day together.
I can't even begin to suggest specifically what these folks might do to change the results they've been getting from their job search, but I suspect the major stumbling block is they haven't really explored how their experience and skill sets would provide value to different prospects than the ones they've been looking at.

In the first post in this thread, we broached the topic of making a grid or matrix of those skills, experiences, and aptitudes and then making a matching grid of the target employers who might best find value in them.

Especially in a deep recession such as the current one, I don't understand an organization that would waste time interviewing folks if they don't have a green light to hire someone. My deeper suspicion is such interviews and the excuses given to candidates are a smokescreen to provide "cover" for a favored candidate. One of the points we have made when we talk about interviewing is to assure the job opening is real and tangible. Sad to say, some employers will exploit the desperation of job candidates to provide anything from "cover" for a nepotism hire to corporate spying in order to learn inside data on competitors. Preliminary research could help in avoiding such discouraging time wasters.

One factor which should not be overlooked is whether the cover letter and resume are attractive enough to snare interviews. Once the interview is snared, does the candidate do a good job in demonstrating potential value PLUS ability to fit in with others? Anyone who has been on a number of interviews without scoring a job offer or even a second interview, really needs to get into a role playing session with someone whom he trusts to give an honest assessment of interview skill.

One thing to remember: the job hunt is a JOB! Like any job, it requires consistent attendance and consistent diligence to performing the tasks.

Every one of us has had at least one Monday where we could barely drag ourselves in to work, but we went anyway. Don't fall into the trap of letting the job hunt slide while you take care of some whim or minor chore. Set aside a similar amount of time each day for working on your job hunt and make THAT the highest priority. When that task is done, then, and only then, should you indulge in some recreation or lower priority chore.

The upside:
When these other folks take themselves out of the job market, that leaves some room for you to get in.

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
If you've been out of work for more than six months, you have a right to feel depressed. You even have a right to be actually depressed, BUT, the job hunt is like poker - you can't let the folks across the table know or see you sweat or they will clean you out!

I'm going to let you in on a secret every experienced salesman knows:
"The toughest door to get past is one's own front door in the morning!"

If you are in the job hunt, you are selling a very precious product - YOU! Every feeling and emotion professional salespeople go through in their careers is probably multiplied by ten when you have your own skin in the game.

As some of you know, I have been doing a lot of public speaking for a number of years. As I make the rounds, I meet a number of other professional speakers. It's how I met Deming the first time - we were speaking to different audiences in the same hotel and I snuck in to watch him perform - (he, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less about sneaking in to my presentation on using Industrial Revenue Bonds to help fund an ESOP.)

When I talked to him for about 15 minutes over coffee with a group of his handlers (mostly women) after his presentation, we talked mostly about the issues of public speaking, not either of our presentation topics. Since he was so much older and more experienced than I (and a lot more famous), I asked how he managed to seem so calm and collected throughout his presentation.

He responded to the effect he WAS calm and collected because he knew his topic completely and absolutely LOVED when he could see folks have an "AHA moment" because he knew he had another convert to go out and preach his message.

I've been thinking a lot about how to help our readers here in the Cove have their own AHA moment as they continue their job hunts.

Over the past year, as the job market has gotten tougher and tougher, I still see many folks acting like poor golfers - they keep swinging the same way even when the results are terrible.

All of the best professional golfers go to professional coaches to figure out if anything's wrong and prepare a course of action to fix it. (sound familiar? PDCA?)

So, how do you know you are doing something wrong? Simply, here are some clues:

  1. You send dozens or hundreds of resumes and applications without even a courtesy response from an employer.
  2. No matter how many resumes and applications you fill out, you never seem to get an interview with a decision maker.
  3. Friends and acquaintances begin to avoid you with no time to talk in person or on the phone.
  4. All your cover letters begin "Dear Sir or Madam" because you don't have a clue who is the target you WANT to read your letter.
  5. If you manage to land an interview, you leave the interview without a sure sense of whether it went well because you were afraid to ask the interviewer whether you were still in the running.
  6. You haven't sent out a cover letter, resume, or application to anyone in the past two weeks.
None of these clues alone is a guarantee you are doing something wrong, but it is a red flag telling you to re-examine your processes and procedures with a view toward improvement. If, however, two or three or more of these clues fit you, it may be helpful to have a new set of eyes and ears examine your methods and give you some evaluation. Sometimes, you may have to escalate beyond a coterie of friends and explore counselors or support groups to help you get back on track.

Some questions for the job hunter to work on:
Do I have a trusted friend or counselor to review my resumes and applications for effectiveness? Role play for interview practice?
If not, how can I find one?

Am I working smart as well as hard in my job hunt?
How I do I know? Documented or anecdotal?

It's been a slow weekend, but am I spending more time on my job hunt than watching baseball or football? Is the time I'm spending effective?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
thread bump - see the comment in post one"
Thread bump: Now (March 6, 2011), we are running a thread Job recovery? or "statistics don't lie, people do" which alludes to the state of mind of folks as a result of economic recession. I think the info in this thread is still valid and pertinent to the economic situation many folks find themselves in today.

Jim Wynne

At any time, but particularly if you are depressed, you should avoid blind ads at all costs.

At a time when jobs are scarce and it's necessary to look under every rock in trying to find one, this is bad advice, imo. Certainly there are potential pitfalls, but to exclude an entire category because of them is not a very smart thing to do, depressed or not. There's a common theme through these threads; an assumption that anyone who reads them is some kind of dullard unable to assess risks and possibilities and isn't able to recognize the bloody obvious. Sometimes there are jobs, or leads to jobs, behind blind ads.

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
At a time when jobs are scarce and it's necessary to look under every rock in trying to find one, this is bad advice, imo. Certainly there are potential pitfalls, but to exclude an entire category because of them is not a very smart thing to do, depressed or not. There's a common theme through these threads; an assumption that anyone who reads them is some kind of dullard unable to assess risks and possibilities and isn't able to recognize the bloody obvious. Sometimes there are jobs, or leads to jobs, behind blind ads.
Sometimes folks win the big lottery with a one dollar ticket, but the odds are against them. Similarly with blind ads. I don't know of any blind ad that responds to an unsuccessful candidate except the kind that have some kind of scam behind them, notably, the "we can fix your resume" kind of scam. How does that lead to a real job? The time and energy spent in chasing blind ads is more effective in following the advice in this and other job threads.


Super Moderator

I am curious...

Any Covers who found a decent job through a blind ad?


Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit

I am curious...

Any Covers who found a decent job through a blind ad?

Even more: how many got a response from a blind ad when they were NOT a successful candidate - said response leading to a real job?

As the commercial used to say:
"Inquiring minds want to know!"

Jim Wynne


I am curious...

Any Covers who found a decent job through a blind ad?


Even more: how many got a response from a blind ad when they were NOT a successful candidate - said response leading to a real job?

As the commercial used to say:
"Inquiring minds want to know!"

Believe it or not, there are legitimate agencies out there, and I've personally gotten a job other than the advertised position as a result of responding to a blind ad. In this age of online submission of résumés and applications, there is virtually no time wasted in responding to a blind ad. As far as the job threads are concerned, there's plenty of good and bad advice in them, and as with everything else here, it's up to the reader to sort them out.

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
So, here we are, almost 6 months since the last post and nearly 2 years since the first post. If you are out of work today and have been for the six months since the previous post in this thread, have you done anything to change the methods you were using six months ago? Why or why not?

This morning, I was a featured speaker at a group of out-of-work middle managers who meet at the local YMCA to exchange leads and listen to speakers like me give tips on successful job hunting. I was terribly disappointed to learn some of them had printed one hundred or more identical resumes and generic cover letters which began, "To Whom It May Concern:" which they were intending to drop off to EVERY employer represented at an upcoming job fair being sponsored by a local politician. I threw out my prepared presentation and instead led a seminar about "how to work a job fair." I hope some of them took the points to heart:

  1. target the employers you would like to work for from the list of expected attendees
  2. learn what jobs they have available which you can fill (leaving out desperation jobs like "grocery bagger)
  3. create a targeted resume and cover letter for each one based on your research about the organization
  4. try to arrange a "priority list" of who you want to see, ensure you see those early before they get burnt out
  5. go back to the ones you felt a "connection" with before you leave and thank them again for the time they gave you.
  6. during the interview, ask specifically who will be a "decision maker" on your employment if not the guy doing the interview (sometimes companies just send clerks to collect resumes and they have no insight as to whether you would be a viable candidate or not)
  7. follow up in less than a week with the decision maker to determine if there is more information you can give about the value you can provide for the organization
  8. do more research on the organizations where you felt a connection to be even better prepared for a second interview
  9. spend some time with your group role-playing interviews, based on the combined experience of the group from actual recent interviews
  10. try not to be discouraged at a job fair - rarely do more than a small percentage of candidates at a job fair actually get job offers as a result of the fair, itself; the successful candidates are the ones who follow through with those where they WANT to work and feel they can provide value to the organization
  11. FINALLY, remember nobody owes you a job; you have to earn it!
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