Uncertainty about anything can bring on fear, lack of motivation, and anxiety.
But what if that uncertainty was directly related to your ability to pay your bills, feed your family, or provide other basic essentials? You might want to just crawl under your blanket until it all goes away. Unemployment can be paralyzing, but it doesn’t need to be and you can’t afford it to be.
Jumping into the job market can already be a terrifying experience. The whole process lends itself to you being “judged.” It all starts with your resume, right? So let’s break it apart from an employer’s standpoint – starting with the top. Your name. Just by looking at your name, employers are making assumptions. Male or female, race, ethnicity, cultural background…the list can go on. Moving down on your document, we can continue to determine your age, where you live (is that a good area or not?), and your college experience. How do you match up to other applicants based on where you went to school and the grades you received?
See what I mean? I’ve only read the first 1/8 of your resume and I’ve already made judgements about your race, gender, age and intelligence.
Now here is the thing. It can be good judgements or bad. It all depends on the person.
Currently the unemployment rate is over 11%, but many sources believe that due to inconsistencies with the survey, it is actually much higher. Last month, as the rate was near 15%, an article in Forbes came out called “Don’t Be Fooled By Official Unemployment Rate of 14.7% The Real Figure Is Even Higher” due to the way that the questions were asked.
The fact is that we are not really seeing the light at the end of the unemployment tunnel, and, quite honestly, if more states start to pull back again on re-opening due to another surge – we may not see that improvement for a very long time.
But my message to you isn’t about that. The job application experience is not changing, and maybe the number of opportunities out there seem dismal, but I’m here to urge you to see that regardless – you are not helping yourself by hiding under that blanket. We can live for the excuse because it’s easy. It allows us to avoid judgement or engaging in an uncertain time commitment. Why apply when I’m NEVER going to get the job? Should I even bother reaching out for a job when I’m sure there are many other people out there that are more qualified?
Of course there are people who are more qualified or times in which you will be overlooked for an opportunity, but you will ALWAYS be unemployed if you do nothing.
I’ve been in career services for over 9 years now. I’ve seen what really works and I’d like to share with you the most effective ways to apply and put yourself out there in the job market.
1 – Check Your Attitude
It always starts with your attitude. If you jump in with a negative attitude, expect a negative response. Right now, we should all be eating humble pie. Grateful for a job if we still have one, humbled for any opportunity or connection we can make. At one point you may have expected a particular type of job or salary – but now we should be okay with that looking a little different. There is always time to move up, and that job may lead to other connections or provide a safety net of finances while you continue to look for another position. We can always learn something.
2 – Be Politely Aggressive
Spending hours each day on your computer completing online applications is one way to send someone spinning into misery. It’s just not effective. You are spending close to an hour importing your data into a company system that will run an algorithm to see if you check the boxes to meet the key word search. Cross your fingers and hope you make the yes pile against the other 1000 applicants. It’s a passive form of an application where you are hiding behind a screen and not showing the company who you really are as a person. I coined the term “politely aggressive” to explain that when you are in the job search, being aggressive is taking action (or ownership) in combination with that attitude part I mentioned before. Online systems give you no ownership of your outcome. You are filling out a form.
Look at it like this. You see a job on LinkedIn. It looks like something you would be interested in, and you notice that there is an easy application system where all you have to do is click and your resume and data gets imported into their system and you officially apply. So you go for it.
Click, click, type, type – done.
On to the next job right?
Wrong. Go back to that job. Click on the company. Who do you know that works there?
Ah shoot, no one. Okay – on to the next one.
Wait. No. Don’t give up. Be aggressive. Look at who works there in the area that you are applying.
It looks like this one contact went to my alma mater. Another one is a first connection with my uncle. I don’t know them personally – I’m sure they won’t be able to help me.
You won’t know unless you ask.
Call your uncle. Send a message and make a connection. The few moments it takes to put yourself out there and politely ask for help and recommendations from successful professionals can potentially change the trajectory of your career. Go around the electronic system and take control of your destiny.
This same idea applies when you send an email, text or make a phone call to someone who you want to make a connection with. Not just with LinkedIn.
How do I know this works? I’ve heard it time and time again….
I met this great person at a wedding that said I should call them about a position that may be opening up…
I sent an email to a friend of a friend and asked to set up a time to chat about the company she works for – she offered to send over my resume to HR!
Or in my case..
I requested a meeting from the current Dean of Students and VP of Student Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, PA while I was just a low-level intern, and after a 5 minute conversation where I asked him for his advice in my job search process, connected me to a VP of Student Affairs that he mentored over at St. Bonaventure. St. Bonaventure happened to be getting ready to create the “next generation” career center to better prepare students with professional development programming. Those 5 minutes changed my life. What if I was too afraid to ask? (Thank you, Dr. James Evans!)
This brings me to my final thought.
3 – Get out of the box
In this time where it feels like everything is completely upside down and that nothing in this world is the same, stop trying to think that the job search process would be the same either. Yes, we all need to make money. Get a job to make money – but if that doesn’t make you happy – work on developing your skill set at the same time to make you more marketable for other opportunities in the future. Learn another language, volunteer (yes, you can even do this remotely through dosomething.org) or take a free online course.
This also comes into play when we think about our misconceptions of people. Take me for example. If you read my title, you would obviously see that I have connections in higher education, career and student development. These are things that you are assuming about me. What you may not realize is that I also have a great deal of connections within the medical field due to my work with Physician Outlook.
You don’t know who other people know. So talk to everyone. Share what you are passionate about – what you hope to achieve with your career – humbly ask for advice or recommendations.
Closing : Where to go from here
My heart is saddened by the levels of stress and anxiety that unemployment has placed upon the lives of so many individuals. It’s a real thing. My hope is that these recommendations will provide a way to rethink the job search process and express to you how you can stand apart from your resume – because you are much more than words on a paper. Make them see it.