Losing a job can be a traumatic experience. In our culture, work is not just our livelihood, a paycheck and a means to independence, but also often a way we define ourselves. We may be teachers, actors, marketers, brokers, doctors, or lawyers, each of us doing our part to make a difference in the world. So, when we suddenly find ourselves without a job, our ability to retain a sense of self can be compromised.
But being in-between jobs does not have to spell out doom. While it may be easy to wallow in self-pity and want to disconnect from the world, or on the flipside, want to dive right in to a frantic job hunt, there is another way to move forward. It involves stepping back, taking a breath, evaluating your options, and seeing the unintended break for what it really is – a blessing rather than a curse.
Yes, it’s true -- in the days immediately following job loss, it will be hard to keep a positive perspective, let alone take the steps necessary to keep yourself going forward. And it’s ok to give yourself permission and time to unplug.
But soon you’ll want to toss the negative thoughts that keep you spinning in one place. Easier said than done?
Not if you make a conscious choice to focus on yourself.
Acquiring this perspective requires us to be proactive – to fill our days with activities that will nourish us and sustain us long-term. Yes, some days that won’t be possible – you’ll want to sleep till 1 pm and you likely will. But if all you ask of yourself is to try and do at least one thing a day that’s new or fun and self-focused, you’ll find it that much easier to keep your spirits up through the almost inevitable roller-coaster of job-hunting down the road.
Need some help getting started? Here is a list of ideas to get you moving again that will rejuvenate your soul.
Journal and brainstorm future possibilities
Whether you are a writer or not, journaling is way to connect with parts of ourselves we may have forgotten. Sit yourself down one day with a pen in your hand and see what comes out. For some, it may be feelings. For others, free-flow thoughts about their past or present. Yet for others, it may be ideas about what you would like to achieve in your next chapter. Don’t box yourself in but keep it positive – you may be surprised by what you put down on paper. Perhaps you’ll make some new discoveries…but at the very least you’ll sharpen your penmanship!
Set an exercise goal
Did you always want to join a sports league, run a race, climb a mountain or try a new exercise regimen, but just never got around to it? Here is your chance. When you set a specific exercise goal, you’ll have to create a schedule around it and commit to meet small (daily) training objectives. What better way to get your endorphins pumping and focus on something positive and rewarding at the same time!
Plan a trip
Whether you choose to go far away or just for a weekend get-away, planning a trip can be fun and filled with anticipation of positive experiences. And it’s guaranteed to re-focus your energies and get you out of the house – giving you physical and mental distance that you may need.
Volunteer for a cause you care about
Giving back to a cause you care about is decidedly one sure way to continue living your truth. It’s a way to connect with what’s important to you and to make a difference in your community. And the icing on the cake is what countless research has shown over and over again – giving, whether it’s time, money or skills, makes us feel good. There is no better argument for starting today.
Take yourself out
You may not be feeling up to a dinner, theater, concert, or a movie out. But treating yourself to these small pleasures can be deeply healing – particularly when we get to enjoy them with our partners or friends.
Learn something new
Feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut? Here is a perfect antidote – learning something new -- a language, an instrument, knitting…whatever! Stretch your brain and watch as out-of-the-box ideas start to flow.
Connect with friends and old colleagues
Last, but certainly not least. Lean on your friends and old colleagues for support – they want to be there for you, whether to offer a listening ear, job search advice, networking assistance or simply to share laughs over cocktails. And isn’t it what it’s all about anyways?
Remember the job-hunting days when you would send in a few applications, wait a week and get a call back to come in for the interview? It didn’t require a lot of heavy lifting to make a change. It was a simpler time – but those days are long gone.
Today the process is more arduous. It’s not just a matter of completing a couple of steps – often you will be asked to pass not one or two, but three or four interviews just to make it to the final round. And as a start, assuming you’ve met the basic requirements of the position and your resume has been hand-picked out of a hefty pile, your first conversation with the employer will almost inevitably be over the phone.
Yes. Get ready for the first screen: The Phone Interview.
Perhaps you are not overly concerned. It’s just a quick and friendly chat to say “hello, I am interested”, right? It shouldn’t be a big deal.
Really. But it has become just that. In today’s competitive market, getting the phone interview is in and of itself considered an accomplishment – and as an emotional yardstick of sorts – validating your job searching efforts. Practically speaking, it is the entry point that will lead to further conversations about the position.
Make a good impression and you can start ironing your suit. The in-person meeting is likely not too far away.
But while you dream of knocking them off their feet in your face-to-face interview, here are 6 tips to help you make it through a successful first round.
Most phone interviews last about 30 minutes. It’s not a lot of time to delve deep, but it’s enough time to show the interviewer that you’ve prepared and done your research. You have to be ready to talk about your background and experience without stumbling over your words or sharing inappropriate or unnecessary information.
The interviewer will ask general questions to get to know you and what qualifications and experience you bring to the role. They’ll also tell you about the position. This is your opportunity to get to know them. Doing some research about the company and the role ahead of time will help you formulate the right questions and show that you are eager to learn more.
Statements such as “I’ve read that you’ve gone through a recent reorganization and are looking to fill some gaps. Can you tell me more about your vision for the role and how you’d like for it to evolve over the next couple of years,” will set you apart as a thoughtful and forward-looking candidate.
2. Go over the details
Well, it should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up the details. Did you check the time of the interview? Is it in your time zone?
This is an embarrassing tidbit from my past, but once I called into an interview 3 hours early. Then, having no one pick up, I e-mailed the interviewer to ask if the interview was still on! Guess what? It was. In 3 hours. Pacific Standard Time.
It’s unlikely you’ll make the same unfortunate mistake, but still it doesn’t hurt to double-check the logistics. Check the time. Also, make sure you know who is calling whom. And come to think of it, double-check the name of the interviewer. It’s possible there was a last minute change they e-mailed you about and you forgot to write it down.
3. Find a quiet place
Some of us naturally need peace and quiet in order to think and do our best, while others can take a work call, while drying the dishes, feeding the kids, and writing a novella, all at the same time. Whether you fall into the first or the second camp, when it comes to phone interviews, it’s a good idea to play it safe and eliminate the distractions.
Even if you are a star multi-tasker who has successfully fielded calls in the car or with the kids downstairs watching television, why worry that something might go amiss?
Find a quiet place in your house where you can concentrate on the call. Have a sitter entertain the kids in their play space, or better yet, send them all out for ice cream. Put the pets in another room. Close the door and turn the ringer off on your cell. The landline is always a better bet for important calls, assuming you still have one! If not, find a quiet spot in your house where you can be fairly certain the cell phone reception will not cut out in the middle of the call.
4. Look professional
Think it’s overkill to put on a fancy suit for a phone interview? Perhaps. But sporting a professional look, whether it’s a freshly pressed shirt, a nice dress or pant/skirt coordinates, can make a difference in the way you approach the call. Studies have shown that what we wear and how we look affects how we feel. Want to be perceived as a professional? Then you must dress the part. Surely, you’ll find an opportunity to relax in your new pair of Peter Pan pjs very very soon.
Yes, it’s just a 30-minute phone interview – and less pressure than an in-person meeting – but it’s still significant and, unless you take these kinds of calls daily, likely a bit stress-inducing. Is there something you can do to manage the stress ahead of time, without having to squeeze in an emergency yoga session?
The usual strategies used to lower blood-pressure can do wonders to help calm the nerves, and you can easy do those at home in just a few minutes. Breathe, stretch, or walk around the house before the call and feel your blood-pressure begin to drop.
6. Organize your space
Now that you are in your quiet space, looking sharp and feeling relaxed, is there anything that you may have forgotten? Once you get on the call, it will be handy to have your key documents nearby – the resume, the cover letter, a print out of the job description, and a notepad with any notes you may have jotted down while doing prior research. You’ll likely need a clean piece of paper to write down any new information, and a cup of water in case your throat gets dry.
After all, you want to sound as confident as you can without loosing conversational rapport with your interviewer. This is your 30 minutes to show that you are a good fit – a prepared, detail-oriented, organized professional – ready to take on any challenge!
We all make mistakes. It’s what makes us human. Big or small, those mistakes can usually be corrected provided you are self-aware and motivated to want to change. But it may be harder to correct course when our actions collide with others’ perceptions, opinions, and needs. This is particularly true when we are engaged in a job search – a time when when we are being evaluated and it is imperative we put our best foot forward. A single unintended mistake can cost us an opportunity to get the job we’ve always dreamed of.
There are many times we can make missteps in the job search process – from resume typos to failing to attach a cover letter. But assuming you’ve checked and triple checked your resume, drafted a stand-out cover letter, and have proofread all of the key correspondence, your next challenge is to be ready to knock ‘em dead during the interview.
If you made it this far, you’ve likely met the basic requirements and qualifications for the position. Now is your chance to really shine and stand out from the competition.
Here are 4 mistakes you can avoid making during the interview phase to ensure that you are selected as the top candidate:
1. Being Late and Not Offering an Apology
Everyone knows that the first rule of thumb at an interview is to arrive on-time. Generally, on-time means arriving at least 10-15 minutes early to allow yourself time to get to the right place and be ready to greet your interviewer should they choose to start the interview a few minutes ahead of schedule. Arriving a few minutes early shows that you are organized, capable of managing your time and schedule, and respect the time the interviewer set aside to get to know you.
That said, given your best efforts and intentions, sometimes things happen that are outside of our control. Perhaps you left your house way ahead of schedule but there is an unexpected traffic jam, or a train delay. Or, maybe you got delayed going through security downstairs. And yes, there really could’ve been a small fire in your kitchen!
Whatever the reason, if you are late to an interview, you are probably worried that you’ve hurt your chances. You are right -- it doesn’t look good. But, it is not a deal-breaker provided you are honest, apologetic, and put your best foot forward during the rest of the interview. What’s much worse than being a few minutes late? Appearing that you don’t own up to your missteps, however minor (or unintentional) they may be.
2. Not Being Properly Dressed
This is a no-brainer, right? Of course you know that you must be properly dressed for an interview. Yet, it is surprising how many still assume that “properly dressed” can mean anything other than a suit (and tie, if you are a man).
In this day and an age, there are many companies that have moved beyond requiring traditional attire. In the more creative and entrepreneurial fields, it’s frequently accepted to wear casual (day-to-day) clothes to work. And you may have even heard advice that says that you should try to “match” the style of the workplace when you go on your interview.
This may be a well-intentioned but misleading advice. Leave the “matching” to the time when you’ve already scored the coveted job. While you are being evaluated for a position, it is always best to dress in formal wear.
3. Being Underprepared
It’s important to be confident going to an interview. When you believe in yourself, you are setting yourself up for success. However, sometimes feeling confident (or over-confident!) can backfire – particularly when we underestimate how much to prepare in order to do well.
Confidence and thorough preparation are not mutually exclusive. And in the case where you have to display your value in a short amount of time, they simply must go hand-in-hand.
There is really no way to over-prepare for a job interview. So, if you haven’t already thought through all of the interviewer’s possible questions and your responses, done a mock interview with a trusted friend or mentor, and thought of questions to ask about the company/role, then perhaps it makes sense to consider setting aside some additional time to prepare.
4. Having Body Language that Does Not Match Your Story
You’ve done your prep-work and showed up on time dressed as your best professional self. Now it’s time to share your story. You’ve heard it many times – a good first impression counts for so much. Stay calm and do your best. No pressure!
Even those of us with nerves made of steel, in this scenario, may feel the jitters coming on. It’s normal and natural to feel nervous, and it’s expected. Showing a bit of vulnerability will certainly not take you out of the running and anyone but the most unforgiving of interviewers will see it for what it is – excitement and genuine desire to get the job.
But there is a fine line between looking nervous and appearing inauthentic and it is the latter that you want to guard against. Inauthenticity is a turn-off and others pick up on it quickly when there is a mismatch between your words and your behavior.
There is not much you can do if you are truly pretending to be something you are not. Eventually, and probably sooner rather than later, it will become obvious.
However, if like many of us, you tend to temporarily crumble under pressure, staying aware of inadvertently sending negative non-verbal messages will help you remain in control. Fidgeting, shifting eyes, looking down instead of making eye contact are all examples of poor non-verbal communication – those behaviors may be perceived as signs that you lack the confidence in yourself and your skills. And that is a sure deal-breaker.
Be yourself, know the value you add, breathe and keep composure and you will be sure to shine!