Career Advice Few People Follow (but Really Should)
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Statisticians and CFA® charterholders will agree that, generally speaking, the larger the sample size, the more trustworthy the conclusion. As a headhunter I see many different approaches to a fairly confined set of circumstances: the people I engage with are 1) content but open to a change, 2) dissatisfied with their work situations, or 3) currently unemployed. Needless to say, it becomes endlessly more complex beyond that point, but we’re thinking macro today.
Here are three quick suggestions for your next job search that I often pass along to my contacts but, thanks to human nature being what it is, are rarely adhered to. This isn’t me being bitter; instead, it’s to help keep you from making mistakes that everyone else will be prone to make, thus giving you a competitive edge or at least preventing a disaster. All of these suggestions come from real world, sometimes painfully learned, experience.
TAKE IT SLOW IF YOU ARE LET GO
Being involuntarily released from a job is emotionally traumatic and a life milestone, whether it stemmed from external circumstances or not. Honor that impact by taking a break. Your first instinct will be to reach out to your most promising contacts and job leads, but that will be the worst thing to do. You will be more focused on what happened rather than what you can do for your next employer and how smart that employer will be for hiring you. Appearing desperate is never helpful. People who want to help you will feel pressured and eventually avoid you. Others who are less engaged will consciously or subconsciously wonder about what they don’t know.
Instead, after being released, stay away from the phone and LinkedIn for several days. Allow yourself to enjoy the quiet of being away from a job that, for whatever reason, just wasn’t working out. A week off will be the best investment you can make. Once you are calmer and are thinking in the present rather than the past, you can start refining how you can present the compelling and positive reasons you should be hired.
INTERVIEWING IS MUCH MORE SIMILAR TO DATING THAN IT IS TO POKER
Some jobseekers think that if they betray the slightest eyebrow raise of enthusiasm, an offer to hire them will be cut by 20%. So they remain straight-faced through the entire process and are shocked when the company hires someone else. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are excited about some aspect of the job or the people you will be working with, say so and leave the less pleasant negotiations for a more appropriate time. Managers love hiring people who provide a welcome morale boost, in fact, they become indispensable.
This isn’t to say you need to be a pushover (or, as stated before, appear desperate). Speaking frankly, the smell of desperation transmits just as easily to a potential employer. Perhaps instead of saying how badly you need a job, you might discuss how excited you are to get back to doing what you are trained, experienced, and qualified to do. Employers respond to self-confidence. That confidence stems from the fact that you offer value and there will be, or are, other opportunities that interest you.
IF THEY LIKE IT THEN THEY BETTER PUT A RING ON IT
Along the lines of avoiding appearing desperate, you should also do your part to avoid the pain of a long, drawn-out hiring process only to have your heart broken when you don’t receive an offer. One does that by having multiple irons in the fire and maintaining the perspective that a realistic goal is to find an attractive job that is available for you to accept. Or, put simply, a job offer in hand is worth two really “iffy” maybe’s. In the current environment it’s not surprising that companies take a long time to hire. There remains a perception of a buyer’s market. If there’s a very good reason to speed things along, they are more likely to do so than before. Employers will move quicker if a highly-desired candidate has another offer on the table. Firms speed things up when a sought-after applicant, who tells them that he or she wants to get back to work, has another opportunity and is concerned about the possibility of losing it.
One caveat: experienced managers and recruiters develop sixth senses for untruths, so bluffing about other opportunities is a risky proposition. Don’t try it, else your bluff may be called.
Finding a new job is a job in itself, and by adopting these suggestions, you will be better positioned to capitalize on opportunities that come your way. In my next article, I’m going to jump to the other side of the interviewer’s desk and give you an overview of what employers hope to see from you when you come in for an interview.
NYSSA member Sam Levine is the managing partner of the Buttonwood Group, an executive search firm specializing in investment and wealth management and also serves on the board of the Market Technicians Association. He may be reached at (313) 822-4457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.