Being in a job search is difficult enough, with its family pressures and financial concerns, not to mention our own negative feelings of disconnect and self-doubt. In Part 1 of this “Who Am I” series of blog entries, I discussed the cycles that I have seen my job search transition through. In Part 2, I discussed how individuals can feel disconnected from their careers while in a job search, and I detailed an unexpected personal barrier that I had to overcome in order to get my job search project plan back on track. In this final post of this series, I discuss how I learned to get past these issues, and how you can apply my lessons to your own job search.
In some ways, this recent journey of self-evaluation has been similar to what I did in the beginning (see Soul Searching) and middle (see Handling Slow Periods, Coming in Second, and Reflections) of my job search. But, as I explained in my last post, this last cycle was different in that I had to first recognize and then overcome a personal barrier that was hindering my search and really dragging me down past feelings of disconnect and self-doubt into inactivity, which is a terrible place to be in a job search.
I know I haven’t been alone. Based on the emails I have received from a number of readers, these feelings of self-doubt are difficult to shake. Many people are worried about how the economy may, and in several cases already has, protracted their job searches. Then there is the guilt that comes with feeling like you’re not providing for your family, which in turn seems to make so many people feel like they need to throw away the play book, so to speak, and take almost any job that comes along. Worse, even after finding a new job under those circumstances, there remains continued guilt for having given up.
But, I believe I have stumbled upon a relatively simple solution to BOTH problems that will re-connect us job seekers to our careers and skills, and that will help rebuild our self-confidence.
My simple solution is to attend seminars, conferences and technical/professional events. And not just one or two, I mean attend several. I’ve been to almost a dozen over the past few months, which has made a significant impact on getting my job search back on track again.
Think about it. The major reasons we feel lost and disconnected when in a job search is because we no longer have access to the constant and stimulating interaction with our peers. Further, we don’t experience the urgency and excitement that comes with meeting deadlines for clients and bosses. And we don’t get to challenge ourselves intellectually, whether in resolving problems, or improving ourselves, our teams and our businesses.
But I resolved all those issues by actively participating in so many technical, executive and professional events.
- I met and worked with all manner of my peers across specialties and industries.
- I retained my skills and knowledge, and I am actively working to build and improve them.
- I was challenged to produce valuable content in the various workshops to share with my peers.
- I was exposed to new ideas and perspectives.
Of course, I also connected with potential hiring managers in far less formal and imposing environments than an interview, making professional events a valuable leads channel to add to your job search project plan.
Before you say, “duhhhh” too quickly, know that some people I’ve talked to are afraid to attend professional events when in a job search. They don’t know what to say to colleagues about their current situation, or they’re embarrassed because they’ve been laid off, or they’re not sure how to approach people who might be potential hiring managers even if the sole purpose is to simply meet them as industry peers (ie, NOT ask them for a job).
If you’re like me, when I’m working or consulting full-time I don’t have the budget or the time to attend. But, what I do have is the comfort-level associated with being able to say, “I’m working for XYZ” and to back up that statement with professional accoutrements like business cards and a website.
Surprisingly, there are a few professional organizations that will not let you attend if you’re unemployed. I don’t understand that since professionals committed to their careers and skillsets are the individuals that you would think all professional organizations would want as members. Nevertheless, it happens, but I don’t let it stop me from attending these events and neither should it stop you!
First of all, since I’ve owned my own successful business for five years now, I am not unemployed, thank you very much. And second, I have a level of professional experience that I am willing to share with others in my industry in exchange for their shared knowledge, to our mutual benefit. Doesn’t that sound like the exact reasons these events are organized? But, to ease the transition, I recommend job seekers establish a professional email address and get business cards. It’s a very simple process:
- Create your company name. (Avoid names based on your personal name, because whether true or not, we do not want to give anyone the immediate impression of, “Ohhhh, you’re a ‘consultant’. Righhhhht.”)
- Buy a related domain name with included email ($20 from GoDaddy.com)
- Have professional business cards made ($25-$75, and no, the free business card sites don’t suffice.)
The website and business cards improve your professional image, and they give your consulting business some legitimacy. You might even be able to write off those expenses. (Note: I am not a tax advisor, nor do I play one on TV … seek professional advice regarding your own tax situation.)
Now that we’ve eliminated excuses for not attending professional and technical events and you actually start attending them, you quickly learn two things. One, there are more events and opportunities than you ever realized. And two, you will quickly run out of business cards. Both of those are good problems. It means you are “back in the saddle again.” You’re talking with, meeting, and working with your peers again. You’ve also blown past all the barriers and pitfalls that were holding you back from your normal, highly successful self!
And the best part is that you’re “working” again in your job search “job” with a ton of new leads. So the next step is to dust off your job search project plan, bring it up to date, and work that plan!
In upcoming blog posts, I will be covering:
- How to get the most out of your referrals and recommendations
- Informational interviews
- Web 2.0’s impact on your job search
- Networking 201 (Advanced Networking Skills)
- My resume rewrite (and if we can work out some details, I hope to be able to show the before and after
- and Executive employability.
Again, thank you very much for your comments and feedback to these blog posts, as well as you personal emails and ideas!
If this “Who Am I?” series has hit home for you or about someone close to you, please share your thoughts and situation. I would love to hear how you’ve gotten your job search back on track from a setback!