Get Help If You Need It

Greg had been in town for six months. Long enough to buy a house and move his family half-way across the country. He had accepted his new position with mixed feelings, because of having to leave close friends and the security of a mediocre job. But soon after he started his new job, he was glad he had made the move. He had more opportunities for advancement and enjoyed his work more than he had in years. His family fell in love with the city quickly and made many new friends. Greg was on top of the world. Then, quite unexpectedly, the company announced a massive lay off and, just like that, he was out of work.

Greg’s reaction was fear and sadness. He blamed himself for the job loss and letting his family down. He couldn’t think about finding a new job because he was so full of negative feelings. When he finally voiced his frustration out loud in front his friends and heard their reaction, he was able to see that what had happened was not his fault. They gave him just the help he needed.

If your job search is bogged down because of how you feel, perhaps you need help, too. Talk to a counselor if you don’t feel comfortable discussing your feelings with a friend or family member. You may feel counseling is a luxury you can’t afford when you’re not sure when the next paycheck will come in. However, the encouragement you get from a professional counselor may be just what is needed to get you on track. The cost may not be as much as you think. Many counseling services base fees on the ability to pay.

Often, people turn to their church or other organizations for help at no cost. Many churches now provide one-on-one counseling through a program called Stephen Ministry and a part of their training is how to support people who have lost their jobs. Another approach is to join a twelve-step job loss recovery group. You’ll learn how job loss affects others and realize your feelings are not unique. Whether you talk or just listen, attending meetings helps restore self-confidence and pride.

If you have strong feelings which interfere with your ability to get a job, seek professional advice and attend recovery group meetings. In addition, you can improve how you feel through acceptance, exercise, and support.

Acceptance weakens negative feelings. Tell someone how you feel. If you’re angry, say so. Sad? Talk about it. Feelings are neither right nor wrong so don’t judge yourself. You have a good reason to feel the way you do.

Another way to decrease anger and depression is to get a good workout. Even a walk around the block can make you feel better.

Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. You’ll only feel worse. Be with friends. Laugh. Do something fun. Ask for a hug when you need one.

Feelings such as anger, fear and sadness, which often accompany the loss of a job, can block you from finding a new one. Don’t let your feelings interfere with your job search. You can find a way to get help.

Improve Your Interviews through Self Evaluation

The interview is the most important part of the job search process. It can also be the most frightening experience for some people. But, have heart. Effective interviewing techniques can be learned through practice and self-evaluation. To improve your interviewing techniques prepare questions for a self-evaluation and then answer the questions after each interview.

Here are some sample questions. Use these or modify them to fit your job situation.

  1.  Was I dressed appropriately?
  2. Did I have everything with me I needed?
  3. Was I confident about myself?
  4. Did I use a good handshake?
  5. Did I look the interviewer in the eye?
  6. Did I emphasize my best qualities?
  7. What went well?
  8. Was I relaxed, tense, shaking?
  9. Where was I weak?
  10. Did I talk too much?
  11. How did I do, in general?
  12. What can I do to improve?

Study the questions before each interview to remind yourself what is important then answer the questions as soon as possible after the interview. The longer you wait, the more you’ll forget. Jot down the highlights of the interview in the car while still in the parking lot after the interview. The quick notes you make can be expanded later to give you even more information. Better yet, use a tape recorder to answer questions and describe how you feel.

Remember, this is a learning opportunity. Be honest in your evaluations. Don’t be afraid to say so when you goof. But don’t beat yourself over the head if you do poorly. Write down the good and the bad and you’ll remember to do better next time. Without the evaluation and the learning process, a bad interview might be repeated over and over.

It takes practice to learn anything new and most of us don’t interview enough to become expert at it. Practice and self-evaluation are the keys to more successful interviews. Learn from your mistakes and keep applying for jobs. You’ll be better each time you interview until, finally, you’re hired

The Importance of Honesty

Accuracy on résumés and applications is a must. In the past, exaggerations, embellishments and downright lies may have been overlooked by employers happy to find someone to fill a position. Today, most credentials are carefully checked before a person is hired.

An interesting case involving honesty came to my attention recently. A young woman we’ll call Sarah learned the importance of being truthful when filing out the education section of an application. Ironically, she didn’t need the fictitious college credits for the position she wanted.

Sarah should have gotten the job. She had an edge over the other applicants because her sister was a respected employee in another division. What is more important, Sarah could do the work. She had the required education and experience. She had a wonderful personality. She would fit in well with the other employees.

No one in the applicant pool came close to Sarah’s qualifications, experience, and ability to get along with people. But Sarah didn’t get the job.

In this organization college transcripts are required for any education shown on the application. A personnel clerk noted the missing records. It was routine. In addition, Sarah had signed a statement on the application saying everything was correct.

When the supervisor learned about the discrepancy, he gave Sarah an opportunity to produce the transcripts. When she was unable to, he lost confidence in her to a point where he decided to disqualify her.

The organization advertised the position again and did more interviews. At a cost that could have been avoided. Sarah’s sister, who had been her cheerleader throughout the application process, was silent. Even though the incident did not affect her professionally, she felt some responsibility and worked hard to regain management’s trust and respect.

Be honest in all your job search activities. A lie on a résumé or job application may go unnoticed. You may even get the job. But the truth may come out later and cause you serious problems.

Being honest does not mean you must include information that could prevent you from getting an interview. A résumé should make the reader want to meet you. Save some information for the interview where you have an opportunity to answer questions and offer explanations where needed.

A Progress Monitor Helps

Improve your job-hunting technique by telling someone what steps you have completed and what you plan to do next. Does that sound too simple? It is, but it works. I call this person a progress monitor, but, as you will see, the monitor does little more than listen to or read your reports. The benefit comes from preparing the reports. Selecting the right person to be your progress monitor is important, so follow the guidelines below.

What is a progress monitor? Doing a job search alone can be depressing. A strong will is required to keep at it for the time it takes to find a job today. Having someone to share the ups and downs with you keeps you going. There will be days when you’ll be so discouraged you won’t be able to get out of bed to face another unpromising job application form. It’ll help when you remember that you told someone, a person who cares about you, what you’d planned for the day.

Choosing a progress monitor. A good progress monitor is a listener—a person you can talk to without fear of criticism. You benefit more if the person you select accepts your report without judgment. Not everyone can do this. Some will want to make suggestions about your activities and plans, or give you a pep talk when you don’t feel like it. Select someone who cares about you enough to listen without criticism. Find a person who is positive, encouraging, and supportive.

It is most helpful to have a written report. For that reason you may want to choose someone who is not in the same home. I picked a monitor in another city and e-mailed her my report each day. Once the message was sent, I felt committed. Even if you choose someone you live with as your progress monitor, write the reports. Some people feel it is best not to use a spouse for a progress monitor. I think it depends on the relationship. In some cases, a husband or wife might be the best person for the job. In other cases, the worst. Before choosing your progress monitor, read on.

Writing a report helps you focus on what to do next and that is more important than having someone to read it. The benefits of the progress reports are not from what the monitor does. The benefits are from what you do. So, if there is no one you want to be your progress monitor, write the reports anyway. It still works.

Report your feelings. Along with your daily reports of what you have done and what you plan to do, add a brief comment about how you feel. Dallas psychologist Stephanie Spera and colleagues found that when unemployed, middle-aged professional men wrote about their feelings they were better able to cope with their emotions and got jobs faster. Spera feels the writing led to a more positive attitude that helped the men work through the situation more quickly. This study was done in 1994, but I see no reason why the situation would be different today.

What goes in a report? Write a progress report like a letter or an email. For example:

Dear Brad,

Today I applied for jobs at four companies. None look promising. I felt so discouraged I couldn’t face another application form so I read a novel for a while to relax my mind. But then I went back to work. I applied at Johnson Systems and Thompson’s. I saw Ken while I was at Thompson’s and he said Elliot’s is hiring. So I’m going there tomorrow. My plans for tomorrow are: …

Then list your plans. The report can also be used as a to-do list for you.

Learn from reporting. When you write a report listing your plans, you may find some tasks left from the day before. Don’t criticize yourself for not sticking exactly to a plan. What you actually did instead may have been more important than what you planned to do. You will improve your planning with experience and learn to be more accurate about judging how much you can accomplish in one day. Be realistic about your plans, but stretch yourself a little, too. Stay busy, but remain flexible.

Progress reporting works. Besides improving your attitude, progress reporting keeps you organized. Preparing a to-do list for the next day helps identify what needs to be done. It involves goal-setting that ignites the subconscious to move you toward the overall goal of finding a job. This approach works in the same way twelve-step meetings and Weight Watcher’s meetings work. When we make a commitment, we’re more likely to accomplish our goals. If you’re ready to get serious about finding a job, find a progress monitor now.

Should You Take a Temporary Job?

During my job search I went to my chamber of commerce to see what information was available about area companies. I found a list of private companies and government agencies that should have been helpful. What seemed promising at first turned out to be obsolete. After some discussion I was offered a job with the chamber to update the report. The pay wasn’t much, but tempting since I was out of work. Still, I hesitated. Not having considered the possibility of a temporary job and not knowing how to respond, I asked for some time to think about it.

What would you do if you were out of work, desperately needing a full-time position and were offered a temporary, low-paid position? Should you take it? Perhaps.

A temporary job means income at a time when it is sorely needed. On the other hand, the time you spend working at this low paid job reduces the time you have to search for a permanent job. If you’re on unemployment, the amount you receive for the temporary job will be decreased from your unemployment pay. The decision is an individual one. It depends on your specific needs and goals.

Many people turn to contract labor to earn money while looking for a job. Others work as volunteers to get experience and make contacts. Temporaries and volunteers have the advantage of learning about new positions before they are posted, but they get paid less and do not get company-paid insurance and other benefits.

If you need money or more experience, a temporary job may be the answer. Have a clear understanding of how the job will help you achieve your career goals before accepting. If it only slows you down, it may be acceptable. If it blocks you from reaching your goal, you may want to decline the offer.

If you have special skills, consider working for a smaller company on a temporary basis while you continue your job search. Many small businesses hire experienced managers, for example, but can only do so for a limited time. This approach gives you some income as well as a base of operations. You can get more accomplished toward your job search while working in an office than you can at home. Also, this type of project may be listed as consulting on your résumé.

I didn’t take the job offered by the chamber of commerce, but only because I felt it necessary to spend all my time looking for a permanent job. I received two excellent job offers 51 days after my layoff, so I think I made the right decision.

FREE JOB SEARCH BOOK

If you are currently out of work and searching for a job, leave a comment here and, if you are one of the first ten people to do so, I’ll send you a free copy of my book: Job Seekers’ Attitude Adjustment Guide. Let me know if you want the Kindle edition or the paperback edition. If you want the paperback, send your mailing address to me by email: sidfrost@suddenlink.net.

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Out of Work? Time to Cut Unnecessary Spending

When I lost my job my first concern was how to pay the bills and feed my family. For days I searched for ways to cut expenses and was surprised to learn how much could be eliminated. Of course some things had to be given up, but we survived.

If you’re out of work, or fear you may be soon, review your financial situation. There are many ways to reduce spending without changing your lifestyle as drastically as you might think. Take care of these details first and you will feel more like looking for a job.

Go through your check book and credit card statements. Make a list of fixed expenses–those that are about the same each month such as rent or mortgage payments, installment purchase payments, insurance, transportation, child care and food. Next, write down what you spend for clothing, charge accounts, medical, dental, subscriptions, cleaning, contributions, gifts, entertainment, recreation and savings. Add other expenses that vary from month to month.

When totaling your expenses, include the cost of medical insurance that was provided by your employer. Medical insurance cost is high, so look for alternatives. For example, you may be eligible for a less expensive group plan because of your association with a professional or social organization.

Now look for ways to cut. Skip items which are clearly essential. Look for optional spending and those expenses that can be lowered. For example, reduce spending for entertainment. Cancel cable if you must. Take leave from the health club, but exercise in other ways. Eat at home more and cut out the expensive convenience foods. For more ideas, search the Internet for frugal and see what all pops ups.

Next, check your assets. Look at your cash on hand, checking accounts, savings, stocks, bonds, cash-value insurance, and other assets that can be converted to cash if needed. Count money due from your previous employer such as pay for unused vacation. Include your spouse’s income and income from a second job. If you’re eligible for unemployment compensation, find out how much it will be and when it will begin and end.

Compare expenses and assets. Will your assets and projected income be enough to pay your estimated expenses? How many months can you survive financially? If you need more money, what can you do?

If you think you might have problems paying debts on time, talk to lenders. Some may extend time to pay loans or lower the payments. You may also want to consolidate loans to reduce monthly payments. Search online for free consumer credit counseling if needed.

A realistic accounting of expenses and assets will help reduce anxiety about being out of work. This will clear the mind to focus on a practical plan to move forward.

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A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. —- Herm Albright


Sidney W. Frost, B.A., M.S.

The author's job-search advice has appeared in more than forty newspapers and other publications around the country. He has worked as a corporate recruiter in information technology and, as an IT supervisor has reviewed many applications and held many interviews over the years in both the private and public sector. His knowledge of the emotional impact of a job loss comes from his own experience as well as training received to help people who have lost jobs and faced other losses.

Mr. Frost is also the author of the Job Seekers' Attitude Adjustment Guide which is available in paperback and Kindle editions as well as two inspirational novels. See http://sidneywfrost.com/ for information. His other blog, The Christian Bookmobile/ talks about reading and writing.

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