Years ago I came up with a list of self-defeating behaviors that can sabotage efforts to becoming employed. A colleague’s advice was to flip all of my statements into desired behaviors or proposed actions that could correct the problems, so I did. Funny thing, but I haven’t seen a huge change in many people’s approach, even with the availability of volumes of career advice. I still see the same ol’, same ol’ behavior, getting in the way of people achieving their employment goals. I thought I’d go back to my original notion of calling it as I see it and see what the response is this time around.
As I see it, many of the reasons people remain unemployed have nothing to do with the availability or lack of jobs. Nearly 100% of the time the evidence points to a simple change in behavior that could make all the difference in someone going to work or not. The following are some typical self-sabotaging behaviors:
1. Sleeping in
3. Following up with introductions weeks after the fact
4. Relying on unemployment as motivation to remain unemployed
5. Not following up with contacts after initial meetings
6. Exaggerating their skills and qualifications
7. Using (abusing) other people’s networks without asking
8. Overselling themselves
9. Appearing desperate
10. Making assumptions
11. Failing to plan
12. Poor time management
13. Targeting roles that are not realistic as a “next step”
14. Being unwilling to plan a path to “the job of their dreams”
15. Paralyzing themselves with irrational fears
16. Not looking closely at ROI when it comes to long-term education/certificate programs
17. Being ill-prepared to meet new people or follow up on leads
18. Shooting from the hip ALL the time
19. Taking vacations with no plan for staying in contact with leads they have in the pipeline
20. Starting preparation for an interview after they get the call
21. Unwilling to get uncomfortable or go the extra mile
22. Giving up
Did you recognize any of your own behaviors in that list? Most of them, you say? Well, take heart. I’m here to tell you that you can change your behaviors. In my 20 years of experience in this field, I’ve seen people go from writhing in despair to securing the job of their dreams . . . and then building that job into something beyond their wildest imaginings. It can happen for you– it depends on the actions you are willing to take.
Here are action items that have stood the test of time:
· Self-assessment. Examine the list above and identify the ones that hit home. Be honest with yourself. It’s painful to examine the ugly truths about our own behavior, but acknowledging the part you play in your current situation is the first step in producing the results you desire.
· Commit to change. Decide that you are going to drive your own bus. You can’t control the economy, your employer (or lack of one), other people’s decisions or actions, or much else, but you can control what you think and do. Picture yourself getting behind the wheel of that bus and taking charge.
· Write out your goals. Make them specific and measurable. Remember, the difference between making a resolution and establishing a goal is setting timelines and creating accountability. Wishes don’t turn into results. Actions do.
· Stay focused. Remind yourself that becoming employed is Priority Number One. Post those words or a picture of what they mean to you above your computer, on the bathroom mirror, or – better yet – OVER your television screen if that’s what it will take to keep you focused on your goal.
· Form good habits. You do that by replacing self-destructive behaviors (hint: see list above) with positive ones. For example, do you sleep in? Act as though you were going to a job you love. Get up early, get dressed – right down to the shoes! – and groom yourself to the nines. You’ll feel energized and empowered, and that feeling will be reflected in how you present yourself.
· Be aware of how you appear to others. Do you seem desperate? Are you untidy, late for appointments, disorganized or rushed? Take stock and make repairs. You may feel desperate, but there are ways to appear confident. For instance, learning how to prepare for interviews will lessen your anxiety considerably. Meeting deadlines, asking well-thought-out questions of others, and sharing useful information are all ways to show others you would be someone they would want on their team.
· Plan ahead. Prepare your interview clothes now – before you get even a whiff of an interview schedule – so you’ll look sharp and have one less thing to distract you from presenting your best side at an interview. If you have a meeting or interview, plan to arrive at least one hour before the slotted time in case something goes awry, even if you have to cool your heels in a nearby coffee shop. How long will it take to get there? Make a trial run to the interview site to find out if there are traffic snarls, construction, road/sidewalk closures, etc., that could make you late. The morning of the meeting, check the Internet for possible traffic delays. It all adds up: working out the nuts and bolts of “getting it together” in advance of an interview will help you relax and focus on the job at hand . . . literally.
· Be realistic, and don’t overstate your skills and qualifications. Sure, it’s great to dream, but trying to talk your way into a dream job that’s way over your head is simply a waste of your time and others’ time, too. And those “others” might remember you one day when an opportunity arises that you’re truly qualified for. Don’t make a bad impression by puffing yourself up and not being able to deliver. If people think you want to be the king, you better be competitive as a king. If you are not, and a knight’s position opens, no one will think you are willing to step down.
· Never give up. Abraham Lincoln was defeated repeatedly in bids for office, went broke and into debt, suffered unspeakable personal losses, struggled with deep depression, and faced uncountable setbacks, but he went on to become one of the most successful and influential people in history. Why? Because he never gave up. Michael Jordan has been quoted as saying, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” And, I might add, he never gave up. Joe Schmoe was a talented, skilled, highly educated man who . . . you say you never heard of Joe Schmoe? Of course not . . he gave up!