Getting back into the groove
I recall reading some years back that every employee will go through at least two situations of redundancy / lay-off during his/her career life-span. However, with much higher volatility in the employment market due to a variety of factors, it is very likely that you will faced with the predicament of becoming a job-seeker many times in your career. And it is becoming a fact of life that the likelihood of this happening, increases with the passing years and when one is past one’s prime, it could be more difficult to find a role similar to your last one.
Therefore, I thought that a listing of some strategies that could be effective for job seekers to get back into the workforce in a timely manner, may be interesting for many of my readers, who either may be in that predicament or know someone who could find this blog useful:
- Don’t take it personally: Any situation of forced unemployment can be traumatic and therefore, you need to acknowledge this internally and take steps to get over any negative feelings. Bear in mind that the correlation of one’s performance with being laid-off is becoming much lower because such decisions are taken to meet corporate objectives and may have little to do with one’s job performance. Therefore, never let the lay-off situation demean your self-worth
- Create Positive Energy: Your chances of success are more often dependent on how you feel internally as compared to market conditions. Therefore, it is important to view the situation (though it was not at your behest) in a very positive way, as an opportunity to reinvent your career & do something different, to take stock of where your career is heading, take that long-postponed vacation, to enjoy the luxury of time, etc.
- Perfect your resume: It has been my experience that most candidates do a rushed job updating their resumes when they get a call from a head-hunter. They just add information that is top of the mind and rarely look at the overall presentation that is being made through one’s resume. Use the time that you now have to do a thorough review of your resume, make your achievements crisper & more quantified, weed out old data that is no longer relevant (like hobbies during your school days or minor achievements early in your career). In short, spend time evolving your resume into a strong pitch document of your credentials
- Reassess your career objectives: Use the time available to think through your career objectives afresh. Take the help of a close friend, mentor or career coach to crystallize your objectives. These objectives should be a broadly defined list of must-haves for any job role and give you the flexibility to consider a range of career alternatives that meet these objectives
- Create a long-list of career alternatives: When job market conditions are weak or when the straight-jacketed career alternatives have a limited number of employers who are in the hiring mode, it is important to spend ample time making a long list of career alternatives and being as creative as possible. Unearth “out of the box options” by speaking to close friends, former colleagues and mentors.
- Decide on your “best-fit” career choices: Once you have created the above long-list, you need to analyse it from two dimensions – firstly how each alternative fits with your broad career objectives and secondly, how your credentials stack up vis-a-vis the beauty parade of candidates contending for the same role. The second dimension is harder to analyse since our self-opinion of the strength of our credentials may be out of sync with reality and therefore getting feedback from some head-hunters, close friends and mentors could be very insightful. The net result of this two-dimension analysis will be a list of career alternatives (perhaps 5 to 10 in all) which you are excited about, since they fit well with your career objectives, and also confident that you have a reasonably high probability of bagging a role. Therefore, you are now focused on paths that have a high probability of success.
- Rejuvenate your contacts: The talent acquisition process has changed dramatically in the last few years with widespread use of social networking and internal employee referral schemes. My recent conversations with several clients show that over 60% of the hires are now completed without the use of a recruitment agency. Therefore, it is even more imperative that you spend time rejuvenating your network of contacts – make a list of people you need to reach out to, get ideas on job roles and specific opportunities from them and constantly open new doors, because you never know which door could lead you to an opportunity or be one-step away from that perfect opportunity
- Reconnect with head-hunters: Despite what I have written in the previous paragraph, you must also reconnect with the head-hunter community because one of them may have an assignment where you could be a strong contender. However, it is important to note that there are broadly two types of firms in this community – the major firms which only work on specific assignments and the boutiques which are more flexible and will send out a resume to a potential employer in the hope of making a placement fee. The major firms are therefore less “job-seeker friendly” since they are responsive only if they have an assignment that fits your profile. On the other hand, if you have a strong senior level connections with a couple of boutiques, you could get them to selectively circulate your resume to potential employers, ideally after discussing the employers they would approach with you. However, choose to activate this option carefully because you do not want to be in a situation where your resume gets circulated randomly to all sorts of employers and an opinion gets formed in the market that you are desperate to find a role
- Network professionally: While many more are getting active on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, not everyone spends time compiling a fairly detailed profile on these sites and also creating a large network of connections. While the profile should not be a substitute for a resume, it should have sufficient detail so that your profile gets selected whenever searches of relevant keywords are conducted on that site. Moreover, it is also useful to get more active on local professional bodies and alumni chapters, the power of which gets lost sight of, in this online cyber world.
- New ideas every day: You may find it useful to spend a few minutes, shortly after you wake up in the morning, thinking about new untried actions that could take, who else you could call or reach out to, who could be a good contact to develop and what is the best way to connect up with that contact, who could give you out of the box ideas on career alternatives, etc. For some, the ideation may happen in the shower, for others it may happen late at night when you have some “alone-time” – whatever works best for you. You need to be looking for creative ideas every day
- Plan your day well: Most of us keep systematically maintain our calendars when in a full-time job role. I would recommend maintaining a similar level of discipline when between jobs, so that you plan and then spend adequate time on your job search and not get hijacked by diversions that may come up during the day.
- Be patient but also persevere: When one is sitting at home with time on one’s hands, one tends to forget that others may be very busy and slip up on their committed response times Therefore, if you have been promised a response after a job interview in a week or two and three weeks go by, it may be appropriate to send a polite request wanting to know the status of the decision-making. However, one needs to maintain a tight-rope walk of being patient and continuing to persevere, simultaneously
- Use down time effectively: Stay busy by learning a new skill, attending a short-term professional course , taking on a new hobby or volunteering for a charity. Fill up your day so that you are using your time productively. However, this should not be at the cost of keeping ample time for your job search and have the flexibility to attend interviews as and when they come up. Also, having the luxury of time is an advantage you have over candidates who are already in a full-time role. You can be much better prepared for interviews and ensure that you are never late for any interview (ideally budget to be there 15 minutes ahead of time)