To help Ric rethink his job search, I sent him to Nicollet Mall with instructions to scowl at the first ten people he saw. At the next ten people, he had instructions to smile broadly, as if he’d just won the lottery. If you wonder whether attitude is contagious, try this. The results are amazing and consistent. If you’re nowhere near Nicollet Mall, try grinning at the next person you see, whoever it is. What happens?
The enthusiasm of someone who truly wants to work is equally contagious. Before applying for another position, Ric had to boost his enthusiasm for each job. He printed out job descriptions and noted, bullet point by bullet point, where his experience and interests lined up.
One of his leads was with a paper manufacturer. He looked around at the magazines and mail piled on his desk and thought, I like paper. He checked out the company’s web site and saw they were innovative and extremely green, both strong values of his. By the time he applied, Ric knew exactly why he wanted that job. His knowledge and interest came across clearly both in the application and during the interview. How much do you want the job you’re applying for?
Riding on his excitement for the job, Ric took a few minutes to rewrite his employment history. Yes, you can change the past. Group jobs on your resume according to skill sets, including volunteer and temporary positions right alongside “real” jobs. By highlighting relevant experience, you save a manager time decoding your skills and abilities.
If your past is less than illustrious, realize that whatever you do today becomes part of your past tomorrow. Strive to develop new skills and to expand your network, even if you are uncertain about the payback potential. What if you don’t develop new skills? What if you do?
Finally, Ric had to do a reality check on his aspirations. After two years looking unsuccessfully for work, he realized he was probably looking in the wrong places. This is not a great time to transition if you don’t have to. Look for work at about the same level and in the same industry you left, or look at the low end of what you’ve trained for. Simply working, anywhere, beats not working, and will actually make you more attractive to other employers. No one is locked in to a single position for life. First, get employed, and then consider your next steps from there.
Two years seems like too long to be looking for work, but, for Ric, reworking his job search plan meant two years didn’t have to become three or four.