I lost my job six months ago. I worked for the company for seven years, and never even once thought of working somewhere else because I loved it so much there. My network is sick of hearing from me; I’ve applied to every job I can find, have interviewed dozens of times, but I’m always the runner-up. I’m beginning to think of myself as a second tier candidate, but I don’t know what I should do differently. The worst part is that I feel so ashamed for not being able to fix this situation. What can I do?
Sometimes I get a question that causes me to have two very different reactions; this is one of those times. The Mom in me wants to wrap my arms around you and tell you it’s going to be ok, that you’re doing everything you can, that you have to believe in yourself and this too shall pass. All of this is true; the sun rises each morning, and a new day brings fresh perspective – which is more useful to you now than any amount of self-pity or shame.
So let’s work on finding a fresh perspective, because pity don’t pay the rent. There are lots of places to jump into this discussion; here are a few that may help you to rethink your approach:
Dissect the problem. Why are you the runner-up?
I’ve been told by quite reliable resources that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. You’ve been the second choice finalist more often than you care to count? It’s time to revisit the basics:
Ask other recruiters in your network to review your resume and make candid suggestions for its improvement. Does it clearly articulate not only the tasks that you have been responsible for, but the impact you had in each role? Numbers tell a story, and high impact candidates know their numbers; your competition has done the same tasks, so make sure your resume explains why you are the better choice.
You never get a better chance than the interview to make a great impression. Don’t assume that your interviewer knows the success you had in your last job; work to become a great storyteller. We’ve all coached candidates about the I-STAR method of telling a story: impact, situation, target, actions, results. Have two or three great stories in your back pocket, and tell them well.
Two sides to the close are important here: asking for the deal, and getting feedback. If you don’t ask for the job, how will the interviewer know you really, really, really
want it? Sounds basic, and it is – just be sure you do it. And regardless of whether you come in first, second, or ninety-ninth, ask for feedback. What can I do better in my next interview? Where was I unprepared? How would you grade my responses in comparison with others you’ve interviewed? Swallow your ego and listen – really listen – to what you hear. Then go back and fine tune accordingly.
Ok, a personal question. What is your financial situation right now? Because that will strongly affect whether your job search must shift from finding the next logical step in your career path, to finding a paycheck until that job appears. Who will pay your bills when you can’t? If the answer is no one, and your savings are getting thin, start thinking differently about your job search.
Look for a part-time job in retail or fast food. Babysit or pet-sit. Drop the perception that you have to be recruiting to earn an income in the short term. And while you’re at it, go back to review and tighten your budget. As money runs out, expenses become relative – and there really are ways to get the same things done differently. Do you need cable TV? Maybe not. It’s possible to get the news on the local channels, and internet access at the library. You are the CEO of you, and the only one responsible for staying solvent.
There’s truth to the rumor that when you focus on others, you take the focus off of yourself. This is a good time to find ways to collaborate with other job seekers, helping them with their job searches as well. If you want to have an inspiring conversation, reach out to Susan Kang Nam
and ask her about her volunteer work with the Boston Salty Legs Career Club
. Use some of your time to benefit others without expecting anything in return; you’ll be amazed at what happens next.
I am a firm believer that the good we do comes back to find us. One day soon you will be Jobless no longer, and hopefully you’ll look back and be thankful for the lessons you learned, for the compassion you bring to other candidates in their job searches. Hang in there, my friend.
In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here
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