Many months ago, I was interviewing candidates for a recruiting position. The position had been open for months, and I felt like I was never going to find a candidate who had the unique experience I wanted. That was until I found the perfect resume.
I found a candidate, let’s just say her name was Amy, who looked perfect on paper. She had three years of experience as a recruiter, both for corporate entities and for staffing agencies. She had a proven track record and had worked for some major companies. Household names abounded on her resume and, given her experience, I felt she could hit the ground running and quickly become an asset to the team.
Without any hesitation, I scheduled her for an in-person interview and made sure that my whole team could meet with her. I was certain that as long as she showed up and was breathing, she’d get the job.
A few days later it was time for Amy’s interview. My team and I rushed down to the lobby to great the person I had shamelessly hyped and praised.
When I entered the lobby, I saw two women waiting. One was sharply dressed and exuded confidence. The other looked like she had slept in her suit and didn’t bother to style her hair. Seeing as how recruiters depend heavily on reputation and appearance, the candidate who was the epitome of poise and style had to be Amy.
I walked up to her and said enthusiastically, "Amy! It’s a pleasure to meet you!"
She smiled at me but looked a bit puzzled. Then a small, quiet voice behind me said, "Oh, um, actually I’m Amy." I turned around, and the suit-sleeper was now on her feet, arm outstretched to me for a handshake.
I shook her hand, which felt like a cold, dead fish, and as I looked into the sad, droopy eyes on her smileless face, my heart sank.
What followed was the longest and most boring interview of my life. My team and I gave Amy every possible opportunity to impress us, but every question was answered in a ho-hum tone and featured phrases like, "Well, um, I’ve never done that, but I guess I could." When asked what she’d say to a candidate before their interview to get them pumped up and enthused about our company, she looked down at her hands and said in a Ben Stein-ish tone, "Well, uh, I’d say that I guess it’s a good company and fun to work for."
Needless to say, Amy did not get the job, but she definitely left an impression on me. To this day, I use her as an example to anyone I come across who is looking for a job.
Being a complete Disney fanatic, I often compare people I meet to Disney characters (in case you were wondering, I’m Mike Wazowski, the little green guy from "Monsters, Inc."). Amy was clearly Eeyore, the depressed donkey from "Winnie the Pooh."
I understand that being unemployed and looking for work can turn even the best of us into an Eeyore, but keep in mind that Eeyores don’t get jobs.
If you think you might be an Eeyore candidate, try these 10 tips.
1) Surround yourself with positive people.
Ideally everyone you come across will be supportive of your job search, but some people’s idea of support is actually detrimental to your success. You will come across people that make up excuses for you, like "The job market just sucks right now. It’s not your fault," or my favorite, "Let’s just get drunk and forget about it."
Distance yourself from these people. While they are trying to help, their "solutions" will only keep you down. Instead, if you have friends, family and colleagues who say things like "I know you can do it," or "Keep it up!" or do things like email you jobs to apply to, keep these people close. Their support is positive, and being around them will give you a more positive outlook.
2) Quit taking it personally.
There is no doubt that even the most amazing job seekers will encounter rejection from time to time. Quit taking it personally. Most of the time, the reason for rejection has nothing to do with you anyway.
The reason you don’t get the job or don’t even get an interview might be because of budgeting, internal candidates or a complete revamp of the company or department you’re applying to. Don’t focus on things you will never be able to control. Focus on yourself and how awesome you are, which brings me to my next tip.
3) Tell yourself you’re hirable.
If you’ve worked at least one day in your life, then you must have some hirable skills, and even if you haven’t worked before, odds are you have at least one hirable skill that just hasn’t been utilized yet. So stop the self-loathing. You are good enough to get a job, but no one will hire you if you don’t think you deserve it. And besides, beating yourself up every day gets downright exhausting.
4) Practice interviewing.
There’s nothing as depressing and demoralizing as completely bombing an interview. There’s one easy way to combat this: practice the interview.
As much as I love recruiters and hiring managers, we’re not the most original, creative people in the world. Most of us will ask the same questions over and over again. You can find books in your library of standard interview questions. Lists of interview questions are also readily available on the Internet. One word of caution though: A successful interview isn’t just about being able to answer the questions. It’s about how you answer the questions.
Practice how you will answer the questions you anticipate being asked. Set up a mock interview with a friend, a recruiter or even your spouse or partner. Acting out the scenario in a friendly setting will help you prepare for the real deal.
If you’re a shy, timid person, I highly suggest getting involved with different organizations that can help you become more comfortable with interacting with others. Toastmasters and improvisational acting classes are great things to consider. Both will get you to open up, talk, and think on your feet. Go to a few of these events and you’ll gain a wealth of confidence.
5) Get out of the house.
When you’re looking for a job, your job search should be one of your top priorities, but it should not be your only priority. You can only sit in front of your computer and send out resumes for so long before you get cabin fever.
Getting out of the house is OK. Reward yourself for your hard work by going out for a walk or grabbing some ice cream. Just getting outside, being around other people, and being in sunlight will have a dramatic effect on your outlook.
Since you’re getting out of the house anyway, why not go to some networking events? Find some professional groups in your area or in your industry. Many of them may even have events that cater to people who are "in transition." The people you meet at these events may be able to give you advice on how to be an effective job seeker and may even point you in the direction of companies that are hiring. The worst case scenario is you get out of the house for a few hours, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
7) Make a happy playlist.
I remember when I was in high school, I was very angsty and angry almost all the time, but I really had nothing to be angsty and angry about. I then looked at the CDs I had in my car. All of them were very angry, angsty rock bands: Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, Limp Bizkit. No wonder I was an angry guy!
I changed to more mellow tunes: Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson. A few days later I started to notice a shift in my mood. Before long, people close to me started to notice it, too. It’s amazing how much music seeps into our subconscious and influences how we see the world. Pick music that puts you in a happy, positive, confident mood, and listen to that music when applying to jobs and prepping for interviews.
8) Set small, achievable goals.
It’s great to start with the end in mind, but don’t let the end be your one and only goal. If you wake up every day of your job search thinking, "Today is the day I get the job," the fact of the matter is that you will fail from achieving your goal every day except for the very last day of your job search. And if you’re like me, that feeling of failure isn’t exactly motivating. Instead of focusing on the final step, focus on the smaller ones you need to make to get you there. Tell yourself, "I will apply to 15 jobs today," or "I’ll RSVP for two networking events today." These are small, achievable, attainable goals, and you will feel good about yourself when you cross them off your daily to-do list.
9) Go shopping and give yourself a job seeker makeover.
Clothes definitely make the man (or woman), so take some time to go shopping for a new interview outfit if necessary. There are some other perks to going shopping during your job search. According to studies conducted by Cornell University as well as polling companies such as Harris and Gallup, the act of shopping makes you temporarily happier. Investing a few bucks on a new outfit that makes you look like a million bucks will also make you act like a million bucks. When you like the way you look, you will exude the confidence, happiness and positivity that Eeyore candidates lack.
10) If it’s really serious, then get serious help.
Being unemployed, especially for a long period of time, can easily lead to a serious depression problem. If you notice any depression warning signs over an extended period of time, such as having difficulty getting out of bed every morning or heightened alcohol consumption, go to your doctor right away and get help.
Your job search is important, but your mental health should always be your top priority. Also, if you are clinically depressed and not getting proper treatment, your depression will be a major hindrance to your job search. Take care of yourself and everything else will fall into place.
Jeff Davis is a graduate of UCLA and has an extensive background in human resources and recruiting. He currently works for Career Strategies Inc. (www.csi4jobs.com), a staffing firm specializing in direct and temporary placements in corporate capacities.