“I am looking for anything,” Nancy Herrera echoed a common refrain when I asked her what kind of job she wanted. It is an answer used all too frequently by those looking for jobs in times of high unemployment when people are more concerned about getting work than what kind of job it might be. Her answer reminded me of a childhood story that is popular to this day. “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which way road do I take?” she asked. His response was a question: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” She answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” I am sure Lewis Carroll didn’t have the job market in mind when he wrote Alice in Wonderland, but it does have surprising relevance to those job seekers who, in order to leave their options open, say that they will go down any road.
Due to a shift in the whole economic system, workers have to be ever more vigilant in assessing their job future with a particular company. Because of this shifting and unstable working environment more and more people are becoming confused and disheartened at their prospects. The roads of opportunity seem to veer off in every direction.
Is unemployment more of an attitude than a reality? The government keeps trying to point out that unemployment is down, but statistics are worthless to those who are standing in the unemployment lines. Good economic news is great only when it means that businesses will start hiring again instead of laying off.
For a job seeker, “looking for anything” could mean desperation and employers can sense desperation a mile away. Such discouragement is an indication that the person is looking for help instead of looking to help. An employer does not want to be put in the position where they hire someone just because they need the job and not because they are qualified to fill the position. If that occurs both the employer and the employee end up unhappy. The employee will soon tire of the job because it wasn’t really what they wanted in the first place, they will leave and the company will just have to look for a replacement. While it is human nature to want to help others, usually we find it much more rewarding to assist those that don’t know they need help or don’t ask for it, than those who act needy.
If you are unemployed and feel discouraged, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. It is a hard fight when society dictates that a persons worth is measured by how much money they make. However, that does not have to be your reality. The only way to pull yourself out of feelings of discouragement and frustration is to make positive choices and act on them. Don’t worry if they are the right choices, because you can always change them, but do what “feels” right for you and not what others say you should do.
The number one choice you make is – what kind of job you want, what is your objective? If you know that you want to be a boot lace salesman, because you have always loved boots and have personally found it hard to find just the right kind of laces, then go for that. If you want to be a deep sea diving instructor, don’t let what others say deter you. When an employer sees that you made a decision about what you want, it tells them, first; you can make a decision and second; you will be satisfied with that position and do a better job than someone who would rather be doing something else. Think of it this way, if you shoot a shotgun there is a chance you will hit a tree here or a bush there, but if you shoot an arrow, you will usually hit the target.
A job objective is not written in stone. Most people have multiple skills and talents that could be utilized in different positions, and they feel limited by choosing one area over another. In this case you should either have a separate resume for each objective or try to get a job in one particular area for a period of time. Let us say you give yourself a month to get that perfect job, then if it doesn’t work out, fall back on the next most perfect job and so on. Sooner or later you will find one, as long as the prospective employer sees that you are focused and know what you want.
The second choice you make is – how you are going to look for the job? If you just plan to answer ads in the newspaper you will be missing out on 80% of the jobs available, since usually only 20% of jobs are advertised. So how then do you look for them?
The best and most effective way, if it is available to you, is through friends and referrals. Personal contacts give the employer the security of a recommendation and a built in reference. If you don’t have contacts the next best way is to target your search just as you targeted the job that you want. Go to companies that you would like to work for and drop off a resume or see if you can talk to someone about working there. If you really want to work someplace your enthusiasm will shine through, which in turn will impress those in a hiring position.
Going through an employment Agency or Head Hunter is fine, if it is done in conjunction with other methods. You don’t want to sign with an agency and sit back thinking they are going to do all the work for you. Remember you are only one of hundreds of people they are trying to place and their attention to your specific needs is secondary to their desire to please a client.
Going through the newspaper should be part of a routine, which includes utilizing the above search methods. Always follow up on a resumes with a letter if you haven’t heard from them within a week or two. This will let them know you are interested and remind them to look at your resume one more time. Keep a notebook with the ads pasted onto pages, dated and marked to indicate when they were sent and the responses received.
Looking for a job should be your job is familiar advice experts give. However, before you can even start the process you have to sit down, make some choices and focus on what you want and how you are going to proceed.
While Alice didn’t know what road she wanted to go down, she did eventually pick a road and that made all the difference to her future.