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Job Searchers (General)

Adapted from my pay-what-you-wish downloadable ebook, It's Not You, It's Your Strategy: the HIAPy Guide to Finding Work in a Tough Job Market.

Unemployment is almost always a demoralizing, depressing and disorienting experience. We tend to feel a lot of shame and guilt over being unemployed, and sometimes family and friends judge us, as well. And, as if all this weren't enough, would-be employers often treat us negligently or callously, which only makes the whole experience worse.

Your highest priority as a job searcher is therefore coping and self-care. This involves lavishly meeting your physical needs for abundant sleep, exercise, healthy food, etc., and lavishly addressing your emotional ones via journaling, therapy and other support, and recreation.

The key word in the above, in case you didn't catch it, is "lavishly": you shouldn't hold back. Lavish care means that not only will you be physically and emotionally fit to tackle your job search, you'll be more motivated as well, because lavish care sends the hugely motivating message to yourself and others that, "Even though I am unemployed, I am still a valuable and deserving person."

Please note that halfway measures, such as an occasional break or treat or kind word to yourself, do not constitute "lavish."

Along the same lines, be sure that the language you use to refer to yourself and your situation is not demeaning, blaming, shaming or pejorative. And don't tolerate anyone else using that language.

If you were fired from, or mistreated at, your last job, then you need to cope ESPECIALLY lavishly. I deal all the time with people who are being held back by a big burden of shame from prior bad job experiences. Often, they're not fully aware of the extent of the damage or how bad they feel: they just know they aren't working as hard at their job search as they could or should be, which, of course, only makes them feel worse.

AND, by the way, often they weren't even the "culprit" in the bad work experience: they were doomed by poor management or an unresolvable conflict between their work and personal lives. Often they struggled heroically to perform under impossible circumstances - but of course the boss isn't going to say that. Oppressors everywhere like to blame the victim.

And, even if you did screw up, there's still no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. None of us performs competently at everything in our lives. The thing to do with even big mistakes is to learn from them, make amends if you can, and move on. Regret, remorse, shame, blame and guilt are all worse than useless.

Self-care often costs money, and job searchers often don't have much of it. If you don't, be creative in finding treats that don't cost much. A midday walk in a beautiful park, a bubble bath, or weekend stay with a friend can all be wonderful rewards. It's also true, however, that many job searchers do have a small or large cushion of funds, but choose not to use it for self-care. You should, because it's foundational to your endurance, continued growth, and success.

As for the searching itself, you need to make sure you're using an effective strategy, so read my ebook It's Not You, It's Your Strategy. I wrote it specifically to counteract the enormous amount of awful job-search advice out there, and to help the many good people I know are struggling to get employed. I hope you'll agree that the techniques make sense, and I also hope they work for you as powerfully as they have for others. (In my coaching, we aim to have 25% of resume submissions result in an interview, and 25% of interviews result in an offer.)

Responding to Internet ads is an ineffective strategy; you do have to get out of the house and meet people. But they have to be the right people: employed people, to start with. More specifically, you want to integrate yourself into the communities you want to hire you. Do this by either taking a meaningful volunteer gig in those communities, or starting a business:

Volunteering. Most industries have an associated professional organization or association: see if you can volunteer for it. Volunteering with the membership committee, or helping organize a big meeting, will help you meet loads of people, and they'll get to see you being productive. Another good volunteer gig is writing or editing the association newsletter or Website: you can call anyone you want and they'll be happy to talk with you. (If you do nonprofit work, you can of course volunteer directly for the organization that you would like to work for.)

Business: Career counselor Penelope Trunk recommends starting your own business as a job search strategy because entrepreneurial types are in high demand and you'll have interesting and relevant experiences to discuss in your interview, among other reasons. Needless to say, your customers, suppliers and other business contacts are also conduits to hirers.

Other tips:

Watch the details. In It's Not You, It's Your Strategy, I cite the common-but-incredible statistic that 80-90% of job searchers screw up in obvious ways: applying for the wrong jobs, typos in their resumes or cover letters, or wearing a dated suit or hairstyle to an interview. By paying proper attention to details like these you'll automatically vault past the 85% who don't.

If you're a programmer or engineer, scientist or other technical person, click here.

Remember: procrastination is not laziness, lack of willpower, etc.: it's disempowerment. You're not missing energy, willpower, commitment, etc., but constrained from using what you already have. Remove the barriers - including those mentioned above - and you'll regain your energy, etc., and your productivity will soar. Unemployment and job searches are such awful, disempowering experiences that you can't blame anyone for becoming demotivated.

You'll find detailed solutions to the above conundrums in my ebook. For quicker progress, try coaching. (Below are client testimonials.) If you want me to give a workshop for your organization or group click here.


I can’t believe that in this job market I just landed an amazing job in my field. Not only did you help me devise a brilliant strategy (and gave many effective pointers along the way); you taught me to believe in myself. >— Aryenish B. (nonprofit worker), Lawrence, KS

On Monday I received a very strong offer and I’ve decided to take it. I feel that there were definitely points where your help positively impacted things for me, so many thanks. — Jamie H. (lawyer), Boston, MA

“After 22 years as a banking lawyer, I was laid off at age 53. Hillary helped me get past the confusion and depression that came from what turned out to be the end of a career, and helped me focus on a strategy for starting the next one. I appreciated her compassionate and yet no-nonsense approach.” — Nick R. (lawyer), Cambridge, MA

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