12 ways to show high emotional intelligence in the job search

I recall a time when I was leading a Résumé Writing workshop before COVID-19 struck. (Now I’ll be leading webinars for the unforeseen future.) As the story goes, one gentleman was staring at me the whole time. He never spoke, just shot daggers at me as I was conducting the workshop.

happy jobseeker

We’re told as presenters to look at the friendly participants because they’ll give you courage, but the one who looked like he could kill was the one I focused on. He was my challenge.

He was not angry with me, but his demeanor told me learning about writing résumés was not on his mind. He was probably thinking about how he was unjustly let go from his previous job for arguing with his boss for the fifth time in three months.

We’ve read a great deal about the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace, particularly for those who hold leadership roles. But what about how EQ applies to your job search? Without a strong degree of EQ, your job search is doomed. Below are 12 ways you can demonstrate EQ.

Self-awareness and self-management

This means you’re in tune with your emotions and abilities or lack thereof. You’re also capable of managing your emotions and abilities.

1. Own your emotions. Grief is one of the five phases of job loss. It also happens to be a phase people experience when they’ve lost a loved one. Be intuned with your grief but don’t let it consume you. Understand that your unemployment is temporary.

Anger is also one of the five phases a person will face when they’ve lost their job. Although a natural feeling, it can be the most detrimental to your job search. People can see it in your eyes and posture, hear it in your voice. This is the quickest way to push them away.

Someone with high EQ doesn’t show their grief and anger; rather they find ways to channel them. Perhaps turning to exercise, meditation, or seeking therapy. This is part of managing your emotions.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Emotional intelligence means you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses and can discuss both in a factual fashion. When it comes to your strengths, be sure you can back them up with proof of how you’ve demonstrated them.

In terms of your weaknesses, don’t be disingenuous with statements like “I work too hard,” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Many job seekers have been told they need to turn their weaknesses into strengths. This ploy can be seen miles away. Employers want people who are self-aware, who can recognize their weaknesses and overcome them.

3. Take on challenges. Rather than turn and run the other way, a job seeker with high EQ will face difficult or uncomfortable situations. It might mean making the decision to change your career, attend networking events requiring you to leave your comfort zone, or join LinkedIn and use it to its potential.

The majority of people who enter our career center take on the challenge of finding a new job, while others wait for a job to find them. Those who come to our center and approach me with hunger in their eyes possess high EQ.

4. Dress and act the part. First impressions are essential. In the job search, prior to the interview, smart job seekers understand they are on stage from the time they leave their house to the time they return. Demonstrating high EQ is not only necessary at the interview; it must be integrated into your daily life.

I recall one recruiter who was unemployed and attending my workshops telling me that she scans the room for people who might fit a role she would be filling in the future. If she sensed any negativity, that person wouldn’t get hired. Remember that being a fit is part of getting hired.

5. Take care of yourself. One thing I ask my clients is if they’re exercising. Are you walking or running? Going to the gym? Even parking in the spot farthest from the grocery store? Other ways to take care of yourself are refraining from nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and cutting down on food intake.

When I was out of work I increased my walking time from 45 minutes a day to 90 minutes or more. This helped clear my mind from the obsessive destructive thoughts of being out of work. I also lost a few pounds, which was helpful for my self-image.

Social awareness of others and managing others

This means you’re aware of others’ emotions and abilities. Further, you can use your social awareness to manage relationships. While you might see this as pertinent only to leadership roles, it also applies to the job search.

6. Understand the job search is stressful for others. And that you’re not alone. The feelings of uneasiness and anxiety are natural. This, however, doesn’t give you the authority to lash out at others, including family. Control your negative behavior.

My colleague Edythe Richards, Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, states, “People with active EQ are able to handle the stress of the job search without it getting them down, and have good impulse control (2 other elements of EQ).”

Furthermore, realize the job search is stressful for other job seekers. Practice empathy. If they are visibly upset, put yourself in their shoes.

7. You’re willing to help others. When you need help in your job search is the time you should think of other people who are also looking for work. Not everyone who is in need thinks of helping others, but those with high EQ realize that helping others will garner help in return.

You will get a sense of accomplishment that propels you forward. You also win the respect and support of others. On the flip side are the ones who only look out for themselves and, as a result, turn people away.

8. Be a leader. Taking the aforementioned trait, you not only help others; you are a leader by example. You show up at job clubs or networking groups (virtually nowadays) with your head held high. Although things aren’t going well, you show a positive facade.

One of my clients, a VP of Engineers, just landed a job that will begin in June. He remained positive throughout his job search. There were times when I could see the stress on his face, but he maintained the “I will prevail attitude.” He was a leader to others in the group.

9. Don’t blame others. Blaming others for your mistakes is a red flag to employers. If someone is let go because of poor performance, they should admit their mistakes and talk about how they won’t happen again.

People who have high EQ realize that mistakes are inevitable. Those who openly blame their situation on their boss or colleagues come across as someone who can’t own up to their responsibilities. They will not learn from their mistakes, as employers see it.

10. Gravitate toward positive people. I remember when I was laid off from my marketing position and how I spent approximately three weeks commiserating with a colleague who was also laid off. We sat in a small, smoky bar and drank, blaming management for not keeping us during an acquisition.

I soon came to realize I wouldn’t improve my situation by commiserating with this person. It was getting depressing…and expensive. I stopped meeting with him and sought positive people with whom to be. Positive people bring out positivity.

11. Take and give criticism well. No one likes to be criticized for what they do, but people who have high EQ see it as constructive criticism or advice. Of course certain criticism is not constructive and should be disregarded.

People with high EQ will also give constructive criticism with the intent of helping others. This might mean helping someone with their résumé or LinkedIn profile, how to network, and provide interview tips.

12. Learn from your mistakes. One common problem job seekers suffer from is not being able to understand their mistakes, and then correcting them. Take a woman who has been “let go” from multiple companies for continuously arguing with her boss.

She will have a hard time keeping her job if she doesn’t develop EQ. She may see this as difficult to do, but her future jobs will rely on it. Employers who dig for deeper information regarding why you left your previous job can smell this like a bloodhound.

The man who appeared so angry in my workshop left at the end without saying a word (normally people hang around to ask questions). I thought it would be the last time I’d see him.

When I picked up his evaluation form, a saw what appeared to be a tome of comments. I also saw the highest-ranking, 5 out of 5, for every question on the form. Furthermore, he attended many more workshops…always appearing angry.

Photo, Flickr, Christian L87


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