Tag Archives: jobseeker

8 ways to prevent burnout in the job search

Here’s a story about a man I knew years back. His name was Ted and he was in his sixties, failing in health, and had a frail wife at home. I saw him often when I visited an urban career center in central Massachusetts.


One day I was conducting intakes of participants for a computer training program I was coordinating. After my sixth intake I was exhausted, so I walked over to where Ted always sat.

I asked him how things were going in his search. He told me not so good. Curious, I asked him how much time he was spending on the job search. He told me he spent 60-70 hours a week on it. “The job search is a full-time job,” he told me without skipping a beat.

I asked him how things were going in his life. I meant his home life, not his job search. With all seriousness he told me that his wife and he were on the verge of a divorce. “She’s mad at me being out of the house so much,” he said, as his eyes teared up. “But I have to find a job,” he finished.

While it was unclear whether a divorce was eminent because  of the long hours Ted was spending looking for work, it was crystal clear that the outrageous amount of time he was spending was doing more harm than good.

When I tell this story to my workshop attendees, I end by saying, “Don’t be like Ted.” I tell this story when bringing up the topic of commitment to the job search. How many hours should one commit to the search? If the job search is a full-time job, as Ted said, should jobseekers dedicate that much time?

My answer to them is no; spending as much time on the job search as Ted did can lead to burnout. Some ways to prevent burnout are:

1. Don’t start immediately

There’s no rule, written or unwritten, saying you need to start looking for work as soon as you lose your job. I generally suggest taking one (two at most) weeks to decompress after you’re given the word. Read this article for more on starting your job search.

One job seeker told me yesterday that he had to take two months off to clear his head. I don’t know what his mental state was, but doing this puts you behind the eight ball in terms of getting momentum in your search. It also may create a larger  gap on your resume.

2. Develop a plan

The plan I’m speaking of should ideally be day-to-day, even hour-to-hour, which can be kept on an Excel spreadsheet. If this seems a bit daunting, try to reach at least 60% of your goals.

Don’t exceed five hours a day during the week and don’t let up on the weekends, which can be a great opportunity to put a bug in people’s ears about your situation. Without a plan you’ll end up spinning your wheels, going nowhere quick.

3. Use different methods to look for work

Networking has always proved to be the best way to look for work. Supplement that with LinkedIn. Make follow-up calls. Even knock on companies’ doors if it’s a possibility. Contact your alumni association. Call on recruiters and staffing agencies.

Spending six hours a day on the Internet is not a good use of your time. You’ll feel more productive if you employ a variety of methods; just don’t spread yourself thin. Four methods should be fine.

4. Take a break or two

You are most likely going through a roller coaster ride of emotions. You need time to take occasional breaks to regroup. Not too long, mind you; but long enough to regain your energy.

Go on walks or to the gym, or if the weather’s nice sit on a bench and take time to reflect about your plan. Decide on a day during the week when you’ll put the job search on hold; maybe go to the beach with your family, or putter around the house.

5. Volunteer in your area of work

Volunteering is a good idea for a number of reasons.

  1. You put yourself in a position to network with people who are currently working and may have ideas or contacts who can be of use.
  2. Two, it keeps you active; you’re not spending time sitting at home behind your computer.
  3. Finally, you can enhance the skills you have or develop new ones. Perhaps you’re an expert at HTML but need to know Java. Find an organization that needs a website developed and has the time for you to get up to speed.

6. Get job-search assistance

Your local One-Stop career center, an outplacement agency (if you were granted one by your employer), and alumni association are sources of job-search advice. And they will also keep you preoccupied from your current situation.

Many people who come to our career center speak not only of the advice we provide, but also the emotional support we give them.

7. Join a networking group

The benefits of joining a networking group, large or small, are obvious; but consider how they can offer support. Networking groups have their pros and cons.  I tell my workshop attendees that you get what you put into them.

A buddy group consisting may be more to your liking; it consists usually of four to five people. Whichever you prefer, keep in mind that you must offer career advice and support as well.

8. Seek professional help if needed

Sometimes the stress of being out of work is too much to handle on your own. You may feel anxious and even depressed. It’s important to realize this, or take advice from family and friends, and seek help from a therapist. You may find talking with a third-party person refreshing, non-judgmental.

I don’t know what happened to Ted, how his job search went and if his marriage lasted. Before I left him that day—the last day I saw him—I told him to “give it a break.” I’m not sure he took my advice; he probably didn’t due to his stubborn nature. He was unrelenting in his desire to find a job. I see hints of Ted in some of the job seekers who come to our career center. And I worry they’ll turn out like Ted.

4 areas career strategists need to understand to be more effective


I recently sat with a customer (client) to critique his LinkedIn profile. A rare moment occurred when I drew a blank and couldn’t suggest verbiage for his Summary.  Perhaps it was fatigue or looking at a profile that was as exciting as watching paint dry or maybe I didn’t have a complete understanding of what a chemistry lab technician does. Whatever it was, it got me to thinking about our role as career strategists.

As career strategist (career advisors, workshop facilitators, Veteran reps, disability advisors, job coaches, etc.) we sometimes hit brick walls like the one I describe above. I believe there are four major areas of the job search we must understand in order to be most effective. The four areas are:

1. Understanding hiring authorities, e.g., recruiters/hiring managers/HR. This is one area on which career strategists need to focus more of their attention. The two players in the job search (career strategist and hiring authorities) seem miles apart in terms of knowledge of each other. On the career strategists’ part, could this be due to a lack of desire to learn because they see it as not important?

This is what I know about hiring authorities. They’re trying to find the ideal candidate (purple squirrel) who can hit the ground running, performing the responsibilities with no to very little training. A personality fit is important but not as important as the ability to perform the job requirements quickly. This proves to be a mistake occasionally, as an employee may not be a cultural fit in the organization.

All hiring authorities are overworked, particularly internal or third-party recruiters who must interview as many as 20 candidates a day and present a manageable number of candidates for the hiring managers to interview (4-10 candidates), which varies depending on the company.

Complaints I hear from hiring authorities start with having very little time to do their job properly. (Read this post to see what I mean.)  They continue with poorly written resumes that 1) are not proofread, 2) don’t fit the job advertised, 3) are simply lists of duties with no accomplishments. Poor interview performances that make them scratch their head is huge complaint. Finally, having the right candidate withdraw from consideration.

2. Understanding industries and job roles. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know exactly what a nuclear engineer does, but I can fudge it when push comes to shove. Whereas one career strategist feels comfortable representing an operations manager in manufacturing, another may not. To do our job properly, we must understand who we’re presenting. This includes knowing how to write their résumés, LinkedIn profiles, who to network with, and how to prepare for interviews.

Some jobseekers are glad to school us on their profession, while others may get irritated if we don’t know the duties of, say, a civil engineer. I recall one of my colleagues feeling inadequate after one of her customer told her he felt she didn’t know enough about what he does and, therefore, he felt like he was wasting his time. Career strategists must take an active role in learning about what their customers do.

What’s the solution? We could learn as we go, but that takes a long time, particularly since a petroleum engineer comes around every five years. Second, we could use sources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook, but this is a source that offers general information and is somewhat outdated. Lastly, we could be honest and ask our customers to explain exactly what they do and what they’ve accomplished.

3. Understanding the customer. Directly related to understanding what our customers do in terms of their industry and job is understanding their motivation for doing what they do. I’ve talked with jobseekers who talk about their occupation with enthusiasm. It’s as if they would do the job for free. On the other hand, I’ve spoken with customers who sound like leaving their past job was the best thing for them.

I sat with a former software tester for a résumé critique. He was let go for allowing his wife access to sensitive information. First he appeared un-enthused, but when he talked about his work, he came to life. What about customers who show no interest in what they did? This is when we have to broach the subject of a career change. This is never an easy subject, for it challenges the customer to think about what she wants to do. Example, one of my customers was a dental assistant and hated it. She knows she wants to work with Veterans because she’s one herself.

Before understanding a customer’s occupation and industry, it’s important to know where she is emotionally. This is sometimes overlooked by career strategist who might assume their customer is fine because all seems fine on the surface; when in fact the customer may be suffering internally. (I’ll admit to advising my customers to fake it till they make it. But in private, it is different.) Many times my customers have struggled to hold back tears as we were talking about nothing in particular. At any moment customers will break down because of their frail state of mind. This leads me to the next and final area.

4. Understanding the role of the career strategist. One mistake career strategists can make is showing a lack of empathy. Empathy comes from an understanding of what it’s like to have suffered. It’s not the same as sympathy. Grammarian.com explains empathy, “When you understand and feel another’s feelings for yourself, you have empathy.”

Sympathy, on the other hand, is “When you sympathize with someone, you have compassion for that person, but you don’t necessarily feel her feelings.” It is associated with pity, which is not what our customers should receive, nor want. I tell the old joke, “If you haven’t been unemployed, you’re not in our club.” I believe those who have been unemployed, like me, understand the feeling and know better how to relate to those currently unemployed.

Shut up. It’s time to listen. Some of the best career strategist I know are those who listen while the customer is talking. Then they give their sage advice. Sometimes I’ll sit with a customer and ask a few questions until I have an understanding of the problems he is having. Only by hearing his problems will I be able to correctly assess his situation and offer proper advice. (I’ve also been known to tell my customers to stop talking and listen. Very effective.)

It is important to know what the trending job-search strategies are, not preach old advice. One obvious example of talking about the “new” would be talking about the importance of being on LinkedIn for people in most industries. Working with customers to develop a résumé that meets today’s standards is also important, which includes “beating” the Applicant Tracking System. Although stressing networking has been around for many years, the importance of it has increased, as the success of searching for work online is garnering increasingly less success. These are just a few of the job-search strategies we need to impart on our customers.

Don’t look for customers’ mistakes; find them. Finally, our job is not to criticize before reviewing. Too many career strategist feel it’s their job to find as many mistakes on a person’s résumé, cover letter, job search activity, etc., before understanding the situation. I’ve seen too many career strategists who are too fast to criticize before hearing his customers’ points of view or strategy. This is a sign of the career strategist trying to show his dominance over the customer. (Nor would I want a customer believing everything I say because of my title.)

Holding our customers accountable is key to their success. One of my colleagues puts his customers on “his plan,”  a simple Excel spreadsheet that tracks their activity and sets goals to complete as the days progress. One of the goals he sets for his customers is reaching out to potential networkers, resulting in possible job opportunities. The only way this works is if his customers follow through with the goals set forth. My colleague is responsible for making sure his customers meet their goals…or it doesn’t work.

Bringing this all together can be a major undertaking. While a career strategist may be empathetic and hold his customers accountable, he may not be strong in the area of knowing what’s in the minds of recruiters and hiring managers. Similarly, a career strategist may be well aware of the various occupations and industries, but be weak in terms of her strategy planning for the customers.

Putting this all together is the trick. There are those who can effectively master all four areas, while others can touch the surface of the four areas. Others may be strongest in two areas and are best utilized for those two areas, which begs to question if managers should identify the strengths and weaknesses of their employees and try to position them appropriately.

Dear recruiter, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever

Man on phone 2

As a career strategist I’m privy to conversation from job candidates who are at the mercy of internal and third-party recruiters. I say mercy because before they can sell themselves to the hiring manager, they have to get past the recruiter.

In the grand scheme of things there seems to be a misunderstanding of the importance the role job candidates play in the hiring process. They are the bread and butter of the process because they’re the ones who are going to solve the employer’s most dire need, the need to fill a position.

While we see many articles written on what jobseekers do wrong, rarely a word do we see on what recruiters do wrong. I personally don’t see the justice in this inequity of blame; and I’m not even applying for jobs. I’m just the messenger.

Some recruiters (a small number) are treating their job candidates like shite, Mate. This seems counterproductive to achieving the goal of hiring people for the jobs that need to get filled. And there are numerous jobs to fill. I know, recruiters are busy (#11 on the list of job candidate complaints) vetting candidates to present to their clients, but their lack of sensitivity, courtesy, and plain logic is sometimes baffling.

I realize there are some great recruiters and some lousy recruiters (the number favors the former); and the same applies to job candidates (ditto). But some of the behavior I’ve heard about recruiters is well…baffling. Without further ado, let me relay what my customers have told me over time.

  1. You told me I was your number one and then didn’t call back. Didn’t that make me feel cheap.
  2. You knew less about the job than I did. (Ouch.)
  3. You thought I was too old. Hint: don’t ask a candidate how old she is. One of my former customers was actually asked during a telephone interview, “Just how old are you?”
  4. You took the liberty to revise MY résumé. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the interview to find the interviewers holding a different version of the résumé I sent.
  5. Do you really think what I did after graduating from college (25 years ago) is relevant? The last time I checked, no one was using DOS.
  6. You called me an hour late and wondered why I was pissed. I  had to pick up my child from daycare,  which by the way takes up most of my UI benefits.
  7. You wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn so you could have access to my connections. I’m not stupid, stupid.
  8. You sent me to the wrong interview. Imagine my surprise when the hiring manager started describing a position that I wasn’t aware of applying for.
  9. You overlooked me because I was out of work for three months. No, technology in finance doesn’t change that much in three months. Oh, I get it; I’m damaged goods.
  10. I may not be as beautiful as your dream date, but I can manage a project with my eyes close. Incidentally,  you’re no looker yourself.
  11. You complain about being sooo busy. I’m not exactly sitting around watching Oprah and popping Bonbons. I am out beating the bushes.
  12. Really? “What is your greatest weakness?” Why do you ask idiotic questions like this? Do you think I’ll really tell you my greatest weakness? Besides, I have the answer memorized.
  13. I wasn’t a fit? Couldn’t you get a better explanation than that. I only want to know if I need to improve my interviewing techniques.
  14. Speaking of interviewing, couldn’t you have told me that I was going to be the oldest person in the building? I can rock with the best of them, but it would have been great to have a heads up.
  15. No means no. I don’t want to take a position that pays half the amount I was making at my last job. I know salaries may be lower these days, but doing twice the amount of work for half the pay doesn’t add up.

Many of the people I serve have had favorable experiences with recruiters, but the process could be a lot better if some of these common complaints are addressed.

Read the follow-up post, Dear hiring manager, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever. There are 15 different reasons!

Photo: Flickr, Kev-Shine

My nomination for Person of the Year

Time just came out with their Person of the Year award and, as we all know, the winner is The Protesters, which I think is grand. A great deal of good came out of protests in the Middle East, and I won’t comment on the Occupiers in fear of offending one side of the political spectrum or the other. Time’s choice was…interesting.

Some thought Steve Jobs should have won Person of the Year. He didn’t even make the Short List. The leader of the Elite Six Navy Seals, William McRaven, made the short list; great choice. Kate Middleton made the short list as well? The fact is you’ll never get everyone to agree on the same person/people. But my Person of the Year should have at least made the Short List.

My person of the year is The Jobseeker. The Jobseeker carried him/herself with dignity and professionalism. He/she networked and paid it forward, wrote powerful résumés resulting in interviews, and finally (after more than a year, in some cases), landed a job.

But there were many Jobseekers who demonstrated true heroism throughout the entire year, simply by the way they handled themselves. Perhaps they didn’t land their job, but they never gave up in the face of adversity. And they’ll continue to put forth the same effort that make them honorable, in my mind. They:

  • Woke up every morning to put in a full day of hunting for work, leaving no stones unturned and considering every possibility.
  • Maintained that screw-the-economy-I-will-get-a-job attitude.
  • Knew that every day was a day when they might have run into a person who could hire them, or someone who knew a person who could have hired them; thus dressed ready for the moment, even in my workshops.
  • Took a break every once and awhile to recharge the batteries, but not too long of a break. A day or two at the most. They networked during the holidays.
  • Followed their career plan of revising the résumé, creating a list of companies they research and contacted, building a LinkedIn profile that meets today’s standards, and other best practices.
  • Attended workshops and took advantage of job-search pundits’ advice, learning that things have changed in the past ten years but, nonetheless, trudged on.
  • Accepted and embraced the Hidden Job Market, making penetrating it a priority in their job search plan.
  • Attended interview after interview until they hit a homerun with an employer smart enough to hire them. The Jobseeker never gave up, despite the challenges they encountered.
  • Never forgot the important things in life, like family and friends, and taking care of their health. They didn’t let the job search consume them.
  • Faced the despondency or depression they encountered with courage and perseverance.

These are just a few of the reasons why The Jobseeker gets my vote for Person of the Year. If you think of others, let us know by commenting on this article. I think I should send my reasons to Time and demand a recount.