Friday, March 1, 2013

Go confidently in the direction of your new job

COUNT ON IT: Self-confidence and finding a new job go hand in hand
Job searching is very similar to sales. If you don't have confidence in your product or service, you cannot expect someone to buy it. Likewise, if you're over-confident, you risk repelling your potential buyer (or employer).

Having the just right amount of confidence is a trait that is very hard to fake because it comes from inside, and so much of it is communicated non-verbally. When someone is genuinely confident, but not boastful, it shines through. That is what employers want to see.

Here are several tips on how you can exude the proper amount of confidence throughout the various stages of the job search process to get motivated, stay on track, and secure your new position.

Finding the right balance

A prospective employer's perception of your confidence level can be seen as a predictor of many things in the workplace. I've talked to many students about this, and most recently I shared some insights with writer Emily Driscoll. She included some of my thoughts in her FOX Business article on having confidence when job hunting.

As I told her, on one hand, someone with low confidence can be perceived as insecure, indecisive, or high maintenance. Lack of confidence can also reduce your motivation to continue looking for a job. If you don't believe in yourself, it will be very hard to stay on track and remain disciplined and persistent.

In addition, it can be more difficult for people to help you find a job opportunity. If you are not confident, then you can't expect people who you know to open up their network to you. And if you feel lowly, you can sabotage yourself during an interview. Remember, trained interviewers care as much about how you answer the question as what you say.

On the other hand, someone who comes off as overly confident can be perceived as arrogant, a "knower" instead of a "learner," or a potentially difficult team member. Over-confidence can also be viewed as a sign that someone is actually quite insecure and is trying to convince himself and the prospective employer of something that's not really there.

This is why it's important to exude confidence without being boastful or a know-it-all when interacting with prospective employers. Let's talk about some ways to do this.

Searching for open positions

Creating the right amount of confidence begins when you are searching for open positions. Keep these guidelines in mind.
  • Develop a road map. So much of confidence is knowing what to do. I'm not talking about the ultimate goal, such as "get a job." I'm talking about breaking the big goal down into steps you can take this month, this week, today!
  • Create structure and routines. Impose a structure on yourself and stick to it. It will help you get more done, which will, in turn, build confidence.
  • Build your network. Find people who believe in you. This includes not only people you know and that your parents know. Think about professors, coaches, employers, and extended friends and family. You can build a strong network by taking a push-pull approach -- gather advice, but also give your own. What's more, you should do this freely without a quid-pro-quo. Remain genuine, and remember that you are always on. Everything you do (or don't do) makes a difference.
  • Become a student of the job search process. As a student you learned how to learn about all kinds of subjects. A job search is the same thing. Commit yourself to building your expertise at finding a job. In today's economy that is a skill you'll use many times in your career. In fact, this is one of the most important things you can learn because, in truth, your job search will never be over. Once you find your first job you should commit yourself to it, and be thinking about how success in that job will lead you to your next career step.
Interviewing

Practicing interview questions isn't just about rehearsing answers to common questions. It's about telling stories and relating situations. Quality practice has several key elements.
  • Know your story. Why are you applying for the job and how does it fit into your life story? Employers are wary of graduates who are simply looking to learn on their dime and move onto the next job. You need to be able to explain why the opportunity you seek will be a good fit for the organization and for you -- in that order.
  • Know the company's story. There is no excuse for not being prepared for an interview. Demonstrate the critical thinking and research skills you learned in school to find out about the company, the industry, the competitors and the interviewer.
  • Prepare your personal "commercial." How will you briefly sum up your skills and/or experiences in a way that makes it clear that you are a good fit for the position?
  • Create your portfolio of accomplishments and stories. Really take stock of what you learned. Write down a few takeaways for each of the relevant courses you took. Include what you learned, projects you worked on, and what it meant to you. Also document results you achieved in any clubs, organizations, or other activities. You'll see that you've done quite a lot and you'll have good ideas for stories and anecdotes to share during interviews.
  • Practice on paper and out loud. I've seen many people write outstanding answers on paper, only to fumble the spoken sentences. The only way to get over this is to practice often, and to remain flexible.
  • Set up mock interviews. Mock interviews need to be real. Give the interviewer the company profile you prepared along with a list of questions you might get. Include tough ones and those you don't want to answer. Also give your interviewer the job description and an evaluation sheet to grade your performance. Practice interviewing in person, over the phone, and on Skype.
Peer advice

Many job seekers naturally turn to their friends and other peers to get their perspective on how they are handling their own job hunts. This can be a helpful approach -- if you do it with the right mind-set.
  • Find positive people. Many people tend to focus on negative news more than positive news -- and negativity is much more contagious than positivity. That's why it's important to avoid the negativity by surrounding yourself with positive people who will help you get where you want to go.
  • Create good luck. If you find someone who found the perfect job quickly, don't let it get you down. Talk to them about what they did, how they did it, and if they have any suggestions or connections that can help you. Remember, sometimes they won't know and will have just gotten lucky. That doesn't mean you are unlucky, just that you have to create the conditions to make your own good luck.
  • Avoid a downward spiral. If you find others who are struggling, don't let them pull you down. Talk with them about what they are doing and what is and is not working. Help them, and yourself, by trying to elevate everyone's level of play. Sometimes you'll find people who can't or won't be helped. There isn't anything you can do for them, and trying will just sap your energy and your confidence. When you find an "Eeyore," be polite and move on.
Bonus tips

It can be easy to get discouraged when searching for a new job. But it's important to keep your efforts in perspective with a few extra confidence boosters.
  • Set realistic expectations. If you're being hired for an entry-level position, you are being assessed on cultural fit and the ability to learn and grow more than on what you know or even your tactical skills. If you're coming out of school, you have been working on learning and growing for years. That is the one area where a student should be confident.
  • Enlist a support team. Everyone with a job has gone through this process, and they generally will want to help you. Surround yourself with people who will be supportive, but who will also tell you what you need to hear when you don't want to hear it. These people will help you stay on track. Find a mentor to provide wisdom and perspective and boost your confidence when you need it.
  • Be kind to yourself. You're going to have good days and bad days. Great opportunities will slip away because of mistakes you make. That's part of life. It is not about whether we face adversity, but how we overcome it that defines us as people.
  • Keep calm and carry on. Don't panic or get desperate. Use discipline to create a plan. Take disciplined action toward that plan -- and keep moving. You will build the momentum you need to increase your confidence and achieve your goal.
When it seems like you're doing everything right in your job hunt, yet you're still not getting anywhere, the X factor might be your confidence level. Evaluate your thoughts and actions thus far. Could your confidence use a boost? Try any and all of the ideas here, and see the difference it can make in your ability to make in-roads, forge relationships, find opportunities, secure interviews, and get a new job.