When I first decided it was time to reinsert myself into the outside working world, even though I had only stepped off the career track for one year, it was still very overwhelming. Daunting, even. Cocktail parties and networking events weren’t quite what they used to be. (See The Mom Identity Crisis for more on that.)
It took putting my anxieties and nervousness aside, stepping one confident foot forward, followed by the other, and making no apologies for my choices. And along the way, I discovered some very commonly practiced blunders people make that cause their job search to be even harder, and take longer. (Thankfully I can proudly report that I only committed one of these blunders myself – can you guess which one?)
These are all quite easy to avoid, as long as you know what they are.
1. You show up dressed for today, rather than tomorrow.
If you want to play the part, dress the part. Faded jeans and a black t-shirt scream, “I am not employed! I am in my bumming-around clothes. I don’t care.” So why should anyone else?
This one seems pretty obvious, but as recently as last month I encountered a woman networking in a professional setting, dressed in in the above-described get-up with sneakers to boot. She had come from home, and was explicitly asking people she met about potential employment opportunities.
If you’re going to a networking event, wear what you would expect to wear if you were actually in the job you’d like to have. Remember, disheveled appearance is perceived as disheveled mind. Not to mention what it does for your mojo. (Caveat – if you’re looking for a job in a super casual environment, like at an indie tech start-up where the boss is known to keep a casual office culture, this may be a situation where jeans are ok. But you still want to look put together.)
2. You tell everyone what you’re able to do, but not what you want to do.
We’ve all met someone who’s done this. They’re smart, dynamic, have an interesting background. But when you ask them what kind of position they’re looking for, they tell you a laundry list of things they can do, but not what they WANT to do. The clearer you can be about what you want to do and where you want to go, the easier you make it for others to help you get there. Own it. This is your search, not theirs.
3. You’ve decided what you want to do, but you tell people as if you’re defending your choice.
When you’re looking to make a job or career transition, your heart may be all a-flutter with that whooshing feeling that comes with taking risks. And if you’re a stay-at-home mom for a while, it’s easy to lose your sense of connection to your “professional’ identity. So the prospect of putting yourself out there can certainly heighten some anxieties.
Once you’ve done the internal work of getting clear on what you want to do and where you want to go, you’ve gotta own it. When you’re at that next networking function and someone asks you what kind of opportunity you’re looking for, tell them with confidence. If you babble on and on about why you think you’re making the right choice for yourself, you actually raise doubts in others’ minds rather than sell them on it. Delivering your intention with clarity and confidence yields affirming nods. Justifying your intention with rationales calls up doubt. Who wouldn’t want affirming nods?
4. You have nothing to give.
People like you. They want to continue the conversation. They want to follow up with you. And you have nothing to give them. Whether you’re employed or not, when you are out there looking for a new opportunity, you’ve got to have a “business card” to give people with your basic contact info so they can follow up. Make some on your computer if you have to. But don’t go out empty-handed. You’re basically asking to be forgotten.
5. You’re so nervous about answering questions, that you forget to ASK questions.
We all know people love talking about themselves. If you’re so busy talking about yourself that you forget to ask others questions, you’re denying others the chance to realize how fabulous you are! Remember, when someone else shows an interest in you, it feels good. It can help boost your confidence. You remember that person fondly. So, if you want to be remembered fondly, make others feel good about themselves by asking them the questions. Often you can be more remembered for the questions you ask and the listening you do, than for the questions you answer.
Hey – I’d love to hear what blunders you’ve seen committed to add to the list, so go ahead and leave them in the Comments below!