The stress of unemployment can slowly build a mental purgatory of negative thoughts that alter your mood, behavior, and outlook. Without a support team and a positive attitude I have seen people slowly self-destruct while battling long-term unemployment. The stress during this time can be almost insurmountable. In our society many times people have their self-worth tied up in their job, title, ability to earn an income, provide for their family, and to be self-reliant. We know that this is wrong and that our identity and value is not tied up in our titles and jobs but unless you have gone through the situation where one day you wake up and it is all gone you won’t understand how it impacts your soul.
For those currently unemployed I want to help you change your perspective on the situation. It is important to act from a position of strength, hope, courage and with a positive outlook. I will talk more about the mental frame of mind needed to overcome this challenge and have success in future posts but for now this post is to help you kick down the door for your dream job. I want to address the next tip in this series, How To Build A Full-Time Life in a Part-Time World…the best way to get the job of your dreams as quickly as possible. I have seen it work throughout my career and in my opinion it is the best strategy to employ to gain your next job.
For those who are unemployed and looking to secure a position within a new company, one of the best ways to do this is to volunteer or intern at that company. I call this “joining the team.” The least effective way to secure the job of your dreams is to spam multiple organizations with your resume and sit back and wait to hear from them. As the number of unemployed rise, HR departments are flooded with aspiring applicants. These “gate keepers” are tough to circumvent. From my years of experience, most hires…. especially at the senior levels within an organization are “sponsored” by a senior leader within the organization that helps the candidate get them past the gatekeeper.
If you get a solid recommendation from a senior leader of the organization you are set. When a member of the senior leadership team walks into the HR department and says, “I want to hire Amy as a member of my team,” rest assured Amy will be a member of the team. HR like everyone else wants to keep the boss happy. In many respects, HR and the official hiring process is the “back-up” hiring process if the leaders are not able to leverage their own network to find the right candidate. Leaders want to work with people they know and trust. Many times they go to their own network and industry circles first when a position comes open. Only if the leader or the team members can not find a great candidate within their network they will turn to HR or recruiter to bring them candidates to consider. Your goal should be to get in that network and get noticed by senior leadership and have them “sponsor” you so you don’t have to rely on the normal channels. To do this…join the team!
As you will see, getting hired is a multi-faceted approach where you can be pursuing multiple avenues at once. In fact, it is critical you are working three strategies in unison. Remember to announce, network, and join.
First, you need to announce to the right people that you are on the market and looking. We spoke about networking earlier in this series with Tip 3: Enlarge Your Network and why you need to build your network before you need it. Now is when you will start to leverage those contacts and relationships. When you are in “job search mode,” it is important to let your contacts know you are looking for work and available. Many times people will assume you are still working for your old company or are happy there and not looking to transition. Get the word out that you are available!
Secondly, if you have zeroed in on a company you really want to work for in your local area you need to take specific action by networking with key people in the company. Start by working with the company’s HR department to see what jobs are currently available. Learn about the hiring procedures and get to know the entry level managers in charge of this process. What type of paperwork is required to be filled out? How does the entire process work? Who are the key leaders who make these decisions? Who are the department managers, division leaders, and senior leaders in the organization that you would be working for? This is just for intel gathering. Your game plan is not to get hired through HR but to get sponsored by a senior leader within the company.
The more information you know about the company, their processes, and the system they use to hire people for internal positions the better prepared you can be. This will drastically increase your chances for gaining employment. Knowing the process is important, knowing the people is critical.
Finally, you need to join the team. Once you have notified key members in your network of your availability and after you have networked with the HR departments at the top companies on your list where you would like to work the next step “getting inside.” Don’t stand on the outside waiting for a phone call. If it is your dream to work for a particular organization stack the deck in your favor and find a way to join the team even if you are not yet hired.
There are multiple ways to accomplish this. Most importantly, do you know anyone inside the company who can be an advocate for you and introduce you to the key people in the HR department and other leaders within the company? This person is able to help you navigate past the gatekeepers to the people of influence who are able to make decisions on your behalf. Having an internal advocate is one of the best methods to get inside a company. I have known people who dreamed of working for specific organizations and spent over a year developing friendships and relationships with members of an organization so they could have an internal advocate when the time was right to seek a job.
Internships are one of the best ways to get inside a company. Many companies use their internship programs as a way to get to know potential hires and to see how they perform on a daily basis. This is also a great way for the intern to truly know the culture and environment of a company prior to making a commitment to join the staff as an employee. If you are a solid team member adding value everyday to the team and bringing energy, enthusiasm, and new ideas to the table, the leaders of the company will not want to see you go. You will have proven your value and they will be looking for ways to keep you on the team.
Internships have generally been seen as a method for young people and college students to get work experience. If you are a mid-career professional in your 40’s, 50’s or even 60’s you may be thinking, “I am to old to be an intern…won’t that look weird on my resume?” The answer is no. Call it whatever you want…internship, volunteering, consulting for free, it does not matter. All that matters is that you start providing value to the organization, build relationships, help them with their challenges, help them solve problems, and over time they will trust you and want you full-time on their team.
Recently at the Christian Economic Forum in Durban South Africa a presentation was given about the failing education system in South Africa and the high unemployment rate of those under the age of 25. One young woman in the audience raised her hand asking for advice on how to have success in this difficult environment. I think the advice that came from our panel of experts not only was pertinent to her but to anyone in her position. Here is the advice we gave.
- Get a mentor – It is one of the most important things you can do. Everyone at all stages of life should have a mentor who is able to give them advice and perspective to achieve your goals. They can also be advocates introducing you to people to help you in your career.
- Continue your education – we now live in a world where everyone needs to be continuing his or her education every year. We must all be life long learners so the world and technology do not pass us by. Constantly be adding new skills and always be trying to understand the global economy and how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Understanding the big picture and global framework will help you.
- Volunteer or Intern – those out of work and looking for work bypass the long HR lines and get inside by volunteering or interning and proving their value and worth and soon the company will hire you to be on their team.
Our panel agreed that when you are out of work, finding a way to get “inside the company” as a volunteer or intern is a great way to land a job at a company of your choice. Be intentional and understand that getting inside is just the first step. Every day while in that role, work like you are the CEO of the company. Work harder than everyone else. Provide value, be honest, trustworthy, dependable, and do the work that no one else wants to do. Have an attitude of service before self and in all you do set the standard of excellence. Bring a contagious attitude of enthusiasm and excitement and I promise you that company will be looking for ways to hire you to be a long-term member of their team!