April 30, 2020

Jobless in the Pandemic: 3 Mindsets to have while looking for that Next Gig.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


While humanity is wrestling with COVID-19, many of us are filling out applications for anything we can find.

Doing what we can to be more visible to recruiters and hiring managers. Prepping for interviews to land something as soon as possible.

For the many of us who are in the job market, it’s not surprising to feel nerve-wracked when we don’t have any source of income. We’re trying to put ourselves out there in the best way we can with what we know, but if we’re having a tough time getting calls or getting turned down before any job offers, what have we tried doing differently?

Do we have a lack of focus or find it difficult to connect? Is there a lot of nervousness present and a sense of rushing? Do we have a hard time sharing who we are in a way that resonates with others?

People can quickly read us through our words, body language, and the subtle actions we take. The way we write our resumés, LinkedIn profiles, and letters. The way we speak in conversations. The gestures we make over a call. The kind of questions we ask. The way we express our curiosity for the role, hiring manager, team, company, and culture. The way we try to relate to whoever is communicating with us.

With endless factors, there’s so much for us to bring to the table and it’s important for us to nail down three key things as we look for that next job:

Thing 1: If we’re feeling chaotic, overwhelmed, or stuck in that fight-or-flight mode, let’s take a moment to meet ourselves with where we are at. 

With a number of crises converging at the same time, some of us may be unintentionally exhibiting that kind of vibe to others when we move through our job search and interviews. That sense of nervousness can trickle into the way we communicate with others, ultimately affecting our ability to connect with them. But before we can even connect with others, what have we done to check in with ourselves?

I know I didn’t do my best in any pursuit until I took a pause to reassess my situation and my state of being. To put it out there, I had to give myself a break time to time, just to tune out the noise for a moment and check in to see what I needed the most for myself. While I can’t answer for anyone, I do believe the answer sits within us as individuals. Any one of us can feel denial. Grief. Sadness. Anger. Overwhelm. Abandonment. Anything. Whatever it may be, giving ourselves permission to notice and feel without judgement helps us acknowledge our state of being.

Feeling out an unpleasant emotion isn’t always a “bad” thing. Sometimes it’s painful if we’re used to holding things in. Sometimes we resist our emotions for so long that we’re afraid to discover what’s there. But as we turn away, fear grows. And to really overcome this, it’s about giving ourselves the room to gently acknowledge what’s happening within our internal states so that we do not hamper our nervous systems to the point where we overload our physical and mental health. We do not suppress or reject our emotional experience.

It’s about easing up on ourselves and giving ourselves an honest look with where we are at. If we’re having a difficult time going at this on our own, this is when we can consider a professional to help us move through the turmoil we may be experiencing.

We don’t need to bypass ourselves with “stay positive” or “I’ll be fine” affirmations. Seriously. It’s okay to feel like a mess and not have it together.

It’s about honoring our space and where we need to be rather than subjecting ourselves to show up somewhere with more pressure. If we need to let things out, by all means, let it out. We’ve got emotions to unpack within these bodies because of what we have experienced. And if we look at the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, who can expect us not to feel the impact of it?

This is the time to ask ourselves: what would be the most valuable thing that we can do for ourselves at this time?

Sometimes the answer can be hard for us to take in. Maybe it’s not as easy for us to find the next job. Maybe we need time to sort ourselves out. Maybe we’re feeling scattered or much like a pressure cooker who needs to let off the steam somewhere. For whatever shows up, honor it without judgement. We are human after all. We need to be heard or seen in some way, starting with ourselves. To really accept what we feel without judgement to validate our own experience.

Thing 2: What is important to us? Sit with that answer and attempt to clarify, cultivate, and express it.  

When it comes to what we do for a living, what is important to us? Regardless of what role we might have held, what actions do we seem to enjoy on the job?

If I look back at the variety of jobs I’ve held, the hardest ones were the ones where I felt like I was compromising my own values. The pay might have been there but it definitely took a toll on my health when I found myself subjected to circumstances that didn’t align with who I was. On some days, it was tough to come to work when my physical and mental health suffered.

I get some of us have little choice in what we can do to make our ends meet because of our obligations. What I invite folks to do is to at least give this sincere thought. Operating in a sustained fight-or-flight mode may help us get by for now, but it’s not intended to be on 24/7 for long periods of time. The prolonged states of fear and anxiety takes a toll on us to the point where we may be prone to numbing ourselves, potentially harming our overall well-being. If it’s in our capacity, let’s extend an invitation to nurture what’s important to us so we do not risk disconnecting from ourselves.

Taking note of what energizes and drains us is key to helping us identify what really works for us. It actually helps us get creative in expanding our opportunities and not limiting ourselves to the traditional roles we may sought after. On a rational level, it may seem too simple to think about this but when we deliberately set the intention to make these motivational actions a more regular part of our lives, it helps us set the stage for reinvigorating our lives with more meaning, expansion, and authenticity.

Rather than succumbing to anything-we-can-get, nourishing what we value helps us build the confidence and momentum to pursue the possibilities that are inline with who we are. It’s to respond in a more resilient and self-compassionate way. And if we don’t quite know what we want next, all the more reason to take a step back to have an honest look at what’s important to us and what exactly would support those values.

I’ll admit, I changed my careers a number of times whenever I felt lost, ultimately redefining my life and what was important to me. Graduated as an electrical engineer. Then, jumped straight into technical marketing, hoping I could learn more about the business side. As soon as I realized I missed my artistic hobbies, I changed my direction again to communications so I could articulate myself in different ways. And to augment what I did, I came across coaching through one of my rock bottoms. Fast forward to now, I’m wearing multiple hats as an owner of small businesses, weathering my way through this pandemic using the things I am most passionate about.

My point in all this is, it’s possible to shift our career directions and the opportunities available to us if we give ourselves the time and space to reflect on it. And if we need support, plenty of coaches and counselors are available to help us clarify and discover what may be next for us.

And if we take this even further, when’s the last time we reflected on our why? Why do we do “something” and why might we share that “something” with others? Making that “something” known can make all the difference in helping us strengthen our connection with purpose. Not only can we acknowledge our values, we can also explicitly validate what we value, communicating acceptance for who we are inside out.

Thing 3: Align “what’s important to us” with “what we bring to others” and reflect on “how we meet the well-being of others through what we choose to bring to the table.”

When it comes to sharing what’s important to us, I often think about the person on the receiving end of my message. Whether this is an interview, a resume, an email, or whatever communication being delivered to someone, I go back to reflecting on what this person may care about. What exactly is in my message that would benefit them? What value do I believe I bring to them and how does this align to what they care about? The reason I point this out is because there’s a clear difference in communicating what’s important to us versus what may be important to someone else.

With intentions never making up the perceptions of others, it’s helpful to think about what we can do to close the gap between these two things. What is our intention for our intended audience? What may be important to us may not always be that way for them. What may be important to them may not always be top of mind for us. Knowing these things helps us align our message in ways where we can improve our ability to connect with others so it’s not just about our own needs or us pleasing them.

To be clear on our message and how we express it to others can make such a big deal. I recall my first interview experience. I will never forget how much I hated feeling like I was being interrogated or proving myself. But after getting a feel for interviews, it really wasn’t about an interrogation or power play. If anything, I had to change the way I looked at interviews or whatever I did to communicate with others. I shifted my views to the point where communications, marketing, and sales were more about connection and the exchange of value.

What do I want to share with others that I find valuable and beneficial to them? And what do I know about what matters to them? If I can tailor my messages or whatever I want to respond to that, it helps us connect.

If I’m interviewing for a job, I make it clear on what’s important to me. My values. They aren’t this apple pie thing that are stuffed down our throats so long as we’re honestly expressing ourselves. And for whoever I meet, I care about what’s important to them because I do want to see what we have in common. Do we resonate at all? Can I envision myself working with this person on the other end of the table or video call? And when I do meet folks, I do what I can to prep beforehand if possible.

Now I don’t mean cyberstalk someone like crazy. If we’re genuinely interested, wouldn’t we want to know the company we’re interviewing for and what they’ve been up to? Check out the news, Glassdoor, or social media feeds to see how they’re doing. Beyond the job, who’s the person managing the person within this role and who’s managing that particular hiring manager? Think about it. If we take a job, we’re going to spend a good chunk of time together. So, it doesn’t hurt to ask the interviewing panel to share more on what they like about the job and the company or even the leadership style and organization we’re interviewing for. Asking questions and feeding our curiosity helps both parties.

The top interview question folks have raised to me is: “How do we get around that ‘tell-me-more-about-yourself’ prompt.” Some of us feel like we’re bragging when we share more about ourselves. Others feel like they don’t have the most exciting story.

The key thing is to reframe that prompt. How exactly did we leave our prior employers on a stronger, more positive note? What did we accomplish with them? What were we most proud about in our previous endeavors?

This is about making our accomplishments and values known, as that is exactly what makes us unique. Telling someone what we did in our former jobs is one thing but it doesn’t speak to how we as individuals brought our value to the table. It’s about sharing our career story, what we’re known for, and where we are headed. Whether it’s our career ambitions or the trends we notice about ourselves, reflect on it. Not just for our potential employers but even more so for ourselves. The more we own our story, the easier it becomes to really share from our own place of value.

Sharing our story is more memorable than telling someone how we can do XYZ responsibilities for the role. The latter is what many can do. The journey is what makes us unique and it’s worth noting that sharing our career direction is important. It helps us quickly figure out what’s important to us and whether we are spending our time in the opportunities that resonate with us or not.

In any job opportunity, we want to know if there is a connection. Many of us can quickly tell when others are in it for one-sided gains rather than a career that can mutually benefit both sides. There is nothing to lose when we reflect on our own career story and choose to share it with others. And if the conversation clearly shows that it’s not working out, remind ourselves that this is more about whether we are truly a fit for each other or not. It’s a very different message than us “not being good enough” when an employer chooses not to move forward with our candidacy.

Through all this, know that these job opportunities are learning experiences. Whether we move forward with an opportunity or not, look for the takeaways within the experience and how we connect with others. That is what helps us take the next step.

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