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Positive Energy and Self-Promotion

In this section:

Confidence is Key

Positive thinking can be harder than it seems. Most of us let “reality” squash our career dreams before they’ve even had a chance to develop. You think of how nice it would be to go for your master’s degree, but before you can even envision yourself in a cap and gown, you come up with a million reasons why you can’t do it. Maybe you don’t have enough time or money. Or you think you should wait until the kids are grown. Or you can’t afford to cut back on work hours. Instead of listing all the reasons you can’t do something, list all the reasons you can, and should. Maybe this degree will increase earning potential or open up exciting new career options. Maybe it’ll help you to feel better about yourself.

Positive thinking takes practice.

We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but it’s possible to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones by following these simple guidelines:

1) Identify your negative thoughts.

Negative ideas can spring into your mind so fast and so often that you are hardly even aware of them anymore. Consider the last dream or idea you rejected. Maybe you thought about asking for a new assignment at work. Write down all the excuses and problems you came up with to reject the idea. For example, perhaps you didn’t ask for the new assignment because you’d never done anything similar before, didn’t know if you could handle the extra workload, and you weren’t sure if it was already assigned to someone else.

2) Weigh each excuse for validity.

Take each item on the list and think through whether they are really obstacles that could block you from achieving your goals…or just excuses based on fear or procrastination. In the example above, not having enough experience could potentially keep you from getting the assignment. But fears about handling the extra workload or wondering if it has already gone to someone else will not prevent you from getting the assignment. Let’s face it: they are simply excuses not to go for what you want.

3) Think of ways to overcome your obstacles.

So you don’t quite have the experience to take on the project. How can you overcome this? Maybe you are willing to cooperate with a coworker who does have the experience, so you can learn what you will need to know on this project and you can work independently the next time. Or maybe you can take on a smaller project until you build up to the one you want. If your dream assignment has indeed gone to someone else, try to develop a few main reasons why that person had the advantage over you. Perhaps there are areas for you to focus on going forward to improve your chances for the next opening.

4) Reclaim your dreams.

Once you have successfully broken down all your excuses, re-imagine the dream. Is it still a dream that fits? Is it still what you want? If so, it’s yours for the taking.

Speak with Affirmation

Take a look at the following negative statements that we often hear from women who are filled with self-doubt. If you’ve ever found yourself making similar claims, make it a priority to banish that negativity from your mind because it can hold you back from success. Review the positive statements as inspiration on how to spin things to your advantage.

Negative: What others think of me is more important than what I think of myself.
Positive: I’m proud of my own values and definition of success, which help guide me in all I do.

Negative: I find myself apologizing, even when I’ve done nothing wrong.
Positive: Instead of constantly saying, “I’m sorry,” I’ll listen and say, “I understand.”

Negative: I never forgive myself for mistakes.
Positive: I acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are part of growing.

Negative: I bend over backwards to please other people rather than myself.
Positive: It’s not up to me to make everyone happy. My happiness is important too.

Negative: I never think I’ve done enough, or done it well enough.
Positive: I’m satisfied knowing that I did my very best. I work hard and deserve credit.

Negative: Deep down, I know I am not as good as other people.
Positive: I’m very good at what I do and I know my own worth.

Negative: I’m afraid people will find out I am a fraud.
Positive: My successes are genuine. If I value them, I know others will value them too.

Focus on what you are good at and give yourself a break on the rest. For example, don’t measure your value based on the fact that you’re not the best at designing PowerPoint presentations. Instead, focus on what you do have to offer the team: top-notch speaking skills and a great sales record.

Surround yourself with positives: positive friends, upbeat music, happy thoughts, and your favorite memories. Don’t let your environment drag you down. Call your best pal and ask her to list her favorite things about you. Call a relative and ask him or her to remind you of how far you’ve come. Put on your favorite soundtrack, start dancing, and feel your energy return.

Nobody’s perfect so stop expecting yourself to be perfect. Forgive yourself for your imperfections. Write down all the little things you have “done wrong” lately, and then put them in perspective. In five years, will they be that big of a deal? Probably not.

Remember that failing is honorable too. As long as you can pick yourself back up and as long as you’ve learned something from the experience, failure is okay. Everyone fails at some point.

Examine your goals. Make sure that what you’re aiming for is what you really want. Maybe your fears are trying to tell you something, that you are going down the wrong path or that you need to look before you leap. Don’t sabotage yourself by pretending you want something you don’t or by ignoring your fears.

Get Energized

It happens to all of us at one time or another. Even the smartest, savviest, hippest women have to job hunt once in a while. We know that looking for a job is hard – most of all on your self-esteem. But don’t let yourself get depressed: there is light at the end of the tunnel.

But seriously, depression can indeed creep up, and it’s crucial to stay energized and focused. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous line: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Easier said than done? Here’s how to keep your spirits up if the job hunt starts to get you down:

Don’t panic.

Freaking out over your inability to find a job only causes more stress and headache – two things you really don’t need. It’s important to stay calm and in control of your emotions because a levelheaded jobseeker is more successful than a frantic one.

Rise and shine, baby.

Don’t fall into the trap of sleeping late and lounging around in your pajamas. Wake up early and start your day as if you were reporting in for a full-time job – because job hunting is your job now. Waking up on a regular schedule – even if it is an hour or so later than normal – will keep you motivated and feeling like your time is valuable.

Don’t become a hermit.

Socializing, also known as networking, is a critical piece to your success. Tell everyone you meet that you are in a career transition right now and ask if they have a good connection for you. Remember the old cliché: it’s who you know, not just what you know. Your friends and acquaintances can be the best source of job leads.

Find a partner in crime.

The best way to feel like you’re not alone in your job search is not to go it alone. Go out of your way to find other motivated women who are in the same boat and commit to doing this together. Impromptu brainstorming sessions with this support person or group can lead to new ideas and new opportunities. If you don’t know anyone who’s looking, try attending job search seminars and lectures at local colleges, libraries, and community organizations to find simpatico souls. Just like having a gym buddy, a job-seeking pal helps keep you going.

Do it daily.

It’s important to schedule job-hunting time into your calendar, especially if you are working full time or part time or you tend to procrastinate. We recommend working the job hunt at least three hours a day – whether it’s working on your résumé, making networking calls, scanning online job boards, or meeting potential connections. By giving your job search the same, if not more, importance as any other activity in your routine, you are more likely to accomplish your goals.

Let’s get physical.

Pounding the pavement shouldn’t be the only exercise you get. This is definitely a great time to start or step up your physical exercise regimen. Lifting weights can lift your spirits too. Exercise is a great deterrent to depression. From an hour at the gym to an extra walk for the dog, the message is “keep moving,” because an adrenaline boost can do wonders for the psyche.

Keep it together around your parents, husband, partner, or children.

Concerned family members want to know why you aren’t having much luck in the job market. Parents have spent a pretty penny on your education or they know you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, maybe even both. Perhaps an unfeeling significant other grouses about the piling bills. Their anxiety and pestering can drive you nuts. Instead of screaming at your loved ones, enlist their help. First have a calm conversation in which you explain how difficult this transition is on you, and while you appreciate their concern, it’s also distracting to deal with. Then ask them for contacts and suggestions. You may be surprised at who they and their friends know.

Don’t be ashamed of part-time work.

It’s completely acceptable to take a part-time job while you’re looking for your next big move. Even in an interview you can give part-time work a positive spin. If someone asks what you’re doing, try this response: “Actually I’m working as a waitress right now, which is great because I can’t afford to be without any income and the schedule is quite flexible, so I can focus a lot of time on my job search. And you never know who I might meet!” Part-time work in a job environment that you are interested in might also lead to a full-time position. Don’t be shy about considering any position that will get you back to work, even if it’s not quite at the level or in the industry you want. Not only would that provide some income, it is also good experience to list on a résumé. Plus it can be easier to find a job when you have one because employers want someone who is “in demand” and who has up-to-the-minute experience on their resume.

Don’t focus only on one particular position.

It’s a natural tendency to aim all of your energy in one direction. But in a job search it is a huge mistake to set your heart on one job or even one company. You cannot count on any single opportunity working out, no matter how perfect it seems. If you see a listing screaming your name, it may be filled internally before you even apply. You may have wanted to work for IBM your whole life, but this may be the season they have a hiring freeze. Cast a wide net, and do not let one position consume too much of your search time.

Don’t let one rotten apple spoil the bunch.

A smart, highly educated pharmaceuticals industry executive was looking for a new position with a bigger company. She got in touch with the alumni association of her Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and asked for a contact name from each of the companies she was interested in. So far, so good. But when the job seeker made her first phone call, introducing herself and mentioning her connection with the person on the phone, the MBA colleague rudely rejected her and said, “Just because we went to school together doesn’t mean I have time for you.” The woman was horrified (and rightly so, there’s never a need to be so rude)! She vowed never to make another cold call, deciding only to look for jobs on the Internet and through close friends. This fear of cold calling probably cost her many good opportunities. Rejection is going to happen. It’s an inevitable part of job searching. Rejection from others, particularly other women, can be very upsetting, but you have to get over it and move on. The next phone call could be the winner.

Reward yourself.

Looking for a job can be a long and arduous process, so it’s important to enjoy small achievements along the way. Set goals and assign an affordable reward for getting things done. How about a manicure for every ten résumés sent? Or a night at the movies for each informational interview? No cheating!

Be Your Best Supporter

No matter what your industry or level of experience, job searching is about sales and the product you are selling is you. During your search you will be asked to sell yourself over and over again. The very mention of the “s” word makes many women’s skin crawl – we cannot help but picture used-car guys and overzealous commission-crazed department store clerks harassing you in the dressing room. Erase these stereotypes and revise your image of what it means to sell because during your job search you will be selling yourself ’til you are blue in the face. You may as well learn to embrace it.

Why is the concept of sales particularly unappealing to women? Perhaps it is because we have been conditioned to act reserved and polite in public. We don’t want to appear to be too pushy, overly aggressive, or money hungry. Many women shy away from careers in sales for these reasons, but remember that sales drive all businesses. You cannot have a company if you can’t sell your product, and you can’t have a job unless you sell yourself.

Selling oneself is both the hardest and the easiest form of sales. It is hard because it feels immodest and self-promoting. But think about the positives: you know the product better than anyone else, you can answer any questions about it, you can adapt it to various situations, and you are in control of its future performance. Also remember that you have sold yourself many times before: from selling maturity and trustworthiness when negotiating curfew with your parents, to selling ambition and aspirations when applying to college, charm and affection when accepting a first date, and skill and passion when going after previous jobs.

How can you get over the negative issues you may associate with selling yourself?

Our best advice is to practice on friends and family. We all know that the cold call – selling to someone you have never met before – is the most challenging form of sales, so start with an easier audience. Next time you meet your best girlfriend for coffee, tell her about your achievements, your ambitions, and your experience. Tell her why you are the best person for the job you want. Sell yourself with words, enthusiasm, and specific facts. Then ask her to critique your sales pitch. Would she hire you on the spot? What aspects of your “product” are most convincing? Least convincing? Professional salespeople make hundreds of sales calls a day – they know their pitches backwards and forwards and this constant repetition makes selling less scary. The more you practice, the better your pitch and the easier selling becomes.

The Search: Guidelines to Get Started

When unemployment is high and the average job search lasts about 6 months, it’s easy to lose momentum. We’ve compiled some tried-and-true tactics to help keep your spirits and motivation up even when looking for work has got you down.

1) Set mini daily goals.

If you wake up every morning saying, “Today I must get that job,” you will go to sleep most nights feeling like a failure. Finding a job takes longer than you’d expect, so pace yourself. Break it down to manageable daily goals such as making five cold calls, setting up a coffee date with a former colleague (it’s much cheaper than lunch), combing through new online postings on 10 different job sites, following up on previous applications, etc.

2) Submit a customized resume.

Never use a one-size-fits-all document; customize it for the position to which you’re applying. Make sure to check for typos and spelling mistakes carefully. Click here for a resume template.

3) Include a professional summary.

Always include two to three sentences at the top of your resume that explain instantly to the reader what you offer and what you seek. Avoid generic or vague phrases such as “looking for a position at a well-known company with room for growth.” Instead, use the space to tout specific goals and accomplishments, and to tout your desire to work in a specific field. For example: “Retail associate with five years of exceptional experience in sales and customer service. Extensive product knowledge in electronics and home furnishings. Seeking management role at specialty retailer.”

4) Drop weak language. Never start your resume bullets with “Responsible for …” Just go right into your key points. For example:

WRONG: Responsible for generating sales and providing customer service.

RIGHT: Generated sales that consistently met quarterly quotas and provided exceptional customer service.

LinkedIn analyzed 26 million online profiles/resumes and found the most “over-abused” phrase: “proven track record.” If it’s in your resume, replace that phrase with action words such as: generated, arranged, improved, saved, created, implemented, led, etc.

5) Don’t rely exclusively on the Internet.

The Internet is a great source for finding leads – various job boards, your local newspaper’s Web site, Craigslist, niche sites, LinkedIn – and everyone knows they have to apply online, but they usually make the mistake of stopping there, which gives a false sense of accomplishment. If you’re telling yourself, “I just sat in front of my computer and fired off resumes to more than 50 openings. Surely someone will respond … surely something will pay off,” then you’re really kidding yourself.

6) Pick up the phone.

Once you apply, don’t wait for them to call you. Take additional steps to minimize the chances of your resume disappearing into the big black hole. People hire people, so invest time in finding an internal referral who’ll help get your resume in the right hands. Use your online social networks, alumni contacts, neighbors and so on. When a job posting says “NO CALLS,” that’s really designed to prevent people from calling up to say, “So, did you get my resume?” Nobody has time to sort through the pile to give you that answer. Instead of making a cold call in this situation, try to find an internal referral: someone you know who has access to the hiring manager. Or, send an email directly to the hiring manager as a follow up measure. If you’re applying to the HR department for a sales position, call the sales manager of the organization to make him or her aware of your interest and qualifications. Or cold call the department you’d be working for and schmooze the person who answers. Instead of asking, “Are you hiring?” you can say, “I know you have an opening for sales associate and I’m exceptionally qualified for that position. I would love the chance to get my resume to the decision maker. Might you be willing to tell me who that is?” If you’re interested in retail work, walk into a store and befriend the other sales associates who can often put your application at the top of the pile for the boss to read before all the others.

7) Don’t say, “Know anyone who’s hiring?”

With many people unemployed or worried about their own positions, that phrase is now met with yawns and rolled eyes as if to say, “Yeah, so what else is new?” Mask your pessimism and frustration – it’s nobody’s business that you’re in debt or can’t pay the mortgage. Those things, believe it or not, don’t lead someone to help more. People usually retrench when they hear pessimism because they worry that it’s contagious. So when you’re leaning on people for help, help them to help you. Have your pitch down: “I’m looking for new opportunities in retail. Do you know anyone who owns or manages a shop?” “I’m actively pursuing a position in technology and I have six employers on my top target list – might you know someone connected to one of these companies?” “I’m interested in joining a small public relations firm and I know their positions are usually filled through word of mouth. I’m looking to make connections in the industry, and I’d welcome your suggested leads and contacts.”

8 Maximize social networks.

Join LinkedIn and Facebook and get connected on groups. In the Women For Hire group on LinkedIn, thousands of members exchange ideas, leads and advice on the job search process daily. There are also thousands of other online groups for you to join where you can connect with people in your industry who are willing to help friends and strangers alike.

9) Get out of the house.

If you don’t step away from that computer and make face-to-face contact with the outside world, you’ll delay your success. Use multiple sources for job leads and introductions: join an association, professional group, or career club in your area – and then get involved.

Attend career fairs and company open houses. Women For Hire, has produced career fairs for ten years and through which thousands of people get hired – not just by the companies that participate, but also through active networking with the other attendees. Career expos work!

Go listen to a lecture at a bookstore by an author who intrigues you and you might meet like-minded people. Volunteer one afternoon a week for an organization that draws an interesting crowd. One woman I heard from started a walking club in her Michigan town where a group of people meet three mornings a week to energize one another as they start their days. That’s networking!

You have to keep your spirits up when the job search gets you down. Have a realistic sense of accomplishment, know that you’re doing all the right things, and don’t be isolated all day, every day.