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A 4 Step Reality Check for Job Seekers

Arnie Fertig

"I'm just starting my job search," said a newly unemployed executive. "I'm bright, I know that I communicate well, and have lots of contacts in my industry. I'm not like all those other people who are unemployed for the long term. I'm sure that I won't have any difficulty finding my next position."

Maybe so. But all too often, the axiom "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" applies to highly skilled, knowledgeable professionals who are at the top of their game. Regardless of whether you are just beginning your job search, or have been at it for a while, a serious gut check may be in order. Ask yourself these four questions:

1. Are you self-absorbed or self-aware? Do you have an objective view of who you are, what you have accomplished, what you have to offer and how people in your network will react when you turn to them for help?

A LinkedIn user recently posted this message to a group of several thousand members, of whom he probably actually knows very few: "I'm seeking a Director opportunity in XXX industry WORLDWIDE. [his caps] Please provide assistance and guidance. Thank you in advance!"

Networking for a new job is key, but that doesn't mean that it is all about you. His request jumps over the steps of building relationships and sharing information. He assumes the LinkedIn group members are there to aid him, but he gives no reason why any particular person should do so. He is likely so absorbed in his own situation, he doesn't have the perspective to recognize how others will perceive him. Chances are, this individual won't find such pleas fruitful. He will conclude that his networking efforts failed, and he'll end up frustrated.

If this sounds like you, then it's time to slow down, and take the time to build relationships and create a more focused request before you assume people are there just to help you.

2. Do you have today's required job hunt skills? If the last time you were looking for a job, you went to the offset print shop, made 500 copies of your résumé on heavy ivory stock paper and sent them to every job you saw in your newspaper's classified ad section, times have changed.

Today's résumés need to be applicant-tracking-system friendly. LinkedIn and Twitter profiles and activity are key to getting yourself out there. Networking has become today's buzzword for job seekers, and fit is today's mantra for hiring authorities. Interviewers are ever more sophisticated in their ability to discern your personality, character and workplace behaviors. Take the time to find the latest and greatest information about the arrows you need to have in your job-hunting quiver. Books and articles abound. Networking groups, professional organizations, college alumni offices, outplacement services, career counselors, coaches and résumé writers are plentiful. Each has its own place and function, but be certain to reach out and acquire the knowledge and assistance that best meets your needs.

3. Are your expectations realistic? Of course, every job hunter and job hunt is unique. Nonetheless, if you are thinking that time is on your side, and that you can take some months off to vacation, or take care of things you've been neglecting, think again. Study after study shows that the longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get work. At the same time, recognize that just because you start right away, you are not necessarily destined to have quick success. This is especially true the higher you are on the corporate hierarchy. The rule of thumb is that you can expect your search to take one month for each $10,000 of base salary you expect to earn. There's truth to the saying, "If you are looking for a job? that is your job." Treat your job search as a long-term process, and chip away at it every day. When viewed this way, each bump along the way won't feel quite so devastating.

4. Are you prepared for the long haul? Have you made a careful assessment of your family income, assets and expenses? If you continue your current rate of spending, how long will you be able to hold on to your current lifestyle, and what will you have left in the end? Have you consulted a financial advisor to address your particular situation? Have you communicated openly with your spouse/partner/family members? What can they do to be helpful to you, and what can you do to minimize the disruption to your daily living patterns?

It is often difficult to look inward. But when you slow down just a little, and put yourself into a larger context, the insights you glean just may speed your job hunt to its successful conclusion.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.

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