“What do you do?” This common topic is society’s way to define a person’s identity. When confronted with someone who is out of work, it throws the process for a loop. Don’t let it be a conversation killer, make it a conversation starter!
By responding that you are “in transition,” the other person you’re talking to could get uncomfortable and try to put a Band-Aid on the conversation with a timeless gem such as “When one door closes…” You might imagine opening that door and throwing them out of it, but if you keep your cool and follow these tips, your conversations will be easier and more rewarding.
By highlighting your value, you will impress your friends and acquaintances. This will lead to a new set of people who can keep you in mind when they hear of opportunities that align with your goals. To be prepared for these opportunities, know:
- What specifically you want someone to remember about you.
- What you do: the duties you perform and skills you use.
- What benefits you offer: what you do better than anyone else—what makes you different and in-demand? This is the same goal of an interview and by practicing for interview questions—particularly behavioral questions. You will be ready to emphasize your worth. Draw attention to your quantifiable results which demonstrate how you can make/save money for your next employer. (Your Résumé’s summary and experience sections should have this information—if not, it’s time for an update!)
- Ongoing self-improvement: What courses have you recently taken? What books have you recently read? What have you learned about yourself from the process of your search? This is also a way to illustrate that you really don’t have “too much time on your hands.”
- Your Goal: What you want; e.g. meeting someone at a specific company or someone who holds a specific job title. You can lead with your goal, but it works best when included at the close. Since you are essentially asking for assistance, the goal can be considered a call to action. Don’t forget to give them your business card!
Practice what you plan to say, and get ready to face the Questions, Attitudes, and Platitudes! For the sake of brevity, the responses are short and include the goal since it is an essential part of your reply. It is ideal to highlight the above mentioned points as well as state your goal. Don’t feel pressured to state all the points in the same breath as your response is intended to start a conversation.
- “So, how’s the job search?” (This one is familiar to the unemployed and is often delivered in a condescending tone. If this is the case, don’t get defensive!)
- It’s quicker and easier to highlight your ongoing self-improvement than mention the companies you’ve applied to who haven’t hired you. This keeps the conversation on a positive note.
- “Haven’t you been applying to jobs posted online?” “You STILL don’t have a job?” or “You ARE looking, aren’t you?”
- “I’ve been applying to positions online, but so many other people are doing the same thing. Since the odds aren’t in an online applicant’s favor, I’ve been networking as well. Right now, I’m trying to get to know others in Companies X, Y, and Z.”
- “I think I heard about some jobs at…”(and it’s usually something for minimum wage and the commute is more than an hour long each way, or the requirements are specifically tailored to match only one in a million).
- “I’ll check that out. Thanks.” (If you give the reasons that it wouldn’t be a good fit, it turns into an ugly conversation.) “I’m also interested in meeting people who work at Companies X, Y, and Z.”
Attitudes: People who haven’t engaged in a recent job search are often oblivious to the demands on the current career seeker. They think you have too much time on your hands, so their comments show jealousy for all the spare time they think you have, and these comments are often geared toward asking for favors/your time.
- “You must have a lot of spare time!” or ”You have too much time on your hands” or “You could come over and help me with (chores, tasks) since you must have so much extra time now.”
- “The economy has made the job search very difficult and time consuming. I really don’t have more spare time than someone working full-time because my career search IS my new full-time job. But if I do get some extra time, I’ll be glad to let you know.”
Platitudes: People use platitudes for various reasons. They might not know how to respond with meaningful dialogue, or they may want to bring an unpleasant conversation to an abrupt end.
- “When one door closes, another one opens.”
- “I’m hoping a new door will open for me, at (the top 3 companies you are targeting).”
Highlighting your value and self-improvements will work well when faced with any of these other platitudes. You’ve likely learned a lot from your job search or career search and this is a great opportunity to share what you’ve learned. Quite often, you can nod and change the subject as platitudes don’t make conversation easy—which is why they’re used.
- “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”
- “Life isn’t fair.”
- “God never gives you what you can’t handle.”
- “You can accomplish whatever you set your mind to do.”
Practice doesn’t just make your response perfect. By practicing your responses, you will be more confident and ready to handle whatever happens. Networking is impossible without socializing, and networking is vital to success in your job search or career search. Sincerity is key, and a lot of these annoying questions, attitudes, and platitudes aren’t delivered in a friendly or helpful way, but when you’re prepared, you make the conversation work in your favor.
When prepared to enthusiastically emphasize your strengths, you can make the most of networking opportunities and develop new ways of describing yourself for these essential aspects of your career search:
- Updating your Résumé and Cover Letter.
- Interview skills—when you know what you’re going to say, you don’t have waste valuable time thinking of a response. It also helps respond to the dreaded “Tell Me about Yourself” job interview question. This makes your delivery convincing, and when your thoughts aren’t occupied with what you plan to say, it’s easier to pick up on body language cues.
- Summarizing your experience in a Research Interview (commonly known as an Informational Interview).
Once you have secured a position, keep your conversation skills sharp. Think about your position and how it benefits the company. You will be able to inform others of your value in order to make a positive impression at work—this increases the likelihood of future promotions.
For more assistance with your Job Search, contact CrossRoads at 317-842-8881 if you live in the Central Indiana area.