Taking time to find the right job, particularly when you have left your old one behind, can be a lonely and challenging process. Here, in an interview with Caroline Allen, a coaching client in just this position recounts her personal experience and offers hints and tips on staying resilient whilst on the road to a new role.
How do you come to be looking for a new role?
‘I have had a great career so far, achieving and enjoying senior positions in large Corporations. I appear confident, competent and some might say ‘sorted’. Last year my Executive role came to a natural end for me after five years with a great company. I stayed in situ until my successor was safely in post. So, now, at 48, with a good track record, I am on the job market again, looking for a new challenge. Even though the market is fairly buoyant, headhunters tell me it will take 6-12 months, possibly more, to find the right next job.’
That all sounds very straightforward and logical. Is that how it feels?
‘The challenges are not the external ones; the interviews, the CVs, the networking and the contacts. The challenges are on the inside.’
‘How would you describe those challenges?’
‘Like demons. I’ve discovered I have a lot of them! There are a few that invite themselves onto my shoulder from time to time and enjoy whispering in my ear.
‘You’ve made the wrong decision’, ‘You’re not quite as good as you think you are’, ‘You might never get another job’, ‘What if no one wants you?’
How have you tackled these Doubting Thomases?
‘I’ve learned to cultivate a counter-balance, a friendlier voice that has set up residence on my other shoulder. And slowly I’ve given it a bit more volume. I’ve learned to look hard at what I’m good at and to really see the value in those things. I’ve taken strength from the fact that people who have worked for me before want to work for me again. I’ve read and re-read a recent review of my strengths in the eyes of people in the business world who know me well. This keeps reminding me what and how much I have to offer. And I’ve learned a smile of encouragement for myself.
‘What else are you learning as part of this process?’
I’ve learned how easy it is to help others. There are many people out there unemployed or seriously unhappy or unfulfilled – all looking for jobs. I meet some of them at networking events (by the way, this introvert’s personal nightmare!). I help by passing on headhunter contacts, referring them for jobs, introducing them to companies, just taking an interest as many have done with me. I’ve learned just how satisfying it is to help with no expectation of anything in return. It is not entirely selfless though. I’ve met some great people and started putting my list together of people who I will want to hire when the day comes!’
Have you had any particularly powerful advice?
‘Ha, ha, ha, yes. ‘Three, Two, One: Teeth and Tits’
You’d better explain that one!
‘It was the advice I was given recently by an ex-BBC presenter – it was her producer’s call at the moment the camera rolled. It’s about taking a deep breath, pushing back your shoulders and smiling. It makes me feel more confident. Practical things matter: an active ‘Linked In’ presence, a good CV, etc. but nothing is more important than how you feel about yourself. So ‘Three, Two, One: Teeth and Tits’ is what goes through my head just before I walk into that room or sit down for that interview’.
Finally, what other advice would you offer people in your current position?
‘Prepare a 90 second, high-impact, potted history of your career – and one that engages, not bores! Regularly update your CV and distribute it to many headhunters, not just a few. Organise meetings, lunches, and dinners – don’t wait to be invited. Attend training while you have the time – there’s a lot of Executive stuff out there for free from the big five consultancies. Most importantly, I can tell very quickly when I meet people at networking events if they are mentally and emotionally ready for the fray again. If they are not, their demons seem to leak from their body language or the way they phrase things or sometimes just from the look on their face. So know that your body language, the tone and power of your voice and the energy you emit has more impact than you can possibly imagine in your dealings with anyone and everyone. So gag those demons…. ‘Three, Two, One.…’