9 power tips on how to get or keep a job

by Crystal on December 15, 2008

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions back about how to get (or in some cases keep) a job.  I can understand why.  Right now there’s a lot of fear around security and finances, the news keeps telling us it will get worse before it gets better, and it’s starting to hit home with layoffs – sometimes even people we know.  It’s ironic, then, that one of the first things I tell people about landing a job is to have the attitude that you don’t care if you get it or not.

Funny, eh?

It’s one of those strange but true quirks of life that going into an interview to convince somebody you want their job is only going to work if someone else doesn’t go in with the attitude that they expect the company to convince THEM it’s a job they want to take.

Flip your viewpoint around for a moment: you’re an interviewer, and all day long you’ve seen people who spend the whole interview telling you how badly they want the job, how they’ll do anything to get it.  Then someone walks in, calm and relaxed, and seems not to care if they get it.  Your impression is going to be: this person is confident they can get a job anywhere, not just here.  They must have some really in-demand skills.  What can I do to convince them that we’re the best option for them?  By comparison, everyone else seems a bit like one of those door to door vacuum salesmen – pushing something you might or might not want.  You start wondering why they’re no longer wanted where they are, or why they were laid off in the first place.  See what I’m getting at?

The hard truth is, there is no such thing as job security anymore.  The people who get the best jobs are the ones that recognise that, and spend time learning how to sell themselves.  The ones who REALLY get ahead, though, are the ones that put a plan B in place, so they get to a point where they can choose whether they want to work or not.  They’re the ones that are as happy to walk away from a job offer as to take it – and they’re the ones that keep on getting them.

Of course, right now most people aren’t thinking about breaking out of the job market.  They’re trying desperately to stay in.  So for many, getting to that point is not an option and they need advice now.  OK, my advice is – fake it til you make it.  Build your confidence up so you can walk into an interview and have your prospective employers believe that you truly don’t mind whether you land the job or not, that you’re there to see if there’s something better on the table than you currently hold, but if there isn’t, you’ll just walk away.

There may be times when it rebounds on you, but from personal experience, the employers looking to hire someone desperate for the job, are the ones most likely to feel they own you, and have free rein to do as they want with you, afterwards.  Unfortunately, that’s the attitude taken by abusive employers.  Do you really want to work under a boss who thinks you’re so desperate for the job that they can get away with just about anything and you won’t complain?

So, tips for building that confidence here and now:

  • Rewrite your resume so that every job you’ve had includes at least one thing you’ve done for your employer that went above and beyond – how you’ve delivered value to them well above what you cost them.  I’m sure most of us would be able to find at least one.
  • List all the skills you have, and brainstorm alternative ways you could use them (been looking after kids for a few years?  You have great management skills, you know!  Been writing technical manuals?  What about if you looked at entering a joint venture with a software maker doing really well online?) Have fun, and as usual with a brainstorm – don’t edit, and the more ‘out there’ the idea, the better.
  • Start thinking about the kind of people/organisations/industries that would get the most value out of those skills you have – and not just the main one you’re using in your current job.  If you’re doing a job at $20k for one employer, maybe it’s not that big a jump to finding a different industry where your work is valued closer to $30k.  Knowing you’ve got the option to work elsewhere for more is a great boost to your confidence.
  • If you are still in a job, don’t jump ship until you’ve landed something else.  You want to look as though you’re in demand, and having ‘unemployed’ on your resume kinda kills that impression.  You can do some creative sales work around it if you are in that boat, but it’s better to avoid it if you can.
  • Definitely, you need to spend some time thinking about and writing down your dream job.  Not necessarily the job title – include things like what skills you’re using, what kind of people you’re working with, even what kind of management style you’re working under.  It’s always easier to land something when you’re clear what it is.
  • If you’re trying to hold a job, why not see if you can bring some of those dream elements in to add value to your existing employer?  Love doing training but doing something else entirely?  Offer to upskill a few others in your job description.  It puts you in a power position – there’s others there if you need time off, you’re seen as the expert delivering the training, and your current boss might just start wondering why on earth you’d be making it easier for them to get rid of you: do you have a better offer someplace else?  Creates the same trigger as in the interview, when there’s a hint you might walk away and someone else might want you, then you become something they want to hang onto.
  • Tap into your network and find out the reality of how in-demand your current job description is.  Regardless of the economy, there are some jobs that will always be looking for people.  If you’re in one of those, again you’re in a power position.  When you ask your contacts, though, don’t ask about what jobs are available – that’s the ‘desperate’ approach.  Ask them instead to give you their take on what the job market is currently like, what skills are in demand that you might want to train up in, and where do they see it heading in the future.
  • Remember, your job security doesn’t come from your employer. It comes from being your own employment consultant, and managing your career so you always get the best possible deal, have skills that are in demand, and can pick and choose who you want to work for.
  • Finally, whether your job is in question or not, I heartily recommend everyone has a hobby that they can pursue and eventually turn into a nice little side income stream.  Even gardening or crochet can become one of these (eg writing and sellilng niche ebooks online, getting paid to moderate a forum you love, etc)  Multiple income streams doesn’t just apply in investment, and doing something you love is not only good relaxation, it can be a source of cash as well.  (There’s a great post on StevePavlina.com on how to turn what you love into an income stream – click here to open it in a new window)

Best wishes to you, and here’s hoping you come out of these hard times more in control of your money, life and destiny than you went in!

16 Dec Update: I’ve been thinking more on this, and have come up with the 3 REAL criteria that any job applicant is judged against.  Watch out for the post later this week.

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