By Jim Hasse
You finished school last year, and you’re still looking for a job. You’re excited about “getting out into the real world” after devoting so many years to studying and preparing for your career. Yet, you’re apprehensive because you don’t know, perhaps for the first time in your life, what’s going to come next.
The months have slipped by with no tangible success in landing your “dream” job. How can you keep trying (and always be positive) when you encounter no response or outright rejection by employers?
Such a situation can be particularly daunting when you are dealing with a disability as an extra barrier to employment. As a person with cerebral palsy, I know that “sinking feeling” when nothing seems to give the edge you need to break into “mainstream” employment.
The good news is that, after looking back on 45 years of employment, I recall mostly the bright spots in my career -- when things did seem to work well for me in the long run. The “dark days” and all the extraordinary effort it often takes to build a meaningful career as a person with a disability seem to fade in my memory.
I now believe that your dark days don’t have to be so dark, if you remain open to pursuing some of these seven ways to battle discouragement while making the transition from school to work:
- Find a mentor.
- Form a mastermind group.
- Volunteer with a purpose.
- Become job market savvy.
- Think of your job hunt as an adventure.
- Document your success.
- Feed your network.
I’ll explain what I mean by each of these strategies.
Find a mentor.
Get a mentor through GettingHired.com. Find one who is in your geographical area so you can meet in person on a routine basis. If meeting in person is not possible, rely on Skype e-mail and text chat for one-on-one communication.
Your mentor should be able to level with you and honestly tell you when you’re doing well -- and when you’re not -- in coping with your job search. He or she should have real-world experience in your job sector and be willing to learn about the unique challenges you face as a jobseeker with your particular disability.
Form a mastermind group.
Form a mastermind group with at least two other fellow jobseekers, perhaps people you meet through GettingHired.com. A mastermind group is simply an alliance of two or more individuals dedicating themselves to a specific goal.
The key to creating a successful mastermind group is this: Group members must agree on a set of rules or guidelines that assure the continued success of the group.
Two rules stand out above all others. They are: Show up for your meetings or calls and participate with an attitude of, “How can I be of service to the other members of my group?”
When you commit to supporting a group such as a mastermind group, the very best thing you can do is show up for your call or meeting. Your absence from your group will significantly change the dynamics of the group.
Your attitude should never be, “Here’s what I need.” When you offer unconditional service to others, the universe will guarantee that you will, in turn, receive the support you need.
This does not mean you come to a mastermind call with the thinking you do not need any help. Don’t be a martyr by saying, “There’s nothing I need help with. I’m only here to help you.”
Being vulnerable and open to suggestions is part of the mastermind process.
Volunteer with a purpose.
Volunteer doing work you intend pursue as a career. If you’re an accounting graduate, volunteer to help a non-profit with its accounting work. If you’re a teacher, volunteer to assist as an aide in one of your local schools.
Select your volunteer work carefully, choosing situations in which you have a clear job objective, clear guidelines and a clear understanding of expected results and how you will be evaluated in terms of performance.
Within those parameters, you’ll more easily be able to cite your volunteer work experience as a significant reason for why you are qualified for a specific job on your resume and during interviews.
Become job market savvy.
Develop yourself as an expert in the job market for your particular field as well as the labor market in general and share your findings with family and friends.
30 years ago (before the Internet), I became very familiar with the jobs available in my field, the qualifications employers were seeking and the salaries being offering by studying the want ads in major newspapers and professional periodicals and networking (in person) with people in my field at national conferences and local association meetings.
Think of your job hunt as an adventure.
Approach your job hunt as a research project for exploring what works and what doesn’t and chart your findings and progress, sharing what you learn with your network (both online and in person).
To do that, you need to set up a system (perhaps using a simple spreadsheet) for recording the date, time and nature of each initiative you take as part of your job search and note the results.
Over time, you can focus your efforts on the marketing channels (which social media, for instance) are giving you the best results. That means you’re continually refining your job marketing campaign.
Avoid keeping what you’re learning to yourself. Instead, share them with significant others in your network to keep them engaged in your job marketing campaign.
Document your success.
Keep a diary about what you are learning about the job hunting process and about your personal growth as a jobseeker. Review accounts of your success in that diary regularly.
Tell about family and friends about situations in which you felt successful and tweak them periodically so you are eventually comfortable recounting to job interviewers when appropriate.
Feed your network.
People close to you want to see your succeed and are willing to help you, if you tell them how to do it. Keep your extended family and online and in-person business network involved in your job search. Give them up-to-date information about your job marketing campaign through e-mail, social media etc.
Most of all, give them the tools they need to highlight your availability in their conversations with others. That means always having your resume, your online portfolio and wish-list of contacts available for their easy access.
Bottom line: You don‘t have to be alone in your job search. In fact, trying to do it alone can be disastrous. Instead, use your personality and your insight to help the significant others in your life to become engaged in helping you locate your all-important first job.
Copyright © 2014. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jim Hasse, Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), (www.jimhasse.com) has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both job seekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (www.lighthouse.org/), New York City, is the author of the 272-page hard-cover book, which continues to evolve online on Hasse’s forum, Timely Tips for Retaining Employee Talent (forum.perfectlyable.com). He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy.