You thought it was meant to be. You believed you were perfect for each other; you gave it everything you had, knew you had all the tools to make it work. You brought your best self forward and now you’re heartbroken, you’re devastated, you’re angry. After all the time and effort you’ve invested, you’re unemployed.
When you’ve put so much into your education after losing a job that you loved or were comfortable with, it is only natural to feel a sense of desperation to find a role you love even more. After all, a hard breakup, or in this case a job dismissal, is one of the most difficult situations in life to face, and the desire to replace what is missing with something better is a very natural reaction. The fact is, for most of us, working is essential to our livelihood and overall happiness, which is why we take finding employment very seriously. After investing in much-needed training to acquire the proper certifications or diploma, you may believe that you have finally met all the requirements for a potential employer, that you are now officially “good on paper”, and you would be right about this. Why is it, then, that no one seems interested?
It isn’t as easy as it used to be, finding the perfect job and keeping it. Competition is fierce, and with the ever-changing, unpredictable job market, it is vital that applicants are up-to-date in their skill set and overall appearance, presenting themselves in the most favourable way. The problem is that “good on paper” just isn’t enough to gain the interest of an employer or keep a job once you get it.
It comes down to chemistry. Whether or not you were an exceptional student will not matter if you don’t have a positive interaction with the interviewer or management team upon employment. Continuing on with the theme of personal relationships, think of how many times you have had to talk a friend through the painful details of a failed marriage or partnership. In all likelihood, they may have been confused about how it all fell apart, and you sympathetically reassured them, telling them that it wasn’t their fault, that sometimes these things happen, that the other person was the one in the wrong, that the blame lies solely with them. But, how valid is this? If you take a step back, isn’t it possible that there was a general lack of cohesiveness? Or, further to this, isn’t it also possible that the person you’re trying to console owns a great deal of the responsibility?
It’s hard to scrutinize your behavior when you’re already feeling vulnerable, but it is worth taking a hard look at how you approach a conversation in a professional setting, or how you might appear to others who are seeing you from an entirely different vantage point. It might be painful, but in doing so, you are giving yourself the opportunity to make changes you may have been previously unaware that you needed to make.
Aside from the usual considerations when presenting yourself, like professional dress or timeliness, there are other patterns to avoid when in the interviewing process or workplace:
- Do you appear angry? A lot of people make the mistake of carrying residual anger from a previous job into the interview with them. This is a red flag to potential employers who may interpret your comments as an indication of your overall temperament. Why would they want to employ someone who seems to have problems harnessing their anger, or who would make disparaging comments about their former employer? This kind of behaviour suggests that you are difficult to work with. Leave the past relationship out of the conversation unless the employer specifically asks for details.
- Have you confused assertiveness with cockiness? While you should talk about your accomplishments with pride, steer clear of over-talking, which may come across as arrogant. Also, make sure you can back up your claims. If you say you can, you need to be able to demonstrate that you can.
- Cat got your tongue? Even if you are a more reserved kind of person, and there is nothing wrong with that, it can be problematic when you are engaged in conversation with someone else. You need to interact, express your thoughts and ideas, without letting the conversation fall to the other person. Remember, they want to hear you, and while it might be hard to open up, it is essential in any kind of collaborative framework.
- Maybe the cat should come get your tongue? Meaning, if you are inclined to be a chatterbox, take a moment to consider if you are dominating the conversation. Have you listened to the other person? Have you allowed them to contribute to the conversation? While you might simply be an enthusiastic sort of talker, you need to remember that in a professional environment it is important to allow for a balance in the exchange of ideas. Also, don’t offer too much personal information. Sometimes it’s best to only say what needs to be said in a professional environment.
- Do you appear defensive? This is different than appearing angry. A defensive person has a tendency to feel persecuted and reacts by resisting others’ ideas, sometimes in an aggressive manner. This creates a barrier between parties, and works against maintaining a positive work environment. Progress can only happen if changes are made, so you need to consider if what you’re doing isn’t working and be amenable to suggestions rather than take them as a sign of disrespect.
- Can you accept constructive criticism? This is related to defensiveness. Often, when hearing a critical review of our work or someone else’s impression of our performance, we may feel hurt or wronged. In the workplace, it is commonplace to receive constructive criticism because without it there can be no improvement. If you have trouble with this, you need to think about whether or not the criticism has merit, and if it does, understand that while it is difficult to hear, you need to make an adjustment to correct it.
If you aren’t certain that you have ever demonstrated any of these characteristics when interacting with others, it would be worthwhile to take part in a mock interview so that you can deconstruct your answers and presentation style in a safe environment. This is an excellent tool to help you improve on some of the weaknesses you may have in a professional setting, allowing you to rebuild your interview style or help you positively develop your work relationships. This option is available to all students at Academy of Learning College, and consistently the response has been that it was a very helpful exercise that made the student feel more confident about what they were doing well, and helped them understand what they needed to focus on in order to be successful in their quest for employment. In addition to this option, take some time to think about past employers’ comments about your job performance. What consistencies are there? Is there something you have heard more than once about your communication style that might be valid? What about that interview which didn’t result in getting the job. Did the interviewer give you any insight as to why they went in a different direction? It is worth thinking about all of these things to help you adjust your style to meet the employers’ needs, as well as to ensure you get the job that fits your personality best.
You need to be yourself, but making small modifications to your communication style in order to make a good impression is sometimes necessary. You want to find that strong relationship to count on, but this is as much your responsibility as it the employer’s. They want you to be a perfect fit, just as much as you want them to fit you, but if the chemistry isn’t right it is best to accept it and move on. However, this doesn’t mean you stop looking.
Good on paper is only part of the process. It’s about more than that, and while all your hard work in your education is crucial, you must also be able to connect on a personal level to find happily ever after.