Mac Prichard: Hi, this is Mac, from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001. And now I’ve put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free, visit MacsList.org/anywhere.
This is Find Your Dream Job; the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-host, Ben Forstag and our guest co-host this week, Kristin Schuchman. Jessica Black is out of town.
This week we’re talking about how to manage job search stress.
Looking for a job is hard work. It can also bring stress that can harm your health and your relationships. Our guest expert this week is Alison Cardy; she says you can reduce your job search stress and when you do so you make yourself a better candidate and you get your next job faster. Alison and I talk later in the show.
Laughter offers one surefire way to relax. Ben Forstag has found a list of twenty-seven crazy responses to job interview questions that will make you chuckle. He shares it with us in a moment.
You see a posting for a job you’d love to do, but there’s just one catch: you’re overqualified. How do you explain to an employer you will be happy in a position that pays less and requires fewer skills than your last gig? That’s our question of the week. It comes from Stephen in Portland. Kristin Schuchman offers her advice.
Well, I want to welcome career coach Kristin Schuchman back to the Mac’s List studio once more as our guest co-host. Kristin, it’s a pleasure to have you here.
Kristin Schuchman: Pleasure to be here.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, for our listeners, you may recall Kristin joined us week before last. It’s always a treat to have her here in the Mac’s List studio. You can learn more about her and her work by visiting her website, A Portland Career (http://www.aportlandcareer.com/). So Kristin, thanks for joining us and filling in for Jessica.
This week we’re talking about managing stress during a job search and I’m curious, Kristin, Ben, what have you two done to manage stress when you’ve been out of work, or Kristin, what advice do you give to your clients?
Kristin Schuchman: When I’ve been out of work, I’ve always liked going to the movies but I don’t always give that advice. I like to tell people to take that time to explore what their next move might be, and to approach it kind of like a road trip. I hate to drive but I love road trips. So let your mind be expansive and appreciate this time and maybe go to places in town that you don’t normally get to go, like the Chinese Garden.
Mac Prichard: So what I’m hearing is you don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about your search or sending out resumes or doing coffees or informational interviews.
Kristin Schuchman: Right. Because those are the brass tacks, you should definitely do those things but yeah….
Mac Prichard: No, no. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I think that it’s a good thing that you’re telling people to take some time for themselves.
Kristin Schuchman: Yeah, the things that people don’t think to do.
Mac Prichard: How about you, Ben?
Ben Forstag: So when I was last unemployed, I swapped out my traditional nine to five job with a possibly more stressful job of watching my one year old son. I became his primary day care provider while my wife went to work. So I did that. I think I’ve also shared on the podcast that I took on some new home improvement projects, which was fun and took my mind off things.
The big one for me was also, I just had all the time in the world at that point, so I started running again which made me feel better physically and I think it also created some space in my head to think more clearly. When I was spending time applying to jobs, going to informational interviews and so forth, those thirty to sixty minutes of running created focus for me which helped a lot.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, I found two things really helped me to manage stress during my two periods of unemployment. One was just being with other people, and I found a great way to connect with people was by volunteering and doing work in my field. In both cases I’m thinking of, I worked on political campaigns, but whatever your interest, for me getting out of the house helped me avoid isolation which I think can happen to a lot of job seekers.
And the second was taking really long walks with our dogs. And the last time I was unemployed, we actually got a puppy. So that dog needed a lot of exercise and I spent almost everyday about an hour, hour and a half, walking both the puppy and another dog we had at the time. I think moving like that and getting out and about and seeing people is always good.
Well, terrific. We’ll hear more about job search stress management later in the show when I speak with Alison. But let’s turn to you in the meantime, Ben, because you’re out there every week searching the nooks and crannies of the internet, and you’re looking for websites, tools, books, and other resources our listeners can use in a job search or in their careers. So what have you found for us this week?
Ben Forstag: So you started off the show by saying that a job search was stressful. I’m gonna use a more colloquial term, and say being unemployed sucks.
Mac Prichard: I like those good short one syllable words.
Ben Forstag: That’s right. And you know, as you pointed out, it’s very isolating and upsetting and everyone knows the reasons for that, so I thought we would lighten things up a little bit today. I wanted to share a web page I found. This comes from thoughtcatalog.com, and it’s the twenty-seven most ridiculous things people have said at a job interview and still got the job: http://thoughtcatalog.com/michael-koh/2014/01/27-people-reveal-the-most-ridiculously-crazy-things-theyve-said-at-job-interviews-and-still-got-hired/. Now you can go find a lot of horror stories from interviews, often from the perspective hiring manager, where they say, “I can’t believe a candidate came in and started stripping” or whatever, things like that. Horror stories.
Mac Prichard: I’ve never heard that one yet.
Ben Forstag: But you know, I wanted to find something a little bit more upbeat about kind of humorous approaches to interviews that actually ended up being helpful to the candidate. And so these are stories that people submitted. I don’t know frankly if they’re a hundred percent true, but the website claims that they are. If you just want a little laugh about people who creatively responded to some questions from an employer, it’s definitely worth checking out. It might improve your job search day a little bit.
There are two specifically that I want to share with you.
Mac Prichard: Only two you could pick out from the twenty-seven?
Ben Forstag: Yeah, I had to weed out the one about the person who stripped when they showed up. That’s not one of them. So the first one…this is just a short quote someone shared. They said, “I was asked by an employer if I could pass a drug test. I politely responded that I needed two weeks to study; I was hired on the spot.”
Mac Prichard: Any idea what state that was in?
Ben Forstag: I don’t know. It might be Portland, it might be Oregon, I don’t know.
Mac Prichard: It could be Colorado. California.
Ben Forstag: Here’s another one that I think a lot of people could empathize with. The interviewer asked, “What is your weakness?” And the interviewee said, “Surviving job interviews.” And then they flesh this out a little bit by saying “This answer has never failed me in getting a job offer. Some people think that the answer is humorous, others honest, but if you can confess and explain why you’re horrible in first impressions, then you have leverage no matter what else you say in the interview.” I think that was clever and true.
So there are some other ones that will get more guffaws than I got from the audience here in the room today. There you go. But if you want to check this out, it’s again on Thought Catalog: http://thoughtcatalog.com/michael-koh/2014/01/27-people-reveal-the-most-ridiculously-crazy-things-theyve-said-at-job-interviews-and-still-got-hired/.
Mac Prichard: Well thanks, Ben. Hearing you share those stories, I’m just reminded of the class cutup that we all had in grade school. Somebody who always had the zinger line. Apparently that’s a skill that can serve you well during a job search later in life, too.
Ben Forstag: Humor definitely is a winning approach, sometimes in an interview.
Mac Prichard: Okay. Well if you have a suggestion for Ben, please write him and we may share your idea on the show. Ben’s email address is easy to remember. It’s (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now let’s turn to you, our listeners. Kristin Schuchman is here to answer one of your questions. Kristin, what do we have in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?
Kristin Schuchman: Today’s question comes from Stephen in Portland, Oregon.
Stephen: “My name is Stephen and I live in Portland, Oregon. I have recently focused on applying for jobs for which I’m qualified fully for, because otherwise I don’t get a response. However, in the interview process, I discern, or they even tell me, that I’m over qualified and move in a different direction. How do you suggest I navigate this conundrum?”
Kristin Schuchman: My thoughts first off are, I’d want to know why Stephen is willing to consider a position for which he is overqualified. If the reason is that you want to get your foot in the door at a particular organization, for example, I would encourage you emphasize your passion in connection with that organization and their purpose.
Many people would, for instance, eagerly welcome an opportunity to work at Mercy Corps here in Portland, because they believe so strongly in the work they do and there aren’t that many opportunities to work at NGO’s in Portland.
The best thing you can do is to do your homework and show some knowledge so the organization (this is good advice for of course any approach you take to an interview, but in particular this case), to really make them understand that you’re being strategic and you’re invested in your career, not willing to flounder and understand that sometimes you do need to backtrack at times to get where you want to go.
Above all, you want to show your enthusiasm and a good way to start this process is just by sitting down with a paper and pen and writing a list of the reasons you want to do the work there. That’ll give you some language to use in the interview.
And a second thought that I have is you might want to ask yourself if you’re pushing yourself and not applying for jobs that might challenge you. So if this does keep happening to you, is this a pattern? Maybe it’s the time to apply for that next level job.
Ben Forstag: I want to unpack this question a little bit here, because I think this is one of the misunderstood objections that employers have, that job seekers don’t quite get where it comes from. I don’t know any employer that says just out of hand “no” to someone who’s overqualified because they don’t want those qualifications. I mean, if you can do the jobs and a bunch of other things it’s usually a selling point. The reason an employer might say no to you because you’re overqualified is not because of the qualifications, it’s because they’re afraid you- a) might not be really interested in the job, or b) that you’re only there for a short term and then you’re gonna go find something else that you really want to be doing.
I mean, they’re worrying about flight. They don’t want to make two hires in the course of six months. So I think the challenge here is, if this is really something you want to do, you need to get out in front of the ‘this person is overqualified’ objection. And you need to make it absolutely clear that you understand that you might not be the conventional on paper candidate they’re looking for, but the reason you’re applying for this job, even knowing that you’re overqualified is, whatever that is. You’re passionate about the organization, you want to try something different, you’re making a strategic step back in your career so you can switch tracks, whatever that is. But you need to be passionate about it and you need to really explain why this job.
Kristin Schuchman: Right, and your passion should really come through in the interview.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, I agree. Because I think if you don’t provide a reason, people will make one up and that’s a principle following in public relations. Information abhors a vacuum, so people will fill it. And when hiring managers are sorting through resumes, they’re looking for reasons to say yes to interviewing someone, but they’re also looking for reasons to say no, and I think you’ve both touched on this. One concern is a manager’s mind might be, “Gosh, this person may need this job just for the paycheck. Which is understandable, but they could be gone in a year or two year’s time. Or they’ll be unhappy in the position.” So providing that explanation I think, will help you move to the front of the pack.
Kristin Schuchman: Right. And I think it was also give you the chance to answer this question to yourself to “do you want to work there?”
Mac Prichard: Yeah, and I think you’re touching a really important point, because it’s not clear why Stephen wants the job. It’s a short question and understandable but I think leading with that is gonna help him….help the people who hear that explanation understand that this is something he wants and not something he’s falling into.
Kristin Schuchman: Right, good point.
Ben Forstag: And the real challenge here is to express all this interest and desire, and passion when you don’t have a face to face meeting with the employer. It’s a lot to pack into a cover letter when you’re applying cold, which is why it helps so much if you have that pre-existing network in or around the employer with folks who can testify, “Stephen’s a serious guy. Here’s why he’s doing this; it’s not because he’s just looking for a paycheck.”
Kristin Schuchman: Right.
Mac Prichard: Well thank you both, and thank you, Stephen for that question. Let us know how it goes, and we also will be sending you a free copy of our new book Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. If you have a question for us, please write our colleague, Jessica Black. Her email is (email@example.com). Or call our listener line. That number is area code 716-JOB-TALK. That’s 716-562-8255. If we use your question on the show, you too will get a copy of our new book Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.
We’ll be back in just a moment, and when we return I’ll talk with this week’s guest Alison Cardy about to manage the stress that job searching can bring.
Most people struggle with job hunting, the reason is simple; most of us learn the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For fifteen years of Mac’s List, I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon, find meaningful, well paying, and rewarding jobs that they love. Now I’ve put all of my job hunting secrets in one book that can help you no matter where you live.
You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted, and ace your next job interview. For more information, and to download the first chapter for free, visit Mac’sList.org/anywhere.
Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Alison Cardy.
Alison Cardy is the founder and CEO of Cardy Career Coaching. Her international team guides people through career changes. Alison’s firm focuses on that crucial step before your job search begins; helping you figure out what it is you want to do with your life.
She’s also the author of Career Grease; How To Get Unstuck and Pivot Your Career. Alison joins us today from Arlington, Virginia.
Alison, thanks for being on the show.
Alison Cardy: Thank you so much for having me.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Our topic this week is not so much fun… we’re talking about stress during the job hunt. Alison, why are job searches so stressful?
Alison Cardy: Well, I think for a lot of people it’s kind of the emotional rollercoaster of, they want something, they get excited about a particular opportunity, and then there’s that limbo period of “am I gonna get it?” And sometimes you do, which is great, and sometimes you don’t and that’s kind of the scary part of the roller coaster. The downturn.
So I think that just the process is stressful; you’re putting yourself out there, probably in a bigger way than you normally do when you’re just going into work. And the uncertainty adds a level of stress as well.
Mac Prichard: Now, how can stress affect your job search? What harm can it cause when you’re looking for work?
Alison Cardy: Well I think the biggest thing is it can really discourage you. So I had a client recently who was somebody who was very dedicated to their job search. We had clarified what they wanted and they were feeling really disappointed that that opportunity hadn’t come quite as quickly as they wanted. As I’m sure many people can relate, it doesn’t always come as quickly as you want. In this particular case, a big thing was happening was that they were putting a deadline on something that they really didn’t have complete control over.
So they were saying, “I want to have that new job by the end of the month.” And of course they’d be working towards that goal, but then when the job didn’t come at the end of the month, it made them feel like they had failed entirely and it made them question everything. It really brought them to a pretty low and dark place.
So in that particular instance, the issue was the framing of the goal. If you frame a goal around something you don’t have complete control over, you’re kind of setting yourself up to be disappointed. Whereas if you frame the goal around something you do have control over, which is your own actions…you know…how many people do you talk to? How many jobs do you apply for? How much help do you get on your resume? When you actually set a goal around those, then you do have control over, “I will send out three resumes by the end of the month” or whatever it may be. Then you can feel successful along the way.
But it’s that kind of added stress of framing the goal poorly, or trying to control something that’s not totally in your control. I think it really sends people in a kinda dark place. They feel lost, and hopeless when that happens.
Mac Prichard: I know people set those goals for all the right reasons and they put in the effort to make those goals happen according to a deadline they want to achieve. But I think you’re making an important point here, Alison, about what we should pay attention to, particularly in terms of control. For example, I’m sure this happens to you; I meet people who say, when I ask how the job search is going, they’ll rattle off the number of resumes or applications they mailed out that week. Why might that not be the best metric to measure your progress? You talked about paying attention to effort and things you can control. What kind of metric should people be paying attention to?
Alison Cardy: I actually think that you want to pay attention to things that are gonna help you be effective. So, in some instances, the number of resumes that you send out can be helpful. Because that is something that you can control, but I guess to kind of add to that, you also want to think about, “Well if I’m just sending out resumes and sending out resumes, and I’m not really getting a good response, then maybe I need to try a different strategy. Or maybe I need to actually get my face in front of some people who would be in hiring positions for me.”
So I think sometimes people, particularly in the job search, they get kind of stuck behind the computer screen, and doing things that feel productive but actually may not be as valuable as things when you’re out in the world connecting with people. Opportunities always flow through people, so the more that we can get people out into the world, connecting to people, getting their face and their friendly handshake in front of the right people, that’s gonna be more valuable.
So in terms of things you can control, that’s the first step, and certainly the number of resumes you send is something that you can control so I’d say that’s an okay metric. But then to take it a step further, let’s look at what’s gonna be a more effective strategy, and then put the metric around that.
Mac Prichard: Okay, so pay attention to the strategies, and track the metrics that support them. Let’s talk about expectations. I know there’s data out there that shows, according to the Labor Department, that it can take up to ten months to find your next job. Obviously it depends on where you are in your career and the goals you’ve set for yourself. How do you encourage people to set expectations and how does that help them manage their stress?
Alison Cardy: I think something that people can hopefully aspire to, which is a little easier said than done, would just be to stay in reality. So what I mean by that is, oftentimes people, when they are job searching, they kind of balloon out nightmare scenarios; like “Well I didn’t get this interview” or, “I didn’t get this job, therefore I’m not gonna get anything.” Or you know, they kind of take it to an extreme. And if you think about it, that place where your brain is going is not actually reality. The only thing that may have happened is one opportunity didn’t work out.
So you want to be careful about buying into these extreme interpretations of events. I was talking with a really qualified woman recently, who had just gotten jobs naturally in the past, and this was the first time that she was job searching, and she said that she had talked with somebody in an interview and she didn’t get the job and she took it so to heart because that was kind of her first experience of that.
I just caution people, why are you gonna let somebody’s, I don’t know, twenty minute impression of you determine who you are? That’s not true. You’re so much more than whatever that impression is, or somebody’s glance at your resume. Why are you gonna let that determine who you are?
Let’s stay in reality, let’s pay attention to what’s actually happened. Pay attention to who you really are, and your capabilities. And I think that would help a lot.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, I like your emphasis on staying in reality and being grounded, and recognizing that you shouldn’t let people’s reactions, based on just a short acquaintance, control or shape your feelings for the long term. What are some other tips, Alison, for just managing the highs and lows of a job search?
Alison Cardy: This is probably something that your listeners have heard before, but I think it is a good idea to take care of yourself in the moment. Of course you’re wanting to get a job; you’re focused on it, you’re doing all the right things. And if that’s the only place you’re putting your attention, you’re gonna lose perspective…like your brain will kind of go into a funny place.
We want to make sure that you pick your head up every now and again, probably more often than you’re doing, and pay attention to other aspects of your life…to your health, to your relationships. Get outside, putter around your house, make something better. Whatever that you can do to just lift your head up and see a broader perspective, and take care of whatever physical or emotional or mental needs that you have in the moment, would be a really good idea to help people stay centered and grounded.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, I think that’s great advice too, and I’m just again thinking about those highs and lows. Particularly, we feel so good when we get that interview offer, but then when we get that rejection letter it can really sting. How do you help your clients get through that process when they get their hopes up and then the offer doesn’t come through?
Alison Cardy: Yeah, it’s certainly tricky and I think there’s a place where we want to be positive about, “Okay, this interview is coming up, let’s be positive, let’s be enthusiastic.” And also, I think it’s a good idea to keep doing the job search actions even while you are looking forward to one particular opportunity.
So that way it’s not, “Oh I have this one interview, everything is riding on it. If I don’t get this job, you know, that’s it.” So I think, be positive about whatever opportunity, and continue other job searching activities. And then if the job doesn’t come through, then sure, take some time, mope around. You know sometimes when we’re in this process you kind of need to curl up into a ball a little bit and feel disappointed; that’s understandable. So you can certainly give yourself some time for that, and then as you’re able, try to get back into the game.
Remember that you only need one, you only need one door to open for you, and it may take knocking on a couple before you get that right opportunity. So as I mentioned before, don’t take it too, too personally that there’s something wrong with you, or anything like that. I mention that because I hear a lot of people who kind of go to that place, and in many of the cases in terms of the people my team and I see, they’re actually wonderfully capable and excellent people, and they’re making it pretty far in the interviews. And the fact that they’re getting that far is actually a sign that there’s a whole lot right with you. Not that there’s something wrong with you.
And many cases, it just takes knocking on a couple doors till you find the opportunity that’s gonna be a great fit for you.
Mac Prichard: Finally Alison, are there things that you see that people worry about that they probably should just let go and perhaps they need permission to do so? I’m thinking for example, sometimes…and I’ve certainly done this in my own career earlier…people get obsessed about their resume and sometimes can get stuck tweaking it endlessly. Are there other things like that that people get stuck on that you might encourage them to just let go?
Alison Cardy: Whoa, that’s a really good question. I think the one that you called out, resume tweaking and just to kind of reiterate what I said before about anything that really keeps you behind a computer screen, is a place that I would hesitate to tell people to spend too much time. In the work that my team and I do around helping people to figure out kind of a good career fit, one of the things we see in that realm is people spend a lot of time trying to find the answer, by taking quizzes or reading. And the truth about job searching, about identifying a good career fit, is that it’s something you kind of have to learn your way through. And that implies that you actually need to take action, you need to get feedback, and interact with people and new experiences to be able to get to that end result.
So, as an umbrella I would just caution, hanging out at home behind computer screens. I know many people are working while they’re job searching, and going out and talking to somebody or going to an event is kind of the last thing you want to do at the end of the day. But I really encourage as much as possible, for people to prioritize those in person types of things.
I was talking with a LinkedIn expert and you may have heard this idea before, Mac, and she said, “The point of LinkedIn is to get off LinkedIn.” The point of all these things is to actually meet people, build relationships. So I would watch out for those things that feel productive but keep you isolated. We want to get you out into the world, that’s gonna be more effective.
Mac Prichard: Good, well terrific.Well thank you, Alison. Now tell us, what’s coming up next for you?
Alison Cardy: Well, the biggest thing on my writer screen is my book Career Grease; How to Get Unstuck and Pivot Your Career. It’s available on Amazon and for anybody listening who’s having trouble even figuring out which direction they should be job searching, or they’re just not sure what type of job is gonna make them happy, it has a lot of case studies and exercises to hopefully help you to find that good direction. Then you can job search way more effectively.
Mac Prichard: We’ll be sure to include a link to the book in the shownotes, and I know people can learn more about you and your team, and your work by visiting your website which is Cardy Career Coaching. Alison, thanks for being on the show today.
Alison Cardy: Thank you so much for having me, it was a pleasure.
Mac Prichard: Well, we’re back in the Mac’s List studio, with Kristin and Ben. That was a enjoyable conversation with Alison, though again, the topic was a hard one because we’ve all been through that when we’ve been looking for work and managing that stress. What were your thoughts, Kristin, as you listened to the interview?
Kristin Schuchman: I like how she touched on how the rejection of a job can mess with your confidence. And how she took it back to, but you got the interview. And there was a reason to keep up your confidence, for that reason, and to not let twenty minutes with someone define you. I thought that was really a smart strategy because I think it really is a time that can mess with your confidence. And finding ways to keep your skills up and get out there and her emphasis on networking, I also appreciated. I tell my clients that all the time, I think it’s so important and people don’t realize it. You really need to get out there and think of everything as networking is what I like to say. Everything. Going to a Super Bowl party is networking; it doesn’t have to be a dry and boring event. It can be fun. And it should be fun.
Mac Prichard: How about you, Ben?
Ben Forstag: I liked one of her earliest points, which is about not holding yourself accountable to timelines that you can’t control. I think this is someplace and something that a lot of people do. I know I’ve done it in the past. The last time I was looking for work, I told my wife, “I’m gonna find a job in two weeks.” And four weeks rolls around and I don’t have any good leads and you’re just setting yourself up for failure and the truth of the matter is you can’t control the process and the speed at which it happens.
You can do things to increase your chances of finding a job but even if you find a great lead that’s going to lead to a job, it’s unlikely that you can dictate that it’s gonna happen in three weeks. It takes a long time. So just making sure you’re focusing on accomplishments that you can control and that you have power over. It’s unfortunate that job searching is something that at some point you have to let it come to you time-wise.
Mac Prichard: Yeah, and back to you Kristin, I made the point about people I identified with a lot because we run a job board here at Mac’s List. We have a blog, books, the podcast, and a lot of this content is reaching people through their computers. But in the end, it’s all just a means to an end, which is about building relationships with others and sharing your story with people at places you want to work or a field you want to be. And it’s those personal relationships that are gonna get you the job. So I love her point about just stepping away from the computer and going out and talking to folks, and that is something you can control. And there’s so much you can’t during a job search.
Kristin Schuchman: Yeah, that’s true.
Mac Prichard: Alright, well thank you both, and thank you, Alison, for joining us this week. And thank you our listeners for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
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