September 19, 2011

Avoid the Victim Mentality If You’re Long-term Unemployed

There’s a lot of conversation these days about the “long-term unemployed” and discrimination by employers against people who have been out of work a while. If it were to be discovered to be true, one obvious question would be, “Why?”

The answers range from the somewhat logical (I want the person with the freshest skills) to the highly subjective (I’m not sure that person really wants to work). But between these layers, I think I see some theories of successful selling poking through. Since job search is frequently compared with sales, these ideas might be particularly apt.

First and foremost is the rule of success: “Success attracts success, confidence breeds confidence.” That is, a person who already seems successful is the one most of us would choose to bring on board. In a bitter moment, you could re-interpret this to “Them’s that has gets more,” but that would be self-pitying. And probably true.

Other sales rules that apply? How about “People buy from (hire) people they like.” And here’s one from the world of management: “If you want it done, give it to a busy person.”

In all of these examples the common theme is that we tend to gravitate to those who don’t need our help, not to those who do. In business, this is especially true.

So how do you look like one of life’s winners when you’re one step from the bread line? There are image tricks involving interview outfits, and strategic moves that include part-time work or classes to fill time gaps on your resume. But most important will be the attitude you project through words and actions. You don’t have to be a motivational speaker to learn how to communicate with confidence. You just have to square your shoulders and eliminate the “victim-y” phrases like “I haven’t been able to find work,” and “This market has kept me from moving forward.”

Substitute more upbeat statements such as “I’ve been keeping up in my field and meeting new colleagues during this period,” and “This process has allowed me to expand my understanding of the field through my conversations with other companies.”

And strengthen your phone skills, since so many of your contacts and interviews start there. If you improve your physical and telephonic presence, you just might find that interviewers stop asking why you’ve been out so long and start asking how soon you can start.

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