Monday, December 2, 2013

On Gifts for Job Seekers

This is the time of year when career coaches list gifts for job seekers, things like nice pen sets for the interview, a Metro card for heading to interviews, or even one month's payment of their electric bill. It's a nice gesture, but sometimes I think it's like getting someone on a diet rice cakes and nonfat, sugar free coffee creamer. Who wants to be reminded of their jobless status again and again?

Of course, if someone you know is really hurting, then an offer of help is appropriate, and you know your friends better than me. This is just my approach, but I usually get the person the gift I'd give them if they were employed. A book about their favorite hobby, a necklace they've admired. All gift-giving approaches stay the same.

What I also try to give them:

My complete confidence in them. I've seen it time and again. Family members or friends worry aloud in the job seeker's presence about the economy, or the job seeker's industry, or the job seeker's own background as it relates to the job their targeting. Or friends might not say anything, but they get a pitying look in their eyes. When I work with people struggling with their career, many get stuck under the sheer weight of other people's anxiety. It can be hard enough searching for work or trying to make a change in your career while burdened with everyone's worry.  I don't bypass their situation. I just say something like, "I heard you were looking. I'm sure someone with your skills will be snapped up soon. If there's anything I can do..." Yeah, it could come off as condescending, but I hope not. I just say it and move on with the conversation.

"How 'bout those Steelers?" I divert conversation should too much focus suddenly fall to the job seeker. Then I get them their favorite beverage.

I'm on LinkedIn. Sounds like a selfish thing, but it's an easy, discrete way for all of us to offer up our contacts to someone without the person having to ask us. So, I ask the job seeker if I can link to them, and then let them take it from there. They can include my network in searches for companies they're targeting, and then if they want an introduction they can request one by email.

If you're the job seeker, well, I'm sure someone with your skills will be snatched up soon! Some things I've done in your position:

I've dragged myself to more parties than I wanted to. I'm an introvert, so my tendency is to hunker down at home and read a good job-related book and tell myself I'm furthering my career. This is my fallback position and I know it, so I try to stretch myselfbeyond this. This had a few benefits. One, I dress in something other than sweats, my unemployed uniform of choice, always good for the self-esteem. Two, I get out and let people know I'm interested in a certain position, and did they know anyone with an opening?

I didn't worry about gifts that year. Instead, I got my closest family members something small and personal and then let the rest go.

I kept job hunting through the holiday. There's no reason to stop, and sometimes you can get your resume in front of people when they have down time at work. Why not go for it?

I read through professional kudos. One thing I try to do at any job is save a file of thank you notes and other proof that other people think I did a good job. Then when I go through a rough patch, I pull up that folder. Sometimes it's the smallest things that give me a lift. A friend did a spoof front page of a publication I used to edit on my last day of work. I have it framed by my desk, and it always makes smile. If you don't do this, start! Even if it's just a thank you note for some gesture you did that's not career-related. Likewise, send other people those notes. Write your stylist a thank you card for Christmas and get specific about how their work affected your life. Create good career karma!

Just a few suggestions. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

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