Friday, September 23, 2011

How Job Seekers Can Project a More Confident Image

Even the most confident job seeker has a niggle of doubt every now and again. Even if it's only a twinge that wakes you up in the middle of the night, it's there. You're not alone.

But there are ways to become more confident about yourself and what you bring to the table. Here's a story I did for Gannett/

If you’ve been out of work for a long time, self-doubt can begin to set in.

Are you dressing correctly? Is your hairstyle out-of-date? Do you look too old? Too young? Could your communication skills be holding you back? Do you have bad breath, poor posture or a weak handshake? Are you providing unimpressive answers when questioned about your abilities?

The doubts linger as you attend another networking event. But you square your shoulders, and decide now is the time to impress the heck out of everyone. The advice from others is ringing in your head as you approach possible employers and charge through contacts like a bull in a china shop.

When you’re done, you feel like road kill. You’re exhausted. You have little to show for your efforts, other than jaw pain from smiling too much and a few paper cuts from passing out so many business cards.

Networking, you decide, is not the answer. Anything that makes you feel that rotten cannot be good for you, can it?

But the problem may not be the networking, but your approach. Because when you put on that fake smile, when you forced yourself into stilted conversations that felt as comfortable as a walking over a bed of hot coals, you doomed yourself to failure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman, an adjunct professor at New York University’s School of Business, says the problem is that people think they have to be something they’re not in order to impress others. She says that unless you’re “authentic” in your interactions, then you wind up feeling stressed, depressed and anxious about your efforts.

“Think about what is the real you. There should be an internal message that will tell you if it’s not feeling right,” she says.

That means that if you’re more introverted, glad-handing dozens of people, passing out business cards and plastering a big grin on your face as you wade through crowds at a big event, for example, isn’t going to make you feel successful and may only erode your self confidence.

“Define beforehand what a successful event is going to be for you,” she says. “It may not be meeting 30 people or passing out 20 business cards. Maybe it’s meeting one person and calling this person later to talk about something you have in common.

In her book, “The 11 Laws of Likability,” (Amacom, $16.95), Lederman outlines some ways to bolster your self image and help you project an authentic image that will attract others and help lead you to the success you desire.

For example, Lederman says the words we choose can often send the wrong message. If we frame our responses in a negative way, then others may see that, also.

“Often, it’s just small shifts. Instead of saying you’re not employed, say that you’ve been out networking, volunteering and learning new skills,” she says. “Focus on action instead of lack of results.”

She also suggests using strong verbs. For example, instead of saying that you’re “considering” what job you may apply for, say that you’re “deciding” what job to apply for.

At the same time, it’s important to give yourself little pep talks so that when you do interact with others, you project more confidence, she says.

Lederman says it doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up about what you’ve done wrong in your career or job search, but makes more sense to focus on what you learned from your mistakes and how you’ll handle them differently next time.

For example, maybe you’re upset you took too long to fill out an application and a desired job went to another candidate. Tell yourself that now that you understand the process better, you’ll respond more quickly and decisively to job possibilities, she says.

Any other suggestions you have to boost the confidence of job seekers?

Also....I've recently begun writing for Intuit's Quickbase blog. My latest story is how to take over a management position for a beloved or superstar leader (like Steve Jobs, only on a smaller scale.) Here's the story:

Please check it out and leave any comments ... I'd love to hear what you think on the subject.


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