Dear reader, there has been so much to learn from the Book of the month – Winning: The Answers (CONFRONTING 74 OF THE TOUGHEST QUESTIONS IN BUSINESS TODAY) by Jack & Suzy Welch. Today, we would be looking at Chapter 56 – Why Can’t I Get Hired?
I currently run a small management consulting fi rm in “survivalist mode”—in other words, it’s failing due to lack of financial resources. A few months ago, I decided to quit the business and started sending out my résumé for executive positions. The response has been discouraging, to put it mildly. Do you think the problem is with my résumé, or that maybe I am not presenting myself convincingly in interviews? In short, how should I market myself to get out of my bind? —JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Let’s face reality. Consultants usually have a very easy time landing new jobs. They’re typically well educated, have some degree of sophisticated critical thinking skills, and can boast of both broad industry experience and familiarity with cutting- edge management tools. The fact that you aren’t being snatched up by some company out there suggests something might not only be wrong with your résumé or your presentation during interviews—something might be wrong with your expectations. Have you considered that you could be shooting too high? After all, your main credential—or your most recent one, at least—is the firm that you run, and it’s in trouble. Obviously, failure is not a good sign to any potential employer. Companies are looking for winners.
So, what can you do to get out of your “bind,” as you so aptly call it? Our first piece of advice would be to actively look for, and be eager to interview for, lower- level jobs than you have been considering to this point. The hard reality of the situation is that you may not be able to reenter the workforce in an executive position. You may need to get your foot in the door simply as a team member or individual contributor with no managerial responsibilities whatsoever. That may not feel great for your ego or your pocketbook, but if you’re good, your career should leap forward quickly as you demonstrate what you’ve got.
Along with shooting a bit lower, a second piece of advice is to market yourself with total candor. On both your résumé and in interviews, do not try to sugarcoat the fact that your consulting firm is not making it. Don’t blame “lack of fi nancial resources,” as if the fi rm’s failure was out of your hands. You were the boss; you weren’t able to raise enough seed capital, or get enough clients, or serve them economically enough, to make money. Own the firm’s collapse. Say what you think you did wrong and what you will do differently in the future to be a winner. Describe what you learned from the experience, how it made you a better businessperson—more insightful, more decisive, and so on. Your résumé tells a lot about you, but your honesty and authenticity—and your desire to start over, only better—will impress potential employers more than anything else you can say.
Finally, stay positive. The process of landing a job out of a bad situation usually takes longer than you’d like and is more daunting too. But frustration or anger—or any negative emotion—will only make the search worse for you. You’ll feel enervated, and your demeanor, no matter how hard you try to hide it, will make you less attractive to companies. So, do whatever it takes to draw on your reserves of self- confidence. Lean on friends and family in private, and then get out there and play to win—upbeat, candid to your toes, and willing to reboot your career with a job where you can demonstrate all the untapped potential you’ve got.