The feeling of powerlessness is universally understood among job searchers. No one likes to feel as though they are at the whim and caprice of others. You send in a resume or a networking email and then you wait. And wait. And wait. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a preliminary phone call with the HR assistant from the company of your dreams. And then you wait. And wait. And wait.
After answering an online ad for a job that seemed intriguing in the early 2000s, I was in just that position. After a few weeks I got a call from Jane, the headhunter who had been retained by the potential employer. We had a pleasant conversation, and in an effort to extend the call as it was coming to an end, I asked Jane where she was located. When she replied that she was in Chicago, I said, “You know, I could easily arrange a trip to Chicago. I have several friends there, and some business contacts that I probably should reach out to as well.” Jane indicated that if I was going to be in Chicago anyway, I should stop by to say hello.
Saying “hello” in Chicago led to a successful first set of interviews in NYC. Then, I learned I would need to go to Minneapolis for more interviews. Timing was tight. I explained to Jane that I was traveling to Montana the following week for a family vacation. We had a layover in Minneapolis. Mountains were moved and schedules were changed on both sides. I offered to come out a day early to interview. By the time we landed in Montana, I had a job offer waiting on my voicemail!
You can’t control everything during your job search, but you certainly can control some things. Here are some concrete steps you can implement to take control over at least some aspects of the process:
- Put together a very specific plan that you can execute, regardless of whether you hear back from a potential employer/headhunter. Put general job-search steps in place, such as sending a certain number of emails each week or making LinkedIn connections for a given amount of time each week. That way, you will be making progress in your job search even when you aren’t hearing back or getting interviews. This will lessen any frustration generated by all the waiting.
- When you have a chance to seize an opportunity, like offering to fly to Chicago, be bold! Not aggressive, but confident and gently assertive. Request an interview. Ask for the sale, as the salesmen say!
- Don’t wallow. If someone doesn’t get back to you after a reasonable time frame and a bit of “pestering,” move on.
Every day is a new day in the job-search world. Don’t let it control you; control it instead. Most importantly, don’t let any perceived lack of control get you down! Having a plan and sticking to it is the best way to fight off a sense of powerlessness.