Being Out of Work

This week, I received a letter from an Elephants at Work reader. I wanted to share their story because being out of work affects the family not just the person who is out of work. At the end of this post, I suggest some helpful tips.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being FiredMy husband has been out of work for 2 years.  He was involuntarily terminated from his job. His salary was our family’s primary source of income. This entire situation has been a nightmare for all of us.

I have watched my husband become frustrated and mad at the world for different reasons.  Our home is filled with anxiety and tension. My children are teenagers and they have been directly impacted by our financial instability. My husband has filled out many job applications and each time the answer is the same…. no job offer.

My husband was a police officer for 15 years. Now, I don’t think my husband even knows who he is anymore. Clearly, we need help to find out how to help him get back on track. We can’t afford a consultation, but I will order your book.

I hope it provides us with answers, suggestions and tips about how to effectively fill out job applications. I prayed this morning and asked God for more guidance regarding my husband’s job loss. Then, a few moments later I came across Elephants at Work.  Hope your book helps us! THANK YOU.

Name withheld

The situation this ex-police officer and his family are facing may be what you are facing too. I would like to address two things about this letter – first the loss of ego and self from the husband and second, the effects of being out of work on the family.

I am not surprised your husband is questioning who he is after being out of work for two years. I have seen loss of ego and self in the unemployed in as little as a day. It is like a switch flipped.

Many people define who they are by the work that they do. When you lose your job, it takes a big blow to the ego. You deal with employer rejection and you try to figure out how to move forward. It is a chaotic time internally. You feel like you have lost your purpose in life.

For family providers and breadwinners – their role suddenly changes within the family dynamics. It requires families to rethink their lifestyle until they are able to secure employment. Sometimes the levels of pay they enjoyed are unobtainable and those lifestyle changes become permanent.

Let’s not ignore what is going on in the family. The changes of lifestyle affect them too. There may be arguments about money and sacrifices that family members endure that they don’t understand. For teenagers it is difficult because their peers may be able to do things they knew they could do if only… their father or mother were working. It is those unspoken thoughts that create more stress and conflict.

The culmination of these two things – the loss of work that defines someone and the changes in the role within the family create the perfect storm.

Here are some recommendations for you, your husband and family:

  • Your husband has a right to be mad and angry after being fired or laid off. It is important to figure out how to let go of that anger too. The anger will show up in an interview. Employers will sense anger and it may be a reason why he is not getting hired.
  • The loss of self and ego is real. It is a scary proposition to have to figure out who you really are when you thought you had it all together. Being out of work is catalyst to rethink priorities and to figure out what is really important to you. When you figure this out, you gain confidence and the path on how to get there becomes easier.
  • Engage the family in open dialogue and discussion about the elephant in the room – the financial situation and effect on each person. Have the discussion when everyone is calm – not during an incident. Ask everyone to do some homework ahead of time. Write down what is working well and what is not working well for them and share it with one another during your discussion. Have the kids share their information first. If they are hesitant, ask them to put their thoughts into a jar and one by one pull out a comment and discuss it. It will challenge you and your husband to be receptive to their thoughts and not to pass judgment. It is what they are feeling and is just as real as what both of you are feeling. The ability to air our concerns in a safe environment builds trust and unity. Together, all of you can decide what can be done and what cannot be done given your specific limitations.
  • Find a way to celebrate every small step or win. If you focus only on getting the job, it becomes overwhelming. Take every “no” as an opportunity to learn and develop your skills sets.

Finally, thank you for placing your trust and faith in my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired – I know that you will find many solutions to help you along this journey.

Informational Interviews as a Job-hunting Strategy

A secret weapon for any job-hunter or job explorer is the informational interview. It is different from a job interview. Informational interviews can be very effective – with a caveat I learned last week.

istock_000006916716xsmallFirst, let’s explore what an informational interview is and what it is not.

Informational interviews are opportunities:

  1. To learn from someone in a field that you would like to explore or want to work in. There are many paths to getting the career you want – find out what worked for them.
  2. To be curious about how someone got to where they are in their career. Why did they choose the company they are working for today? What were some of the most valuable lessons they learned along the way? Interviews that are focused on the other person – not you.
  3. To learn about an organization that you are interested in – the structure, the management style, the mission etc.
  4. To grow your professional network. Perhaps in the future, this person may remember your selfless approach and throw a lead or suggestion your way. Remember to follow-up with a Thank You card.

Here’s what informational interviews are not:

  1. Job interviews. This is not the place to ask someone if they have a job opening or to sell your job qualifications. If the conversation heads in that direction because the other person initiated it, then by all means express your interest.
  2. Long in duration. The typical informational interview is about 15-30 minutes in length. It is short enough not to impose on someone and long enough for you to develop rapport and learn something about the person that is helpful to your job search efforts.
  3. Always welcomed. Know if the area you are looking at is receptive to informational interviews. There are wide differences to what is acceptable and not acceptable in different parts of the country.

As an example, I recently moved from Rochester NY to Charlotte NC. In Rochester, informational interviews are a well-accepted networking strategy. However, it appears in Charlotte, there is less acceptance for this type of networking. A friend recently asked a local job coach and they confirmed that the approach in Charlotte is more task vs. relationship driven when agreeing to a day meeting. The best place to meet people is through established networking groups found on or through other established job search groups.

If you are new to an area or are new to the job-hunting process, there are some places where you can ask about what is acceptable and what is not before trying to engage someone in an informational interview. Check out the local job groups, city unemployment services and career coaches for advice.

What is a Good Starting Salary?

It’s finally the moment you have been waiting for…the company is interested in you and they are going to make you a salary offer – what should you expect as your starting salary?

Assortment of American CoinsThis question comes up often and it is important to know the facts about how companies come up with that magical number. You might think that they have a secret dartboard in the back room (which may be true for very small companies) and hope you are lucky someone knows how to hit the bull’s eye. The truth is it is much more complicated than that.

The secret to knowing what is a good starting salary is finding the intersection between what the company is willing to pay and what you are worth.

If you are going after a position that is below what you have performed, be prepared to lower your expectations. That same advice may also hold true if you have been in a position for a long time because your salary has probably crept up over the years and companies may not be looking for someone with as much experience (also translated as someone with a higher salary).

From a company perspective, starting salaries are a combination of several factors.

The Position or Job

The position or job you are applying for will have a specific wage or salary range associated with it. That specific wage or salary range is based on a number of factors:

  • Scope of Job. How much responsibility is there in this job? Does it deal with a single task or complex tasks? Other factors impacting scope include – sales, number of direct reports, profit/loss responsibilities, matrix relationships, size of company, etc.
  • Level of job. Where does it fit in the organizational structure? While a job title may be descriptive, some companies have adopted generic titles and it is more difficult to decide where the level of the job is unless you see the organizational structure. Is this position over one or several departments, functions, divisions, or locations?
  • Market Competitiveness. Savvy companies will survey the local or national market to make sure their pay is competitive. It is important to note that when organizations do this type of analysis they account for all pay types — salary, bonus, stock options, benefits etc.

The Human Resources Department or Compensation Specialist in an organization is responsible for establishing and reviewing salary structures periodically to stay competitive and to aid in retention activities. There is some flexibility in the starting salary in large companies and how flexible they are depends on how badly they want you.

What Are You Worth (to the Company)?

This is a tough question because our ego gets in the way! The most common way to evaluate what you are worth is to look at your last salary.

While that may be a great first step, consider if you are making significant changes in the type of work you will be doing (scope) or if you are moving to a lower cost of living location. Many of these factors go into what you are worth (at least from the company’s perspective).

Try thinking about this question with a different angle if you are having trouble getting the pay you believe you deserve. Here are some questions to think about.

  • What specific skills are you bringing to the job?
  • Are those skills rare or different from other people applying for the job?
  • Are you able to articulate them if you have to counter your starting salary offer?
  • Is the company asking you to perform at the level you were performing in your last company?
  • Is the company a mature company or new venture?
  • What is the size the company – how does that company with your last company? Smaller companies have lower starting salaries.

Finally, consider if is salary the most important part of working for this company. These other quality of work  factors have a big influence on overall happiness:

  1. Benefits
  2. Working from home
  3. Flexible work schedule
  4. Great company culture
  5. Great boss
  6. Low stress
  7. Work/life balance

When you factor in these considerations, revisit the question – What is the intersection between what the company is willing to pay as a starting salary vs. what you are worth? Do you have a little more leeway?

Help Absolutely Abby’s 2015 Tour Be Successful

I met Absolutely Abby a couple of years ago when she came to Rochester, NY. Since then, she’s been back three times. Two months ago, I moved to Charlotte, NC and she’s already been there too.

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Absolutely Abby and Lynn Dessert

Abby is on a mission. It’s very simple. She wants to help one million (1,000,000) people get back to work. She figures she has said no to at least that many when she was a recruiter and could only hire one person for a job. She’s looking to pay it forward by helping others be successful.

Talking to that many people is a lot of work. It requires her to travel across the country and find places and organizations where she can speak and share her secrets. She has lots of secrets to share – I have heard most of her presentations and every time she leaves people in a better place to land their next job. She tells them what companies and recruiters won’t tell you. Armed with that information, it puts you in a better position to navigate murky job hunting waters.

Here are some of the articles I have shared over the years about her talks:

To continue her work, she needs the support of YOU and OTHERS. Every bit helps – just a $5 pledge from 15,000 people would help her reach her goal of $75,000.

I spoke with her today about not knowing she had the crowd-sourcing campaign running because we’ve become friends. If I don’t know, then I know others don’t know. She says asking for help is uncomfortable. I get it. You get it. The only way we can help someone feel good about asking for help is to help them when they do ask.

I like to think of my personal contribution as a pay it forward. I have not needed her help personally because I am not out of work. However, I have worked with many people who have benefited from her sage advice. I am sure you have too and if not, all the more reason to keep her on tour to get to your friends, family and colleagues.

There are only a few days left for YOU to make a difference and pay it forward to someone who is looking for work.

Here’s what I’m asking you to do to help Abby reach 1,000,000 people:

  1.  Visit and watch the video.
  2. Share this link on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles and tell them why contributing $5 will help one million people get back to work.
  3. Blog about how Abby’s efforts help our workforce to become stronger.
  4. Share the site via email with everyone that you know that can afford $5 –family members, employed friends, college alumni, etc. Ask them to give $5 and to share the link on their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter profiles.

Know that when you’re done, you have paid it forward to someone who needs help to find a job and will be thankful for your generosity.

Lose the Career Objective Statement on Your Resume

It is passé. Bottom line: having a career objective statement on your resume does not tell the interviewer anything about what you can do for the company. A career objective statement is all about you and the company wants to know what you can do for them NOW.

It may sound cold, but the fact is fewer companies are looking for stellar talent that they can grow internally. In the past, when companies where fueling management development programs an objective statement on your resume might have served well to identify you as someone who could be groomed or had high aspirations of a steep career trajectory. Here’s an example of a career objective statement:

Seeking a role to advance to a Senior Management position in a technology based company.

This statement implies you are seeking a company that can meet your needs – career advancement. Times have changes, the trend is career growth comes from moving from company to company which makes this statement obsolete.

What Replaces the Objective Statement on Your Resume?

It is far better to state your value proposition or what skills, results, relationships or competencies that you bring to the company that is unique or worth them hiring you. Your opening statement must grab the interviewer’s attention or guess what…you are in the deep six pile.

One of the best ways to write a killer value statement is to look at your list of accomplishments and think about which one of those might be applicable to the company you are sending your resume to. With a little rework, you can craft a new killer value statement for each resume!

The point of a resume is to get noticed – and be asked in for an interview. When you lose the career objective statement on your resume, there is an opportunity to put your best forward in the place that counts – the beginning paragraph of the page. Tailoring your resume to the job or company shows you put some thought into demonstrating on your resume that you understand the job requirements and have a good idea how to make a positive impact.

Absolutely Abby Coming Back to Rochester, NY

Absolutely Abby in Rochester NY

Absolutely Abby in Rochester NY

This will be the third time that Absolutely Abby will be speaking to job seekers in Rochester NY. People love her, love her advice and no-nonsense way of telling it like it is when it comes to conducting an effective job search.

Besides doing her talks, she is holding a contest and there will be two lucky winners – one man and one woman – awarded a Career Makeover! Winners will be revealed on July 23rd (see below). The support that each winner will receive is phenomenal:

  • A makeover sponsored by a local makeup artist 
  • A professional hair styling at a local salon  
  • One (1) “Capture a Recruiter” consultation session with Absolutely Abby 
  • One (1) signed copy of “Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets” and “Absolutely Abby’s Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed” 
  • Five (5) of Absolutely Abby’s teleseminars
And there will be eight (8) Semi-Finalists, each will receive: a signed copy of “Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets” and “Absolutely Abby’s Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed” and access to 5 Absolutely Abby teleseminars.

Absolutely Abby Schedule for Rochester

Here is her schedule for the next couple of weeks, be sure to call ahead if reservations are required.

Monday, July 7, 5:30 pm at ABCPNG.  “Secrets Recruiters Don’t Want You to Know.” First Unitarian Church, 220 South Winton Rd, Rochester 14610.  There have been record crowds at this event with  300 seats and room to stand!

Wednesday, July 9, 2:00 pm at RochesterWorks.  “Secrets Recruiters Don’t Want You to Know.” 255 Goodman St N, Rochester 14607. 

Friday, July 11, 2:00 pm at The Central Library of Rochester & Monroe Counties.  “Secrets Recruiters Don’t Want You to Know.” Kate Gleason Auditorium, 115 South Ave, Rochester 14604. Register: Business/Social Sciences Division on 4th floor, by phone 585-428-8130, or online

Tuesday, July 15, 9:00 am at New Horizons.  “Don’t Just Think Outside of The Box . . Think Outside of The World!” The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, 1957 Five Mile Line Road, Penfield 14625.

Thursday, July 17, 9:30 am at The August Group. “Taking Your Job Search by Storm in 2014.” Medaille College, 1880 South Winton Road, Cambridge Place, Rochester 14618.

Monday, July 21, 6:30 pm at Fairport Public Library. “Success for the Seasoned Search…… The Benefit of Being Overqualified.” 1 Fairport Village Landing, Fairport 14450.

Wednesday, July 23, 2:00 pm for Total Career Makeover. “How to Interview Like A Rock Star.” Webster Parks & Recreation, 1350 Chiyoda Drive, Webster 14580 (Multipurpose Room 1+2+3). Register and vote at

If you miss any of these events, look for recaps on Elephants at Work in the next several weeks.

Three Job Hunting Strategies to Landing a Job

The process of landing a job is not something that everyone does every day…that is unless you have been out of work for a while. Let’s say you just graduated from college or perhaps you have gotten laid off from your employer and have not been in the job market for eons. There are three job hunting strategies that I would recommend you focus on. No doubt there will be competing priorities, but these really do make a difference.

Join LinkedIn and Actively Work the Process

When you first join LinkedIn, it can be overwhelming and let’s face it a bit intimidating. Just remember that everyone on LinkedIn started where you did – with nothing. Set small goals and as you make them, you can set bigger goals.

Let’s talk about what those first few goals should be:

Creating a compelling profile helps you with landing a job.

Your profile is the first thing someone will look at when they land on your page so the information you share should address the reason you are on the site. For example, you may be looking for job, accepting consulting assignments, wanting to connect with colleagues, or providing business and professional services. The clearer you are, the easier it will be for someone to know if you are the right person they want to connect or talk to. Here are some tips for creating a compelling profile:

Tell a story about your professional career. Here’s your opportunity to share your experiences, talents, skills and career progressions. Avoid copying your resume into your online profile – use this space to expand what traditionally goes on a resume. Note: you do want to have a good resume prepared as part of your arsenal.

Post a current photo.

The fact is you will get more requests to connect with a photo than without one. Why? People may be suspicious and assume that your profile is bogus. Make sure your picture is professionally done – this is not the time to use your Facebook photo.

Join special interest groups and actively engage in the discussion.

LinkedIn limits you to 50 groups. Consider joining 5-10 to start. Seek out groups where people congregate that you want to meet – it may be in your area of expertise or a regionally based group. Follow the conversations and jump in when you have something to add. This is how people begin to know and trust you. When they trust you, they will reach out to you – sometimes offering help.

If you do these two things when you first join LinkedIn, you will be surprised how comfortable you will get within a matter of weeks.

Knowing where to find the jobs helps you with landing a job.

The strategies for finding a job have changed dramatically over the last ten years. My advice – there are two places to find jobs: online and through networking. At the top of the list for job hunters is LinkedIn. Most recruiters use LinkedIn to data mine their candidates – that is why having a compelling resume is important.

The places to look online for jobs are easy to find, in fact, I have a list of them here. Many of the online services overlap each other, so pick a few that work for you.

The thought of networking petrifies many people. Why? It requires you to put yourself out there in the public and fear of being judged for saying the wrong thing gets in the way. Make no mistake; networking is a skill that requires practice for most of us. When you practice your networking skills, you build confidence as you become more proficient. This confidence is a necessary ingredient in the last area you want to focus on: interviewing skills.

Nailing the interview means landing a job.

If you are getting invitations into companies and you are not able to seal the deal, your interviewing style may be hindering your success. Because you don’t get a chance to “practice” interviewing as much as networking, nerves can set in quickly. There are a few things you want to accomplish in the interview process:

  1. Establish rapport immediately. After all, you are selling yourself to the company. In any sales relationship, you can make or break a connection with someone in a matter of seconds.
  2. Provide the information to your interviewer in a way that they want to receive it. Listening to what they ask and how they ask it will give you clues to how to answer your question.
  3. Move the interview to a conversation. The question and answer format is formal and stiff. When you move the discussion to a conversation, everyone relaxes.

Remember you are interviewing them to see if the company fits YOUR career path too. Making a bad decision about your next move can be a disaster.

As you have probably realized, landing a job takes a lot of work. Even with these three strategies, you will be spending a lot of time updating information, building skills and selling yourself. Just know, that if you need help, ask for it or get it.