Who to Look to For Support in a Job Hunt
Okay, not to sound like Dr. Phil or the folks on those call-in advice shows, but one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make during a job hunt is who you’re going to talk to about all of this — the ups and downs, the frustrations, the loss of pride, and also the excitement when you snare that interview and eventually land a job.
And that person is not necessarily the same person or people with whom you share other things — sometimes a spouse or partner or a best friend is a decidedly bad choice for support while you’re job hunting. That’s because they are too close to the situation. And that means they might be worried about your loss of income or afraid that you’ll become depressed if you don’t get a job right away — so they may steer you to positions that aren’t necessarily right for you. Alternately, they may be too big of a booster and sugar-coat advice about your resume or your chances for getting a particular job, for instance.
In any case, you’ll need various types of support and advice from different corners. Here are some people to seek out in terms of support during a job hunt:
*A trusted friend or colleague (or former colleague) who is knowledgeable about the field you’re targeting and knows you well enough to provide smart, clear-headed advice. You’ll need someone to help you look over your resume and determine if you should include that position you had five years ago that wasn’t such a good fit. You want to discuss such potentially awkward issues as whether a former boss you both know would be a good reference. That’s where you need trust. Someone in your field can be very helpful as a resource to discuss the ins and outs of your job search because they are familiar with the landscape and likely won’t offer you outmoded or irrelevant advice.
*Another job hunter who understands what you’re going through now. Once someone has landed a job, they tend not to want to discuss the fine points of resume preparation or to practice interviewing techniques. They want to focus on their new work life and frankly, they often want to forget what they’ve just been through — especially if they had a tough time snaring a new job. So try to find someone — and better yet, find several people and form a support group — who is in a related field and is at about the same stage as you in their job search. It’s obviously best not to “buddy up” with someone who will be competing for the same positions — that could get a bit stressful and it would be difficult to establish a necessary level of trust.
*Someone who has a bit of distance — literally as well as figuratively. The problem with relying on those very close to you (especially when you share living space) — your spouse or partner, or your parents if you’re just getting started in your career — for job-hunting support is that they are there to support you in so many other ways. And if your finances are connected — if they are providing you with financial support or especially if you have been the main breadwinner — they simply can’t be objective about whether you’re taking the right steps and looking at the right kinds of openings. Parents, and as a mom I get to say this, are especially risk-averse when it comes to their offspring. For example, a former colleague who was just a few years out of college when laid off called me pretty upset one evening. When I asked her why, she said she had been offered a low-paying job that didn’t make good use of her skills, and she didn’t want to take it. Why was she so upset, I asked — why didn’t she just decline the offer and be done with it? Well, she told her mother about it, and mom was urging her to take the position, even though she’d just begun her job search. Big mistake! The people with whom you share the ins and outs of your search shouldn’t be people who are close to the situation. You need to be honest with them upfront and tell them that you’re not shutting them out but that it wouldn’t be smart to rely on them for advice about your search. Then stick to that — and look for support to others with a bit of distance.
*Someone who has been a mentor to you before. Often those who have helped you with career or other professional goals have enough of a stake in your success to want you to succeed again, and they often know you well enough to provide useful advice. Yet they aren’t as close to the situation as your family, so they can be more objective. And they tend to have contacts who could be useful to you in networking and eventually, in landing a job. So be in touch with them early in your search, and keep them in the loop.