Combating Nerves When Re-Entering the Job Market

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Combating Nerves When Re-Entering the Job Market

If you’re feeling a bit intimidated by the job market today and the many changes it seems to have gone through, guess what?  You’re normal. And these feelings are going to be even more pronounced if you’ve been out of work for a considerable stretch of time, either due to involuntarily circumstances, a self-imposed sabbatical, or some such thing.

In fact, in working with people in this situation on a daily basis, I can confirm that virtually all such folks admit (behind closed doors) that they’re feeling highly anxious and self-conscious about the job hunting process — some even use the word “terrified” — as they contemplate the new world of work and strive to suss out their future place in it.

But then again, why wouldn’t this be the case?  Given the pace of change in the market today, you can be an absolute rock star one day and then feel completely disconnected, only a year or two later, upon dipping your toe back in the waters and discovering that all of the job titles, terminology, and ways of doing things seem to have gone through a total transformation.  Let’s say you’re a successful middle-aged marketing manager who made the decision a few years back to check out of the rat race and stay home to raise a young family.  Now, as you seek to resume your career, you kick your job search off in earnest — and discover you’re facing an alien landscape filled with language, terminology, and job requirements that are beyond recognition.  You’re running into employers demanding expertise in “content curation” and “corporate storytelling” and other subjects that you’ve never heard of in your life.  Or that require hands-on experience using systems like Marketo or Eloqua that didn’t even exist when you last collected a paycheck.

So what’s a person to do?  Are your chances of finding a job impossible if you’ve been out of the market for a while and discover that you’re not up to speed on the latest-and-greatest buzzwords, technologies, and concepts employers are seeking?

No.  But it largely depends on what you do about it.

For starters, a motivated job seeker encountering this predictable phenomenon should first recognize that there are consequences to checking out of the rat race for a while — and that you’ll likely need to engage in a crash-course of catching up if you’ve been away for a few years.  This essentially means starting to read everything you can get your hands on regarding your profession of choice, in addition to attending association events, following blogs, networking with relevant peers, and enrolling in some relevant online or offline training.  What’s more, any time you come across a new job requirement or piece of technology you don’t recognize, train yourself to immediately look it up on the web and figure out what it means.  More often than not, you’ll discover it’s just a fancy new name for a concept you already know inside and out.

Customer acquisition, you say?  Um, yeah, that just means designing marketing plans that generate sales leads.  Voice of the customer?  It’s a goofy new phrase suggesting you pay attention to your clients and not ignore what they tell you they want.  Customer success enablement?  Could be wrong, but based on everything I’ve seen, it means that once you sell something to a customer you should follow-up to make sure they’re using it effectively.

See, these terms aren’t that scary, once you actually look them up and find out what they really mean.  And every field has scores of them these days, based on some inherent tendency of the job market to keep inventing brand new words for old, time-tested concepts.

Case in point, I worked with a stay-at-home dad a few years back who sought to resume his prior career in the supply chain management field.  During this period, he wrestled with chronic feelings of fear and inadequacy due to all the new terms he kept coming across.  He said it felt like he’d been out of work for 20 years, not just two, based on how different all the job titles and descriptions seemed to be from what he remembered.  But guess what?  Once he landed a new job, he followed up with me within a few weeks, saying: “Matt, it’s the darndest thing.  I don’t know what I was so afraid of.  Now that I’m back in the saddle, it’s become clear that all of these weird terms are just new names for all the same challenges, concepts, and stuff I’d dealt with, without any problems, for the first 20 years of my career…”

Along the same lines, on a personal note, I was recently persuaded to join a neighborhood soccer team after not touching a soccer ball for over 10 years or so.  The night before the first game, I actually lost sleep.  While I keep myself in reasonably good shape, I was scared spitless that I’d get out there on and have absolutely no idea of what I was doing — and that the team captain would start throwing around instructions about “diamond formations” or “lines of recovery” and the like that would be completely over my head.  But I discovered quickly that despite my years of absence from the field, soccer is, well,  soccer.  It’s still mostly about running hard, making good passes, marking bodies on defense, and trying your best to put a ball in a net. And once I got in the swing of things, it was like I’d never really missed a beat.

So for those of you feeling overwhelmed by the pace of change in today’s market, I’d encourage you to keep three things in mind.  First, remember that it only takes a second to decode unfamiliar terms and concepts via the web.  Secondly, most of these items you research will simply turn out to be new names for things you’ve already done many times before.  And lastly, business is still business, customers are still customers, and people are still people — and if you stay confident around the core strengths that have always led you to success over the years, you’ll likely land on your feet!

By | 2016-10-20T17:37:26+00:00 September 14th, 2015|Changing Careers, Job Searching|3 Comments

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3 Comments

  1. Dick Shay September 16, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Matt, as usual your commentary is spot on. I’ve followed you for years and am always encouraged by your common sense advice and encouragement. I am traveling in Europe as I read your latest blog and no matter where I am, I always take a moment to read what you publish. I know you’ve changed many people’s lives for the better and I encourage you to keep up the good work. Regards, Dick Shay

    • Matt Youngquist September 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Dick: First of all, I’m jealous of your European travels. What fun! Secondly, thanks a ton for your kind words and I’m glad this latest article resonated with you, even if you’re a few thousand miles away. Without question, I see professionals running into this issue all the time — convinced that the business world has somehow transformed itself overnight into an unfamiliar place, based on all the new terminology being used, when in reality most of the bottom-line dynamics haven’t really changed much. So as long as one steps up and works on “translating” the new language/concepts into the terms they’re more familiar with, that can be a big step on the road to success…

  2. Kristi Brennan September 18, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I certainly agree with the characterization of “spot on”! Your article is both timely and relevant to my recent experience! As you know, I have been out of the the professional working world (healthcare) for 20 years. Then I got an interview (via a connection) with a health research department. I did web research on the project initiative…Same underlying problems, dynamics, structural issues and responses we worked with 20 years ago! I was able to substantively engage in all interview topics/questions (I genuinely enjoyed the conversation!)

    However, I also mentioned some new tools, trends, terminology during the conversation, and it was helpful that I had brushed up my technical/PC skills, and am enrolled in certification programs. And the writing sample I submitted was very purposeful to what I thought would be relevant and helpful. In the end it was a combination of content familiarity and skills..and I think soft skills even more than hard/technical. They identified communications as their biggest challenge.

    So anyway, a long comment that is supportive of your premise that we should not be intimidated by re-entry assumptions of obsolescence. The content may not be all that different at the core; it is possible to brush-up technical/hard skills; and soft skills in particular are always relevant (may even improve w age!). But of course I would be the last person to deny that it is very challenging to re-enter… lots of effort, investment, thoughtfulness – and support – required.

    Speaking of which…I also agree w prior post that your insights, services, expertise are excellent!! Thank you so very much for your help and support!

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