Two individuals. Both of whom were laid off in the last few weeks. Both of whom are approaching the job market with trepidation, having not had to look for a job in many years and who are trusting my recommendation to send out a note to all of their network contacts, alerting them to the news and soliciting their help in lining up an appropriate new position.
As it turns out, both of these individuals (new clients of mine) picked the very same day to send me the initial “draft” of what they’re proposing to e-mail out to a few hundred of their friends, family members, and business acquaintances.
One letter starts out: “Hi everybody. I’m writing to share the unfortunate news that I’m now the latest victim of this lousy economy, having been laid off last week, and will now be forced to try to find something new in the coming weeks.”
The other letter begins: “Good news, folks! After many years of being off the market, I’m excited to report that I’m finally available for hire!”
Not hard to spot the difference between these approaches, is it?
Here are two individuals, facing almost the exact same circumstances, making two drastically different choices about how they will be communicating the news of their situation to the folks around them — the people who, statistically, will be far and away the most likely sources of helping them find a new position.
This positive vs. negative issue is one that’s been popping up on a regular basis lately, amongst my various travels in the job market, and I therefore wanted to remind everybody out there (especially those of my blog readers who are in transition, themselves) of one simple truth: negativity never sells. It may feel good. It may be cathartic. You may argue that it’s a much more accurate version of the truth than the alternative. But if your ultimate goal is to generate some quality referrals, or land a new job in the near future, you simply can’t afford to frame your employment challenges in a negative light during the course of your networking activities, your interviews, or in any situation when you’re mingling with the public at large. While you may not always see it, this type of “toxic” energy almost always repels people and reduces their willingness to lend a meaningful hand with your efforts, as much as they might empathize with you on the surface or care for you on a personal level.
Compounding the challenge of staying positive, or at least acting positive, is the reality that many job hunters don’t seem to even realize they’re giving off this vibe. Even when you read back some of their own correspondence to them, such as version #1 of the networking letter cited above, they STILL don’t always see any problem with the way they’ve phrased things — or how these statements could be perceived as negative instead of just simply “the truth” of the matter. This is a failure of imagination, in my opinion. Or worse, a stubborn refusal to accept that there are ALWAYS choices in terms of how one faces adversity and the way you elect to frame it, both to yourselves and to those around you. You just have to practice this technique a little bit, if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Here a few examples that come to mind:
Negative Statement: “My last job sucked and I only lasted five months before they laid me off.”
Positive Statement: “While my last position didn’t last as long as hoped, I picked up some valuable new skills (or learned a new software program…or worked with some great people…or got clearer about what I REALLY want to do, long-term) during my tenure there.”
Negative Statement: “I feel lost, hate the occupation I’ve found myself in, and have no idea what I want to do next with my career.”
Positive Statement: “While I’m currently at a career crossroads, which is admittedly pretty scary, I finally have the time to sit down, reflect, and think carefully about the things I’ve liked and not liked about my career to date — and possibly make a change, if I can figure out a more satisfying path.”
Negative Statement: “Nobody’s hiring and the economy stinks.”
Positive Statement: “While times are tough out there, for sure, things could definitely be a lot worse — we’re not in Haiti — and it seems like there’s been some increased movement and hiring activity taking place so far in 2010, based on what I’m seeing out there.”
If this all seems like phony, whitewashed, pie-in-the-sky stuff to you, I hate to say it, but you might have a serious problem on your hands in terms of your career future and employability. Nobody is hiring negative nellies right now. It’s just not happening. Business is too hard, and too stressful, to have somebody around who is amplifying these energies in every interaction you have with them. And let me remind you, I’m not a particularly glass-half-full guy, myself. If there was an award for “Most Cynical” in high school, I would have walked away with it, hands down. My favorite quote of all time, in fact, is one by George Bernard Shaw that goes: “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it.”
What I’ve learned, however, through my own experiences as well as countless observations among my client base, is that one can always choose to accentuate the positives of a situation as opposed to the negatives — whether one truly sees things in this light or decides to do so, instead, merely out of pure self-interest and the desire to maximize the number of job prospects they attract from those around them. So don’t cross over onto the dark side of this spectrum. Vent your true feelings to your family, your closest friends, your pillowcase, your psychiatrist, and/or your faithful canine companion, but DON’T let them leak into your daily job search interactions or they’ll cost you in more ways than you can count. Keep your game face on. And whenever you have a negative feeling or thought about your situation, immediately call it onto the carpet and find a positive spin you can give to it. Or just kill it, altogether, without it crossing your lips. This simple thing will make a far bigger difference in the speed and success of your job hunting efforts than you likely realize!