Ya Gotta Know the Job Territory

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Irrespective of the country’s economic circumstances, the process of getting a job, while never easy, isn’t impossible. It’s really a matter of knowing how the system operates and the ground rules, and working within them to make it work for you.

What most people don’t fully understand is that finding a job is an exercise in marketing psychology and communication. That is, as a job hunter, you have to target your “consumer” – the company in which the job opening of interest exists.

You have to determine what they need and want. You then have to tailor your “product,” your presentation of yourself, to them to meet that need. In other words, you have to define their opening as a “problem” then sell them that you’re the “solution” to it. This is irrespective of job level.

Bob Wallace,* a multi-faceted laser engineer, found himself looking for a new position when downsizing eliminated his research job. Because of his level of expertise, he expected to be re-employed almost immediately. Months later he was immobilized by frustration and confusion.

“I read the ads, sent out my two-page resume which includes a listing of some of my patents and technical articles. I know my experience matches what they want, but most of the time I don’t get an interview. Worse yet,” added Bob, “I don’t even get a form-letter rejection. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Of course, being an “expert” (experienced and skilled) at what you do is important. It’s necessary but not sufficient. To get a job you have to think of yourself as a commodity then figure out how to promote and sell it. The fact is that you can’t be hired unless you’re interviewed, and you can’t be interviewed unless you’ve gotten your foot in the door by convincing the potential employer that you are someone worth meeting.

You do that by effectively marketing the benefits you offer to them: Position-relevant skills, abilities, knowledge, and results-producing experience. Everything you do has to shout to them, “I can increase your bottom line!”

Getting a job is hard work. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you can throw together a resume and check out relevant want ads, the world will come rushing to your door, waving opportunities in your face. Au contraire. Job hunting for all but the very powerful requires considerable time, on average twelve weeks of full-time organized effort, and saintly patience.

It’s the Olympics and your competition for nearly any type of job is many, varied, and strong. But there are strategies available which can put you in the faster lane. These strategies require your knowing the following:

- What specifically and concretely you want in a job
- What is available at the time which most closely fits your requirements
- What specific and concrete benefits you have to offer
- What you have done already to get desired work/company results, increase sales, productivity, or profits, or decrease waste or costs
- What you are willing to do to get it – how much research, effort, time, and reconstructing your image to match the job profile
- How you will work to influence decision makers to see the goodness-of-fit between you and your job.

How Does Fear of Authority Figures Come About?

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Where does fear of authority figures come from? How does can it impact your life? To answer these questions we need to define and dissect the concept of authority figure. An “authority figure” is someone who has been given the power to tell you what to do and the ability and discretion to threaten and punish you in some way if you don’t do it.

An authority figure can be a parent, guardian, teacher, business owner, client or customer, boss, physician, lawyer, police officer, minister/priest/rabbi, judge, and other elected or appointed official, for example. In most instances, this individual has this power because society, some individual or group of individuals, citizens, or organization has given it to that person by virtue of the role they possess and act on.

How you relate to authority depends upon your perception of and expectations about it. As a child, you were taught to respect and obey authority to some degree. Consequently, you have buried in your brain the requirement to respond “appropriately” to this authority regarding the things you should do and the things you should not do.

The result is a lingering subconscious fear about doing something you have been told not to do. It presents itself as anxiety before and guilt after you transgress some societal norm or moral principle, law, rule, regulation, or order.

Consider for a minute how you felt as a kid in school when you were caught and publicly admonished by your teacher for doing something that didn’t meet the teacher’s expectations, such as, being late, talking in class, chewing gum, passing notes, or casually glancing at your friend’s test paper.

Chances as good you were left with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. That was your conscience saying “Uh-oh, shouldn’t have done that!” And then you anxiously wondered what was going to happen to you as a result.

Or consider how you feel now when you are driving and a police car suddenly appears behind you in your rearview mirror. There is likely an automatic surge of adrenaline that not only races your heart but also lifts your foot from the accelerator. “What did I do now?”

Whenever you hear yourself talking about “shoulds,” you’re talking about some norm, principle, law. regulation, rule, or order that some “authority” has dictated you need to follow … or else. “Shoulds” then tend to make you anxious and fearful because of the possibility of your consciously or unconsciously not adhering to them. Often that feeling is negatively reinforced by a bad childhood experience with these “shoulds.”

What Experiences Contribute to Fear of Authority Figures?

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There are four negative experiences which can contribute to your fear of authority figures.

  1. Strict, critical or overbearing parents or guardians who made you feel inadequate and powerless to do anything other than as they dictated you should.
  2. Traumatic incident involving a person in authority who publicly embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, or punished you for some perceived infraction.
  3. Conditioned response to some authority figure who made you to feel negatively evaluated, judged, and rendered powerless over time.

Status is something you consciously and unconsciously concern yourself with. This is because of its accompanying authority and requirements for what you should do and should not do with respect to those who have this high status. Having some acknowledged social value, high-status includes social status, financial status, business status, celebrity status artistic status, and political status.

Everyone makes social comparisons with other people. You do it naturally to see how you compare with others on success, wealth, attractiveness, education, privilege, job, pay, job perks, abilities, experience, interests, and talents. You compare yourself to see if you are in sync with the expectations of your society, the culture, a group or individual you value, or with specific beliefs and attitudes you consider important.

You do it to see how you are similar to those you admire or dissimilar to those you don’t like and devalue. You do it to see what you might do to make yourself more like those you admire.

However, not all social comparisons are equal. Some social comparisons can create problems when you do not use them to positively enhance your behavior to achieve your goals—if you use them, instead, to negatively point out possible “inadequacies by comparison” in yourself.

Negative comparisons tend to create anger, a sense of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—things that can get in your way in your personal and work lives.

In the workplace negative comparisons can affect your level of productivity, mood, interpersonal interactions, and make you vulnerable to the authority’s use of the power that you fear. When you feel you have to obey or respond to specific others in a standardized, structured way, you tend to see them as being more entitled and deserving because of their status or authority.

Because you lack their accompanying power, you tend to automatically feel yourself as less deserving by comparison. This helps keep your fear of authority figures alive and well.

Do I Really Have to Network?

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One important characteristic of self-made millionaires is that they meet as many people as they can. They network everywhere, all the time because information and connections are a very valuable currency. For example, 84 percent of jobs are gotten through networking contacts.

Your career development and achievement of most of your important life goals (as well as many trivial ones) have been through the use of contacts. But unless you’re an active networker, it may not seem so because you many not even think about where you gained the information and resources you use.

In Megatrends John Naisbitt listed “networking” is one of the ten major trends changing our lives. So what is networking? It is an active process of information exchange which is built on relationships of mutual interest, trust, and rapport. Why should you network? Because it is the primary way you gain access to tips, leads, and referrals for ANYTHING you do.

Who makes up your network? Your network is made up of diverse individuals – family, friends, and associates – people to whom you have access. These people are divided into a primary group and secondary group. Your primary is made up of your family and close friends, people who tend to share values, beliefs, attitudes, and friends.

Your secondary group is made up of acquaintances, those with different values, beliefs, attitudes, and friends. The casual contacts who make up your secondary group come from everywhere, past and present: Work, community, school, and service providers. They can be employers and colleagues, classmates and teachers, doctors, dentists, and accountants, church friends, local politicians, and club members.

Research has shown that whether you want technical information, someone’s experience, advice, or support, you can get it most effectively through contacts. Specifically, a contact is someone with whom you can meet and talk. S/he is available to listen and give feedback. Someone who can do something for you and for whom you can do something in return. Reciprocity, or fair exchange, is the foundation of networking.

Your relationship with the contact may be personal or impersonal, depending upon who the contact is, that is from which networking group. Impersonal contacts (secondary group) are best for providing information and resources whereas personal contacts (primary group) are best for providing assistance over time, helping you improve your skills, or grooming you. A contact may be anyone who provides you with access to what you want.

Contacts are useful because of what they do, who they are, and whom they know. Because of this contacts are said to have information power. Information power is knowing where to find the facts, details, and help you want when you want them. It’s not having every fact or detail on the tip of your tongue.

Whether you’re trying to find an apartment, a dentist, or used car, you rely upon others as information sources or conduits to others who may have what you need. This is networking in its everyday sense. But to be an effective networker you need to document whom you know who might be helpful in any given instance. Thus, you need to be aware of your existing network. This means putting on paper who your contacts are and what resources they represent.

As hard as it may be to believe, you have exponentially more contacts than you would ever imagine. Of course, not all contacts will be useful for all things at all times. Thus, who will be helpful will be dependent upon what goal you have in mind at any given moment.

How You Use Your Network Depends on Your Goal

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The contacts you use depends upon what you want to achieve. All contacts are not created equal. Once you have established your goal, you then need to determine which contacts have resources which match your goal and are likely to be helpful. This will suggest to you which avenues to pursue both at present and in the future.

If you’re cultivating your contacts for getting a job or seeking promotion, you must remember that getting a job is not always dependent just upon what you know. It’s not always dependent upon whom you know. It’s often dependent upon who knows you. Networking is an excellent method for creating your visibility and credibility among those important to the achievement of your goal.

Active networkers know that every stranger represents an opportunity: The chance to reach targets, get problem-solving assistance, obtain guidance and direction, information, tips, leads, referrals, advice, support, counsel, sponsorship, as well as enhance your self-esteem and growth.

Always remember that it’s a much smaller world than you think. You can get information by way of a chain of people very quickly. Back in the 1960s psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated that you could give a letter to one randomly-selected individual in Nebraska who would pass it along so that it ultimately was received by another randomly-selected person in Boston through a communication chain of only five people!

Think how quickly that stranger-to-stranger connection can be made using the Internet. If you know a minimum of 200 people and each of those people knows a minimum of 200, you automatically have access to up to 40,000 people. So your network is potentially a lot larger and better-connected than you  think it is.

Making and cultivating contacts requires your knowing what you want from them, seeking them out, and approaching them. Of course, this is easier if you’re comfortable talking with strangers and asking those you know for help.

Whether you are throwing yourself into networking now or are working on your networking skills for later, you have to follow certain guidelines in order to be effective and get what you want.

- Determine what you want by assessing your own resources
- Determine what you have and what you need
- Let others know you’re interested in them
- Let them know you have resources to offer to them as well
- Be able to describe (1) who you are and (2) what your seeking then (3) suggest an exchange, that is, that you’re available to return the favor

But remember, if they assist you now, you are not necessarily expected to reciprocate immediately. They’ll let you know when they need access to your information or resources. Your comfort is important so you should tailor your networking to your style and personality.

But that doesn’t mean leaving out steps. To do so frequently results in frustration and disappointment. Each recommendation is essential and an integral part of the whole process. What makes networking ultimately so appealing is that the risk is low and the benefits are high. You owe it to yourself to follow the self-made millionaires’ strategy to “access for success.”

Surviving Anger at Work

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Have you noticed that people seem to be more hostile and impulsive these days? Everything is fodder for contentiousness. Anger seems to be a hair-trigger’s breadth away for many. As a result, aggression in the workplace is increasing as well. Physical altercations, from fistfights to semi-automatic fire, are becoming more commonplace.

Handling anger, yours and others, is not something you come by naturally. It’s not routinely taught by parents, schools, or society. Instead you’re generally told to stifle or swallow it. Get over it. That not only doesn’t help but also makes matters worse.

You’re supposed to act as if the emotion doesn’t exist. And when it does, you’re told you don’t have a right or legitimate reason to experience it. Because of this, you are likely to have few or no skills with which to address it. Consequently, you’re often unprepared when you encounter it in yourself or in others.

When you’re angry, your body is pumping adrenaline, preparing muscles to fight. You’re on auto-pilot. Something or someone has frustrated, disappointed, or hurt you, and you want to get even. So all you want to do is act, to strike out in any way you can. But while there is some immediate satisfaction in doing so, this aggression will tend to be self-reinforcing. That is, you’re going to feel rewarded for attacking and, thus, likely to approach similar problems in a similar way in the future. This becomes self-sabotage.

The basic problem with this emotion-initiated response is that it results in mindless behavior which provokes retaliation. Retaliation further escalates the original anger. Anger begets anger unless you short-circuit the feedback loop.

Because this is a self-defeating approach where no one wins, you need to find better ways to handle the anger you feel and encounter. The first thing you need to do is recognize your anger. Sometimes this is hard because you were probably taught that anger is bad and you shouldn’t feel it. But you do feel it. It’s one of your basic emotions along with happiness, fear, and sadness. So validate it. What is bad isn’t the presence of the emotion but your not handling it effectively.

Once you acknowledge it, you need to step back to see what provoked it. You need to ask what makes you respond as you do. This not only gives you some useful insight into the situation but also slows you down so you won’t be as quick to act to throw a verbal or physical punch.

How Specifically to Deal With Your Anger

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Unacknowledged or denied anger festers and grows out of proportion to the original event. Such anger can turn inward, against you, manifesting as migraines or irritable bowel syndrome, or outward, against others, exploding with lethal fallout.

Distancing yourself from the emotion is useful. You can do this by distracting yourself or expending that pent-up energy in other, more productive ways. Psychologist Hendrie Weisinger suggests creating a list of work tasks you can do until the anger subsides enough to address the anger-provoking event. Then you should dissect the event. All the while, you can become mellower by doing breathing exercises. As you work on zoning out, you should have a dialogue with yourself about it.

All this likewise holds true for when you encounter anger in others with whom you have to deal at work – whether it’s your boss, co-workers, or customers. First you need to get the other person talking. When they’re talking, they’re less likely to translate their anger into physical action.

You need to draw them out and help them describe the problem by asking open-ended questions: What happened. How do they feel. What do they want done. This means you have to be as open, objective, and empathetic as possible, saying little of substance as the other person pours out their soul about the burr under their saddle. You need to remember that others want their grievance to be heard and understood the same way you do.

However, you have to be careful not to slip into making challenging statements. You also have to not resort to condescension which is sometimes tough to do. This means not telling the other person, “You’re not being reasonable” or “The rules are the rules” or “You don’t have to know that.” These show you’re not listening to what the person is trying to convey under the words and stops communication cold.

It’s also important to remember that if for any reason the other person seems ready to attack, the better part of valor and safety is to escape. There’s a limit to “grace under fire.”

By taking control of your anger and helping others redirect or work through theirs, you help create a better place for everyone, but especially you, in which to work. You help create a place where there is less contentiousness and free-floating anger, where there is better communication, and where you can be more productive and comfortable.

Think of Your Job Search as a Military Campaign

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All the things you have to know and do in your job search are not as easy to determine or accomplish as they may seem. One reason is that you have to buy into the mindset that this is the way it works despite it’s seeming “unfair.” You have to organize your job search like a military campaign: Make a plan, set your goal, and develop strategies and tactics to achieve it.

You have to dust off your interpersonal communication and impression management skills. You have to know how to effectively use resources and your network. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the employer and think in their terms. And you have to interview accordingly.

Another reason for difficulty is you may expect to be judged solely on the merits of your resume-stated past performance and experience, without your having to “sell” yourself anew. You may expect potential employers to be fair, impartial, and forthright, and not use subjective criteria like the marketing impression you create on paper and in person.

Unfortunately, these expectations often won’t be met, thus, potentially leaving you feeling defeated and depressed because you didn’t know the “rules” (or felt you “shouldn’t” have to).

To get yourself started on the right foot you need to think of getting the job you want as the result of successfully playing and winning the job-hunt “game.” For employers it’s finding a solution to their pressing problem: Needing the most immediately productive individual to fill a void. For you it’s determining what potential employers want to hear then telling them your version of it.

Specifically, it means recasting what you have to offer in the terms that matter to them. That is, tailoring yourself to fit their image of the ideal results-oriented candidate – the “solution” to their problem. Everything must be reframed in terms of the employer’s needs and your effectively presenting yourself as meeting those needs.

Remember: What you want and need is important only to you. It’s the employer’s game so to win you have to play by the employer’s rules. Everything you do must be designed to work toward that end.

In today’s marketplace the competition for the employer’s attention is intense. Job seekers’ messages abound and every job seeker is vying for that precious few minutes of the decision maker’s time in which to have their message listened to. You’re more likely to have your message listened to if you

- Know your target audience of potential employers and their needs and wants through your research
- Design your job-hunt communications like promotional literature, emphasizing your benefits to the company
- Access and use fully and effectively all the resources available

A carefully choreographed job-hunt marketing campaign can grab employers by the collar, rivet their attention immediately, present you as a benefit they can’t resist, and get you the job you want.

Self-Presentation: What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You

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Everyone tells you “shouldn’t” worry about what other people think of you. They make it sound as if it’s bad to do so – that you’re being egotistical, insecure, or even manipulative if you do. But whether you admit it publicly or not, you still do it – at least a little. And why not?!

Virtually everyone is concerned from time to time about how others evaluate them. It’s only natural since the impressions you make determine whether others are attracted to you or not. Your self-presentation influences the friends you make, the people you date, and the jobs you’re offered. It’s not an inconsequential thing.

In fact, having a concern about the impression your make on others is really healthy and adaptive. Just imagine what it would be like if you didn’t care how others perceived and evaluated you.

What sorts of bizarre and/or socially unacceptable things might you do? Wear Saran wrap to work? Have a “happy face” tattooed on your bottom so you can moon your boss at a board meeting? Eat spaghetti in a restaurant with your hands? Eschew the use of soap in any form? Who can say.

What generally prevents you from doing many of these non-normative things is your fear of the negative reactions of friends, lovers, and bosses. It’s the risk of rejection and ostracism that prompts you to monitor how you present yourself.

But saying that concern about evaluation is normal is not to say, however, that you cannot be too concerned about it. Of course, you can. Indeed, those who experience transient instances of social anxiety (as well as those who suffer from the more intense and persistent social phobia), for example, agonize over the mere possibility of evaluation and its implications.

According to social psychologist Mark Leary, what makes social situations so anxiety-provoking for these individuals is that they are *motivated* to make the desired impression (whatever that may be) but *doubt* they will be successful in doing so. Any social situation which increases their motivation to create a desired impression tends to result in anxiety. Any social situation which increases their lack of self-confidence tends to result in anxiety.

When social situations simultaneously create motivation (approach) and doubt (avoidance), the anxiety effects are likely to be overwhelming. Thus, if they weren’t so motivated to make the desired impression, they wouldn’t feel anxious. If they didn’t doubt they’d succeed, they wouldn’t feel anxious. Increased public self-consciousness in conjunction with pessimism leaves them not only unable to accurately assess their circumstances but also confident that their failure is guaranteed.

The ideal is to be just concerned enough to accomplish what you want but not so concerned that it interferes with your getting it.

How to Get Others to See Your Image

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So if you’re motivated to influence how others perceive you, what sorts of things should you DO? For example,

- Make sure you know (ask if you have to) and follow the norms for the particular social setting and the role you occupy in it. Situations and roles have assigned behaviors and expectations attached. Not meeting them, like laughing at a funeral, will likely get you labeled as a “rebel” or “deviant.”

- Abide by what’s considered polite and socially appropriate in public. Scratching your crotch, sticking your finger up your nose, or belching “Jingle Bells” isn’t likely to put you on anyone’s “A” list.

- Make eye contact and smile. Assume a pleasant, positive attitude.

- Present yourself positively and confidently but with a touch of modesty to keep yourself from sounding like a braggart or show-off.

- Find ways to show your similarity to the other person because this enhances your attractiveness.

- Get people to talk about themselves and use what they say as a springboard for conversational threads.

- Don’t fabricate your self-presentation because it’s hard to recover from being caught in deceit

Remember: Your self-presentation is providing information about you to others to both help define the situation and enable them to know in advance what to expect of you. In return, they present similar information to you for the same purpose. It’s the “dance of the social animal.” You’re both trying to create and manage your individual desired impressions which hopefully will be mutually beneficial.