Is there a more powerful tool in your job-search arsenal than a positive attitude? I doubt it. I don’t need statistics to convince me that a great attitude is often the only thing separating a successful jobseeker from the runner-up.
You don’t have to read more than a couple issues of California Job Journal to appreciate the importance we place on promoting a positive attitude among our readers. Each week includes a generous helping of quotes and sayings designed to inspire success. We think it’s ink well spent.
But if you are like me, you need more than an adage to kick-start your day. Reading "You can climb the highest mountain by simply taking one step at a time" makes me groan. So does "No case of eyestrain ever resulted from looking on the bright side of things."
I am better with irony: "A diamond is a piece of coal that did well under pressure" or Rocky Marciano’s "It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up."
Are words ever enough? Isn’t attitude sort of a chicken-and-egg proposition? Do you have a positive attitude because you got the job, or did you get the job because you have a positive attitude? Certainly success puts a smile on one’s face.
Yet there are those who manage to smile, even in the face of adversity. If that’s not you, and you need something more to be motivated and inspired, maybe you should move beyond uplifting quotes and clever quips, and start to look at the people around you for role models.
The most powerful attitude adjusters in my life are not witticisms, but individuals who have shared their own formulas for successfully dealing with the rigors of real life.
At the top of my list is my older brother. For many years, I marveled at his ability to shrug off adversity and succeed, whether in his personal or professional life. He is a powerful role model.
One day, I finally asked him what his secret was. "You can’t always control what happens in this life," he confided. "All you can control is your reaction to what happens."
Lose your job? Facing bankruptcy? Health problems? We can all be subjected to such challenges, through no fault of our own. And all we can control sometimes is how we handle those events. The real key is not to fail yourself by adopting a defeatist attitude.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to be close friends with the father of a fraternity brother. Mister G, as I called him, was director of personnel at SF State University.
Before I embarked on a trip to Southern California for an important job interview, I met with Mister G to clear up a few interview concerns.
"Should I wear a tie?" I asked.
"You can do whatever you want. But do you want the job?" Mr. G asked wisely.
Later, I asked, "What if I get rejected?"
"Don’t worry about that. Just be yourself. Companies are always on the lookout for good people," he counseled. "If I were ever rejected for a job, I would shrug my shoulders and say to myself, ‘That’s their loss’ – and go down the street to a company who did appreciate me."
I have come to embrace that attitude over the years. Not every employer is going to like you – nor are you going to like every employer. No matter what you do. Better to reject the rejection and move on.
By the way, I got that job. And yes, I wore a tie.
A counselor at my local One-Stop Career Center liked to brag that he could find a job for anyone – just give him a phone and some phone books and he could talk his way into any opportunity. In fact, his greatest success involved an ex-missile commander from the former USSR. He converted the commander’s voluminous resume into an effective two-page summary – then called until he found him a job helping dismantle outmoded American bases. Talk about ironic.
This counselor’s greatest advice to me involved job interviews. "The trick is to get the interviewer to do all the talking," he advised. You do this by saying, after the opening pleasantries, "Do you mind if I ask a question?"
He said no interviewer would ever refuse. Then he recommended saying, "I have a pretty good idea about what the job requires, but what is it you are looking for in the person who fills this position?" Then make sure you listen carefully – and proceed to demonstrate how you are that person.
Another One-Stop counselor offered this tip for handling interview jitters. "Pretend those butterflies in your stomach are not from nerves, but from the excitement of embarking on an adventure," she recommended. "Remember how you felt when you were dating? Pretend it’s like that."
Both those hints inspired and helped me to land my next job as well.
Sometimes the best people to get career-search advice from are not the ones who have experienced the smoothest ride, but people who have endured their share of bumps along the way. It’s as if the job-search process doesn’t even phase them any more.
One such friend was a former car salesman. Over the years he bounced from one car dealership to another, yet it never seemed to vex him. When I asked him if looking for work bothered him as much as it did me, he said no. "Why should it?" he asked. "I look forward to meeting new people."
One of his more creative ploys was to call up former bosses and ask if they had time to meet with him, ostensibly to get feedback on his resume. He rarely used the advice, but he got several job offers using this tactic.
His fearless attitude ultimately enabled him to land a job as a corporate trainer – a job he ultimately came to realize was his true calling. He hasn’t looked for work in years.
Another friend was a former boss and an exceptional journalist. During his career he had been through a long stretch of unemployment. When he lost his second job, I called to express my concern.
"What happened?" I inquired. He cut the conversation short. "I don’t have time to worry about that – I have to find a job." And find a job he did. In a matter of days, he was working as a speechwriter for an LA city councilman. His actions backed up his words: "forget the past." His quick hiring told me he had learned an invaluable lesson from his long stretch of unemployment – keep your eyes open for potential opportunities, even when you are working.
No doubt there are people in your life who inspire respect. Perhaps your potential role models have achieved some measure of career success – or not. Maybe they simply have an incredible knack for rolling with the punches. Whoever they are, try spending some time learning about their work-life strategies.
Like me, you might discover such conversations can go a long way toward helping you adopt a more positive career attitude, and achieve greater career success.