Local job coaches say stick to the basics: stay positive, network, build skills

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Despite a chorus of grim economic indicators that threaten the most optimistic spirits, local job counselors say the chief variable in a job search hasn’t changed. It’s you and your attitude; get a grip on that and you will see opportunities that you might have otherwise missed.

“What brings most of us to our knees is when money gets scarce,” said David Thiermann, a career counselor in Santa Cruz for more than 20 years. “When there are big budget cuts, there is a lot of scarcity consciousness and more political backstabbing. That happens in any company when money gets tight. People change how they interact with each other.”

The solution is to be proactive, to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit of taking initiative, building new skills and positioning oneself in the market.

“Regardless of whether you’re going to work for someone else or you have you own business, you have to have the attitude that you’re self-employed to advance,” Thiermann said. “You have to be a risk-taker.”

Local career counselors say that the bulk of their clients are working people, focused on topping off their resumes and learning new skills, in some cases, to prepare to jump ship as soon as the economy turns, in other cases, to move to the next level at a company.

“I am noticing that there are actually many more opportunities out there than the mass public believes,” said Jennifer Turner-Davis, a Santa Cruz-based certified coach and leadership trainer at Cabrillo College’s Extension program. “A lot of times I’m reading articles about how horrible the economy is, yet my experience is there are jobs out there and people are getting jobs that are desirable.”

Job coaches say many of their working clients fall into one of two groups: the grateful and the overwhelmed.

“People who were feeling dissatisfied in their positions and that the grass was greener have taken on a new sense of gratitude for the positions they have and are looking at it more objectively, Turner-Davis said. “They are not being as quick to leave their position.”

Overwhelmed group members are worried about their company’s future or unhappy that the recession has resulted in an unwieldy job description cobbled together from layoffs in their department. They are counting the days until they find a better job.

“People are getting things in order,” said Chris Fogarty, a career counselor with Tarzan Careers in Santa Cruz.

People should line up a plan before quitting a job, coaches advised. Not only does it keep them involved in their industry, it keeps them in touch with people they can network with.

“Sometimes when people lose their jobs, they lose their community,” Fogarty said. “You have to develop a professional community these days that lasts across jobs. Jobs come and go but your career needs to have some continuity.”

For many job seekers there is more willingness to compromise — at least temporarily — on career dreams and flexibility or adaptability.

“Parts of the economy won’t come back and you have to find something else to do and people are finding that,” said John Axel Hansen, a career counselor in Santa Cruz. He reminds clients that McDonald’s is hiring.

“What I mean is, if you’re an engineer, take a tech job. Lose the pride,” he said. “If you can’t find work in what you do you, you need to take whatever you need to take in this kind of economy.”

After Hansen’s business dropped off last year, he increased his public speaking engagements and refocused his business.

“I did the same thing I recommend to my clients: I got out and beat the bushes,” he said. “January was my third best month ever in 20 years. I better have more arrows in my quiver then empowering people to discover their passion.”

Tips from Career Coaches
•Prepare. Rehearse. Have enthusiasm.
•During interviews, show off your experience, your ability to work as a team player and your interest in learning new things on the job. Concentrate on what you’re excited to learn in the job, not on what you’re capable of doing.
•Don’t quit your job, if possible. Employers like a working prospect because you’re more likely to be up to speed with the industry.
•Be willing to compromise, adapt and apply your skills in new ways.
•Watch your digital tattoo: Build a web presence that’s positive. Responses you’ve put on other people’s blogs can come back to haunt you. Make sure everything that prospective employers find online supports your job search.
•In a flooded job market, an employer’s first pass through a pile of resumes is often to rule out as many as possible. Social media such as LinkedIn is increasingly important. For some recruiters, LinkedIn is their primary source of finding candidates now. They are not posting jobs. They’re searching LinkedIn for words to find people that match their needs.
•Develop industry-based relationships that transcend the job. Meet up with alumni and people in your industry. Ask them not what they can do for you, but what they did for themselves. What advice do they have?
•Learn new things.
•Take risks.
•Focus on the positive.

This article first appeared here.

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