So You Need A Job, What Now?

First, Make The Bed

I know, sounds silly but trust me it works. Right now you’re feeling like a failure, you’re stressed about money and you’re embarrassed to tell your family and friends that you’re out of work. Go, make the bed. It’s a quick and easy thing that will make you feel better. Your home will look cleaner and you will feel like at least one thing got done today.

Ok, bed done? Awesome, let’s move forward.

No spam!

First things first, don’t just start spamming applications to jobs. Let’s take some time and figure a few things out.

What are you looking for?  What’s the right job for you? Yes, I know that right now you just want a paycheck but that make you sound desperate and that lowers your odds of finding a job. So what job would you add the most value in? What industry? Role? Size of company?

What’s your story?  People are going to want to know why you’re looking, so craft a story. Keep it honest and never complain about your past job, but don’t be afraid to do some marketing for yourself and highlight your accomplishments. For example:

I’ve spent the past four years as head of technology and products at Act-On. It’s been an amazing experience for me working with a great team of product managers, engineers and my fellow execs. We’ve rebuilt the product with a services oriented architecture, replaced the outdated UI with modern interface, added a data product, moved into AWS and introduced the first piece of Act-On’s machine learning strategy.

Unfortunately, as part of the company’s effort to become cash flow positive, the decision has been made to centralize technical operations in Portland. It’s a good decision for the company and I support it wholeheartedly, but I’m not personally looking to relocate. Which means I’m working on a transition and figuring out what my next step is.

Ideally, I’d like to find a start up or midsize company to join as the head of product. Something in the B2B world I know so well, and around the 50 to 500 person size. A place that can benefit from my ability to build a team, a product and a vision.

Look at that. It tells a clear and honest story, highlights accomplishments and details the kind of position you’d be perfect for.

Your target list

Next, come up with some companies that you want to work for. This list should clearly match the kind of position you highlighted in your story above. Once you have this list, start checking on LinkedIn for who you know at those companies. Reach out to those people and see if you can catch up with them. Don’t reach out with “hey, can you get me a job?”, that’s just tacky. Reach out and genuinely try to catch up with folks. Once you’ve met, chatted, talked and caught up, then you can ask them for an intro.

Yes, do this even if the job you wanted isn’t listed as open. You never know what you’ll find and getting into an open position before it’s even advertised is perfect.

Your network

Next, start chatting with your network. Again, don’t just send out a mass email titled “hey, hire me!” No one likes getting those. Reach out to specific people, send them a personalized message and ask to catch up. Spend time with folks, be personal and real. See if there’s something you can help them with and be genuinely interested in what they’re doing. This is all basic stuff out of How To Win Friends but the bottom line is that you need to be genuinely interested in the other person if you want their help. Otherwise, you’re just that creepy guy in the back of the room handing out business cards.

Recruiters

What recruiters are active in your industry? Can you reach out to them? Recruiters are awesome. They’ll do the job search for you and they often have a direct line to the hiring manager.

Be public

Finally, don’t be afraid to make your job search public. There’s no shame in moving on from a job. Everyone does it at some point in their career. Rather than try to hide it, celebrate your accomplishments and let your network know you’re in the market. You never know who’s out there listening.

And on that note, if anyone is looking for a product leader, let me know, I’m looking.

Never Leave Them Hanging

I’ve hired many people and I’ve also fired a few and the worst thing you can ever do in either case is to leave things ambiguous.

If you’re going to hire someone, tell them that. If you’re not going to hire someone, tell them that too. If you’re still trying to make a decision, be open with them and tell them what’s going on. Remember, these are people you might end up working with or for. Don’t you want them to like the experience of working with your company from the very first step?

If you’re firing someone, don’t give them bullshit reasons as to why because you’re trying to make them feel better. You’re firing them, the reasons aren’t going to make them feel better. Just be honest, say what went wrong and move on. I assume you’ve already cleared this with HR so why are you now trying to fill the void with platitudes? Don’t give them a reason to try and ask you for their job back. You’re firing them, this is final so make it obvious and clear. Anything else is cruel and unusual punishment.

No one likes uncertainty, especially not when it comes to employment.

P.S. the same applies to people trying to sell you something and folks asking you out on a date.

How To Make A Proper Apology

im-sorry Whether you’re a husband who just annoyed his wife, a son who just disappointed his father or a CEO who just pissed off her customers, sooner or later you’re going to need to apologize. It’s one of the hardest things things you’ll ever have to do because it means taking responsibility for your actions. It’s also one of the most important things to get right. Get an apology wrong and you’ve just made a minor issue into a major problem.

So let’s talk about how to really make an apology.

First, Apologize For Your Impact

Remember that you’re not apologizing for your actions, you’re apologizing for the impact your actions had on the person you’re apologizing to. If you annoyed your wife by staying out late it’s not actually the staying out late you’re apologizing for. It’s the fact that your staying out late caused her to feel worried or neglected. If you’re apologizing to your dad for wrecking the car, it’s not really the car you’re apologizing for; it’s the breaking of trust, monetary costs and fear over your safety that hurt him. And that customer? You’re not apologizing that your servers went down, you’re apologizing that they were unable to complete their work or looked foolish in front of their own customers.

Second, Show That You Understand

This is technically part of apologizing for your impact but it’s important enough that I want to call it out. Make sure that they know you understand your pain. For example:

  • “I’m sorry that I caused you to worry about me by staying out late. I know that you care and I know that when you don’t hear from me you get worried.”  You just made it clear to your wife that you understand the pain you caused.
  • “I’m sorry that I broke your trust in me. I know you want to trust me as I grow older and more independent. I’m also sorry about the financial cost of fixing the car. I know you work hard for the money and that now you’ll have to work even harder.”  You just told your dad you know why he was hurt and upset.
  • “My apologies for the inconvenience you suffered last week when our servers went down. I realize this damages your reputation with your own customers, something you work hard to maintain.”  You just told your customer you understand why she’s upset.

Third, Make Sure They Understand This Won’t Happen Again

It’s great that you’re apologizing. However, it would be even greater if this won’t ever happen again. Think about it. If someone told you sorry for hurting your feelings but then went on to repeat this behavior over and over, would you really care for their apologies? Of course not. Repeat offenders are basically telling you that the apology is meaningless. So make it meaningful by making it clear to the person you’re apologizing to that you intend to never repeat this. Include details, you want them to know you’re serious about this.

  • “I’m sorry that I caused you to worry about me by staying out late. I know that you care and I know that when you don’t hear from me that scares you. From now on I intend to review my calendar with you at the beginning of the week. If there are any late meetings on it I will let you know and if there are any unexpected late evenings I’ll send you a text before 7pm” (Or something that works for your wife. Please don’t comment and tell me that your wife hates texts. That’s your problem to handle, not mine).
  • “I’m sorry that I broke your trust in me. I know you want to trust me as I grow older and more independent. I’m also sorry about the financial cost of fixing the car. I know you work hard for the money and that now you’ll have to work even harder. I’m going to pay you back the money in installments of $100 per month by doing work around the house. I’d also like to go over the details of the accident with you so you can tell me what I did wrong.”
  • “My apologies for the inconvenience you suffered last week when our servers went down. I realize this damages your reputation with your own customers, something you work hard to maintain. We’re implementing a new alerting mechanism that will let us know of impending issues before they happen. We’re also putting a failsafe in place that will shift traffic to other servers if one gets overloaded.”

Fourth, DON’T DO IT AGAIN!

Do I need to explain this one? Seriously, your apologies don’t matter if you repeat your mistake.

What Not To Do

So now that we’ve covered what to do, let’s talk a bit about what not to do

Don’t explain why you did it

They’re not interested. If they want details, they’ll ask.

  • “I’m sorry I stayed out late, I  forgot to call you”. Yah, she knows you forgot and if she didn’t, she would ask.
  • “I’m sorry I crashed the car, there was a car in front of me and they stopped suddenly”. Yah, nice excuse. You should have kept your distance.
  • “I’m sorry our servers crashed, there was a spike in traffic.” And you weren’t prepared for it? What kind of exec are you?

It’s especially bad when you make excuses.

Don’t ask for anything

An apology is not the place where you ask for a second chance. It’s not the place where you ask for anything. In fact, you’re not even asking for forgiveness. You’re simply making an apology. If they choose to forgive you, that’s up to them. Don’t go into this with any sort of expectation or requests.

  • “I’m sorry I stayed out late and didn’t tell you. Can you forgive me?” If she forgives you, she’ll tell you, you don’t need to ask.
  • “I’m sorry I crashed the car, can I have a second chance?” That’s up to them to decide. Asking for a second chance makes it seem like you’re apologizing just for that second chance and don’t really care about the harm you’ve caused.
  • “I’m sorry our servers crashed, please don’t cancel your contract.” Again, that’s their decision. You just need to make the apology, make them know you understand their pain and tell them how you’re going to make sure it never happens again. Do that and it’s very likely they’ll stay your customer.

One last tip

For a lot of people, making an apology is hard.  They get all caught up in the “But I don’t think I did anything wrong” or they’re embarrassed to admit they made a mistake.  For those folks I want you to remember something.  An apology is not about admitting mistakes or telling people you were wrong.  Apologies are about the way you made them feel and the impact you had on their life.  Even if you did everything right and had good reasons for what you did, you might still owe someone an apology for the impact your had on them.  That’s not a bad thing.  It means you’re an important part of their life.  Think about that, and think about what you mean to the people you’re apologizing to.