Finding a Job
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The job market is tough, isn’t it? During times of economic uncertainty businesses lay people off, or undergo hiring freezes. People are losing their homes, the housing market is down, and people are scared. It seems like the world is getting tougher and tougher, and many of us wonder what the future will hold for our kids.
If you are looking for a job or you were planning to start a business, it may now seem as though there are no opportunities out there at all. However, that is only one way to look at the current situation. What you need most in order to succeed in the job market is a strong, positive mindset. You need to understand that getting a job – any job – has a lot to do with how you think and the way you put your mind to use. A positive mindset can create a great deal of opportunity for you. But first you have to think and believe that opportunity is everywhere.
After September 11, 2001, the market for corporate attorneys in Silicon Valley – my main location for legal recruiting at the time – was at an absolute standstill. Law firms were glutted with corporate attorneys, and most were letting them go as quickly as possible. I remember getting calls from hundreds of laid-off attorneys looking for jobs. One day, I got a call from an attorney and proceeded to tell him the same story I’d shared thousands of times before:
The market is horrible.
There are no jobs.
Firms are laying people off as quickly as they can.
This is the biggest crisis in the history of Silicon Valley.
No one has ever seen a market this bad.
I basically told him everything I had told countless others before. There was nothing particularly impressive one way or another about this man’s experience or education. He was pretty much just an average out-of-work corporate attorney in Silicon Valley. I saw his job prospects as rather grim.
“I am going to a retreat for a week this Friday,” he said, “and I plan on starting work in the next week or two after that. If you’d like I’d be happy to meet with you in your offices tomorrow.”
He was calling me from Mountain View, several hundred miles from where I was sitting in Los Angeles. I agreed to meet with him. He took a flight down a few days later.
Morrison & Foerster had an opening for an attorney at his level in a very small corporate group. I got him the interview and, somehow, he landed the job. Granted, he made a good impression in person, and I did do my best to get him the job; nevertheless, I believe it was his desire and his energy which really got him the job. I cannot imagine how else this occurred; there were many other candidates who were more qualified for the position. As it turned out, this man was the only corporate attorney I knew who secured employment in California in the first six months after September 11.
As a recruiter and as someone who now runs various employment companies, I have seen countless examples like this over the years. Some people just know they have “it” and they refuse to take no for an answer. A similar story appears in the book Think and Grow Rich about the power of persistence and knowing your end result right when you start:
Shortly after Mr. Darby received his degree from the “University of Hard Knocks,” and had decided to profit by his experience in the gold mining business, he had the good fortune to be present on an occasion that proved to him that “No” does not necessarily mean no.
One afternoon he was helping his uncle grind wheat in an old-fashioned mill. The uncle operated a large farm on which a number of colored sharecrop farmers lived. Quietly, the door was opened, and a small colored child, the daughter of a tenant, walked in and took her place near the door.
The uncle looked up, saw the child, and barked at her roughly, “What do you want?” Meekly, the child replied, “My mammy say send her fifty cents.” “I’ll not do it,” the uncle retorted, “Now you run on home.” “Yas sah,” the child replied. But she did not move. The uncle went ahead with his work, so busily engaged that he did not pay enough attention to the child to observe that she did not leave. When he looked up and saw her still standing there, he yelled at her, “I told you to go on home! Now go, or I’ll take a switch to you.” The little girl said “yas sah,” but she did not budge an inch. The uncle dropped a sack of grain he was about to pour into the mill hopper, picked up a barrel stave, and started toward the child with an expression on his face that indicated trouble.
Darby held his breath. He was certain he was about to witness a murder. He knew his uncle had a fierce temper. He knew that colored children were not supposed to defy white people in that part of the country.
When the uncle reached the spot where the child was standing, she quickly stepped forward one step, looked up into his eyes, and screamed at the top of her shrill voice, “MY MAMMY’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!”
The uncle stopped, looked at her for a minute, then slowly laid the barrel stave on the floor, put his hand in his pocket, took out half a dollar, and gave it to her. The child took the money and slowly backed toward the door, never taking her eyes off the man whom she had just conquered.
After she had gone, the uncle sat down on a box and looked out the window into space for more than ten minutes. He was pondering, with awe, over the whipping he had just taken. Mr. Darby, too, was doing some thinking. That was the first time in all his experience that he had seen a colored child deliberately master an adult white person. How did she do it? What happened to his uncle that caused him to lose his fierceness and become as docile as a lamb? What strange power did this child use that made her master over her superior? These and other similar questions flashed into Darby’s mind, but he did not find the answer until years later, when he told me the story.
Persistence can get you a job. Knowing your end result ahead of time is a good way to bring results. When I think about the people I have seen conquer the odds and secure good jobs, even in a bad economy, I am reminded of the power of a positive mindset.
According to Michael Basch, one of the founders of Federal Express, it takes three things to succeed. I believe people who succeed in business or in the job search market typically accomplish these three items very well:
1. They change their mindset from “I am owed this” to “how can I add value?” Projecting this mindset to potential employers or colleagues shows you are an asset. For example, a corporate attorney out of work in a tough market may talk about how he can create work, how he can grow the department, etc. This is what truly successful people do to add value to their workplaces and communities. People who do this continue to succeed, even in challenging financial times.
2. They give direction to that value in order to ensure they’re producing results for the organization. In the same regard, people who give the most value also direct it toward that which helps the organization the most, and they do so in the most efficient manner possible. Time is money, and utilizing time effectively shows employers your value in a clear way.
3. They have a system to apply their energy so their results get better and better. When you are with any organization, you need to show improvement, and willingness to improve. Well-directed energy becomes even more efficient and effective over time if you constantly fine-tune your processes. This is what employers want to see: a salesperson who regularly takes self-improvement courses to increase his sales; a litigation attorney who spends his weekends at camps, brushing up on his trial advocacy skills. These things impress employers and increase your value as an employee. Being committed to the study of what you do and having a system for improving is what makes all the difference. Looking back on the people I have seen hired against the odds, this is exactly what they did. They kept learning and growing even when the state of the market and economy looked dismal.
The only secret to finding a job is to believe you will, and then to show your potential employer you’re highly valuable. Understand that in order to succeed, even in the worst of markets, you have to believe there are opportunities available. Tune out what seems wrong with the market, and put your heart into your job search. If you do this, nothing can hold you back.
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