Happy Valentine’s Day! It is officially the season of love, relationships and opportunities and let’s be honest — that’s not just true in the romance department. You wouldn’t believe the similarities between a first date and a first interview! And, just like Andie Anderson in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, candidates can lose a career opportunity just as easily by making the same textbook mistakes. My goal on this day of love is to help you avoid falling into the “friend zone” with your future job. So here’s the skinny — you’ve decided it’s time. It’s time for you to take that next step in your life.
Here are 10 things to avoid in that journey.
1) Keep it to yourself.
You’re missing your other half. You want to find Mr./Mrs. Right, but you want to be discrete about it. You want to keep it to yourself. Keeping it to yourself will make you lose out on almost every opportunity. People know people, so start networking! A 2010 study by Sociologist, Matthew Salganik, shows us that the average number of people in your personal network is 610. 610 people! If you tell 10 people that you are single and ready to mingle, they can tell 6,100 people. Your friends, family, colleagues and other acquaintances are bound to know someone who may be perfect for you. Make yourself heard.
You’re ready for a new career. In 2013, there were 4 million U.S. job openings. How do you land one of these positions? It’s not a lack of opportunity. It’s a lack of realizing the opportunity and leveraging your network to help you get in front of the right people. You heard it. If you tell 10 people, 6,100 people can help you. If you’re looking for a new career, let it be known. Your skills, qualifications, and experiences can take you far, but who you know can take you even further.
2) Stay in the dinosaur age.
It’s 2014. It’s time to come out of the dinosaur age and enter the 21st century. We are in an age where people are signing up to go to Mars, babies know how to operate iPADs and a lady named SIRI is guiding us to our destination from our iPhones. The internet is an amazing way to make connections to new opportunities. Get online! Do you know how many dating sites/apps are out there? Over 100. Register for a few dating sites and meet people online.
Is it scary? Yes! Absolutely. But you need to take the risk. As hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Online dating is not as “taboo” or feared as it used to be. It has really come along way and is a bit of a “norm” now. Nobody will think you’re weird. Nobody will think you’re desperate. Everybody does it! Trust me. Everybody does it whether they admit it or not. Social media is your friend in the job world just as much as it is in dating.
There are over 1,500 career/networking sites out there. Brand yourself and post your resume on as many relevant sites as possible. This will extend your reach to all potential employers and amplify your opportunities.
3) Stay in your comfort zone.
You took my great advice and signed yourself up for a dating site. You connected with someone and they’ve asked you out. Let’s have a small celebration. This is something to be proud of. It’s the result of your hard work. Now, what do you do? You feel uncomfortable. You’ve never done this before and don’t want to take chances. It’s hard. I get it. But you need to take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Go out on the date and give them a chance. You never know where this opportunity may lead you. If it doesn’t work you, you will never have to see them again. You’ve been in your position for 10 years. You know the ins and the outs of the business and you feel comfortable. You’re good at your job, but you’re not satisfied. You wonder what’s out there and if there’s a better opportunity for you.
Stop wondering and take action. Find that opportunity that challenges you and further develops your career. Don’t be afraid to make changes since great risks come with great rewards. It’s time for your date/interview. It’s the big day! You are nervous. Your palms are sweaty. Now it’s time for action.
4) Dress sloppy.
First impressions are everything! People will always remember that moment (or they won’t which might be worse) and like it or not, you will be judged over it. Wearing a wrinkled Metallica T-Shirt and dirty sweat pants to an interview or date reflect poorly on you. It tells me you don’t care about the way you look, you don’t care about what anyone else thinks and you put little effort into life. If your date or interviewer is still sitting there, you’re lucky. You always want to look your best for a job interview or a date. Dress to impress. It’s always better to overdress than underdress. A great first impression can lead to a successful next step.
5) Show up unprepared.
You’re on your way to meet your date. You can’t remember your date’s name. It beings with a J. Was he the one with three kids or was that the school teacher? No, the school teacher had two kids. This is not a good start. To prevent a disastrous date, be prepared. Do your research and know who you’re meeting with. Find out as much information about your date as you can. What kind of food do they like? What kind of activity do they like to do? What drives them? Be prepared to talk about yourself. What kind of information do you want to share with your date? Why should they consider you for another date? Are you the best fit for each other?
This person is investing their time in you. Appreciate the opportunity you have and put some effort into it. Your date will be pleased that you remembered his favorite restaurant and the last book he read. It reflects your level of engagement and consideration. Your interviewer asks you the question “What do you know about our company?” You’ve been applying to dozens of jobs in the last couple weeks and you can’t remember which company is which. You hesitate and guess on the answer, rattling off facts about their banking history, number of employees and the CEO’s name.
You’re interviewing with a technical startup company. You blew it. This opportunity has closed because you were unprepared. Don’t let this happen to you. Do your research on the company background and history. Show them that you are sincerely interested. Be prepared to sell yourself. Think about how your experience can contribute to this position. How is it relevant? Why should they hire you over another candidate? You’re great. You know it. But how will you relay that information to the employer?
6) Be fake.
When you meet someone for the first time in a dating or interviewing situation, it’s easy to exaggerate all your great accomplishments and boast about your adventures. It’s okay to talk about it, but don’t exaggerate, don’t lie and don’t be fake. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be yourself. Employers and dates want to get to know you for who you really are beyond your work experience and surface conversations. They want to know what makes you get out of bed in the morning and what your passions and values are. They want to make sure that you are a good fit for the relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. Trying to be someone you’re not during an interview or date can cost you that opportunity.
The interview/date is over. How did you do? This is the worst part.
7) Exercise impatience.
Every day seems like an eternity when you’re waiting for an employer or a date to call you back. You’re checking your phone and email every 5 minutes anticipating a follow up to your first interview/date. Be patient. If you don’t hear from them within the time frame relayed, call or email them to follow up. Show your interest in a timely manner, but don’t smother them. Don’t over-communicate and reach out several times without properly waiting for a response. This can cause you to lose opportunities that you would have otherwise been considered for.
If they haven’t responded in 3 business days, send a friendly reminder. If you still haven’t heard from them after your second attempt, move on gracefully. If you didn’t get the job or you didn’t get the second date, that’s okay. There are plenty of fish in the sea. There are over 6000 new job opportunities each day and there are over 7 billion people in this world. There is someone out there for you.
8) Badmouth your previous relationships.
Nobody likes being around negative people. Bad mouthing your previous relationships in an interview or on a date reflects poorly on you. A key indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Your interviewer and your date are now thinking “Wow, he’s saying that about his past relationships, what would he say about me?” Nothing great stems from negativity and gossip, so leave the bad-mouthing in the past and move on to a positive future.
9) Live in fear.
If the first date or interview doesn’t work out, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid to fail. Nobody likes to fail; the thought of it is terrifying. Focus on the lessons you learned from it. They are invaluable. Your life experiences, both successes and failures, make you who you are today. They are your battle scars. You should be proud of what you have accomplished and keep your head up. If you don’t land a second date or receive an invitation to a second interview, that’s okay. What did you lose? Nothing. What did you gain? Experience, knowledge, and drive. You are now driven to generate solutions to prevent the same mistakes from happening. It is a part of life and everyone goes through it. Did you know that Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”?? If Disney can persevere, so can you!
10) Resist change and stay stagnant.
You have had 7 first interviews/dates in a row now and not one person has called you back for a second round. Naturally, you’re getting discouraged. In a situation like this, you should step back and look at the bigger picture. What are you missing? What do people see that you don’t? It’s important that you know yourself well enough to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Understand what is contributing to the loss of these opportunities. Gather feedback from previous employers/dates. What can you improve on?
Once you recognize the opportunity for improvement, don’t dwell on it – just improve. Take action and change it.
If you avoid these 10 mishaps, you are slated for success. The opportunities are endless. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, as Albert Einstein said, you can’t expect different results. Take this time to create a new and improved you. Lines of employers and suitors knocking down your door are just around the corner!