I talk with my workshop attendees about a variable in the job search that is very important to their success. This variable is not their resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, or interview technique. It's their attitude.
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I've written about the importance of demonstrating a positive attitude, but this concept is hard for some to embrace. Let me be clear that I'm not implying that people in crappy situations have to feel positive; they just need to fake it 'till they make it.
Lately, I've read more than enough responses to posts or updates on LinkedIn to prompt me to speak up. I've also seen a few people attending the career center at which I work who look like they have hatred in their eyes – enough, in fact, to be scary.
To these people, I offer a warning: Your chances of getting help are minimal at best. All would agree that people are more willing to help those who are positive than those who are negative.
Displaying a negative attitude may make people, such as networkers who can be of assistance and potential employers, refrain from helping because of the following reasons:
1. You Come Across as a Difficult Person With Whom to Work
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That sneer on your face serves no other purpose than to drive people away. It makes people wonder why they would want to spend time talking with you. You come across as angry and mean.
When potential employers see your rants on LinkedIn, they wonder if the negativity will carry over to work. And since they have people beating down their doors for jobs, they'll definitely pass you over for someone else.
One trait of someone who has emotional intelligence is that they can control their emotions. If you display a nasty attitude in public or online, you look like someone who lacks this critical trait.
2. You Aren't Confident
Whether you like it or not, employers want to hire someone who shows confidence. Confidence implies the ability to perform well on the job. I think particularly of salespeople who need to close deals: They have to show confidence in their products and in themselves if they want to get to "yes."
But this also applies to the job search. If you want someone to refer you to a position, you need to demonstrate confidence. You need to show you have the skills to do the job for which they're referring you.
At the interview, when your appearance and verbal communication skills are all that count, a lack of confidence can kill the deal. Interviewers are wondering if you can handle the responsibilities of this position when your body language and verbiage say otherwise.
Now, here's the rub: After losing a job for any reason, your confidence may be shot. You may doubt yourself. As someone who essentially gets on stage every workday, I have to act enthusiastic – even when I'm not in the mood. The same applies to you.
3. You're Not Ready to Work
Until you get your poor attitude in check, you are not ready to enter the job search. You'll need to come to peace with your situation. Perhaps there was a reason why you were let go. Perhaps it was justified.
In this case, you should (figuratively speaking) count to ten. Take more than a week off, as I suggest to my customers, before you begin your job search. It may take longer. And you may have to seek professional help.
Employers want steady, confident employees; they shy away from candidates who are unstable. I've heard reports from recruiters and hiring managers who wouldn't consider recommending someone for a job because the person was too emotional during the interview.
4. You're Just Plain Nasty
I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "Mean People Suck." This bumper sticker spoke to people who are angry at themselves, at others, at the world. Anger comes through in a person's face-to-face interactions and their online presence.
I wrote a blog a while back about a person who was eyeballing me during a workshop and how my objective during the workshop was to give it back. To my surprise, he ended up giving me the highest rating I could receive. Nonetheless, I prefer a happy, head-nodding person over this gentleman any day.
My only hope for people like this is that they find an employer and environment where they can flourish. Maybe it's a position where human interaction is unnecessary, or where nastiness is required – though none come to mind. I refuse to say there is no hope for someone like this, but I'm inclined to think it.
I don't have any illusions that all readers will agree with what I've written. I imagine there will be some who downright hate what I'm saying. Some people will complain that I could never understand what they're going through, that it's hard not to scowl, that it feels impossible to gather the confidence they need.
Here's a secret: I wasn't the best unemployed person on the face of this earth. I've run into people far better than me. But I've learned from my mistakes, and I can only say: Try. Try real hard to act civilized. It's the only way you'll receive help from those in the position to help you.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.