5 Small Personal Adjustments That Bring Big Career Results

If you’re unemployed, there’s good news and bad news about the labor market. The good news is that small business owners are hiring, the bad news is they say they can’t find qualified candidates.

According to a report [http://www.nfib.com/Portals/0/pdf/sbet/sbet201401.pdf] released earlier this month by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, small business owners are struggling to fill open positions due to a lack of appropriate candidates. Their claim is that "this is not just a “skills” issue, but one of poor attitudes, work habits, timeliness, appearance and expectations.”

This means that sometimes it’s the job candidates themselves getting in their own way of landing a job. Before you get discouraged that employers’ expectations are too high, there are steps you can take to improve your soft skills and make yourself a more appealing candidate.

1. Prove Your Worth. The current economic conditions give employers the upper hand when it comes to hiring. It's about supply and demand. Their demand is obviously not great enough to settle for undesirable supply, particularly if you are showing up to interviews unprepared. If you want a job, figure out what employers want and then adjust your resume and interview responses to show your worth.

2. Look in the mirror. It’s all about first impressions so if your hair is messy or your clothes and shoes are worn out, it’s time to fix that now. With a plethora of discount shopping options available looking sharp has become more affordable. Even if the office workplace doesn’t require formal business attire, you still need to look professional during an interview. As an employee, you represent your employer, both internally and externally. No one wants to hire or work with a slob. So don’t be one.

3. Always be on time. If you're constantly late (even if only a few minutes) remember this rule of thumb I once heard a manager say: "Being early is being on time, being on time is being late, and being late is unacceptable."  If you are chronically late, wear a watch and set it ahead so you end up where you need to be at the right time. Or start telling yourself that you need to be places much earlier than you need to be. Figure it out because no one wants to deal with your tardiness and employers will bury your resume if you are late for an interview. Lateness is seen as a sign of disrespect for others’ time.

4. Change your attitude. If you have an attitude that employers are always trying to take advantage of you by working you hard and paying you little, it’s no wonder you are unemployed. So often employers find themselves surrounded by employees who won’t do more than the bare minimum of what’s expected. This is going to get you nowhere fast. Change your attitude and when you speak with employers, make sure you convey your willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. Show them that you care about making their businesses better and then hold true to that when you get hired. A good attitude will get you far. A bad attitude will get you a pink slip and shown the door.

5. Lower your expectations. If you’ve been unemployed for some time, make a short-term and a long-term professional plan for yourself. Part of your short-term plan might mean lowering your compensation expectations for what you are willing to accept to get back into the labor market. There is nothing wrong with taking a pay cut to meet your longer-term goals; use the opportunity to prove yourself. Even if your employer doesn’t reward you for your hard work, you can use that experience to secure a new opportunity. It’s better to work than to not, so keep that in mind before you pass up a job offer.

Lindsay Broder, The Occupreneur™ Coach (on Twitter @occupreneur), is a certified professional coach based in New York. A Wall Street veteran, she specializes in Occupreneur™ coaching, strategy and crisis management services for executives, business leaders and organizations who strive to improve their businesses or careers.