Oh, Chanukah! Chanukah, the festival of lights and the powerful story of the unlikely military victory of the Maccabees. One lesson we’re able to glean from the Maccabees is the importance of doing just a little bit more then you think you are capable of. As we all know, the Maccabees were quite aware that taking on the mighty Greek army was a suicide campaign. Yet, they succeeded.
If you’re looking for a job in today’s economy, I’m sure you can sympathize. This task can feel as insurmountable as taking on the world’s reigning army with just a measly rag-tag band of untrained soldiers to back you. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and under-qualified, but it’s important not to despair. This can be an exciting time, a time to reinvent yourself and open up new potentials that you haven’t had the opportunity to develop. It’s undeniable that the process can be quite nerve-wracking, with hundreds of resumes being submitted for each help wanted ad posted online or in newspapers. Frankly, the chances of your resume being plucked from the pile are slim. So what’s the average person to do if he (or she) finds himself searching for new work in our newly named fiscal cliff era?
First and foremost, I would recommend networking. Networking does not necessarily mean going to job fairs and the like, but simply letting people in your circle know that you are looking for work. Spend a couple of hours on the phone calling your contacts and seeing if they know of any available positions. This is not a time to be shy. You need to market yourself and let people know what you are capable of doing. Although it’s awkward asking people for help, finding a job through someone you know is one of the most common ways to find new employment. After all, hiring employees in an expensive process and employers feel more comfortable hiring someone who can be personally vouched for.
To be efficient, it’s best to start in concentric circles, beginning with the ones closest to you and then going outwards. Don’t hesitate to tell your cashier or the lady next to you on the bus. Anybody can hold the key to your next promising position. Once you’ve gone through all your good friends and neighbors, it’s worth while sending out one email or posting a message on your social networking site informing all those acquaintances you’ve only been in touch with once or twice.
After that, I would suggest going through the help wanted ads. However, those should also be closer to home. For example, check out if your alma mater has a job site. Before leaping to the New York Times or some generic job-search engine, check out the classifieds of The Jewish Press and smaller job sites that target a specific type of audience. Many of these job sites offer a resume builder. If you are having difficulties getting interviews, I would recommend using the services many of these sites offer, such as having your resume formatted so that it matches the criteria employers are looking for.
Once you do receive that long-hoped for interview, make sure you prepare yourself properly. Prepare detailed talking points that highlight your abilities and your success in your previous jobs. Spend some time researching the company so that when the HR manager asks if you have any questions, you actually have a few thoughtful ones. Most importantly, make sure you present yourself well. Although you may not be applying for a modeling job, that is not the only position where appearance matters. Interviews can sometimes induce a flight-or-fight impulse in us, but a sweaty, breathless appearance just screams desperation. Take a few minutes in the bathroom after you reach the office to freshen up and take a few deep breaths. The recommended apparel is one step up from the position you are applying for. For example, if the dress code is business casual, wear a suit – obviously one that is freshly dry-cleaned.
The process can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety, and sometimes a person settles for the first job that comes their way in fear that there won’t be any others available.
Within the first year of our marriage, my husband was informed he would be laid off. I was pregnant with our first child and we had just signed a contract on our home. Terrified of what would happen if my husband was unemployed, I strongly encouraged him to take the first job that was offered to him, one that was highly unsuitable for his skills. In addition, this new job would also force him to quit before the proposed last day of work, thereby causing him to lose his sizable severance. However, I felt that it was worth it, because we couldn’t afford for him to be out of a job. Long story short, the job lasted a mere six weeks. Thankfully, he found a much more appropriate job soon after, and all was well again, minus the lost severance and the stress-free months at his old job.
But the whole experience taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t panic! Consider all your options before jumping into another degree or investing into yet another course to learn new skills. Don’t forget, Hashem holds the keys to our parnassah; we just have to do put in the effort.Pnina Baim
About the Author: Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, “Choices,” “A Life Worth Living,” and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, “Sing While You Work.” The books are available at amazon.com.
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