The ‘Uncut Series’ is a set of audio out-takes that I recorded on the fly based around the 7 Job Search Pillars. The audio contains comment and valuable insight – on how to be happy at work – derived from personal and professional experiences that have helped me and many others discover a career path towards their dream job.
Image is important whether we are in gainful employment or looking for a new role. That’s because our personal expressions in all forms can reveal our state of mind or attitude in that particular moment, it can reveal a lack of preparation and research, it can also reveal a lack of care and professionalism. This is why it’s so important to work somewhere and work with people who we are really comfortable with so that we can create that positive impression. It’s also important to think about how we can make a positive impression when we meet people for the first time, and that’s where I went wrong.
It was around about 2008 when one of my roles was made redundant that I found myself in a state of limbo I suppose you could say. I didn’t know what to do, where to go, who to talk to. My whole demeanour, my confidence, was completely at a low point. I just went along with things because I’d never experienced having been made redundant before, so I didn’t necessarily know that something was wrong. Obviously I knew that I was in a situation where I needed to find another role, but I didn’t necessarily know or realize the effect it had, had upon me.
I was relieved to have had support of my family, particularly my mum and my sister, and friends because that’s really important at a time when you’ve been made redundant you need that support, you need that shoulder to cry on, and need to be able to speak to people who can give you advice and listen to the problem that you’re going through. Again, that whole concept of a problem shared is a problem halved, is very much appropriate here, and it certainly helped me to be able to speak to people that I knew.
When I reflect now, I realize how difficult that period of time was. What I did was, I threw myself right back into the mix. By that I mean I started to look for jobs at a really fast rate. I didn’t necessarily try to understand what kind of job would suit me, and I just threw myself back into the whole job search mix. My confidence as I said was the low ebb and I was meeting people with that attitude or with that mindset. I can’t imagine how I must have appeared to them. It explains why I went through multiple interviews, I went for loads of interviews at that particular period, far too many and that was in part due to my lack of confidence. Interviewers and people that you network with are only put off with that lack of confidence, with that posture, the negativity that surrounds you when you have been made redundant or lost your job for some reason.
I eventually found a job but, again, in hindsight it wasn’t the right job for me. It started out really good, it started out great. I settled in, I did well, but as the years went by, my body language, my attitude changed. That wasn’t something that was a voluntary issue, it was an involuntary response to the situation that I was in. I wasn’t enjoying it, I wasn’t having a good time, I wasn’t engaged with the subject matter or in the people that I was working with. Eventually, as much as I enjoyed sort of the people who I worked with, I was friends with some of the people I worked with, my body language started to change, and, again, my attitude to the work started to change. That again reflected on my output, it reflected upon my demeanour in that particular role. I found myself, again, wanting to move on.
I can only imagine again how I must have appeared to the people I was working with because as I said, if your image is not right, that can then reflect in your output, in your attitude, and it can often have negative consequences. Then, if you have that negative demeanour, then the people that you work with will pick up on that quite quickly. Nine out of ten times people want to work with enthusiastic teammates, not somebody who is negative, not somebody who is down in the dumps. I was like that at that particular time.
That was just a couple of examples of image related problems that I had when I was at my lowest point in my career I think. I just want to share with you four tips and four things to look out for in terms of your image, and hopefully some solutions that are going to help you to prevent being in the situation that I was in.
The first thing is, poor posture as I had mentioned before, definitely to look out for. So, if your shoulders are slumped, if you’re not standing up with your chest puffed out, then that could be a sign that you are at a low ebb yourself. Some people’s posture is like that in a natural way but if you can, if you are of that sort of description where your posture is not naturally one that looks positive, try your best to make sure that you stand tall and you stand upright, and you look confident when you meet people for the first time, and when you’re meeting people on a day to day basis. You can check your posture obviously by having a look at yourself in the mirror. I think this is particularly important for people who are meeting others for the first time at an interview for example, or in networking events.
Another thing that you need to look out for is that you’re dressed appropriately, particularly again if you’re meeting somebody for the first time at an interview, or networking. I can give you an example here related to myself. I went to an interview where I was totally overdressed, I had my brogues on, and my best suit and tie. The interview was with a company that was very much of an informal nature, they were dressed informally. In fact, that was some of the feedback that I had afterwards was that, I was totally overdressed. That was a sign really I hadn’t done any research because had I looked on their website or at least asked the consultant or the consultant had told me how these people dressed, and how they would expect me to dress, then that would have gone a long way to hopefully secure me another interview or securing the job.
Another thing to look out for is if you mumble and you’re quietly spoken. I mean, some people are quietly spoken by nature, but it doesn’t mean that you have to mumble. What I suggest you do in this situation is have a mock interview and also practice really pronouncing words and get some feedback on your mock interview as to how you sound when you’re talking out loud. Because, again, this can reflect upon you in a sense that it can make you appear to be nervy and not comfortable in your surroundings. Make sure you practice that one as I said even if you’re not naturally a loud speaker, or somebody who speaks loudly. It’s good to practice just trying to really sound confident, but at the same time obviously you’re not quite as loud as everybody else.
Something else that could shoot you in the foot before you even begin and that’s your communication. Things like your emails, your letters, your CV. They must be tailored to the appropriate audience. If you’re writing a CV, an email to somebody who is a CEO for example, they’re not going to have a lot of time to read an email, they’re not going to have a lot of time to read a letter, they’re not going to have a lot of time to read through a CV, and are probably unlikely to read a CV. Having said that, if there is a time when you have to write a letter or a CV to a CEO or a manager, you must consider that they have very little time. Don’t write lengthy emails, don’t write lengthy letters, make sure your CV obviously fits the application and the application instructions, but if there aren’t any instructions, try and commit your CV to two pages and really summarize the points that are really important to give the person the opportunity to scan your CV and pick out the points that they need do find really, really quickly.
If you’re the kind of person who writes verbose emails and letters, that can have an impact and that can reflect upon your image or the person’s view of you in the sense that they may look at you as somebody who has difficulty in summarizing important details, for example.
Hope these few items, these four items have given you some food for thought, something to think about before you go out and start to meet people and apply for roles. My advice to you is that if you can make the effort into doing research to find companies whose values are similar to your own, and whose cultural identity sits well with you, and also an organization that offers work that you really enjoy doing, you’ll be a lot happier inside. This will reflect in your personal expressions, and you’ll make a great impression.