The pandemic has made for an anxious job search for many. But imagine you had been “let go” from your job not one, but four previous times. And, that you were let go right in the middle of lockdown.

I want to give a shout out to my client Cynthia who last week wrote to me to say she’d got the job she wanted, and that she was excited to be starting soon! Yay!

I was delighted for her because she’d only started a serious search after working with me in December and by February had two sets of two interviews, and two job offers to pick and choose from.

Folks, whatever your mind is making up about what you can or can’t achieve because there’s a tough job market out there, I want to say that Cynthia is living proof that you can find an amazing job – if – you know how to go about it in the right way.

Cynthia’s story

When Cynthia first came to me last year, her confidence was super low and her anxiety super high. Having done her best to succeed in her latest role with a young, but seriously underperforming team, with no proper support from her own manager, Cynthia was questioning if she was competent at all. She couldn’t see or connect to her strengths. All she could do was shame herself for having found herself – yet again – in a confusing, stressful job.

Together we identified her strengths so she could connect with them. We worked on her true work values and her ideal working environment. Straightaway Cynthia saw the disconnects between the job descriptions and companies she had been working for, and what she needed to be fulfilled.

When I asked her if at any of the interviews she had any instincts that something was “off”, she admitted in all three cases, that those instincts had been loud and clear. But, like many women, she dismissed these red flags by rationalising with herself about how great the job and organisation  would be in practice – and gave into the persuasive powers of the hiring manager at the time against her better judgement. Perhaps you have been there?

Breaking the pattern

Everyone knows that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is a kind of insanity. So, Cynthia and I talked about what she would do differently when applying for roles and managing herself through the interview process, through to negotiation, to break her particular pattern. What would she accept and what was unacceptable to her?

We practiced conversations to turn down what wasn’t going to be good for her and to take a dignified stance for what was important to her, like being able to work flexibly from home and not have to travel long distances or always be in the office.

This was initially really hard. When your “people pleaser” tendencies flare up, when you have been out of work for almost a year and want to be earning soon, finding your voice and establishing healthy boundaries is challenging.

But I am so proud of Cynthia because she stood her ground. Here’s exactly what happened…

Cynthia was interviewing at the same time for two employers. She was waiting for second interviews for each, when the first employer offered her a role before she could do the second interview. “We loved you”, they said, “will you take the job?”

Cynthia could have said yes, but she wanted to do the second interview for her preferred role. Though it aligned much better with her values, there was one possible dealbreaker: a three-hour commute 3 days a week, which she’d learned about in her first interview. Could they be flexible about her not having to be in the office so frequently?

Standing in her dignity (heart in mouth), she said, “I do have another interview and I owe it to myself to do it”.

Surprised, this employer said “Okay, I don’t expect you to say yes right away. Let’s think over the weekend and come back to me Monday morning”.

On the Monday, Cynthia wasn’t ready to give her answer, so she asked for more time. “There are questions I need to ask the other company. If you give me 48 hours…”

They said “no.”

So she plucked up her courage and said, “Then I need at least close of play today or it’s a no.”.

To her relief, they called her back and said “of course. Come back to us by the end of Monday, 5pm.”

Then – and here’s the kicker – the preferred employer came back on the Monday and accepted her flexible working request. They said “Of course we can be flexible. We realise you can be successful without having to be in the office full time. You can go in maybe 1 or 2 days per month, and the rest of the time work remotely.” A 180 degree turnaround!

“Oh, that’s perfect”, replied my client and she declined the other job.

What Cynthia did

Cynthia has found herself a job that fits her to a tee. The salary and pension are superior to the job she lost and she will be working with a great team. She really liked her interviewers and can’t wait to start.

One thing she did differently was bring her “Stars” to each interview, a tool we use on the Find Your New Direction programme that summarises what you are looking for in the next stage of your career. This allowed her to be upfront about her values and to clearly demonstrate her suitability for the role. This impressed her future line manager!

What impressed them even more was Cynthia’s directness in sharing that since being furloughed and then made redundant she had invested in a career coach to help her take stock and reset her direction.

She also asked the killer question I share with all my interviewing clients, “Six months from now, what will success in this role look like?” and found the answer to her liking, confirming to her this was a job that she could fulfil and enjoy.

Final thoughts

I’m so proud of Cynthia on so many levels. For having the courage to say “enough’s enough”, to dream of a better career and future for herself, and take the bold decision to hire a coach to help her work through what she really wanted for herself in her work and life now. For being willing to try new things, first practicing them in the session and then doing them for real, to shift her pattern. And for, as I said, sticking to her guns to hold out for a job she’d love rather than settling for “good enough”.

Cynthia has a month to go before she starts her new role and I am looking forward to seeing her flourish in it.

Separately, an opportunity to collaborate with someone she respects and admires to run a literary festival is finally coming together for her – an unexpected venture she is excited to explore.

Are you sticking at a job which is making you miserable? Is your confidence low through lack of support or just being in the wrong job? Would you find it helpful to think through your options, get a new perspective, feel fully supported in changing your situation for the better?

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