Think of yourself as a bottle of Gatorade®. Why? Because when sales of the neon-colored beverage went flat last year, Gatorade’s marketing team rebranded the drink by touting it as a health-oriented, before, during and after sports drink. Although the ingredients are probably the same, the pitch changed.
It’s a great strategy to mimic if you’re looking for a new job or seeking investors to support an entrepreneurial venture, especially if you’ve been demoralized by losing a corporate job.
“Remember, you are not a job title,” said Diane DiResta, a speaking strategist and author of Knockout Presentations. “You have to look at yourself as a package of skills and strengths.”
But before you can move forward, you have to bring closure to your past. It’s okay to mourn the loss of status and salary. You might even consider writing a goodbye letter to the boss who fired you. Then, it’s time to create a team of supporters, including friends and family, to help you transition into a new life.
Repackaging yourself requires two steps, according to Di Resta, who coaches clients seeking to improve their presentation skills. First, you need to boost your morale and create a positive mind-set. “Turn off the news and listen to upbeat, motivational speakers,” suggests DiResta.
Try to clear your mind every morning before beginning your job or money hunt. She likes to listen to a Buddhist meditation on www.beliefnet.com before beginning her busy day.
Then, focus on what skills you bring to the party.
If you are seeking a new job, you’ll need contacts and connections. Reach out to everyone you know to find out if anyone knows people who work for the company. In this tough job market, most jobs are found through word of mouth.
Don’t just visit company Web sites to do your research. Set up Google Alerts to keep abreast of company news. Visit trade and professional association Web sites to get up to date on the industry.
“If you are out of work, you are now a commissioned sales person and the product is you,” said Di Resta, cautioning that you have to “be flexible, open and prepared to do something different.”
Once you book an appointment, remind yourself that you have much to offer a potential employer. Forget job titles and focus on what you did in your former job. Share success stories. “You have to level the playing field by not giving the interviewer all the power,” advises DiResta. “Tell yourself, ‘we are peers interviewing each other.’”
Since first impressions are made within seven seconds, dressing for success is critical. Buy a new outfit, get your hair cut and/or colored and trim your beard or mustache. Finally, give yourself a pep talk and turn on the charm. “Likeability is critical to being hired,” said Di Resta. “Studies show people hire based 60 percent on chemistry and 40 percent on skill.”
Being likeable is important, but being flexible is critical to success in the “new normal,” according to Jane Seibel, founder and CEO of Employflex.com, a Hanover, New Hampshire-based organization providing alternative work options with an emphasis on work/life balance. Seibel researches and certifies “flex-friendly” companies that offer employees a variety of schedules, including Sara Lee, American Express and Honest Tea.
Many clients she sees are in transition from a corporate job to working for a much smaller company. If your job-hunting skills are rusty, just remember employers hire people who show up on time, well-dressed and confident.
“I recently interviewed a woman who came in to interview for an administrative job. She had cracked, dirty hands and dirt under her fingernails,” said Seibel. “I wanted to tell her to scrub up before you go out for any interview.”
She said job seekers, especially older ones, should consider creating a personal Web site with a video resume. (It’s easy to shoot and edit high-quality video clips with a Flip Video Camcorder). Carefully edit and update your Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Be sure to remove any personal information or unflattering photographs. If you don’t want to set up a separate professionally-oriented page, turn on the privacy settings.
Truly understanding a company’s culture is critical to success, especially if you have left a big company to seek work at a smaller one. Seibel has a great tip: if possible, park your car in the company’s parking lot and observe people going in and out of the building. (Or sit in the lobby if the company has a public lobby).
“Are people wearing blue jeans? Are they wearing suits?” she asked. “Whatever they are wearing, you should still dress up a notch.”
While it’s tempting to delete dates to hide your age or gaps in employment, don’t. “We all know what happened starting in 2007,” said Seibel. “We’re coming out of the worst recession in decades and many companies let go the best of the best to keep the company alive.”
Finally... if you are thinking about starting a small business rather than working for one, buy a copy of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Their edgy, illustrated book attacks most theories of small business management in a refreshing, irreverent and extremely readable style.
The authors are co-founders of 37signals, a Chicago-based software company that produces Basecamp, a collaborative project management software, Highrise, for tracking leads and contracts and Backpack, which helps organize and share information.
37signals embraces the virtual model. It has about 20 people working in 10 cities. “When starting a business, it’s always better to stay as small as you can,” he advises. “It doesn’t cost much to get started and you don’t need other people’s money.”
Fried, who worked as a web designer for a bigger company before starting his own business, said big companies are mired in bureaucracy and slow to act because “everyone is afraid of making a decision.”
To boost productivity, he recommends against scheduling meetings except when absolutely necessary. That way, everyone has more time to do their work. The authors also urge readers to make decisions quickly, even if they turn out to be bad ones.
His best advice: don’t be a workaholic. “Working more hours doesn’t mean you are working harder,” he said. “You are not making good decisions at 11 p.m.”
Jane Applegate is founder and president of The Applegate Group Inc., which provides strategic marketing and video production services to big and small companies. She’s the author of four books on entrepreneurship, including “201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business,” published by John Wiley & Sons. For more information, visit: www.theapplegategroup.com. To contact Jane: jane @ theapplegategroup.com or @janewapplegate.