Dear Bev: What Kind Of Advice Are Career Coaches Offering In This Challenging Employment Environment?

There is no one size fits all answer to effective job searching in, what everyone agrees, is the toughest employment market in years. But one coach I talked to emphasized that it all begins with having the right attitude.

"The first thing I work on is helping people change their mindset," explains Eileen Wolkstein, a career consultant and executive coach. Sure it's a tough economy, she says, and there may be fewer jobs but there are opportunities. "If you are in a mindset that there's nothing available, it's self-destructive." Wolkstein is also the Director or the NYU Silver School of Social Work's Division of Lifelong Learning and Professional Development.

Another attitude adjustment technique Wolkstein suggests to her clients is to reinforce their market value. She advises that they write out "hero stories" to re-identify their strengths. It enables them to remember the potential they have and reminds them what they can offer a new employer.

"Go back to the most recent time when you felt most successful and most on your game," she advises. "Hold onto that image."



Once a job seeker has taken on the right attitude to engage with the job market, Wolkstein says, they are in for a challenge. But one she's seeing her clients succeed at.

"Job seekers in this economy must be more resilient, more creative, and more assertive," she emphasizes. And for many of Wolkstein's clients, stepping up their game means coming outside of their comfort zone.

"People are afraid to talk to someone they haven't spoken to in six months," she says. "I can't network that way, I can't call that person, they say." But Wolkstein urges job seekers to overcome their feelings of shame and fears of networking rejection. "The worst that can happen is that you won't make a connection."

Wolkstein helps her clients with role-playing to prepare for networking on a new level and always suggests meeting in person over a phone call. If you're meeting with someone you haven't spoken to in a while, she says, make your first interaction one in which you just catch up over breakfast or coffee before diving into job seeking mode. Ask the contact for their perspective on the industry, don't ask the abrasive questions like, "What should I do?" and "Can you get me a job?" You want to be assertive, Wolkstein advises, but not aggressive.

Another tip she swears by when meeting with an industry contact is to have something to offer them. Staying in touch with industry news is key in having information to share and something to bring to the conversation.

"The process of networking is only one angle," says Wolkstein. "But that's where people who are really good networkers are doing much better. I see a substantive difference."

Another networking tip Wolkstein doles out is for the jobless to consult or even volunteer while finding new employment. Many of her clients have added skills to their resumes by taking on tasks that not only keep them busy, but allow them to meet new contacts and build new skill sets. There may not be a paycheck, she says, but the ability to add a new skill or experience to your CV is valuable in and of itself.

And for those professionals that are still employed, Wolkstein has tips for you too.

"Re-do your resume now," she says. "Make sure you're networking internally and externally with the people you know you really want on your radar screen. If there's a course you've been meaning to take, do it and see if your company will pay for it. Stay engaged and ramp up."

And for all involved in this messy job market, she urges to make time for yourself, whether it's doing yoga or taking a long walk. "And if you're in the city?" she says. "Get out!" Make time for pleasure and de-stress before you jump back into the game.

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