I want to know some sort of “real life,” practical ideas to overcome negative knowledge.
By negative knowledge, I mean finding out that some recruiters toss resumes with ethnic-sounding names, as well reading some comments on LinkedIn that suggests a lot of recruiters can’t get past an employment gap.
When I became unemployed during the economic collapse, I read many articles and participated in numerous webinars to help with my job search. But I also became aware of things that seem to be clouding my brain when I apply for jobs. I can’t seem to shake the knowledge and spin it to be more positive. And it has definitely impacted my job search and unfortunately my livelihood.
A gap in a resume is a hurdle, to be sure, but realistically so are numerous other things. Employers are eager to trim the number of candidates they see, so qualified applicants are tossed out for having too much or too little experience (often code for being “too old” or “too young,”) some are screened in for having perfectly analogous experience (“just what we need!”) and others screened out for the same reason (“they’ll get bored.”)
Your name is your name. It can make you stand out in ways you love or ways that concern you. Your choices are to hide it (using initials), change it or own it. If you chose the latter, then decide that any employer who would screen you out based on your name is probably not someone you really want to work for.
The second issue — staying positive — affects most job seekers. Being positive and optimistic is not only helpful to your own health and happiness, but is more attractive to potential employers.
Here are a few ideas:
Exercise. Ok, nothing novel, but it is good for your attitude as well as having health benefits. A brisk walk or run on a fall day can chase away a handful of doubts.
Keep a gratitude book. Jot down the names of people who are helping you in large and small ways. Note the friend who made you laugh hard when you needed it most, the person you only met once who connected you to someone new, the person who picked up the bill at lunch. Add to it often. Re-read as necessary.
Make a list of why someone would be lucky to hire you. Read it over regularly. Believing that you are a good catch is helpful.
Help someone else. Thinking about ourselves all the time can be counter-productive.
Finally, many jobs are found through networking. If you can tell your work and skill story in a strong (but not arrogant) way, with an optimistic and open attitude, to as many people as possible, you will be on the right track.
A dip in confidence is normal after an employment break. When we are out of the workforce, our measures of success are different, and we don’t receive performance reviews, bonuses or raises that help remind us of our value.
At the same time confidence is critical to a successful career re-entry. So how can you boost your self-confidence when you need it the most?
First, go back and revisit your successes. Reflect on two or three times in your professional life when you accomplished something you are proud of. Write the stories down and notice the elements they have in common. Is it strong organizational skills? The ability to collaborate well with your co-workers? Interpersonal skills that create stickiness with clients? These are your intrinsic strengths. You brought those qualities to your work in the past, you use them in your everyday life, and you will continue to bring them to your career in the future. Remembering your strengths will help the process of rebuilding your confidence.
Second, if you have children, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine if your son or daughter came home from school with negative thoughts or a lack of self-confidence. What would you say to them? You would remind them of their strengths. You would encourage them to be positive. And you would expect them to keep trying, even if failure is a possibility.
Many of my clients experience an “aha” moment when they imagine their children plagued by the same lack of confidence they struggle with. We want to be mentors and role models to our children, so we need to be aware of what they pick up from us when our self-confidence lags. In addition, the same advice that we give them holds true for us – we have the same potential and can be held back by the same fear of failure.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that the issue of bias against job applicants with ethnic names is a real one. One way to work around this type of insidious discrimination is to do personal networking to land a job. That way you are interacting one-on-one with people who know you and your strengths, not with people who have conscious or subconscious biases.
The first step in combating negative thoughts is to take away their power.
You are in control of how you present yourself to prospective employers. Own your career gap and your name. The story starts with your resume and cover letter. Try making a list of your accomplishments, including the things that you both did well and enjoyed. Armed with those skills and achievements, reboot your resume to properly position your story. As people continue to read your resume, past your name they will see the strength of your past accomplishments and the story you are presenting.
If you receive feedback specific to you about your name then consider changing industries to one that is more accepting. You don’t want to work for an organization with discriminatory practices. This is a global economy with an increasing emphasis on diversity and inclusion. I know many clients with unique names who have all made successful career transitions.
If you receive specific feedback on your career gap, try to include volunteer or training opportunities as part of your experience with current dates, or try a resume organized by skills as opposed to only chronological order.
Finally, don’t rely solely on online job postings or recruiters. Focus more on developing a network of personal advocates. These “insiders” will help move you past the initial screenings. Get meetings, conduct informational interviews and network as much as possible in person. Then you can tell your story yourself, including introducing yourself with your beautiful name.
Most importantly, never forget your value and don’t allow others to determine it for you.