Posted by: Francesca Di Meglio on May 4, 2009
With the economy in turmoil, many MBA graduates are finding the job search tough going. To give readers some insight into the strategies they’re pursuing and the difficulties they face, BusinessWeek has recruited four out-of-work MBAs to write about their experiences for a new feature called “The Hunt” that will appear periodically on the Getting In blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.
By Bryan Glover
A big part of dealing with being laid off or unable to find a job is coping with the emotional side of things. There are sure to be ups and downs for all of us; I know I have experienced them. I am proud to report that I recently accepted a position as director of Acquisitions and Development for a real estate startup in the San Diego area. Actually, I had originally accepted this position back in February, but a major investor backed out right before my start date, so I was told the company would not be able to bring me on board. Talk about up and down. I went through a big emotional roller coaster in a 72-hour period, which had me plummeting into despair by the end of the trip.
I’ll be honest. I spent the first 48 hours in shock and disappointment. Then, the “normal” me kicked in and I decided it was out of my hands and that I needed to get over it and get back to looking for another job. In addition, to manage the stress, I started working out every day and tried to spend some time outside in the beautiful San Diego weather. There is nothing like having the sun hit you in the face to pick you up emotionally. I don’t like feeling like a small, flat-bottomed boat riding the waves. I prefer to be the aircraft carrier riding steady in the water. I try my best to live my life without big swings in emotion or reaction and those efforts have paid off during my job hunt. During my time without a job, I truly had an inner confidence that things would work out for me. When I needed to vent, I would call a friend or my mom and talk it out and then move on.
I generally believe that Wayne Gretzky was right when he said: "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take." To truly live by that motto one must become comfortable with the idea of rejection – not so comfortable that it becomes acceptable, but comfortable enough that you don’t overreact when it happens. The rejection of being laid-off and then hired and not hired and then interviewed and never called back was something I couldn’t control. What I could control was my reaction to it, so that’s what I focused on. Sure, I felt some stress, but what could I do about it? I was actively looking for work and doing my best to let my network know I was out there without being obnoxious about it. What else could I do? I certainly couldn’t hire myself.
I also must point out that I felt fortunate to have a group of friends and family that really circled the wagons around me during my time of need. It felt great to see all the people who had kind of been passively watching my life through Facebook or in social settings come forward with words of support, links to jobs, offers of help, etc. I was really touched that so many people cared, and it helped me ride out the storm. I had one friend offer his entire (and substantial) rolodex to me. We went through it together, and he actually reached out to hiring managers on my behalf. His reason? He graduated his MBA program in December 2001 right after the dot-com burst and 9/11 and couldn’t find work for six months and didn’t want to see a friend go through that. I was blown away. I would never have known that if I hadn’t put myself out there in my social networks. None of the jobs panned out, but that’s all right. Our friendship is much stronger now and that means more to me than the job would have.
Here are some tips:
1) Focus on the things you can control.
2) Use the downtime to better yourself. For me that meant working out and getting caught up on leisure reading I had been putting off during grad school. One friend finally taught herself to play the guitar, and another went on a budget-conscious trip to South America.
3) Leave the house. Go to breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends. This is especially a good idea if you have other friends who are unemployed. Use the time to work on those relationships and be a mutual support network.
4) Keep participating in other "normal" activities. If you usually play softball on Tuesday nights, keep doing so. The routine is good for reducing stress and will keep you grounded and sane.
5) Celebrate your successes. Set daily goals for something, anything. And pat yourself on the back when you achieve them.
6) Lastly, keep your head up. Sometimes you have to "fake it 'til you make it" so you have to keep your head up and stay positive to create some breaks for yourself. Trust me, hiring managers can smell desperation just like a date can and it's a turnoff in both situations. You cannot control certain things in life, so focus on the one thing you always have complete control over: your attitude.
BusinessWeek has been gracious enough to ask me to keep writing this blog, and I am honored to do so. If I can help one other person who was in my shoes, then it was worth it. I look forward to hearing your comments and sharing my thoughts and feelings with you in the weeks ahead.