Dealing with the rejection and subsequent dejection that often accompanies an extended job search can be difficult. And then someone has to come along and dump salt in the wound by asking, “So…how’s the job search going?”
Your knee-jerk reaction may be to brush off the question with a brusque, “fine” or, even worse, express bitterness or concede defeat to get it out of the way and move onto the next subject.
Don’t do it!
Remember: The person inquiring about your job search (assuming he doesn’t have a sadistic streak) is not trying to upset you. Most likely he’s either trying to make small talk or genuinely cares about you and your job search.
In either instance, you have a chance to turn that dreaded question into a networking opportunity that may push your job search forward. After all, most open jobs aren’t even advertised (up to 80 percent, by some estimates). “Remember, every person you know and every person you meet is a potential employer, or knows a potential employer,” Carisa Miklusak, CEO of TMEDIA, told CareerBliss.
So if you’re mired in a never-ending job search and someone asks “that” question, don’t deflect it. Instead, do something productive and seize the opportunity to do a little networking.
1. Be honest and positive
If your job search isn’t going so hot, it’s okay to say so. What you want to avoid is coming off as hopeless, bitter or angry. Negativity will sour any networking attempt.
Avoid responding like this: “I send out resume after resume and rarely get any response. And when I do, it’s to tell me I’m either overqualified or lack experience. What a load!”
Instead, try something along the lines of, “It’s tough out there, and finding a job is taking longer than I had hoped it would. But I’m keeping at it, and I know I’ll find the right opportunity.”
Now, we’re not suggesting that it’s never appropriate to gripe about your slog through a disappointing job search. Just save the venting for close friends or loved ones.
2. Don’t ask for a job
Networking is about meeting people, building relationships and helping others—the more people who know you and the more people who think you’re a class act, the more likely someone will think of you when they hear of a particular opportunity.
Networking is not about asking for a job. So don’t do it! And in this case, the person already knows your need. Stick to talking about your job search efforts and your experience.
3. Do ask for advice
Asking for a job is out, but don’t be shy about asking for advice with open-ended questions such as:
- In your experience…
- What’s worked for you?
- What would you do in this situation?
The key is to ask for advice in terms of the person’s personal experience. Generally, people like to talk about themselves. And there is a certain ego boost that comes along with being asked to dispense advice. Finally, ask if it’s okay if you both connect on LinkedIn.
This may seem like a lot to cover when someone casually asks, “How’s your job search going?” But remember, this question is an opportunity to walk away with helpful nuggets of job hunting advice and could bring you one step closer to that job.
If you’re nervous about saying the wrong thing, trying practicing your answer with something along the lines of, “It’s moving slower than I hoped it would. I just can’t seem to get called in for an interview, despite my qualifications. In your experience, what’s the best way to get your resume noticed?”
And, voilà, you just took that dreaded question and used it to network. Now that’s savvy job searching!
Luke Roney is the content manager for CareerBliss.com, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace.