Louonna KachurAbout our Blog author: Louonna Kachur is a certified HR professional who currently serves as a Learning and Development Consultant for Adayana. Louonna has an MBA from IU Kelley School of Business and now serves as adjunct faculty, teaching an undergraduate course in Leadership and Ethics in the Business Community.  Louonna is a proud member of Indy and national SHRM, on the board for Zionsville Boys and Girls Club and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, is a member of the Lacy Leadership Foundation and volunteers for Girls Inc.

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That’s how I entered my job search last year – with the “what do I offer and how do I stand out with all of the talent on the market right now?” attitude.  Honestly, it can be a little daunting and some days it would have been easier to crawl back in bed with a bag of potato chips and a Diet Coke.  But, not being a bed with a bag of potato chips and Diet Coke kind of girl, I pushed forward.  The problem for me was I wanted to expand my career; I wanted the next step not just the next paycheck.  And, I knew even in a good economy that takes luck, perseverance and a whole lot of self esteem.  To succeed, I was going to need plenty of each.

So, what did I learn on this quest for a new position and the next rung on my career ladder?  Plenty.  Hopefully some of my experiences will be helpful for you as you manage your career and think about new opportunities.

Get up and out – I’ve always been a big fan of Keith Ferrazzi and get that you should never eat alone.  But, I will admit that wasn’t always easy to do when I was working, going to school at night and caring for my young family.  Heck, I hardly knew what food was.  But, I have always done a good job connecting with others and boy was I thankful now.  We have all heard that relationships matter and our network will lead us to our new job.  It’s true, trust me here.  I did the same things we all do early in my search:  stalked Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and national SHRM for a new opening, submitted my resume in hopeful anticipation and waited for the phone to ring.

It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to do what any industrious, driven girl would do…make the phone ring.  No, I didn’t call myself.  I started arranging my contacts into circles.  In the middle, small Circle A – a team of coaches and mentors who knew me quite well and could help me understand where I had been and where I was going.  It was safe to be myself with this small group and lean on them for guidance and support.  The next circle was a little bigger and I called it Circle B (quite clever, huh?).  It was individuals I had worked or connected with previously and knew me when I called.  These were co workers, bosses, MBA students, professors, fellow volunteers, neighbors, you get it.    Circle B continued to grow and grow as I added names and acquaintances to it.  Then, there was Circle C.  Those individuals I didn’t know, but my network did.  And this is where I hit gold.  You see, my job didn’t come from Circle A, B or even Circle C.  My new position came from the next Circle, let’s call it D.  As I started networking (and I did a lot of it!) one of my Circle B contacts introduced me to a Circle C contact who introduced me to a Circle D contact who is now my new boss.

My advice?  Create the circles – for me it was a way to visually see progress and connections.  Get out and meet everyone who will talk with you.  Make it a connection meeting, talk about their industry, background and experiences and share yours.  They will think of individuals you should meet with and in a few days…the phone really will ring!

“Mommy, are you our new nanny?” Okay, that was how I was greeted my first week of unemployment by my precocious 6 year old with a sticky orange in one hand and her brother’s hair in the other.  Boy, this was going to be messy.  My reply?  “Well, I’m going to be home for a little while, but let’s just call me Mommy, okay?”  After confirming both she and her brother could get on board with this plan (I think the boy nodded on his own without sticky hand prompting up and down from his sweet but persuasive older sister, but it was hard to tell) the reply was “well, at least we won’t have to tell you what we eat”.  Good, approval.  How hard could this be?!?

Ah – a point finally.  Find what gets you out of bed.  I was blessed with a really supportive family and 2 small but persuasive reasons to move forward.  (Not to mention the hungry dog watching her food be rationed, but I digress).  Find what makes you happy and do that while you have the time.  Do volunteer work, paint a picture, play with your sticky cherubs, go to the Museum of Art, check out a book from the library.  Avoid the mall (therapy shopping was not going to be my solution!) and find free or nearly free excursions.  Drive to Brown county, walk at a nature preserve.  You get my point.

Know thyself – Job searching is tough, but career expansion is tougher.  I had to pretty methodically map out my plans.  My next move had to be adding skills to my background.  Do a skills inventory.  Take time to recognize what you do well and what you want more of.  Be honest here, we all have things we can do but would rather not.  Recognize it and put them on a list.  Once I narrowed down my search I didn’t spend time applying for positions that didn’t serve my needs.  Because, let’s face it, who wants to be job searching again in two or three years?   Talk to others who are close to you, carefully assess what you have done in the past and how that added, or detracted from your experiences.  Recognize where you have made mistakes and identify how you could have avoided them.  Your mistakes are big keys into what you need to succeed in the future.

Let others help you  – this is key.  Every networking meeting I went to invariably the question came up “so how can I help you?”…and it was genuine.  Everyone wanted to help me, but I was going to have to give directions on what I needed.   Have an answer to this question – know what you want from the meeting before it starts.  For me, it was connections.  Yes, I wanted a position, but most of all I wanted to meet as many people as I could with access to opportunities so when the right one came along I was well positioned to hear about it.

What I have learned most from this is I have a strong network of fabulous people who are really interested in my success.  I had to keep in touch throughout and after the process.  Others wanted to know what I did with the information they gave me.  I started doing status updates for my large network every month or so and more personalized, individual notes after I met with someone.   This personal way of reaching out to my network kept me connected and helped keep me grounded.

Get a little dirty (literally) – This was the hardest for me.  I’m a doer.  As a high D on a DISC assessment I want action and I want it now.  Once I did all of the self assessment, company research, identified positions and who in my network could help me;  I wanted to interview, land and start my new job.  The problem was…frankly…things often don’t move as fast as I want them to.  So what did I do?  I left my phone at home and went to the big dirt hill behind our house and attacked sunbathing Barbies with dinosaurs and army men.   If you are skeptical I have the pictures to prove it.

What did I really do?  I gave myself permission to not watch the phone for a little while.  So my final piece of advice is once you have put in the time for the day and you have checked off your list, go do what makes you happy for a little while.  Dirt hills work for me, find what works for you.  But please, do yourself a favor and leave your phone at home.  You can compulsively check it when you get home and make sure it has a dial tone…but in the meantime allow yourself a break to reconnect and hopefully the sticky little cherubs will also enjoy your time.