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Getting a Job after Being Laid Off…Stage Three: Employing Top-Notch Interview and People Skills

Business pople world As discussed in the previous series of posts, by now you’ve been working through the grief of your lost job, did some soul-searching, identified your skills and job desires, polished your résumé boilerplate and customized it to fit each job opportunity, networked, and now you’ve landed a job interview for that job you really want. What do you do?


This is where I point you back to stage one. Grief. You may still have some unprocessed grief that can make you a little extra panicked about the job interview. It’s normal. Take a moment to feel the feelings of any fear or panic and then breathe and reassure yourself that you WILL be okay if you don’t get this job. Yes, you read that correctly. Let it go and feel the feelings that everything will be okay if you do not get the job. Clinginess and desperation often repel people, so releasing any of these feelings will make you more approachable.


When you go into the interview, you may be asked a series of questions about your background and why you are the best match for the job. Some of the questions may even be ridiculous, like what kind of animal you would be in your career. Don’t worry about those. There are no wrong answers. The key is to be Genuine, Present, Respectful, and Real. Listen to the interviewer and hear the question behind the question. For instance, you may be asked why you spent such a short amount of time at your previous jobs when what they really want to know is whether you’ll be committed to the company and dependable for the long haul. If it is the job you desire (and it must be if you’ve followed the steps in this series) then you can look the interviewer directly in the eye and assure her/him that you are completely committed and would like to see yourself working with them for years to come.


This brings me to my next point. The interviewer is a human being—not a judge. Build a relationship and make Contact with them. Connecting to them as a genuine person and professional can reap rewards beyond the job. It will help you to settle in the job if you get it, as you will have an inside team member advocating for your success. Or, if you both discover the job is not a mutual fit, you can still ask for their assistance, referrals or even work with them down the road.


To recap, being Genuine, Present, Respectful and Real leads to making Contact – which provides you with one of the most essential skills the U.S. Department of Labor says is needed in today’s global economy. To aid your memory, your interview and “people relations” formula for success is: G+P+R+R=C


Sometimes contact gets broken because of other factors, like power struggles. People tend to fight for their turf and want to feel that their sense of worth isn’t being trampled by a new person. Interviewers and managers can also suffer from such struggles—especially if they’re new at interviewing or managing and not very confident in their own skin. They might tend to overcompensate and act controlling or micromanaging. If this is the case, you might want to utilize some proven power struggle cures.  They are in my new eBook, Ten Keys for Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle, which many are praising as a powerful tool for curing conflict. You can access it at www.TenKeysToPowerStruggles.com   

Power Struggles in the Hood

When the Racheal Ray show asked me to be one of their experts on an upcoming segment about neighborhood conflicts, I confess I panicked a little. Trying to solve feuding neighbor issues can be a little like trying to tame wild cats. Attempting to do this on national television would surely undermine any credibility I had achieved. At least that was my fear. To my relief, the show was cancelled and I helped them on another issue. Still, I was asked to let them know if I came across any feuding neighbors for future segments. I didn’t have any candidates for them. But wouldn’t you know that life has a funny way of providing ironies. I have watched turmoil grow in my neighborhood over the past year. In the past three days alone, about two hundred emails have been posted on our neighborhood listserve. The issue? Traffic. That’s the surface issue that has ignited a bunch of personality clashes and power struggles. This is even more ironic, because I just finished writing and launching my new eBook on power struggles (“Ten Keys for Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle”). But alas, I am just a neighbor in the neighborhood. I don’t have a neutral voice, so the nuggets of communication suggestions that I could share may not have the same effect. Still, I will try my best to communicate in a manner that promotes reconciliation and peace. To any of my neighbors that read this blog, please feel free to check out a copy of my eBook and consider that maybe everyone does want a safe neighborhood with calm traffic. Maybe people are being defensive with each other and the more offensive you get, the more defensive they’ll get. Guess that’s why Grandma always said “you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

Changing Careers an American Tradition

I often remind clients that the average person changes careers 5-7 times in their lifetime. Some think it’s a new phenomenon, but take a look at what de Toqueville observed about Americans in 1831…

Excerpt from Alexis de Toqueville’s “Democracy in America”…

The inhabitants of the United States experience all of the wants and all the desires that result from an advanced civilization; and as they are not surrounded, as in Europe, by a community skillfully organized to satisfy them, they are often obliged to procure for themselves the various articles that education and habit have rendered necessities. In America it sometimes happens that the same person tills his field, builds his own dwelling, fashions his tools, makes his shoes, and weaves the coarse stuff of which his clothes are composed. This is prejudicial to the excellence of the work, but it powerfully contributes to awaken the intelligence of the workman. Nothing tends to materialize man and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind more than the extreme division of labor. In a country like America, where men devoted to special occupations are rare, a long apprenticeship cannot be required from anyone who embraces a profession. The Americans therefore change their means of gaining livelihood very readily, and they suit their occupations to the exigencies of the moment. Men are to be met with who have successfully been lawyers, farmers, merchants, ministers of the Gospel, and physicians. If the American is less perfect in each craft than the European, at least there is scarcely any trade with which he is utterly unacquainted. His capacity is more general, and the circle of his intelligence is greater.

(Vol 1, 425)

A Must-Read for Career & Leadership Success

People often ask me for a book recommendation that will help them or their team overcome self-defeating behaviors that sabotage their success. For instance, have you or someone you know ever battled with procrastination and missed a critical deadline? Or perhaps you can relate to those that are trying to cultivate courage to leave a secure but unsatisfying job. Maybe you or an employee is struggling with defensiveness and being closed off which causes one to become ostracized from the team and miss out on promotions. There's also the other groups of folks that you might relate to that are afraid of confrontation and have trouble speaking out in meetings or experience extreme difficulty in letting an ineffective employee go. All of these situations and more are addressed in a fabulous book that is sure to be one of your favorite resources for yourself and those you're leading. It's "Get Out of Your Own Way at Work...and Help Others Do the Same" by best selling author Mark Goulston, M.D. Dr. Goulston is a revered business consultant and psychiatrist who writes the syndicated column "Solve Anything with Dr. Mark" for the Tribune Company papers and Fast Company. Moreover, he's the kind of respectable and inspiring leader that walks the talk of providing strong leadership mixed with genuine empathy. He has mastered quality of life balance and can help you do the same. You'll like his practical advice, usable insights and wisdom on wellness.

The #1 Relationship Tool

Dale Carnegie was brilliant. In 1935, he published the international best-seller, “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” The book is filled with golden nuggets about how to connect with others. He emphasizes that people must be “sincere”, “genuine”, engage in “honest appreciation”, “show respect” and “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” He is essentially teaching empathy to people, but appeals to their egos with a punchy title that sells power. Would it have been as successful if it were titled, “How to Listen & Care About People”?

Perhaps Carnegie’s title was so successful because it addresses a human fundamental need—to be understood. If a person can “win” a friend, then that friend might understand them. The chances increase exponentially if the friend can be influenced to understand. But, sly Carnegie demonstrates that it is first in understanding the other person that you get the opportunity to be understood. Simply put, people listen better when they feel heard. Moreover, people connect better when they feel felt.

Feeling felt is a deeper form of communication. UCLA Medical Doctor Daniel Siegel refers to it as collaborative communication in his book, “The Developing Mind.” It occurs when people experience momentary states of alignment. This critical form of preverbal communication is formed in infancy when the infant and caregiver are attuned to each other’s feelings and needs. Siegel points out that adult’s verbal communication can “feel quite empty if it is devoid of the more primary aspects of each person’s internal states.”

Including primary aspects of your internal state means you must listen AND feel the other person. But how? Start by suspending yourself for a moment. Empty the mind and listen to the other person, but also try to intuitively feel what they are feeling. Part of your brain will be working to understand their perspective based on your mutual experience with each other. You might also take their age, gender, culture, current stress level, emotional state, and environment into consideration. To connect internally, allow your heart and gut to simultaneously sense what the other person is experiencing. Connecting at this deeper level allows you to empathize.

Remember these are only momentary states of alignment. The other person should take part in doing the same for you. You will also need to take a proper amount of space to allow for self-care and regeneration. But, finding those states of alignment should allow for deeper connection and the greatest feeling ever—being truly understood and felt. It can be excellent for calming someone down, connecting with a loved one, responding to your child, improving morale at work, and increasing your sales. Can ya feel me now?

Employees & Family Roles: More Similar than You Think

You can't be heard if someone isn't listening. Similarly, you can't be in charge if people aren't following. Harvard University JFK School of Government lecturer Barbara Kellerman is releasing a new book next month about followers, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. (You can read an adaptation in the latest Harvard Business Review.) Kellerman describes five types of followers in an organization that are strikingly similar to roles in a family system. "Isolates" are detached and practically invisible to the organization, only doing what is needed in order to get by and with zero enthusiasm. "Bystanders" will go along passively as long as it serves their best interest, but are not motivated to engage. "Participants" invest their time and energy into their jobs and the organization's mission and can be strong supporters of the leadership or can create dissension by opposing leadership. "Activists" feel even stronger one way or the other and can work on behalf of their leaders or work hard to undermine them. Finally, "diehards" are rare, deeply devoted and prepared to go down for their cause. She suggests that whistleblowers can even be a type of diehard.

Family roles that are similar include the hero child. This is usually the first born and the one that takes the lead, accepts responsibility and is often the overachiever and star in the family. There is also the rebel, which is often the second born child. This role gets filled by rebelling against the hero and acting out in self-destructive ways. The next child may fill the role of the clown or mascot and is the person that tries to get the group together with humor. Their focus is on keeping the family bond united. The last child role in the family literature is the lost child. This one doesn't have an active role to fill and becomes almost invisible or agreeable to the point of not voicing their needs or desires.

How are these similar? Notice the continuum of participation. The hero child might be more like the diehard, activist or participant (or leader!) that steps us, takes the lead and derives satisfaction from doing a great job. Rebelling against the leadership can be indicative of both a hero and a rebel (depending on the leadership). Bystanders, and to some degree participants, can be like the clown/mascot and get involved when it serves their best interest (status quo). The lost child has obvious linkages to the isolates.

The theory behind the family roles is that one role gets filled by one child and squeezes the other children out, leaving them to find different roles. In other words, there's only room for one hero, so children find a way to differentiate themselves. Traditional hierarchical structures (in families and organizations) can reinforce the rigidity of these roles. Think of family heirlooms and legacies that have been reserved for the first born...or the big corner office for top performers. Often a healthy solution in a family is to cultivate the sharing of roles by rewarding the "hero" in each child. Give quality time and attention to each child and recognize their unique talents. In an organization, everyone can be given a voice by allowing employees to share their insights in a safe way (via satisfaction surveys, anonymous comments & suggestions, team meetings, open-door policies, etc.). In addition, in large organizations randomized coffee chats (via a lottery type system) can be instituted that unites leadership with different employees across the vertical and horizontal lines of the organization. Like good parenting, equal opportunity to access of being heard might foster improved team relations and positive participation among all role-players.

Resources for Abandonment Recovery

Separation and abandonment wounds from childhood can scar a person so deeply that they become extra-sensitive to rejection and experience heightened anxiety in their relationships (at school, work and/or home). Many also find repeating patterns of abandonment continuing in their life (losing a job, being left by a loved one, feeling rejected, having a friendship end, etc.) and are struggling to find a way to heal and break the abandonment pattern. If this is happening for you, you might want to check out Susan Anderson's book "The Journey from Abandonment to Recovery: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life." For additional information, you can check out her website dedicated to Abandonment Recovery.

Systems is Key to Neuroeconomics Research

As is the case with many scientific advances, the emerging field of Neuroeconomics exploded when research scientists began sharing their research methodologies and tools with each other. In this case, neurobiologists and neurophysiologists are shattering some old economics theories. For instance, some research conducted with monkeys revealed that monkeys, like humans, reject inequality. They'll walk away from a reward if they feel they were treated unfairly. The fascinating thing about much of the research conducted in the field is that it has been brought about by systems thinking. Researchers began noticing the complex relationship between the variables (circular causality versus linear causality). For an overview, see "Economy of the Mind" put out by the The Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics at George Mason University.