Career Transition Series
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is a classic that stays relevant with time promoting personal effectiveness and principles-based living.
Losing a job requires that we take charge of the unexpected. That doesn’t mean it is easy, especially when our job has been an anchor. I’ve extracted the seven principles behind Covey’s habits to help you become better prepared to bounce back from this temporary setback.
Applying each habit to your job search can provide inspiration, direction, and meaning to what feels like one of the most stressful events in an adult’s life. Practicing these habits will strengthen you from inside out.
HABIT # 1: BE PROACTIVE
“Proactivity means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions not our conditions. We have the responsibility to choose our responses. Proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.” — Stephen R. Covey.
Habit 1 is about being proactive, meaning that we are in charge of our lives and can choose how to respond to what comes our way.
Losing a job is an unfortunate event for which most of us are unprepared and comes unexpectedly, making us feel reactive. Those of us who have experienced job loss know about the emotional fallout of feeling disoriented, vulnerable, and as if we have lost that sense of control over our lives.
Being proactive about your job search is the first and most important attitude you can have to make things happen for you and rebound through action.
To be proactive, concentrate on the Circle of Influence within your Circle of Concern by focusing on the things you can do something about and choosing your actions, attitudes, and moods.
HABIT # 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means that you know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” — Stephen R. Covey
Habit 2 is about clearly understanding your destination in terms of your values, passions, purpose, and what makes you happy.
Many of us find ourselves embedded in careers that are not satisfying. We might have chosen our field out of free agency, influenced by our parents or chasing a comfortable lifestyle despite our soul’s desires.
A job transition is an opportunity to stop, ponder, and realign with your vocation if you are experiencing dissatisfaction. Exploring your values will help you identify what is important and serve you as an anchor to make career choices more closely aligned with what matters to you, with vision and meaning.
Beginning with the end in mind regarding your career transition means envisioning yourself in a better career opportunity. Also, seeing your next move in the context of your larger career landscape. To get into this mindset of possibilities, you must believe in a better future, knowing this transition shall pass.
HABIT # 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.” — Stephen R. Covey.
This habit in the context of your job search means having clarity around the most important activities or big rocks in your day. After losing a job, the work schedule vanishes, and the calendar becomes empty. A sudden lack of structure and routine can exacerbate feelings of distress.
Creating routines around the job search can help you better manage stress and anxiety due to the prospect of an unknown period of unemployment. By putting first things first, you organize and manage your time and events according to your priorities, which is about finding your new opportunity. Getting organized around your job search and working your time accordingly every week will pay dividends, and you will gain momentum by being disciplined, focused on your efforts, and focused on more critical activities. Enhancing your marketing materials, such as resume and cover letters, and practicing interviewing skills will allow you to position yourself as a more competitive candidate. To stay energized, set a daily schedule and goals that you can follow every day and reward yourself for completing them.
HABIT # 4: THINK WIN-WIN
Win-Win is a frame of mind and heart constantly seeking mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. — Stephen R. Covey.
Covey articulated that to approach our interaction with others as a win-win, we must embrace a mentality of abundance vs. scarcity.
One of the most frequent sources of unemployment anxiety is the belief that there are a limited number of jobs to apply to or that the competition is too fierce to qualify for those few spots. This mentality leads to feelings of inadequacy and pessimism.
Opportunities are unlimited, and career opportunities are everywhere. Approaching your job search with an abundance mentality is knowing there is enough of everything, including job openings, choices, resources, ideas, referrals, and support from colleagues, friends, and family. Being a job seeker with an abundant mentality will make you more open-minded, flexible, creative, and, ultimately, more resilient.
Another opportunity for a win-win is when networking. Many job seekers shy away from networking because they don’t want to appear as needy or lose-win. The idea of asking for a favor while not being able to give anything in return feels wrong or win-lose because you don’t want the other person to think your gain is their loss. You can approach your networking interactions as a win-win when you go prepared to your networking meet ups ready to share relevant information and ideas that benefit others.
Networking with a win-win mindset will allow you to create mutually beneficial interactions when making others feel valued instead of utilized. Approach your job search knowing there are plenty of opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges.
HABIT # 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
Listening to another person from their perspective and reflecting on that understanding is like giving them emotional oxygen. — Stephen R. Covey.
Habit # 5 is the habit of using communication to gain mutual understanding, and it has two sides: How we show interest in truly listening and understanding others and how we express our needs, aspirations, and expectations so that others can understand us well.
In the context of a career transition, it is essential to listen well, to stay open-minded and tuned to our intuition, remaining curious to gather valuable information from your acquaintances, recruiters, colleagues, hiring managers, and more about career prospects.
Understanding your needs and career aspirations is crucial before applying for jobs. Take the time to diagnose and deeply understand what you are looking for. Once crystal clear, you will articulate more effectively your career aspirations in your resume, networking interactions, and interviews.
Communicate wisely. When you are out of work, letting everyone know how you feel is tempting. Sharing your frustrations or venting about your ex-employer will not help. Formulate a well-crafted and concise exit statement summarizing the reasons for your departure.
Take time to keep your family updated on the status of your job search, remaining empathetic and open with them. Also, acknowledge the adjustments your family members will make because of your job loss.
Listen attentively to your interviewers to understand job prospects, gain clarity, and ask better questions. In addition to listening with your ears, listen with your eyes and observe body language. Assess how you feel after an interview. Do you feel energized or drained? Did you hear any comments or questions that rubbed you the wrong way? These could be yellow flags to consider in your decision-making process.
Strive to communicate your career aspirations confidently and honestly, representing your credentials so that you and prospective employers can better assess the job and organizational fit. As interviewers are looking for a great candidate, you are also seeking to land in a much better place where you can thrive.
HABIT # 6: SYNERGIZE.
When you communicate synergistically, you open your mind, heart, and expressions to new possibilities, alternatives, and options. You begin with the belief that parties involved will gain more insight and the excitement that mutual learning and insight will create a momentum toward more and more insights, learnings, and growth. — Stephen R. Covey.
This is the habit of creative cooperation by working collaboratively with others to create outcomes more significant than any individual could achieve alone. If you are in transition, you can’t succeed on your own. Your ability to find another job depends on your willingness to influence others by effectively presenting your credentials, asking for help and being willing to receive it.
It is better together. Accept the support of family and friends. Creating a support circle feels as a team effort. Manage your expectations to anticipate varying levels of assistance because sometimes you will receive more support from those you expect the least.
Networking is the most effective job search technique. It is about establishing and maintaining relationships to exchange information and common interest. When creating a networking plan, consider your organic contacts in your profession, industry, and personal connections to get leads. By frequently interacting with various environments, you can become aware of needs you can fulfill with your expertise. Also, you can better orient your efforts to those industries and organizations where you have the most chances to succeed.
Working with an experienced career transition coach will accelerate your results. We are trained in best practices and will encourage strategic thinking, goal setting, and networking. A career coach creates a safe space for you to regain your confidence and will enable you to get out of your comfort zone, keeping you accountable to your weekly goals and helping you with interviewing strategies, job offer negotiations, and more.
HABIT # 7: SHARPEN THE SAW
Habit 7 is preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It’s renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. — Stephen R. Covey.
Job hunting is a very stressful time. During a job campaign, we must prioritize self-care. It’s easy to get caught up in the worries and anxieties of an uncertain period of unemployment and neglect to prioritize ourselves. Covey suggests that we must take the time to “sharpen our saw” to remain effective.
Physical Renewal is to ensure our bodies have the health and vitality to tackle the unexpected. It is challenging to be effective if you feel sick or physically unhealthy. The foods you eat can affect how you feel during your job search. Favor vegetables, fruits, cereals, grains, fish, and lean cuts of meat. Stay active and include physical exercise and time outdoors.
Mental renewal is crucial for maintaining a positive outlook and staying sharp in our ever-changing world. Consider some activities that stimulate and calm the mind—meditation, reading books, playing an instrument, and pursuing hobbies and interests. Assess how you’re using technology, and if you notice it’s draining your energy, or compromising your goals and relationships, be willing to tame its use.
Sharpening the saw means continually honing our personal development through deliberate actions. A career transition can be the perfect time to retooling by learning new skills and refine others. Consider attending classes, workshops, or seminars to become more marketable.
Social/Emotional and Spiritual Renewal are crucial. We are social, and emotional beings. We must care for our mental health by reflecting on our emotions and relationships. Spiritual renewal involves reflecting, solidifying our values and beliefs, and cultivating a sense faith and purpose in life.
During your job campaign, take adequate time for recreation, leisure, and socializing, engaging in meaningful conversations, and distancing from toxic people.
Losing a job is a serious matter, and it might happen more than once in a lifetime. Taking charge of your situation can become one of the most enlightening experiences of your adult life.
Practicing these seven habits will make you a very effective job seeker and help you grow so that you can turn a career crossroad into personal transformation.