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Job Search Tips in the Great Resignation | That’s A Good Question

Job Search Tips in The Great Resignation banner

Women are leaving the workforce in droves, leading the charge in the Great Resignation in search of radically different work experiences with organizations that value humanity and their people above all else.

Like so many of us, the pandemic was a time of deep reflection for our listener, especially after moving cross-country to care for family. Feeling exhausted, underpaid, overworked and not valued, she is ready to hit “re-do” and put her expansive skill set to work.

In today’s episode of That’s a Good Question, we will talk about job search strategies in a post-pandemic world. Through active problem solving, practical advice and shared experiences, learn how to identify the right company and position that aligns with your priorities, aspirations and values.


Guest Expert: Erica Keswin

Erica KeswinERICA KESWIN is a best-selling author, executive coach, and workplace strategist who has Rituals Roadmap and Bring Your Human to Work: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World which was published by McGraw Hill in the Fall of 2018 and was immediately a Wall Street Journal best-seller. Keswin is also the founder of the Spaghetti Project, a platform devoted to sharing the science and stories of relationships at work. @erica_keswin

 

Our Host: Celeste Headlee

Celeste HeadleeCeleste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism—and How to Do It, Do Nothing, Heard Mentality, and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee


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Episode Transcript:

Celeste Headlee:

I am so excited to have another episode of That’s A Good Question, because this one really is a good question. They all are, but this is not just a good question for anytime, but especially, right now. And we’re keeping our guest anonymous, because she is still at the job that she’s asking about. But, it’s important to remember that we are in the midst of a great resignation, and surveys show that women are the ones leading many of these job transitions and job resignations. So, if you don’t mind, our special guest, I will read the question that you’ve sent us. Is that okay?

Women Amplified Listener:

Sure. Okay. I’ve moved from California back to New Jersey, last year to be with family. As, my father was diagnosed with stage four cancer, in making the move I started at a new company and took a step away from management. So, I was able focus on family. I selected an organization whom I thought valued family balance, etc. And while I think the company does, my specific department and team does not. I’m disheartened to say the least, and I’ve embarked on an external job search after being told I can’t move elsewhere in the company because I’m too valuable to the team.

I’m exhausted, underpaid and over worked. I have an expansive, skill set across varying industries. I need help with my job search. How can I identify a company and specific positions that will align with my passions and lead to a satisfying career that is values focused? Erica, the line from our guests question here, “I am exhausted, underpaid and overworked.” That’s a pretty, familiar sentiment. Don’t you think?

Erica Keswin:

Yes, I have been hearing that more and more over the years. And I would say, in a much more accelerated fashion since the beginning of the pandemic. Especially, coming from women that are exhausted in their jobs, and are taking on much, much more of the caregiving responsibilities. And especially, in this example, from our guest. Which is not only for her children, but also for an elderly parent. And so, it’s coming at us from all sides right now.

Celeste Headlee:

So to our guest, what made you think the company that you chose was family focused? Because, it sounds as if you’ve put a lot of thought into that. What were the clues that you got?

Women Amplified Listener:

They do a lot of extras for employees, so health days and they’ve even had puppies brought into the office, just so you can take a little break. So, they definitely support the employees. They say they support a balance, which I do see elsewhere, but I unfortunately do not see on our team. And they really are huge in supporting the community, which is really important to me that they give back. So, the company as a whole, seemed to have those characteristics. As I got into my department, I realized somehow they were less behind, and forgotten. And two and a half years later, it has not improved.

Celeste Headlee:

And you’ve let them know when you were being hired, that the whole purpose of stepping away from management was so that you would have more time to focus on your family?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes, we’ve had several, thorough conversations, because they were worried having been in management positions before, that I was taking a step back and would I be satisfied? And I’ve explained to them that due to my family and the time I wanted to have that … And it was a new industry, new company. I felt it was just best as a whole to take a step back, to make sure that I had the time that I needed outside of work, had that healthy balance, while also getting into new industry. Because then, I could always move up from there. I would say by the second week, I was working at least 50, if not 60 hours a week. And it’s been like that for again, for two and a half years.

Celeste Headlee:

Wow. Erica, what are the things we should look for, if we’re trying to find a company that values mental health and wellbeing and not overworking ourselves?

Erica Keswin:

Well, it’s so interesting, she did the right things. I mean, she was looking for real examples. I often say that companies, many of them purport that they have certain values, but the values are sitting there in a plaque on the wall. And this is cheesy, but how do you get the values off the walls and into the halls? And she actually found real examples, mental health days and shutting down the company all together and giving back to the community. All of these signs are right. What’s interesting to me, and I have to say, I’m not completely surprised by this story, is that nine out of 10 people leave their manager. They don’t leave the company.

Erica Keswin:

So sadly, I have seen this story before. So, I have a couple of thoughts, and what she could have done, but also would love to get into some ideas for what she can do now. Because, I think in light of the great resignation, even though they’re telling her, she’s so great and valuable in this job, that she can’t move. She might have a little bit more leverage than she thinks. So, in terms of what she could have done, part of it is to talk about it and I think all the listeners are going to learn so much from this. So, I think it’s such an important conversation to really get at.

Erica Keswin:

It’s great that the company has these things, but let’s say within this specific team or department, how many people actually take advantage of the day when they shut down? For a mental health day, the challenge can be that people might not be completely honest about it. Which is also a sign that maybe things don’t function like that in that group, but really trying to get examples and keep asking to talk to as many people as you can, about what they did on those days? What is the culture of their team? Is the boss involved in these days as well? And keep digging to see what you can really pull out, in terms of stories.

Celeste Headlee:

So to our guest, are you really at the point … I know you’ve said it’s been two and a half years. Is there nothing to be done at the company where you are? Can you take it further up the chain?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I can use all the advice I can get. But, I think my only other option is going to HR, which I’m not really a complainer, so I feel that would be a big step for me. Just to add a little more context. When I first started and was interviewed, I was interviewed directly by the hiring manager, as well as several levels above him. I was told I’d be working under him, after the first week or two, I was told that they were shifting him to a different responsibility.

Women Amplified Listener:

So, I would be taking on a new manager, who was actually the director and is currently my director. I admit that, yes, I’m likely leaving partially because of that director. And the new manager they put in was someone who was in my position prior to me. And while, he’s great. He has never been a manager before, received zero training, zero advice, zero help, just got thrown right in. So, I did take that opportunity when a job that I knew would I would be good at and I was passionate about, opened on another team. That’s when I brought that up, I actually submitted an application.

Women Amplified Listener:

And we have an internal system, where the manager has to sign off. And I think mainly that’s used to make sure you’re in good standings, which I absolutely am and have been. But, they pulled me aside and said, “You’re busy. We’re not going to waste your time, because you would have to work late to get your task done in order to interview.” Because, the interview was a full day process. “We’re not going to put you through that, because we cannot lose you on this team.” And that was the day where I said, “okay, then what more can I do? I have to look elsewhere.”

Erica Keswin:

So, my response to that is you are a valued part of this organization. And you’re in New Jersey, I’m in New York city. I mean, in these companies, the great resignation is real. And my guess is there are many things that they would do at this point to keep you. I would suggest, I think going to human resources, doesn’t make you a complainer because to me, you are so articulate and thoughtful about yourself, about the organization, about the new director, about the manager. That is a good guy, but doesn’t necessarily have the training.

Erica Keswin:

Those are all very constructive, pieces of information that human resources should know and should care about, because other people are going to leave. So, if you’re comfortable and I don’t think you would be at risk for them saying, “Okay, you’re fired.” Because, they have no one to replace you with and you’re a very valuable employee. So, if you do want to try to make it work, I would urge you to go in and have a very open conversation. And take them through exactly what you’re taking us through, which is you came in, you were very clear about certain expectations, given other things going on in your life, from a mental health and from a health perspective.

Erica Keswin:

And then, management got shifted around and that’s always challenging and you’ve been giving it a shot, but the work life balance is not working. And while, your manager, you like him. And he’s a nice person, in general, he needs some training. And so, you’d love to roll up your sleeves and think about what could be done, because you really do want to try to figure out a way to stay with the company. Which is putting them on notice to say, shoot …

Erica Keswin:

I mean, they don’t even want to lose you for a day, let alone forever. So, this would really get things going in my opinion. And I don’t think you’d be at the risk of all of a sudden being out of a job. So, I’ll stop there and see what your thoughts are, both you and Celeste. And if we can also talk about how I would approach a job search, which I do think you can be doing simultaneous to having this conversation with HR.

Celeste Headlee:

I just want to add that, there’s a great team who talk a lot about management, [Melissa 00:10:55] and [Jonathan Nightingale 00:10:55]. They wrote a book about management during the pandemic, but they call this add on management. Where they add on responsibilities to somebody’s job duties, without training them for it. And management is absolutely a place where people are constantly being bumped into those positions, and are not being trained. Which is so bizarre to me, because you need training in order to be a good manager.

Erica Keswin:

Well, especially now. I mean, these frontline managers are imploding. Many of them have never managed, they’re managing people at a time when stress is at an all time high for everyone that they’re managing. And so, I’m also happy, I can send it to Celeste. But, I have a one page, that I can share with really anybody, any listener that wants it. Which is basically called, Like Now What? Now, what do we do to attract and retain … The human way to attract and retain and engage employees right now. And my goal is to help these new managers with what on earth to do, because I agree that they really don’t know.

Celeste Headlee:

So to our guest, what do you think? Is there any chance before we move on to job search strategies. Is there any chance to salvage what you have at the company where you’ve been working?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think if the conversation led to me having those other opportunities open, in other departments. I will admit, I think I’ve been pushed too far in my department to continue working under the same people. But, knowing that they’re really hesitant in letting me even consider another part of the company, is where it really just pushes me to, “Okay, then I look elsewhere.”

Celeste Headlee:

So, if we are at this point, we might as well talk about how to choose the right company the next time. So, let’s talk Erica, about … I mean, honestly it sounds like the guest did a lot of things right.

Erica Keswin:

A lot.

Celeste Headlee:

So, what else can she do as she moves forward to look for just the right job?

Erica Keswin:

I’m going to jump right into that. I want to round out the last conversation with one more thing, that was going through my head as you guys were rounding that up. Which was, I don’t think you have a lot to lose right now in being pretty, open and honest. And so, it sounds like you already have been, but I don’t know if your company has employee resource groups. And keep trying to meet different people, maybe other senior people, senior women that you feel you can have an honest conversation with, from a mentor, mentee conversation. Only because, I don’t think you have a lot to lose, that they’re not going to say … They really need you at this point, probably more than you need them.

Erica Keswin:

And so, if you could figure out a way organically, through some other networking opportunities in the organization to make these connections and say, “I would love your advice.” And maybe, there’s some other ways to triangulate this. So, I’m just putting it out there. In terms of job searching, we look at a number of different things, there’s geography, and we know you want to be in New Jersey and I’m not sure how close you are to New York. And then, within that there’s industry, and there’s function. And so, part of it is, you’ve just changed industries, do you want to stay in this industry? Do you want to switch industries?

Erica Keswin:

I’m not even sure what functional area you’re in, but it’s hard to change industries and functions at the same time. So, I usually have a spreadsheet that has a couple of different strategies. One is, you’ll stay in this individual contributor, non-management role if that’s, what’s still important. The second strategy is saying, “Okay, within a certain distance from my home.” Because, you do want to have this quality of life although, many companies right now are fully remote. So, it does open you up geographically. It depends on what’s important to you, do you want a company that’s having you go back into a physical office?

Erica Keswin:

Which in these days, in the midst of COVID, is something that is a new part of our job search strategy that we hadn’t had before. And if you want to stay in the same industry, it’s beginning to identify, what are those companies? So, after that list is made, with weighing all those different priorities. What’s so interesting, and Celeste has said it before. I honestly think there’s so many things that you did right, that many people don’t do right. You were upfront about your needs, which again, in this job market, anybody listening today, go for it, be upfront. These companies need good people.

Erica Keswin:

So be upfront, this is what I need. Get a sense of what the company values are and ask for examples. How do these values come to life? And get as many examples as you can, keep asking to speak to people. Who would be peers, people that have been there in the organization for a while, people that are part of these ERGs. And I’m racking my brain to think, are there things that you didn’t do last time? But, the more examples you can get of that, the better and try to get a sense of their turnover too. If people are actually leaving. Sorry Celeste, you go ahead.

Celeste Headlee:

It’s okay. I think also, that you can be honest about why you’re leaving the company that you’re in. That question’s going to come up anyway. They’re going to ask why you’re looking for a new position and I would just be honest and say, “Hey, listen, I let them know that I was stepping back from management for this particular purpose, that didn’t turn out to be possible at this company. And that’s what I’m looking for.” I would be absolutely clear about that, if it’s possible to have a summary, to create a summary, when and if they offer the job. To say, “Hey, this is what we’ve talked about during the job interview and I just want to have it on paper.”

Celeste Headlee:

Through an email or something else, where you have a record of it, so that you can go back if there’s ever an issue. And I really hope it isn’t, in the future you can go back and say, “Hey, listen, this is what we’ve talked about when I was first hired. And I like the company and I want you guys to live up to the agreement that we both made.” But, I would be open about this. And make sure they understand how important this is to you. It’s so important that you’re leaving this other company because of it. Do you feel confident enough to be able to do all of these things?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes, I actually think that, that’s a fantastic idea. Because right now, I can only say, “Well, you’ve told me two and a half years ago. I don’t have that record.” So, I think that’s a great idea. Thank you.

Erica Keswin:

I would also say the challenge though, is you might have had it with your first manager. So, there was a little bit of a bait and switch. So, you were hired and things do change. So, even in a new company, you could be hired and everybody could be on the same page and you could get a new manager that doesn’t subscribe to that. And so, just making sure that next time, if this happened again and again, hopefully it won’t. Without it being two and a half years to stopping sooner and saying, “Do you know what, this doesn’t seem to be the fit. I know I was hired for manager A, now there’s manager B, I see the writing on the wall and this is not going to work.”

Erica Keswin:

So that’s, one thing. The second thing I would add to what you ask in these interviews is, how much does the company prioritize, personal and professional development? Because many companies, the second reason why people leave after their manager is that they don’t see growth and development. So, you can ask, are you putting resources toward training managers and training and development? Because, if they care about that, they’ll put their money where their mouth is. And even if you don’t have the perfect manager … And you want to grow on the job too, you want to be in a company that’s willing to put resources behind training people where they have deficits.

Celeste Headlee:

And one other thing I would say is, that I have always, every time I go into any job search, there’s two things I always ask for. One is I need to see the org chart and I need them to give me a copy of it, either digitally or actually a piece of paper of the org chart. Because, I need to know who I report to, that’s important. The other thing is, I always ask, what is the process when I have an issue? When something’s not going as well as it could, what is the process for me?

Celeste Headlee:

And how does that work? You can learn a lot about a company, based on how seriously they take that process of giving people resources that they need when things are not working well. And also, having a clear, defined process for that. Part of that is in turnover. This is one of the reasons people leave is, because they don’t feel they have any recourse, but you can front load that by asking what that process is during those job interviews. Does that sound helpful?

Women Amplified Listener:

Yes, definitely. I do think that, I’ve discovered on my own, that probably part of the passion I’m missing is managing a team. I was lucky enough to go into a supervisory role in a new industry, where I could do … I’m financially focused. So, I have a master’s degree, I’m an MBA. And I have a lot of experience in the financially focused world. So, I brought those skills, but I didn’t know anything about the programs and the specific industry. I went in as a supervisor to a team that was already established, had been there together for years. And one of them had actually applied for that position and did not get it. So believe me, when I went in, I wasn’t their favorite person.

Women Amplified Listener:

They had to teach me how to do everything, but really through determination, empathy, building trust, clear communication, all of that. I was able to build up their team as well as add to that team. And I think a lot of their successes make me feel successful. So, I do think I’m likely going to be looking back into a manager role, but I also feel it’s important that the work, the ideas, the projects, all of that. That they make me feel fulfilled, and motivated, because that’s only going to allow me to be even better at managing a team.

Celeste Headlee:

It’s becoming more clear to me why they say they can’t afford to lose you.

Erica Keswin:

Exactly, I was thinking the same thing. And when you start interviewing outside the company or who knows, even inside the company, this experience will have made you that much better of a manager. I mean, it’s rare that someone in the middle of their career takes a step back and experiences this. That the next company, in the next role … I mean, the sense of empathy and what you’re going to bring to this role is just going to be unbelievable. And the people that work for you are going to be pretty, darn lucky.

Celeste Headlee:

This is so important. What Erica is saying right now, we know research shows us that there’s two basic reactions to struggle and pain. One, it can make you more empathetic, in exactly the way that Erica has just described. The thing to watch out for is that a large number of people when they have been through tribulation or any trouble, it makes them less empathetic. In fact, a number of studies show that women who have been sexually harassed are the worst people to talk to if you are undergoing sexual harassment. And the reason is, is because they will tend to downplay other people’s experience, they’ll say, “Well, I got through it. You can and it wasn’t that bad and here’s what I did.”

Celeste Headlee:

So, as you move forward through all this, try to take that first path and remember how difficult it was for you that as you become a manager, again, that other people’s struggles with similar issues may not look exactly the same as yours. And they may be different in their intensity and difficulty, and that can help you to be a more empathetic and flexible manager. So, let me ask you, we’re dumping a lot on you right now. How are you feeling? Or are there things that you’re still concerned about?

Women Amplified Listener:

I think my biggest concern is, if I could just pick one is, we live in a world where a lot of the open jobs are, let’s use LinkedIn as an example. So, I’ll go on to LinkedIn and I don’t fit a specific job title. In all honesty, if I sat down, there’s at least 10 that I’m already qualified for right now. And that doesn’t necessarily open the door for further growth and learning and development. So, when I go in and I try to find a title, it’s like, “All right, forget it.” I’m overwhelmed, there’s so many options. And obviously, the job description’s a big part of that.

Women Amplified Listener:

So, I have to look for the keywords and things like that, but that’s where I’m really too trying to find that company and drill down. But, having been through this, where I am right now. I worry that is that going to get me to the same place? So, I think Erica, mentioned it before, they have that plaque or has she said, or they tell you that they do all of these things. And then unfortunately, when you get there a couple weeks in, you realize that maybe they think they do these things, but you don’t necessarily see them in action. And I think that’s where my real worry is.

Celeste Headlee:

Erica, what are your thoughts on that?

Erica Keswin:

I mean, it’s partly saying, “Well, they say they stand for health and wellness.” So, are there days that you all get off? Do people actually take the days off? Can you give me an example of, and again, what Celeste said. Is now that you’ve had this experience where there was this bait and switch, and you’re in a situation where they want to bring you on board and they’re trying to sell you. You can be as direct as possible to say, “This is great that you offer this, but do people actually take advantage of it? Can I speak to some people? Can I get some additional information? Celeste and I were talking before we got started, we haven’t seen each other in a couple years.

Erica Keswin:

And since the time that we saw each other, I wrote a book, which I’m happy after the fact I’ll send it to you. But, on rituals and how rituals in the workplace give people that sense of psychological safety and belonging. And I looked at rituals from the perspective of the employee life cycle. What are the rituals when you onboard? What are the rituals when you have meetings? What are the rituals in how you celebrate milestones?

Erica Keswin:

All of these different things and that was a way for me, when I was talking to these companies to extract, do they really live by their values? And so, you literally could ask questions around their training and development. How do you bring people on board and make them feel connected? You talk about many people during the pandemic, didn’t take any vacation. A, because they didn’t feel like there was anywhere to go and B, they they were really nervous. So, talk about that mental health support and how they really do it on the ground and try to get as specific as you can.

Celeste Headlee:

I would just echo that. That during that job search, when you are still being interviewed for the position, you have a lot of power and it’s best to be as clear as possible. Again, when I have meetings with people, I send an email summary. It was so wonderful to meet with you, here’s the things that I heard. And I was super happy with all of those things we’ve talked about and it just gets a record of it.

Celeste Headlee:

And that means you can maybe, next time not be in this position two and a half years later. Maybe, it’s something that can address fairly early on, as soon as you begin to see that it’s a problem. And maybe avert … I mean, it sounds like you’re in distress, and that’s upsetting. It sounds like you’ve been pushed to the point now, where it has become a crisis. And I would hope that next time, maybe you can address some of these issues before it becomes something that’s impacting your mental health and wellbeing.

Women Amplified Listener:

I really like that idea of the tribal aspect. That’s really interesting. And thank you for all the great examples of things I can ask to try and extract more information. I appreciate that.

Erica Keswin:

I wouldn’t be worried about HR. I mean, unless you feel you’re at a company where HR really has a bad rap and it’s more of the police and they’re not helpful. I mean, in my experience, yes, on the one hand, their job is to protect the company. If you leave the hiring manager, the first call is to the HR team to replace you. So because, their interest is broadly, the company and not just that manager. They’re going to want to know, because it’s going to make their job much harder if you leave.

Erica Keswin:

And my guess is, this is endemic of other parts of this organization. So, if you feel you don’t have a lot to lose, I think you’re helping the other people in the company. You’re helping the company in general, by going forward. And again, the way that you go about and the way that you present yourself. And the way that you’re speaking with us today is so proactive. And coming at it from the perspective of trying to be helpful in general, that I really wouldn’t … I would really think about it. If I was in HR in this company, I would want to meet you 100%, because I think you would be adding a lot of value to the company, both short and in long term, by sharing this feedback.

Celeste Headlee:

I will say one other thing that you’ve done right, frankly is, what you’re doing right now. I think a lot of people either never ask questions that get input from other experts, and are really hesitant to ask someone that they don’t know well about these things. But honestly, I have found that when you speak to a mentor, when you speak to someone else who has experience in the corporate world, it can only be helpful to hear that you’re on the right track. You’re not crazy, what you’re thinking is true and right. And you’ve done a lot of the right things, and that can always help you. So, never hesitate to reach out for help, even if it’s somebody that you don’t know well or don’t have a regular relationship with. It’s always good to get that outside feedback.

Women Amplified Listener:

Absolutely.

Celeste Headlee:

Are there any other questions before we wrap up?

Women Amplified Listener:

I don’t think so. You guys have been fantastic, thank you.

Celeste Headlee:

So, I want to say thank you to you and good luck. And we are absolutely waiting to hear what happens as you move forward. And thanks so much to Erica Keswin, as well.

Erica Keswin:

Thank you for having me.

Women Amplified Listener:

Thank you both.

 

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