Job Search Lessons From Holiday Sales

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You may have heard the old saying, “Hindsight is 20-20.” It’s easier to learn a lesson from a past experience than try to predict the future. Some would say it’s foolish, even dangerous, not to look back and reflect. You can learn a lot from exploring what went wrong in a situation, or what went right, so you have a better chance of a positive outcome the next time around.


In a Forbes article, “Retail Wisdom: Lessons Learned from Holiday 2012,” Wendy Liebmann takes a backward glance at the 2012 holiday sales season for clues to why it didn’t meet expectations. She came up with a list of observations that are worth considering. While her list was intended for retail sales, the lessons learned are valuable for job seekers as well.


If you’ve ever lost a job, or been fired, you know the shock, disappointment and even anger you experience dealing with a job loss. There can be a lot of reasons for termination. The first and most natural reaction is to blame an outside force—an unreasonable boss, impossible co-workers, lack of resources or training, or difficult working conditions. There may be some truth in those observations. But like Liebmann, it may be better to look backward at your past performance for clues to why you were fired, so you don’t make the same mistakes at your next job. Her observations on sales may give insight to past job performance and future success:


1.    Forget the calendar. For many retailers, the November and December holiday season is their opportunity to make enough money to carry them through the year. But other factors, like the economy and worries about an extended recession, kept buyers out of stores and money in their pockets. Job seekers should look back at their last job situation. Sure, there are companies that lay off groups of people, but when selecting who stays and who goes, there are usually performance issues as well. Are you the type of person who squeaks in just before a deadline? Does your flame fade out during the summer months, or burn bright only when a project grabs your interest? Consistent performance will win over a burst of productivity here and there. 


2.    Longer hours don’t cut it. Retailers found that extending Thanksgiving hours made everyone angry. The employees didn’t want to cut short Thanksgiving family celebrations to satisfy employers. Shoppers didn’t turn out in record numbers as expected. Employees who are laid off of fired often feel unappreciated. They put in long hours on a job, only to be let go. Looking back, were all those hours productive? Just putting in hours on the clock doesn’t make you a star employee. If you’re constantly staying late to finish up work, you may have poor time management skills. If you’re constantly working overtime because you can’t get the job done, you may be too expensive for your employer. Poor working habits and wasting time may have cost your last employer money and aggravation, and you the job.


3.    Focus on the merchandise. People want value for their money. Employers want the same. Were you focused on what you got from the job? Salary, benefits, perks? Were you concerned about your title, the next rung in the ladder and whether you had the latest laptop or other prestigious gadget? Don’t make that mistake again. It’s not about you. Employers want people who are interested in their business and helping make the company successful. Step away from the mirror and focus on how you can contribute to the success of the team.


4.    Leverage the Internet. True for retailers and job seekers. Do some research to find out what technology is hot in your industry. No matter what your job title, it’s tough to make it if you don’t know how to use Outlook or operate a Blackberry or Smartphone. Can you download apps and feel like you could navigate Windows 8? If your tech skills are weak, get up to speed. 


It’s easy, and comforting, to blame outside influences for a job loss. There are plant closings and job eliminations that have nothing to do with an employee’s performance. But it would be disastrous not to honestly evaluate past performance before history repeats itself. We take ourselves to our next job. Learning from the past and making some positive changes will help bring the best “you” to your next opportunity.


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