– J.T. O’Donnell

I met yet another job seeker in total denial this week. In spite of knowing he’s going to get laid-off by a large, high-profile employer who is unhappy with his performance, he can’t let go of some past career setbacks and is longing for the ‘good ole days’ when he was making huge money for being the guy everyone loved. An inventory of his current marketable skills, an assessment of his fragmented networking approach, and a review of his long list of demands in an employer, quickly made it clear he’s not going to find what he is looking for.

I’ve seen many job seekers like this. They’re like Vince Vaughn’s character in the movie, “The Internship.”

Early Success As A Smooth-Talker Doesn’t Last

Some people develop the “gift of gab” early in life. It’s a wonderful skill to have. Knowing how to talk to strangers, make people feel comfortable in conversations, and develop relationships can greatly help any career. Especially, for young people just out of school. Their peers tend to be shy in professional situations which lets their inexperience show through. Those that communicate well often get ahead early because employers equate the ability to speak effectively with intelligence and aptitude. They hope hiring this type of entry-level professional will translate into being a good performer on-the-job. However, once hired, it can’t be the only skill you develop. Just because you give off great energy and people like you, doesn’t mean you are adding value to the organization that is employing you.

Fast Forward (A Decade+)….It Catches Up With You

The Vince Vaughn characters of the the professional world often use their communication savvy as a crutch. They know how to make things happen in their career by controlling the conversation, enabling them to score promotions and new jobs that pay well. They’re almost like a type of con-artist, skipping out on the hard work because the talking gets them the reward. We’ve all seen these men and women on the job. Everyone likes them, but over time, as it becomes clear they don’t do any of the heavy-lifting, the respect for them as a professional decreases. They forget: the older you get, the wiser you are supposed to appear. When you don’t have results to show beyond your stand-up routine, people will pass you over for jobs. When it comes to seasoned professional, employers want substance AND show – you need to be the total package!

Worst Part? He Knows The Show Is Over

When I told the job seeker I didn’t feel I could help him and that working with me wouldn’t be a good use of his money, he was silent. The intense energy he projected while telling me his story disappeared. Then he finally admitted, “I’m sad. I want my old career back and I know I can’t have it. I don’t see any way forward that will make me happy.” I felt bad for him. That’s a hard thing to admit. Seeing no future is scary to us all.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way for him, or anyone else.

3 Keys To Professional Success At Any Age

#1 – Accountability – When job seekers take accountability for their current situation and accept some choices they made along the way got them to a place they no longer want to be, they can finally release themselves from the denial that’s holding them back. Accountability isn’t about blaming oneself, it’s about objectively looking at what happened and learning from the past so you can plan a better future.

#2 – Open Mind – The next step is to free the mind of all the wrong assumptions and outdated beliefs the job seeker has about the process for getting hired. They need to clear the slate and start over to ensure they aren’t dismissing good opportunities that could get them back on track.

#3 – New Skills – Lastly, the job seeker must identify the new skills they want to develop that will make them attractive to current employers and keep them in-demand in the future. Finding that area of expertise they want to develop will ensure they are valued and respected for the right skills.

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