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Have you been fired?

If so, you know all the negative feelings that assault you immediately. You feel:

*Confused-I thought they liked my work.
*Cheated-They should have fired George instead. His work was sloppy.
*Resentful-I'll tell everybody off if I ever get the chance.
*Sad-I feel like I'm attending my own funeral.
*Frightened-Guess I'll never get a good job again.
*Bitter-I'll never speak to those people again.
*Worried-I can't eat, sleep, or even think straight.
*Alone-Now I know what real loneliness is.
*Ashamed-Guess I let my family down big-time.

I know these feelings all too well, because in 1996 I lost a job I thought I would have for the rest of my career. For two or three days, these defeatist attitudes had a solid grip on me.

However, I realized quite soon that I had to change my thought pattern in order to become successful. Basically, I relied more than ever on my communication skills, because I believe Daniel Webster's statement:

If I were to lose all of my possessions except one, I would save the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all of the rest.

In fact, through my experiences-and by observing how others bounced back from a professional grave site-I have identified six communication strategies that will move you from fired. . .to hired.

First Strategy: Talk Positively to Yourself

You might be thinking, That's crazy. I don't talk to myself. But you do. I'll bet you have muttered to yourself comments like these:

• Lost my glasses again. Man, am I scatterbrained.
• No need for me to try out for the team. I've got no athletic ability.
• I'm so sloppy. That's why my office looks this disorganized.

During a job search, you need to change the tone of your self-talk considerably. In fact, you should say many affirmative things to yourself before you go to your first job interview. Try affirmations like these:

My suit might not be new, but it's still in style and looks very professional.

I meet people well, so this interview will give me a chance to shine.

Other candidates for this position might have more credentials on paper, yet none of them can match my work ethic, which makes me the ideal choice.

Second Strategy: Sharpen Your Speaking Skills

When you interview for upper level jobs, you can expect to do more than talk with one or two individuals in an interview setting. Chances are good that you will also speak to a group, made up of the officials you would be working with very closely. Search committee heads arrange these group interviews frequently, so you will be wise to get ready for them.

Let's face it-we choose presidents, corporate CEOs, coaches, and other leaders because they can stand before a group and share their ideas with poise, power, and persuasive ability.

So take the steps necessary to strengthen your presentations. Hire a speech coach-who could even work with you from several states away, thanks to Internet and video opportunities. Attend a presentations skills workshop at your community college. Affiliate with a Toastmasters group. Speak to civic and volunteer groups. Taking these steps, you will be ready to speak persuasively to interview committees when the opportunity appears.

Third Strategy: Learn to Make a Sizzling First Impression

The old saying is absolutely true: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Human behavior researchers tell us that we have between 7 and 17 seconds in an initial meeting with someone we don't know to impress them favorably. If we fail to do that then, we'll have a tough time getting them to like us-and to consider us a leading candidate for a job.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of hosting CBS news analyst Charles Kuralt, when my organization hosted him for a speaking event. Our planning committee knew he would deliver an interesting, information packed speech. That was his strong suit. Here's what we were nervous about, though-how he would relate to audience members on a one on one basis.

Within only a few seconds after Kuralt arrived, we had our answer. Kuralt was just as warm and friendly as he was in his popular On the Road TV program. Instantly, he was chatty, smiling broadly, making sure he caught our names, and asking us about our city's heritage. His gracious manner lasted the whole evening. He even stayed an hour longer than his contract required. As he was leaving, I told him: You came here as our guest, but you left here with us as your guests.

Watch your community leaders in action as they work the room at networking functions. Learn what makes them magnetic, and adapt their approach to your style.

Fourth Strategy: Become a Keen Listener

Assume that you are interviewing a candidate for a job. Suppose the candidate didn't get your name right, or the name of your executive assistant. Imagine that although the candidate seems intelligent and articulate, he seems to misunderstand key points you are trying to make. Occasionally he asks you to repeat a question. Once while you were talking, he was looking out the window, as though he had lost interest. He looks like he prefers not to be here.

As a supervisor, would you hire this person? No, you wouldn't. You recognize that top-notch team members are keen listeners.

Almost everyone who meets former President Bill Clinton gives the same report. They describe Clinton as one of the finest listeners they ever met. He welcomes everything you say. He asks questions, inviting you to talk longer. He nods in agreement. He doesn't interrupt you. He seems far more interested in what you have to say than in taking over the conversation himself.

Interviewers respond very positively to good listeners, sensing they will become solid team players, open to other people's ideas.

Fifth Strategy: Simulate Interviews, Videotape Them, and Critique Them

The camera doesn't lie. The camera tells us when we frown too much, lose eye contact, get defensive when a question makes us uncomfortable, repeat nervous mannerisms and gestures until they become distracting, use a monotone pitch, and ramble from the point under discussion.

On the positive side, the camera tells us when we establish obvious rapport, demonstrate a commanding presence, look confident, talk proudly about our professional accomplishments, and smile regularly.

Be sure to arrange a simulated interview, with a person qualified to role play, and then a professional qualified to help you critique your performance, offering suggestions for creating a more convincing presence.

Sixth Strategy: Network Creatively and Constantly

Networking could easily become your most powerful communication tool during your search. Why is networking so valuable? Because you can capitalize on the credibility others have created with decision makers.

Are you afraid to ask business leaders to refer you actively or be available to give an endorsement by phone? That's not a realistic fear, because prominent citizens feel complimented by your request.

Really, networking may be the most enjoyable part of the job search, because you get to talk with outstanding achievers, and usually you sense they are genuinely interested in referring you.

Read Bob Burg's classic, Endless Referrals, now in its third edition. Burg's book remains the classic manual for obtaining and using referrals.