An Open Letter to All Job Seekers Out There
I started working part-time, mostly out of FoMO, hearing my friends going on and on about their work adventures. I had just graduated & moved up to the big smoke. Then I was offered a full-time, back-office position in a ridiculously big and painfully boring company. After having survived my first term, I remember the feeling of complacency and smugness starting to set in. To this day, when I think of it I still feel kind of humbled..... I thought that the rest of my career would breeze by…
I wasn’t expecting what was to follow. In a few short years, I went from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to completely burnt out. I won’t go into more details, but, in a fit of idealistic fervor, I decided to quit... I sat down, cracked open the laptop, put some music and started bombarding companies with my newly updated resume. Yes, from that point on, I felt I was on a roll!
Not soon after, I started attending first and second interviews and for the most part, I thought I was doing great, but 6 months in, I was still waiting for at least one solid opportunity. At that point, I would have gone for even a slightly interesting job. Self-doubt started creeping in, I was getting frustrated. After a dozen of failed rejections, I decided it was time to change my attitude. It was time to jump into REAL job seeking, proactively pursuing only the companies I was interested in working for, instead of spreading myself thin chasing whatever “opportunity” came my way..... “I was a girl on a mission, and my motto would be: “if they wouldn’t hire me for some reason, at least I was going to make them a fan!”
Eventually, my phone rang and there was a managing partner who I met during a very vivid, all-kind-of-topics interview, suggesting that I would be the perfect fit for one of their openings. Long story short, a month and a half later I was traveling abroad to meet my new manager and team. My life had changed almost overnight. I traveled, met some remarkable people and spent the year becoming the person I wanted to be, walking around with a fat grin on my face everywhere I went. Sure, there were a few bumps along the way but I can say that I hardly recognise the person I was not so long ago.
So this is an open letter to anyone who’s not sure what to expect during job hunting. It’s the sort of advice I wish I had been given when I headed out into the world of job seeking, so hopefully it will help you too.
Dear Job Seeker,
Welcome to the new chapter of your life, full of exciting possibilities! Don’t be nervous!
You are about to discover a whole new You. You should learn to love it! Finding a great a job has a way of stripping away the person you think you should be and showing you who you really are. Enjoy it!
Now let’s talk strategy, shall we?
Successful job searches often take six months or more. Sure, it’s possible to land a job overnight, but it rarely is the kind of work you really want. When you've sent out dozens of resumes and landed multiple interviews, all without success, it's hard not to get frustrated and start questioning yourself. At this point, you might start blaming outside factors: "it's a tough market right now” or "there's too much competition and only a few openings"... But the truth is that there are people getting hired in your field all year round and in downturns. Even if the market is tough right now, there might be something you're doing wrong that decreases your chances of landing the job you’re after.
Is your Job-Seeking Behavior Proactive or Just Plain Desperate?
Being desperate or negative dulls your confidence and employers can smell it a mile away. The key is to treat the entire process like a business. Finding a job is a job in itself. So picture yourself as being in the job-hunting business. One thing I would say, which goes against all of the articles written in the broadsheets, don’t use a generic checklist. Instead of asking “why can’t I find a great job?”, figure out what makes you tick and make your approach as tailored as possible.
Start by asking yourself: What sparks my interest? What's really important to me? Then think about what could your unique contributions be to the position you are applying for. Allocate time and energy on each application, because if you don't others will! This will help you refine and sell your uniqueness, your personal brand! The only way to stand out from the crowd is to be deliberate on what you are promoting about yourself!
Sort out your priorities. Be Assertive. Make a detailed list. The key is to recognize what makes you a unique candidate and then communicating this effectively to the prospective employer. If you find yourself applying for positions that don't excite you, your lack of passion will eventually show, so what’s the point? But if you're truly excited, then explaining the reasons for wanting the position and sharing ideas on what your approach would be, should come naturally. You need to go from “I need this job” to “I can solve these problems for your business.” Then, you’ve got them listening!
One more often neglected but very important tip: Keep up on the industry news! Read trade journals, business magazines and newspapers. Insights and opinions need time to develop. So focus on a handful of employees and a couple of industries. Read all about them, incubate and form an opinion about them. Only when you fail, move on to the next batch of five employers...and so on.
Final point, don’t forget, to keep track of your progress. Maintain a detailed record of all the jobs you’ve applied to, including communications, interviews and follow-ups. This is very useful of course but it also keeps you motivated. A handful of rejections and a list of new contacts (future employers maybe?) is much better than just a handful of rejections... Every opportunity, every rejection uncovers a new opportunity, a choice to do things differently.
In conclusion, you're far more likely to accomplish your targets if you focus on what you can control: be proactive, be diligent, be creative. If you believe the world is conspiring against you and you're powerless to do anything about it, then you're more likely to stay with a job you hate or even worse, jobless. If there’s one part of the job search you do have complete control over, that’s your attitude, and, from my experience, it’s the most important piece.
P.S. If you’ve already found your dream job and think you have a little nugget of wisdom to share, leave a comment below.