When people tell you that finding a job is a job, they aren’t kidding. From my own recent job searching experience, I can tell you that it most certainly is. You have to identify what you want to do, where you want to do it, and what opportunities are available. You have to match your skill set to the skill sets that employers are looking for. You have to fill out applications, send resumes, follow-up, interview, and follow-up again. So, here are a few things that I learned from my recent job search.
- Find positives where you can. Looking for a job is hard work, and if you’ve been looking for a long time, it’s easy to get discouraged. Find whatever good things about your job search that you can and focus on those. For me, that was sometimes as simple as being able to say that I found a relevant job and applied for it that day.
- It’s okay to be selective. When I first found out that my company was closing, I went into job search panic mode. But, I quickly realized that taking a job for the sake of taking a job doesn’t do you (or your employer) any good. It’s okay to really look for what you want. I found that by being more selective about the jobs that I applied for, I was finding positions where I was a better fit, and where I could see myself working long-term. When I interviewed for those positions, I was more confident and invested in the process because I knew the job was one that I wanted and that I could excel at.
- Some interviews just don’t go well. I learned this the hard way. Sometimes, even when you think that you know exactly what to say, the interview doesn’t go well. You get a question you can’t answer, or you just don’t connect with the interviewer. I learned to accept these situations as something that I couldn’t change, and instead focus on what I could do better the next time.
- Cultivate and seek honesty. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. No one is perfect. If you are honest about your skills and abilities, even if it means saying that you don’t know how to do something, I think it shows that you are more self-aware. I learned to graciously admit to prospective employers if I didn’t have a particular skill that they were looking for, while also highlighting both my ability to learn new skills and other transferable skills that might benefit the company.
- Prepare. Even though it seems like a no-brainer, it’s easy to go to an interview assuming that you know how to answer all the questions. I’ve found that the more you prepare, the more confident you are in your answers and the stronger your overall presentation. Even though you’re likely to have at least one question that stumps you, if you’re prepared, you also have strategies to cope with that.
- Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, your future employer won’t, either. Even though your job search might not be going as planned, you have to believe that you have the skills and abilities that someone is looking for in their open position. Know that you are a valuable contributor and that you will find the right fit for your skills and abilities. Believe in what you do, and let that confidence show through when you interview. Also, celebrate the little victories. If you know that you answered a question particularly well, celebrate that success and keep it in mind for the next interview.
- Be patient. This one was probably the hardest for me. It’s easy to assume that if you don’t hear something immediately, you are not in the running and you should move on. Sometimes, that is the case. But more often, the interview process is just more lengthy than we care to admit. If there is a deadline associated with the posting, or if the interviewer gives you a time frame, then do keep those in mind. However, for many job postings, a deadline or time frame may not be listed. Be patient and realize that the entire process takes time. It may be months before you hear back. Try and be realistic about the time frames that you associate with looking for positions.
- Learn something from each opportunity. No matter who you are interviewing with or for what position, try to learn something from it. Maybe it is a way to improve your presentation skills. Maybe you learn a better approach to answering a difficult question. Maybe you just add more questions to your repertoire that you expect to be asked, or you add a particularly good follow-up question to the interview. Each interview is an opportunity for you to learn and improve for the next. Take time to reflect on what you have gained from each experience, and think about what you will do with that knowledge.
- Keep track of your progress. Job searching takes time, and it is easy to forget where you have applied, when, and anyone that you may have spoken with. Keep track of your applications and job contacts so that you can follow through, and also make realistic decisions about positions. I found that a simple spreadsheet worked well for me. I could include the position, the location, the contact person, and then additional columns for the date the application was filed, any closing dates, the dates of follow-up communication, and also interviews. The electronic format also made it easy for me to search and sort, so that I could focus on whatever element of my job search I needed to that day. As an added bonus, having all the information organized in one place also helped me see how much progress I really was making on the job search as well.
- Know how to interview in a variety of settings. I have interviewed with individuals, and I have interviewed with small groups. I have done prepared presentations, and I have also been asked to prepare a demonstration with only five minutes of prep time. I have interviewed in person, over the phone, and even via video chat. Each situation was unique and required a slightly different approach. Each interview is different, so try to have an idea of what to expect. I found that something as simple as asking what to expect when being invited for an interview gave me additional details that helped me prepare and be more comfortable and confident on interview day.
Don’t give up! I know it’s easy to say as someone who has found a job, but I firmly believe that the right position is out there for you and that you will find it. I believe it’s okay to be angry, frustrated, and sad during the process. I believe it’s okay to be ridiculously happy when you get the invitation to interview with company that you really want to work with. Having an emotional connection to the job search is just natural. Even though it’s difficult, I firmly believe that all the work is worth it the day that you start your dream job. I’ve been lucky enough to find that, and I hope that you will, too.