Thursday, 14 September 2017

Life Lessons from Job Hunting


For the vast majority of people, job hunting is an inevitable process to be undertaken a few times in their life. Gone are the days of staying in an organisation for many years or even decades. The national average tenure in Australia for a job is currently 3.3 years. Unless you are one of the select few - executives / senior managers / someone with connections / industry where supply < demand - job hunting sucks. I believe that this is especially the case for people who are starting off in their career and just trying to get their foot into ANY door.

I have been through the job hunting process twice and there are a few lessons I have learnt along the way. A lot of these lessons aren't confined to the job hunting process itself but are applicable to life in general.

1. Expect Nothing

When I was a fresh-out-of-uni graduate, I applied for many roles and almost always got a auto-generated rejection. However in my second experience, it was incredibly rare to get a response from anyone. I would submit my application, it would end up in the ether and I would never hear about it again. Well that is until I saw the same job get relisted a month or two later. Eventually I discovered from colleagues that this was quite common (but why, isn't it simply common courtesy?) and I was being unrealistic in my expectations.

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but setting the bar really low means that something as simple as having HR send a generic email exceeds expectations. On the flip side, remember that they have to sift through a dozen to a few hundred applicants. Applying for a job may mean the world to you but at the end of the day, it simply doesn't have the same level of importance for the company.

2. Become Resilient

As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Yet when looking for a job, that is exactly what needs to be done. Over the past few years I have applied for well over 200 roles and received 2 offers. To be quite frank, a dismal strike rate.

When the search takes weeks, months or longer, it becomes draining and unbearable. But there is always a end - there has to be - and remembering that is comforting. Have faith that something will eventuate. Things will happen when they do and at the right time. Although I must admit that realisation only becomes apparent after the fact.

Being resilient is an invaluable life skill; life tends to throw curveballs and all you can do is just plough through.

3. Rely on gutt instinct

I am a strong believer of relying on gutt instinct. If there are warning bells or a niggly feeling at the back of your mind, then reconsider whether you are interested in that role or the company. A job may just be a means to an end, but remember that you will have to spend at least 35 hours a week at the same place. Day in and day out - wash, rinse, repeat.

However it is also important to remember that the role may simply be a stepping stone to wherever it is that you want to be. It is not a life sentence but - like everything in life - can be a invaluable learning opportunity if you choose to view it in that manner.

4. Be open-minded

Unless you know exactly the role that you want, it is important to be open minded. Broaden your search and look at what other jobs are out there! Whether that is in another city, another industry or even just using different keywords. Remember that the same title might not be used consistently across the various industries.

I think it is also important to apply for jobs that may be completely left field. During my job hunt, my mantra soon became, "I'll cross that bridge when I get there". I'd reconsider the role if I was to get an interview. I'd reconsider the role after the interview. I'd reconsider the role after I got an offer. Sometimes you just have to give it a shot and honestly, what is the worst that could happen?

5. Look after yourself

During my first job hunting experience, I had a casual job which was a saviour. It meant that I had something to occupy my time and I wasn't sitting around waiting for companies to respond. Yet for the second experience, I was in a job that I disliked and wanted desperately to get out of. But being unable to was incredibly depressing - I wanted to have another job to go to ideally. So what did I end up doing? I went on roadtrips for most of my long weekends as driving for hours on end was liberating and a little therapeutic as well.

The process is gruelling and at times completely and utterly soul crushing. It is so incredibly important to remember to take care of yourself and do the things that you love to do. Remember - you can only control the things within your control.

And for heavens sake, do not look at Linkedin and people's fancy titles at fancy companies. They really don't mean much at the end of the day.

What have you learnt from your job hunting experiences? Has the process been more positive for you than it was for me?

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