Tag Archives: looking for a job

Tips For Adulthood: Five Tips For Job-Hunting

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

So I’m looking for a job. Happily, this isn’t the first time I’ve undergone this process. And so, as I go about all the endless networking and cover-letter writing that job-hunting demands, I realize that I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that have helped me execute my search efficiently.

To wit, here are five things to bear in mind as you job-hunt:

1. Cast a wide net. When people ask me for advice on changing careers, I always tell them to spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to do next before plunging into the job search. That said, you don’t want to be too narrow, especially in this economy. Rather, you want to have a fairly solid area of focus, with one or two related sub-fields. In my case, for example, I’m focusing mostly on non-profits that work with youth and journalism and/or creative writing. But I’m also looking at foundations, start-ups, media outfits, universities and consultancies, some of which focus on youth and/or writing and some of which don’t.

2. Organizations matter more than jobs. In keeping with #1, I also believe that if you find an organization whose mission you really endorse and a job there that more or less fits the bill, go for it. If you really like what they’re doing, and you can get your foot in the door, you can always work your way up to the job that you really want. This is a no-brainer for young people who have nothing to lose. It’s a bit trickier when you get older and money and seniority start to matter more. (See below.) But assuming that a given job is at a reasonable level of seniority for your age and experience, by all means take a pay or status cut if it means going somewhere you can believe in and imagine yourself staying. Long-term happiness is worth more than a few bucks.

3. Colleagues matter too. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years, and one that’s also backed up by research. You can have the best, most seemingly-perfect job in the world. But if you  find yourself eating your tuna-fish sandwich alone at your desk every day for lunch, it won’t matter one bit. In my own case, one of the driest jobs I ever had in terms of substance – (we sat around evaluating lending documents all day long) – was also one of the most fun. We constantly held office parties, played practical jokes on one another and basically laughed ourselves silly through each and every day. It almost didn’t matter what we were doing. I was reminded of this the other night around 11 p.m. when I was staring at a job application that was due in one hour’s time, debating whether or not I should bother to apply. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, and I was leaning against, until I clicked onto the “bio” page of the staff members – and found myself not only impressed by their credentials, but actually smiling at the way they presented themselves. And the more I looked at the website, the more I thought to myself, “Gosh, it would be fun to work here.” Whenever you get that feeling, hit send.

4. Money isn’t irrelevant. OK. So I just said that money doesn’t matter as much as finding a place that matters. And that’s true, within reason. But you also have to factor in other things…like life. I’m in a mode, as I’ve said before, where I really want to give back. The problem with jobs that “give back” (in case you haven’t gotten that memo) is that they generally pay pretty poorly. Oh yeah. And we’re also trying to buy a flat. In London. (Insert laugh track.) So I can’t afford to take a job that pays peanuts. Which doesn’t mean that I feel like I need to march down to The City (London’s version of Wall St.) and take the next available position at Barclay’s. But I can’t entirely ignore economics either. As a wise friend of mine counseled me recently when I told her that jobs in one sector I was looking at paid double what jobs in another sector did: “Take the higher paying job. You’ll feel better about yourself. Trust me.” I’ve been pondering this ever since.

5. Don’t forget politics. The very first time I ever looked for a job I was 23-years old. I had just returned from a year traveling and studying in Central America, and was living in Washington, D.C. I was hoping to get a job with a think tank working on Latin American politics. The first place that called me in for an informational interview was a Center-right research policy research center where I knew someone who knew someone. After plying me with questions, their senior Latin Americanist  sat back in her chair and looked me squarely in the eyes. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way. But you seem like a nice person and I’m going to give you a piece of advice. In this town,” she said, gesturing with both hands to indicate the sweep of the Capitol city. “It’s important to feel comfortable. So wherever you end up working, just be sure you feel comfortable.” Pause. “Ideologically.” I never saw that lady again. But I’ve never forgotten those words. Nor should you.

 

Industry Insider Series – Information Technology Events, Vancouver by Lucien Savluc via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

When Looking For A Job, Trust Your Gut

I’m in full-on job hunt mode.

I’m pouring over listings, sending out cover letters and networking wildly (in person and Online).

As I mentioned last week, I love looking for work. So I find this process energizing rather than enervating. But even as a veteran of two career changes (with a possible third in the works), I still find myself making rookie mistakes.

I realized this the other night when I was out for drinks with a group of parents from my daughter’s class. I got to chatting with one of the Dads, a journalist who works for a financial news outlet. I told him that I was looking for work and asked him to keep an eye out for any positions that might open up at his company.

“Do you like finance?” he asked.

“Not really,” I said. “But I know something about it and could definitely do it.”

He frowned. Only moments earlier, I’d confessed to the entire group that I’d almost stayed home that night to watch the first episode of the season on Glee. And as we all know, that’s normally the sort of thing I leave social engagements to do.

“You should write about musical theatre,” he observed. “It’s always best to do what you love.”

How right he was. In fact, it’s precisely the same advice I always give to others when they consult me on career change: figure out what you like and what you’re good at and where those intersect. Harder than it sounds, but well worth the effort.

While I don’t think a career as a West End musical critic is in the cards for me right now (much as I would adore it), this fellow did remind me that it’s really important to keep my eye on the prize: not the jobs – like financial journalism – that I *should* apply to because I’m qualified for them. But the jobs that I want to apply to because I’m passionate about them.

In other words, as with so many things in life, beware the dreaded SHOULDs.

How fortuitous then, that the following video popped into my Inbox this morning (sent to me by the very same journalist-friend in question.) It’s from a new company based here in London called Escape The City, a self-described community of “talented professionals who ‘want to do something different.'”

On its About page, Escape The City features a motivational video called Start Something You Love. I must have watched it about three times this morning and sent it on to a few friends as well. (You gotta love the guy who dumped his job as a hedge fund manager in London to become a Galudo Beach Lodge manager in Mozambique.)

Sounds great but how do you start? If you’re one of the millions of people out there who’s having trouble figuring out what it is that you really want to do with your life, here are four tips for determining your dream job, courtesy of Susan Cain over on Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’d seen some variation on the first three ideas before. But I’d never seen the last one – which is to pay attention to what makes you cry.

I’ve been thinking about it all morning.

Sniff.

 

Image: vacancy by digitalpimp via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

 

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