Tag Archives: tips for job-hunting

Tips For Adulthood: Five (More) Tips For Job Hunting

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As I intimated a few weeks back, I’m shortly to curtail my freelance career and go back to work full-time.

I’ve been looking for a job for a while now, so this turn of events is a huge weight off of my shoulders financially, emotionally and logistically.

Back when I was towards the beginning of this process, I shared some job-hunting tips. But now that I’m on the other side – offer in hand (albeit not signed, sealed and delivered which is why I’ll wait just a tiny bit longer to share the good news!) – I have a bit more advice to impart from the trenches.

To wit, five more useful tips for job hunting:

1. Networking matters. Not long ago, a friend of mine who’s about to start looking for work asked me to have a coffee one morning. I told her that I couldn’t because I was having an “informational interview” that day connected to my job-hunt. “What’s that?” she asked, unfamiliar with the term. “Oh, you know. It’s when you network with people in the sector you’re interested in so that they can give you leads and advice.” “Oh,” she answered. “I’d never thought about doing that.” I’ve said it before but it bears saying again: networking – with friends, with former colleagues, with friends of former colleagues, with former colleagues of friends and just about anyone who will open their door to you – is probably the most expedient way to land yourself a job. I was offered three terrific (short-term) projects during my job hunt right in the area I was looking to move into, all by virtue of networking with strangers.

2. Don’t ignore job listings. When I started my job hunt, one friend told me that I shouldn’t even bother to respond to ads in the newspaper and assorted job-related list serves because I’d never find work that way. “It’s all about who you know,” she said dismissively. She was wrong. The two interviews I had for full-time jobs in the last six weeks both came about because I answered an advertisement. No contacts. No special pleading. Just me and my CV. So as soon as you know what it is you’d like to do, get yourself signed up for as many job alerts as possible. Among other things, it gives you a great sense of the range of possible jobs out there in your field as well as what they pay. Here are some tips for answering a job ad which I found to be spot on for my own job-hunting (and interviewing) process.

3. Be persistent. Much like blogging, I think the number one thing that you need in order to get you through the ups and downs of a job-hunt is perseverance. I have another friend who told me that she feels like she *ought* to be looking for work but hasn’t gotten around to doing much about it yet.  To which I responded: “Then you’re not ready.” Looking for a job is an an exhausting process, one that entails scanning of job alerts, following up with contacts (see #1), writing cover letters, adjusting your CV, scheduling (and then re-scheduling) informational interviews and – if you’re lucky – actually doing a few formal job interviews (which themselves take a lot of time to prepare.) So if you don’t have the fire in your belly (or your wallet!) to take this on, wait until you do. You’ll be much more effective. And that energy will carry you through the days when it feels like it’s just one rejection letter after the next.

4. Be honest with yourself. Once you do have a job offer, be really honest with yourself about what you need. Not just salary – though that matters too. Be honest about what you’re looking for in terms of  hours, commute time, benefits, working from home, flex-time, dress code, office culture etc. And be sure to ask lots of questions about these things. (But only once you have the offer!) In my own case, I realized that in light of childcare concerns, impending summer holidays and imminent move, it would be really hard for me to start full-time right away in my new job, even though that’s what I’d applied to do. When I relayed this to my (new) boss – wondering aloud whether I should just postpone my start date until I could sort some of that out – he immediately suggested that I start part-time. So that’s what I’m going to do for the first couple of months, scaling up to full-time thereafter. And as soon as he said that, I felt a tremendous wave of relief. Remember, you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

5. Evaluate three things. When I was trying to make some hard choices over the past month, I consulted with a lot of friends about my options. One friend wisely counseled me to think about the following three things when deciding whether or not to take a job: a. Are you passionate about what you’ll be doing or do you at least find it sufficiently interesting? b. Does the job fit your lifestyle vis travel/hours/commute etc. (see #4) and c. Will you be working with smart, interesting and/or likable people? The closer you can get to answering all three of these questions when evaluating an employment opportunity, the less likely you are to make a mistake.

What am I missing?

 

Image: 2011/02/03 by jazzijava via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

 

 

 

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.