A survivor’s guide to job hunting when you’re out of work
I wanted to share an article published on LinkedIn by a HR Director connection of mine, Matthew Free. Matthew shared his recent observations having been in the unenviable position of needing to look for a new job having been made redundant. Following a 6 month effort to find a new role, Matthew brings his characteristic pragmatism to this article ‘Lessons from Unemployment’. Not only does he offer some really insightful advice at a practical level, I think it’s his measured perspective to the process as a whole that is really valuable. At times such as these it’s easy for more negative emotions get the better of you, amplifying the inevitable frustrations that are experienced along the way. I’m fortunate to have only gone through this type of thing once before, and for a relatively short period, but the pressures of life can quickly mount up when you don’t know when the end of a job search may be in sight.
The only additional pearl I’d add to Matthew’s wisdom is this – don’t forget to bring your A game for each and every interview. This may sound obvious, but even though you may be bored to death of talking about yourself, it’s likely to be the first time the interviewer has heard it, and if you want the job you need to engage them with you, and make sure they feel you’re excited about them. I almost lost a job offer because the final feedback was ‘we really liked you, but we couldn’t work out if you liked us!’ I was very pleased to be offered that job, but almost blew it.
Here is Matthew’s article below, but you can also click the link above to go to the original version on LinkedIn if you’d like to comment or share if something resonates with you.
Thank you to Matthew for giving me permission to use this article, and sharing your thoughts so freely!
Lessons from Unemployment
It’s Not You, It’s Them
By the time you get to the interview you’ve crossed most of the obstacles to employment; you’ve applied, the recruiter has selected your CV, you’ve been long-list interviewed and picked as one of the 3 or 4 people that the employer will see. They’ve also done that for the other candidates, so everyone you’re up against can do the job. The only difference between you is how you’d do it; action-orientated, emotionally sensitive, data-driven – you’ll all get the job done in your own way. But only one of you will ‘have the right cultural fit’ (be the one the hiring manager likes best) and you can’t control that so you need to give it up to fate. The key thing is; you got in the room, gave yourself a chance, did your best. Your time will come.
It’s a numbers game
Have a plan. If you are clear about the type of job you want; sector, seniority, site, and salary, then there is a direct relationship between the time and effort you put into your job hunt and the number of opportunities you receive. From the paragraph above we see that with enough opportunities you will find a role, so put the work in.
It’s not a full-time job
Looking for work is a tough, sometimes lonely, frequently dispiriting job, so if you don’t want to look back on this time with loathing, break it up a bit. A friend of mine used to look for work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I did all my job hunting in the morning and then I did something I loved in the afternoon; walk the dog, visit a friend, dig the garden, bake a cake. Do something that this time lets you do. It helps you maintain perspective.
People love being asked their opinion, for feedback or for help, so speak to your network; ‘What do you think of my CV?’, ‘What’s going on in your industry?’, ‘Can you introduce me to …?’ I was frequently told that personal recommendations are now the principle route to employment in the UK, I’ve got no idea where they got that from, or if it’s true, but after the last 6 months I’m prepared to believe it. So, while you probably hate networking as much as I do, you’ve got to do it. There are lots of places to find help with this, Heather White for example has some good stuff to read and watch. (https://smarter-networking.com/how-to-work-a-room/)
It’s not beneath you, get over yourself. A little humility now and again is a good thing.
£73.10 a week won’t meet the mortgage, but it might run the car, pay for the phone, or dry-clean the interview suit. They also pay your NI contributions – it’s good to keep an eye on the longer term.
The Job Centre is a good place to plug into local support networks, especially around practical matters and for coping with the morale issues which come with unemployment. There’s also something comforting about realising that you’re not alone and there is no guilt in noticing that you are better equipped than many to face the challenge ahead.
Reflect on Progress
Keeping perspective is important, especially in what can be a frustratingly non-linear process; Keep track of who you’ve spoken to, the interviews you’ve had and the feedback you’ve been given. Make a point of looking back every so often and congratulating yourself on what you’ve done. When most of the time your efforts don’t lead to a job it is helpful to remind yourself that you are doing the right things; that you have made so many new contacts, attended so many interviews, made it to the ‘final 2’ so many times. It helps with self-confidence.
There are times when frustration at the inequities of life becomes too much, – give in to these feelings, wallow, don’t fight it, it will only nag away at you. Sit on the sofa with Bridget Jones and a pint of ice cream/ James Bond and a pint of dry martini (choose your reactionary sexist stereotype to suit) and wallow in your misery, get it all out and then move on.
Frequently the recruitment process starts on-line. For big companies it seems that this is focused on eliminating all but the narrowest matches to the job description – reducing huge numbers to a manageable few. I quickly got tired of re-writing my CV into a poorly populated on-line candidate-details form and decided that the reward was not worth the effort. For small companies I found that you connected to a human in-house recruiter more quickly and so, for smaller companies, I stuck with the on-line process.
You’re the Product
As a candidate you are the recruiter’s product, not their customer. After an initial quality assurance check, if there is not a suitable job immediately available, you will be warehoused until required. If you are lucky you will occasionally be taken off the shelf and dusted-down to check your sell-by date. There is nothing personal about this, the structure of the industry makes it so. Accept that your relationship with recruiters is purely a commercial one and embrace it, use it; call them regularly to update them on your progress, pass on any gossip or market insight that might help them, make sure you stay at the top of their mind so that when the opportunity arises they think of you first.