It’s been exactly one month since I handed in my notice at Luzerne. Since then it’s been a roller-coaster ride along the ups and downs of unemployment, driven by the energy of liberation, the adrenalin of the hunt, and a little bit of fear added into the mix as well.
One thing I hadn’t expected when I stopped working was that, unlike the money, the learning didn’t stop too. In fact, I learnt more over the past 30 days than I did for the previous 30, from all the networking, the skills sessions, the endless rounds of interviews, and the mind-numbing research into the industry. I even got used to wearing a tie – talk about achieving the impossible.
So for all of my friends out there who are still in university and getting ready to join The Hunt, here’s a little bit of advice that I hope will simplify what the recent deluge of fear-mongering literature has made to look like a very complex and daunting task: job-hunting.
Job hunting consists of just two simple steps, in order:
1. Do everything.
Remember, job hunting is a tournament: it’s not about how good you are; it’s how good you are relative to everyone else. That means you have to do every. single. thing. that the careers website / booklet / advisor tells you to, simply because all those other graduates are doing it too. Fall short on anything – be it making a spelling error on your application form or being unprepared for a common interview question – and you become easy pickings for the HR version of Simon Cowell.
2. Do more.
After you’ve made sure you’re on par with everyone else, it’s time to step up your game. The good news is, unlike the first step where you had to do a whole list of tasks, here you only need to do one or two to stand out from the crowd. All you need is a thick skin (thankfully I was able to develop a rhino-like hide from my journalism days). Here are some of the things I’ve done that have been really, really useful:
Do some hardcore networking. That means going beyond the usual exchange of business cards, such as arranging a lunch appointment. I recently watched Wall Street 2 with a whole group of employees from one of the companies I was applying for, who had been working there for a couple of years (and so could answer my questions) and who had been perfect strangers not long ago. I learnt more about the company from the pre-movie drinks session than from the two hours I spent scouring their website.
Do something reasonably crazy. The concept of reasonable insanity is beyond my ability to describe, so I shall use a pretty ideal example: football fans. Take out the word “football” and their actions sound pretty much insane. Some of them drive for hours to watch their team lose (see the away section at Old Trafford). Me, I drove two hours to watch a company presentation video that was available online. However, that fact came in very useful after the video ended and the networking began.
Sell, sell, sell. Become your own salesman selling, well, you. The recruiter didn’t visit your campus or set up an expensive stall in the exhibition hall just to answer your questions. The answers to every relevant question you may have are probably available on the Internet anyway, and I suspect most people are just asking them to show interest. Don’t show interest: make them interested. Go there with your elevator pitch about why you are the best thing since white rice (or sliced bread if you’re European), and give it to the recruiter right off the bat. My experience selling white cups and plates (try coming up with a Unique Selling Point for that) to stuffy middle-aged hotel managers definitely helped when it came to selling myself to nice friendly recruiters.
(You may have noticed that throughout this entry I’ve rather sneakily squeezed in a few positives about myself at strategic locations. That’s selling.)
Don’t procrastinate. That’s why I shall end off this unexpectedly long entry here.