When you read about people’s job search experiences, you get the impression that many have significant difficulties when looking for a job. Many may wonder whether this is only because of “me”. The feeling may become even more pronounced if you happen to be unemployed. However, the job search challenges are largely due to the turmoil in present-day working life, the technological changes affecting how companies operate, the impact of climate change on business, the coronavirus, the recession, the labour market situation etc. Looking for a job is just so much more challenging right now, and it’s certainly not only because of “you”.
Each job seeker has a personal background and starting point – two completely identical job seekers do not exist. The factors and challenges that affect job search are always individual. What is a problem for someone is perhaps an opportunity for the other, and vice versa. Sometimes we may not pay attention to the obvious. However, it is essential to be aware of all factors involved and their impact on a job search process. Otherwise, you can by mistake take wrong actions or make incorrect conclusions about why “you” were not chosen for the job you applied for or even invited for an interview.
Below are examples of the so-called “obvious job search factors”. I think every reader already knows the factors mentioned. However, I am not sure whether everyone realises the significance and impact they may have on their job search, thoughts, and actions. This short article allows me to briefly deal with only some of the factors that affect job search.
- Time is seldom a problem when you have a job and are looking for a new one. But, if you become unemployed, the stress starts right away. What am I going to do now, how can I manage, is what most people think. Everybody knows how to look for a job, right? However, when you suddenly become unemployed, your thoughts may no longer be as clear as they were only a moment ago. By paying careful attention to the points below, job search challenges can be better addressed, and it may also calm the mind a little.
- Schedule – many underestimates how long the job search process may take. If you land a new job in 3 months, a little luck is already needed, six months is still perfectly normal, 7–12 months is not uncommon. Sometimes it takes even longer. COVID-19, recession, summer/winter holidays, seasonal variations, labour market situation etc. all impact. There may be big differences geographically and between industries. It’s worth drawing up a realistic schedule, so you don’t fool yourself. If you can find a new job faster, then all the better. On the other hand, if you think that “I” can certainly find a new job in two months when the realistic schedule is six months, this only causes unnecessary stress and anxiety.
- Always start the job search process by carrying out a thorough situation analysis and self-assessment. You must know why you want to change jobs – all the reasons. Also, make sure you know what kind of work, company, work culture and colleagues you like. I am convinced this substantially improves your chances of landing a new job. Now you “know” what you’re looking for and can recognise it when you see it. Not knowing may lead to you accidentally ending up in a job with the same problems and issues you want to get rid of right now. This happens to many.
4. Even if we think we know all the right questions, few of us know all the answers. It’s good to look around and find out what others are doing and think about job search issues. Thus, you most certainly come across useful information. You may also find that you’re not alone with your thoughts and problems. Most other jobseekers likely face the same type of challenges, woes, and thoughts. Knowing this may give some comfort. There are recruitment guides worth reading and good recruitment books – I have also published one 🙂
5. Most projects require an action plan before starting. A job search action plan is a detailed written to-do list that contains all the dos and don’ts, including milestones and checkboxes, and helps to remember, pay attention to, and do things right. It’s also mentally important that you have an action plan. A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a feeling of confidence. Proceeding with a well-thought-out action plan is always better than playing things by ear. When you do things systematically, properly, you get new information, learn new things, and get ideas about how to improve further.
6. Opportunities and pitfalls – when you consider how to perform to your advantage in the job search process, you should also ask yourself what you must not do, so you do not accidentally make mistakes in your disfavour that could easily have been avoided with a bit of thinking. The Internet is full of both types of examples. However, it is worth using common sense and not believing everything that is said out there on the www.
7. Pay good attention to the cover letter and a CV. They do not decide the winning candidate, but they may determine whether you are invited to an interview or not. Sometimes the CV is full of short-term employments. This is not necessarily a showstopper. I just read about a recruiter who in a CV like this saw a person who, in a difficult situation, did not shy away from accepting short-term employments or “bad jobs” while searching for the “good job”, a fighter who never gives up – and hired this person. So, the story behind the CV is essential. You just must get your story out the “right way”. If writing cover letters and CVs is not your own strongest expertise, you should always ask for help. Even if you are good, why not also then spar with someone?
8. When the job search starts, and you eventually are invited to a job interview, you are only halfway. You should always prepare carefully for an interview. Practice questions, answers, even in front of a mirror if you like, check the hiring company background etc. It is crucial that both the questions you ask and the answers you give are your “own”, that they are sensible and helpful for you, not just something you learned from the Internet. We are often so nervous that our ears are buzzing. Most people are more confident and at their best by being their spontaneous selves. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. If you’re good at pretending, you may end up in a job that doesn’t fit you at all as a reward for your good performance. After an interview, it may sometimes feel like it didn’t quite work out as we wanted. Most of the time, however, I believe the interviewer thinks that this went quite well. If, again, you’re sure you messed up, so what. Everybody makes mistakes. Just learn from this and don’t make the same mistake again.
9. If you often get to interviews but never to the next step, you should analyse why. Does e.g., your cover letter/CV perhaps give the recipient a too different impression from what you are really like, and when you meet, you do not correspond to the hiring manager’s expectations? If again, you are never invited to an interview, you should consider whether there is something you could do differently or something you do wrong. Are you perhaps constantly applying for “wrong” job tasks or for jobs/companies where the chances of winning are non-existent? For example, if you, e.g., only apply to “top-rated” jobs/companies, there can easily always be 500 other applicants. You must be pretty good to win a race like this. Are you this good?
10. Only one person can be selected for one job. Reaching the finals but not being chosen for the job doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate. The job interview finals are like a 100m run finale. The differences between the winner and the next runners are hair thin. If you get to 10 job interview finals but are not selected, it still doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate: it’s the exact opposite. The more job interview finals you are invited to, the more certain you and your skills are appreciated. You don’t invite bad candidates to job interview finals. Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Sooner or later, you’re going to be the winner.
11. References are usually asked during the final phase of the recruitment process. References are not by definition a must-have, but if other candidates have references to offer and you don’t, the hiring company probably wonders why so. A few references are always an advantage. Suitable reference persons are, e.g., former supervisors, co-workers, clients. If you didn’t get along with your former boss and therefore you wouldn’t like to give him/her as a reference, tell that to the interviewer. This doesn’t have to be a problem if you have a good reason for this.
12. Companies have job advertisements on websites, magazines, social media, etc., and can thus reach a broad audience. This also has its drawbacks. You can reply to a job ad with almost a click of a button. When this is so easy, the same job may suddenly be picked up by 500 other applicants. Companies have announced that one big challenge in present-day recruitment is a large number of applicants, where many of the applicants are not meeting the application criteria. Also, pay attention. If there are typos in your Cover Letter/CV or they do not contain so-called keywords, you can be dropped from the process by artificial intelligence without anyone even seeing your application, even if you’re a good candidate.
13. Job seekers have several job search channels at their disposal: job advertisements, Headhunters, LinkedIn, CV-databases, HR service companies, cold calls to companies, mouth-to-mouth marketing, network marketing, etc. Stay focused. Proceeding systematically in the various channels available is always more effective than trying to get a hit by just spreading your “job applications” all around by random.
14. Sometimes, the work you would like to land is just not available. If so, you must face the fact that you must do something else if you want to work. In a situation like this, you must be careful not to be caught by negative thinking. Instead, try to see a different kind of work as an opportunity. Indeed, many who have had to switch to other kinds of jobs under duress have suddenly found themselves enjoying themselves quite excellently. Although changing the industry/job may be scary, I promise the alternative is much worse if nothing else is available. It might even be a good idea to try something completely new, and it doesn’t have to be forever. You can apply for your “ideal” job again later if the situation changes for the better. So, in the meantime, why not give some other work a try.
15. Try not to let the status of work, title, status = your professional identity = dignity. If one’s work disappears, this is tough enough. On top of this, if you also feel that you also lost your identity/dignity = how you value yourself, you can easily become anxious, depressed, and even collapse mentally.
16. It is worth thinking that all jobs are of equal value, just as are all people. You don’t have to like all jobs, but if you feel that you’re somehow more “valuable” as a person than other people, just because you have a particular title or status, it is worth looking in the mirror. With this attitude, you unnecessarily exclude many job options because they have the wrong title or status. In Finland, where I am located and writing this article, right now (8/2021) there are 300,000 unemployed, and 155,000 open job vacancies. I would imagine there must exist job opportunities for persons keeping an open mind. At the end of the day, people who are “too choosy” may find they stay unemployed longer, while the more open-minded you are, the bigger the chances of finding and landing a job faster. Even though the local employment market situation of course varies in different countries I think the overall situation many times has similarities.
17. You should not restrict yourself to thinking that career moves can only be made upwards in an organisation. Career moves can be made in all directions, upwards, sidewards, and downwards – if you feel like it. You can change industry, position level, function, job, even reduce your salary. Also, you should not let what others think, colleagues, neighbours, friends, parents, e.g., determine what kind of work or career you are pursuing. Your life, your decision. If someone disagrees, it is their problem, not yours.
18. Don’t be alone with your challenges. Asking for advice or help is never stupid. Not asking can be. Everyone benefits from sparring, even the best. If this confirms we know what we are doing, that’s good to know. I believe that being in a challenging situation and getting confirmation that you are doing things right certainly calms the nerves a little. We also get new information and ideas helpful in finding and landing a new job. If you can discuss, e.g., with a career coach or recruiting professional, excellent. A person who has interviewed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people certainly has perspective and valuable information for you.
PS. If you would like to spar with someone about your job search, but don’t know with whom – maybe worth checking out one-to-one career management webinars by me 🙂 More info here.