In a previous post I shared about the identity crisis I had after being made redundant. I got a lot of feedback that the post was useful, and so I thought I’d share some things I found helpful while job hunting.
While I was in the fortunate position of having a very public calling card, and a reasonable profile in the Wellington tech scene, it still wasn’t easy.
The reality of job hunting is that for any job advertised, there can be only one. You need to be confident, but also realistic, as lots of other people will be applying for the same jobs.
There are things you can do that increase your chances, and to help you stay sane during the process. These are things that I did, and resources I found helpful.
Set a routine. Get out of bed, as if you were working, and get to work on finding a job. The first day after your last day is the biggest challenge. Plan out what you are going to do every day.
Having a routine also helps stave off low mood and depression. If you find yourself going down this path, seek help. If you have not yet left the organisation, and Employee Assistance counselling is available, use it.
Your loss of job is going to have an impact on your partner, and wider family. Take a 5-day weekend and get away for a mini-holiday.
The most useful thing when job hunting is your network. These are the folk in related or adjacent businesses who you have coffee with, who you eat with at conferences, and who you interact with on social media. Let them know that you are available, and the type of work you are doing. I did it with a blog post.
If you are not sure of where to focus your efforts, seek wise council. One of the challenges I had came from having worked in a small team that effectively ran as a startup. Like all startups that meant I got to work, and develop skills, in a lot of different areas. My natural tendency was to look for a job that had similar attributes. Koz put me straight on this. I should pick a track – management, coding, or product – and focus on just one. I was worried about getting bored, and having to choose between solving problems with code, and solving business problems. Jay helped there, pointing out that code could become a hobby again. Dave helped me boost my confidence that I had something to offer to the market, and Melissa on identifying my unique skill mix. (Thanks to them, and to others I haven’t mentioned.)
Start the process of job hunting by writing yourself some case studies. These should be one or two pages, and cover projects you’ve worked on. A case study should outline what the project was, what the desired outcome was, the process you went through to find the solution, and how you executed the plan. You should also state the critical success factors, and how the project met those.
A case study should highlight your thought processes, and the skills you applied during execution. This helps recruiters and recruiting managers see how you think and solve problems.
The process of writing case studies will also help you catalogue skills that you have, and from there you can think about how those might be transferable, and what roles might be of interest.
Also put together a standard CV, and if you are out of practice find a recruitment agency that specialises in the types of jobs you are looking for. They will have a good ideas of what companies in your sector look for in a CV. If you are on the technology side, use a tech focussed agency. I found Stephanie at Place Recruitment very helpful.
Find a recruiter who will work with you, and who you can work with. All the recruiters I spoke with (eight in all), bar one, were professional and maintained good communications.
Of course you can, and should, make direct contact with companies. Many have their own recruiting systems, and there is nothing wrong with using your network to find the right person to contact about potential roles. I got two interviews for roles that were about to be advertised this way.
As it turned out, the ONLY interviews I got were for jobs discovered through my network.
Keep track of jobs in a spreadsheet, and write date seen, date applied, and any responses into the sheet.
One technique I found very helpful when looking at new roles was visualisation. For each job I was interested in I read all the information about the job, and researched the organisation. Using that information, I mentally placed myself into the role I was interested in, and imagined using the skills I had to do the work.
This help me get some sense of how I might operate, and whether it was going to be a good fit. It also highlighted questions about the role – where did it fit in the organisation, how much management vs hands-on their might be, and what support systems (IT, etc) there might be. It also helped in identifying questions to ask the recruiting manager.
The other thing is that it’ll help with your confidence.
One important note: What I am NOT talking about here is the “visualise and get your dream job” technique that a Google search for visualise new job returns. Visualisation can help with motivation, but it is still up to you to present yourself in the best light possible to the recruiting manager.
If you’ve been in the same job a long time interviews are going to be tough. The advantage you have over people who have less life and job experience, is just that, life and job experience.
Most interviews these days use behavioural questions – “tell me about a time when you did ‘X'”. The rationale is that the past success and performance is a good indicator of future success in similar situations. You will have tons of examples, both from work, your sports clubs, the school board, and so on. Get a hold of some interview questions and practice
The best resource I found for preparing for interviews was the Manager Tools podcasts on job interviews*. They also have a whole interview series ($cost) which I didn’t buy, but based on the quality of the free podcasts I’d expect this to be very good. The podcasts have a huge amount of detail, which is handy, and the material is still helpful in the NZ context despite being build around the US-style recruitment.
Just keep at it, and keep checking in with your support network too. Share openly about how you feel with people you trust. It is easy to get discouraged after applying for roles and not getting interviews. It’s probably not personal.
Interviews will come, and for each one you should review and reflect on how you did, and adjust and improve what you did. All going well, you should have an offer in no time at all.
Don’t give up.
If you have tips to share, add them as a comment.
* Disclosure: I am a Manager Tools licensee