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7 Lessons I Learned from My Job-hunting Experiences

7 Lessons I Learned from My Job-hunting Experiences

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    Among the many ironies of the so-called ‘real world’ is not getting the job when I knew I gave my best interview. For instance, there was this firm I really wanted to work for and I was thrilled to be invited to interview on two separate occasions, only to be rejected both times. I was devastated for the next 24 hours, but I got over it. As of today, I’ve been part of the labor force for six years and I’ve had four regular jobs and a variety of freelance projects on the side. It doesn’t make me an expert, but I sure have learned lessons from every job application that somehow proved to be valuable when applied in my subsequent interviews (Hint: I’m a few days away from celebrating my second year at my present job).

    Today, I’m sharing with you the lessons I’ve learned in my personal job-hunting experiences and how they can help you avert unnecessary stress when you’re attending that interview.

    1. Read the directions when taking exams.

    Following this single piece of advice can help you, not just in getting the job, but also in saving yourself from embarrassment. You wouldn’t want to look back to a job that you almost had but didn’t get because you encircled the letters of your answers only to find out that the directions specified to use boxes. There are companies who segregate candidates’ exams according to those who followed the instructions and those who didn’t, and consider the latter rejected. This helps hiring personnel judge how applicants respond to instructions and if they are detail oriented.

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    Then again, following exam instructions shouldn’t mean that you can’t be creative with your answers. Before I got hired for my first real job, I took a barrage of tests that looked like a college entrance exam. But the part that left an indelible mark in my mind was the test where I had to complement a subject with a predicate. I didn’t want to be remembered as a boring writer applicant so I gave answers that I thought were witty. I’m not sure whether my brand of humor appealed to the supervisor, but I got the job. So unless you’re dead sure you can inspire a revolution in how the company views defiance of exam rules, deliberate disobedience or mere recklessness can take a backseat in your job hunting.

    2. Don’t just rehearse answering the basic questions; anticipate the trivial ones.

    If you’ve been in the job-seeking arena for quite some time, you’ve probably mastered the skill of answering the omnipresent interview questions (read: ‘How you see yourself in five years?’ ‘Why should you be hired?’ and ‘What you can contribute to the company’s growth?’). More often than not, it is tradition that dictates the inclusion of these questions on the list of a company’s interview protocol. However, a lot of hiring managers have outgrown this custom and began injecting fresh ideas into their interview guidelines. I remember a former boss asking me in a final interview what my worst trait was, while some inquire as far as the book you’re currently reading (that is, if you read at all) just to get a better idea of your personality.

    While it’s all right to prepare for the orthodox questions, you also have to consider the possibility that you’ll encounter something unconventional, or at least something you haven’t heard of. You don’t have to know what exactly the hiring manager will ask you, but it could help if you brush up on unique interview questions online. The point is that you don’t flinch upon hearing a question you didn’t rehearse for. Plus, anticipating trivial inquiries can help you become more self-aware and confident.

    3. Sell yourself but do not lie.

    One of the challenges I faced in my neophyte stages of job-hunting was describing myself. If it were up to me, I’d rather have the interviewer ask something—anything—about me and I’d give an honest answer. The thing is, the hiring staff needed to prove the part of my résumé where I said I had excellent written and verbal communication skills, and they gave me a chance to demonstrate both. Over time, these same experiences, as well as the skills I gained in my previous jobs, made me realize that selling myself to an interviewer wasn’t as complicated as I saw it.

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    You might think that there will always be applicants who are better than you, and you’re probably right. But if you really want to get the job, you have to make your case stronger by talking about your skills and your accomplishments. There are times, however, when people go as far as exaggerating their stories or lie blatantly just to get the job. It may be tempting to sugarcoat your achievements but remember that when you get hired and your boss discovers your lie, your reputation and your job will be on the line.

    4. Dress up for the job but do not sacrifice comfort.

    The kind of outfit you should wear to interviews depends on the company you’re applying to. Firms that have long been established often stick to wearing formal ensembles, while startup companies tend to be more lenient with their dress code and allow for smart casual outfits. Most job postings these days include the details of the company’s attire policies, but in case it isn’t provided, you can ask the hiring staff when you confirm your interview schedule. However, just because the HR tells you to wear something ‘smart casual’ doesn’t mean you can get away with jeans and black-rimmed spectacles.

    Dress like it’s your first day on your new job. Gentlemen, get yourselves a decent pair of trousers, a crisp button down shirt, and dress shoes. Ladies, wear your best skirt or slacks, a nice blouse or a chic dress, and a pair of heels that you can actually walk on. If heels aren’t your thing, wear flats that scream business. Also, don’t be afraid to put on a dash of color using light makeup. Avoid anything that you still have to break into, such as new shoes, unless you fancy risking blisters on your feet on the day of your interview. Skip anything that doesn’t fit comfortably but don’t go overboard in dressing up. A wrong choice of outfit can affect your disposition and might even sabotage your chances of impressing potential employers.

    5. Make friends with other applicants.

    Making friends with your fellow applicants has its merits. For one thing, talking to someone while waiting can help you relax your nerves, and for another, it helps you expand your professional network. Your job application can only have two outcomes—either you get it or you don’t. Either way, good friends in the field can point you to other opportunities and vice versa.

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    However, engaging fellow candidates shouldn’t be invasive either. Keep the conversation to a professional level; your biographies can wait until you’ve added each other on Facebook. Also, bear in mind that some people might simply want to keep to themselves, so take a hint from their body language if they mind small talk.

    6. Bring a book that you enjoy reading.

    I mentioned earlier that some interviewers ask applicants about the books they’ve read, but why would they want to know? An applicant who likes to read communicates openness to new ideas and the will to learn new things. Case in point: if you want to up your chances of getting your dream job and make a good impression, become more interesting by reading different kinds of material.

    My love for reading is a habit that easily manifested as I entered the world of employment. It didn’t matter what book I was reading, I’d bring it to the interview and read while waiting for my turn. Apart from saving me from boredom, it also served as an easy icebreaker when other applicants jumped into conversation. Furthermore, describing myself in the interview became easier because I could talk about reading, among other things.

    7. Remember that at the end of the day, the person who will interview you is human.

    Job interviews can be nerve-racking the first few times you do it and even more so when (a) it’s a big ticket job you’re trying to get; (b) if the person who’s interviewing you is a company executive; or (c) both. And while there are some hiring managers who take pleasure in intimidating candidates, many of them are simply doing their job. To be fair, what they do isn’t as easy as it looks. Nevertheless, it’s convenient to blame hiring personnel when we don’t get the job, but it is the higher ups who ultimately decide your fate as far as their company is concerned.

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    Still, the recommendation of the hiring manager can affect your overall evaluation, and this is where making a good first impression comes in. Show up for the interview on time, make eye contact, shake people’s hands firmly, dress sharp, and do your homework. What the interviewer will say about you may not be within your control but you can definitely do something to earn brownie points.

    Relax, it’s just an interview. And while getting the job would be fantastic, a rejection shouldn’t define your entire career.

    Featured photo credit: job interview image via ixdaily.com

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

    Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

    Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

    Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

    How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

    The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

    You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

    Physical Signs

    Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

    It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

    In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

    Mental Signs

    One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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    I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

    Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

    • The tension in your neck
    • Difficulties with sleeping
    • Unable to concentrate
    • High anxiety
    • Depression

    If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

    Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

    Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

    The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

    Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

    Desire for an Increase of Salary

    The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

    At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

    Overnight Decision

    Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

    Rejected for a Promotion

    I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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    Bored at Work

    Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

    A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

    • How long have you worked in your career?
    • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
    • Do you receive recognition?
    • Can you consider working in a new department?

    If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

    How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

    I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

    One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

    It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

    A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

    You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

    • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
    • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
    • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

    How to Make a Career Change Successfully

    The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

    1. Write a Career Plan

    A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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    You can learn how to set your career plan here.

    2. Weigh Your Options

    If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

    You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

    3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

    It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

    A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

    • Economic factors
    • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
    • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
    • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
    • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

      A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

      4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

      A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

      • What is required to be successful in the role?
      • What certification or educational development is needed?
      • What are the challenges of the role?
      • Is there potential for career advancement?

      A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

      Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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      5. Research Salary

      Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

      It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

      6. Be Realistic

      If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

      For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

      Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

      7. Volunteer First

      A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

      Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

      Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

      8. Prepare Your Career Tools

      I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

      • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
      • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
      • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
      • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

      Bottom Line

      It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

      Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
      [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
      [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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