Monday, September 5, 2016

Job Hunt Update: A Good Post for Labor Day

I got the one job I didn't apply for.

I've accepted a position as a writer at an educational non-profit.  I'm very excited to be able to combine my writing skills with supporting education, something I passionately believe in.

And I didn't apply for the job.  I didn't even know that it was open.  A friend of a friend, someone whom I had met for coffee for 20 minutes, someone I didn't even know existed prior to that coffee, passed on my resume to a friend of hers whom she met through a professional association.  In fact, passed on my resume without even telling me, so when I got a call for a job interview, I was very confused!  When I was emailing back and forth with HR to set up a job interview, one email included a link so that I could apply online.  I went through the entire job interview without even knowing how I had gotten there!  Finally, at the end of the interview, my future boss asked me how I knew her friend, and then I figured out how I had ended up at the interview.

Job hunting is probably very different depending on the economy of where you live and your level of education.  But as a reference point, I live in Lincoln, Nebraska and I have a doctorate in English.  I was changing careers from teaching to writing, mostly using my five years of freelance writing experience.

My job hunt statistics:

Interviews: 19
Companies interviewed with: 5
Networking meetings: 10
Jobs applied for: 38
Duration: exactly 6 months, to the day  (Feb 17-Aug 17)

I am, obviously, a big fan of networking!  (Although, to be fair, my husband also got a new job this summer and he just applied online.) 

I learned a lot during my job hunt.  I learned about myself and my values, as well as about the process and the importance of being organized and consistent.  I was amazed at the constant kindness of strangers.

The process itself actually worked fairly well.  Jobs I really didn't want I generally tended not to get.  There was even a job that I thought I wanted (well, a little) and then when my husband accepted a position at the same company and found out more about what I would have been doing, we were both very glad that I didn't get the job.

My Rules for Job Hunting
– Set a date for when you are going to get desperate and until that date do not apply for jobs you don't really want.  My mantra was that "I'm not getting desperate until December."  Since I finished teaching in May, December seemed like a good point to lower my standards.  However, in a few moments of depression I applied for some jobs that I didn't really want.  I ended up getting offers for some of those jobs, putting me in a difficult position.  When I was not feeling quite so depressed, I realized that I did not want to end my job hunt with a job I didn't really want, at least not in August!  But it was really hard to turn down a definite job offer.  Plus I spent a lot of time going to interviews, etc. for those jobs that I didn't really want.  It would have been much simpler if I have not applied for them until I got Desperate in December.

– Write down the job title, employer, and application date for every job you apply for.  I know you think you're going to remember.  Or that you’re so sure you're going to get this one because it is perfect so you don't have to write anything down.  Neither of those two things is necessarily true.  I was very glad to have a record so I knew when I could give up on a job or send a polite email inquiring about the status of my application.

– Most employers know that they are going to have to train you.  They are much more interested in enthusiasm for the job and the company mission then I would have thought.  This is why I did not apply for the marketing job at the water bottle manufacturing company.  It's hard to get excited about a product that in most cases is not necessary and is going to end up in a landfill within a week of it being purchased.

A burning question is whether or not to apply for jobs that are kind of a stretch.  I would say yes, go ahead and apply, unless they are government jobs.  (I am including city, county, and state in that.)  Generally the HR department doesn't have much flexibility when it is a government job.  But one of the things I discovered is that people read your resume very differently at different companies.  It's also hard to judge what is out of your league.  I ended up getting a job offer, for example, as a writer in the marketing department that wrote for an entire corporation.  This was a huge corporation – and a major employer in town – and I had very little experience doing what they wanted.  The pay was amazing.  If I had known how high up the totem pole the job was, I never would have applied for it, thinking I would have no chance.  But unknown to me, the company was hiring 18 people in the marketing department, so they gave me an interview, even though they probably wouldn't have under normal circumstances.  I also applied for endless non-teaching jobs at the local university where I got my doctorate.  The two that I got called for interviews on were at completely opposite ends of the pay spectrum, one being more money than I ever would have fantasized about making in my entire life and the other paying exactly the same as a part-time job at Sam's Club.  It takes some trial and error to figure out your range. 

Also, just like you can lose a job for a stupid reason that you know nothing about ("She reminds me of my ex-wife") you can also end up getting invited to interview for reasons that you know nothing about (“We’re going to have to interpret these requirements loosely if we ever expect to hire this many people this quickly”).  It is easier to deal with the randomness, if you realize that it sometimes works in your favor.

So good luck to all job hunters!  I’m glad to report that my search had a happy ending.  And I’m very grateful to God and to everyone who prayed for me.

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