Adulthood Truth: Finding a Job is Like Dating

I would like to dedicate this post to Mikhaila, who has been waiting for me to write it for over a year.

Online job boards are barely distinguishable from personal ads. Your resume is your dating profile summary, make it count.

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Just like you wouldn’t tell eHarmony subscribers you like long walks on the beach, don’t tell potential employers you’re “detail oriented”. Likewise, you might be tempted to share why a certain job/relationship will be so good for you, but this is about selling yourself to someone else. Tell your future employer (or love of your life) what you bring to the table in terms of skills and talent, and why they can’t let you get away.

Every interview is a blind date, and has the opportunity to lead to fulfillment of all your dreams… or end in disaster.

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Usually we go into job interviews and first dates with nothing but optimism — what if this is the one? Reality: it’s probably not. As any seasoned dater or interviewee knows, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince charming. I have an outrageous collection of bad date stories (like the time a guy told me all women should get breast implants) and now I have some bad interviews to add to the list (like when a potential employer suggested I pursue an accounting designation. LOL no. Just no.)

It’s about compatibility.

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Often people are so hung up on making a date or interviewer like them, they forget that this is also your chance to determine if they like the date or employer! It might seem like the goal of an interview is to get hired, but it’s really about finding the right fit: somewhere where you want to work AND wants you to work there. Acing an interview for a job you don’t want at a company you don’t want to work for is not an accomplishment and wastes everybody’s time. If you know something isn’t going to work out, gently let the other party down and move on. Quitting or breaking up months down the road when you knew it was headed nowhere from the start is messy and best avoided.

And it’s about timing.

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You might be the right candidate at the wrong time. One of the most discouragingly encouraging things about my MBA internship hunt was seeing how few internships there were, but how many opportunities there were for new graduates. I realized that as much as I was struggling to find a position now, there would be tons of jobs for me at graduation. It was reassuring while at the same time being the most frustrating thing in my young professional life.

“We’ll let you know” is the “I’ll text you later” — it’s not happening.

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Three interviewers told me (and my other classmates who interviewed for the same positions) that they’d let us know either way. They didn’t. Waiting to hear back from a job is the equivalent of waiting for a text back after a date: the worst. Every single time I would have preferred even a curt email that said, “we selected another candidate #sorrynotsorry” over the excruciating radio silence that ensued in its stead. I know to give up on hearing back from a job after 1 week just like I know to give up on hearing back from a date after 48 hours, but a little part of you just holds on. It’s excruciating.

Likewise, asking you about salary expectations or talking about you in the context of having the position is equivalent to “can I see you again?”

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One of my questions at every interview is “who will I report to?” or “how will my performance be measured?”. Firstly, because those are just good things to know, and secondly because I can immediately gauge how the interview is going by how the interviewer answers. If they start off by saying, “the candidate will…” I know I haven’t succeeded at the interview and might be at risk of not hearing back at all. On the other hand, if they say “you will be…” I know they’re already picturing me in the role, which means I’m at least partly (or even fully!) hired in their mind. Another clue is if they ask you about salary expectations. This might seem like a standard interview question, but I find it usually only comes out if the interview is going well and they’re planning to follow up.

When you find The One, nothing else matters.

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When you find it you’ll know. Everything about it feels right, and you feel unbelievably lucky that an opportunity so good even came a long. Suddenly every failed attempt to get any other job makes sense, and you know everything happened exactly as it should have to lead you to this moment.

More posts on my winding job hunt to follow!

Leaving Your Job? Do Your Research!

Employment. It’s a big watchword in today’s economic doldrums, with employment (or unemployment) figures being carefully analysed, dissected and disseminated on a regular basis. The general gist seems to be if you’re in employment then you’re lucky, and if you’re unemployed then your chances of landing another job are slim (but improving, if latest figures are to be believed).

But what if you’re in a job you’re unhappy with? Don’t let the media hype deceive you, there are still jobs out there and you should approach job hunting with the same caution you did in the first place. Receiving a job offer is a big thrill but tempting as it is, don’t just accept your first offer without careful consideration. There are several things you need to mull over before signing on the dotted line.

Location

Maybe travelling for two hours a day doesn’t bother you. But if you have other demands on your time – a young family, perhaps – then you might want a job which is closer to home.

Salary

Most people go out to work to earn a living. Of course, it’s important to be doing something you enjoy and which is fulfilling, but at the end of the day you need to know you’ll be earning what you’re worth, not to mention what you need as an income for your lifestyle. Perform a webcheck to see what others at your level expect to earn, and ask any contacts in the industry you may have, to see if the new job is presenting you with a fair deal.

The Only Way Is Up

If you’re ambitious, then it’s important to know that your new job has some prospects for promotion within the same company. Otherwise you’re likely to be job hunting again before too long.

Enjoy the Challenge

There’s little point moving from one job to another job which is exactly the same. You need to know that you are professionally capable of doing the job, and that it will give you a challenge and be fulfilling, without giving you additional stress levels which you can’t handle.

Get to Know Your Colleagues

Ultimately, you can end up spending more time with your colleagues than with your friends. Check out the company’s culture before you say yes; you need to be working with likeminded people, even if you don’t agree on everything all the time.

Do Your Research

It’s easy to do a simple webcheck to find out things about a company which may not have been apparent at interview. Getting a new job is a great achievement and one you should be proud of, just make sure that you’re not making a rash move.

8 Books You Need To Read To Launch Your Career In Your 20′s

Finding a job post graduation is one of the biggest challenges 20-somethings face. Despite obtaining a formal education and a number of new skills, many grads feel inadequately prepared to actually begin building their career. Is there a life hack to get you started on the road to professional fulfillment? Maybe there’s no single silver bullet, but there is some good advice out there. Below are my 8 favorite books to starting and building your career in your 20′s.

1. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2014: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

If you’re going to build your career, you need to start with a job. This is my go-to recommendation for 20-something job-seekers, so naturally it had to come first on this list. What Color Is Your Parachute? is the ultimate text for everything from resume writing to networking. If you’re on the hunt for a job, this is your manual.

2. How to Win Friends & Influence People

It’s no accident this book has made the bestseller list decade after decade. I’m a huge fan of Dale Carnegie, but this work might be my ultimate favorite. This is an extraordinary guide to developing essential people skills that will take you from generic cubicle employee to rising star. If you think that’s too much praise, just read it. This book will improve your working environment as well as your relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances.

3. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less

The 80/20 rule or the “Pareto Principle” is a well-known pattern that manifests itself in business, and as the author insists, everything else. Essentially the gist of it is that 20% of your efforts should produce 80% of your results. This is an especially helpful director when you feel your skills or talents are dispersed across a number of different things.

4. 10 Make-or-Break Career Moments: Navigate, Negotiate, and Communicate for Success

I stumbled on this book by accident, but I’m thrilled that I did. There is a wealth of wisdom and guidance in this short book, covering everything to how to talk to your company’s CEO to how to quit your job with grace. This book literally went from completely unknown to a must-own for me. This is a perfect gift for new grads.

5. How Will You Measure Your Life?

I received this book as a gift last Christmas, but when I was hunting for textbooks at my university bookstore, I found it under required reading for a second-year MBA class. This is an excellent book for directing your professional pursuits with a sense of greater purpose, the primary emphasis on maintaining and nourishing close personal relationships. If you want to establish a long-term healthy work-life balance, this book is key.

6. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

I’ve mentioned The Dip previously in another post. Though it’s a super-short read, the message is to the point and motivating. How do you tell the difference between a rut and a dead-end when it comes to career stagnation? This little book gives the required push to stick it out for long-term benefits, and some guidance on when to bail.

7. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

This is a book if you have trouble getting motivated. We all procrastinate — heck, I procrastinated finishing this book! But once I did, the take-away lesson has stayed with me. “Eating a frog” refers to a task that is necessary but you don’t necessarily want to do. Instead of putting it off, the book teaches you to do it first — but the overall message is just shut up and do it. I particularly liked the advice about if you have multiple unpleasant tasks: if you have two frogs to eat, eat the ugliest one first. Now when I have a lengthly to-do list I’m much better at tackling it, perhaps because it is much less threatening when I think of it as a collection of frogs.

8. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)

This book has been referred to me over and over again by peers in all types of industries. I liked it, but I haven’t quite bought in with as much enthusiasm as some of my friends. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t take some of the lessons to heart. After I finished the 4-hour Work Week, one of the first things I did was hire Gillian to help with publishing content on MAG, freeing up some time for myself. I don’t think all of the methods of this book are realistic for everyone (ie. working 1 day per week from home for my last employer was a possibility), but the lessons have streamlined my productivity enough that I’m reaping the benefits of a larger income with less hours of hard work.

If you don’t want to work in dead-end jobs, stop applying for them

As I gradually begin my descent from self-absorbed twenty-something into the depths of socially-conscious, what’s-wrong-with-kids-today adult, one of the things that bothers me the most is seeing people waste their potential. I typically refer to this as textbook self-sabotage, and can rant at length on the subject for hours. I won’t do that all in one post, but I will give you a taste.

One of the ways my Millennial peers screwitallup is by failing to aggressively seek out and pursue a challenging and rewarding job.

It is all too common to see young people languish in food services, retail and common labor even though that’s not where they want to be. To add insult to injury, they often have university educations and a skill set above bagging groceries that’s not being put to use.

Sidenote: the employment environment is not created equal across all geographic locations. Some of my peers are languishing in service and retail out of necessity and I have no criticism for that, you do what you gotta do! However, in many places there is nothing but opportunity going entirely un-seized, and watching this waste of potential is infuriating, hence my ranting.

How do intelligent, skilled young workers get trapped in going-nowhere-fast employment even when they had bigger and brighter dreams for themselves?

They applied for it.

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I hear many, many, many people complaining about their job and insisting they want something different, but when it comes to job hunting, I never see them actually go for the job they want. I don’t know why this is. One of my guesses is that many people seek out similar employment to what they’ve worked in the past because they feel comfortable doing those tasks and know what to expect. If you’ve served tables before, finding another serving job is easy and something you know that you can do.

Sticking with what you know might seem like a good idea, but it’s doing you more harm than good. Every year you spend working in unskilled jobs is a year you’re not working a professional one. As I get closer and closer to 30, I see more of my friends that have spent their entire twenties working menial employment. It seemed harmless at 22, but at 29 irreversible damage to their resumes has been done.

What young twenty-somethings need to do is apply for the jobs that they think are just out of their reach.

They might think they don’t have enough experience for it, but truthfully, most entry-level professional jobs are expecting kids that don’t have much experience — what they aren’t expecting is 30-somethings that have spent the past decade as a cashier, so don’t be that applicant.

If you really don’t believe you have the right experience or skill set to get a better job, the time to get those skills and experience is RIGHT NOW. One of the easiest ways to do this is volunteering. Keep your current job in whatever, and then in your free time start boosting that resume with transferrable skills. You should aim for volunteer positions that will teach you whatever your current job isn’t giving you: social media management, event planning, public speaking, etc. While walking dogs for your local animal shelter is a good way to give back, you have to find something that gives more to you. It might feel like unpaid labor, but it will payoff a lot in future salary years when you finally get the type of job you want.

So stop aiming low, and start applying for the jobs you actually want.

It’s Time To Quit Your Dream Job

Congratulations, college graduate, you made it to exactly where you wanted to get! Steady paycheques, prestige, a sense of fulfillment.. working your dream job has been fun, challenging, and an all around great experience for you.

So it’s time to quit.

lovely little book (80 pages!) that let’s you know if it’s time to ditch or push on

I’m a huge advocate of strategic quitting: abandoning ship after you’ve looted it for good. If I sound like a pirate I don’t mean to. You don’t have to sink the ship (actually, it’s probably best if you don’t), but you should hop in a life raft or swim to shore if the time is right. I don’t often quit employers, but I do change roles when the opportunity presents itself. Many friends and family and peers alike are critical of my quit-and-move-on strategy, particularly if I’m making a lateral move with the same employer, often not seeing the positive results of my actions until they’ve blossomed a few months later. I understand how my behavior can appear risky from an outsider perspective, but truthfully it’s strategic. I simply don’t like to stagnate. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind — which is why I quit even when I have a good thing going.

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SIDENOTE: Some people aren’t ship-jumping risk-takers like myself. Some people want to find a stable, secure job where they feel comfortable and useful, and this is great! There is something to be said about committing to a role for a long time, even your whole working lifetime. Some people are diligent workers, and some of us are like preschoolers that need a new box of crayons every 15mins because we’ve scribbled too enthusiastically during drawing time.

SECOND SIDENOTE: Abandoning employers on a regular basis is bad news bears. I do NOT advocate switching companies like you’re on some sort of merry go round. It’s bad for your resume, it’s bad for your bosses, and it’s bad for you. If you’re working for a company you love, stay there - just try to change your role.

I recently quit the full-time role I had for two years. It was a job I loved, and yes, when I first got it I described it was “my dream job”. I know it was my dream job because in May 2011 I wrote a list of things I wanted in a job (lists are very, very important. Write that down), and then in September 2011 I started in a position that provided me with everything on the list. It was a unique find. I got to do everything from public speaking to traveling to teaching. I had my own office and met industry leaders. It was fun, it was challenging, and all around a great experience.

So after 2 years in that job, I quit.

And if you’re in the same boat (I’m really on a ship theme here, aren’t I?), you might want to consider quitting too.

Why you need to quit your dream job:

- you’ve learned everything you can. One of the best things about a new job is developing a new skill set. If you’ve been working long enough that your tasks are routine, you’re not developing. If there’s still more you want to learn how to do, find a job that will take you to the next level.

- there’s little or no room to advance. As I said above, some people are cool hanging out where they are, some want to shoot up the corporate ladder, and most will fall somewhere in between. If there’s little or no room for advancement where you’re working, there will be little or no advancement for you. If you want to move up, it’s time to move on.

- a new opportunity has presented itself. Life works in mysterious ways and sometimes something unexpected might come along that you want to try out. Do it, particularly if the two points above are also true.

I quit my job because all three of the reasons I listed were true. I’d maxed out my skill set, there wasn’t any room for me at the top, and I seized an opportunity that came available. And I quit, because I’m a risk-taking pirate, but also because it was the right thing and the right time to do so.

What is your advice for when to quit and when to stick?