Ten things I have learned while looking for work.

I have been intensively looking for another job outside of Finland for at least a year.  Here are some things I have learned:

1. Avoid the “spray” approach to sending out resumes. It  doesn’t work.  I sent out about 50 resumes to employers in one city where I wanted to move and didn’t hear a peep from any of them.

2) Build relationships. I had face-to-face meetings in the USA with two employers while visiting there in April.  They knew who I was beforhehand because we had a long-term correspondence by E-mail.

3) Prepare for interviews.  I found myself tongue-tied during a couple telephone interviews when trying to answer questions which I should have breezed through.  I teach job searching to university students. After all, I know what I am doing, why should I prepare? Duh! I learned the hard way. My 10-year old son advised me to prepare for the last interview. I took his advice. Things went better. Out of the mouth of babes.

4) Keep expectations at a sane level.  Many times I have gotten excited that I got an interview and started mentally packing my bags and living at the new location. Uh, it helps to do well during the interview and get the job first.

5) Remember there is stiff competition.  Employers are not shy about telling me this. Keeping this in mind  will help in applying the advice in  the last item.

6. Be aware that some interviewers are more skilled than others and be ready mentally and emotionally for the bad ones.  My first interview with one company was conducted by a lady who spoke broken English. She was difficult to understand, especially on the phone. I found myself guessing at what she was asking.  I managed my way into being offered a second interview, and this second interviewer I felt asked too many “gotcha” type questions and then corrected me when she was not getting the answer she wanted.  At the end of the interview, I politely asked my own “gotcha” question when it was my turn.  It was sweet revenge at the time, but needless to say, I never heard from this company again. Patience is in order when you are faced with incompetent employers.

7) Follow up with the employers you really want to work for.  I actually was offered one job, but then never heard from the employer again. Another told me that while they had chosen another person for the job which I had applied for, they told me they were impressed with my qualifications and asked if I would like to interview for another job.  I jumped at the chance and, again, never heard from them again.  I didn’t follow up with these two outfits because I really didn’t want to work for them. But there could be many reasons why they don’t follow up themselves.  In my view, some of them are just stirring the pot to see what is out there, but budget constraints during this recession keep them from following through. My sister suggested in one case that perhaps they lost my paperwork.  That is entirely possible.  It can’t hurt to ask them what is happening, and in fact it is recommended.

8.  Remind yourself you don’t have to  take the job even though you accept an interview.  I was offered a lucrative job overseas recently, but turned it down for personal reasons. It just wasn’t a good fit for me or my family at this time.  Guilt has no place in a job hunt.

9. Regularly revise your resume, cover letter and reference list.  In my case, I have added skills and experience this year I didn’t have.  Also,  with the amount of job applications I have been making, I have decided that perhaps I am becoming a burden to certain colleagues and friends in asking them to repeatedly be a reference for me.  So I have tried to add new people.

10) During down times evaluate your goals, skills and abilities, personality traits and passions.  Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to work at jobs that don’t fit us just to make money. In fact, Dan Miller of www.48days.com suggests that we evaluate these things to find the work we love. When we do, he says, there is a good chance money will follow.  

It’s tough out there.  I believe some of the people who are asking me for interviews may be worried about their own jobs in this economic climate.  Hopefully, the things I have learned through my “school of hard knocks” don’t have to be repeated by you.



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2 responses to “Ten things I have learned while looking for work.

  1. zazarillaonthestreets

    Very insightful blog! I’ve been job searching for several months now, and you have some very useful tips I hadn’t thought about (reviewing my strengths, not getting my hopes up too high, not feeling I have to take a job if it’s offered).

    I agree that finding your true passion and going for it is the key to a successful career. I see many people around me work like drones just to pay bills and I wonder why they subject themselves to it for so many hours a week for not that great of pay.

    Thank you for your blog.

    • timfowler

      Thanks for the encouraging comments. The tough thing for me has been finding my passion. I have now, and this is where I intend to concentrate my efforts from now on. Take a look at Dan Miller’s book “No More Mondays”.

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