I’ve had to take a brief hiatus from blogging in order to focus all my attention on dealing with two big challenges in my life: moving house and finding a new job.
The first is tricky enough, especially in London where landlords charge half the average monthly salary for a one-bed flat in Zone 3 with a shower in the kitchen. Combine that with the job hunt and life becomes pretty hellish. 90% of the calls I received over the summer were from estate agents or recruiters. You feel popular for about a day. Then you start to feel pestered. Then so overwhelmed that you turn your phone on silent and hide it in the freezer.
The story has a happy ending; about three weeks ago, I moved into a great new flat and, earlier this week, I accepted a job offer. After countless cover letters, dozens of interview outfits and many, many pep talks, I finally (finally!) found a job I’m excited about. Here’s what I learned in the process…
- Apply, apply, apply like the wind
You know that little voice inside you that reads a job description and thinks, ‘Wow this sounds great – definitely too good for me”? Yeah, don’t listen to that voice.Niggling self-doubt is the enemy of progress – and something that especially affects women. There’s an oft-quoted stat that claims that men will apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas women will only apply if they meet 100%. It sounds unlikely on the surface, but I was amazed how often I found myself falling into that trap during the course of the job hunt.
Seen a job that sounds fascinating but not sure that you have enough experience? Apply anyway. At worst, you’ll never hear back but it will be a great exercise in writing a creative cover letter. At best, you’ll get an interview. Both scenarios happened to me more than once.
In my experience, it’s best to cast the net wide. Send your CV to recruiters (they’re annoying but useful) and apply for everything and anything that ticks even a couple of your boxes. Remember that an application doesn’t lock you in – you don’t have to pursue the role if you change your mind. I found that fact to be strangely liberating.
- Get someone you trust to read your cover letter
No matter how great a writer you are, chances are your cover letter could benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. After reading, re-reading and editing something fifty times, you lose all ability to string a coherent sentence together. Believe me. I was on the brink of submitting an application so many times, only to be saved from an embarrassing typo by a more alert friend.
A second reader will also be helpful in picking up lazy habits or clichés in your writing style. Don’t let embarrassment or sensitivity get in the way of making your application as strong as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to whinge to your friends – but equally know when to shut up
Your 20s are a strange decade. Just when you think one part of your life is coming together, another part begins to feel like it’s spiralling out of control. Sometimes it’s wonderful – often it sucks. Luckily, pretty much everyone else is going through the same thing.
I couldn’t have got through the months of uncertainty without the support of the wonderful people around me. They knew when to listen quietly to my post-interview rants, when to offer optimistic advice or encouragement and when it was only safe to approach with a large glass of wine.
On the other hand, often my problems weren’t the biggest in the room. By shutting up and listening to the people around me, I began to realise that my situation wasn’t actually that bad. Sometimes the healthiest thing your friends can give you is perspective.
- Don’t be too proud to tell people you’re job hunting
For weeks, I kept quiet about the fact I was looking for a job. Fuelled by a mixture of embarrassment, denial and a very British fear of looking like I was angling for a favour, I discussed it only with my closest friends and family. Not only did this unnecessary secrecy add to my anxiety, but I also cut myself off from the people who had the potential to help me achieve my goal.
Once I got over myself and realised that no one actually cared that much (in the nicest way possible), I found that people were very helpful, offering advice, introductions to useful connections and even part-time work.
- Don’t let fear dictate your decisions
This became my job-hunting mantra. When I left university, I decided not to go the corporate route, shunning grad schemes in favour of something a little more unpredictable. While that can (and has) been very rewarding, it also comes with some significant downsides, of which the lack of job security is just one.As time began to run out and financial anxiety kicked in, the temptation to apply to roles I knew I wasn’t interested in began to grow. With each rejection, the fear of unemployment increased.
Job hunting is a question of stamina. No longer is it a matter of sending off a cover letter and CV, heading to an interview and then getting told one way or another. I was made to jump through countless hoops in five or six-stage application processes. You need to keep your energy up, and the only way to do that is to apply for jobs that really and truly excite you.
My advice would be to make a list of the key things you’re looking for in your next role. That could be anything from working in a particular industry, to a certain level of responsibility, to the size of the company. Write a list of four or five things, and only apply for roles that tick at least half of those boxes (but preferably all of them).
Remember, after the elation of an offer wears off, you’re left with a job that you actually have to do. Every day. For the foreseeable future. Might as well make it something you’re actually excited about.