Job search and storytelling : “all jobs” from being a superhero to being yourself.
Looking for a job is not easy. It’s time consuming, fairly nerve-wracking, isolating and as in any job search, you might often doubt your capabilities when experiencing setbacks.
Newsflash: you’re not alone in this. Actually, it might as well be your problem… or your salvation.
Let me explain:
At the end of last year, my fixed-term contract as communication/project officer with a big corporate machine at the heart of Europe came to its term. Sure, I knew it would at some point and I knew I would have to look for other opportunities: it wasn’t even the first time. In only four years though, the job market landscape had shifted.
The days of applying and waiting for a call-back are long gone.
With the rise of social networking and communities, identity, if not deprived of its real meaning beyond the selfie, has become a key-concept for marketers and managers, amplifying the media stream and social pressure to become a super(wo)man and mix with other superheroes. Seemingly well-adjusted, irreproachable and competitive, you need to act like a ruthless contender on the market, a model candidate that would put Mad Men’s Don Draper to shame.
As freshly unemployed, I had heard that I had to act a certain way, write a certain way, fit the forty different requirements of job applications, get out there promoting myself, and be that specific successful someone. By some means, it would all depend on my behaviour, my responsibility.
However, I didn’t feel much challenged by this constant social constraint, I felt confused.
“How would I become this outgoing protagonist and save myself from drifting away when everyone else already seemed better suited?”
Truth is I didn’t have to become anyone else’s archetype and you don’t either.
Here are four useful things that I learned on how to become your own storyteller:
1. Get your head out of the sand. Going back and forth from an individual perspective to a global one really helped me putting my job search into perspective and write my own story.
Last April 2015, the rate of unemployed reached 18, 9 % in my city. It’s a lot and proportionally that much competition in your domain if you consider already employed candidates. Plus my profession (communications) presents one of the lowest placement rate based on simple applications and posted vacancies: it’s often all about the network and having the right friends.
Based on these factors, I chose not to fall into the abyss of discouragement. Instead, I admitted that even personalised job applications don’t forcedly cut it. It only seemed more obvious from this global observation that I had to go back to a personal level and spontaneously contact people directly in organizations I was very interested in, even though they didn’t have a job for me at the time. In general, their responses were very positive and naturally approaching them made me realize being myself was the first step to a satisfying approach to the job search.
2. Don’t underestimate cultural fit. Feel pressured about everyone else being better than you and performing better at job interviews? Feel like every application you send and that never gets answered is a personal failure? Don’t dwell on this. Instead, try to analyse if you adopted a good positioning strategy and if you *really* understand what kind of culture your target organization has adopted. I would even go further: applications and interviews are also about the person(s) who will actually read them whether you like it or not. Keep it in mind that being able to adapt to a potential reader and knowing about him/her beforehand is an absolute strength. Don’t forget: 21th century allows you both to use your phone & the Internet. The closer you’ll get the better.
3. Be the very own content strategist of your jobsearch. Want to find a job that matches your personality and concerns more than pushing yourself to adopt a model that doesn’t fit you? Start thinking creatively and step out of the classic job application pattern.
Odds are you won’t stay long in an organization that doesn’t share your values or interests either! If identity and storytelling are, as I wrote earlier, perceived as relevant enough, why not building your own and sharing them with the world? In other words, you might get noticed easier if you write a compelling blog or create a cool website about your achievements than stick to the 1 page-format bland resume you have been sporting since 1998.
Personally, I chose to impersonate Mario Bros and re-create my professional background around it. Not really your conventional type of hero now, is it?
4. Finally, don’t guilt yourself about not finding something right away or not spending 24 hours a day looking for a job. You’re not a superhuman, even if you’d love to. In fact, this might as well be your main asset: humans are flawed and hopefully, people still prefer working with approachable folks. You know that jobs don’t grow on trees. Spending time on your computer robotically looking for ads is one brave thing, but you can’t just do that every second of every day! Going out meeting new people and speaking about your quest is another worthy approach. Don’t forget to be nice to them though, they might end up speaking about you and your story.
So like I said, there might be a lot of competition and role models on this job search to end all job searches but being one in a million could start by narrating your quest just as you are.
Want to share your story with me? Please tweet me @JeBruyere.
Want to be part of my own story? Meet me on linkedin or visit jeromequest.be