The Search — №1: Mood Matters

I am currently looking for work. It’s hard for many reasons, most of which many of us aren’t told. Or maybe we are, but it’s lost in this sea of noise we call the internet.

This series will be my public journal on what I’ve learned while looking for work. I hope you all can use it to inform your own decisions in the future.

There are two things I’ve learned and they are:

Listicles are garbage
We are all addicted to our phones.

Name “20 incredibly valuable things you’ve learned today that no one should ever forget!” Chances are you can’t. You should probably spend more time comprehensively understanding less information. If you can remember what you learned today, you can use it tomorrow. There’s a great podcast that came out this week about slowing down. But wait! Don’t click it yet! That’s the same impulse that’s been overfilling your brain in the first place.

I was talking to my friend about how great leaving your phone at home can be. I enjoy the freedom of no notifications. I suggested she do the same. She was a bit resistant. After some pushing, she snapped “You don’t understand! I need my phone!” This reminded me of how I behaved when I was addicted to cigarettes. This article was really enlightening. It’s about how social media companies specifically design their services to be addictive. In 20 years, our eAddicted generation will be viewed similarly to smokers in the 1940s.

Being exposed to more information than we can remember and being addicted to our devices are handicaps for anyone who wants to be productive or effective. They stand in the way of deep work.

Deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” If you’re looking for a good job (not a shitty one,) chances are it is cognitively demanding. If you own a phone or a computer, chances are it is simultaneously a tool and a distraction. My goal is to get comfortable not using technology unless absolutely necessary.

Before I touch a computer or phone, I write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing, I do a guided meditation, and I exercise. These are all absolutely necessary for me. When it’s time to use the computer, I try to print out any article I find relevant online, and have physical or Kindle copies of any relevant books. This way, I can avoid my computer for even longer. I like to go for walks between workspaces to allow myself time to think. We aren’t working harder on the computer, we just think we are.

Stream of consciousness writing allows me to sit in one place and write. I learn how to sit in one place doing something that is boring. I learn how to tap into my creativity. I familiarize myself with my fears. I explore them. I learn that I can forget them too. I note how often I want to use my phone. As an unemployed person, I wake up each morning with crushing anxiety. By the time I am done journaling, I feel emotionally balanced.

I learned this technique from The Artist’s Way. I highly recommend it.

Meditation is fantastic (will you read those links? No you won’t, but the sources sure are impressive!) There are many reasons why meditation is fascinating, but the field is still being explored scientifically. The Dalai Llama has partnered with colleges and neuroscience institutions to look at how meditation physically changes the brain. Point is, it works. We don’t know exactly how or what the long term effects are, but it’s no longer religious mumbo jumbo. Meditation has, over time, helped with my anxiety, increased my ability to work for delayed gratification, and allowed me to watch my thought processes unfold, instead of being stuck inside them.

I have been taking this course and it’s been amazing. It cost about $40. It’s 10 minutes a day for about 40 days and it’s helped me inch towards becoming a more relaxed person. Here are some other meditation resources: Headspace, Calm, Radical Acceptance.

Exercise is critically important for me. I deal with depression and I hate taking medication. It increased the amount of suicidal thoughts I was having. Whaaaaaaat? I’ll stick with the endorphins and feelings of accomplishment I can get from regular exercise thank you!

Why would I go to all of this trouble (sometimes 2–3 hours,) before I even start working?

My mood governs my quality of work and my ability to identify and pursue new opportunities. I can work when I am depressed, anxious, or burnt out, but I am only effective doing repetitive work where high quality is not required. Same goes for distraction. Since I actually want to get a job interview, I would like the quality of my work to be high, and therefore taking care of my mood is very important to me.

There are three paths that have been explained to me for a job search.

One is to send out as many applications as you can and hope someone bites back. Another is be really networky. Talk to a ton of people you know, people you don’t, and just keep chatting about what jobs are out there, what you’re interested in doing. The third path is kind of closer to what applying to college feels like. Do a deep search on the work you’d really like to do. Find companies you admire and positions that you find interesting. Whittle it down to 10 or 20 opportunities and spend a lot of time cultivating those relationships and applying to those positions.

Choosing the first method is great because it doesn’t really matter what mood you’re in. You can wake up, pound some coffee and apply until you pass out. For me, it’s the worst method available. I can’t keep up the pace. On top of that, hiring managers receive thousands of resumes, in Google’s case, sometimes 50,000. If you’re applying to a company worth working for, hopefully their hiring managers actually read the resumes. Shotgun method? Not so much.

How about being networky? That seems to work well for most of the people I’ve talked to. Full disclosure? I haven’t tried it and I haven’t read much about it, so I have almost nothing to say about it here.

Third option: researching and applying for the job you want.

I 100% recommend you read this article. It’s written by the head of Google’s people department and explains the top 5 reasons why applicants resumes are completely ignored. The main takeaways are:

“[I]n a fiercely competitive labor market, hiring managers don’t need to compromise on quality.”
“58% of resumes have typos”
“5–10% of resumes reveal confidential information.”

That’s super important to know. If you’re competing with 1–50k other people, why would a hiring manager read your resume if they can find a reason to throw it out. Put yourself in their shoes. Chances are there is a similar resume to yours in the pile that doesn’t have a typo. If not, they can probably wait for more resumes to come in. In the opposite perspective, if your resume doesn’t have a typo, congratulations! You’ve just beat out 58% of the applicant pool, at least until they read this article.

This is a Rhode Island School of Design resources for aspiring artists/designers entering the workforce. It actually has a little checklist for how to appropriately follow up with companies before and after you’ve applied for the position. It ranges from 1–3 months of being in contact with that company.

All this shows to me is that the first method, the method that tons of people have suggested to me, to apply to as many jobs as possible seems flawed. It could totally work, let’s be honest, but it may not get you the job you want.

The second and the third methods can combine together. By being in touch with people from other companies you have the opportunity to explore more about yourself, how you stack up as a candidate, what you are lacking, what you excel in, and most importantly, other opportunities that may be available to you. Rinse and repeat.

On top of that, you may also be doing some reading and research about the companies, what they do, what the position is. You may be doing some deeper thinking, writing, and revising about how you actually are a good fit for the role. If you pair down your search to a dozen or so roles, instead of hundreds, you will have more time and energy to focus into doing this. Chances are, if you drew a Venn diagram for “Jobs you find interesting,” and “Jobs you are qualified for,” the intersection would be smaller than what you are applying for.

If you want to do good work, being in a good mood will help you. The relentless cycle of rejection that is the job hunt will feel less threatening. For me it’s a morning journal, meditation, and exercise. On top of that, it is being able to take the time out of my day to do a little bit of planning. And finally, it is pursuing opportunities that are exciting to me instead of saddening.

If you found any of this interesting, I would recommend reading through the links I’ve attached. Most of them are actual resources I find to be very valuable.

I would love to hear what has or has not been working for you as well.


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