Last year was the year of the job search for me. It was the year that the successful blogger who everybody thinks is hitting hole in ones every day before breakfast, got a dose of humbleness. It was time for me to find my next career.
During the search these ideas became the core of my existence:
- It takes a long time
- Rejection is going to knock you down
- Even the bravest fail
- Being yourself is all you can count on
Each morning I’d wake up and tap into my ‘network.’ Every blog post I was reading at the time said something along the lines of “Your network equals your net worth.”
While I believe this is somewhat true, it’s not the saving grace for someone searching for their next job. The harsh reality was that my network was proving to be my most useless hidden treasure.
When you’re on top, everybody wants to be your mate, and then when you’re on the bottom — which is what searching for a job can often be — you can become invisible really quickly.
At the beginning of the job search, I told everybody I’d be quitting my job in a month. Nine months later I was still searching.
The longer it lasts, the harder it can be
Each day that the search prolonged, it took even more willpower. The start is easy when you think everybody will hire you because you can string a few words together and have a few followers on social media.
Pretty quickly, you realize that followers and being able to write well are not always the most attractive skills for a potential new employer. Month 1–3 are bearable, months 3–6 are grueling and months 6–12 dismantle your ego like a demolition truck does to a building.
The career you’re looking for (which is the right one) will take time, though. The careers that you can access in a short period of time are often worse than the one you’ve already got. If searching for a job were so easy, we’d all be going to work happy every day and the need for staff engagement surveys would disappear overnight.
That’s the word I use to describe each rejection. Those rejections, nine out of ten times, take the form of a generic email with a logo on it, addressed to nobody, that thank you for your time.
It’s easier to smack you down with an email than it is to pick up the phone and make up something about why you’re not moving forward. Each of these rejection emails are punches to the face and then one of them will finally smack you to the floor.
After that smackdown, you might give up, give in to an easy option, or quit for a few weeks. When you get that smackdown, my advice is to take a few weeks off. Don’t beat up yourself any more than the rejection email has already done to you. It’s tough for all of us.
The way you win is to come back fighting a few weeks later when you’ve managed to pick yourself off the ground, remind yourself to love yourself first, and to get back out there and try again.
You could be fooled into thinking that during this process, not all people experience the same thing.
The worst part is when you think about your friends, colleagues and family, and assume that they haven’t gone through this. Comparing your job search to that of others only makes it sting more. The truth is you don’t know what other people’s job searches are like and they probably won’t tell you. No one wants to admit, for example, that they’re a 10+ year Wall Street Banker with an MBA from Harvard and can’t land a single job. It happens all the time, though.
The imaginary Disney heroes you picture in your mind that are slam dunking their job search are just pointless dreams. Comparing yourself to those Disney characters doesn’t allow you to reach your goal. Instead, you end up not sleeping (like I did) and comparing yourself to every person on the internet who has got a better job than you. This process then leads you to go on LinkedIn and start comparing people’s career histories and wondering why someone went from an entry-level fast-food job to a senior manager at a bank. Now, this is something I can speak of from experience. I was that guy sitting there on LinkedIn looking at career paths and trying to work out why mine didn’t remotely resemble any of the ones I was looking at.
The reason my career path didn’t look like the ones I was looking at was a stupid question. Your career path is not supposed to look like anyone else’s.
Maybe the person’s career you’re looking at had one of these scenarios occur:
- Their former boss hired them and didn’t care about their experience
- They deleted the failures of their career off their LinkedIn (common)
- The career path you are looking at is not the reality
- They hustled their face off through practical experience
- They worked for free before getting hired
The career path you are comparing yourself to is not going to help your story, and it’s someones else’s story that won’t justify why you are where you are.
You can count on being yourself
That was ultimately what I realized. The longer you pretend to be someone you’re not, meet criteria you don’t, apply for jobs that don’t match your skills, and tell the interviewer what they want to hear, the longer you’ll still be searching for a job.
What you can count on is that people will hire you for being yourself. The BS detectors these days are highly tuned and pretending is as good as not showing for an interview at all. What makes you different from the thousands of other people applying for the same job as you, is the person you are.
This is where I realized that storytelling, being yourself, talking about failures and the learnings you got, and going beyond business and into personal, is incredibly powerful. This is what draws people to you in your job search.
Those people who are intrigued, end up hiring you.
What does no one tell you?
Okay, I’ve provided enough context. What’s the hardest thing no one tells you about the job search? That you need to keep going.
A successful job search comes down to how much determination and persistence you have. It’s having the guts to turn jobs down because they don’t meet your criteria or doing crazy stuff like asking to work four days instead of five even though you know it might make you look less committed.
No one talks about how much persistence or determination you need because they are embarrassed and ashamed. Admitting this reality is inconvenient. But there’s no need to be embarrassed.
The hardest thing nobody told you about searching for a job is that it’s hard for everybody and that’s why you need to focus on being relentlessly persistent in the shadow of doubt, rejection and failure.
This story has a strange ending. After the long process of finding the right job, being awarded the leadership title and starting my new job, I was fired a few months into it for no apparent reason and without explanation.
It was during this moment that I learned an even harder lesson: anything can happen and you too could be back on the job search again. That’s why it pays to be humble and grateful at the same time.
Even when your job search is complete, it could start all over again. A friend of mine asked me to explain this to him the other night and I came up with what I think is a good analogy.
Searching for a new job and changing your career is like deciding to build a startup: it’s highly unlikely that your first startup will be a dream and go on to be a billion dollar unicorn. In my case, it took seven failed startups to have a successful one. This pivot in career is much the same.
The score for me currently sits at one failure, so there are potentially many more to come before that elusive, spectacular, magical dream career finds me. Keep going. It’s hard for all of us.