Looking for a job is like winding roads… but you’ll get there, right? — Zagorochoria, Greece

The insights my job seeking experience revealed

Thanasis Efthymiou
Jan 12, 2020 · 11 min read

During the springtime of 2017, I realized I had to find another job. The story goes long and it’s not that interesting anyway, but the reason was not that I wanted to advance my career, that I was underpaid or that the company was shrinking. I had simply lost my sparkle, my mojo, that urge I felt every time I woke up in the morning during the last 15 years, the feeling of wanting to run to the office! In this context, I think I’ve been such a lucky guy: I’m blessed having worked with so many great and smart people, having so much fun while we got the job done! I also had the honor of working for truly inspiring, genuine, visionary leaders that share their dreams the best they can. I worshiped my job and felt it smiled back.

Then again, there’s always something to spoil the soup, isn’t there*? So, that summer was the first time in 15 years I had to actively look for a new job. And the process is stressful, but I’m sure anyone can survive it, so trust me on this: hang in there and you’ll make it!
Over the past few years, one of the wacko acts I developed was to identify candidates, sitting in the visitors’ sofa or wandering around the waiting area next to the reception desk. If I happened to pass by, Ι would try to establish some eye contact and then whisper a smiling “Hey, good luck!”. Their eyes would usually open wide and they would smile back mumbling a rather surprised “Thanks”. They did not literally need that, but I guess it felt warm and cozy and probably gave them just a tiny push to keep going. This is why I’m writing this: I’m sharing my experience hoping that it will somehow help you keep going.

* hint: whoever spoils the soup, you’re the chef — don’t waste your mistakes; instead, grab the chance and learn from them!

Things I did (or actually tried to do):

Y1. Focus on getting that sparkle back in every way you can. Sure, you’re primarily aiming for jobs that you think you’ll like, but don’t rule out companies you think you’re not crazy about. Worst thing that can happen is that you’ll book a few more interviews to get you started. After all, you never know how things are going to work out. I happened to interview with a few iconic, supernova companies that turned out a complete disappointment. I guarantee you that, no matter what your salary is or will be, it costs an arm and a leg to be somewhere you don’t fit or in an environment you don’t feel comfortable with.

Y2. Use the time to go back to school: learn as much as you can and enroll into courses about the job you’re after. I enjoyed that part very much, even though I can’t say I devoted the time I thought I should. Having spent almost a decade in the same business kind of hibernated my natural curiosity and kept me confined within my well-established comfort zone. So, it was really refreshing keeping up with the advancements and technologies around my area.

Y3. Print your CV and study it: I wanted to put mine on fire. I didn’t recognize myself in there. Try putting yourself in the recruiters’ shoes. Ask some friends to comment on your CV and try to give an honest answer to the question “would I hire this person?”. Then Shift+Delete and start all over.

Y4. Be honest and fair: promote your strengths but don’t be afraid to talk about your weaknesses. Good companies and interviewers know it’s not Chuck Norris sitting in front of them. After all, the world is rather small (and flat, right?). You will probably bump into someone who knows someone who knows you. Last thing you want is to embarrass yourself with your… ummm… alternative reality. By the way, people say that the jokers finally end up in the dust bin and everyone gets what (s)he deserves. Well, that’s not entirely true I’m afraid — please deal with it. There will always be people of varying quality at all levels. You should not care. You should care about fulfilling your needs and your dreams, not unveiling the mediocrity of others. You should simply care about the real you and how to keep improving.

Y5. Be patient: I started looking for a job in mid-summer and everything moves sooooo slowly during the summer (especially in Greece, where I live). All my friends said, “relax, enjoy the beach, start looking in September”. I knew I wouldn’t do that but it’s really not such a bad idea after all. OK, forget I said that! Is there a good ad on sight? Great, do send your CV over but get loaded with patience!

Enjoying the beach and job hunting are not mutually exclusive — Arcadia, Greece

Y6. Be more than patient, be tolerant: companies have a terrible track record in keeping their promises about when the post-interview steps are coming. OK, sure, they don’t do that on purpose, it’s just that too many stakeholders are involved and the hiring process is not exactly optimized or streamlined. Yet, one of the greatest disappointments I tasted was not to have any kind of feedback after my interviews. Unless we’re talking about top talent, companies usually park the candidates and keep looking for someone “more qualified, closer to budget or a better cultural fit”. Then, they take weeks to interview other candidates and you might think they rejected you. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t, but hey, recruiters, please don’t make concrete promises you can’t keep because it displays disrespect to the candidates and it hurts your brand name in the market. I suffered a lot from that. Even though I had a pretty good interviews-over-applications ratio, I would then get promises like “we’ll let you know by Monday tops” or “the process will be definitely over by next Friday”. Next thing you know is that you’re well past the promised deadline by weeks or even months! Post-interview excitement turns into anticipation, which turns into doubt, which turns into disappointment, which turns into anger. “Damn, if they don’t respect me, how am I supposed to work for them, even if they make me an offer after all?”. Sorry recruiters, this is how it goes. The “good-case” scenario would be that the candidate would eventually take the job, but half the excitement is already gone and you’re starting your marathon with one leg hurt. I would suggest two solutions to this problem: give some rough estimation and don’t make concrete promises or, if you do, just keep them. Is the hiring manager hard to reach and you already made a promise? Just send the candidate a short notice asking for some extra time. Easy, right?

Y7. Use some of the extra time to catch up with yourself: one of the greatest drawbacks of being unemployed is the subconscious feeling you get that you’re rendered useless. Prove yourself wrong: do the things you were planning way back and catch up with others left behind. And I don’t just mean things like better bonding with your family and loved ones, I’m talking about the creative part of your bucket list, your hobbies or your passions. For example, I worked on a lot of DIY woodworking projects. I still use ten fingers while typing, so it worked out pretty well. And add a brand new bookcase made of great-looking retro window blinds!

Use your spare time doing things you like — woodworking worked well in my case

Y8. Give your {if positive then ‘positive’ else null} feedback to your interviewers: if you enjoyed your interview and the discussion felt both professional and fun, just let them know. HR professionals and recruiters are going through hundreds of applications and interviews and a friendly tap in the back that “hey, you’re good at what you do, keep it up!” is always rewarding. I have to admit I didn’t get that feeling too often. But when I did, it was really strong and made my day even if I knew that we wouldn’t move forward walking out the room. Remember, a good recruiter will work with you trying to find the right fit for you and the company. Bad recruiters are ticking their to-do boxes and go home — unfortunately, there are a lot like that out there, so make sure you help the good ones carry on!

Y9. Share your experiences online or offline: apart from the fact that it’s great psychotherapy to yourself, it helps others to hang in there and move forward with positive thinking. If I help a single person, my job is done. And, damn it, it feels so good!

Things I did not do (at least not all the time):

N1. Don’t lose faith in yourself: getting a new job takes time and sometimes you just have to be in the right place, at the right time. Do you need to sell yourself better? Maybe.

- Why do we fall, Alfred?
- So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

I’m sure you’ve heard about this before: ask a hundred salespeople to sell you the same pen. Now ask yourself, is it the pen or the pitch that made the difference? Good or bad, this is part of the game. So, if you fail to get there, maybe it’s not about who you are, but how you relay yourself to your interviewer — work on your approach, Batman.

N2. Don’t miss the chance to re-evaluate yourself and your relationships: they say everything happens for a (good) reason. I think that this is an exceptionally good chance for you to evaluate just about everything: first of all, you have to evaluate yourself. And if you don’t do that honestly, you probably lost the game and you’re probably heading towards the wrong direction. Then, you evaluate your relationship with your loved ones. And you definitely evaluate your relationship with your friends or ex-colleagues; you are now able to see who is standing by you and who is not. One of the greatest surprises I had is to see people being there for me more than I could ever imagine and see others barely involved. I got stuck in the same tar pit for a while: “This is crazy, I hired/promoted/helped this guy and he doesn’t even make an introduction”. Giving is to give without any expectation. Loving is to love without any reward. This is a business environment, don’t mix things up — I know I did for a while.

N3. Don’t make compromises on your values: be yourself in the interviews, tell the truth about the level of your skills, tell the truth about your previous jobs. Good interviewers recognize crap a mile away, anyway.

N4. Don’t spend too much time with the LinkedIn premium features (apart from the courses and learning); I think they offer nothing much. And I frankly don’t care if I’m in the top 5% or 25% of the candidates based on my resume — the recruiters definitely don’t.

N5. Don’t get carried away with too much LinkedIn browsing, either: I spent huge amounts of time reading all kinds of articles, ranging from truly interesting to wanna-be-inspirational. I was even drooling over enviable photos of amazing company events and famous conferences — and they lived happily ever after, but this is not your goal, remember?

N6. Don’t pay to have your CV professionally written. You definitely need the feedback, but don’t let others write it for you. This would not be you and it gives a bad taste to the recruiters. I actually got this kind of feedback from a friend’s friend — “his CV looks too fancy, it looks as if it was professionally written”. By then, he had probably rejected me already. Well, I couldn’t do anything about it because it wasn’t outsourced, but I confirmed the fact that recruiters and hiring managers need a pretty good projection of yourself on that page; they don’t like surprises.

Your CV is part of you — sure, feedback is always welcome, but your CV has to be 100% yours

N7. Don’t rank offers according to the compensation package: it may sound like the world-class cliché, but money is not buying happiness — even though it may rent it for a while! Sure, it always feels good to get more money. And it’s not because you want to spend more, it’s because it makes you feel important and accepted in the herd, but remember that money is earned, it’s not given away (correction: it is usually not given away). If you’re good enough, you’ll get where you want sooner or later. If your next employer can’t or won’t match your needs in the near future, that’s another kind of problem you should solve, but money is not your Priority 1; your Priority 1 is to be part of something you enjoy, be proud of your work and take pleasure in what you do.

N8. Don’t be afraid or bored to take assessment tests: it is just another tool for companies to better evaluate what you have to offer. If the test is not really appropriate, not targeting your skills or simply takes too long, I totally understand the frustration but try to think of it the other way around: would you like joining a company that would, later on, hire a bunch of people that don’t even have the basic necessary skills? And I’m not just talking about a colleague in your team, companies are ecosystems that have much stronger interdepartmental bonds than you might think. A broken link anywhere along the chain may throw you off track. Want the truth? I was deadly bored too! But I still took each one of them.

N9. Don’t apply for jobs for which you don’t master the vast majority of the required skills. I know companies sometimes ask for too many things, thinking that this is how they will scare poorly fitting candidates away. If the company really wants you to be Chuck Norris, it’s their problem and good luck to them. But you must be able to serve the needs of the vacancy and you have to respect your own and the recruiters’ time. Think of the amount of wasted time for both parties with a pile of non-realistic or non-relevant applications. Do yourself a favor and make it easier for all!

Postscript

I usually don’t like titles like “7 things you must do to succeed in this” or “10 tips in order to nail that”. This is not a manual you should follow. It’s just my story, things I did — and things I didn’t — that seem that worked for me. Nothing would interest me more than listening to your story and finding out what worked for you and what didn’t. Please do drop me a line and good luck with whatever you’re after!

Thanasis Efthymiou

Written by

Business Intelligence Specialist in fintech by day, writer by night. I enjoy beekeeping, DIY woodworking, and cycling. I love socializing and helping others.

The Startup

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Thanasis Efthymiou

Written by

Business Intelligence Specialist in fintech by day, writer by night. I enjoy beekeeping, DIY woodworking, and cycling. I love socializing and helping others.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +724K followers.

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