Getting a job is not only tough; it takes time as well. In an article published by Seek, an independent research by GFK studying 4,000 Australians in the labour force ranging from 18 – 65 years of age revealed that 75% of Australians who are searching for a new job have been looking for up to 6 months.
There are several factors at play influencing how long you will take to get a job – the size of the graduate cohort, the staffing needs of your industry, the state of the economy, hiring policies as well as your capabilities, credentials and competence. But there are ways to shortcut this process and get an advantage.
In 2013, I finished my postgraduate studies in Melbourne. I walked out of Australia’s top university with a Masters degree in Engineering Management and a Graduate Diploma in Business. And I was ready to take on the world.
Soon after, I got a job offer in a sales and tech support role with an up-and-coming tech startup. I was really pumped and exhilarated at first, but things started to change.
Because I was fresh out of university without any sales experience, I was freaked out and intimidated when I had to knock on the doors of cafes and restaurants to pitch and sell the company’s products to them.
In just 3 months, I was fired from the job.
Thing is, my boss didn’t fire me. I fired myself because when I faced challenges in that role, I didn’t rise up to fight them; I chose to scrape by and do the bare minimum. Me making excuses and tolerating mediocrity was what cost me the job. I deserved to be fired.
After 526 resumes sent and 561 days of joblessness, I finally was able to secure a full-time role as a business and management trainer, and I loved every single moment in that job. This position paid me $10,000 more per year than the previous role. And after sorting myself out and my job search strategy, I managed to get the trainer role in just 12 days – 12 days between application and offer.
If you’re expecting a quick fix to your situation, you’re in the freaking wrong place. But if you’re committed and are willing to do whatever it takes to attain career success, this one’s for you.
Getting that dream job meant going through the hurdles of the job application and interview. It involves selling yourself and convincing the employer that you are the best candidate for the role. It required me to not just to survive, but to crush the job interview.
Here’s what I did to make that happen.
1. Make a decision
It all starts with a decision.
If you don’t make a decision and commitment to pursue greatness and success, I promise you that you will not only be tempted and distracted by mediocrity, but will yield to it.
For example, if you don’t make a decision that you will finish your report by midnight on Friday, guess what happens when you leave your options open and your friends ask you out for a drink? “Just one hour and just one drink” they say. And then you find yourself standing on the bar counter at 3am talking about life and philosophy. And the report isn’t done.
Make a decision.
When I was the lowest point in my job search, I remember my parents coming over to Melbourne for a holiday. I told my mum “I just need a job. Any job. Anything that can help me pay the bills!!!”
Most of the time, my mum will tell me things like don’t work so hard, don’t push yourself too hard and learn how to relax and enjoy life.
But this time round, she told me “Son, don’t apply for work just to pay the bills. You need to think bigger than that. You need to start building up a career for yourself and for your family in the future.”
I made the decision that I will never ever want to disappoint mum ever again. And I will go all out in all that I did.
So what’s one decision that you will need to make?
It could be:
- I will never want to be jobless ever again.
- I will never want my kids to go hungry.
- I will stop being full of shit and get my life together.
- I will be a person who keeps my word.
- I will do whatever it takes to succeed.
- Enough of the bullshit. It’s time to get shit done.
- I want to be a role model to my friends and family.
- I will make a dent in the universe.
Time for you to take action: Make your decision now.
2. Build up robust work experience
The biggest mistake job seekers make when they are looking for work is that they think that it’s their full-time job to look for work.
On the surface, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But the problem with doing this is that, assuming you have been looking for work for the past 6 months, your level of skills and experience remains unchanged throughout those 6 months. When you actually do land an interview, you won’t have anything different to show the employer compared to when you have just started job hunting.
And remember the classic chicken-and-egg problem? That you need experience to get the job and you need the job to get experience?
Here are a few things you need to look at to help yourself develop robust work experience during your job search phase.
- Internships / work and industry placements
- Part-time or casual jobs
- Volunteering opportunities
- Side hustle / project / business
If you can’t find formal avenues to gain relevant or indirect work experience, you can always find ways to create work experience for yourself.
During my job search phase, when I was extremely desperate about my situation, I decided to start a careers magazine with a friend.
We compiled expert careers advice from people in industry and published them on our print and online magazine. In the course of 6 months, we managed to reach about 4000 university students through the printed publication. And along the way, I got the chance to conduct careers workshops for a couple of universities.
Time for you to take action: So what’s one thing you can do to help you create valuable work experience?
3. Keep investing in yourself during the unemployment phase
Like I mentioned before, the biggest mistake job seekers can make is to just sit behind the computer, send out job applications and hope for the best.
This is something which any candidate can do, so there’s no distinction in it. There’s nothing special and value-added about it.
And when you start getting ignored and rejected by employers, guess what happens to your morale? You’ll start to get punched in the face by setbacks and it’s so easy to feel discouraged and disappointed with things.
Your confidence starts taking a hit and you won’t truly be able to shine when you do get the job interview. And because of the lack of confidence, it’s unlikely you’ll get the job, so you could end up in a negative downward spiral.
Time to change things!
Apart from finding ways to attain valuable work experience, you also need to invest in yourself and build up your skills.
This will ensure that your skills, knowledge and competencies are not only up-to-date, but that you are also able to train yourself in other skills which could be valuable to the job. This could be in the form of:
- Attending conferences, workshops, seminars and courses.
- Reading books and listening to podcasts.
- Getting mentored.
- Catching up with people who are playing on a higher level.
Doing a combination of these will not only help you maintain your sanity during the unemployment phase, but also stretch your mind, thinking and perspective, so that you remain sharp and relevant while preparing for your future career.
Yes, investing in yourself does take a considerable amount of time, money and energy. If you ever, ever, think that investing in you is expensive, try ignorance.
Pursuing greatness and success does come at a cost. But remaining stagnant and mediocre is even costlier – especially when you see opportunities being taken up by those who might not be as smart or qualified as you, but have more drive, guts and balls to take action.
Time for you to take action: Start preparing yourself for what employers are looking for. Download the 3 Essentials to Crush any Job Interview guide.
4. Build up your network
Your network determines your net worth. And Jim Rohn said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
The biggest mistake I made when I was job hunting is that I spent too much time with my other unemployed friends.
It’s nice and tempting to be around people who are in a similar situation, since everyone else knows what you are going through. We have one another as sounding boards and we are able to empathise if anyone in the group comes back from a failed job interview.
But guess what? Misery loves company too.
The downside of that huddle is that, if not properly managed, can soon become a pity party where people come to whine, sulk, complain and bitch about the situation – without coming up with any constructive solutions to address the problems.
If you are sick, do you and should you hang around other patients in the hospital? Heck no! Unless you want to compromise your health even further. You should seek the doctor to fix your situation!
It was when I started to invest more time in meeting and networking with individuals who are playing the game at a higher level that my situation started to change. My perspective shifted. My mindset got stretched. My way of thinking got challenged. And I walked out of meetings knowing that if they can do it, so can I. And I’m now even more motivated to push myself harder since I’ve seen what they are doing.
Time for you to take action: Have a look at the 5 keys to networking and winning for working professionals guide and register for your first networking event.
5. Develop a unique and compelling pitch
At every stage in our lives, we are always selling. Whether it’s convincing your friend to have dinner at a particular restaurant, getting the client to see the value in the proposed project plan or obtaining buy-in from your boss to fund a certain initiative, we are always selling something. It could be influence, information or even an idea.
Likewise for your job search, you are selling yourself when you send your resume to an employer. You are selling yourself when you are answering the questions during the interview. And even when you do get the job, you need to keep selling yourself to your boss so that he/she is convinced that you are worth the hire and can get the job done.
And to sell yourself effectively to an employer, you need to develop and be confident and comfortable with your pitch.
Here’s a simple way to get started.
I (insert what you do) because (why you do it).
I’m a recent mechanical engineering graduate and I’m seeking a career in this field because engineering allows us to solve problems in society and move civilisation forward.
I’m passionate about a career in management consulting because I see this as a way to help small and medium business make better decisions so that they can add more value to their customers and to the world.
I’m looking for my next challenge in the biotech (research) space because biotechnology allows us to harness tech to address diseases and to improve our quality of life.
Most job candidates are able to articulate the first half of their pitch (i.e. what they are doing or have done). There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a great start. But there is nothing sexy, enticing and compelling about it.
So what if you’re a civil engineering undergraduate? So what if you have 3 years of project management experience? So what if you’ve arrived from your home country with 5 years of managerial experience?
It’s when you take a step further to provide the “why” that you will then make your pitch more unique and compelling. Note that your personal pitch is something which you could have handy to use in a networking event where people ask “So, what do you do?” or during the interview when you are asked that one question which 99.9% of interviewers will ask.
Time for you to take action: Work on your personal pitch now. And write it down.
6. Customise the job application
Most job candidates make the mistake of taking a scattershot approach to applying for work – sending a bunch of resumes to as many jobs as possible and waiting for something to happen – similar to throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.
I’ve tried this for at least 500 jobs at it doesn’t really work.
The best outcome I’ve gotten is a couple of interviews here and there. But when I got to the interview stage, I wasn’t able to bring substance and purpose because I have spread myself too thinly over hundreds of job applications.
But when I was intentional and made the effort to tailor my application to the roles I was applying for, things changed.
I sent out 7 tailored applications for positions in training and development. I highlighted my passion (i.e. I’m applying for this role because through working on a careers magazine and conducting careers workshops, I see the value in investing in people because everyone has the potential to succeed. I’m looking forward to partnering with you to make this happen.) as well as evidence of me having conducted careers workshops for a number of universities.
From the 7 tailored applications, I received 4 call backs for interviews, and 2 job offers from those interviews. The time difference between application and offer, for the job I accepted, was just 12 days.
If you simply copy and paste your resume and cover letter for your job applications, don’t expect much good to result from it.
You need to make the effort to ensure that your cover letter is aligned to the position – that it showcases how your best skills/strengths can add value to the position and how you are interested to work for the company (based on your research on what they do). Yes, you need to do research on the company. And these are on top of ensuring that you have a professional, up-to-date and typo-free resume.
Time for you to take action: Do not hesitate to obtain the comprehensive Secure Your Next Interview guide to learn the in’s and out’s of tailoring your job applications so that you can land that job interview.
Notice there’s no quick fix to getting your dream job? While I did get my dream job in 12 days, it just took about 12 months to actually figure out how I can stand out as a candidate and turn the application into a job offer.
The ball is now in your court. Take full ownership and responsibility over your situation. Don’t just talk about the situation or about your plans – take massive action to actually make things happen. Invest in yourself, develop your skills and expand your network.
Remember that success is your duty and service to the world and the people around you.
Go for gold!