The (Job) Hunt Is On

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Looking for a new job is an almost guaranteed part of adult life, yet there’s no real warning for just how soul-detroyingly bad it can be. Memoirs and autobiographies from successful people tend to gloss over the struggles of the job hunt, often only dedicating a few sentences to explain ‘I worked really hard after I graduated and did some random jobs, and then somehow I ended up in this amazing career that was perfectly suited to me’ and the rest of the book is spent detailing the ins and outs of that amazing career. The thing about humans is that we’re programmed to forget pain, and so when people assure you that ‘it will all be worth it once you get that perfect job, and you’ll forget all about this dark, dark period’, they’re absolutely right. But if you’re in that dark period right now, as I am, you need to know how to survive it, how to grow from it, and how to get that bloody job. I’m writing this blog now as a way to deal with the job hunt process, and because I know that once I get that job (and I will), I too will pick up my rose-tinted glasses, shake off the pain and step into my next chapter, completely erasing all memory of the one just written.

Some context…

I was made redundant from a job I was planning to leave. I’m grateful for this, and luckier than most, because it meant I had a degree of financial security so didn’t have to move back home, and it gave me a real kick to start thinking seriously about my career.

This was my first real job hunt – I had been offered a job straight out of university, thanks to a successful internship, as a manager in a small international development charity. Whilst at uni, I was certain that my all time, favourite ever, dream job would be working in management in international development; as it turns out, it wasn’t.

Not only am I engaged in a hardcore job hunt, then, but I am also looking at a career change. Wohoo!

I’m currently 5 weeks in to my Mission Impossible: Find a Job movie script, and spend 9am-6pm most days, including the weekend, looking for jobs, applying, prepping for interviews, and doing research. I’ve had time to do all of my adult tasks that I’d been putting off, like sending letters, setting up an ISA and ordering a bike helmet. I’ve attended interviews and assessment days, and prepared for one interview so hard that I felt physically pained. I’ve started a portfolio, had coffees with a host of deeply interesting people, and even started writing poetry. I’m a positive person, but at times it’s been bloody hard. My confidence, which I’ve worked so hard to build, has been knocked by the pressure and the box-ticking and the rejection. This has seeped into my personal life, and I hesitate to lead conversations, to offer my opinions, to draw the attention to myself. It’s a wonderful opportunity to build grit and resilience, but this is a hard period of everyone’s life, and if you’re in it, I’ve written a list of things that have helped me to get through it, and things that may help you too. You are deeply employable, and you will get that job. But if that seems like a long way off, have a read through my unconventional job hunting advice.

Tips and Tricks for Completing Your Mission

  • If you still need to work out what you want to do next, have a look at 80,000 Hours’ careers planner, or try doing some Design Thinking on yourself. Design Thinking is awesome, see how I design-thinking-ed my career here.
  • Learn how to verbalise your experiences. There’s a lot of jargon in job interviews, so take time to think about what you learned from different experiences, what you would do differently, and what the real story actually is. You do have experience, but you need to be able to express it properly.
  • Exercise every day, and set yourself a fitness challenge e.g. learning to walk on your hands, running a half marathon, benching more weight. The endorphins will boost your mood, and it’s an hour where you focus on something completely different. It’s also reminds you that you are great and strong and are in control. I practice Jamaican Dancehall every morning and, although I’m truly terrible, seeing myself improving slightly each day reminds me that I’m powerful enough to change my life.
  • Do something else on the side/pick up a hobby, so that you have something else to talk about when you see your friends. I hate having the same job hunting conversation over and over again, as though it’s taken over my personality, and much prefer talking about what I’ve learned or achieved that week.
  • Identify the different pressures that are weighing on you, and deal with them. I’ve realised that creating a career is a really loaded action, and there are loads of pressures influencing my decisions. For me, I’ve had to rationalise the pressures of having as big an impact as humanly possible (thanks Effective Altruism), of the media calling Millenials ‘job hoppers’, and of being 25 years old but only graduating a year ago. None of these should be influencing my career choices, so they’ve got to go.
  • I saw a professional coach last week, and he said something that really resonated with me. Most people these days will have what he called ‘portfolio careers’; pursuing a wide range of different jobs for varying amounts of time. Gone are the days of staying in the same company for life (goodbye long-service rewards) and gone are the days of staying in the same career forever. We have no ideas which jobs will have disappeared in 10 years time, and which ones will be created. Seeing your career path as a portfolio takes some of the pressure off, because you only have to decide what your next step is, not plan your whole career. If you’re learning and reflecting in each job role, you’ll bring a wealth of experience and insight to any employer.
  • Find your support network and use them. Look for the people who will empathise and actually listen to you, for the ones who believe in you even more than you believe in yourself, and for the ones who will take you shopping/to the city farm/on a massive drinking session to remind you of who you are and what amazing things you have to offer.
  • Talk to as many people as you possibly can, especially about their jobs, because you have no idea what careers are even out there, and what’s going to get you excited.
  • Remind yourself regularly that this is a prime example of building grit, that this experience is making you a stronger and better person. I like to say that in 40 years time, when you’re writing your memoirs, this period of time will be just a footnote in your incredible story.
  • If you’re having a bad day, do whatever you need to do to make yourself get back to a happy state (watch The Office). It’s ok to have off days, and sometimes it’s better to recognise your feelings and take a day off, so that you can get back on the horse, refreshed and remotivated, tomorrow.
  • When it starts getting hard, find a creative way to get it all out. I’ve started writing POETRY!!! for the first time since I was 8 (when I wrote acrostic poems about L.O.V.E and people’s names). Expressing my feelings has helped me to identify the real issues that are bugging me.
  • If all else fails, watch The Unicorn Store on Netflix. I’m pretty sure it was made for me (‘me’ being a demotivated, unemployed, imposter-syndromed millenial facing a career change) and for you, and it’s a beautiful and bizarre, motivational film. Trust me on this one, it works.
Brie Larson looking fly in The Unicorn Store

Finding a job really, really sucks. Everyone knows that, and everyone will tell you that. I absolutely guarantee you that you WILL get a job, because you’re a vibrant, insightful and passionate person, and no one in the world can bring the same experience as you. It will get better, but for now, good luck and loads of love.

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