Last week, I noticed that my friend had changed her name on Facebook. Essentially she had re-arranged the letters of her first name. Such that those who were already connected to her would still know she was the one. But strangers would find it difficult to find her on Facebook. I can’t be a 100% certain – but I assumed she was job hunting and possibly going through the interviewing process. I’ve also had a couple of recent conversations related to this so I thought I’ll write this piece.
Even though job hunting can be tough and difficult, there are some practical steps we can take to ease the process.
Here are a few:
Build up your CV
Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But you’ll be surprised how many people do not actually have an up to date CV or simply churn out the exact same CVs for different applications. On one of my enthusiastic days, I ran a twitter poll to find out when the average Nigerian wrote their first CV. Out of 325 responses, 60 % noted that they did so only after graduating from Uni. I couldn’t even judge because I fell into that category as well. There’s also another group of people who forget to update their CVs with their experiences and achievements simply because they are currently at a good place – job wise. The challenge then occurs when they need to move jobs, and it becomes difficult to clearly remember some of your achievements.
Writing a good CV takes time – and that probably requires a separate post on its own. But do some research, find out the best format to present your CV, tweak it for different roles. It’s also helpful to receive some feedback on it. Many times, the issue isn’t that we don’t have the required experience, but we have been unable to use words to clearly demonstrate how suitable we are.
Network (and let people know you’re looking!)
I remember saying to my not-so-little brother “Your network is your net worth”. It felt like the best thing he had heard ever and wouldn’t stop repeating the phrase to anyone who cared to listen, plus updated it on most of his social media channels. As I grow older, I realise how incredibly true that statement is. And it applies while job hunting – and I do not mean situations where ‘connections’ get you positions over merit. I mean, in simply being aware of opportunities and knowing what’s out there. If you do not know – how can you apply?
Because of our background, networking doesn’t come naturally to most people. As children, we are often told to speak only when spoken to and not to interrupt adults. As a result, many often find it difficult to approach people, engage in conversations and work a room. But it’s a skill we have to consciously learn. So don’t sit all day in your room with your computer trying to send out a mass of applications. That could be counter productive. Get out there, let people know you’re actively looking to move.
Think of your contacts and how they could possibly help. In today’s world – social media is such a great tool, and people have gotten opportunities via Twitter and Instagram from virtual connections and even without a face to face meeting. LinkedIn is also a powerful tool that you should maximise. I’ve seen people check their LinkedIn updates to “Searching for a role in…” and that’s sure to get some attention. I remember saying to someone that I didn’t want people to see the notification that I had checked them out on LinkedIn. But isn’t that what it’s for? So feel free to stalk people (within reason) and improve your connections.
Note social media etiquette while job hunting particularly as prospective employers could check out your feed. Be careful of what you’re sharing and tweeting and the kind of vibes you’re generally passing across.
Volunteer / Take courses / Start a Blog etc
I know, I know. It can be a hard one to sell. Like “I don’t have a job, and you want me to volunteer for free?”. But the reality is there are so many benefits to volunteering / un paid internships. It could very well help get a foot in the door and provide an opportunity to prove yourself.
Asides professional volunteering – being involved in social causes help you improve your network – some of whom you may never have met ordinarily. If you’re being extra efficient, you could even do some research and find out causes that potential employers engage in and get involved in those. There are also so many soft skills that could be gained through volunteering. In addition, it could help fill up any gap periods that would otherwise be on CV.
Other productive activities that you could engage in during this period include learning a skill or taking (free) online courses that could enhance your technical and soft skills. An activity like starting a blog could also prove useful as a way to show your interest and/or skills. I know of someone who was interested in a rather niche area of climate change and green policies. She started a blog writing relevant articles and forwarded these to prospective employers in that sector to show her genuine interest. It was a distinguishing factor to other applicants and something good did come out of it. If possible, you could even start your own business.
Take it Seriously & Believe in Yourself
While searching for jobs, you’ll have to put in the work – there’s often no short cut. Some people go all out and create excel spreadsheets while others are fine with paper updates. But either way, you will have to keep track of the firms you’ve applied to, those you need to apply to, persons to email and follow up – the entire spectrum! You’ll sign up to job websites, speak to recruiters, tweak your CV and write one cover letter after another.
In all of this, it’s important that you do not burn out. So take care of yourself and pick quality over quantity. Do not attempt to apply for every job which by a long stretch of your imagination you think you’ll be qualified for. It’s also a good idea to seek expert career advice if available and have practice interview sessions as much as you can. (I’ve shared some interview tips on the blog here especially the awesome STAR technique for dealing with competency based questions. Yes this is a plug in – so check it out!)
Finally, you need to believe in yourself and your ‘awesomeness’. My friend recently got her dream job and was explaining how she almost didn’t attend the interview because she didn’t think she was good enough. Thank God for her mother who knocked some sense into her by asking the all popular question “those that are there, do they have two heads?”
Blow your own trumpet and let people know what you can bring to the table. As an Igbo proverb says – when the lizard falls from a tree and looks around but finds nobody to praise it, it praises itself. Be careful though; there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance and we want to be sure we are firmly on the side of the former. Don’t let one rejection bring you down. Always ask for feedback, see the positives in them and keep moving!
Hopefully, for all those looking, something great comes in really quickly!
What challenges have you faced with job hunting and do you have any extra tips to share?