Life Lessons From The Job Search

For the last four months, I’ve been partaking in the job hunt. It has had its moments of pure joy and utter frustration, and it’s given me some insights that’ll stick with me for a while.

The job search is one of those processes/moments in my life that has felt unnatural to me as a person. You’re expected to sell yourself and talk about your achievements and experience. Growing up bashful, this has certainly been something out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, outside of that zone is where the growing happens, right?

Lesson #1: Luck plays an important role.

Admitting that luck is a factor in this process can seem anti-climactic and insulting. It’s almost like advocating for the “put your hands up and go with the flow”, laissez-faire mentality. It’s defeatist in nature.

Yet I feel there’s value in acknowledging this. Hear me out. In this job search process, you’re going to apply to tens (maybe a hundred) positions, and invariably in all of those phone calls, on-site interviews and technicals there are going to be variables.

Perhaps that day the interviewer woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and just happened to give you a tough technical question, or the HR associate just glimpsed at your resume after a tiring day of doing that to over a hundred of them and didn’t do it full justice.

My point being that in a chaotic job market, companies often receive hundreds of applications. In their bid to select the best candidates from hundreds, they sometimes miss out on a few great ones. It’s hardly consolation, but don’t be too hard on yourself.

Lesson #2: You can know everything there is to know and still fumble.

There’s a lot of stuff out there to learn. So much so, in fact, that Einstein once said:

The more I learnthe more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

In this day and age, work expects us to know things in great detail. Even for entry level positions, such as the ones I applied for, they expected you to have over a year in work experience. Mastery is the name of the game.

Even when you prepare for an interview, seemingly knowing everything that you could be expected to be tested/quizzed about, there will be moments where you just blank out. We put ourselves in pressure so much that we often cloud our own judgement and sensibilities with stress.

The best thing to do in this case is to take a deep breath, regroup and go back to the drawing board. Interviewers are human too, and they’ve probably interviewed many a bunch of talented and highly qualified people that have blanked out. They understand.

Lesson #3: The right opportunity is a needle in a haystack.

Though there are opportunities everywhere, the right opportunities are rare.

“Opportunities are rare in this life, and fairness, rarer still. So, when you discover a fair opportunity, go after as if it were your last because it very well might be.”

Joel T. McGrath

It’s not always that you find the opportunities for which you are a good fit and which are a good fit for you. Seek those opportunities, and pursue them to the fullest.

Lesson #4: Success loves prudence.

It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not to have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared for it. Success loves cautiousness, and it’s usually true that the better you prepare, the better you perform.

Success – though longed for – is not an uncomplicated state. It attracts admiration, but also envy. It emphasises our virtues, but – unwittingly – delivers a humiliating verdict on the status of those around us.

The Book of Life

In your search of success, be relentless. Scout every resource there is, anticipate the opportunities, and expect the unexpected. Like a decisive general on the battlefield, it’s important to be aware of what lies ahead in order to make the calculations in order to achieve a pivotal victory.

Your prudence and preparedness will manifest not only in your skill during the job search, it’ll also translate into the confidence that you radiate in interviews, and conversations in your hunt for the next big right opportunity.

Lesson #5: Don’t Quit.

It took me three months to hear back from any of my options. By that time, people had heard back, interviewed over the phone, gone for on-site interviews, some had been turned down from some positions and some of them had even accepted offers.

During that time, I downplayed my strengths and was just in a negative space of mind. Of course, my friends were around to motivate me and give me tips on things like my resume, but being in the company of excellence took its toll on me mentally.

As the window for finding a position began to wind down in late November. Some of the positions I had applied for began to fill up, and some had even closed. It wasn’t until the second last week of November that I got my first phone and on-site interviews.

Don’t judge your progress using the benchmarks and milestones of others.

And if you really need a kicker, heed the advice of Edgar A. Guest on his poem, “Don’t Quit“:

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Edgar Albert Guest

As always, thanks for reading.

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