After almost 4 months of active job searching, I finally landed my next consulting gig. It’s a tough market out there for project management professionals. The mining boom in Brisbane definitely has worn off, people from my old network have moved away and there is a lot of qualified professionals in the market that are competing for the same roles.
After over 30 written applications, meeting about 20 former colleagues, 4 interviews (of which 3 were for roles never advertised on public job boards), I finally got my next four-month contract.
I have been very fortunate enough so far that I never had to look for a job very long in the past. So this experience gave me an appreciation of what people go through every day in their job search which sometimes can take years and mentally demoralize people and families.
With the aim to hopefully help some people in their job search, I have put together what I learnt over the past four months.
Firstly, some very important things to keep in mind when looking for a new job:
- Every day remind yourself how good you are in your job and the achievements you have had so far.
- An interview is only a very small timeframe for a potential employer to learn how good you are at what you do. Don’t get to beaten up if the role was not offered to you.
Network. This is probably the most important asset and skill you have. Three out of four interviews that I attended were for roles that had never been officially published. Here are three focus areas for my networking:
- Former colleagues – Ask them to meet you for coffee and listen to what is going on in their organization. You should pay for the coffee since you asked them out.
- Industry focused networking events – There are some great industry focused networking events out there. Some are of very low cost (i.e. meetup.com). Consider volunteering for your industry specific organization.
- Recruiters – Stay in touch with them and keep them informed.
There is no magical formula to networking besides listening and making sure it is not just about you. The more people talk about themselves and their company, the more they will like you. Listen carefully and find out where you can add value and then be confident in offering the solution.
Your resume. Your resume is the first impression that potential recruiters will have from you. Make sure it is appropriately tailored for the roles that you are applying for and has no spelling errors. There are various resume resources on the internet and it will mainly depend on the industry that you are working in on how you will structure your resume. I found this Resume list from Ashley Stahl very useful.
It is also good to use websites like jobscan that will compare your resume to the job description and rate it depending on word matches. There is also worldle which is used to create word clouds that will help you identify key words and focus areas of the role. The biggest words in the cloud should be the key words in your application.
If you are changing careers or had a long break, make sure that you include a goal statement: “At the moment I am hoping to transition…”
Get your elevator pitch. Remember that 20-30s persuasive sales pitch used when talking to strangers in an elevator (or at networking events)? If you are job hunting you will definitely need one and a strong elevator pitch will make you stand out from the rest. Focus on the goal that you are trying to achieve. Start your pitch by describing what you or your organization does. Focus on how you help people and organizations. Provide statistics that show the value in what you do and it will make your elevator pitch even stronger.
LinkedIn. We live in a digital world today. Having an online presence is an absolute must for certain professions. If you don’t have your own bloq, digital publications or website you should at least have a stand out LinkedIn profile. I really like Ashley Stahl’s LinkedIn make over cheat list. LinkedIn will also give you insides into the companies that you are applying for and its employees.
Gracefully brag. For some people it is not natural to brag about themselves. I am certainly one of them. Especially in Australia the “tall poppy syndrome” is something very unlikable. However, when writing a selection criteria and in interviews it is essential to sell yourself as best as possible. So here are some strategies to practice graceful bragging:
- I am really grateful that …
- People tell me that I am good at…
- I received very positive feedback from my colleagues…
Interview questions. There is a lot of material on interview questions. Most large organizations will use behavioural job interview questions, which are based on the notion that past behaviours are the best indicator for future behaviours. The best way to answer them is using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique.
For each situation I would write out the situation, task required, actions taken and end result. I actually would practice them by recording myself with my mobile phone by voice or video. I would then replay the recording and tweak as required.
You’ll be surprised how this can boost your overall confidence. The more you prepare, the more confident you will be.
Here are some of my favourite links for interview questions:
Bring humanity to your application. With all the facts don’t forget to bring some humanity to the application. Why did you choose this career?
- “From when I was a child I wanted to build airplanes”
- What were the defining moments that made you choose the career that you are in?
You can’t change what is out of your control.
- how people are hiring (aka how recruiters or organizations are treating applicants)
- the Economy
- the job market
Whatever happens, don’t forget to keep the end goal in mind. It may seem endless at times but the biggest potential gains out of a long job search is an immense opportunity for personal growth which will pay off in the long term.