Grad Scheming (5): Advice on getting a job from someone who was (briefly) professionally jobless

Grad Scheming“Dear How to Be Jobless, do you have any tips on landing a job?”

It’s amazing that anyone would ask me this.

My name is, after all, How to Be Jobless. If you’re going to ask for tips on anything it should be on types of pyjamas, or how to stave off soul-rot. But, for whatever reason, this is the FAQ I keep getting, so I’m finally just going to answer it, all in one post. Efficient.

My first piece of advice is to take the following tips with a pinch of salt, and perhaps some baking soda, and a pretzel. My expertise, if you can call it that (you can’t) is in joblessness. I’ve landed exactly one job since starting this blog. You wouldn’t listen to a one-time bungee jumper positing his tips for the perfect bungee jump, would you? So why are you reading this? Seriously, I won’t judge you if you close this article right now and Google “funny cats”. In fact, I won’t even know.

You’re sticking with it, are you? Fine. I warned you.

1) Have a great online presence

It’s incredible to me that there are still budding journalists out there who aren’t on Twitter. A journalist’s job is to comment on the world around them. It’s not enough to say you’re up for it and promise that you’re good. Twitter is microjournalism, so if you’re not even doing that…

You know how hard it is to get across what you’re about in the long-outdated CV/covering letter/interview combo? It’s pretty rubbish from an employer’s point of view as well. After the CV/covering letter nonsense, all they have to go on to uncover their whizz kid is a high-pressure window of half an hour or so, during which the candidate is trying to appear as their most employable, healthy, energetic, shiny self. Is it any wonder they stalk us on Facebook?

Why would an employer take a risk on someone about whom they know nothing, apart from what they saw at interview? They have a hundred other candidates who have a Twitter account, a blog and an online portfolio. A quick perusal of those, and the interview just answers the question, “Do we like you? Is your face the one we want to see across a desk every day?”

Also, if you’re hoping to be a writer, having a brilliant blog is a way to show employers that not only can you do the job, but you’re doing it already, and will in the future – with or without the job they’re offering. That’s someone you want to bet on.

2) Apply – then FORGET ABOUT IT

You’ve written a brilliant application, you’ve sent it off. Well done you. Now for the love of god, forget about it. Don’t watch your inbox, don’t keep your eye on the calendar. I know they said they’d let everyone know by the twelvetieth, but they’re lying. Or, more kindly, they’re overestimating themselves. I’ve only applied for one job, ever, that met their “letting you know” deadline. The rest either never get back to you, or leave you hanging like a naked chicken on a spit for months afterwards. Many don’t send the “we didn’t give you the job” email until the passing of time evaporated any hope you’d mustered.

That all sounded a tad dramatic, I know, but the bee in my bonnet gets REALLY angry about companies who don’t respond to applicants. It’s the main reason I don’t wear a bonnet anymore. We live with technology that’s designed to communicate with thousands of people at once – even a simple mail merge gets the job done – but none of that technology is used to say “Thanks for your interest, sorry, you didn’t get the job.” Funny, they always manage to get you on their newsletter list…

3) Have an interview with the interviewer, not the demon interviewer in your head 

The number of people who say things like, “I messed it up – I told them I went travelling and now they’ll think I’m flighty and not committed and will disappear at any minute. I mean, why jump to that conclusion? Just because I went travelling before university doesn’t mean I’m going to just randomly drop everything and go again! Should I email and clarify that I definitely won’t do that?”

Yes – definitely email them to deny something you’ve imagined they might think. That won’t make you sound irrational, paranoid or panicky at all.

In my anecdotal experience, this is the biggest mistake people make during interviews – inventing criteria you’re being judged by, and acting accordingly. Don’t do that. It’s not real criteria – it’s your guess. You’ve made it up. And it’s baffling to watch you song and dance to it.

Forgive the hippie-sounding tip, but be the most honest version of yourself. Don’t try to be more professional, knowledgeable or funny than you are. Answer the questions as if the people asking them are human beings looking for a good fit, rather than demonic clowns cocking rifles in your face.

4) You got the job! Ask before you tweet about it 

One thing that sucks about getting a job (and there aren’t many things) is they tell successful candidates first, and leave unsuccessful candidates hanging (for weeks, sometimes). It’s cruel to the unsuccessful candidates waiting to hear if their lives are back on track. It’s also slightly cruel to the successful candidates who’ve just been released from the joy-vacuum of joblessness, because they have to keep schtum.

I know having to whisper your final, glorious success rather takes the joy out of the moment – but there are people out there dangling. Your tweet, should you choose to send it before they’ve been formally rejected, will ruin their day. Maybe their week. Finding out you didn’t get the job from someone else’s joyful tweet, because the employer was too bone idle and insensitive to release you from suspense, is probably in the top five most demoralising things that can happen to a jobseeker. That was you yesterday, so now you get to be the sensitive one. Don’t let your happiness make somebody sad.

Did I answer your questions? Let me know if not, you know my Twitter handle. In the meantime, do Google “funny cats”. They really are very funny.GoThinkBig

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