If you’re in the middle of a job search, you know: it’s not the searching that’s hard. If you have a loved one who’s looking for a job, you may wonder what has gone wrong in their life. They’re moody and they doubt their abilities. You wonder what’s taking them so long.
This is what you have to keep in mind about actively searching for a job. Normally, we don’t find jobs by actively looking. We find a job because our uncle heard of something. Or, our old boss recruited us. Or, we ran into someone at a conference who was hiring. This is quick. It’s quick because we weren’t looking. A job landed in our lap.
When we actively search for a job, the process is different. We often start with loved ones and try to enlist their help. Then, we apply online. We find ourselves spending hours searching for jobs and filling out online applications. The process feels similar to going to a doctor for the first time: invasive. Sometimes, we’re asked questions about our past salaries. We may be asked whether or not our social media posts are in line with the company’s values. We may be asked to take personality tests and IQ tests – before we even speak to a real person at the company.
Once we start talking to real people, the process can get worse. Often, hiring managers aren’t great interviewers. They’re late to the interview. They reschedule with no notice. They may ask illegal questions and they may talk down to us.
When we’re not selected, the process is equally challenging. Often, we hear nothing back. Other times, we get an automated email rejection with no details. In some lucky scenarios, we get a chance to speak with a real human. Sometimes, those conversations are helpful. But other times, the person on the other end of the phone seems to forget they’re talking to another human. It’s as if they think they’re giving feedback on a car they’ve test driven. They’re quick to judge and will tell us that we aren’t qualified. We come from the wrong industry, or we don’t have enough experience.
The thing that’s the hardest though is that this feedback is very often not 100 percent accurate. We may not have done a perfect job at communicating our strengths. Or, the company just needs to come up with an excuse to hire someone else. But, as a job seeker, it’s hard to know what the “truth” is. We may begin to doubt our abilities.
The most difficult part of searching is the waiting. It’s not unusual for a company to take three, four, or even six months to complete their search. In the meantime, we’re sitting on the sidelines, biting our nails.
So, if you have a friend who is job seeking, cut them a little slack. It’s not the searching that’s so hard.
There’s been a lot in the news about ghosting lately. Job seekers aren’t showing up to interviews. And, they’re not coming to work on their first day – all with no notice. At first look, it can be explained simply: companies have been treating job seekers badly for years, and now, it’s their turn. But, I think there may be more to it than this.
The job search has turned into such a one way street. Ask anyone you know if they’ve ever turned down a job offer. You’ll be surprised to know many have not. If they’re offered a job, they take it. Job offers were hard to come by.
Because of this, the search process has been catered to the hiring manager. After all, they’re the one who’ll sign your paycheck.
Job seekers are expected to take IQ tests. They’re expected to take personality assessments. They’re asked to disclose their full salary history. Employers make candidates open their phone book of references. The job seeker is expected to cancel meetings and to sneak out of work at the last minute to accommodate the hiring manager’s schedule.
Now, think of it from the other side. The employer often doesn’t talk about who they are in the job description. They share what they want in a candidate. The hiring manager goes as fast or slow as they please. Often, candidates are never given a tour of the office where they’ll be working. They often don’t have the chance to meet the team members they’ll work with.
The candidate is expected to make a decision with far less information than the company has to make their decision.
In addition, the job seeker is expected to accept a job offer in just a few days – and sometimes with incomplete information. I have seen a company pressure a candidate to accept a job offer before the person was told what the salary would be.
I believe that part of the reason job seekers ghost companies is this. The job seeker is forced to make a decision more quickly than they feel comfortable. Getting an interview at all is a huge effort. The job seeker doesn’t want to walk away from a perfectly good offer, so they accept. Then, they have a little time to learn more about the company. They visit the new city where they might move. They learn more about the people they might be working with. And, suddenly, they realize that they shouldn’t have accepted the job offer at all.
The difference between now and a few years ago is this. There are other jobs available. In the past, the job seeker may have found themselves in the same position, but they would have stuck with their decision because it was the only option.
Today, there are many options. So, the candidate ghosts the company that didn’t take the time to create a two way street.
I can’t say this enough times. The job market is excellent! It’s the strongest job market we’ve seen in fifty years. Fifty years! Lately, there have been more open jobs than people looking for a job. The national unemployment rate has dropped below 3.8 percent. That’s pretty incredible.
With this said, I keep running into a phenomenon that’s boggling my mind. I just can’t get over it. I’m hearing from people every day who hate their jobs, but aren’t ready to find a new job. I’ll be honest. This very sounds counterintuitive to me. If something isn’t right, I can’t help but look for a solution.
But, these unhappy employees are busy. They have other commitments now. There are other priorities they need to attend to right now. They’re not satisfied at work, but they’ll look later. They’ll search when they have a little more time.
While I understand the logic behind this argument, I want to share another perspective. This is the thing. When we’re thinking of looking for a job, we think of ourselves. Our thought process is focused inward. We think, “I have the right education. I have the right experience. I’m qualified.” This makes sense. We believe we are either ready or are not ready for a particular job.
Rarely do we ever think about whether a job is ready for us. What I mean is this. So much of hiring is influenced by the job market and the current state of the economy. Even if you’re at the top of your game, if the economy isn’t great, you’re just out of luck. Companies don’t have the resources to hire you. They’ll force their existing workers to work a little harder. Ask anyone who has graduated from college during a tough economic time. They remember how hard it was to find a job, despite their new education.
Alternatively, if the job market is hot, companies may be more flexible on their requirements. This is especially true if there’s a shortage of people with your skills in your industry – right now. In other words, a company may be willing to hire you now, even if you don’t meet every requirement.
The most important words to note are “right now.” There is no guarantee the job market will continue to be strong. A recession is predicted in the next year or so. And, some people are already saying that the job market is slowing down.
What does this mean for you? If you’re someone who hates your job, now is the time to act. If you’re busy, it may be time to reprioritize. Or, to decide if you can live with your job for a few more years if the economy really does slow down.
Job searching is a lot like the children’s game musical chairs. If you want to find a new spot, you’ve got to get it before the music stops.
If you’re like most people, there was a time when you were underqualified for a job. This is typically the case when you apply for your first job or when you make a big career change midstream.
At some point, you didn’t meet all of the requirements of a job description you were really interested in. Did that stop you from applying? Many job seekers avoid applying when they don’t meet all the requirements. It seems pointless and a path straight to rejection.
This reminds me of a job I took right after college. I didn’t realize it, but a MBA was required. It wasn’t even optional – it was a must-have. Of course, I didn’t have a MBA back then.
I competed against two much older MBAs. We were all there together, so the process was both intimidating and grueling. In the end, I was surprised to know I was the one who got an offer. It turns out I had performed better in the interviews, and I suspect I was cheaper.
Remember – when your future boss writes a job description, they often provide a laundry list of things they’d like to have. In fact, they may even use a template to write the description that has extra requirements tucked in. It’s like a wish list. Your future boss doesn’t expect to find someone who matches every single requirement. If they did, the person would most likely be overqualified.
So, where does this leave you? Clearly you don’t want to waste time applying for jobs you can’t actually do. But, there’s a difference between not meeting all of the requirements of the job description and being able to do the job.
Read the job description carefully. Ask yourself honestly, “Do I think I can do this job successfully?” If your answer is yes, apply right away. If the answer is maybe, evaluate how much of the job you can do. If you believe you can successfully complete 80 percent or more of the requests in the job posting, you should also consider applying.
The online application process may not be of much help however. Applicant tracking systems filter out applicants who don’t appear to be a fit on paper. To overcome this, look for opportunities to connect offline. Search out your future boss on LinkedIn, or find your future colleagues at networking events.
If it appears that your lack of experience is too much for your future boss, explore opportunities to grow your skills. Search for classes you can take. Look for smaller businesses that might give you a shot. Or, look for another hiring manager that’s more flexible in their requirements.
At the end of the day, you don’t know you won’t be selected for a job unless you take the risk and apply. It’s much better for a future employer to tell you no than for you to automatically eliminate yourself from consideration.
The title of my column today may sound a bit confusing. It comes from one of my own career mentors. Years ago, when I was finishing graduate school, I spent a significant amount of time searching for the right job.
Occasionally, one would pop up that would seem almost right. It would have a great job description. The company seemed stable. The team seemed interesting. But, there was something about the hiring manager that was off – or perhaps the company wasn’t offering a competitive salary.
I would meet with my mentor to tell him about the jobs I was considering, and discuss the pros and cons of each. If a job seemed like the wrong fit, he would encourage me to walk away. The thought of turning down an offer without another in hand was nerve-wracking. It was like torture. This is especially true when you’re unemployed, or very unhappy with your current job.
My mentor would then remind me, “Jobs are like buses. Just wait; another one is always coming.”
He felt it was more important to find the right fit, than to take the first job that came along. Looking back, these were wise words. Who else in your life do you spend as much time with as your boss and co-workers? For most, the answer is your spouse. You typically don’t choose to marry your first date. Why would you expect that at work?
Often, we want to take every job when we’re feeling desperate. We’re miserable in our current position and we think that anything would be better – even if it were just for a short time. We assume this job may be the best thing we’ll get right now. We may be stuck forever if we wait longer.
The problem with this strategy is complex. First, your next job may have just as many problems are your current job, if not more. As the saying goes, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
More importantly though, planning to take a job for a short time forces you to explain why you’re looking for a new job just after accepting one. This means that you’ll be explaining all the dirt on your old company, including the ways that you didn’t get along with your boss or co-workers.
When you choose to wait and select the right job, you’ll find yourself there for more than just a short time. While you’re interviewing, you’ll be able to focus on the positives of what you want in the future rather than the negatives from the past. Whether it comes to interviewing or negotiating your offer, focusing on the positive puts you in a much stronger position.
When you’re having a tough day, just try to remember that jobs are like buses. Just wait. Another one is coming, and you want to be sure you get on the right one.