Despite having run my own company for most of the last 20 or so years, late last year I came across a job opportunity that caught my attention. I was considering a bit of a change of pace, and figured I’d apply for it. The truth is, I wasn’t sure if I even truly wanted it, but I figured it would be interesting to see what it was all about and put my own job hunting skills to the test.
After sending off my application, I then realised it would be silly to apply for one job just because I’d stumbled across it, without looking at what else might be around, and I ended up applying for two other positions, and cold calling another contact to see if there might be any opportunities at his company.
All the while, I was thinking about all of you – the people I try to help with advice, the people who read my advice – thinking it would be a great opportunity to walk my talk.
So here’s what happened:
If you get an interview, don’t stuff it up.
Job #1: I dusted off my old CV, gave it a bit of an update, took some stuff out that I didn’t think was so relevant, and beefed up a few other areas I thought they’d be interested in.
I ended up being shortlisted and went in for an interview. I thought I did an OK job, but actually, I stuffed it up a bit.
I’d done most of the things I tell others to do – I was on time for the interview, did some homework and asked a few questions that demonstrated I’d put some effort in, I dressed appropriately (ie I wore trousers), combed my mop of hair, didn’t say too many swear words, and was likeable and at times, quite hilarious.
I found out recently I didn’t get the gig, but learned this lesson: Some places don’t just ask you questions and expect answers, they expect examples of those answers. I’m sure I probably had good examples for all of them, but couldn’t think of any off the cuff for some of them, and in the end, they gave the job to someone who had better answers and examples than me.
Was that person more experienced or talented than me? Actually, I honestly don’t think so. But they nailed the interview. Well done them. Job Hunting 1. Sputnik nil.
Follow up your application.
Job #2: I heard on the grapevine another company I’d crossed paths with over the years we're looking for someone so I reached out. We emailed, we chatted, and in the end, I managed to get myself shortlisted for an interview. Not bad. Two from two! *fist pump*. I thought I did a pretty decent job, but then didn’t hear back from them.
Not bad news, just no news. I very gently followed them up a couple of times, just like I’d tell you to do. They seemed to appreciate the follow up and told me the decision making process had been delayed.
I eventually heard back from them and it was another ‘no’. Just a few days ago I heard who got the job, a friend of mine funnily enough, and an excellent and incredibly talented human, but his skill set is a very odd match for the job. So I have no idea what he said or did in the interview, but yet again I’d lost out to someone whose talent and experience wasn’t necessarily better than mine. Job Hunting 2. Sputnik nil.
Go all out. Be remembered. ‘Bribe’ them if you have to.
Job #3: This one was always a bit of a ‘dark horse’. It was in a different part of the country to where I live, the money wasn’t great, and the role was quite diverse – I definitely had most of the skill set but not all of it, but it was with a tourism related organisation and even though logistically and financially it would have been a nightmare, I, of course, decided this was the one I really wanted so I went all out.
I made lots of adjustments to my application to make it as relevant as possible to the role. I sent it early so it didn’t get lost in the last minute rush. I made sure I followed the advice of my last article and did things to make sure at the very least I would stand out and be remembered. The same day I sent it I got a personal reply saying “Thanks for making my day with that application” so at least I’d gotten noticed! Looking good.
She also made a note saying she liked a certain brand of confectionery I’d worked on, so I promptly bought the biggest bag I could find, and shipped it up to her, along with a copy of one of my books to showcase my ability and hopefully impress her enough to get to the next stage. Sadly, when it arrived she informed me the bag had broken and because of the hot weather in her part of the world, instead of a bag of chocolate and a book, she’d received a chocolate coated book. Not ideal, but the gesture was still appreciated.
In the end, it was strike three as I was told they employed a local person instead. She also said “that’s not to say I won’t be remembering you and potentially calling upon you for some creative juice on a consultative basis. Your application and follow up is incredible!” Job Hunting 3. Sputnik nil. But some positive feedback at least!
Create your own opportunities.
Job #4: I’ll gloss over this one a bit for two reasons. Firstly, It was more an acquisition of my business than a job, and secondly, the whole deal is actually still on the table so who knows what happens next? But I wanted to mention it here because the lesson here was that the owner of that company knew me personally, we’d worked together before, but had never approached me about an acquisition. It was up to me to be pro-active and put the idea out there.
And it’s a good reminder that many opportunities never get advertised, and even if you know someone, it doesn’t mean they’ll think of you if and when an opportunity does come up. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunity and put yourself front and centre.
After all that, I had a grand total of two interviews, one genuine and positive response, and a possible offer. So next time I give advice, please know, I haven’t forgotten how stressful it can be. I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to get knocked back. But some of the stuff I say to do actually works!