The only thing that sucks more than the uncertainty of being laid off is looking for new job. It’s a grueling process to look for work when you are out of work. Part of you wants to climb the ladder and other parts of you want to just be hired by someone…anyone… please! I was laid off just over a year ago and after receiving the crushing news, I drowned my sorrow in a bowl of Pho and set off to work on it. After about 3 days of applying, the interviews started to roll in, and I was excited that my resume was kicking ass! By the end of about a month, I’d had 20 interviews and two offers. I was tired, excited and full of reflection. Here are five lessons I learned by the end:
What got you here, will not get you there. I had heard this before but interviewing at this pace sent this lesson slamming into me by force. I am a good interviewer (I think). I know I read “likable and passionate” about my work. I know these are my strengths. Early in my career I leaned on these two things a lot and got jobs rather quickly because of it. The lesson of my needing to step it up came when interviewing for a job that was out of my league, as a marketer for a local TV network. I came in smiling, eager, showing how much I really love my work and by proxy will love to have this job. I bombed. I told myself it was not that bad at the time but I can be real here – it was terrible. What I missed? I leaned on those old strengths instead of really focusing on showcasing my skill set and understanding the industry. I could have still not been what they wanted but at this moment, after not getting a callback, I felt my interview game plan shift. Book for reference: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel
Be Honest. When you are looking for a job while being unemployed, lies are tempting. Being let go is embarrassing and you are eager to please interviewers. You have, to be honest (not negative, but honest). I had two instances where this paid off. First, when interviewing I did not try to hide the gap in my resume, I was up front about my being out of work. I got a lot of positive feedback about this. The second was the “what do you think of our website/brand” questions. I hate these questions and I typically dance around them but I had one instance where I didn’t. I was asked about a certain bike company’s brand and in so many words I said: “it’s all over the place and this is what I think you should do”. I had no idea how it would go over and to my surprise, she loved it and called me in for the next round. It could have gone either way but I was honest and my solution happened to be on par with the company’s thoughts as well.
Leave your desperation at the door. People can smell “trying too hard” from a mile away. Be hungry and not thirsty, as the kids say. You are looking for work, which can be a desperate thing but you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Take a step back and make sure where you are interviewing is where you want to be. If you take something you hate, you will be happy to have it for the first 90 days but soon after, you will be back on the job market. So choose wisely the first time.
Looking for a job is a job. I was more busy looking for a job than I ever was at the job that laid me off. It is crazy. Get yourself into a routine and be organized. I found this out pretty quickly as I was booking two interviews per day a lot. To start, I got all my documents together in one ready to go folder – writing samples, marketing samples, prints of my resume etc. Then my day would often be waking early, studying for an interview at 10 am, after that lunch and studying for another interview at 3 pm. Then going home to study for the next day and send “Thank you for your time notes”.Get yourself into a groove. It makes you confident in the interviews.
And Finally, I learned how much never leaving the job market would actually pay off. Even though I was completely blindsided by my job loss, I was able to move quickly because I was ready. If you have not read my post “Never Leave the Job Market“, please do... it saved me time and consequently money in the entire process. Looking for a job is hard and looking for one when you don’t have one is even more terrible but it’s doable.
I hope these tips were valuable to you, I am sure there are more but these are the lessons that have stuck with me over time. If you have an interview tip or experience to share, I want to hear about it in the comments below.