Confessions of a job searcher: I have no idea why you should hire me!
I felt like I was alone in having no idea of where to go next. This was meant to be a smooth career transition where I landed with confidence into the next chapter of my life, but it didn’t feel like it. I had left the safety of my last job with confidence that I would sail directly into the next opportunity. 30 or so job applications later, and an increasing fear of the question ‘Why should we hire you’, and a new sense of uncertainty had set in. All my applications had been met with silence and the longer I waited, the more I wondered if I was even going in the right direction.
Am I applying for the right jobs?
Why would they hire me, I don’t even have all the relevant qualifications?
Why bother applying for another job if my application is just going to land in the ‘cyberspace CV bin’?
And so the cycle of doubt began. This is the job searchers paradox. Just when you’re meant to be the most confident and secure in your value as a worker, this is often when the greatest doubts and uncertainties as to ‘who the hell is going to hire me’ set in. With each application I wove together telling my story, the more I started to feel like a fake as I detailed with ‘confidence’ why they should hire me.
I felt like all the conversations I was hearing surrounding career transition were focused on the mechanics of how to land the next job. How to nail the job interview. How to create a LinkedIn profile that makes you sound like the next Steve Jobs. These are important, but they also made my job searchers paradox worse. They made me wonder what the hell I was doing wrong? Was I not hireable?
I understand it’s important to learn as much as you can about the art of the job search, but what I yearned for as I sat scrolling for advice was a bit of empathy. A bit of reality. I wanted some advice from these blogs and ‘experts’ on how to balance the incredible uncertainty I was feeling, with the job application personal selling rollercoaster I was on. I wanted to feel like it was ok to wonder ‘why in the world would someone hire me?’
I felt torn as I was trying to navigate my uncertainties in a space where there is little room for doubt.
The conversations were solution-focused and while this was helpful it felt like they weren’t really talking about the elephant in the room. These were my emerging doubts and anxieties in relation to my own sense of value as a worker. All I wanted was some support that I was not alone and that it is pretty normal for job searching to be demoralising and anxiety provoking.
My aim in writing this is not to bask in the negative, but to talk about the truth of the experience. It’s not always a happy and empowering process to look for a job. It can be painstaking and difficult and the whole reason for writing this is to say – you are not alone! It’s normal for the job application process to cause anxiety or uncertainty. Imagine going on 50 blind dates in the same week and not having any luck. It takes a natural toll on even the most optimistic person.
But, there is hope in this truth. You are not alone in feeling like this and if millions of others have survived this uncertainty the statistics are with you. You will make it out of this search alive and if I survived my mass rejections so will you!
We all have PhD’s in hindsight and all we can do is share our own experience and here are two takeaways that I wish I listened to when I was experiencing my job searcher paradox.
1 – Don’t let pride get in the way
I let my pride get in the way of asking for help. Instead of thinking of the job search as a new skill I was learning I had this idea that I should already have it covered and understand the process. What if I had sought help in restructuring my CV and cover letter or attended interview coaching earlier? Imagine how many hours I could have potentially saved if I fully utilised all of the resources at my disposal? This could have saved hours of wasted time and effort on my job search.
Sometimes your own pride can be hard to spot so take an honest look in the mirror and check if you are the one holding you back. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
2 – Get out from behind the computer
In my job search I took two approaches, I applied for jobs online and reached out to people within my network. They had radically different outcomes.
Online I started to get LinkedIn envy. Similar to #fitspo or any other aspirational hashtag the longer I spent online the crummier I felt about my chances. Over the course of the search I started to be more deliberate with my time online making sure that I was not bingeing on the job pages on LinkedIn or reading the summaries of friends from high school wondering if I would ever have such an official sounding job title. While it’s important not to limit your options by ignoring online job postings, tread carefully in this space and be sure to keep an eye out for the ‘LinkedIn Envy Monster’ that may start to rear its head. If you start getting jealous of friends and colleagues or savings hundreds of jobs to your page, it’s time to step back and go for a walk!
The second approach I took to the job search was to reach out to people I knew or those who were two degrees away from me. This was far more successful! Everyone who I reached out to was really helpful and willing to give me some of their time, particularly when it only involved the micro-commitment of a free coffee or lunch.
When I reached out to people with a clear indication of my interests in their field asking for advice the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Most people like to help others! With the right preparation and questions these meetings allowed me to learn about new industries and the conversation moved beyond CV’s into making meaningful connections where I could be honest about my questions and uncertainties. Unlike in a job interview I was in a position to express that I was not 100% clear on exactly what the next role looked like and that I had an ‘open-mind’ to new possibilities.
The other side of getting out from behind the computer is to know when you need to ask for support from friends and family. Try not to spend hours scouring for inspiration that will magically turn you into Bill Gates online. Go out, seek help in the real world and don’t be afraid to ask for support!
One final thought. If you’re feeling crummy about the job search I want to reassure you that your value is not determined by how good you are at applying for jobs. Your intelligence is not determined by how well you fill in a job application and it’s ok to feel unsure and uncertain about what’s next. In fact it’s quite natural. Applying for jobs is a learned skill and we all need help to learn new things.
The job searchers paradox is real and natural. It’s ok to feel uncertain as to why someone should hire you or whether you will ever find a rewarding job. The important thing is how you respond to this feeling. Try not to make my mistake and let pride get in the way. Get out from behind that computer and muster the courage to ask for help! Don’t be afraid of the ‘Why should we hire you’ moments. Your next job is likely to be one honest conversation away (as opposed to 100 hours of LinkedIn envy time away).