Lizzie’s Journey: Ch 3 – Dealing with the struggle of job hunting
So, Part 3… You’ve done the groundwork and the process is well underway, but now you’ve got to deal with the employers’ responses, from the disappointing news that your application has not been successful to interview invitations – this is the tough part.
Re-thinking what ‘failure’ means
It took me more or less eight weeks from moving to London in October until I got my job offer in December. My advice is, try not to put a time on it. Finding a job is hard work. I mentioned this in the last chapter but focus on making the job-hunting process sustainable and it’ll take the pressure off having to find the job you want so quickly. When I got a temporary job, I gave myself time out and stopped letting the job hunt consume my life. This made me much more content with the realisation that job hunting is not an overnight process.
The responses I got from organisations was mixed. Sometimes, I’d hear nothing, sometimes I’d receive an email telling me I’d been unsuccessful and other times it would be positive. I think I got an interview for around one in three of my applications.
But with job hunting comes rejection and that was something I also had to get used to. Firstly, ‘rejection’ is a very negative word and I would steer away from seeing not getting a job this way. But whatever you choose to call it, it’s inevitable and it isn’t easy. Especially when you have weeks of one ‘no’ after another. However, it definitely got easier as time went on and I became less sensitive to hearing ‘you’ve not been successful’.
The thing with being told ‘no’, whether that be at application or interview stage, is you may not have done anything wrong. It could just be that the successful applicant had more experience, or was able to start at an earlier date. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to revise your entire approach to job hunting.
Understanding the job hunting process
I got used to seeing rejection as part of the process and didn’t let it send me back to the drawing board. Yes, you’ll feel disappointed and probably a bit more if it was a job you’d really pinned your hopes on. But here’s the thing, unless your first application is going to secure you an interview and a job, failure has to be part of the process. Let yourself feel the disappointment, give yourself some time out from job hunting (an afternoon, an evening… do something completely difficult), and come back to it. Revisit your career goals (it really helps if you write them down) and use the experience as a tool to see if there are areas you can improve in. There are going to be plenty more opportunities so try your best to move on, and don’t let it hold you back from your future successes.
The trouble with being unsuccessful at the application stage is that a lot of employers just don’t provide feedback. But if they send you a personal email (and not just a generic one) then it’s certainly worth asking for some feedback. If you are getting interviews, you’re doing something right.
Ask yourself, did you feel like you gave it your best shot? Could you have given it more time? Tailored your CV? Or written an individual cover letter? Don’t worry if you can’t see any great areas of improvement – you’ll get more experience just from writing more applications.
Bouncing back from an unsuccessful interview
Hearing that you’re unsuccessful after an interview is naturally hard. Of course, when all an organisation sees is a piece of paper, it’s easier to shrug off, but when they’ve met you it’s more difficult. That being said, you do get used to this too. The reality is, by the time you reach interview stage, there’s probably not much between you and the other candidates. You’re being interviewed because you were one of the best and they need to meet you to make that final decision. So, if you are unsuccessful it may be the smallest factor but it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what happened. Personally, I felt that I could have given more detailed examples. Once I noticed this, I made a point to improve on this in future interviews. Always ask for feedback – that way, you’ll have a much clearer picture of where you need to improve.
Oh and if you’ve been invited to an interview or are waiting to hear the result of one you’ve just been to, try not to let it grind your process to a halt. Sometimes, I’d pin my hopes on a job and hold back from other applications, only to not get the job. And holding out for jobs you don’t get, just makes rejection harder. Interviews are part of the process but they aren’t the end of it. When I could walk out of an interview and continue with other applications, I put a lot less on the outcome of the interview.
Using the ‘struggle’ as an opportunity to grow
I’m not going to pretend that sometimes I didn’t feel like my confidence had been beaten to the ground, because I did. And I know plenty of other people who felt the same way. More often than not, I felt more like ‘oh god, I’m never going to get a job… I’m going to have to move home and accept I’m unemployable’ than I did ‘oh this is such an opportunity to grow as a person’.
Honestly, it’s very difficult to see it as a period of growth until you are looking back. But it is. You’ll learn more about the area that you want to go into. You’ll improve your communication skills, as well as to accept rejection and to use it as a tool to bring the best version of yourself to the table. Not to mention it makes you a more resilient person.
What’s more, if you’re one of those ‘everything happens for a reason’ types like me, then you’ll be glad for all the jobs you didn’t get because they will have allowed you to get the right one. But don’t berate yourself if you don’t feel like this is a period of growth right now. It can be tough and there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.
What you can do in the meantime…
The great thing about the charity sector is that it’s relatively easy to get experience because so many organisations rely on a volunteer network. You have a real opportunity to volunteer for the type of charity you’re interested in and improve your skill set. Not to mention, it’s a great thing to add to your CV too. Volunteering shows that you are both proactive and committed to the area you want to get into. When I’d decided to focus on the environmental sector, I went back to volunteering for a sustainable development charity, and also got work as a copywriter to improve my skills in communications. Even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, it’s worth doing. Check out the websites of the charities you’d like to work for and see if they are advertising for volunteers. Have a look at the volunteer opportunities on CharityJob too – there are plenty to choose from.
This was certainly the hardest part for me. Hiding behind a screen and writing applications almost seems like the nice bit when you’re constantly refreshing your emails and waiting for replies or walking out of interviews feeling like you didn’t manage to say anything remotely constructive for the whole hour. When you are writing an application, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Focus on that very application and all of the experience you have that you can use to make it great. When you have an interview, just think – you’ve already got the experience that the employer is looking for. Focus on that interview and being yourself. All of the ups and downs are part of the process and being unsuccessful doesn’t mean you are unemployable, it just means you have yet to find the right job and organisation for you.