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Career tips on getting the best job you can; Job search tips that help you take ownership of your career.
By Unmana Datta
Three years ago, in the depths of the recession, I quit my stressful job at a small IT firm. I couldn’t take it anymore; every Sunday night, I would feel sick at the thought of going to work the next day. I quit even though we had a monthly home loan payment that was much of my salary, counting on my husband’s job to carry us through.
I spent the first few weeks recuperating. Then I started exploring my options. I got more involved in volunteering. I tried to write, but was never motivated enough to write much. I took up one or two freelance projects, but realized I hated it; it didn’t have the depth and structure I was used to in my full-time work. Slowly but inexorably I realized that the work I liked most was what I had left. But I needed more than good work. I also needed a good employer – a boss I could respect, people I would enjoy working with.
Slowly but inexorably I realized that the work I liked most was what I had left. But I needed more than good work.
I started looking again. I polished my resume and put it up on job sites. I spent hours looking through available jobs and applying to anything that seemed remotely promising. I got on to LinkedIn and looked through my connections desperately, wondering whom I could ask for help. I made lists of companies I could apply to. I went to their websites and filled up forms and uploaded my resume.
When the few leads I got petered out, I wondered what else I could do. I needed a list of companies in my city, so I could look at each website and see if I wanted to apply. Surely one of them would have a job that was right for me. Surely one of them needed a smart, driven (and relatively cheap) marketer.
I checked out the website of the local “software exporters” association. It had a list of all members, ordered alphabetically. I decided to work my way down the list. Right near the top of the list was Affinity Express. I looked at the website and was instantly interested. And they had an opening for an E-Marketing Manager.
You know how the story ends. But I didn’t, then. I applied, without a lot of hope; many companies don’t update their job pages often, they may have found someone already or they may not like me. But after a couple of weeks, I was called for an interview.
I knew I had the job when the hiring manager, my soon-to-be boss, spent more time selling the job to me than he did asking me hard questions. I knew it when he admitted frankly that he was impressed by my resume. I had another hurdle to clear; an interview with the VP of marketing in the US. I was nervous, but it turned out to be a cakewalk.
I knew I had the job when the recruiter, my soon-to-be boss, spent more time selling the job to me than he did asking me hard questions.
I still had my doubts – really late hours, less money than I expected and a long commute. I also wondered, if they were so easily impressed with me, did it mean I was settling for a less challenging job? But I didn’t have any other offers.
I made a deal with my husband: if I didn’t like the job, I’d quit in a few weeks and look for another.
It’s been over two years… and it has been a very happy and satisfying two years for me.
I have been happier at my job than I ever thought it possible to be. I boast about it so often — the work I love, the great boss I have—that my friends get bored and acquaintances look surprised (and probably wonder if I’m in my right mind).
A) Try harder. You haven’t tried enough until you have looked at every company in your city (or in other cities, if you can move). If you get to the end of the list, start again at the top. There’s got to be something.
B) Keep an open mind. My new job wasn’t in the IT sector, which was where I’d worked earlier. When I started, I had really late hours and a 2-hour commute (one way). My boss turned out to be really flexible and I soon started working from home a couple of days a week. My office also later moved closer to my house.
C) Decide what’s important for you. I wanted work I loved doing, a job that would make me happy. I was willing to compromise heavily on money if I got the rest. I was willing to work hard, work late hours, to take on a job that took 13 hours of my day with the commute. I wanted a chance to prove myself.
D) Use all the options you have. This is the most important. Networking through LinkedIn? Go out and attend a local industry event. Call all your colleagues and friends and old classmates. Talk to people about your job hunt, even if you’re at a party; you never know who might be able to help. Take up freelance assignments if you can get them, even if they pay peanuts – it gives you something to do and you might get a foot in the door if a job opens up at that company. Start a blog: talk about your work and show how knowledgeable, competent and likeable you are. (After I joined, I found out that my boss had found my blog and thought my enthusiasm and writing skills added to my desirability as an employee.)
E) Focus on your positives. Before you go out there, you have to believe in yourself. Evaluate your strengths. You might be middle-aged and competing with folks just out of college who are at ease in the new world of social networking and hyper-connectivity. But you’ve got experience on your side: focus on demonstrating that strength and improving your chances by showing that you’re eager to learn new things even though you’re twice the age of most other candidates. If you are young and inexperienced: why, you can be driven and hard-working and eager, which are all qualities employers look for. Go into that interview convinced you’re the right person for the job, and you’re more likely to convince others.
Look out for Part 2, on how you can make your current job closer to your ideal one. (Update: The second part, on How to create your own job, is here).