I’m currently looking for a full time personal assistant job.
This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to job hunting.
There are lots of reasons you might be job hunting. Your contract may have ended, you might have been made redundant or fired, you could be returning to work after a break or you could be new to the workforce altogether.
I know from experience that job hunting can be hard.
To be honest the exact word that springs to mind is – FRUSTRATING. It can be extremely frustrating!
It certainly helps if you have the right attitude going in, to help you cope.
This post has been written specifically for people who are currently unemployed and looking for work. If you are working but trying to change jobs, some points may apply but not all. It’s easier to get a job when you already have a job, so if you are currently working and want to change jobs, I suggest you stay in your job and look for another one at the same time.
Let’s look at some of the situations you might encounter during the job hunting process and look at how you can make things a bit easier.
One thing before we get started. Since this blog is read by people in different countries, it’s important to point out that the process might be different in your location, so please take that into consideration.
Try not to take the rejection personally
Nothing like starting with a hard one!
I’d love to say that you are not being rejected and tell you a lot of things to make you feel better but when you are in the trenches of job hunting it feels like rejection, so let’s not sugarcoat things and say you won’t on the old occasion feel rejected.
First up it’s important to remember that just because we feel a certain way, doesn’t make it the truth.
What you have to do is consider why you might not have been chosen. The person chosen for the role may have had experience with a particular type of software that you haven’t used or they may have worked in the industry you are applying for, while you haven’t worked in that industry before.
It all comes down to someone having something that you don’t and I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way.
You can’t have every bit of experience in every industry – that’s simply not possible.
This is where rejection is not personal, someone just ticked more of the employers boxes than you.
When you feel rejected think as logically as possible and it will feel less personal.
Find a healthy way to deal with disappointment
Most likely if you are job hunting for a while, you are going to have to deal with disappointment at some point.
Either you won’t get a job you really wanted or you didn’t get an interview you were really excited about or an agency will promise you the world (or at least a phone call every now and then) and that call won’t happen.
The key is finding a healthy way to deal with your disappointment.
I use the word healthy because it’s important that when we are already feeling vulnerable that we don’t throw ourselves headfirst into our vices and create more drama for ourselves.
I won’t lie to you, part of my disappointment plan is having a glass or two of white wine. When I have a major disappointment (not a minor one) I sit out in my courtyard with my beautiful boy, listen to the wind in the trees and cast off my disappointment.
Perhaps you can exercise, hang out with friends or see a movie.
Whatever you decide, you want to make sure that your disappointment doesn’t turn into anger. That won’t help you one little bit!
Be prepared for emotions to resurface
Be prepared for old emotions to be stirred up when you start the job hunting process.
Say for instance you loved your previous job and you lost it unexpectedly because the company was sold off or your contract was not renewed.
You might have lost a job you loved. The people were great, the culture was amazing, you liked your boss and you were paid well.
When your job ended you might have gone through a grieving/loss/closure process and gotten to a good place. You are ready to move on, you are ready for what is ahead.
And then you start job hunting….
This is when some old emotions might come to the surface.
You might find yourself comparing your old company to your possible new one with the new one falling seriously short. Before you know it you are thinking about the ‘good old times’ at your old company. You start looking back when you should be looking forward and that’s going to effect your focus.
Perhaps your last role was a horrible experience and something you would prefer to forget. Except that’s not an option, because you may get asked about it repeatedly. Suddenly your closure doesn’t feel so closed!
Be prepared for some emotions to resurface. Find a trusted friend or family member (preferably one who’s a patient and non-judgmental listener) to talk through your feelings. Get those feelings out, then move on. Don’t let negative emotions stick around for too long, it’s emotionally draining and distracts you from your key objective.
Trust your gut
Have you ever walked into an office or workplace (regardless of whether it’s an interview or not) and thought to yourself – I wouldn’t want to work here. That’s your gut instinct talking.
All too often we write our gut instinct off as nerves or worrying or even being paranoid. One thing I have learned over the years is when I get that feeling of – something is not quite right – then I need to trust it, because to be honest, every time I have ignored this feeling it has come back to bite me. You can read about a particular instance where that happened in regard to a work situation here.
You might get a feeling about a place, person or even a company. Trust your instincts and work with them instead of against them.
Remember we talked about rejection earlier. Well this is where rejection has its perks. Sometimes when we know something is not right but we can’t quite put our finger on it, rejection can be a blessing in disguise.
Get real about your finances
One of the most stressful things about being unemployed is the money situation. More to the point, it’s the lack of money situation.
You might struggle to pay the bills, have to live off your savings (if you have any) and/or have to make considerable lifestyle cutbacks and changes.
If you lose your job unexpectedly, make up a new budget immediately. You need to know where all of your money is currently going. Hopefully you already know how much it costs you to live every week but if you don’t know this figure, you need to find it out pronto!
Perhaps some part-time, temp or casual work can help financially?
Accept financial assistance if it is available
This one is country specific. If you are lucky enough to live in a country that offers some sort of unemployment benefits and you qualify to receive payments, than accept the assistance.
I know this can be an emotional hurdle to get your head around, because I have been through this myself. I did not want to take any sort of assistance because it made me feel like I was a failure. I felt that it was shameful in some way.
I realize now that it was none of these things. I was a person fully committed to getting a job and working full time to find one – I just needed a little help. Sometimes we have to admit we need help. Sometimes that help is emotional, sometimes its practical and sometimes it financial.
There is no shame in accepting help to get you through a rough patch.
Understand financial assistance comes with conditions
In saying that financial assistance does come with conditions – as it should.
I am definitely not saying there is anything wrong with this, just that you need to know it upfront and you need to be prepared to abide by those conditions.
You are being paid to find a job, so you need to be looking hard for one. Fair enough.
If you are getting payments, it will probably be from the government which will mean forms and red tape and probably more forms (many of which are available online).
While it can at times be frustrating waiting for over an hour to speak to someone or not being able to contact anyone no matter how hard you try, that’s when it’s a good time to remind yourself that you are fortunate to live in a country that helps people when they are in trouble.
A lot of places are not so lucky.
Be prepared for interviews
This falls more into how to get a job territory but make sure you are mentally and emotionally prepared for interviews.
Make sure you have the appropriate clothing to wear. You don’t have to be wearing designer labels or anything but how you present yourself is important, so look your best.
Make sure you prepare for an interview. Research the company on Google and LinkedIn. Get a feel for the location the job is in.
Prepare yourself for interview questions. A quick Google search will bring up lots of common interview questions and answers. Practice what you are going to say. I find writing my answers down helps. Be prepared for behavioral questions where you have to explain how you dealt with a particular situation in the past.
Work on controlling your nerves
Interviews can be nerve-racking, no doubt about that.
I’m not going to sit her and tell you not to be nervous but it is important that you find some way to control your nerves. Being too nervous could cost you the job.
I find personally the best thing is to just be myself – as in my best professional self with a bit of my out of office self thrown in. It might be fine answering all the questions correctly but if you sound like a robot doing it, it will most likely lessen your chances of getting the job.
For an interview years ago, I had just had major surgery and was still recovering at home when I was asked to do a phone interview. While I normally hate phone interviews, I literally didn’t have the energy to get nervous with everything else I had to deal with physically. I gave it my best shot and got the job.
Be prepared for tests
Depending on what type of job you are applying for there may be some tests involved.
As an admin person I am often required to take tests using the Microsoft package – Word, Excel and PowerPoint to be exact. I am sometimes asked to take typing tests to check my typing speed (which I admit frustrates me a tad since I’ve been typing for over 35 years now!)
You might be required to some form of psychological assessment. More than likely you will be asked to take these tests once you are shortlisted but recently I had to complete one of these assessments just to apply for a position.
Some jobs will require you to take a physical before you are hired or you might need a police check or some similar security undertaking.
You may be asked to do none of these things, but just in case it’s good to be aware.
Don’t beat yourself up
If you are walking out of interviews and beating yourself up about everything you did wrong and thinking to yourself what an idiot I am you need to stop that right now.
Depending on your personality and how positive or negative you are overall, you will most likely do one of two things or a combo of both.
You will walk out thinking about all of the things you think you did right or you will be thinking about all of the things you did wrong.
This is one of those moments where it helps to be logical and factual. It also helps to write things down. If you stumbled on an interview question, write it down and think through a better response for next time. Write your response down as well.
You can’t turn back time but you can do better next time.
There also might not be a next time, because a lot of the time we do a lot better than we think we did and we end up with the job.
Dealing with employment agencies
This is an area that could be country specific but I know in Australia if you are applying for jobs through job search websites you are most likely going to be dealing with employment agencies at some point.
Here is one very important thing to remember with agencies. While you might consider yourself the client and assume that it’s part of their job to help you find a job, that’s not the case.
The employer is the client because they are the ones who are paying the agency.
I don’t say this to discredit agencies or the people who work for them, because I’ve dealt with some wonderful people through agencies but it is important to remember that you need to be proactive about your job search and not leave it up to the agencies to find you a job.
Understand people might not get back to you
I wrote a whole post about this a while back so be sure to check it out – The Brutal Truth Behind ‘I’ll Call You’.
When someone says ‘I’ll call you’ – well they just might not. You will most likely encounter this with agencies all the time. You go in for an interview, sign up with them, they say they will call you if something comes up and then you see a job come up on a website that you would be suitable for you (at least according to the job ad) but there’s no call from the agency.
You need to be proactive and call them.
Unfortunately there is some more bad news on this front. You may never hear back from them. I am sure when agencies put a name and a contact number at the bottom of a job ad they have the best intentions. I think the volume of callers, competition with other agencies to fill the role, lack of resources and people being generally overworked gets in the way.
This can also be the case when applying directly to a company. You might not get a return call.
Wrap your head around this one, right from the start and it will be less frustrating to deal with.
You should be proactive and follow up on your initial call but badgering people won’t do you any favors either.
When you are applying for jobs online, often you will get no response at all or you might get an automated email response saying you didn’t get the position.
Don’t get dragged down by these emails. If you start seeing each one as a personal rejection, it will make the job hunting experience that much harder. Read the email quickly and move on.
The last time I was job hunting I’d received at least one ‘thanks but not thanks’ rejection email a day. After a while, I was getting rejection emails for jobs I didn’t even remember applying for! This is when you need to stay strong.
Be prepared to share your personal information
I went to an agency recently where I had to fill in a four page document with my complete medical history before they would even consider putting me on their books.
Where most agencies I have dealt with have a simple check box somewhere on their paperwork asking if you are fit to work, the information this particular agency was asking for felt quite intrusive. I had to disclose that I’d had an operation 3 years ago, despite the fact that it bears no relevance on my ability to work.
Most likely if you are going through agencies, you will be required to sign a privacy agreement. Make sure you look over this document and are comfortable signing it.
Fine tune your resume
This falls more into the how to get a job category but you will need to fine tune your resume.
Heads up you may need to do this more than once. Don’t view your resume as a non-changing document.
From what I have discovered searching online, different countries have different accepted standards for the length of a resume, so do your research and work with what your country prefers.
If a company asks for a two page resume, don’t send them a six page one. Send them what they ask for.
Accept it can be a numbers game
The last time I was job hunting I stopped counting my submissions after I hit 100.
You might get a job on your first application or you might get a job on your 156th, so be prepared!
It’s a numbers game. To give you an example, a job I applied for recently that was posted on a well-known job board updated their ad after a couple of days advising that they had over 125 applications and that while they weren’t shutting the job down to new submissions they were letting people know that they would most likely find someone out of the applications already received.
I once spoke to an agency consultant who advised they had received over 250 applications for a low-level, low paying administration assistant role.
On top of that, the same position may have been advertised by two or three different agencies, so you are looking at some big numbers.
Despite it being a numbers game, never let the numbers put you off applying because you could easily be the one person who gets the job.
Take into consideration current affairs and the time of year
A couple of years ago I was looking for a job prior to a Federal Election and I can tell you it was a bit of nightmare. Whilst the job market didn’t shut down, it seemed to slow to a trickle.
Many companies hold off employing due to the uncertainly of major government changes. A lot of companies go into a let’s wait and see holding pattern.
A couple of years back there were some major Government layoffs, due to a particular state politician. While I’m not saying these layoffs were right or wrong what I do know is the market was suddenly flooded with people looking for work (come to think of it, I’m pretty sure this was around the same time the 250 people applied for the admin job I mentioned earlier).
Keep you eye on current affairs to be aware of major fluctuations in the job market. Just a point to remember here though, some media outlets like to over-dramatize government and financial changes. Some will go the total gloom and doom, scare tactic route because it sells and gets people’s attention. Don’t let this intimidate you, try to see through the drama to the actual facts.
Time of year can also be a contributing factor, though again this might not be relevant for every country. Christmas and in particular January are a particularly slow time to be job-hunting, so if you find yourself unemployed around this time, take this into consideration. This doesn’t mean that no new jobs will be hitting the market and that you should stop applying. Keep applying but be aware things will most likely be a lot slower.
It’s a good idea to have some serious budgetary plans in place if you are looking over the Christmas/New Year period when many companies are shut down or the people who would be doing the hiring are on leave.
This slow shutdown time might be different for different cultures and countries so make sure you know what applies for you.
The good news is that companies might be looking for temp workers to cover people on leave over the holiday periods. There might not be many permanent jobs going but stay on the lookout for temp, part-time or short-term contracts.
Remember it’s not all about the Internet
Depending on what market you are in, you might have to old school, get yourself off the Internet and hit the pavement so to speak.
In other words you might have to go visit the companies in person and ask them if they have any jobs available. You might have to respond to notes in shop windows and on community bulletin boards.
Watch out for feelings of desperation
Desperation is NOT a great feeling to have when you are job hunting for a variety of reasons.
For starters feeling desperate isn’t good for your emotional or physical health.
It also isn’t an asset in the decision-making process – as in you might end up taking a job that is totally wrong for you because you were feeling desperate.
The other thing about desperation is that is often shows on the outside. Looking desperate will repel you for roles or put you in situations where people can exploit your vulnerability.
Before feelings of desperation sneak in, reach out to your support network – family, friends, a pet or social outlet can all be a great comfort.
Unfortunately scammers try to exploit people looking for work. I’ve received dodgy emails from scammers who have obviously found out that I am job hunting. These emails can sometimes look pretty genuine, particularly when they are mixed in with all of your other job related emails, so be careful. Never give your credit card information to anyone no matter what and be on the lookout for scam emails or scam job advertisements.
There are a lot of aggregation style job sites on the Internet at the moment. These sites pull jobs from a variety of different websites. For starters some of these sites don’t seem to focus on relevance, so a job you are viewing could be quite old and long gone.
Secondly you have no idea if there are any security or privacy policies in place to protect your information, so don’t upload your information to a site unless you know it is reliable. Research the site online to see what other people are saying about it. Your resume usually contains your phone number and email address so you don’t want scammers getting this information.
I’m not going to lie to you – there are days you are not going to feel motivated, particularly if you are unemployed for a long time. Bear in mind ‘a long time’ might mean different things to different people.
When I was looking for my last position, there were days I remember feeling like a robot. I was getting asked the same questions over and over again. I was losing faith in the questions and the answers.
Some days it was hard to stay motivated.
Be prepared for any down days instead of going into denial that they won’t happen. Have a support system and a way to pick yourself back up after a rough day. Know how to get your motivation back on track.
Your pick me up might be exercise, music, spending time with dear friends or whatever works for you.
Just watch any vices or bad habits you have on these tough days. Don’t let them run the show. Get your groove back, remember the big picture and get yourself motivated again.
Looking for a job can be a full time job (as least if it’s done right). Cover letters, fine tuning your resume, submitting applications, following up on phone calls and applications, writing selection criteria for government roles and hopefully going for interviews all take time. One complex online application alone can take up to 45 minutes.
What I wouldn’t recommend doing is spending too much time on the couch watching television. While it might help with a bit of stress relief along the way , it can also be a major distraction from the task at hand.
If you do find yourself with some free time, do something constructive like read, write in your journal (very therapeutic) or spend time on your favorite hobby. Stay busy and stay learning.
You need to stay as positive as possible during the job hunting process.
This is one situation where knowing yourself is really important. Knowing your personality, the way you deal with setbacks and challenges, the way you keep yourself optimistic and positive all comes into play.
Perhaps you are a person who is always cheery and takes everything in their stride. Perhaps you are someone who struggles with setbacks a little more. Neither is right or wrong and I am not suggesting you try to be someone you are not.
What I am suggesting is that you work with your strengths and weaknesses to make the transition to a new job as seamless as possible.
Believe something great is out there for you
No matter what, you must stay hopeful and believe something great is out there for you.
I hope that you apply for a job you really want and get it easily. That’s what I hope for you.
If it doesn’t quite go that way, I hope this article helps in making things a little bit easier. Good luck!
If you enjoyed this post or know someone who is currently looking for a job, please share this post with them. It might be exactly what they need to read today!