Lessons Learned From a Long, Heartbreaking Job Search
From September 2017 through August 2018, I was unemployed for 11 months.
To keep my skillset fresh and build my network during that period, I experimented with entrepreneurship before landing a corporate communications job at an educational nonprofit. But I didn’t realize at the time that those 11 months of unemployment would foreshadow what was to come for me.
Fast-forward to the present day: I’m the founder and principal of Y Communicate, a small communications entity. I’ve been building this business since the pandemic started and it’s slowly taking shape. At the same time, I’ve also spent the last two-and-a-half years looking for a new corporate position.
Besides needing to earn a living, I also want to expand my professional prowess and make my mark in the communications field.
Hunting for a job in the middle of a pandemic has added another layer of struggle. Opportunities froze. I didn’t hear a single peep from employers.
A daunting search
Since October 2019, I’ve networked and applied for an overwhelming number of jobs. In fact, the list has been so long that I’ve had to color-code my applications to keep track of them all. I’ve gone on many interviews, from first-round-only in some cases and all the way to the final round in others.
I’ve applied for more than 400 jobs and gone on more than 200 interviews. At one point, I went through a period of eight straight weeks during which I had about four interviews and writing assessments per week.
My résumé has gotten my foot in the door. Given the circumstances, I’ve been happy to get callbacks. The issue has been the interviews. After not receiving any job offers, my search for answers has grown. Feedback from those I’ve interviewed with has been minimal to nonexistent. The silence has added an extra dose of heartbreak.
Of course, everyone deals with rejection. My philosophy is to view rejection as redirection. Still, all those “no’s,” one after the other, started to take their toll. As each day brought another rejection by email, my confidence took a big hit. I was constantly doubting my capabilities.
One thing this experience has taught me is that job-hunting is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and effort to find the right fit. And searching for a full-time job is a full-time job.
The search can be daunting. Depending on how long it drags on, you can develop a negative mindset that drops you into a black hole. It’s one of the most stressful things any professional faces.
On the plus side, this journey has allowed me to define my professional presence for interviews. The interviews have also helped me refine my elevator pitch. The conversations I’ve had have reaffirmed my value, knowledge and passion for the public relations industry.
Based on my experience, here are the ingredients that job-seekers need:
• A network: In today’s market, your network is the golden ticket that moves you to the front of the line. Thanks to LinkedIn, we can build professional networks and cultivate relationships 24/7.
• A brand: Your brand is your business, the service you provide. Think with a brain of a company. Whatever you specialize in, master it. Expand your expertise via a podcast, op-eds, vlogs, websites, or whatever makes you stand out. The stronger your brand is, the more attention it will attract.
• An eagerness: Being eager — to work on your flaws, to absorb new resources, to tackle new challenges and illustrate enthusiasm — shows you’re ready to make an impact.
• A lot of patience: When searching for a job, your patience will be tested. There will be roadblocks along the way. Some will be bigger than others. But if you persist, your patience will be rewarded.
Despite how this voyage has gone for me, I’ve learned that resilience builds self-confidence. I’m slowly starting to reinvigorate the spirit I thought I had lost two-and-a-half years ago.
In future articles for Strategies & Tactics, I will explore two other areas of my job search that I think are important: the recruitment/interview process and the mental health component.
Job-hunting can take a physical and psychological toll, but I believe we can make the process more efficient and less stressful.
Maybe you’re wondering: Did I ever land a new corporate communications role? I’ll answer that question, my friends, in my next piece.