August 19, 2014

Job hunting: tips + my experience.

Real life has begun. As of three weeks ago, I'm officially unemployed. Which means, of course, that I have to look for a job. Such fun.

No really, I actually have a good time looking for a job. Probably because it's only been three weeks. Three months would be a whole other story! But it's not all rainbows and unicorns either, it can be pretty frustrating too. My main frustrations?
  • When a job description says you don't need experience and then you get turned down because you have no experience.
  • That apparently no one is willing to give you a shot to get experience. I mean, you've got to give me a chance to learn something.
  • That every freaking firm is looking for someone with experience.
  • Experience is not everything, people!
But anyway, I've learned a lot too. To not take things personally for example. I've sent my CV out to approximately 10 different companies (or even more) of which I have received no answer of 3 of them and got turned down by the other 7. Auwch. At first, I was like "okay, it's only one firm. Better luck next time". By the seventh e-mail I could barely restrain myself from not throwing my laptop against the wall. Just because I had such a low success rate, I started looking into things online and I have learned quite a few things. From online fora as well as from my own experience. So here are my best tips for anyone in the same boat as I am:

Getting started

  • Publish your CV online. In Belgium you need to enroll yourself with the VDAB to be able to get unemployment benefits after your graduation (after your enrollment you still need to wait a year before you actually get any money). But by doing this you get the chance to publish your CV online which makes it possible for companies to find you. Who knows, maybe your just the person they're looking for.
  • Keep on applying for jobs online (even if it doesn't look successful). As I said, my efforts haven't been really successful until now. BUT because I applied for several jobs online, I got in touch with a few selection agencies. These are companies who actively search for a job that fits your description and they do a lot of the work for you. They have actually helped me out a lot which brings me to my next tip:
  • If you get contacted by a selection agency: make an appointment as soon as possible. Although I haven't had much success doing things on my own, I have been on a few job interviews already... thanks to these agencies. They've set me up with a couple of companies and I got some experience in doing job interviews, knowing which questions to expect, etc. Even if you don't get hired, you can learn a lot from these 'trial' interviews.
  • Search online for tips and tricks to get the perfect CV or motivational letter. Maybe you think you're doing it all right when in fact you have a terribly organised CV and use a way to formal or informal tone in your motivational letters. That's why I recommend you to search online. I could give you a few tips of my own but I also got them of the Internet so just google it quickly. I will give you my most important tip though: never skip the motivational letter. You always make a better impression when you put a little more effort into things.

Preparing for the job interview

  • Look up information about the company you're applying to. I can almost guarantee you that they will ask you what you know about their firm. If you hesitate or say something like "I don't know" that makes a terribly bad impression. It takes almost no effort so just do a quick online search, look up the company web site and you're good to go.
  • Look up information about the position you're applying for. Sounds the same as the previous point but it's totally different. When applying for a certain job, be sure you know what it means to do this job. If they ask you something about it, you need to be able to give a correct answer. So study your job description well.
  • Think about your strenghts and weaknesses. Also a question you're always going to get. Be honest and try not to be too cliche. Try to think of any weaknesses who are not relevant for the job or who can be turned into a strenght as well. For example, I always say my weakness is that I can be too honest. Which is completely true but not really a bad thing. I try to emphasize that this also means that I'll always give my honest opinion and that I'm working on being less direct to people. 

At the job interview

I usually don't do anything special at a job interview. I just try to be myself as much as possible but still there are a few things you need to take into account.
  • Firm handshakes. This is something I learned in high school. Have a firm handshake. It's one of the very first impressions your potential employer is having of you. If your handshake isn't firm, it might be interpreted that you're a pushover or that you have a weak character. Don't overdo it either because that might be interpreted as a dominant character who isn't willing to listen to other people's thoughts. Weird, I know, but it can only help.
  • Don't talk too much. Be spontaneous but don't go telling your whole life's story. They don't need to know that. I read that when answering a question in a job interview, you shouldn't take longer than 2 minutes. Otherwise you'll be labeled as a chatterbox before you know it.
  • Emphasize that you're willing to work on your shortcomings. This is actually how I got a job interview. They've told me that I didn't qualify for the job I initially applied for because I wasn't fluent enough in French but because I've told them I knew French wasn't my strenght and that I wanted to take a course in it this year to improve it, they redirected me to another position in the same firm with less verbal communication with customers. The job interview is in a few hours so I'll let you know how it turns out.*
That's it. The main things I wish someone would have told me before I started this job hunt. I'm having another job interview in a few hours so wish me luck. Hopefully I won't be unemployed that much longer. For anyone who is also looking for a job: good luck! (and enjoy the process: you'll learn so much).

*Edit: I got the job! (happy dance)

1 comment:

  1. Proficiat met je job, je tips hebben dus zeker gewerkt! ;-)