By Gordon Rugg
The short, reassuring answer is no, the world probably won’t end if you don’t get a job soon.
However, if you’re trying to find a job and haven’t found one yet, it can easily feel as if your personal world is closing in around you and about to collapse. This article is about some ways of handling that feeling and of handling the situation so that you get something good and positive out of it.
To set a good, positive mood as a starting point, here’s a picture of a hammock on a tropical beach.
One key concept is that if you can tell a good, true story in your job applications, you’re halfway there. That’s going to be the main focus of this article. It’s a concept that sounds obvious, until you start to think through just what a good story looks like, as opposed to a bad one or a neutral one or a mixed one. So what makes a good story, and why?
Having a narrative spine is a core feature of a good story. The narrative spine is the plot, or the underlying narrative thread, of the story.
For instance, the plot of your story could be about how you spent a couple of years trying different jobs until you were sure what you wanted to do with your life. That makes sense to potential employers, and it implies that you’re likely to take a positive, committed approach when you get the job that you’re applying for. That’s a good start. The interviewers may have their private suspicions that those three months working on a sloth sanctuary in Central America were just an excuse for an exotic holiday, but they’ll probably not make a big issue of it if the rest of your CV fits reasonably well with that story.
Taking control in this way should also significantly help your morale. It takes some of the time pressure off you, and it gives you a reasonable way of weaving short-term jobs into something more ambitious when you’re ready.
At a practical level, this strategy is also a good way of getting experience, and learning what you love, so that your life and career are something to enjoy, rather than something to endure.
Looking at your applications from the interviewers’ point of view is another core component. This is something that you can weave into your life with little extra effort, but where that little bit of effort can make a huge difference later.
Imagine that an interviewer is trying to choose between four candidates who all have pretty much the same school and degree results. That can happen all too easily with jobs for new graduates. The interviewers need some objective reason for choosing one candidate over the others, if only so that the unsuccessful candidates can’t complain that they were rejected because the interviewers were biased against them.
In this context, any sign of initiative or extra skills can be that key objective reason. Using the sloth sanctuary example, that initiative might involve using your art skills to paint better signage, or your IT skills to improve their website, or your language skills to produce more material for visitors in other languages. If you’re an artist or an IT graduate or a language graduate, those things might only feel like minimal effort on your part, but from the point of view of an interview panel, they’re solid evidence of something useful that you’ve done on your own initiative and that the other candidates haven’t done.
A particularly useful tip about world view when you’re job hunting is to view rejection letters as calibration. You should be aiming to get invited to interview in some, but not all, of your applications. I use 25% as a rough rule of thumb, but you can use a different figure if you prefer. The reason for this tip is that if you’re not being invited to interview in any of your applications, you’re aiming too high; conversely, if you’re being invited to interview in all of your applications, you’re aiming too low.
An added bonus of this approach is that it transforms your perception of the “no interview” letters from a negative emotional response into a practical assessment of whether your pitches are roughly at the right level. That can make a huge difference to your self-esteem, as well as to your job hunting.
A closing practical note
An invaluable resource for any job hunter is the book What Color is Your Parachute?
It’s heavily evidence-based, and contains a huge amount of practical information and guidance. The author is a Christian, but does a good job of keeping his personal faith separate from the evidence. Also, he interprets his faith in terms of following your dreams, and making the most of your talents, which are key features of finding a life path that you truly enjoy.
The book has a supporting website, which is well worth visiting.
On which positive note, I’ll end. There are some links below which you might find useful; I hope that this article has helped you.
Notes and links
There’s more about the theory behind this article in my latest book: Blind Spot, by Gordon Rugg with Joseph D’Agnese
You might also find our website useful:
Overviews of the articles on this blog: