Job Hunting Tips for those Starting From Experience
Frustration. Self-Doubt. Fear of the future.
These are all the thoughts and emotions I’ve been going through the last few weeks. Starting something or, in our case, somewhere new is not easy. I did not expect it to be. I’ve always been the hope-for-the-best-expect-the-worst kind of guy so I knew what was coming.
Still, I can’t control these emotions. The last time I’ve felt this out-of-control about my career was my first ever job hunting way back in 1998, after uni. The good thing though was that I knew I was not starting from zero, I was starting from experience — at least that’s what “they” say.
However, instead of making me feel better, I think it only made me even more anxious. Getting that elusive Canadian experience was starting to bum me out.
Questions for Job Hunters
Here are some questions I asked myself that helped with my job hunting. I feel that these are helpful for anyone looking for a new start, not just in a new place.
What can I do to get noticed? Or to, at least, get in the door?
I’ve had a pretty good track record, a long one at that, in my field. Yet, I was not getting any callbacks even for roles that I was clearly qualified, sometimes over-qualified, for. Sure, I’ve experienced managers who were scared and insecure about working with someone more experienced than them but those are usually the exceptions.
As I started attending webinars and webinars on job hunting, I realized that one possible reason for this is the technology being used, specifically the Application Tracking Systems (ATS). My resume was probably getting screened out even and never gets to the human recruiters.
I had to tweak my resume to match the terminologies used in the job descriptions. Yes, this means a personalized resume for every submission. Tedious but necessary, especially if you are applying with large corporations. Yes, I actually noticed this first-hand in the callbacks that I actually got. Mostly smaller firms who were probably not using any ATS.
You can check out JobScan. They have a free resume scanner that can check your resume vs a job description. Yup, this was my score 🙁 You can also sign-up for VanHack Premium Account to get a personalized review of your profile.
How can I show off my skills?
If you go get in that door, how do you then leave a mark with the interviewer? In those few callbacks I got, I found myself struggling in the interviews.
This is where too much experience and not enough practice can be bad for you, especially in the situational questions. Whenever I was asked to talk about my experience on a scenario, I had to mentally comb through my experience to try to remember, not just any example but, the perfect example. All that practice with the STAR framework was not good because I could not deliver my answers with confidence.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Don’t believe Allen Iverson’s rant about practice. You need it! In fact, I took it a step further. I created a spreadsheet for each characteristic, skill, or scenario that I might be asked, from strengths and weaknesses to the proudest moment to samples of strategic thinking. I reviewed it before any interview and added it to the list, if there are new learnings, afterward.
Practicing made me regain confidence. I knew I’ve done those things but knowing the details just gave me that calm and confidence in the interviews.
Who can help me?
This is, truly, how you can start from experience. Yes, you can get inside that door by yourself. Yes, you can make a mark on your own… but it does not hurt to use your previous experience to your advantage.
Hopefully, you have actually been building (and not burning) bridges throughout your career. 😉 Of course, in order to use this, you must be “vouch-able.” Sometimes it does not even matter if you’ve worked directly with that person, it’s enough that you have a good reputation as a strong performer. Most people are willing to help you.
Note: When they do, take care of that. They are sticking their necks out there to vouch for you, do NOT let them down.
Keep Pushing and Iterating
As I mentioned, job hunting will be frustrating, full of self-doubt and fear, but I encourage you to keep at it. Do not be consumed by it. Instead find ways to keep improving, not just your application process but also, your skills and capabilities. Take free courses, attend seminars, keep getting better.
Be Safe and Be Well.
If you are still here, thank you. Time for a quick story 🥰
I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago but decided to wait before I published it because I received an offer, and wanted to wait until I officially signed the contract. Who knows what they’d find in the background check! 😅
Yes, tomorrow (March 21) will be my first day at my first job here in Canada! 🇨🇦
I want to give a shoutout to all my friends who helped me get into the different doors of opportunities here: Froilan, Glendy, Abby, Louis, Jamie, Justine, Dennis, and Johan.
Thank you so much for your trust and confidence.
It has been a crazy 2 1⁄2 months and I am super excited to start this new journey!