About 8 months ago, I found myself on the job market.
After 6 extremely challenging and fulfilling years and after a great learning experience, the journey came to an end. The process of detaching yourself from the umbilical chord of your long term employer is a very emotionally taxing one. This entity has provided you with safe harbor and stability for the last few years. It has defined your thought processes and you have lived and breathed its culture and values. You have also formed very strong social bonds with many of your soon to be ex colleagues and peers. You are racked with a degree of guilt and feel like you have let the side down, but you know that nagging sense that it’s the right thing to do means just that and you cut the chord.
And then comes the process of rewriting your CV. How can you possibly summarise everything you have just been through in just a few lines? It just doesn’t seem to do it justice and as such you agonise over every detail. You look at the previous jobs you’ve had and you get transported to the last time you wrote your CV, when it was probably much simpler to summarise and you probably had less on the line. Reading the employment summaries you had written previously, it’s almost like it wasn’t you. Applying for jobs back then was much more straight-forward with less pressure and more choice.
Then we have to start thinking about what’s next. In my case, I had the (very welcome) luxury of a period of gardening leave, which did buy me some time to think about my next option, but as we all know, time waits for no man. Aside from some travel, reading some books I had been planning to get round to for months and trying to drop some KGs I had accumulated through balancing my lifestyle a bit with some more exercise (and for those of you that read my last blog, learning golf), I got down to the business of searching for my next project before very long.
And so starts the fun part…
Applying for jobs and anticipating feedback is nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster (excuse the horrendous cliché, but there’s really no other way to describe it). The extent to which we have to open our minds and accept the inevitable misfires, slings and arrows is a massive eye opener. The companies that call you to offer jobs you were doing 5 years ago, that haven’t read your CV properly, that have overlooked your last salary, that don’t know which country you live in and offer options in every country other than those you live in or would be open to. And then there’s the next stage when you actually get to interview stage, which for a while seems like the easier part. You’ve had a host of experiences across a wide variety of fields and specialisations, so the answers just flow in the interview – and then comes the feedback. Apparently that acknowledging smile and nod you were receiving was masking a wholesale disagreement and you didn’t quite ‘nail it’ as you’d hoped.
There’s also the ‘dodged bullets’ of course – one would be employer asked me what time I get up in the morning, which very much reminded me of a hilarious scene from the Wolf of Wall street. What sort of competency question is that? I would have loved to have said at 5am beating my chest at day break, though I suspect sadly this particular employer would have believed me. Looking back … not a culture fit.
So why am I bearing all? I guess partly because I see the funny side, now I am in a role that I am very happy with and at the end of a long and challenging journey, all came good in the end. The message is – be persistent as the process of finding a role, especially the more experienced you are, has hurdles in the way that you will have to navigate. Good interview practice and opportunity selection and a degree of open mindedness and patience will get you there in the end. The other point is to not let too many of your feelings show, because this, realistically, will count against you – being a candidate, to some extent is a game and you need to have you game face on for it. Of course, the reality is this is the really hard part because, being a candidate applying for a role, or being on the job market generally, by its very nature is wrapped up in a host of very powerful emotions. If you’ve sweated out 15 years plus of your life, dedicated to a particular profession, been loyal, learnt from your mistakes, bitten the bullet, taken feedback, built profit, accounted for losses made people redundant, invested in the careers of 100s of others – all of these things that took everything you had to offer – I think we can be forgiven for being a touch sensitive if people don’t take the time to understand the person sitting in front of them in the interview room.
I’ll close by making 3 points:
There will never be an algorithm that understands the innately human nature of the recruitment process. Only humans understand the things I refer to above.
Secondly, being a candidate for a few months at the start of this year was a truly eye-opening experience and a humbling one. Recruitment firms absolutely must take some time to understand the depth and complexity of the human processes they are managing in order to succeed. I dare say an extra dose of basic respect, decent manners and compassion wouldn’t go amiss either.
Finally, we have a responsibility in our industry to put these considerations at the forefront of what we do therefore - they are not USPs, they should be an absolute given. Well at least they will be in any business I have anything to do with that's for sure!