Tag Archive for: graduate careers

How to stay motivated and keep going during a job hunt

I recently read the story of a young professional (let’s call him John) who had just completed his degree from a top university in the UK. He had completed his degree with flying colours and expected to get a job without any delays. He thought employers would be flocking around him with job offers, and he would ultimately have to choose the best or the juiciest offer from the table. He added that he had paid the price; therefore, luck should shine on him – a belief many recent graduates and millennials hold.

Six months after he graduated from the university and after applying for about 140 jobs, he got no response, and neither was he shortlisted for any interviews. John started becoming worried. John attended some networking events to meet potential employers; however, the magic did not happen as quickly as he anticipated. John was beginning to lose hope and even wondered why he would commit many resources to his graduate degree if there were no jobs for him after college.

John continued to network and improve his portfolio, and after nine months, John began to get shortlisted for interviews. His persistence in getting what he wanted began to pay off. It was as if all the interviews deliberately hid from him for nine months and decided to show up all in one go. John was delighted with the phase change, and his hopes were restored as his confidence improved. After about three successive interviews, John landed two job offers. John finally got the job he desired 12 months after he graduated from college. He applied to over 200 companies within this period before he finally got three job interviews, which led to two job offers. Indeed, all the disappointments he faced during his job search did not matter anymore; what mattered was that he had two job offers waiting for him to choose from. To him, 2 was more significant than 200 indeed! Why? Because what mattered were the two job offers on his table!

Focus on the positive outcomes will ultimately outweigh the negative events

Here are three key activities that helped John to overcome his challenging period:

  • Keep improving: John continued to improve his portfolio and application as time progressed. He was not dismayed by the disappointments and the periods of no-shows from his job applications. This is important for graduate students who can’t land job offers right after college. Let the quiet period be the time you continually improve yourself and enhance your portfolio. Use the time you have under your belt to add value to yourself. Continue to improve your skills, resume, and cover letter, and use the feedback received from the failed job applications to enhance your portfolio. Continuous learning and improvement are crucial as you progress. Sharpen your interviewing skills, read on negotiating salaries, networking, persuasion, public speaking, sales, marketing, and any other skills you need to improve your chances of getting a job. Read and keep on top of industry news or subjects that you will need for the job. Develop areas that will be necessary when you eventually land an interview. Use the time to fill up any skills gap you may have. Pay it forward by giving yourself the best preparation you ever need to ace your next job interview. Use the quiet time to prepare ace your next job interview and learn the skills you need to succeed in your next role

Pay it forward by giving yourself the best preparation you ever need to ace your next job interview

  • Stay motivated: it can be challenging when things are not panning out the way you want. It’s easier to be motivated when things are working out well for you. In John’s case, motivation might be difficult for him after he had applied to several jobs without hearing back from the employers. It is disheartening when all the emails received are unsuccessful responses. Indeed, the motivation and persistence that you develop during this phase will see us through the journey. It would be best if you stayed motivated to recognise opportunities when they finally come your way. Train your subconscious mind to stay motivated and positive in the midst of all the failed attempts. Keep developing your skills, ask for feedback and improve on them daily. Set daily goals, and these will add up over a period of time to give you what you want. See the bigger picture. Do not be dismayed by your current situation.

Staying motivated helps to recognise opportunities when they finally come your way

  • Make a list of your goals and maintain a daily routine – it is essential that you set goals and have a daily routine that points to this goal. A daily routine will guide you and keep you going. When you feel lost, return to your set routines for directions – it is there to guide you. A routine can also be helpful when you don’t have much time – it will help you focus on the most important aspect of your goals. Prepare for the next day’s goals or activities today. Make a plan for the next day before you go to bed the night before. This will keep you in check for your ultimate goal and ensure you are on track. Set your priorities, as these will keep you focussed on the things that matter. Set realistic goals and avoid taking on too much. Learn to say no when and where you have to. Focus is key.

Setting priorities will help you focus on the things that matter

  • Keep moving: John kept moving in the midst of all negatives. He imagined the future when he would get hold of what he wanted. He envisioned a light at the end of the tunnel. He saw peace at the end of an ending war of job applications and rejections. Despite these challenges, John kept moving and progressing his goals by maintaining a daily routine. He never gave up on his end goal.

Do John’s challenges reflect your current situation? Don’t give up! Keep dreaming! Keep working! Keep hoping, and you will get the results you desire. You are not in this alone. Be quick to forgive yourself when you don’t hit the milestones or attain the goals you desire. Do not dwell on past failures. It’s the reason it is called “past”. The future is brighter than the past if you don’t give up and make better use of today. Today matters! It is unlikely that you will attain success without some setbacks or failures along the way. Do not let this deter you. Don’t be swayed into giving up! Stay focussed. Stay on track! Keep applying, keep knocking, keep believing, and the results will soon come knocking. See Austin Kleon’s Keep Going book to help you stay motivated and creative in good and bad times. I also recommend checking out Show your work and Steal like an artist to help you understand how and why you need to develop and showcase your work to your audience.

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Why you need to sell yourself to the interview panel

Ever wondered why some job seekers land almost every job interview they get shortlisted for? I recently participated in a LinkedIn poll seeking opinions on the conversion rates of job interviews. The moderator wanted to gather feedback on the number of interviews a job applicant needed to attend to land an offer successfully. His responses ranged from 1-2, 3-5, >5 interviews. Interestingly, many participants believed an individual should land a job after attending between one and two job interviews. You may wonder if this reflects your current position or situation. While you might have your say, note that opinions generally differ from one individual to another, which may not reflect your status or belief. Indeed, some individuals land an offer after attending one or two job interviews; however, there is a general principle that you may need to revisit your interviewing methods or strategies if you are not hitting or attaining the desired results after attending multiple job interviews.

I will share the story of two recent graduates – Ana and Chloe. Ana and Chloe were classmates who recently completed their postgraduate degrees in Business in the US. The pair are close friends, and their classmates believe they possess certain personal and behavioural traits. However, while Ana is bold, outspoken and appears very confident when interfaced with the public, Chloe, on the other hand, is introverted and timid. Chloe does not readily speak out, except when she must do so. She prefers to listen and observe.

One striking difference between the pair is how well Ana seems to land more job offers than Chloe. On average, Ana lands 80-90% of the job interviews she attends, while Chloe, on the other hand, averages about 50-60% interview-job conversation rates. Ana attends interviews confidently and is quite good at selling herself to the panel. She speaks confidently of her strengths and communicates effectively to the interview panel. The panel would occasionally ask Ana difficult questions, especially about her weaknesses; however, Ana always seems to have a way of turning these uncomfortable questions around to showcase her strengths further. In situations where it was apparent she was not as knowledgeable in certain areas, she would circumvent this gap by letting the panel know of her plans to cover the gaps through her learning and development plans. She would also provide alternative methods for solving a challenge or task, which further showcases her problem-solving abilities. Ana readily uses the SOAR (Situation – Obstacle – Action – Results) technique to buttress her points when asked questions and systemically answers very challenging questions.

Ana puts forward relevant examples to showcase her strengths and why she was an excellent fit for the role. She would cite relevant examples from her previous work, community or volunteer experience to bolster her stories. She also has a portfolio of work where she archives specific projects, events, and projects to show the panel to support her claims. Ana is able to present proof from various sources to support her claims, rather than just talking about them. Before the interview, Ana also researched the company’s website and profile and used online resources, such as Glassdoor, to prepare herself for the interview. She utilised this website as a guide to potential interview questions and answers, reads about the experiences of previous applicants, reviews the salaries reported by insiders to help her better negotiate the salary structure.

Present stories over facts

Chloe, on the other hand, is soft-spoken. She knows her stuff and is quite intelligent; however, Chloe is not as wordy as Ana since she is not outspoken. Chloe prefers to keep it short, therefore, states facts over stories. Her responses often lack depth and do not reflect her overall contributions, as she is cautious not to overstate her claims or oversell herself. Chloe does not want the panel to perceive her as false, boastful or full of pride. She would generally provide very little or no background information to assist the panel in ascertaining her claims. Chloe thought it would be boastful of her to give these little details, which Ana, on the other hand, provides to the panel. She relied on the interview panel to quiz her for more responses with more open-ended questions before adequately stating her claims.

Consider these two graduates. While they are both bright and brilliant, one applicant can speak up more confidently, talk about her strengths and showcase her work to the panel. She carefully represents her case with relevant stories and examples from her portfolio so that the panel can see her pitch lines up with evidence. She does some prior research into what the panel might likely ask or would like to hear and prepares brief responses to these questions.

On the other hand, Chloe is just as good and prepares for the interview; however, she does little in presenting her case and selling herself to the panel. She is polite and careful not to oversell herself, so the panel does not think otherwise of her. Chloe approaches and attempts questions with caution and provides minimal answers to the questions raised by the panel. She would only broaden or expand an idea if quizzed further by the panel.

From the stories of the two graduates, you would probably have guessed why the panel would lean towards the first interviewee over the second. The panel will likely observe that Chloe is as good; however, they will probably be more confident in hiring Ana because she is more confident about herself and her skillset. While who gets hired will also depend on the role and the organisation, many recruiters would lean towards an applicant who has shown confidence and other interpersonal skills, as observed with Ana.

Be careful not to downplay yourself or your skills. Provide end-to-end stories that align with examples and facts.

Interviewing is about selling yourself. Do not assume the interviewer or panel will probe for more responses at all times. It is your duty to present your case to them so they can see the real value in you, and you have to do this such that your stories and facts align with the evidence and examples you have provided to support your claims. There is a thin line between selling yourself adequately and overselling (telling untrue or fabricated stories) yourself. Be careful not to make your reports look unreal, which may cause the panel to think your stories are false. Provide end-to-end stories to the interview questions. Do not assume the panel will always understand that you are not as outspoken and therefore prompt accordingly. You have to tell a story in line with the question being answered, with relevant examples to prove that you are the right candidate, and they will be making a good decision in hiring you. Your resume has done the job of getting you into the front door. The rest of the job lies with you; therefore, be prepared to speak the part. Be confident about your achievements and showcase this with clearly constructed stories and examples.

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