Stick It Out

There comes a time, especially often when you are in the beginning of your working days, when the bell tolls: it’s simply time to move on from your current position. Whether you have ascertained for certain that there is no room for growth in your position, your company has come under new management, or it’s just time for a new direction, it’s tempting to simply up and give your two weeks notice when you have that moment of realization. However appealing that might be, don’t! You’re infinitely more valuable employed than unemployed, whether your unemployment was your own choice or not. It’s back to that annoying paradox you encountered on day one of your non-student life: it’s near impossible to get a job unless you have a job. Don’t forget that lesson you learned- any job is better than no job! It’s simply the truth of how the market functions: when something is in demand, people fight to get their hands on it. When something sits unnoticed on a shelf, with back stock piling up, even the best sale can’t get someone to purchase it. If you are in demand by another employer, it’s a green flag for a potential employer- you are skilled and reliable, as certified by another company.

So, as much as you might want to jump ship and pour all your time and energy into seeking out that next opportunity, take a moment to assess your situation. Stay in your current position, continue seeking our opportunities for advancement or improvement, and search for a new career in your free time. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

oh captain

Quote

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

– William Ernest Henley

If nothing else, take from this poem the command to master your own fate, to captain your own soul.  In life and in your career, it’s important to take stock of what it is you’re looking for, and to go out and actively seek it.  Sitting around and waiting for something great to happen never helped anyone- so start working toward your New Year goals!

research research research!

It seems sort of obvious, but it’s INCREDIBLY important to research the company you’re interested in working for.  I don’t just mean visit their website and read their profile, I mean treat researching like a game, you vs. the interviewer.  The best offense is a good defense, and an interview should be an offensive affair on your end.  Not only should you be prepared for every question you might be asked, but you should also have prepared questions of your own to ask of your interviewer.  Whether these relate to the company itself, your role within the company, your job’s potential for growth, a typical work day: whatever it might be that you’re genuinely interested in knowing, use the interview as an opportunity to decide if the company is a good fit for YOU.  Getting a job is like getting into a relationship- both parties should be assured of their mutual compatibility, so do your homework!

The other important benefit of researching a company is that in the course of your research you might uncover an important “in” to the job you want.  Whether it’s a direct email or phone number to a hiring manager or contact, or discovering a networking connection you already possess, researching every avenue never hurts.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, company official website, company blog, intern blog, client profiles- do it ALL. You won’t regret it!

In other interview related news, today I had another group interview, this one with a totally different dynamic than the first.  This was a second round interview, so obviously they had culled potential candidates, and the conversation really reflected that they had chosen people with a certain commonality.  With a group of three link-minded individuals, myself and two men, the interview was much less static question-and-answer, and much more intelligent conversation.  Topics flowed from art and design to ethics and public relations easily, and I felt a sort of comraderie with my fellow interviewees.

In a situation like this I think the “showing-off” of first round interviews is less important, since candidates have already been evaluated for the most important qualities.  Just be your best self, stay positive, and let the cards fall where they may.  One tip I have to offer is not to lose track of the fact that you are trying to secure a job.  While an interview like this might seem more relaxed and fun, you’re still on the line for a job offer, so remember that!

THE interview

hello fellow employment challenged!

Today I want to talk about “THE INTERVIEW”- in particular, an interview gone SERIOUSLY awry.  Luckily it wasn’t mine, but I was there to witness it.  How, you may ask?  The dreaded group interview, a beast of its own.  I’ll confess, while it seems the majority of people loathe the group interview setting, I secretly love it.  Some combination of my ability to empathize and read people….actually, no, my love of the group interview stems almost entirely from the fact that I am a total SHOW OFF.  Can’t help myself.  I can reign it in in social situations, but when it comes to the working world, really job hunting in particular, watch out fellow job seekers, I am an expert at selling myself.

During this particular interview, the hiring manager asked all the usual questions: What is it you love about this company?  What previous experience have you had that translates to this position? Did you get along with your co-workers in the past? Did you have any complaints of management or your training? Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond your duties.  (Take note, these question almost ALWAYS come up in an interview, be prepared.)

I sized up my competition as I sat down on the only hard chair in the room.  **This is something I think is important: if there is a hard seat, choose it.  I feel like sitting on a cushioned chair or couch first of all makes you slouch, second of all, subconsciously communicates to an employer that you value your own comfort over professionalism.  Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but can it really hurt your chances to sit up straight and look bright eyed and bushy tailed?

Continuing on, my competition was almost non-existent, judging solely by the interview outfits they had chosen (one looked sloppy, the other looked totally out of place for the company).  My suspicions were confirmed when I tried to initiate small-chat with them: neither could maintain an informal conversation, or cared to.  If you’re in this situation, don’t get nervous, the only person you need to worry about is the person interviewing you.  On the same token, never bad mouth your fellow interviewees (the same goes for former employers), and always listen respectfully as they give their answers. 

The interview went relatively well for all three of us, until it came to the more creative questions, the first of which was, “Describe to me a situation in which you went above and beyond your job duties.”  After waiting a beat for another candidate to take the question, I answered first, and left the floor open.  The second candidate answered, leaving the third candidate to answer last.  She stared hard at the floor, clearly trying to recall a situation that might fit the question at hand.

So, in this candidates defense, her prior job did not require much of her, and it’s easy to see how she might have difficulty answering this question directly.  She stumbled, as she started to answer that she worked with Habitat for Humanity, which actually might not have been the worst example (if she highlighted how she thought going above and beyond, whether for humanity or a job, was something she felt strongly about).  Then, for some reason, she changed course.  The story that ensued was a horrifying example of what NOT to do in an interview. She told an elaborate and difficult to follow story of an encounter with a homeless woman, which in the end had very little to do with being a hard-worker or being committed to a job or company.  She took up at least five minutes of the interviewer’s time, and in the process most likely made the interviewer forget that all of her previous responses had been perfectly acceptable.

How to avoid a debacle such as this? Prepare prepare prepare.  There’s nothing else to be done.  Try to imagine every possible question you might be asked, and consider your answer.  Remember, job seeking IS your job at the moment, so dedicate all your skill and resources to being the best possible candidate.  ALWAYS play up your strong skills, and NEVER badmouth your former employers or job.  Be positive, be energetic, speak clearly and without “ums” or excessive pause, and you’ll always come off as your best self!  Good luck, job seekers!

let it burn

Good morning, fellow commitment-phobes. Oh, you didn’t think this was a blog about a fear of commitment?  Well, today it is.  Actually, today’s topics are twofold.

1. Stop obsessing over missed opportunities and commit yourself to the present moment.


Let’s just take a moment and let Usher teach us a lesson: sometimes, you gotta let it burn. (*the original music video is MUCH racier than I recall so apologies for the annoying live version)  I find, as I go forward in earnest with my job search, that in the back of my mind are a series of missed deadlines and opportunities that I tend to weigh against present opportunities.  This seems to be a trend for me.

For instance, last week I spotted an amazing coat at a vintage vendor at an outdoor festival in my neighborhood in nyc.  I tried it on, loved it, didn’t love the price, and moved on.  Or so I thought.  That coat haunts my dreams.  I spent way too much time searching out its twin on Etsy and eBay, and actually found a few comparable pieces, with much more appealing price tags, but I have yet to buy.  Why can’t I commit?  That original coat has become so perfect in retrospect, so exact in detail, that I’ve made finding its replica near impossible.

Lesson to be gleaned from my obsession with fashion?  In order to be present and available to opportunities that come your way, you must actually BE present and ready to jump in with both feet.  Let the past go, and move forward.  Nothing will ever be as perfect as you’ve made it in memory, so gauge your present opportunities against reality.  It seems so simple, but to really let the past be the past takes some active effort.  Focus on the road ahead, and take each day as it comes.  Not to sound too new-agey, but there truly couldn’t be a better attitude with which to face the challenging world of job-searching.

2. The second lesson for today?  Make productive use of your talents.  I myself have suffered a few pitfalls in NOT following this advice.  I present to you exhibit A:

A mediocre piece of art, at best, this was certainly not the best use of my time or talents.  (If anyone can tell me how to rotate this image it would be much appreciated- the original image IS oriented in the correct direction) The positive here is that it does display some of my talents: patience, creativity, innovation, an attention to detail, an ability to follow through.  As far as displaying these to potential employers?  Not so useful.  Lesson to be learned?  Employ your talents while your unemployed.  Write a blog, volunteer, get a part-time job that relates to your field of interest.

The Lost Generation?

Jennifer Lee for the NYT and Nicolaus Mills for the Huffington Post strike a similar chord in their articles: recent graduates face an economy that is anything but stable and a job market that is less than encouraging, will they fail or rise to the challenge of finding success in a new type of working world?

Lee discusses a series of Ivy League graduates doing what she seems to deem non-traditional Ivy League jobs- whether it be driving cross country in a band or joining the working class while learning how to be the working poor. She presents an gloomy portrait of over qualified graduates staffing menial and sometimes minimum wage jobs, squandering their talents and ambitions, their lives “postponed.” The graduates have in common that each has found him or herself in an entirely unexpected place, but what Lee leaves unclear is whether she sees the great merit and opportunity provided by these roadblocks, or if instead she concludes, as her title suggests, that this is merely a “generation in limbo.”

Mills, after waxing sentimental about the departure of his recent Sarah Lawrence graduates, defines this (my, or maybe even our) generation with a certain degree of optimism as one of “trial and error.”  Just a little leeway, he argues, is what we need in order to get our bearings in this new world, his faith in our resiliency and ability to adapt clear.  Whether financials or the traditional pressure to secure a job after graduation allow for the privilege of this “leeway” this ability to try and fail and try again, is no certain matter.

So are we simply the Lost Generation?  Whether Lee is correct in her definition of our generation as one in “limbo,” waiting for time or circumstance to give us a break, or Mills is accurate in his assessment of our capacity to endure the “trial and error” path- one thing is for certain.  The world we face is unique, both in its great difficulty and in its immense opportunity.

On that note, a tip: If at all possible, create your own job.  Whether this means starting your own business or conducting a targeted search of companies that could use your particular skill set (even if they have no advertised opening), by creating your own job instead of selecting one from, for example, an internet posting, your are eliminating a great deal of competition and conducting a very important form of self inventory.

go get em’, tiger

Quote

“For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being ‘for’ society and then ‘against’ it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase – still it’s a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn’t accept any other; that much I’ve learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.”

— Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)

via Ralph Ellison Quotes.