Being Real Will Get You The Job, Seriously

Original Post: Being Real Will Get You The Job, Seriously

view photostream Uploaded on September 29, 2007
by Livsafe

My Masters course is finally over. Many of my classmates are into the job search in full swing now. To them, this involves a lot of time spent poring over multiple versions of resumes and CVs, enhancing or creating portfolio websites, polishing their LinkedIn profiles, and researching companies in the industry. The response I’ve gotten so far is fairly negative: no one’s had a solid lead despite numerous attempts.

A cause of the recession? I’m not too sure about that.

The Job goes to the Good Enough and Willing

Not everyone in my same class is in the same predicament, though. Those of us who currently have job offers (such as myself) found part-time or small project opportunities with our current employers while the course was taking place. It was a case of finding the person who could fill an immediate need, and being offered better opportunities as we proved that we were capable enough to handle the job.

One of my classmates, lets call him Joe, started taking up some simple jobs as a freelancer in the middle of the course, and this immediately opened up further opportunities as time went on. In fact, he even had to turn down a job offer from a major company because of time commitments. He did regret it but it was inevitable as they needed someone to start immediately.

He’s a good student, but not the best in the class, and neither is he as good as the other freelancers in the field. He was just responding to an opportunity seeing that he could afford to give up some leisure time.

The Job goes to the One Who Currently has a Job

They say a rolling stone gathers no moss. It’s hard to hire someone when you’re unsure about their track record. But making small sacrifices to gain the relevant work experience is one of the smartest things you can do to salvage a career that’s been halted or diverted by graduate school, a family emergency, a change of fate – whatever.

Joe was contacted by recruiters after they started noticing on LinkedIn that he actually was in employment and doing real stuff that real people do in real projects. Although he has sent out CVs to companies, he hasn’t heard back from a single one: “I dont have anything promising from sending around CVs yet,” he says.

This is from a person who has gotten 4 job offers, and had to turn down 2 of them in the last week. Joe’s problem isn’t about getting a job. It’s about choosing the right one. And it wasn’t a case of sending out CVs.

The Job goes to the One Who Knows How to Network (and not just to the one who does)

Joe’s fortunate situation happened when I recommended him to a senior freelancer (let’s call him Bob), who was looking for some immediate help. That was months ago. Today, because Joe has worked on real projects (short, small, but real) with real clients, he’s met a lot of real people in the industry. People call him by name, and knows him as the guy who has filled that role in a very short period of time and did a pretty good job. But more importantly, they know him as the guy who’s worked with Bob.

Another classmate I spoke to, let’s call her Susan, is planning to put up a portfolio site and print out flyers and business cards – the usual stuff. But only because she knows what it takes to “build her business”, i.e. getting contacts to notice your previous (but real) projects. A portfolio site is as useless as a CV unless you know how to make it talk. Making it talk is the skill of one who knows how to network, and not just someone who does.

In other words, going to an event, shaking their hands and having interesting chit-chat followed by a shove of your CV to their mailboxes isn’t going to cut it.

Unfortunately, the best way networking works is when you’re telling people about existing, current projects that you’re working on. Telling someone that you’re fresh out of university doesn’t sound very well to the ears of someone who has the authority to hire, unless they’re looking for fresh talent (which, in the case that he/she is hiring, that person might be looking to know who is better than you).

The Job goes to the One Who has had Real Experience, on Real Projects, with Real Clients

The problem companies have with university degrees is that there are a gazillion and one degree holders. Because it’s so hard to filter out the good ones from the not so good ones (read: the authentic ones from the not-so-authentic ones), there is a longer line, a longer wait, and more stringent recruitment processes.

As a freelancer if they ever have to deal with this, and they’ll tell you no.

Freelancers don’t wait in lines the length of football fields to find out if they can feed themselves in the next month – they simply can’t afford to do this. They need real opportunities and they’ll pick the best one out of three. They’ve learnt to accept whatever opportunities are available and make the best out of it, and plan for the future so that the next one hopefully leads to better clients and better projects.

The job market is still very much a hirer’s market. This is because profits drive companies, who influence the recruitment process. Choosing a job now is still much better than it was 50 years ago, but don’t assume that it’ll be easy. The good news is that there are a lot more types of opportunities for job hunters to get into:

  • short-term projects,

  • volunteering opportunities,

  • contributing to real projects like open source software

  • contributing to real issues offering real insight through channels like blogs and online communities (takes awhile to get there)

  • publishing work

You don’t get to pick the one you always want, but at least you’ll have choices, and you always will.

Strategy: Aim for the Middle, Work to the Top

In a recession, there is a trend for smaller companies to hire more. Smaller companies are more nimble, and they know where to find talent as good employers start getting retrenched from larger corporations. This presents a strategic opportunity that job hunters can seize if they want to get real experience, real projects, real clients, etc.

Strategy: Fill your LinkedIn profile to 100% and include Real Experiences

Recruiters started calling me up with job offers only AFTER my LinkedIn profile was up to scratch. It’s like a trust issue. It’s got nothing to do with the underlying system that LinkedIn runs on. The person who looks more authentic, and has real experience, gets the phone call.

Strategy: Spamming Companies Inboxes with your CVs – 80% quantity, 20% quality

I landed my previous job of four years ago after I selectively applied for 40 jobs. I only had 2 companies call back. Both offered me positions, and I took the best one. Don’t waste too much time applying for “the right job” – there isn’t one. Instead, aim for good companies – polish your CV to “good enough”, then send it along with a nice touch – e.g. an authentic email, a succinct but honest cover letter, whatever. Don’t trust your CV to do the work for you, though. It’s not a living document.

Strategy: Yes, Companies do read your Blogs. And yes, it does give off an Impression

Numerous times, I’ve been contacted by people who have hiring authority (CEOs, senior managers), and they remember me as this guy who runs this blog ( I don’t know why, but I know that everytime I get an email from them, they use the email I’ve published on this blog’s About page, even though I’ve given them my personal email address. So, if you’re posting stuff out there, make it focused, make it real.