A Little Perspective on Job-Hunting

Original Post: A Little Perspective on Job-Hunting

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What better way to get some perspective on finding a job than from someone who is in the job-hunting trenches, too? Today's post is from Prescott Perez-Fox, who runs that awesome blog, twentyhood. Enjoy!

Recently, I met a young man on the train following an industry event. He was just out of school and had only moved to New York that week. He was in search of a job. As someone who is likewise in search of employment, I instantly felt his struggle. I sighed and remarked 'I'm afraid I can't offer you any advice; I'm looking for work as well.' But it soon became clear that I could offer him advice, after all.

I have, in fact, figured a few things out, and come to a few realizations about this alchemy called job-hunting. Here, dear friends, is advice from the front, tips that you won't hear from your college career counselors or your dad's co-workers or even your average 'tips from an HR guy' blog post.

I have observed

• Applying for jobs online is a numbers game. Even if you're a qualified candidate, you'll be up against dozens, if not hundreds, of candidates. Therefore, you may have to apply 100 jobs to get your first interview.

• Many people post job vacancies to Craig's List. However, the signal-to-noise ratio on Craig's List is terrible. Be bold and ignore it. Find other sources, especially relevant to your own industry. They're out there.

• A staggering number of jobs will result in a 'no hire.' It's not that they chose another candidate, but rather the whole position just fizzles into nothingness. This isn't your fault.

• Silence is the new rejection letter. Even after a real-life, in-person interview many folks will simply blank you. Make sure you follow-up by phone, email, and maybe even hand-written (paper) letter, but don't be insulted when you get no reply.

• The worst insult you can receive is when someone calls your portfolio 'Nice' or says 'Oh, cool.' No one gives criticism anymore, they just pass you over and move one. Goes with the previous point.

• Some companies simply will never hire an entry-level applicant. This isn't your fault, it's just their unspoken policy. If you're under 25 or so, to these folks you will be viewed as a rookie, regardless of your skills or qualifications.

• The best way to find a job is through your personal network; the best way to have a network is through co-workers, past and present. A paradox indeed.

• Cold-calling is incredibly taxing emotionally. If you think this is an effective route, I hope you're stronger willed than me.

• Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., are useful communication tools, but none are a silver bullet for finding a job. Persist with a mix of methods.

• Freelancing or doing contract work may eventually lead to a full-time job, but not always. Try to hold it together when your short-term job ends with little fanfare, and without a job offer.

• Most people in your field are reasonable. There are a few divas, but chances are you can meet someone at an industry event and ask him/her for a business card with no problem. Email and ask for an interview, most often he'll say yes, even though that company may not be hiring. What's the worst that happens? You get some extra practice.

I don't want to you be cynical in your job search, but I want you to be prepared. Looking for work, going on interviews, and starting a new job are all incredibly awkward experiences. You're certain to feel the complete range of emotions and come up against some academic paradoxes. This is like applying for colleges, but without the notion of a 'safety school' or a community college to fall back on.

Onwards and upwards, fellow job seekers. If you can survive your first job search, you will have endured one of the hardest life situations there is — and certainly something they don't teach in college.

Prescott Perez-Fox is a graphic designer and blogger in the New York City area, and the author of twentyhood, the blog about life as a twentysomething. He also writes about design and branding on his own site, perez-fox.com, and is the arbiter of Your Business Card Sucks.