You’ve probably realized by this point in your life, hopefully, that you need money to pay for goods and services. Sadly, some asshole one day said that we wouldn’t just get money for no reason, making you do something called a “job,” which involves “work.” Personally, it’s offensive to me that someone did this instead of just sending me money for playing Pokémon Go and yelling at the TV when I see an advertisement for a television show I don’t like.
In all seriousness, at the not-particularly-old age of 30, I’ve done fairly well for myself. I’ve worked in games journalism (literally the job that anyone would want to do; you’re being paid to play and write about games), I’ve gotten another job in another country despite a global recession, and I’ve started my own successful consultancy, in which I have to constantly convince people to give me cash.
And now, dear reader, I want the same for you. I want you to learn how to get a job. Even if you’re not the best candidate. Even if you’ve sat on your ass for three months because you lost your last job. Here are the steps you should take to become gainfully employed in 2016.
Networking events can be helpful, but the best thing you can do is meet a person through a friend, colleague or family member who can give you the straight-up truth and advice that you need.
Have the Right Attitude
Do you hate your current job and want out? Then you want to make sure you’re not jumping into a shitty situation. In other words, be patient.
However, if you’re stuck in a rut, have no job and haven’t had luck finding anything, you should go into the job search with the intention of finding a job. This means that beggars can’t be choosers. Yes, if they’ve got Nazi memorabilia on the walls and the interviewer says you “look like a rapist,” you’re in the wrong place. That being said, if you’ve got nothing going on, you should also not, say, turn away $15 an hour work because “it’s beneath you.” Landlords don’t take depression as currency, nor do they have much time for people who say “uhh, yeah, uh, next week” on rent checks. Even if the job pays $2400 a month before tax, that’s better than zero dollars.
Basically, don’t be up your own asshole because you used to have a good job but now you need something fast.
Check Those Public Posts!
So, I’m not exactly preaching the gospel of “be a completely false person with no character in anything public you say,” but there are many things you don’t want to have online when applying for a job.
Before you start your employment search, it may be worth straight up scorching the earth if you’re worried. Set your Twitter to private (or delete your old tweets–there are lots of services for that) and set your old Facebook posts to friends only. Hell, do it anyway.
Here are some more things to remove from the internet too:
>>Pictures of you getting drunk.
>>Anywhere you’ve said racist, sexist or generally stupid stuff.
>>Any and all insane blog posts you’ve written about your exes, your political beliefs… basically anything someone would read and say “what the hell is wrong with this person?”
Create a Smart, Tight Resumé
No matter what job you’re applying for (even retail!), you’ll probably need a resumé, and that means that you’re going to have to list all the jobs you’ve done before.
There’s a huge temptation for you to list every single job you’ve ever had. Do not do this. Instead, look for relevancy in what you include. If you’re applying for a job in writing, I doubt they’re going to care that you worked at Starbucks for three years. You can include it if you want, but don’t put three bullet points about how you managed a diverse team of baristas to create a structurally creative mechanism for the delivery of caffeinated beverages.
Even if you have tons of relevant experience, keep the wording very, very straightforward, avoiding the jargon that most will use. Did you manage people? Say, “I managed a team of eight people, on accounts such as X, Y and Z.” If you trained people, say what you trained them in, that you mentored people and possibly that you helped make the business stronger by applying best practices. Even then you’re venturing into the land of bullshit, and everyone sees resumés through like that.
When you walk out of an interview, don’t lie to yourself. If it went horribly, you’ll know. If it went really well, you’ll also know. It’ll feel like a conversation you’d have on a good date.
It also doesn’t matter if your work isn’t entirely appropriate. You want to give straightforward explanations of your work (“I made $Xm in sales as part of a team of two people”). Put down your skills–if you really must–but make them very blunt. Don’t put down “team player.” And forget about that damn mission statement at the top. Nobody is going to read that and say, “Wow, Bob’s a real team player that has a great attitude for success.”
Whatever you do, do not put anything on your resumé that you can’t back up. I once interviewed someone who said he had expertise in ISPs and Netscape. When questioned he admitted he’d copy and pasted that line from the internet. No job for him.
One more thing: Nobody cares about your god damn school and whatever “achievements” you had there. If you went to an Ivy League college, people will notice, sure. But even then, past a certain age (e.g., 25), you’re not going to stand out solely with that. So unless you won some major awards in college, don’t list them because they’re useless. The achievements you mention need to have real measurable meaning.
Networking events are helpful for people that have absolutely no connections and want to break into an industry, because you can at the very least get that basic meeting with people who will know more than you do. However, the best thing you can do is meet a person through a friend, colleague or family member who can give you the straight-up truth and advice that you need. For example, if you’re searching for a marketing job, ask a few friends, “Know anyone in marketing?” If they do, ask if you can get an intro to learn a bit about their industry and get some advice as to how they got their start.
I got my second job because I asked a journalist friend in the gaming industry if he knew anyone looking for work. He said he didn’t, but he could easily introduce me to an agency that worked in games. I met with them and there was no job available, but I kept in contact. They eventually hired me because at some point they needed someone with my skills. But the only reason they knew I had those skills is because I had met with them. And yes, I sort of nagged the boss on Facebook. Hey, sometimes polite persistence is your best weapon in the employment game.
Just to reiterate: You should avoid blind applications and get an intro if you can. Really, you can apply to jobs all day and get nowhere, but one warm introduction from a friend, former colleague or professional contact to a person actually at the company you’re hoping to join can at least get HR to look at you. If you’ve been around your respective industry for a while, go on LinkedIn, see who the right person is at the organization you’re applying to and see if you’ve got any mutual contacts. If you do, ask them for an intro. It’ll help a great deal.
Own the Interview
Whenever I interviewed for a job, I always remembered some great advice an old friend gave me: “Never walk into any room you’re not afraid to walk out of.” It’s a sound tip because you shouldn’t, unless you’re really desperate, sit for a situation that isn’t great. Perfect is never possible, but if you don’t feel comfortable, you shouldn’t accept a job. I’ve had many interviews where I’ve thought, “This place has a really nasty attitude” or “This person I’m talking to is a huge, huge prick,” and I’m glad I didn’t stay.
Another thing: Go into a job interview with some simple business cards. I like Moo.com. Get 100 made. The cards should include your name, email, phone number and possibly your industry. Spend a bit more to get ones on the nicer card stock. Most people get the shitty quality ones from the mall. When employers see yours, they’ll at least think, “Huh, this guy takes himself seriously.”
Also: Dress well, but not ridiculously. I hate the advice “Dress for the job you want” because then I’d come in wearing a smoking jacket. Nevertheless, dress up for your interview. Put on some nice shoes (not sneakers). Shave or clean up that beard. Use deodorant, mouthwash and a touch of cologne if you really want to. Just be spruced up. Show you care. Even if it’s a job at Starbucks, you want to demonstrate you give enough of a shit to be a professional. Don’t wear a suit unless it’s a big law firm or something where that’s what people wear.
When you walk in to an interview or informational meeting with an employer, shake the person’s hand, thank them for their time and try to have an actual conversation with them. Remember, they’re a human being. If they mention something you know about well (do not pretend to know something you don’t, you’ll get eaten alive), lean into that. Maybe behind them there’s a picture of a band you really love. Say, “Hey, you’re a [band] fan?” If their eyes light up, keep talking about the band. If they move on, you move on. If they want to talk your ear off, god, let them. This kind of thing is an honest human interaction that will show them that you’re not just a piece of paper with previous jobs listed on it.
A few other tips: Bring a copy of your resumé, any work examples of note and a few business cards. If you’re interviewing for a job in public relations, bring a few examples of recent stories you’ve placed. And yes, even if you’re already given them a resumé, bring a few more just in case they don’t have a copy handy. It will make you seem prepared.
Also: Don’t over-describe yourself. Instead, go in and be prepared to talk about why you want to work there, where you work now and why you’re good at what you do. Be specific. If you made your company a lot of money, say how much and how. If you got a bunch of results, say you did and that the client was very happy. Most job interviews are incredibly banal and overly enthusiastic. You’ll stand out if yours isn’t.
Another thing to keep in mind: You will get asked about what you don’t like about your current job. Be honest, but not a dick. If you feel like your management isn’t great, say, “I don’t feel like the structure I’m working in is as productive as it could be,” and be as complimentary as possible. Have an idea of what you want to do in the future, and where you see yourself contributing. Hell, if you can see that something isn’t going well with their current situation, say how you’d fix it–if they ask. Don’t just say, “All of your [thing] is fucked up, and you’re dumbasses, here’s this shit, idiot.”
Have a few questions ready for the obligatory “Any questions for us?” Don’t ask stupid ones, but feel free to ask things like, “Who would I be working with?” and “So, what’s stopping me from getting the job?” The latter can get you nowhere, but it can also give you valuable intel on what you should present further, or how you should follow up.
Finally, find out what the timeline is for the interview process and if they need anything else. If they will be making a decision in two weeks, that’s valuable info for follow-up purposes.
At this point, thank them. Ask if they have a business card. Shake hands with them and say you look forward to chatting more.
Know When to Follow Up and When to Give Up
When you walk out of an interview, try not to lie to yourself. If it went horribly, you’ll know. If you couldn’t read them, that’s annoying. If it was just a bit “meh,” this could still work. But generally you will know if it really went well. They’ll be laughing and asking you lots of questions, it’ll go a little over the allotted time, and it’ll be a bit like a conversation you’d have on a good date. If you leave and tell people it went amazingly when it didn’t, you’re going to set yourself up for embarrassment and disappointment.
The following morning, email them and thank them for their time. If you found an article of relevance to the chat, or if you forgot something really useful you could have said, say it. If you had a chat about something not work-related, or if you promised to send them something, include it. Let them know you’re there to answer any further questions, and remember to include your phone and email. Say that you’re really enthusiastic about working there and you’re grateful for their time.
After that, you should follow up in another week, if there’s no specific timeline and you hear nothing from them. They may say that they’re still making their decision. Or they may say, “Oh, I was just about to contact you!” and then give you good or bad news.
If you hear nothing back, give it one more email (or phone call) a week later, then give up.
Something that can happen is they’ll say, “Hey, we’re not looking to make a hire right now after all.” If that happens say, “Ah, that’s disappointing but I totally understand. Thanks for letting me know!” and then put a reminder in your phone to email them in a month, then three months after that.
This is how you avoid looking too eager, but also eager enough that they remember you.
In The End…
There’s no perfect cheat sheet for job-hunting. You’re never going to find an exact guide to your specific situation. This is just how I, a guy who is not good at faking enthusiasm and lying to people’s faces, have succeeded in business without really trying. Which, by the way, was a way better musical than Hamilton. Sorry, I mean, I like big trucks and weightlifting.