Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You can take this job and re-staff it!

Last week I got a new job!


Thanks, I’m really excited actually. Finally, I’m getting a decent pay rise! Meanwhile I’m helping to reframe my current position description so they can hire someone internally on a higher band.

Anyway, as many have been quick to point out, it has been a long time coming.

It’s been about two years since I decided it was time to start looking around for new opportunities, and closer to three since I started thinking about it. Frankly, I wasn’t too fussed until about eighteen months ago when the impenetrable ceiling of an increasingly dead-end role gradually squeezed the enthusiasm out of me.

About that time, at the first meeting of the newly appointed Social Club Committee (yes, yes) I used my (optimistically phrased) likely departure as an argument against being made President - it was clearly a highly-sought position. Clearly I am too popular – or easy – because I was talked into doing it. Embarrassingly, I saw out the year, plus another five months.

After a few rejections proved finding a job wasn’t going to be as easy as I hoped, I got serious about the hunt. I started telling me people about my search (including at work) in case they knew of opportunities. I spent a couple of sessions with – and a substantial amount of money on – a careers counsellor. I registered with job agencies.

The careers counsellor was expensive but worthwhile; she helped me get my resume and applications to a standard that actually got me through to a few interviews.

The agencies were next to useless. Dixons were attentive if nothing else; they got in touch straight away and did find me a few potential roles, but when they called it was usually just to check in and make sure I was still in the market. More than I can say for Hudson or Hays who I never even heard from. I know you need to chase them up, but I was too busy applying for jobs myself.

Applications are fucking tedious. The biggest relief is probably that I no longer have to write responses to Key Selection Criteria! The same criteria come up time after time, with just subtle differences that make the copy-and-paste method fraught with danger. A couple of times I found mistakes and anomalies in text I pasted in from an application already sent off. That’s not a good look when your resume boasts excellent editing and proofing skills and you are applying for communications roles! But sometimes there was plenty of time to spend on an application, other times there were multiple due within a few days and the rush was too much to avoid the temptation of short cuts.

Maybe it cost me an interview or two, who knows. Anyway, eight interviews were enough.

The first few were intimidating, yet I found myself surprisingly relaxed about the last couple, for which I did almost no preparation. If you actually have the experience for the role and know yourself reasonably well, unnecessary preparation might just build anxiety.

Interviews involve lots of bullshit; the worst workplace kind – HR bullshit. Questions about relevant experience where you indulge in a little bullshitting of your own (or the crucial ‘self-sell’) to give examples of times you used your initiative / creativity / negotiation skills to solve a problem / resolve a conflict and how wonderful the outcome was. I slowly got reasonably good at this – after all, I’m an Arts graduate.

Good interviewers make a huge difference. If they’re easy-going and have a conversational style it helps bring out everyone’s real personality and facilitates genuine discussion. Bad ones read the questions and take notes while you waffle on for fear of an awkward silence indicating an inadequate response. I was told after one interview I’d gone on too much. Just a polite ‘Ok, shut up now,’ would have been nice.

After my seventh unsuccessful interview I slumped into a rut and took a few days off the search before getting back into it with a flurry of applications. And fuck me if things didn’t turn around faster than Brendan Fevola could spend a dole cheque.

Just seven days separated the day of application and the day of offer, with two interviews squeezed in the middle. I almost didn’t apply either, the deadline (and I always work to deadline) being a Sunday, making it more difficult to find time to prepare the application than on a work day.

So after nearly 40 applications in 12 months, it felt good to be able to resign. I was more tactful than when I resigned Dan Murphy’s a few years ago where I told my manager, in front of other staff, that we needed ‘to talk about my future here – in that I don’t have one.’

And now I am actually moving on, I’m starting to realise all the things and people I’ll miss, and getting a little nostalgic about my five and a half years at this workplace. It has been a good place to work, I just outgrew my role … a while ago.

And while my hunt felt like an epic journey, I got some perspective last week via a friend who knows someone in Spain that has put in 3200 applications in 12 months and still not found a job.

I am feeling pretty lucky right about now.

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