5 Tips on Preparing for the Great Job Hunt

(This is a combination of the two articles I write for The Philippine Online Chronicles.  Part 1 of this article was first published on April 12, 2012.  Part 2 was published on April 24, 2012.)

A new batch of graduates has just stepped out of the halls of their respective universities and is eager to start the great job hunt. Whether you are part of this group or of previous batches of graduates, you will find these five tips useful. But more than being useful, I hope that these bits of advice inspire you, first time job hunter or not, to strive to pursue the dream in your heart that puts a bounce on your every step and puts a smile on your face every time you picture it in your mind.

I have compiled these tips from my experience as a job hunter myself, as a young woman out to find her place in the sun, and as the HR practitioner I eventually became.

Tip # 1: Have a long-term vision of what you want to happen in your career or professional life. Then, make sure your choices along the way are aligned with this vision that whatever jobs you take in the future would bring you closer to its fulfillment. Be deliberate in your job hunt. Don’t take on jobs for the sake of having a job and earning a salary. Don’t take on a job just because you passed the interview. Don’t be afraid to decline job offers which you think are not aligned with your future plans. Ask yourself first if taking on that specific job would be a step closer to your vision for your career.

Let me share with you my personal experience. It had been my dream and long-term vision to be a management consultant. I did not see myself working full time for too long. I saw myself carefully choosing the projects I wanted to work on and choosing when to take on projects. I wanted to be a consultant by the time I get married and had kids. Thus, I was careful in choosing projects. I was not afraid to say no to tempting job offers in terms of pay. I did not accept all that came my way. But I did not limit myself to only one industry, one department or one position. Over the years, I gained enough experience to build my credibility as a management consultant with HR as expertise. My vision became a reality three months after I got married. As the popular saying goes, “Whatever your mind can conceive, you can achieve.”

Tip # 2: Know what kind of jobs you want. Do not go out into the world bringing with you a mentality of scarcity. Don’t be desperate and aimless in seeking employment. Do not send out your resume to the top 100 companies or corporations without clarifying with yourself the kind of jobs you really want to take on. That would be a waste of your resources! That would also reflect on you as an applicant. Good companies and HR Managers prefer applicants who know what they want but are flexible enough to take on new things. So before you mass produce your resume, make sure that you spend ample time pondering on what jobs you’d love doing. You need to be focused but not confined or limited. Be strategic. Be realistic. Make it easier for the company’s HR person to place you within the organization by narrowing your choices to a small number of positions.

You know yourself better than the company’s HR staff, so ask yourself: What jobs would I perform well in and would be happy doing?

These were the same questions I asked myself when I was younger and just starting out. I realized that although I was qualified and skilled to take on many kinds of jobs given my educational background, skills and personality, there are only a limited number of jobs that I really like doing. For example, I had good grades in my research papers in college, but it was not something I looked forward doing every time. I also had good track record in my Math subjects but I decided that I don’t want a career teaching Math. In my previous employments, I discovered that I can communicate well with customers and can pacify irate ones. But I’ve decided that a job in customer service is not something that excites me or puts a bounce on my step.

That’s what I recommend you to do, too. Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself. Don’t be desperate to have a job because in the long run it will show if you are just desperately seeking a job or if you are happy to do your job. Do yourself and the company a favor. And don’t tell yourself or others that you don’t have a choice. We all have a choice. You can choose to stand by your values, principles and faith. Or you can choose to compromise them and settle for something less. Remember though that our choices define us and impact on our future.

Tip # 3: Decide what kind of skills you want to develop and improve on. Make an inventory of your skills. Ask yourself what skills you’d like to develop further. Then, proceed in your job hunting from there. Look for jobs where those skills you have chosen would be put to good use and where they would be challenged to grow. This requires research and study on your part. The skills you develop and hone will be evident years later when you take on new and greater responsibilities. Thus, make sure that you choose well where and how you will practice them.

I chose to develop and practice my communication skills in my previous employments. I took on responsibilities that enabled me to use my writing and oral communication skills. I embraced whatever assignments were given to me, whether it was writing a memo, writing an email to coordinate with other departments, managing the company newsletter, writing company policies, job descriptions and training manuals, facilitating meetings and conducting training programs, organizing employee activities, etc. Now I’m reaping the fruits of my many years of practice and having a positive attitude towards getting more work and responsibilities even though I did not take up a communications or writing course in college.

Because I have practiced doing these things for years in my previous employments, I can now comfortably and easily do these things for my clients. I even surprised myself when I got to author and publish my own book.

Tip # 4: Be clear on what is negotiable and non-negotiable to you. Don’t throw your values, principles and faith out of the window just to have a job or a career. It’s not worth it! It’s more joyful to be jobless for a month or a number of months than to be stuck in a job that torments you physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Thus, decide from the start what you are willing to negotiate with your employer and what you are not willing to compromise on. You might discover that it’s harder to find a job in the short term but believe me; you will earn the respect of the people who will interview you. They may not hire you now, but they might hire you later when they are looking for someone who has integrity and good self-esteem. You will also maintain your self-respect when you do this. When you choose not to compromise your values, principles and faith, you will have peace that no salary or attractive package can buy or equal.

I have been privileged to meet people who decided to walk away from good jobs and companies to uphold their personal values, principles and faith. Years ago, I had the privilege as well of walking away from a very good position because I chose to uphold my principles and values as a Christian and as an HR practitioner. I was being asked to conduct technical training programs for employees during their supposed rest days. I know how hard these employees are already working during weekdays, a lot of times working late into the night to finish their deadlines. I appealed with those in authority not to burden them anymore with additional work-related activities on weekends so that they would have time to rest their tired bodies and refresh themselves in the company of their families and of their God. I also negotiated that aside from lining up technical trainings for these employees, we also give them motivational programs which I believed they needed more. My suggestions fell on deaf ears. Eventually, I decided to resign because it was against my principles as an HR professional and as a Christian to abuse people and impose on them additional burdens that can possibly break them or harm them and their families.

Tip # 5: Don’t be intimidated or discouraged by the list of qualifications advertised for vacant positions. I was just talking to some friends the other day and this was the same advice I gave them. The list of qualifications posted by the company or HR department is simply a wish list. It’s not cast in stone. It doesn’t mean that if you do not possess one or two out of ten, you will be disqualified and have no chance of getting the position. Of course, the recruiter or the company wishes to find someone who possesses all those qualities. But companies and HR people also recognize it is difficult to find a single applicant fulfilling the wish list from start to end. Instead we look for a someone who has good potential in developing the other qualities we are looking for. That’s where attitude and humility come in.

So when you see a list of qualifications some of which you don’t have, ask yourself if you have a positive attitude and if you are teachable. Are you willing to learn new things? Are you willing to go out of your comfort zone and try new things? Are you willing to acknowledge areas where you need to improve?

When you have the right attitude and those interviewing you sense that in you, chances are they will give you a chance to develop on the job and prove yourself. Some of my HR friends and I like saying: Hire for attitude, train for skill. Between two candidates with the same set of skills and qualifications, or between two candidates wherein one is more qualified but the other one’s good attitude stands out, the one with the good/positive attitude would be likely hired. Companies can always send their people with good potential to training programs or workshops to teach them new skills or to help bring their skills to the next level. But it would be very hard to manage people with bad or negative attitudes.

Therefore, don’t be intimidated when you see a long list of qualifications on the positions you are interested to apply in. Don’t be afraid to take risks by taking on bigger challenges at work and accepting greater responsibilities. Step out of your comfort zone and find out for yourself what greater things you are capable to achieve. Don’t limit yourself to play in a field you are already very familiar with. Test your skills and talent in new situations and fields. Be persistent in learning new things, in growing and soaring to greater heights.

Let me end with a quote from one of my three-year-old son’s favorite books by Dr. Seuss, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Enjoy your job hunt!

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