Today I’d like to share the stories of two women I’ve been working with of late, both of whom have been looking for employment. While it may appear to the casual observer that both are job searching in a similar fashion, in reality they are taking very different ways to obtain work which will bring them happiness and security. While I’m telling you their stories, I’ve taking the liberty of changing up their names to respect and safeguard their confidentiality.
Interestingly I met both women for the first time when they accepted an invitation to participate in an intensive job search program I run. They’d both been searching unsuccessfully prior to our meeting and both seemed eager to find work. During the two weeks we spent together on a daily basis, both revamped their resumes, strengthened their cover letters and interviewing skills and both were encouraged to target their applications to specific employers rather than send out generalized applications. In other words, both got the same message and advice on how to ultimately land the jobs they were after.
Jean is pretty clear about her ultimate employment goal as she’s after a position in a Human Resources role. She’s got recent education, a positive outlook and while she has experience, it’s rather limited to her placements through school. Of course she has other work history to draw on, just not in her field of choice. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere right?
Sarah by contrast isn’t committed to any one employment goal. She’s got a wealth of experience in Office Administration but finds the routine familiarity of the job wears on her and she needs more stimulation and variety. She’s got great interpersonal skills, a positive friendly attitude and is also open to retail sales and working in a call centre, but if she had her way she’d love to make a living as a Singer. She’s got talent I will say, but whether it’s enough to pay the bills and earn a livelihood? That’s debatable.
As the two went about their job search, I noticed that both women got on well together and shared enthusiasm for the work involved which is always a good sign. They were both applying for jobs they felt they had qualifications for, and both got several interviews and job offers. Only one of the two however actually accepted a job while the other turned down opportunities and is still looking. Why you ask? Let’s look at that.
Jean is the lady who accepted a job. Remember she was the one looking for an HR job and she had little experience in this role beyond what she learned in school coupled with a co-op placement. Jean realized that she was competing for jobs not only with others like her who have recently graduated with little experience but also with the many other people out there who have the experience she lacks and are working in other roles just waiting for HR job postings. That as it turns out is a lot of people.
While she kept applying to jobs which popped up for HR positions, she turned her attention away from just scouring the internet for these jobs alone. She realized that all companies have people performing HR roles, so she started looking for a large organization that is well-respected, stable and in her community. She shifted her thinking from finding an HR job to finding employment with a company of choice in any capacity to get inside. Once hired, she could then learn about internal postings and have an edge over those on the outside which would reduce the competition and at the same time provide her with an income.
Sarah on the other hand, for all her skills, remained torn between the Office Administration jobs she had the skills and experience for but didn’t love, the retail sales jobs she finds a lack of satisfaction in, and the call center jobs she can do but doesn’t get to use her creativity in. Of course there’s a music career that would bring the creativity and passion but is less stable and takes a lot to launch.
In a recent conversation Sarah said she had 7 interviews of late and 3 job offers but she turned them down. Why? Well one job was going to be 12 hour shifts which she felt too long. I pointed out that the 4 days she’d be working those shifts would give her 1 weekday to do whatever she was truly passionate about but it didn’t appeal.
While both Jean and Sarah applied for different kinds of jobs, to date it is Jean who is employed. She works for a large big box home improvement employer in their lighting department. She’s working to get past probation and ultimately has her eye on an HR job down the road working off the sales floor. She’s happy and still focused on her long-term goal which makes her sales job more than bearable.
Sarah’s main issue is not having yet decided what she ultimately wants. This has left her conflicted, for when she moves towards something she likes, part of her realizes she’s moving away from something else she also likes and she gets nervous. So what happens? She retreats back to the middle for fear of making the wrong move and is paralyzed.
My advice? Settle on what you want and stay focused.