The Grind of Broken Dreams

Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results / Grind – To perform repetitive actions over and over to achieve a goal

Anyone who says that Job Hunting is easy probably hasn’t had to experience the process and grind of the Job Seekers Circuit. Those who claim ‘there are tones of jobs available’ are possibly deluded or perhaps slightly strange inside. It’s totally true that there are jobs available out there for the taking. But not for the likes of the longer term job seeker. The jobs that are out there and available are impressive positions for people who are currently working and not looking to start something new or change direction.

Some of us are out there looking daily for a change of direction we didn’t want to take, but have been forced into. There are high paying jobs out there, but not for the likes of those who’ve been looking for a while or find themselves unemployed. Believe it or not I am not thick. I know that not everybody in this world wants to work. When working I am no different, I want more time to do my own thing. I know how the world works. I know it revolves around money – how much I know that is another topic for different times. But what I want to talk about here is the Job Hunting Grind.

Firstly, to do a good application it takes time. It’s not just click a button and apply, those listings and applications are very rare and usually lead nowhere. Firstly its the search for a job that you know in your heart you have experience that is relevant to. You have qualifications that you can actually prove are relevant and you believe you have a hope in hell (because sometimes that’s what it is) of getting. Next if the position is good and their recruitment teams have done their jobs you’ll get a Job Description and a Person Specification. This is where the work starts. What kind of application is it? A click the button to apply (which simply sends your CV to the recruiter), an online application form, an offline application form (yes they still exist), or a good old Cover Letter & CV application. Each of these requires a different approach, perhaps someday I’ll write about them individually.

Whatever position and however the application is done, you’re going to want to adapt your cover letter specifically to address the job description and person specification to the letter. Also you may wish to adapt and target your CV content and format depending upon what position you are applying for. This takes a lot of time to get it right, sometimes it can take hours to complete an application.

So you put the research in and the work into creating a targeted CV and writing a good cover letter. You get people to agree to be referees and write you references (often before an interview these days) so it becomes more than just you applying for a position. Then if out of the hundreds of applications you make, you get short-listed for interview and then get the interview, there is usually something to prepare for the interview. You do this extra work to put yourself in a better position and show willing for the position. Then comes the interview. If you are working already, you have to arrange time to take off and travel to the interview. If you are not working currently, this can become harder, as you have to find the money to travel to the interview.

Some interviews you get a good vibe from and others you can see the people interviewing really don’t care about the position or anything about the applicants… Then comes the wait, did you get it, was you successful? 9 times out of 10, if you were not successful, you get offered no feedback other than ‘there were other candidates that were stronger than you’. I am sorry but, how is that helpful? Knowing that there is nothing else you could have done differently, the other person was just better? More often than not, you don’t even get that. If you don’t get an interview, you often get no contact whatsoever from the person you applied to. This is the rudest part of it all in my opinion.

Recently I’ve been short-listed for two positions, neither of which decided I was the person for them and I want to go on and tell you about them a little. The first was a position as a Website Manager for a school. This application was an electronic form that could be filled in and returned via email. The form itself was one of the easier to edit kinds of forms so the actually filling out of the form didn’t take more than an hour. A cover letter was required for this position as they did not accept CV’s. So there’s another hour or so on the cover letter. The application was then sent in via email. I was surprised to receive a telephone call the next day telling me I’d been short-listed for interview and asking me to complete a detailed task for presentation at interview. The task was to create a layout example of a homepage for their website. I completed this and the example is still online, however as it would identify the employer I won’t publish a link to it. I decided to use WordPress as my platform to create this as the position required a Website Manager and the platform upon which their existing websites are based is WordPress. My logic being that my experience and knowledge of WordPress would be a natural progression for their existing systems and sites. Upon arrival at the employer I discovered the short-list was just two applicants, my rival and I were educated as to the reason the position was available and given some limited information about the position itself. An unseen task was then to be completed over a 90 minute window. The unseen task really had very little to do with the position. Following this was the presentation were we would need to talk about the website for a 10 minute period to a panel of three. Following this was the actual interview. The first question in the actual interview was ‘Are you still interested in this position?’. I was unsuccessful at securing this position. The position going to the other short-listed person who attended the Interview morning. A previous student of the school who used to create his website design. Wix vs WordPress, really? The decision surprised and disappointed me quite a lot. I considered myself experienced for this role due to my extensive WordPress experience both for clients and within other positions. But what I have since come to realise is that perhaps the school didn’t really understand the role of a Website Manager, the responsibilities extending far beyond the physical management of websites, to design and implementation of systems to help the technological development of the organisation as a whole.

The second experience was a position within the civil service. The application process is a little strange for anyone whose not applied for a CS job before. Firstly you apply by completing a very basic form online. From here you’ll get told if you are invited to assessment. You attend an assessment centre where you’re asked to complete a written unseen task which tests your competency for the position. You get very little information about this assessment and usually you have to complete a pre-assessment test online. If successful in the unseen task, you’ll be short-listed for interview which happens in front of a panel there and then. The words ‘herded like cattle’ come to mind. Its really a big social experiment to test the humility and tolerance of the applicants. It’s a sickly Government way to do recruitment. Out of the 300 people in this session I attended, firstly I wasn’t on their list, go start. Secondly the instructions for the unseen task were very weak. 30 minutes was all you had to test if you could understand the task, complete it accurately and work at pace. There things I can do just fine IF given the correct guidance from the start. Needless to say I was not successful. I didn’t complete the task, which again was not indicated was a requirement! I did however get down to the final 5 of the session. All in all, it was too much to ask for what was a part time, four hours a day, four day a week temporary monkey processing position.

So what do you do when you’ve got through the interview and come out the other side disappointed? You pick yourself up, and you start the grind again.  It’s not easy. If you think it is, then you really haven’t fully been through it. When desperation kicks in, picking up and starting again, with time against you, really isn’t an easy thing to do.