I try really hard. Not all the time and not in everything, it has to be said, but, in general, I am a try-er. (Or, I am very trying – a joke that I have never heard before. I’m looking at you, DAD.) As a child I tried things and wanted to know about things, at school I worked really, really hard. My Mum has always said that the thing about any results I got at school was that I had put in my all and well and truly deserved those grades. I was an A student (not an A* student, but that’s another post for another time) and always did my homework, always revised for tests. I do not think back to certain lessons and think ‘wow, I hated that subject. No wonder I got an F!’ – no siree, I tried in every lesson. I had an awful Chemistry teacher who taught us very little, but blow me down if I didn’t get full marks in my Chemistry coursework (in your face, Tom! Mr I’m-now-doing-a-Chemistry-PhD-but-didn’t-get-full-marks-in-my-coursework). I was not good at any competitive sport, but I still put in as much effort as I could in every lesson and although Maths is not my strong point, I worked until I got the best marks I could. I suppose what you could say is that I learned at quite a young age that if I worked hard, I would get results.
I can still harness the feeling of doing something to the best of my ability and achieving something, it turns out. I haven’t really thought in those terms for a long time, but getting a new job last week made me think about it again and also made me realise that not everyone is like me in this respect. My fundamental attitude is that if I do my best and I still fail, well at least it wasn’t me – I did everything I could. That attitude got me through about 150 job applications, more than 15 interviews and over a year of a job that was going no-where and often made me very sad. That was over a year ago now, but I can still remember the deep sense of failure when I realised that I had to keep going with the job searches and application forms and interviews and rejection cycle whilst still turning-up day in, day out at a soul-destroying job. There were more than a few moments when all I could say was ‘I’m trying so hard’ over and over again. I always asked for feedback and almost always I heard the same thing: ‘You were great, there was just someone with more experience than you.’ Bloody recession.
A few months ago I realised that it was time to get back into the wonderful word of job hunting. I was filled with dread, but I took a deep breath and started the searches. I sent off a few applications, I kept looking and writing. I tried not to think too much about it (good luck with that) and remain positive. And guess what? It worked! This time round it all fitted into place – my hard work paid off. I found a job that I knew I could be great at, fulfilled all the criteria for and got an interview. And then, after another meeting, they offered me the job. As simple as that.
The problem with job hunting in a recession is that even if you could do the job really well, there are so many other people also trying hard to convince them that they could do it better. It’s really, really difficult. It’s not a level playing field, there is often an internal candidate that you don’t know about and discussions going on behind the scenes. But I do believe that if you truly do try hard, it will happen. At some point. Keep on, keeping on, as we say in my family.
So, the job. It’s got a longer commute than I have now, but it’s a proper, grown-up job. It’s in a sector that I think I could have a career in and should be taxing, busy and interesting. And I achieved an aim I’ve privately had for a long time: I’m going to be earning more than my age. I am so proud of myself.
My tips for job hunting? Oh go on then:
- Ask yourself whether you have, honestly, put in as much effort as you could with the application. Have you just copied and pasted from another application? That might not be enough.
- Look frequently. Have a set number of applications you need to do a week, but let yourself off if time runs away with you. The trick is to do something every single week.
- When you get an interview (yey!), look smart. I used to wear the same outfit to every interview, but for my latest one I decided to wear something else and buy a new shirt. Maybe that’s what did it?
- Always prepare at least one question to ask at the end of the interview.
- Always ask for feedback, even if you feel like replying with something like ‘well I didn’t want your stupid job anyway’.
- Believe in yourself. If you don’t think you’re good enough, then how are you going to convince them?