Job searching feels like searching for a needle in a haystack... I knew I was looking for the right needle but I had no idea where to find it or what the needle looks like....
My job-searching journey was one big mess and it felt like I did everything wrong. I think the only thing I did right was to start looking for jobs as soon as I could, at the beginning of my senior year. But that one good decision can only do so much. The rest were all silly decisions driven by late-night frantic thoughts and way too many matcha lattes. I hope by telling my story, some of you will feel comforted knowing you are not the only one struggling or can find a better way to do things in your journey.
WHY AM I DOING THIS?
After months and months of submitting resumes and getting next to no interviews, I was frustrated. To help better my situation, I tried to come up with a solution.
Should I submit as many resumes as I can to many different jobs?
Should I focus on one job title and tailor every resume that I send out?
I didn't know what to do so I tried both. And the result was.... bad. Nothing changed and I was stuck in the same sinking quicksand that I was in a few months ago. Neither focusing on submitting high-quality resumes nor simply submitting large quantities of them worked.
So what was wrong......?
In 2023, 2 years after I graduated did I learn this lesson. I was focusing on the wrong objectives. I was under pressure and had blurry goals. I was working every day, trying to get a job but was so focused on all the little things that I forgot the big ideas. If you are also struggling, please pause for a moment and answers these important questions:
Who am I as a working professional?
What are my skills?
What is my short-term and long-term career goal?
What job is most suitable for me?
In 2021, if you had asked me these questions, I could answer you but my answer every time would be different. The answers would have no connections and not much thought would go into them. So please, after you answer these questions, write them down and read them again. Look at them and feel if they are right or not. Are they a typical answer you give that fits everyone's standard? Are they a thought you just had? Or are they answers you have been thinking about and it just feels right to say them out loud?
The Miracle Habit
To find the answers I cleared my life of little distractions and focused on myself. In that journey, I picked up a hobby: reading books. I don't like books because it hurts my eyes and brain to read and they are boring. But at my lowest point, with no career plan or sense of self, I needed the knowledge, the silence, and the intense focus that came with that action. A book that helped me the most is The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM) by Hal Elrod.
I read this book and love it for 1 reason:
- Not because it builds a habit of reading book
- Not because it made me a morning person
- Not because it was inspirational
- Not because it's a good book
For the first time in my life, I found a way to clear my racing thoughts and express myself. And for this reason alone, I encourage you to try the Miracle Morning routine. This book helps bring out the best of the current me and plan for a better future me.
This new habit has helped me:
- Reduce daily worries
- Improve my Resume
- Landed an interview at my dream workplace
- Ace my panel interview
- Create a second stream of income
- Reduce time working
All within 2 weeks! It is truly a miracle. I am grateful to Hal for writing this and grateful to myself for taking a chance. This has helped me tremendously in building my new career goal and working toward my ideal life.
Do you know yourself? I thought I did... What I knew was I have been working since I was 18 and graduated, came back to Vietnam to build my career with 3 years of experience and an honor bachelor's degree, and yet felt like I had no skill to boast about and no value as a working professional. I was a decent employee but a horrible HR manager and marketer for myself. I didn't know my skill sets, my value, and my career goal was blurry and uncertain. And this lack of self-awareness showed in my resume/CV and interviews.
Before you jump into the job search haystack frantically as I did, do a skill assessment on yourself. Imagine yourself as an interviewer or manager and asked yourself in-depth questions about your skills as a working professional. Be as detailed and honest as you can because what is facing you right now is yourself and you can enlighten yourself in this search. When you have an idea of your best skill sets, it's a lot easier to tackle a resume, and job search, and know what you need for your dream job.
After that, you can learn more about the skills or dig deeper into skill management if you still don't know what skill you have. There are many online resources to help with either route. I took a free class on Coursera called How to Get Skilled: Introduction to Individual Skills Management by The State University of New York.
This class taught me in detail what I need to focus on to do great skill management and provide tools for job search and professional improvement. Thanks to this class, I was able to identify key critical tasks for the job interview at my dream school. With that valuable information, I wrote up a detailed draft, predicted all the questions the panel interviewers might have, and practiced my answers. The interview went great and the panel was pleased with my answers. That was a really good hint that I was on point with my answers.
YOU JUST NEED ONE GOOD MENTOR
In my senior year of college, to help with the job search, I would ask for advice from people around me, all with different backgrounds and experiences. Every time, I would change my resume according to their advice, hoping this time I would land an interview. I also used the career center's services on resume checks and interview prep every month to prepare myself. But every time was a lost cause. I lost all sense of what is good and bad and had no idea what to write in my resume and cover letter that would get a position. In desperation, I scheduled a meeting with a professor who was always thoughtful and kind to me. I burst into tears, talking to him about how the pandemic, how my status as an international student, and how my degree has made it hard for me to find a job. I was anxious about not being able to stay in America and giving up on my hopes and dreams just 2 months after I graduated. He introduced me to his editor who agreed to fix my resume and cover letter. After her help, I began to get interviews and received job offers. The effect was noticeable. So what made her edits and advice different from all the other people who helped me, including professional career advisors?
She was THE ONE person whom advice I needed
During the job search process, there is a lot of information thrown at you. You also go look for information to improve yourself and get that dream job. But not all information is suitable for you. What I forget in my process is that resume checks by career advisors were only the beginning. They don't necessarily know the current wants of my industry or my recruiter. Advice from friends and adults was helpful but also not specific. What my resume needed was:
The resume format is up to date with industry standard
High readability and pass the electronic resume check
Showcase my experience well
And this was what the editor provided. She was an educational editor who knew the standard and knew how to word sentences well. She had a keen eye and the wisdom to make my resume stand out from the rest. In your search, I hope you can also find suitable advice for you, instead of waiting for it to come to you. Find someone who is familiar with your industry and knows exactly what to do to make your resume stand out. Their advice will save you a lot of time and effort.
GROWTH IS OFTEN INVISIBLE
One of the biggest struggles I had when job searching was feeling like I didn't have a lot of valuable skills or relevant work experience. To resolve my insecurity, I tried to improve my working skill sets and learn new ones that would give me a competitive edge in the candidate pool. But no matter how many classes I took, that feeling never went away. And I continued to have that thought when I started working full-time. The insecurity was eating me away, slowly dulling my mind and skills, making me lose grasp of what I was capable of. So I saved up just enough money and said goodbye to my job. I spent the next month reflecting on what has happened and what I need to move forward. I reduced the fun, stimulating activities to ground my emotions. I adopted hobbies and habits that require one to sit in silence and focus like journaling, reading books, and meditating.
After about 4 weeks, I finally had a better grasp of who I was as a person and what I want in life. I noticed how different of a person I was compared to 2 years ago when I graduated. I noticed how much I have grown, what I do pretty well and can become my strength, and what I lacked. Even though you might know how through the same process or have the same concerns, I think we can all agree that sometimes we focus too much on the result and the future that we sometimes lose touch with our current progress. We compare and believe that we haven't learned anything or that we are learning very slowly, making many mistakes but we are making steady progress toward our goal. So please don't worry too much about the result, just focus on your internal growth, and the rest will follow.
As you continue on your job search, look for the right mentor to help you showcase your skills the best and improve your resume. You should also practice your interview questions and learn more about the job tasks and important skills you need for your future job. Even when you feel like you are getting nowhere, your continuous effort is taking you closer and closer to your goal. And when the opportunity comes, you better use it wisely and show everyone what you are capable of.
I may laugh at my horrible job search experience now but it was a major source of worry for me back then and even now. I learned a lot about myself in this process and I am sure it will help me in my personal life as well. I hope this blog post made you feel better and motivate you in your journey. You can hop over to the page's forum or the blog's FB page to tell me all about your journey or what you felt about my little blog post.
Thank you for reading and good luck!!! You are all very talented and incredible!!!