I've said it before, and I'll say it again: searching for a job sucks. It sucks a lot. I've written that it's like looking for a needle in a giant pile of crap. And there are a dozen different piles of crap. And it’s going to stink.
During that search, you feel helpless, like there's nothing you can do. And to a degree, you're right. But that doesn't mean you're completely powerless.
Because only three things matter when you're searching for a job:
- Your Work
- Your Network
- Your Experience
Here's the good news, you can control the first two things. The third, hopefully, will join the others, in time.
Now, I'm in the creative world, so what I'm going to say is probably most related to that. But for everyone else, I hope this can still help.
What You Can Control
First off, I'm going to just assume you've got talent. If you don't have any, then you're not going to find a job easily (but I'd be lying if I ignored the fact that plenty of people have jobs with minimal talent).
There is absolutely no reason your work should hold you back. A lot of people may complain about not having the projects or experience to have made anything. True, but nobody's stopping you from making work on your own.
- Make your portfolio as perfect as possible (read this)
- Be sure your ideas have insights (read this)
- Even if you're not a designer, you can comp an idea (read this)
- Take the Ad-A-Day Challenge, make some spec ideas (read this)
So, if you think your portfolio is weak, make it stronger. If you think you're missing something, add it. If your work isn't representing you well, do something about it.
Your work is in your control.
Now you're depending on other people. But your network is one of the most important parts of your career. And it's definitely in the trifecta of essentials in your job search.
The good thing is, you control this part, too.
- Remember who your network is: everyone you know
- Whenever you work with people, especially your boss, leave a good impression (read this)
- Go to every networking mixer you can and talk to people
- Connect with people on LinkedIn
- Make your specialty known on all social networks, so people will come to you
Every single job I've gotten is because of someone I knew.
But remember, people won't just stick their neck out for you because you ask. I can't tell you how many messages I get, asking me to recommend them for a job, without even knowing me. Come on, a little foreplay first...
It's a relationship, and it's one where you can control how you're perceived. If they respect you, your work, and your personality, the network you create will support you.
The biggest part of this is self-awareness. You may not be completely aware of simple things: maybe you're pushy, clingy, you ask too much, etc. Find someone you trust, put on your thick skin, and ask what you can do to be someone that others will stick up for.
Because you control who you know.
What You Can't Control
This is where it gets out of your hands. The part where others make the decisions for you.
Don't worry, there are things you can do, once you get the chance to improve your experience.
- Learn to interview well (read this)
- Figure out what agencies fit you (read this)
- Decide your agency path, big or small (read this)
- Choose between freelance or full-time (read this)
- Be a great intern (read this)
But before that chance is given, do everything you can to make those first two parts (your work and your network) the best they can be. Because as they say, luck favors the prepared. When that opportunity comes, you want your best foot forward.
You may not be able to control your experience, but you can be ready for the chance, when it comes.
Focus on What You Can Control
The job search is always going to be a pain, especially in today's market.
Feeling helpless, powerless, it's something we all feel during that process. But don't let that become everything you think of.
Take charge of the things you can. Focus on what it is you can control. Not only will it make your work better and your network stronger, but it'll also make the search that much more bearable.
Because you'll be in control.