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If the Job Search Takes More than Six Months, Something is Wrong with Your Approach: Tips from a Career Consultant

By February 2023, people will understand that the year will not miraculously be easier and better. HR director in IT and career consultant Kseniya Kruchinina has suggestions for how to survive and even thrive in the face of such a forecast. What should junior do and not do to get the coveted offer? Work on self-development, refuse to be distracted from your goal, make a training plan and implement it, then smile and put on your “interview clothes” — armed with prepared answers to administrative and economic questions, of course. Review her valuable practical tips on finding a job in a new article Anywhere Club.

HR director in IT and career consultant Kseniya Kruchinina


— 6 years ago, I started the practice of a career consultant/coach to help people in an organized, systematic way. Today, I work as an HR director in an IT company; for now, I have transitioned career counseling to hobby status.

Who needs a career consultant

— The situation in the labor market is very difficult now. Even experienced IT professionals are looking for work for 5-6 months. If you start searching, establish a realistic deadline for yourself based on current market conditions. If it takes longer than the time you allowed, then there is definitely something wrong with your approach and you need help.

Juniors

If you are a junior and you go through the interview stage with the recruiter over and over again, everything is likely fine with you in terms of what you are saying and how you are saying it. In such a situation, if you do not receive an offer, it is most likely a matter of chance: the vacancy closed, or a stronger candidate appeared. If you are repeatedly rejected at the recruiter stage, however, then something may need to be adjusted with a career consultant.

Middles and seniors

Experienced professionals should pass the first stage of the interview easily. Of course, if this does not happen, then this is a clear sign that help is needed. If you are frequently declined at the last interview stage with the manager, then you need to identify the reason why this is happening. In this situation, a career consultant can help you so that you present more effectively and pass this critical stage.

The IT field is broad and there is room for individuals with many different qualities and qualifications. There have been cases in which people with special needs approached me for assistance in obtaining an IT position. I helped them to navigate a conversation with the employer, taking into account their unique circumstances. There are no restrictions on the work of differently-abled people in IT, but — as with every candidate — you need to properly present yourself and make it clear to the prospective employer that there is nothing preventing you from succeeding at the position you are applying for, and give examples as appropriate.

How candidates behave

Presenting their experience

— I communicate frequently with novice specialists who write to me that they have not been able to find a job for four months. I ask them to show me their portfolio (if they are designers) or GitHub (if they are developers) and I am often faced with the fact that they have very few projects there. I ask why, and they tell me that there is no time to do anything, that interviews take up all their time. My follow-up question — why go to an interview if you have nothing to show?

Unfortunately, in these circumstances, I see a large number of colleagues who immediately offer to help the candidate make a resume. Realistically, a resume with only two lines on it is not very persuasive. Maybe a junior doesn't need to write a resume. Instead, it may be more effective to fill out LinkedIn beautifully. And then prepare a robust GitHub or portfolio.

There are legitimate options to supplement your experience:

  • After passing an interview test with a company, check to see whether there is confidential information in it, or whether it can be shared. Most companies will answer that it is possible to share the information; if so, add it to your GitHub, portfolio, or resume.
  • Internship. Seek an internship to gain practical knowledge. Some people are surprised that you need to work for free when you are first starting out. In practical terms, you can work at an internship for three months, gain experience, and look for a job with enhanced credentials, or you can sit doing nothing for the same three months and then look for a job. Which do you think gives you a better chance of success?
  • If you want to become a designer, then take some well-known application and redraw it — on your own time and for your own purposes. Use your creation to show what you are capable of.

The impact of courses

— People today mistakenly think that after completing courses they will immediately get a job. It is clear where this impression comes from: the courses themselves profess that today you will finish the courses, and tomorrow you will have a new job. Courses need to sell their services, so buyers should beware. You will see some crazy statistics, suggesting that something like 70% of the course graduates immediately find a job. But no one can check or verify these statistics. Therefore, people feel sure that if they finish the courses, put the OpenToWork status on LinkedIn, and make friends with recruiters, the job is as good as found. And there they sit, without a portfolio, without practical tasks, without advanced training, while they wait for their offer to materialize.

When I talk to a junior, I ask them what the next step in their training plan is, what topic they plan to study, and which one they will delve into. Most often, the answer is that there is no such plan. The person graduated from courses three months ago, did nothing for three months, and goes through interviews without preparation, a portfolio, or a self-development plan. This approach is unacceptable. When the situation in the labor market is difficult, you can't be relaxed about your approach.

Seniors, middles, and juniors with experience remain unemployed. Against a background of nearly everyone wanting remote work, courses push promotional campaigns shouting that after candidates complete them, they can work from anywhere in the world.

First you spend money on courses, once you do that, then they tell you that you need to pay again to join a closed community where vacancies will be available. In every job market crisis, the training market becomes a haven of low-quality, inexpensive, fast products that make promises they can’t possibly deliver on. And people who are in crisis are not able to objectively analyze the information provided to them, so they buy cheap training tools and low-quality courses. Afterward, they still don't know what to do or how to find a job.

Boost Your Knowledge

I see a million posts on LinkedIn about people who have been looking for work for six months. Sometimes, I go to their profile. When I do, I find: no links to a portfolio (or portfolio alternative), no contacts, no way to get in touch quickly, and sometimes the page even blocks messages. How do candidates think that this helps them?

How to look for a job correctly

— Is it possible to start a new career path, to go into a new specialty, when you are already an adult? Or can you succeed if you are very young and lacking in experience? Of course you can! You do need to approach your search wisely, though. You need to be very prepared and systematic. You must plan your steps, plan your actions, assess your expenses and income, and prepare your family. This is a big layer of work on top of your actual job search.

What might a job search plan look like?

1. You are completing professional courses.

2. You do an audit of the knowledge that is needed for the job. To do this, you need to take 20 relevant vacancies and make a list of everything that employers require for each vacancy. Evaluate each of these requirements, and group them into the following categories based on your comfort level with each skill:

  • I know it, I've tried it, I can do it;
  • I’ve done it a couple of times;
  • I have read a couple of articles, have an idea, heard of it; and
  • this is the first I've heard of it.

Obviously, you don’t want anything in the last category. And every skill that fell into another category, you need to do whatever it takes to be able to shift it into the first — I know it, I’ve tried it, I can do it.

3. You prepare seriously for the interview. I recommend contacting an independent (or if you have an acquaintance) recruiter so that they can evaluate your appearance, the clarity of your speech, and help you prepare answers to common interview questions like: "What kind of job are you looking for?" and "How do you see your development within the company?" As simple as these questions seem, the fact is that an untrained person does not know how to answer them effectively. A recruiter can help.

4. At the same time, you need to expand your demonstration of your skills: if you are a developer — GitHub; if you are a designer — a portfolio; if you are a product manager — collect your case solutions, results of competitions, and everything that can give you a rating.

With the required preparation, you are ready go to an interview; without it, don’t even waste your time or the interviewer’s time.

You need to remember that if you are committed to your search, and you go to interviews, do tests, and study, you need to be able to give 100% of your time to this effort. If you have other responsibilities in your life, it is best to shift them to a partner or someone else during your search time. You are competing with a lot of candidates who are ready to do everything that needs to be done here and now; interviews and job opportunities won't wait for you to deal with other issues.

What to do, and not do, in an interview

— If you have been invited to an interview, there are several rules that you need to follow:

  • There is no need to invent anything about your background or skills. If you hear a term for the first time in the interview, you can say: let me Google that and tell you how I understand it. If you forgot something, simply apologize and say that you forgot.
  • It is necessary to smile. When a person smiles, the timbre of their voice changes and they are perceived in a different way by the person or people with whom they are engaging. If there are 100 people in front of a recruiter, they will remember those who smiled, who tried to make a joke, who offered a compliment; in short, those who somehow stood out. It's okay, especially for a junior, if you're trying to stand out in some way so that you are more likely to be remembered. Even if it means deviating slightly from the usual interview protocols. For example, at New Year's time, you can show up to an online interview in a stupid New Year's sweater.
  • It is critical to clearly answer routine, "everyday" questions, such as: When are you able to start work? How much money do you want? When will you be able to move? What is your preferred schedule? Do you need a laptop? Any employer is waiting for a clear and immediate answer to all of these. I call it quick answers to administrative and economic questions.
  • Forecast for 2023

    — By February 2023, people will understand that the year will not miraculously be easier and better, no matter what events happen. Large companies — the FAANG — carry out cuts gradually. And it may be that they will dismiss employees at a time when the unemployment rate is already high, causing these people to lose certain opportunities to find work because of the large number of searching candidates. In addition, there are startups that will have lost their investments due to the ongoing economic crises, products that are designed to function only in conditions of high well-being, and complex young products are likely to lose popularity. Job cuts will likely go further, so it won't get any easier.

    That being said, there is hope for 2023. One who is looking will always find. So, get ready, gain experience, and seek help from career consultants if you need it.

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