Katlego is a journalism student from Botswana that covers issues relating to business, politics, life guidance, and technology. Self motivated and entrepreneurial, Katlego has an abundant range of experience working everywhere media related from print newspapers to digital marketing
Struggling to Get Your First Job? Here Are 10 Tips to Stay Positive.
I get it, finding your first job isn’t always a walk in the park. It’s sending out a barrage of applications, going to dead end interviews, and walking into offices with so many red flags you’d swear your ex works there. You’re exhausted, you’re drained, you my friend are in a rut. All hope isn’t lost however, after all what’s a little success without struggle?
Think of yourself as a soldier on a battlefield fighting desperately to climb the ladder of success to your dream job, and to afford those overpriced Starbucks lattes boomers hate so much. Above arms and ammunition, what does a soldier need most in war? If you guessed morale, you’d be exactly right. Motivation will be the fuel that keeps you moving, and the drive that keeps you kicking down office doors and taking what’s yours. Now unfortunately, we tend to run out of that fuel after having those office doors get figuratively slammed in our faces a couple times. Well soldier, if you’re here you came to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of 10 tips to keep your head up while searching for your first job in the dense jungle of the business world. Let’s check them out;
1) Maintain your momentum.
If you feel resistance while setting out to achieve a goal, take it as a chance to analyse and smoothen your gears so to speak. Every rejection should be an opportunity to learn what to change about your application. That way you know that every rejection just makes you more competitive, and you streamline your application process.
I understand that hitting the ground running and learning from your mistakes is much easier said than done. It’s the kind of generic advice that generally makes you want to slap someone across the face in your head while you keep a straight and understanding face in person. One tragic thing about generic advice is that it often holds substantial water, so put away your smacking gloves. A great way to maintain your momentum is to allow yourself to do a root cause analysis of what exactly is causing so much friction in your applications.
Soichiro Honda once said, “My biggest thrill is when I plan something and it fails. My mind is then filled with ideas on how I can improve it.”
Soichiro Honda struggled for four decades to create a competitive automotive company; he faced several failures, adversities, and bankruptcy, even rejection from Toyota. However, he wasn’t phased. Infact, he was emboldened by his failures as each failure became inspiration for success. Today, Mr. Honda’s company by the same name is a $52 billion dollar automotive giant that stands as a hallmark staple of Japanese manufacturing prowess. Maintain your momentum, learn and adapt.
2) Create a small vision board.
Set out a list of key criteria you want for your desired job. Getting rejected often discourages us and makes us more desperate for jobs we don't even want. Use your vision board to maintain your standards and keep your head up high even after rejections. Celebrities such as Steve Harvey, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyonce all use vision boards to visualize their goals and make them happen. Steve Harvey famously did a motivational talk on the importance of keeping vision boards to achieve your goals.
You’re probably thinking things like vision boards are a load of superstitious nonsense that have no grip on the real world. While you can’t write down that you want a billion dollars on your vision board and sit around expecting Elon Musk to come throwing dollar bills on you, you can set your dream and build a path to it. A destination with no pathway might as well not exist because no one will ever get there. It’s the same with your dreams, if you have a dream and don’t have a strategy to achieve that dream then why have that dream at all? It’s a wasted thought and a waste of your ambitious abilities.
A vision board allows you to begin the first steps towards transfering your goals from a mere mental image to a physical representation of what you’re capable of when you set your mind to your goals. When you create your vision board you’re going to write out what job you want, what pay you want, what hours you want, and what benefits you want. This is going to be for your short term goals to achieve the job you want now. Then after that, you’re going to create another vision board for where you want this job to take you in 10 years, even if it’s to another job. That way when your dreams manifest themselves in the short term, you’ll have a goal to strive for even after you’ve seen the effectiveness of vision boards.
Your vision board will be your emotional connection to your dreams and it'll be your daily motivation to constantly strive for what you know you deserve. Only you know what you deserve and only you can work towards those goals. As much as we’d all love having a Gordon Ramsay in our lives calling us an idiot sandwich for mucking up an interview, we have to remember that we are responsible for the path that we create and how we plan to get there.
3) Don’t compare yourself to anyone.
In the game of life, we’re all running different races at different paces. Don’t feel pressured by social media puffery, not all of us catch our big break early and that’s perfectly fine. Infact, it’s completely normal to go through rough patches on the way to success, and believe us you’ll never see those rough patches on social media.
Here’s a fun fact, the founder of the online retail platform Alibaba and one of the wealthiest men in China, Jack Ma, applied to over 30 jobs in his home city Hangzhou only to be rejected by all of them. He even applied to a local KFC where 23 other people had applied for jobs, all of whom were hired except Jack. Same thing happened when he applied at a local police station, all 4 other applicants that applied were hired except Jack. Jack had even applied to work as a waiter in a hotel with his cousin who applied at the same time; his cousin landed the job but Jack unfortunately saw another rejection.
Jack Ma is quoted saying “If you can not get used to failure — just like a boxer — if you can’t get used to [being] hit, how can you win?” As much as we constantly see people bragging about their success we almost never get to hear about the stories of failures that occurred along the way. Don’t assume that because someone is successful they didn’t have to struggle to get there, we all have our own battles to fight. Just be ready to fight yours and never be discouraged by losing a battle, because you have a war to win.
4) Be willing to learn from others
The great thing about experience is that you don’t have to personally endure trial and tribulation when people can always transfer their experiences onto you. Very likely all the people before you that tried to step into your respective industry struggled a lot to get to where they are and it never hurts to ask for a token of advice. A lot of industries have hidden secrets about their hiring processes and what traits and characteristics they lean more heavily towards. Find those out and you may just find yourself sliding into an industry a lot easier than expected.
There’s an old saying that goes “None of us is as smart as all of us.” It’s true, no matter how much you know there are always people that know things that you don’t. Never feel too high and mighty to ask for help and learn from other people’s experiences. It’s an easy way to make it up the ladder of success without having to traverse the obstacles that everyone else had to go through.
Preferably ask around from younger members of a business or people that just recently got hired, they’re most likely to have tips for getting similar jobs that are more relevant to you. No point in asking an ancient mainstay in a corporate office that got their job back when you could just walk into an office say you want a job and get thrown a hard hat on the spot.
A great practical tip from a Buzzfeed article on industry secrets had an anonymous HR employee state that "If you put the key words from the job listing in your résumé, you’ll almost be qualified. We search for those words instead of reading an entire résumé." Little tips like this from people in any industry are an astonishing asset. Take advantage whenever and wherever possible.
5) Drink water and exercise.
This one might be a bit of a curve ball, but it’s among the best tips you’ll get for applying for new jobs. Why? Well think of it like this, how willing would you be to hire someone that looks like they can barely take care of themselves let alone company affairs? Making sure you take care of your body will boost your self confident and external appearances to the people around you. When you feel confident in yourself, people take notice, and it has a powerful effect on their perceptions of you and what you’re capable of. I’m not saying go out and make yourself look like Captain America here, (well… I’m not not saying that either) but a little effort goes a long way when it comes to physical self care.
6) Take things slow.
This applies to everything from making your CV to getting through an interview. The faster you rush through things, the more likely you are to make a mistake and remember first impressions are everything. When you find yourself frantically applying for jobs and quickly stammering through your interview, just pause, take a long deep breath through your nose for about 5 seconds then exhale for just as long through your mouth. Do that as many times as you need until your nerves are calmed. Preferably think of something that makes you happy while you do this, or something motivating you to apply for the job you want. Slow everything down and relax. Make sure to also talk slower and more composed, you’re more likely to remember everything you rehearsed and are more able to adequately address a question if you speak slower and more deliberately than normal. It may even evoke a sense of calm power if done correctly.
According to Carmine Gallo, the author of Talk Like TED, speaking at 190 words per minute is the ideal rate of speech for public speaking. Why? Because at this speed, your audience will feel less like you’re talking at them and more like you’re speaking with them. However, do take note that If you speak too slowly you run the risk of putting your audience to sleep and no one wants to be nicknamed Nyquil. Similarly if you talk too quickly you can come off as amateurish or nervous, like you’re trying to get it over with as fast as you can which is a sign of vulnerability. That’s why 190 words per minute is the sweet spot you should aim for. You can practice this rate while standing in the mirror talking to yourself with a stopwatch set.
7) Relax your mind.
Despite popular belief, people aren’t machines, they need breaks and they need to re-energize their minds (looking at you Jeff Bezos). As much as you may have the drive and desire to pump out as many applications daily as physically possible, that just isn’t sustainable for the mind and body. Your continuous output will wear down your spirit and make you less focused on your goals. The quality of your ambitions will degrade and it will clearly become noticeable.
The human brain operates much like a muscle; just like your biceps, quads or abs it can get worn out and fatigued if you use it too much, and it needs rest in order to recover. In fact just like muscles still the recovery point is where your brain works on becoming more efficient. In a study from UC Berkley, regular rest is essential for boosting motivation, learning from the past, planning for the future, processing new information, making memories, problem solving, maintaining your ability to concentrate, and even sustaining a personal code of ethics. Without these core mental processes, it’s going to be pretty tough to achieve anything efficiently. In other words, down time is perhaps one of the most essential ingredients for continued success both in the workplace, and while searching for work.
Sounds weird doesn’t it? Being a lazy duck lounging around doing nothing can actually be healthy when done right. Pay close attention to “when done right” before you go grab your onesie and start a Netflix series with a tub of ice cream. How should you rest properly while searching for a job? A good rule of thumb is to apply for 5-10 jobs per week depending on your schedule, then take 2-3 days to recover without applications. I understand not everyone may have this luxury, for those that have pending bills and need a job more urgently this may not be ideal. However, for people that urgently need a job, rest may be more important for you than it is for people that don’t need a job urgently. Urgent needs that aren’t being fulfilled are extremely stressful, and compounding constant stress without relaxation on the human mind makes it less efficient overtime and leads to faster and faster burn out.
Don’t do this to yourself, this leads to higher levels of depression and disassociation with the world around you. When your qualifications do land you a job, you’ll enter the workplace already exhausted and performing at sub-optimal levels which may lead to you being dismissed early, which again will add to the compound stress. It may ironically be hard, but create time to rest and rejuvenate while working to find a job. You need it, your brain needs it, and your future needs it. After a series of applications, if you’re rejected, pause for a bit and relax your mind before you reevaluate your strategies. That brief pause may end up being all that you need to push out that last successful series of applications before you land the very job you really wanted.
8) Find your competitive edge.
Let’s face it, we’re usually not the only one’s applying to any given business. You may find yourself going up against the likes of Chad Chaddington II, who went on as a legacy at Harvard and whose father goes golfing with the CEO. Don’t despair, you may not have everything Chad has to offer but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring skills and abilities to the table that even Chad would struggle to offer.
Try taking short language classes in major languages such as Spanish, Mandarin or French. Multinational corporations always consider such a skill as a huge competitive edge. You don’t have to be the very best in everything, but having unique skills on your resume makes you a lot more interesting to recruiters. It doesn’t have to even be language skills, it can be any skills or abilities you have or experiences you’ve had that may make you stand out in a large batch of applicants. Having a competitive edge eases your nerves and makes it easier to apply for jobs you generally may not have considered. We all know the feeling of thinking we’re the least qualified person in a room; it isn't great but for so long as you can have certain skills that everyone else in the room most likely doesn’t have then you’ll be a lot more content in your applications.
Building cultural experiences is also a unique character trait that can boost your competitive edge. Sociologists from Rice University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina found that people who have lived abroad are more likely to have a greater ‘sense of self’ and from that they tend to make better career choices and be happier as a result. This sense of self from cross-cultural experiences and the ability to relate to people from around the world builds your character and competitiveness in the workforce.
Beyond that, finding your competitive edge doesn’t even necessarily always have to be gaining new skills to add onto your resume. Many of us can’t afford to go abroad for a long period of time, and neither can we afford fancy language classes, but what we can afford is networking. Networking is a viciously effective tool when it comes to job seeking. Infact, if you’re well networked you can even be more competitive than people far more qualified for a position than you are. It’s wild, but the reality of the workforce. Mingle around your local social gathering areas and talk to a couple people, have a drink or two, you never know who you could meet and have your life changed beyond that it's great stress relief.
This is a simple but extremely effective method to significantly increase your confidence and likelihood of being hired. Most of us have really just been winging it in adulthood (they should really include an instruction guide somewhere) but winging it with job interviews is a great way to have your rear end hit by a slammed door. This is an often overlooked trick that does wonders for your self confidence and the first impression you make with your interviewer.
Going into a job interview with confidence, posture and bold delivery of your answers to any questions will impress just about anyone, maybe even yourself. It might feel awkward the first few times, but just stand in front of your mirror and deliver a bold introduction of yourself and keep a list of questions handy to pretend to answer. Keep doing it until the awkwardness begins to fade and you begin to impress yourself with your bold bravado. This way when you walk into your job interview you aren’t as limp as you were before, but rather now you’re walking in like you own the place. Might as well call that job yours at that point.
When you’re confident during your job interview because you know you practiced and nailed everything, you’re going to leave that room with high spirits and the knowledge that even if you aren’t hired you know you’ll be eyed by those recruiters for anything that comes up. You’ll move around job hunting with a much higher head cause you know everything you did left a lasting impression and you *probably* won’t find someone using your CV to wipe their hands after a meal.
A great example of the effectiveness of speech rehearsal is Steve Jobs. Jobs is often lauded as a speech wizard as he was often referred to by Fortune Magazine. It was said that Jobs’ speeches cast spells over audiences and had them captivated by every word. The man even has dedicated pages just for his speeches. However, what looked like a natural, skillful, on the fly presentation was meticulously planned and well strategized word manipulation. Steve Jobs often practiced every word, every gesture, and his style of speech repeatedly until he’d nail it down to an art before anything was ever said.
Imagine walking into an interview with the confidence and awe inspiring nature of Steve Jobs? They’d hire you just to keep you around at that point! Now we’re definitely not saying you need to be Steve Jobs to land a job (ironic, yes?), but if you can impress your recruiter enough to make them wonder why they aren’t that good you’re going to get somewhere fast.
10) Consider Alternatives.
This probably isn’t something anyone wants to hear really. Especially if you were applying into your first choice industry. However sometimes the job markets for specific jobs go through rough waters, or they may even start getting phased out by automation in either case there’s no point trying to fight to get into such an industry. Surely typewriters saw the writing on the wall at some point when computers started making waves, eventually you should too if your industry is in the red.
Don’t keep disappointing yourself if your industry isn’t working out for you. You may end up doing greater harm than good for yourself. What you should be doing is finding out where you can be equal parts happy and successful in your career. It may sound counterproductive to abandon where you were set to go, but sometimes the things that make you happy aren’t so obviously laid out, sometimes they’re hidden industries.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the key to staying positive and pushing through the job market may simply be to look for another job! There are hundreds of industries, don’t overburden yourself with an industry that has near impossible barriers of entry.
Let’s not forget Walt Disney was once a journalist, he was fired for having unoriginal ideas and poor creativity until he decided journalism may not be for him and moved towards film and tv where he ultimately found not only his happiness but inspired the happiness of millions of people around the world.
Another thing not to forget is venturing into alternatives never has to be permanent! You can always relieve the pressure of needing a job by exploring alternatives while you still explore your options in your desired field. There’s absolutely no point having stubborn pride towards one career focus driving you further into destitution and depression (sounds like a fun bar right?). Having a job in the meantime while you explore your options for your desired field is definitely better than powering your lights on pride after the power company cut you of.
That’s it! Those are my 10 tips to keep positive when you’re out in the real world applying for jobs. Don’t worry trooper, you’ve got this. It’s rough getting turned down repeatedly, especially from jobs that weren’t even your top pick. It’s like getting rejected by the person you’ve been keeping as a backup date! Despite the setbacks all you’re doing is paving the road to success. No one ever said it would be easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either.
With enough determination just about anything can be done. Take our advice and you’ll find yourself navigating the business world with more confidence and positivity than you would’ve ever thought possible. Just sit back, relax, and breathe. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your career be. And just like Rome, your career will rise to unimaginable greatness if you don’t give up. When in doubt just ask yourself, what would our loving source of inspirational content Steve Harvey do (just please don’t grow the mustache, please).
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