Last week I started commuting my pencil dresses and lace blazers (for which I left an unbelievable amount of money to TK Maxx) to Canary Wharf (YES) among 30somethings in suit and women twice my age in skirt suits and pointed heels. And their 50something husbands.
DISCLAIMER: This post is directed to the young and jobless who may start being hopeless. And the curious ones.
Of course its aim is the Doctor Who joke.
This job came after 9 months of unemployment, free freelancing work to build up a CV, and a rather successful strategy that no, was not based on what experts on the Internet will tell you.
Let’s start from one statement of fact: I used to do what they suggested, like traditional format CV, standard covering letter and all I got replies from were scam jobs taking almost everyone in for an interview. My freelancing gigs and my other interviews all came from a more personal approach. I was always preferred someone more experienced up to now, but as my Jobcentre adviser used to say: “there’s one with your name on it out there”. And I think she was right, it’s not up to what you actually do. There is no “interview skills” someone can teach you to make yourself more successful.
The harsh truth is: they will like you or hate you the moment you walk in.
If they like you, they will consider who you are and what you say and if you alone fit what they need the job is yours.
So how did I get to a job offer straight after the interview? By being myself. I am a creative type, not afraid of switching from a task to another with no connection between the two, the kind of enthusiasm that drives start-ups and the right amount of OCD traits to make me an organised person.
I asked the right questions at the interview not because someone told me to ask questions because it’s an interview skill that makes you look better, but because I felt a connection and I wanted them to pop that question as much as I want a marriage proposal. I genuinely wanted to know more. People are not stupid, if you ask questions because that’s how you do a perfect interview you must be a proper actor to pull it off with body language as if it was sincere. So I wouldn’t try it at home. Those experts are so patronising and they don’t even give good advice most of the times.
The first thing in my opinion is to target jobs in which you are the right fit not because you have that right degree but because you have the right personality for that position. You need to be someone they will like to have around in the office. Truth is, many people have got satisfying jobs without going to Eton and then on to Oxford or Cambridge. The degree is not the end all be all of who you are as a prospective employee.
Put yourself in a recruitment consultant’s shoes and act accordingly. All the experts will be talking about how to craft the perfect CV and covering letter with the perfect format and how long each paragraph and what each paragraph should have in…bored already? I can tell you reading Kant at 8.30 in the morning is more appealing than such articles. Unless the job you are going for is one where boring people who think inside of the box and all that is incarnated by my former housemate aka the biggest patronising twat in history, there is no need for boring the person who should read your letter, be intrigued into reading your CV and call you for a meeting. The best piece of advice I received came from a guy named Ben Cockburn. He worked in recruitment and told me that “why do I need a number and address at the top when I don’t even know who you are professionally? Make the recruiter want to get to see that contact to call you because they liked your CV”. So in spite of the perfect CV format, my name email and number are at the bottom of the page. And I’ve done more. I crafted the CV with InDesign, and used creative titles. Because I am creative and I don’t fear thinking outside of the box and taking risks. I’m not running for CEO at Apple in 20 years but guess what, Google and Apple are not the only places that value my personality type. Every job description has requirements that don’t come from education, and education is something accessible to everyone. Your talent, your essence, what makes you you is where you are really competitive. My CV layout has been praised and became job interview material, as much as this blog. Keep it professional, but that doesn’t mean that if you feel the traditional format doesn’t sell you at your best you should stick to it. It means just not turning the whole thing into a farce by sending biscuits wrapped in your CV or something. You should keep your credibility intact and not appear like you are trying to make up for a lack of knowledge and capabilities. So by all means make it readable…even if you are going for a position as graphic designer.
The first thing I think of when I read the examples of covering letter on the experts’ websites is that this person sends the same one to everyone. They lack personality and enthusiasm. They sound like someone who didn’t want THAT job but A job. I would be lying if I said that I would have died for having all the jobs I applied for, but when I didn’t, I can tell in all honesty that I changed my mind at the interview stage when meeting the person. Because them liking or not liking you is actually two ways. There is pressure into accepting every job because one is better than none but you may not like them too. And it’s fine. I’ve always only applied to work in places where I was sincerely passionate about the job and the company. And I made that clear in the covering letters. How? By not telling any expected or formal sentence. By showing that I knew them in unexpected places more than saying out loud how much I wanted to work for them. People want to know why they should hire you and not someone else, and if you look the same as everybody else how can that happen? They receive hundreds of applicants with equal or better qualifications.
I never lied about what I know, but that’s just me. People told me to lie a lot, especially when trying to defeat my reluctancy at applying for jobs I couldn’t do and I’ve never done because, to them, I was just being snob towards different kinds of job when mine has always been a strategy based on game theory. The law of large numbers doesn’t exactly work with job hunting. There’s more offer than demand, they can be picky. If you are picky too, it helps to never enter the “every job is fine as long as it pays mentality”. It doesn’t help you sound right when you are up for a job, it influences you subconsciously and you must be a very good actor to tell your lines you prepared home and sound like it’s the truth when you start from that point of view. It’s a war, and you are not there to sit at the table for the peace treatise and get whatever the others leave behind, or Lichtenstein. You want the Holy Roman Empire. Go and get it.