When Arran and I found ourselves in the UK both unemployed we did what anyone would do, and started applying for jobs. We scoured job boards and LinkedIn to find that next role. We updated and tailored our resumes and cover letters to suit advertised vacancies and applied hopefully to each opportunity that suited our skills and experience. That's what you do, right?
Each application went out into the internet wilderness never to get a response. Not even a "thank you we have received your application response". Crickets.
Previously, most of the jobs I have obtained have been through applying to a job ad. My very first role was through a job ad. My second was through meeting with recruiters. My third through a job ad. My fourth through a job ad. My fifth I was headhunted through a recommendation which was pretty nice and my last role was through a job ad. Seeing as I had had relative success with applying to job ads this was the method I continued to use when we moved back to Singapore.
Alas this approach was not going to work. Application after application was sent off into the abyss. Most recruiters I tried to meet were not interested in meeting me. Some of the recruiters who did meet me just wanted to make false promises and waste my time. And don’t get me started on the unethical behaviour of the majority of recruiters. I could write a book about that!
So how do you get a job now? Particularly a senior role? It turns out you have to network. Yep. And it's hard work. Here's what I learnt:
Number 1: Have a story
Not a fictional story but one based in reality. What are you looking for? What kind of role? Why are you looking for a new role? Be specific as possible and be consistent. You want to ensure the people you are speaking to know what you want so if something comes up they will recommend you or connect you to someone else.
It's also good to know what your salary expectations are, and have these based in the reality for the market and your skills. You can ask for more money if you are looking for a role in a market where unemployment is low and the demand for your skills is high. Of course, the opposite is true. If the market is flooded with candidates looking for similar roles to you, organisations will adjust their salary budgets down, and you won't be able to ask for as much. Do your research.
Number 2: Map your network
Think about who you know. You will know lots of people who can help you look for a new role and who can introduce you to people who can help you. Think about previous people you worked with and sporting groups you are part of. If you have kids, think about the other parents of their friends. Are you part of a networking group or professional association? Ask about. Contacts you met at conferences or events are also useful. You will be surprised how many people you know who could help and most people you contact will be very happy to speak to you and help if they can.
My husband Arran rides with the ANZA cycling club in Singapore. The group is typically made up of expats from Australia, New Zealand and various other countries who have moved here to take up Senior and Regional roles and share a love of cycling. In this one group alone there is a huge number of people who could make introductions and connections to find a role.
Number 3: Where do you want to work?
Think about and write down the organisations or industries you want to work for and do some research (LinkedIn is pretty useful for this). Someone suggested to me that I should do this and I thought they were a little nuts. But you know what? Even though I didn't get a job at one of these places I met some fantastic people and have some great contacts.
Once you have your list, who do you know who works in these areas? Who do you know who can introduce you to people in these organisations and industries? You will be surprised how many people are willing to speak to you and introduce you to others.
Number 4: Work it baby!
Let me tell you, meeting people and telling your story over and over is hard work. When I was looking for a job in Singapore recently most days I had at least two coffee or lunch meetings with people, often strangers, and the other times I was emailing or calling people to make connections.
Number 5: Raise your profile
When I first moved back to Singapore I contacted a conference organiser about speaking at a Talent and Recruitment conference. My purpose was to keep improving my speaking and presentation skills but I met a number of great people there. One who asked me for coffee after the conference, gave me some feedback on my resume and then made the introduction to the head of HR of a company, where I ultimately accepted a role. You never know where your next role is going to come from so every meeting is an opportunity to make an impression and raise your profile.
You should think about raising your profile and keeping your network activie, even if you are happy in your current role. You never know what's going to happen in the future and when you are going to need to rely on your network.
Number 6: Check your public profile.
Social media is great. I love it.
Let's talk Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and similar first. It's awesome for posting your holiday pics and cocktails with friends and funny memes and selfies. I generally don't have anything on my Facebook or Instagram feeds that I would have an issue with any prospective employers seeing, however I have been part of conversations with hiring managers when they have checked out candidate’s profiles and they have made judgements about someone’s suitability for a job based on what they have seen. This is not appropriate or even legal in some countries, but it happens.
Lock your profiles down people, especially if you are looking for a new role. Go into your privacy settings and adjust so only your family and friends can view your profile.
LinkedIn: This is a tool used heavily by organisations to raise their profile, advertise jobs and search for people. Organisations pay a lot of money to access all the data in LinkedIn. If you are on LinkedIn (which I strongly advise you are) have your profile up to date. Make sure it reflects the information in your resume and vice versa. Make sure you have a reasonable professional looking photo. LinkedIn has great tools to step you through the process of setting up a strong profile so use it well.
Number 7: Keep the faith.
I'm not going to tell you to stay positive and believe in yourself or any of those affirmations because basically looking for a new job, particularly when you don't have one, is sole destroying. Recruiters and organisations do not have the same level of urgency as you, they have other priorities. They don't understand or care that you have bills mounting up and your brain is turning to mush from no use.
My advice is to just keeping on. Just put one foot in front of the other each day. And don't take any crap. How you are treated during the interview process can give you clues as to the behaviour of people in the organisation, the organisational culture and how people work to get things done.
One role I interviewed for (where I was recommended by a lovely friend in Singapore) took a lot of work on my part. I was asked to prepare a presentation on how I would manage a change project. It took a number of hours of work to pull my thinking together, prepare the presentation and then more time attending the interview and presenting my ideas. I heard nothing for weeks and had to follow up. A number of times. I was still being considered for the role but when I weighed up the expectations of the role, the amount of work required and the pay on offer I made the decision to withdraw. Just because you need a job doesn't mean you should put up with unreasonable expectations.
Both Arran and I have jobs in Singapore now. We both got jobs through our network. Arran through connecting with someone in a senior role who he worked with fourteen years ago in Sydney. This person made an introduction to a person in Singapore that paid off.
I ended up with two job offers at the same time. One came through attending a conference and meeting someone who felt comfortable to recommend me. The other role offer came through a good friend who recommended me within the company she worked. Both roles paid what I was looking for and were in the areas I wanted to work.
We arrived in Singapore mid-January and we started work early May. It took time but it paid off in the end. Phew! We didn’t have much time left on our visas to stay in Singapore.
If you are out there looking for that new role I hope this information helps. If you need any advice additional advice please get in touch.