Nobody wants to be good at looking for a job. They just want it to be over with.
The fact of the matter is, looking for a job is hard. It’s stressful, it’s emotionally draining, and it’s even demanding on those around you.
Having been on the job hunt more than I would have liked during my career, I’ve come to realize that it’ll always be hard, but there are things you can do to make it more tolerable. More productive. Satisfying, even.
Right off the bat, to be clear: you won’t find any resume tips or cover letter tricks here, because the job hunt isn’t a formulaic equation to be solved. Other books can help you with that. Here, you’ll read about how to prepare yourself for the mental challenge of finding your place working with – and for – others. This is a book about preparing yourself for the highs and the lows, the difficult conversations and the easy excuses. It’s about finding ways to put your best foot forward, finding comfort in uncomfortable situations, and turning a negative situation into a positive one.
“So Tell Me About Yourself”
I think you can tell a lot about a person by the questions they ask. There are times when an interview feels like a freewheeling conversation where both sides are openly looking for something to connect on. It’s collaborative and there's a sense that you're meeting the other person halfway. And then there are times you can tell the interviewer is just hoping to hear the words and phrases that tick the boxes on their job application Bingo board so they can get back to whatever else they’d rather be working on. They never seem to deviate from the script much and they're looking for a specific answer. You either say the right words or you don't. Personally, I don't get the appeal here (who wants to do such a paint by number job?) but I guess it's how some companies are run.
Then you have the person who starts the interview off by saying, “So tell me about yourself.” No preamble, no lead-in. It’s not even a question, it’s a demand. And it doesn’t give you any context or direction. It just leaves you guessing at what to say, like a math test with trick problems, except there’s no “not enough information to solve the problem” option to pick.
At a time when your investment into every step of the interview process is measured in hours, not minutes, this feels like the person running the interview hasn’t spent any time prepping. I think it's disrespectful.
Maybe that’s fair and maybe it’s not. But the tactic isn’t going anywhere, so take the ball and run with it.
Use the opportunity to create some context and frame your story with the job that’s in front of you as the endpoint. It takes some reverse engineering but it’s a chance to show that everything you’ve done has been building to this. You’ve been developing a mix of skills and experience that make you invaluable, a combination that nobody else shares. Or maybe you’ve made mistakes that you can now help them avoid. Everyone likes learning from mistakes they didn’t have to make.
About the Author
Pete Shelly is a writer, husband, and father who's figuring it out as he goes and is relatively ok with that. He currently has a job but he didn't for a little while there at the height of a global pandemic. It's not something he wants to go through again and he considers himself fortunate to have landed on his feet. Because so many others are in a similar situation, and because he has no other demonstrable skills, this book felt like the best way to make a contribution.
How To Do Stuff is a series he created in 2012. The original book has been downloaded over 10,000 times.