#26: What I've Learned From Job Hunting in the Covid-19 Era
A long overdue retrospective
I think we can all agree that the last 12 to, perhaps, 15 months have been beyond difficult, and devastating. The worst part is that it’s not yet over. We are far from it.
I’m not here painfully reminisce recent events that we are all already familiar with, assuming you’ve been paying attention to the news lately. Even if you are like me, who is actively working on dodging this (un)popular activity called Doomscrolling, it’s still pretty damn hard to avoid knowing the state of the world. (And I don’t think we should).
I’ve been extremely lucky to have had good and bad distractions that didn’t involve recurring hospital stays, paralyzing fears for parents’ health and covid-19 exposure, impossibly expensive child care, among other common things people have (and are) experiencing at the moment.
One of my biggest concerns in the last few months was basically employment (or the lack thereof).
I spent a few months looking for a job, in the middle of all of this. See I quit my last full-time job to take care of my mental health. It was right around the time when things felt like they were heading on a downward spiral, economically among many other things. Top industries were laying people off, left and right. It was a disaster.
I jumped into that decision fairly quickly. Between the choice of throwing my mental health under the bus, or finding a next worthy gig during the most turbulent months in modern history, it was a no-brainer. I had to— I had to go or the latter one. Even if it meant, I have to be extra persistent on chasing opportunities.
I had a ‘I was born to do this kind of thing’ moment. And by thing, I meant the words of ‘hustle when it’s the hardest’, ‘give it all you’ve got’, ‘take risky chances’ and pretty soon after taking the plunge, I’ve realized just how badly I underestimated this thing, and overestimated my options. Suffice to say, Angellist became my best friend, and LinkedIn my baby.
I did the following things on a daily basis and evidently, they all increased my chances of at least getting a paid job doing what I love:
Edited my resumé to tailor-fit specific job descriptions
Proof-read my case studies
Cleaned my LinkedIn profile thoroughly
Used my network for leads
Re-wrote my bio
Attended Jared Spool’s online seminars
Documented my process here and on my website
Took consulting and part-time jobs
Read business books
Cutoff my news consumption by about 50%
Decreased my overall personal communications
Improved my User Research skills (by practice and further education)
Basically, I invested fewer and fewer of my time with anything that isn’t helping me get closer to my short-term goal (‘Land a GREAT job even with a pandemic/recession’). For two good reasons:
I wanted to put myself in a position where I can help and instead of the other way around. I can’t do that if I, too, have limited resources to offer. If I can donate my time, money and all of that, I have to be in a good place, mentally, financially etc.
I’m always a prime believer in opportunities especially when it is the hardest times. Especially in revolutionary times. Without a doubt, this has been traumatizing, to say the least. But I want to learn as much as I can for there will never be an opportunity like this again to really prove one’s resilience, strength, compassion, social intelligence and generosity. UX is very much a field where a lot of these things are possible to showcase and use for the greater good.
Eventually, after dozens and dozens of interviews, thousands of leads and rejections, I landed a role at a data company based in New Jersey. It only took about 8 months or so. This was probably one of the longest I’ve been in-between full-time jobs.
And strangely enough, the most productive I’ve been since 2016 when I was first looking for a whatever-job in the US as a new immigrant. It was not being productive for ‘productivity’s sake’, or some sort of a capitalism-tied guilt. In fact, after pondering on this, I can safely say it’s quite the opposite: for the relentless desire to always be of service to people who rely on me the most. I’ve never really liked the idea of handouts.
I very much prefer to be in a position to never need one, from anyone.
I have no choice but to do what I do, especially when it feels impossible to do so.
“In everyday life people can often do well at disguising their character flaws, but in times of stress lose their normal self-control. They reveal their insecurities about their reputation, their fear of failure and lack of inner resilience. On the other hand, some people rise to the occasion and reveal strength under fire. There’s no way to tell until the heat is on, but you must pay extra attention to such moments.” from the book, Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
Some Lessons Learned
Flexibility is everything. Leaving room on your calendar for opportunities (in the form of work) does wonders. Balance is critical. Prioritization is absolutely a necessity.
You take what you put out. Give as much as you can, and commit to the most important things. It also works in reverse, ‘play stupid games, win stupid prizes’. For the love of all that is Holy, please stop playing stupid, zero-sum games.
Time is your greatest asset. Use it extremely wisely. Being informed about the world is great, it’s the responsible thing to do as a human. Doomscrolling, however, is not. Choose your battles well and never let a random stranger’s opinion on the internet suck your sanity. You have better things to do.
Mine gold from your past, leverage on the present and bet on your future. What are the things that worked for me in the past? Have they lived up to the present? Can I use those ideas, lessons, bodies of work? If not, what can I do today that can bring me closer to where I want to be in the near-future? Thoughtful, meticulous and incremental steps lead to a breakthroughs.
Life, above all. It’s incredibly hard and frustrating to make good (work) decisions if life itself is a mess. While we can’t control a lot of things, we can definitely fix what we can and that is our perception. Happiness may be a stretch but certainly gratefulness, humility, contentment, courage aren’t. Choose those things everyday, covid or no covid.
Thank you for reading,