For most people, job hunting is trying at the best of times. But when concerned loved ones pummel your ears with anxiety-provoking comments, this challenging period can turn into a living nightmare. It might help to remember that you’re not alone in dreading the unsolicited advice given so freely by overzealous friends and family. To prove it, we’ve created a list of common refrains you’re likely to hear when looking for work.
Please note: our intention isn’t to rub salt into the wound but to laugh about a difficult situation.
Well meaning, bad timing!
Whether it’s your family, friends or former colleagues, everyone who cares about you has an unsolicited opinion to give. Without exception. There’s little you can do but listen politely and not take it to heart.
“You should definitely talk to John. If I’m not mistaken, he works in design too”
That’s one way to put it. John works for a company that prints corporate logos on T-shirts. It’s a far cry from what you do as a web designer. And even if you make this clear to loved ones, it won’t stop them from sending you a weekly reminder to get in touch. “I was talking to John just the other day and he said to go ahead and give him a call.” Worn down by the repetition, you begin to wonder if asking John for a job wouldn’t in fact be best. You’ll at least be left in peace. The good intentions of your friends and family aren’t always in your best interests. But every now and then, a concerned loved one might be right on the money. That’s why it’s important to keep your ears open.
“Did you just say you’ve been job hunting for six months?” (Awkward silence follows)
This is the phrase you’re most likely to hear while enjoying drinks with lifelong friends. After each individual updates the group on their professional wins, it’s your turn. Some will advise you to take the first job offer that comes your way to avoid a life of unemployment. Others tell you, “The longer you wait, the harder it will be.” Either way, such overwhelming concern is enough to push any job seeker into a pit of despair. We’re here to remind you that no recruiter would hold it against you if you experienced an employment gap in 2020.
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do? It doesn’t exactly pay well”
One thing’s for sure—a job in social work or sustainable development won’t generate the same salary as working in finance. Joining a small, fledgling startup is a whole lot riskier than landing a corporate job. But if a startup is what you want, what’s wrong with that? Making loved ones understand what motivates you is easier said than done. Their experience can certainly be of use to you, but don’t let it cloud your true desires. This is never truer than in times of crisis, when it’s hard to have your cake and eat it too. Imagine that the cake represents all the jobs out there, but eating it is what you’re passionate about. In other words, go for it.
There are so many myths about recruitment that it’s important to separate truth from fiction.
“If your résumé doesn’t fit on a single page, then no one will ever read it” vs “Make sure to describe your work experience in detail!”
This is the kind of advice you’ll likely find in articles aimed at job seekers. But which bit should you take? Unless otherwise specified in a particular job ad, there’s only one rule you need to follow: write down what you think is relevant. A candidate with ten years’ experience will obviously have more to write than a recent graduate.
“You should wait because no one hires over the summer” vs “Apply for jobs in July, when there are fewer applications. You’ll have a better chance of standing out”
And the same goes for the Christmas holidays. “Come get a hot chocolate with us. It’s not like you’ll get an answer before December 27 anyway!” That’s parents for you. They are hyper-focused on your job hunt—until it gets in the way of family time.
If this myth still sounds like it has a grain of truth to it, bear in mind that recruiters work regular hours like everyone else. In other words, they aren’t likely to take off for months, leaving their tasks on hold. There’s always someone to read your application during the holidays. Slower periods can also work in your favor. That’s when hiring managers have more time to read applications and talk to candidates in depth. But if you’d rather take a break and spend time with loved ones, that’s fine too. You’re your own boss now.
“Has it been a week already? You should definitely call them” vs “Just be patient. Don’t harass them”
Why doesn’t the recruitment process follow the same rules as romantic relationships? For example, if you knew to wait three days before calling a recruiter back—as you do with a crush—it would take the guesswork out of the equation. That said, following up with a recruiter or hiring manager is always a good idea. It shows your interest in the position and sets you apart from other candidates. Just remember to adapt your approach to the company you’re applying to. If it’s a startup, for instance, where things tend to happen fast, consider following up with an e-mail four or five days after you send your application. If it’s a bigger company and the job offer doesn’t specify that the need is urgent, ten days is more appropriate. Check out more tips on how to follow up with recruiters here.
“Speculative job applications? Total waste of time” vs “Go for it. You have nothing to lose”
Speculative job applications are a bit like playing the lottery. Sure, there’s always a chance you’ll win. But you’ll have to sacrifice something—be it time or money—and it’s almost never worth it. Although you shouldn’t bet on a big win from speculative applications, you can indulge yourself by selecting a few of your dream companies. And don’t just phone it in. Give speculative applications your best effort. Make sure your passion for the company comes through and give concrete proof you understand the business context and any potential issues you feel you’d be able to solve.
Global crisis edition
Among the advice you’re likely to hear as a job seeker, there are countless classics. But thanks to the pandemic, there’s a whole new slew of annoying tips and concerns. As if being out of work weren’t bad enough. So here’s what we learned in 2020 and 2021.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, my friend!”
The best thing about this line of thinking is that it keeps you from having an inflated opinion of yourself. It’s like telling a knock-off that it will never be as good as the real thing. That may be true, but who wants to hear it said out loud?
Even if the pandemic has turned the job market upside down, it’s still important to consider whether a job offer is right for you. And above all, aim high if you feel you have the potential or if an offer really appeals to you. Taking a job because you need it may sometimes be the only option, but give yourself time to think about it.
“So what exactly do you do all day long?”
“It’s hard enough when you have a job at the moment. You must be climbing the walls!” Initially, you might have said you were applying for jobs, doing online fitness classes or catching up on Game of Thrones. But that did nothing to keep loved ones from pitying you.
Ever since you started saying that you use the time to run errands, you’ve won back a modicum of their respect. They might even envy you.
“You should use this time to… pass your driving test”
You could substitute anything here. It could be “spend more time with family,” “do some serious spring cleaning” or “learn how to play the guitar.” People who offer this advice forget that looking for a job puts enough pressure on job seekers. But you don’t have to devote every waking hour to your job search. To keep your spirits high and boost your self-confidence, it’s recommended you make time for hobbies and interests as well. This approach reminds you of your accomplishments and keeps you moving forward.
“There must be something for you out there. Are you looking hard enough?”
If only they knew. You’ve scoured LinkedIn, Welcome to the Jungle, Indeed, and every job-search platform you can think of, all to no avail. You’ve already applied for the few jobs you’re suitable for. Now, you haunt these sites on a daily basis, refreshing their pages over and over and getting more desperate by the minute. But don’t fall into the trap of applying just for the sake of it. Instead, your time may be better spent sending speculative job applications.
“The competition must be tough right now”
That’s an understatement. Today’s job market can sometimes make The Hunger Games look like a walk in the park. But it’s always nice to have someone to bring us back to reality. Seriously, though, don’t let this type of comment get to you. Although the competition may be tough, every experience is unique. If you’re a match for the role, your résumé has as good a chance as any of catching the recruiter’s eye.
“So, you’ll have to switch careers?”
“What else would you do for a living?” This is the question you’ve put off answering since 2020 if you worked in the restaurant, hospitality, culture or tourism industries. When you hear this kind of comment, you start wondering if you shouldn’t just change careers and get it over with.
While it’s always an option, that kind of major life change doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’re passionate about what you do. Why give up on your dreams? If you’re still waiting for things to return to normal, try and find a job that is as close as possible to your chosen field. Extra experience never hurts.
The key to getting through this trying time is not to overthink—and to avoid bad advice like the plague. It’s equally important to surround yourself with people who work in your field or profession. Consider reaching out to your network of former classmates, colleagues or even teachers. As the people who know your sector best, they can help support you and keep you moving forward. And hang in there: finding a job that’s right for you takes time, but it’s worth it.
Translated by Andrea Schwam
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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