Stories of a jobseeker vol. 3: Learn something

There's not much positive you can take from a job search, especially one that goes on for an extended period of time. It's often an endless roller coaster ride of emotions and highs and lows. More often than not, the lows linger if you let them. Your time is most often spent searching for and applying to multiple jobs per day, following up on jobs you've previously applied to and working any and all connections to help you find a job.

Sometimes it's important for your mental health to close LinkedIn and Indeed and do something else productive: learn something. Take an hour or so a day to teach yourself new skills. Ideally, something related to the jobs you are applying to, but something that will stretch the boundaries of your knowledge, and possibly further your career. Here's a good article to read about the importance learning while searching for a job: Skills to learn while in between jobs.

There are plenty of resources on the web and in books to read and learn about theory and how things should be done. However, I prefer to use tutorials, sites and applications that actually allow me to practice the skills I need to expand my knowledge, and hopefully increase my chances of standing out from other candidates.

I've spent the last three years developing the idea and helping to launch and manage my startup When founding a startup one wears many hats and picks up a ton of valuable skills along the way. Before I had extensive off-line experience in account, project and team management, but the online world is a different world than traditional off-line business. I had to learn quickly by listening intently, Googling everything, and asking questions as a last resort.

In the last couple of months since I left my startup I've been teaching myself more of the abilities that employers are looking for when they're search for project, implementation or customer success managers. Although I'll probably never be proficient in back-end coding I've been working my way through Code Academy, learning the basics of app development in Xcode 4 and designing a Wordpress site for an app I'm working on, FōTacts. I've also found myself to be pretty handy at doing mockups in Balsamiq and designing user journeys on InVision.

Individually, my knowledge and skill level of these new skills probably won't land me a job, but together they combine to make a robust knowledge base that make me a stronger candidate and will greatly benefit my next employer. Of course, these set of skills will not benefit everyone. My main point is that when I first started to interview for jobs I would have to tell possible employers that even though I lived in the online world for the last three years, I was not very technical. That's becoming less true every day.

My advice is to identify your weakness and make them disappear. Learn something!

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Comment by Marc Mapes on June 28, 2012 at 1:44pm

Thanks for the continued comments. I didn't intend to cause a discussion about the reasons for extended unemployment or the issue of candidates being unprepared for interviews, although a healthy debate is always good. I merely meant to give a bit of advice about spending some time doing things to develop or further your skills.

The only thing I'll add is to Joe's comment about being prepared: from my experience recently, that's a two-way street. I could tell some horror stories about some of my interviews, but since I'm looking for a job and don't want to shoot myself in the foot I'll keep them to myself. ;-)

Comment by Joe Redshaw on June 28, 2012 at 1:51pm

Yes, you are correct Marc.  It does go both ways.  I often see people on the interview team not read a resume until it is their turn, or as they are walking to the interview (or not at all).  Often the interview team is not on the same page and each person wants something different.  But all of these things are out of the candidates control.  And I bet they are not prepared for most candidates.  So it really doesn't affect whether or not you get the job.  In an interview, you need to go to it and do your best.  If your best is not being prepared, don't throw the blame back on the company (and I am not saying you are, just saying this in general).  As a candidate, you can only control one thing.  So be as prepared as possible.  If the company is not, do you really want to work there?


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