Mike (age 44) had been self-employed as a painter and handyman for the past few years, but was ready to return to the world of steady paychecks and benefits. About six weeks ago, he applied for a job as a facilities maintenance manager, as he'd done dozens of times before.
In the days and weeks that followed, he had a phone interview and three in-person interviews with the company. Each time, he felt things had gone very well, but he'd learned the hard way not to get his hopes up. But this time was different. Everything fell into place and he got the job!
It wasn't quick, and it wasn't easy, but he did it. "All in all, it took me over a year to get this job. I was lucky to still be working during that time. Since I was shifting from self-employment back into a full-time situation, I wanted to make sure I found just the right fit."
I asked Mike what he'd learned during his job search, and what challenges he'd had to overcome. Here's what he had to say:
- Employers think of self-employment as a red flag.
Mike found that interviewers seemed skeptical about the idea that he could be happy working for someone else again. "I actually prefer full-time work, but being self-employed gave my wife and me the flexible schedule we needed when our kids were small." When Mike spelled it out in his cover letters that he was eager to commit to a long-term, full-time role, he had much better luck getting interviews.
- If you're missing a key credential, don't let it stop you from applying.
"My new job requires a professional certification that I don't have, but the rest of the job description was perfect for me." On his resume, he made sure his Summary of Qualifications showed that he had all the skills they were looking for, and he added this line: "Willing to obtain XX certification in the near future." The result? His new employers are not only paying for the certification course, they've promised him a raise when he gets it!
- Be prepared for anything.
A few days after he submitted his resume, Mike had his first phone screen. "The woman asked a few basic questions, then asked me to submit my references. That was a surprise. Most times they don't want references until the end." Fortunately, Mike had his reference list ready to go, because he'd prepared it for an interview with another employer. "It felt great to be able to say, 'Sure I'll send those references to you in a few minutes'."
- Something small, like thank-you notes, may be what clinches the deal.
After each interview, Mike sent a thank you note to the interviewers. "Just a quick email, but I always added a personal touch so it didn't sound like a robot wrote it. I'd say something like, 'it's nice to meet a manager who's so down to earth,' or 'it seems like you run a tight ship, which is the way I like to operate, too'." When it got down to Mike and one other candidate, those thank yous may have been what tipped the scales in his favor.
Mike's job search has ended successfully, but it included a lot of disappointments along the way. His final advice? "Just keep plugging away. Rejection sucks, but it's part of the game. You just have to dust yourself off, and keep the faith that it will happen eventually."
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