Anyone who’s looked for a job for more than a couple of weeks knows that it can be tough. When things are you going well and you’re getting responses to your applications and interviews and a flood of new opportunities that match your skills – it’s still frustrating. When things are worse and you haven’t seen a new position in what feels like weeks, you get auto-rejection after unfeeling auto-rejection, when no one’s returning your calls – it gets dark. It can feel suffocating, maddening, saddening, and any negative ‘-ing’ you could come up with. If there are fifty shades of grey they have nothing to do with terrible literature and everything to do with a job-seekers day to day.
It’s exhausting to be constantly selling yourself with and endless stream of online applications. Despite the fact that it’s the lowest quality of job search, at the moment it’s a necessary reality with the facts that my network of contacts in Amsterdam is effectively non-existent, my Dutch is basic and I’m not even living in the city yet. With that mental and emotional drain, it’s easy to lose sight of your value. No one’s going to hire you, why would they? You’re too dumb, to inexperienced, with none of the personal qualities they want.
Of course that’s bullshit.
But it’s definitely something that goes through the mind of anyone looking for a job. I had a go at answering a few interview-type questions to trigger some self reflection.
What is something in your life that you are particularly proud of?
My photography. I’ve worked hard at developing my skills to the point that I think I take nice photos, and I feel a sense of pride when other people like my work. Creatively, I’ve never worked hard at building something, since I always tended to pursue more intellectual subjects. I had great academic success at high school and university, but learning that kind of stuff always came relatively easily to me. With photography, I’ve found something where I have to put in a lot more work to get the same rate of development. It forces me to use a part of my brain that otherwise goes unused, and it makes the small “eureka” moments of a good shot or moment of clarity very satisfying.
What are your failures and how have you learned from them?
My biggest failure so far is the lack of understanding I had about employment. I thought that my degree had taught me everything I needed to go out and be an engineer, and it was shock to me when it wasn’t that simple. I struggled with the politics, the banality of documentation (let me do REAL engineering!), the repetition. I stumbled a lot, and my naivety meant that those stumbles felt like massive falls from grace. The most important thing I learned from my experience was to live for the moments where it all feel worth it, and take only what you need to from the moments that drain your energy. Failure’s a great teacher, and I’d like to only fail at something once if I can help it.
Describe yourself and what excites you.
I’m intelligent, self-critical and a little introverted. I have a lot of empathy and I generally try to understand other people’s points of view, rather than rush to judgement of their actions. I have a gift for learning and a passion for numbers and solving problems. I’m excited by a challenge, and about stepping outside of my comfort zone. While a fear of failure is something that I struggle with constantly, I feel alive when I’m putting myself into situations where I have no choice but to fight to succeed.
I had a bit more that I could do, maybe I’ll keep ’em for another post. It’s a little corny, but maybe this could be a regular thing. A record of me answering interview questions. I could just refer prospective employers to this blog rather than waste time on an interview. I’ll have offers piling up in no time…