I have no advice on how to find a job. I got my World Bank job through the kind of amazing fluke that is, well…the way that people generally get their jobs. But I do know how to not find a job. After college, I spent something like nine months without employment, and it was not the happiest of times. Whenever I meet or see someone who is in that situation, I just want to hug them and tell them that I understand and that everything will be okay.
But other people have a different reaction. Other people go and give them terrible job-finding advice that drives them down into the mire of agony and despair.
So let me clear this up. If “treat looking for a job as if it is your job” means “work on it for an hour or two and then go off and browse Facebook for the rest of the day,” then yes, that is what you should do.
But if it means “go to your desk and sit down and work at it for eight hours,” then I have to seriously question whether the advice-giver has ever actually tried to find a job. It’s amazing sometimes that we can all have these hard-won experiences in our memory bank, and yet we’re still so willing to overlook our own experience of the world in favor of these nice-sounding platitudes.
Finding a job is a lot like writing fiction: the most important element of the task is managing your own despair. And one of the major cripplers of productivity is overambitious productivity goals. If people think they’re supposed to be looking for a job eight hours a day, then they’re going to be filled with dread and ennui and they’ll put off the task.
Also, on a purely practical level, job-finding just isn’t that time-consuming. There are basically two ways to find a job:
- Apply for positions
- Leverage your contacts
The second way is an order of magnitude more effective than the first way, but it’s also not something you can spend very much time on. All you can do is send out emails, have cautious rounds of coffee with people who might jobs, and, just generally, let all your acquaintances know that you’re looking for a job. That doesn’t take very long.
The first way is the one that will occupy most of a job-searcher’s time, but it’s very much a numbers game. Especially for people looking for entry-level work, 90% of the applications you send out are going to get either no response or a negative response. That means you literally need to send out hundreds of applications in order to get a job.
But even sending out hundreds of applications doesn’t take eight hours a day. If you send out three a day, you’ll have sent out almost a hundred in a month.
But most people don’t do that. Because they feel like job-finding should be their job, they usually send out ten on day one, then five on day two, then nothing on day three. And then they do nothing for three months. And for that entire three months, they hate themselves, because they feel like there is something they should be doing.
And there is…but what they should be doing is so minor. Job-finding is such an insanely chancy business that the key is to just do something instead of nothing. If you do even thirty minutes of work on it a day, then that’s all you really need in order to put yourself in a position where something good can happen to you.
I will note that there is another side to job-finding: the side where you just need to find some source of money immediately or you won’t be able to pay your mortgage, feed your children, etc. I don’t know anything about that. My solution to running out of money was (and still would be) to move in with my parents. Sorry. I feel like there should be a disclaimer on my blog: “Advice for shiftless youths, about shiftless youth problems.”