Sunday, July 7, 2013

In this crazy economy, how do you go about getting a good job?

Recently, a friend of mine finally decided that he wants to quit his limo driver job, he wants to get a 'real job'. By that he means a standard 9 to 5 job that pays no less than $5000 per month. So he started applying everywhere online. He believes he can be a good computer technician because he knows how to repair them. After 2 weeks of bombarding companies like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, facebook etc with his resume, he gave up, because he got no replies. At the end, he concluded the economy is too terrible for him to land a 'real job'. His experience kind of reminded me of mine when i started out 5 years ago in the high-tech field. I was going nowhere with job search and finally decided to switch field. It was tough initially, but after I get used to it, it becomes a wrap. Now I am still doing contract jobs in software business. The contracts aren't always stable, but in this tough economy, I don't seem to have problem having new contracts. Being a survivor of the tough time, I feel like I do have something to share about finding jobs. After all, jobs are hard to find if you are not good at finding them, just like love can be hard to find if you are not good at finding love.

Let's face it, the economy isn't great. That's true. However, there are still things you can do to maximize your chance of scoring a job. However, there are a few things you need to do and understand before you start to apply. This is something my friend was clearly not doing.

1. Have a clear understanding of your situation. 

Not every job seeker will have the same exact situation, therefore not everyone will have the same purpose. Take me for instance, I graduated with a B.S degree in electrical engineering. I had about $20,000 debt on credit cards (I didn't get student loan, good move!). Because I was a foreign student studying in America, I was on visa. This meant I would either go back home after school or find a job in engineering where the employer would sponsor a different visa for me. Therefore, my purpose of finding a job was crystal clear, I needed my job to sponsor my new VISA. The salary was secondary to me. With this purpose, my job searching become a lot more focused yet flexible. I focused on the companies that had foreign workers, at the same time I was willing to switch fields. Had nightclubs sponsored working VISA, I would've applied to be a bartender there, just saying. 

Your situation is likely to be different from mine. Maybe you just need to pay your bills, or maybe you are stuck with a huge student loan, maybe you are looking to advance your career. It could be anything. Once you understand your situation, maybe you will realize that there are more than 1 way to solve your problem. If increasing your income is your only thing and you can't get that job, maybe you can also consider taking multiple part time jobs that will still get you close to the income you want instead of trying to get that 1 job. In my friend's case, he wanted an easy job that pays $5000 so that he can afford his spending on his girlfriends. Well, what if you stop partying every night with her and take up a few part time jobs, you will solve your financial problem differently but effectively. 

So know your situation, understand your problems, This will help you with finding your solutions

2. Networking is more important than finding jobs.

Have you ever been sent resumes directly through hiring companies' website and they never got back to you? This happened to me all the time. But then someone else did the same thing and immediately got a call back. This used to leave me wonder what was wrong with my resume. Recently I found out what was going on from a friend who just got an entry level engineering job with a huge software company in the silicon valley. According to him, the interviewer told him that when it comes to entry level or internship, the company would only look at the resumes from 10 universities. Now all of the sudden, everything makes sense. It's all about being part of a network. When I started out, I submitted my resume to that same company before and I got nothing back, because my school was very ordinary school. These days, as a more experienced engineer, I have been getting calls every other day from even bigger companies. Building a network is everything when it comes to getting good jobs. This is a long time process, don't expect growth over night. But everyday in your life, just put some extra energy into making new friends, you will see changes. 

3. Armed yourself with the right type of knowledge

Going to the right school is important, but studying the right thing is more important. I have a friend who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an English major, he couldn't get a job at all. Now he lives with his parents and carries $60,000 student loan. The lesson here is that, when you get your education, you need to understand what each field of studies offer in career options. You need to do thorough research before making decision. Speaking from a very generic perspective, pretty much only engineering and computer are the only subjects where you can start making decent money with only a 4 year degree. Feel free to prove me wrong here. It is pretty clear. Doctors, lawyers spend much longer time in school than engineers, scientists and mathmaticians are almost all PHD. How about a 4 year degree in business? Are you gonna start your own business? Art, music, philosophy, sociology are all good for personal enrichment, but are useless when it comes to job search. The most stupid thing you can do is going to the most expensive university to spend the most useless subject. English degree from CMU is pretty close to that. If you really have a passion for English, don't go to Harvard for that, go to a simple school. Specialize yourself with something practical so you can get a job first. Your passion can always be there for you to get back to later after you have made some savings and connected with more people. Don't set yourself up for failure initially if you are planning to find work.

4. Location, location, location

Why do so many high-tech professionals choose to move to the silicon valley, business and entrepreneurs move to NYC and elite beauties and models move to burbanks and hollywood? They don't just go there after a job offer, they go there to find jobs. By emerging yourself in the environment, it changes you from head to toe. It changes you from inside out. This is what education is all about, it's life. When I was living in a small agricultural town in central California, there was nothing going on. Everybody was poor and miserable there. Gradually, i started feeling miserable too. The things I heard everyday from people talking was all about personal dramas, parties and fights. Sooner or later, I started talking just like them, i mean i used 4-letter words on almost every other sentence. When I moved to the silicon valley, it became totally different. The things I heard everyday there from people talking was all about high-tech stuffs, innovative thoughts, business ideas and progressive thinking. Subconsciously, i started talking more like them, i even start googling about the stuffs that people talk about, the ideas, the concepts and everything. Later on, I found myself engaging in those type of conversations, or even I started to think like them. My attitude changed completely, i started meeting people at a completely different level. I no longer felt like a loser anymore, even though I still didn't have a decent job yet. NYC again became a complete different experience for me. I was learning Spanish there on the weekend, I thought I was making great money as a consultant, but all my classmates were lawyers and doctors making half million a year. 

The bottomline is, your environment makes who you are and what your social circle is. If you want to find a job, you have to physically move to where the business and jobs are. 

5. Have a niche

Find out what type of skills are in demand. If the stuff isn't too unacceptable for you, give it a try. When it comes to making money, don't get too caught up with your passion. Your passion can wait. I spend my entire life studying engineering and now I am working in software, do you think I love this stuff? My passion is martial arts, but I am practical. Maybe one day I will run my own dojo, but that's not what I am doing now. I might still be miserable just because I don't like my career, but at least I am not complaining about finding jobs and making money. A practical skill vs passion. Well, you choose.

6. Don't be lazy about your resume

A lot of people procrastinate when it comes to writing resumes. Resume can be hard to write but it should be  done, and it should be done specifically for each individual job you apply. If you don't know what to write on your resume, then go search for jobs first. Find a job that you think you be a great fit, then read about the job descriptions. Use their keywords to write your resume, make your resume look like its made for that position. You are not really putting fake stuffs on your resume, rather, you are wording your experiences exactly for that position. 

7. Go through staffing companies

I have used staffing companies several times, it works great especially when it comes to finding blue-collar jobs. Once I saw a job ad on the newspaper, it was basically a warehouse type of job with $9 per hour rate. I applied and they made me go for an interview. The interviewer grilled me with a lot of questions, which I saw no point. I had 2 years experience working in the warehouse before but they didn't seem to help. I didn't get that job. Then I went to a staffing company, i told them that I was looking for any physical labor jobs. At the end of the day, they found me the job, it turned out to be the same warehouse I applied before. The funny thing was that I didn't have to do interviews and my wage was $10 per hour with the staffing firm. How ironic? In 2 months, I changed work 3 times, all through the same staffing firm. So don't overlook this option

8. Find your potential employer offline

online job searching is just one dimension, there are things you can do offline too. I used to drive around all of the business parks and go through the directory at each park. On the directory where all of the company names were listed, I wrote down then ones I thought were high-tech companies. Basically anything with 'technology', 'system', 'telecom', 'soft', 'solutions' etc were on my list. I spent 2 days driving around the silicon valley, I gathered about 300 names from these field trips. At night, I would go through my list and google each names to find their websites. Then I just sent my resume along the way. I think I totally applied about 200 companies, in 2 weeks I scored 6 interviews and 1 resulted a job offer. You can do something similar with what I did if you are running out of places to drop your resume

9. Don't be too picky initially

If you are starting out or seeking a different career, don't be too picky. If you feel jobs are hard to find, that's because you don't have what the companies need. Consider something that pays the bill, or even if it's not enough, it's still better than nothing, get that first and keep building your network and learning new skills. 


Jobs maybe hard to get but it is not impossible. Don't forget to build your networks. Go meet more people, find out more about the fields that are in demand, get those skill sets even if they are not your passion. More importantly, don't set yourself up with an useless degree that cost you $50,000 debt in student loans.

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