Fun Job Applications
During our final semester in graduate school, our advisor would loop around our offices reminding us of the importance of applying to “regular” jobs now before it is too late for us students to prevent us from scrambling for a job after graduation.
Which is exactly what happened to me and 99% of my cohort, excluding the students who went back to their jobs pre-graduate school. 600 job applications later, and I still couldn’t get that ‘job’ I was looking for. I was a full time graduate student in New York City studying Anthropology. My work involves interviewing customers to unlock behavioral attitudes towards technology and digital services across a plethora of industries.
I knew the career I was working towards, which was around humans interacting with computers, specifically, user experience and product designers (UX) and UX researcher roles.
Finding a conventional job with perks for motivated folks is nearly impossible nowadays. In particular, design roles in creative fields is so hard to come across given the subjectivity of design.
I was adamant to be a new graduate with glossy credentials and a Masters Degree in my pocket to waltz right into a new job in the software and computer science industry. What I’ve learned got me to where I am today, never give up on yourself.
I tried networking among circles, tweaking my resume to fit corporate job descriptions, personalizing cover letters to each role, customize my projects for the job market, learn the right vernacular for startups, as I drag my butt outside in the east coast winter cold to attend seminars about the benefits of informational interviews.
I tried approaching job applications from different angles and what I discovered. I learned lessons along the way and wanted to share tips with the world about the hiring process that seems to be somewhat broken in major U.S. cities.
This article is not meant to play the blame game but rather I’m dissecting the different scenarios of job applications. The types of jobs are in divisions of: government, non-profit, NGOs, startups, agencies, small and mid-sized companies, tech companies, large studios and massive corporations.
1 – It’s not your lack of skills that didn’t land you this role, it’s the coordination issues related to the employer’s management staff and system. There is probably no one on the hiring team available to train you for the role, so since there is no time, an expert coming in might be a reasonable solution. But expertise based on what? There aren’t two businesses the same or two managers who share the same goals or principles, the match is way more than finding a metaphorical key that can fit into a lock.
2 – The faster the response is on hearing back about the interview, the more prepared you should be to take out someone else’s fire at this new job. Or that they are a very small group responding to the first somewhat decent applicant they received. There is a bit of desperation there so be ready.
3 – The issue of you not being hired is beyond the fancy school degree or a lack thereof. Your application did not work out based on the time of day and environment the other party was going through. In other words, it is never you, it’s other things.
4 – You’ve applied to the job that really is a good fit based on your judgement, you’ve reached out to people who work on respective teams and got no answer. It is not you, maybe they’re testing to see the applicants that will respond and store away your information inside their cubbies of “hiring people asap to save the company”. Thank your lucky stars that you never heard back. They were not serious to begin with.
5 – You applied to a magic role and know deeply that you won’t hear back, the voices in your head say that you don’t have what it takes. Low and behold you hear back for a follow up interview then in person and then you get the role. That is your stars aligning with their vision and everyone in the room is willing to take a chance on you as much as you’re willing to on them and yourself. The hiring process is easy-peasy from here and in a few years when you’re ready to move on, just remember how far along you’ve come.
6 – It’s that time of year to prep for exams for a job at a large institution that requires a series of tests and physical exams in preparation for the job application. I hope to interview one day the hiring people who make decisions based on choosing less than 5% of the total applications, also neglecting to inform the other candidates, waiting to hear back, that they did not make it to the cut.
7 – Maybe you apply to a job and hear back in somewhat decent timing, 3 to 5 days later is perfect to ensure the hiring team had a chance to look at your profile, and is good for you to explore if you feel anxious that you’ve never heard back or if you don’t care if they responded. Maybe it was never a good fit in the first place. Let’s say three days later and the team responds wanting to talk to you on a phone call. You introduce yourself and your work in the frame and context of how it can apply to their vision, and voila, you are invited for a full day interview at said campus.
8 – Continued, so you go and spend a full day with teams, talking and explaining your work and your future contribution to this new place. In and out of meetings, managers talk with you, potential co-workers, and product development squeezes every ounce of information to make absolute sure that you align with their mission and have what it takes. Then the design test comes on, or if you are applying for a technical role too, and the non-sense begins.
9 – They either want you to whiteboard your discoveries and thought processes, or to code on demand with no digital surface, or to take company homework for them to analyze and rip apart when you’re not there for them to claim your work or what is not working with them.
10 – Design tests are not the only metrics, if you can’t describe your work or suggest new UI or ideas on product roadmaps, they most likely won’t want to continue the process for the lack of resources to train you on the job.
11 – Let’s say every single thing works out in your favor, you are approved from a pool of applicants, moved on to a phone call, one on one with potential employers, ace the onsite interview, and everything leads you to getting hired. Don’t fret, challenges are still coming along the way. You are living in someone else’s dream, so it’s best you see it clearer so you can keep that paycheck.
The privatization and siloed method of hiring in this country will lead to an eruption of individuals who cannot see this vision for themselves and already started questioning the system. The gig economy has taken place in a country where adults are looking for roles and making ends. They think that they can get away with freelance for life, which is mostly true. Currently, almost half the population is hired as consultants and freelance employers in the United States.
The solution is to treat yourself like a company.
What skills can you grow? How can you prove you are self-reliant and resilient working alone before you join a huge team? What are some ways you can explore your individuality without having anxiety that you do not fit in any of these roles?
Thousands of applications later, interviews done on phone and interviews conducted onsite in the double digits, I learned to love and respect my journey and learning curve more than ever.
Yes, I do have that fancy college degree and see it as an accomplished check point rather than a waste of time and increase of school debt, which is a fact but not the point. I see it as a personal investment that I owed to my teenage self who really questioned the existing systems that surrounded her and how society is being newly constructed. I can sense the desperation of a startup that wants to hire me on demand, from the negligence of a huge corporation that admits to me they don’t care about company culture as long as everyone in the system is squeezed in the cog to ensure quality production.
By being exposed to individuals who put me down and told me that my work doesn’t amount to anything because these solutions were not shipped to real life, I am thankful.
I thank you for never hiring me because my life would’ve been the opposite of better. I would’ve lived inside someone else’s dream rather than building my own. I would’ve invested hours into this corporation losing my mental health along the way.
I won’t give up on finding the dream team, the team who came together with a mission and made it happen. I want to be an effective cog in a broken system. I want to see upper management come to me to help fix problems because I am trained to buckle down and work my butt off till research proves hypotheses and customers understand what is happening. Customers have a clear vision on how to use our product. I want to do my job and maximize efficiency rather than clock in and clock out for the rest of our lives.