I’ve been looking for a new job for a while now. And with time — and a few interviews — and rejections — I’ve come to an understanding of one thing that is making things tricky for me. Any good problem has multiple causes, so this is of course just one of them, but it’s the one that has to do with me, how my life played out, decisions I made, my experience, my skillset.
It’ll be a surprise to no reader of this blog that I have a rather atypical career path. Just having been self-employed for over ten years does that to you (and there is more). I don’t know about other job markets, but here, although everybody will tell you that having an atypical profile is an asset, recruiters are not readily going to pounce on you to hire you. And honestly, I don’t blame them: if you have interested and motivated candidates that ideally fit your “persona” for the job, why take a risk with somebody who doesn’t, however promising? We don’t like risks that much.
It quickly became clear to me that there was a big difference between jobs I would be capable of doing and jobs I had a chance of being hired for. There are many jobs I could do. But not that many where, in comparison with all the other candidates applying for that position, I would seem like the best person to hire.
Most of the time, it boils down to experience. Especially at my age and seniority level, they’ll often be looking for somebody who has “occupied a similar position for 5 years or more”. I haven’t, obviously. I have the skillset, but I don’t have the indicator in my career path that one would expect to confirm it. One of the reasons is that I have been self-employed most of my career, and the other one is that I learn fast. My experience goes a long way. But that’s not a very convincing argument on a job application.
The corollary is, of course, that when I apply for more junior positions, where less experience is expected, I don’t get in either, because I’m overqualified.
Now, where do I stand the best chance of “fitting the profile” when it comes to work experience? The answer is, as far as I can see, in digital communications/communication strategy, as this is the core of the work I did while I was self-employed, and the first two years after that. Digital transformation also fits the bill, but most positions in that area require more enterprise/organisational change management than I can demonstrate. So, I’ve been focusing my efforts on Communications Manager/Digital Communications Manager positions.
The problem seems to remain, however. Other candidates for the same positions often have more formal management experience, which is reassuring for a recruiter. I have to say this is starting to seem more and more like a catch-22. And knowing the value that I can bring an employer, not being able to get a foot in the door is quite frustrating.
Whether you’re in recruitment or not, I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I onto something, or am I “finding excuses” and I just need to try harder — or try differently? Have you found yourself in a similar or parallel position? What am I missing?
I’d like to add (because people who see me as The Freelancer, which I was indeed for most of my career, sometimes have trouble coming around to this) that I really want to find an employed position. I don’t particularly want to become self-employed again. I guess this is something I might detail in an other article!
I’m also aware that networking is the key. And I’m starting to think that in my case, it really is the only key.