This post is brought to you by one InterviewIQ’s regular readers. Here he shares his approach to finding a job in Australia. If you are a skilled migrant you’ll need to be more persistent and creative in your job hunt than the average Joe. Read on for some great tips on what to do from IQ.
Someone told me once that finding a job in Australia takes some time – “up to six months is not unusual” they said. Straight away I wondered why it should take that long. “By analysing it I can take a shortcut” I thought. Sorry, I can’t help but think that way since I am an Engineer. I’ve spent the past 15 years of my life troubleshooting machines. Then I moved on to troubleshoot processes to try and fix them.
So what is it in the job hunt that takes that long?
Surely it is a simple process of finding a vacancy, applying for it, and either getting a yay or a nay? If you do the right numbers you should get a result. In six months, you can definitely receive a minimum of one job alert a day in your inbox and respond to it by an email the same day. That makes it 130 times not counting weekends. So why would it take that long? Is it the recruiters taking a nap for five months and working in the sixth? Or is it that you have to kiss 5 month’s worth of frog-job-vacancies until you land on your prince charming of a job?
Well, my story could give you an insight into the gremlin that holds back your job search, and in the process, drains your bank account and your will to live at the same time.
So I started right, or so I thought.
Having had to wait for six months before finding my last job, I made sure I did all the right things. Before moving to Australia, I read at least five websites on how to write up a CV and cover letter. Then I topped that up by a running the CV past three different people, all native English speakers, at least one who works in my profession. The result was three versions of my CV: one functional to apply for a consultant position that I always wanted; another chronological version to apply for jobs in my same line of work; and a third that is “watered down” to apply for temporary or casual jobs and not be rejected for being overqualified.
I wanted to maximise my opportunities, and have contingency plans should the main one fail. Unfortunately, I had no contingencies for the contingencies failing. Read on.
I phoned my friend in Sydney who’d been in the same position as me a couple of years ago. He confirmed that the so called “hunting journey” would take a few months, even if you’re prepared. “Bizarre! Why can’t he tell me what went wrong and what went right, and this way I’ll shave off a couple of months?!” I wondered. All he did was give me a link to the three major websites.
So to cut a long story short, all attempts to land a job applying from abroad yielded nought. In the words of one good recruitment coordinator: “there are similarly or better qualified candidates doing the same thing you’re doing from at least another couple of dozen countries. So unless your skill is so unique and particular for a job, then you have to put extra effort to stand out; firstly by being in Australia and available for a face to face interview when called.”
I took the hint, and put the job hunt till later
Four days after I arrived. I was on the net firing up applications, customising covering letters, and giving CVs away like marketing flyers. The scatter gun approach missed quite a few times, then it seemed to have hit. I got the very first phone call from a recruiter. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was loading furniture in the car, and expecting another phone call from the electricity company. I was very honest and professional in my answer saying “this was not a good time and since I cannot recall which job he was speaking about as I applied for quite a few, it’s better if he calls me back later.”
Guess what? He never did.
This taught me another two lessons: a) recruiters do not need you, you need them, and b) keep a record of what you’ve done handy will you. Harsh it might sound, this is the name of the game and I dislike it as much as the next person.
That was the first week. Then there was another two weeks of much the same approach, yet with different outcomes. Somehow there was no soul-destroying anonymous and generic rejection emails. It drove me to desperation for a bit until my partner’s family told me January was a bad time to find a job since everyone is away. If that was not enough to drive me suicidal, they followed that by February being the month where everyone deals with January backlog. So I have to man up and tighten the belt until March, and consider all these adverts online to be generated by very intelligent computer programs covering for folk on extended holidays.
I took that time to review what I had done so far. It’s very easy to walk in circles if you don’t stop and gauge your track… it is actually scientifically proven. Following the review, I decided that I should consider new means to my desired ends, and that I should become really ruthless in terms of effort and application.
I filtered out the best five websites on job hunting (judged by Google’s ranking and by my own sceptical nature), and of them I jotted down a list of action points all five unanimously recommended. I rewrote my CVs, again, and took a different slant to writing covering letters. It wasn’t until another week of full-on nine-to-five job hunt ending in same old had passed that I got called for an interview with a recruitment consultant. Hurrah, in moderation though, since the lead came through my partner, and using the old version of my CV. Never mind, it is an interview… and we went out for drinks to celebrate it.
The interview went well, and I was promised to be connected with my dream company to work for. I was almost drooling with excitement. I decided this consultant is it, and that I should sacrifice all other opportunities for the sake of getting any job with them. A week later, being the professional planner I am, I gave the consultant a courtesy follow up call. For some reason I have not understood yet, she went on the defensive and said she’ll get in touch when there is an update. My Babel fish translated that into: “you kind of upset me, and I shall put the minimum effort in your job search.” The translation was validated since a week later she told me “my CV was sent awaiting an answer,” and 3 days after I was told there were no openings. Just like that.
So now a month or more had passed, and I am exactly where I started….but not quite.
I actually got a random phone call from a recruiter inquiring about a minor detail in my CV he found uploaded on one of the major websites. This call made me feel good about myself, although his line of recruitment was out with my planned career path. He asked if I could tweak my CV (for the third time now) to highlight certain areas, and so I did… hopeful maybe something will come out of it.
I also looked up the vacancies he had on the internet, and found a website dedicated for that line of business, so I posted my mark III CV there, and got another phone call from another recruiter almost instantly. Things were going fine, and I was on the up again.
But I won’t throw all my eggs in the one basket again.
Driven by sheer frustration from the generic rejections from faceless recruiters, I gathered all the courage and confidence I had and started phoning them. Yes, I was afraid of rejection. I couldn’t handle well-rehearsed, cocky and crafty answers designed to send me away. I did know what the jobs were about, and I already had my cover letter and my CV tailored waiting to be sent. I just wanted to be noticed, to have a voice behind the name, to have a personal service… and believe me that was a very hard part that went wrong quite a few times.
Never mind, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. And so there was.
I was called for an interview with an agency again, and we went out to drink and celebrate. Unfortunately, nothing came out of it, apart from having to rearrange my CV again; not a thing of the next few either. My record of agencies, names, phones and dates is now a dozen pages long, and my Linked In profile was thriving with invites and hits, but still the personal element is missing. That said, I went to one interview where the guy was so good and personal about his service that I slowed down my search to give him a chance.
He kept in touch, said all the right things, and it felt great and I felt sure again. But the karma of my earlier scatter gun approach started to pay back. I got called for my first interview with an actual employer, who were really interested in my skills that they were on the phone daily scheduling one interview and one test after another. Although I did appreciate their interest and effort, I knew if the personal recruiter had a breakthrough soon, I would be breaking these guys’ professional hearts soon. The world of business is not very different from the world of relationships in that regard.
But the personal recruiter started getting quieter and quieter, my bank balance smaller and my credit card statement longer. I had to do something and not surrender to the way things are… not after all that effort. And that was a light bulb moment that turned things around.
I reviewed all the recruiters I dealt with, and picked the one who was practically honest and on the ball. I had a frank conversation with him that ended up with him pushing an employer to take me on… and it went like a breeze from there, and everyone was happy. It took 11 weeks in total.
In hindsight, if I was to go back 11 weeks, I would’ve done things differently. Would that have shaved off a few weeks? Maybe, but there were other elements like the timing of moving to Australia that should have changed months not weeks ago.
The moral of the story is that every job search is a very personal learning experience that you cannot transfer. What takes most of the time is you learning about yourself and about the world around you: how to approach, who to approach, and how to follow up. The quicker you master the game, the quicker you start earning points.