How I Changed My Failure into a Win

About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.

The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.

My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.

At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.

The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.

Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.

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Looking Back: The Time I Wished I Hadn’t Wasted

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When I was in college, I thought I knew it all. Then again, maybe most of us have a false sense of confidence at that time in our lives. I thought that I was going to be ahead of the game because I was working full-time while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. Not only was I making enough money to have financial independence, but I was also allowing myself to get some real-world experience so I would be a more attractive candidate than the others who only had their diploma. Oh yeah, I had it all figured out back then… but I was wrong.

Having a full-time job was definitely great but it didn’t help me get where I needed to be. When I was going to college, no one told me about the importance of honing in on a specific job function to ensure a smooth transition into my field upon graduation. I mean, surely having experience as an administrative assistant would be transferable to a role in human resources, right? After applying to jobs and interviewing, I learned that this was a big no.

I remember sitting in an interview for an entry-level HR assistant role and the recruiter asked me about my HR experience. “Um, well, I have my bachelor’s that focused on HR and I took plenty of classes that were HR related.” I thought that was a decent answer. After all, this was an entry-level position that would take recent grads. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

I called my brother that night to complain about the fact that no one would hire me for HR jobs. I just couldn’t understand how entry-level positions would say they were open to zero years of experience, but then would reject candidates for not having experience. Was this some sort of sick trick? How could anyone expect me to get experience if no one would give me a chance? “Why don’t you do an internship?” my brother asked me. At that point, I had absolutely no time to squeeze in an internship on top of a job. Also, I was living on my own, states away from home, and couldn’t afford to quit my job (and income) to take a non-paid internship.

I wished I knew what the hiring criteria was before I graduated school and before I made the move out of my parent’s house. I wished I would have taken advantage of my live-at-home situation to help me properly get relevant experience in my field while I had the time and option to do it. Instead, I wasted time thinking I was “growing up” faster and gaining “professional experience”, when in reality I was only gaining experience that wouldn’t actually get me where I needed to go. I eventually landed a job in HR down the line but I often wonder if I would have been further along in my career if I didn’t waste that time in college.

If you are in college, please take note of my career blunder and don’t waste your time. If you have a career focus, make sure you take the time to learn about the hiring criteria before you get to the point where you need to start applying. Learn what employers look for in candidates and take the time to somehow build those skills before you need to actually get a full-time job. You’ll be glad that you put in the extra effort during college, trust me.

For internship advice, check out YouTern – great resource.

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Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

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Job Seekers: Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a Job

There are plenty of articles, books, infographics, and videos which discuss the best interview tips for job seekers. They provide insightful ways to research companies before the interviews. They teach you about the different interviewing steps. They provide interviewing blunders so seekers can learn from them. And they give suggestions on how to make a candidate stand out in the interview process. Mostly, these are all great resources for job seekers to use, but what about teaching them how NOT to talk themselves out of an opportunity during an interview?

Although I’m in a recruiting role now, I have also dealt with the ups and downs of being a job seeker. As I perfect my recruiting skills and collaborate with other recruiters, I’ve learned some of the mistakes I’ve made when I was searching for a job. I realized that sometimes saying too much could actually work against a candidate and extra information could cause a recruiter to think the following things:

  • You’re all over the place: I completely understand when a candidate wants to talk about all of their experiences in detail because it shows some additional skills and initiative that they believe will add value. Sometimes this is true, but if you present it wrong or overelaborate these experiences, you may take away from the core point that you were trying to make. The purpose of the interview is to show the recruiter that you are perfect for that specific position. If you clutter it up with other details, it might cause some confusion.
  • You’re not as skilled as they initially thought: Your resume might say you have five years of experience in a specific position, but if you go off on a tangent about all the other duties you preformed while in that role, the recruiter might believe that your job didn’t focus solely on the function they’re looking for. You may have gained those skills through additional side projects. If this is the case, make sure you present it in a way so recruiters know that it was something extra that you did and that your previous job fully-involved all of the duties that the recruiter is targeting.
  • You don’t know what you want: One of the biggest things I’ve seen when it comes to this is the fact that candidates tend to talk a lot about irrelevant experiences and skills they have. They may think it helps show their diverse skill-set and years of professional experience, but it can make a recruiter wonder where your true passion lies. Are you just taking this job because you have enough experience to meet the requirements or will this job keep you engaged enough?
  • You talked yourself into a corner: make sure you ask the recruiter questions in regard to what they’re looking for in a candidate and what the expectations are. The last thing you want to do is have to backtrack a previous statement you made about why you didn’t like a specific job/duty or what you thought you were the weakest at. It’s extremely hard to recover from that.

I won’t lie, I’ve been this type of candidate before. I was excited to land an interview and wanted to tell the recruiter everything I possibly could about my professional experience so they thought I could be an asset to their company. I thought my broad skill-set would help them see that I was adaptable and flexible. Unfortunately for me, it was quite the opposite. Instead, the recruiter received a jumbled amount of information that didn’t help them easily see how my skills perfectly matched their job opening. Even if I did have a great match of skills, they couldn’t determine that with all the additional chatter about “this” and “that”.

I strongly suggest for candidates to take the time to really re-read details about the job and the company and then consider great examples from their previous experiences that fluidly matches what the recruiter is looking for. Think of these answers beforehand so you can get straight to the point effectively and don’t include any unnecessary details that isn’t relevant. As a candidate, you want to paint the best picture for the recruiter so they can see that your transition into this position will be a smooth one.

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Are You Making the Most of Your College Years?

After listening to the #InternPro radio show the other evening, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any college students taking notes. During this show, different Talent Acquisition Specialist and University Recruiters were able to provide some wonderful details in regard to internship and entry-level recruitment. Some of the tips and information were slightly surprising but honestly made sense. Being that I currently recruit for entry-level positions, I could confirm that I run into these issues regularly. More often than not, I hope that college students are taking the time to research the job markets that they will be entering soon. Also, I hope they are able to determine the things they need to do to make themselves an attractive candidate upon graduation.

It’s time to get real about your professional future:

  • College degrees are not enough: in some specialized instances, it may be. However, the college degree has become so common that it does not make a candidate special anymore. Think of it as if it were the high school diploma a few years back- a large amount of people have it. You need to be strategic and determine the best way to build soft skills, in and out of school.
  • Even entry level positions want some sort of experience: maybe your GPA is looking mighty fine but do you have any real world experience? It doesn’t necessarily have to be job related (even though that would be ideal), but recruiters are looking to see if you took initiative to build skills during college.
  • Don’t think you don’t have time: I get it, college class loads can be daunting to the point where you don’t believe that you have time to take on anything else. Maybe that’s true but getting a job isn’t the only way you can gain attractive experience. Join clubs, networking events, fraternities/sororities, volunteer, or intern. This can not only help you build skills but it could potentially help you network with people who will aid in your job search down the line.
  • Stop templating your resume format: I know that writing resumes from scratch is tough but using common key words and formatting will not do you any favors. Don’t use the common words to describe yourself on your resume, or if you do, make sure you have something to show so you can back it up (such as a portfolio).
  • Put your social media skills to good use: we all know how you’re an expert at social media but casually socializing on it isn’t its only function. Take time to build social media profiles that are professional and use it to build your personal brand. This can help you gain momentum before you’re ready to start your job search.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute: getting a job is really hard. It is time consuming, the interview process can be long, and you need to be strategic. Don’t wait until 2 weeks before graduation to look for job. Job searches can sometimes take several months (unfortunately, that seems to be more common than not these days), so make sure you start early so you aren’t left scrambling around graduation time.
  • Do your research: no one likes a job hopper and most candidates fall into that category because they are unhappy with the employer that they selected. To avoid making a bad choice or to avoid getting into a job-hopper scenario, make sure you take the time to research companies, their cultures, and so on. This can help you find out if it’s a good option and fit for you.

College is apparently some of the best years of your life but don’t let your fun and socializing stop you from keeping your eye on the prize. You need to make sure that everything you do during those years are going to help you when you are ready to enter in the workforce, so keep these tips in mind.

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Job Seeker: Don’t Rule Out a Phone Interview

The interview process has evolved over the last few years. I recall interview processes only being an interview or two before the company made a decision on whether or not they wanted to hire you. With the changes in the economy and workforce, recruiters are now overwhelmed with a large amount of candidates applying to their job openings and do not have enough time to interview them in that capacity anymore. Therefore, the interview processes have changed into a series of steps, with phone interviews typically being the first one.

Being in talent acquisition myself, I spend most of my week setting up initial phone interviews to determine if the candidates are: interested in the job; interested in the company; and meet the basic requirements. I’ve been a job seeker before and, trust me, it’s a full time job in itself. Surprisingly, I’ve come across plenty of candidates that have decided against doing a phone interview because they were either in the interview process with another company or holding out for a company to reach out to them about their application. In those situations, I can’t help but shake my head. As a job seeker, you should be exploring as many relevant opportunities as you possibly can, especially if it doesn’t require too much time out of your day. You never know what can happen during your job search (or what WON’T happen), so it’s best to have your feelers out as much as possible.

I’ve seen plenty of candidates who’ve waited on a company to contact them about their application just to find out a month later that they were never going to receive that call. I’ve also had candidates hold off on interviewing with other companies because they were interviewing elsewhere, only to be rejected by the company at the final interview stage. Putting off other interviewing opportunities not only wasted time, but they also ended up losing out on opportunities because other available candidates jumped all over it. As a job seeker, you not only have to be aggressive in your search, but you also need to ensure that you don’t make rash assumptions about things. For example, a phone interview isn’t going to land you a job within 20 minutes, so you still can buy time in case the other opportunity you’re waiting for comes through. Or just because the opportunity or company isn’t ideal for you doesn’t mean other opportunities that are more of a fit won’t be presented.

Phone interviews don’t require too much time or effort and can benefit you:

  • It’s quick: phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and will allow you to get started with the interview process without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. This is a way for you to determine if it’s something you would want to dedicate time to.
  • It gets your name out there: this is an easy way for recruiters and companies to get to know: you; what you’re looking for; and what you’re abilities are. Even if the job opportunity isn’t right for you, you’ll at least be on their radar for something else down the line.
  • You can learn about a company or opportunities: sometimes a job description or an “about me” section on a company website doesn’t do an opportunity justice. I’ve almost ruled out companies in the past based off of these two things but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my assumptions were wrong once I spoke to the recruiter. The additional details allowed me to determine if it was a right fit or not.
  • It can help you pipeline: Like I said earlier, sometimes the timing or the opportunity isn’t right for you at the moment. However, it can help you determine if it is a company you want to look into down the line. This can be a great way to build a relationship with the company so once you do feel like the timing is right, you can easily reach out to the recruiter and get the ball rolling.
  • Recruiters like to help: Let’s say you didn’t like the opportunity that the recruiter initially reached out to you about- that doesn’t mean it’s over. Recruiters often network with each other to see what each other are working on (internally and externally). If the recruiter you spoke to knew someone who is looking for a candidate with your talent, it is very likely that they’ll pass on your resume to the other recruiter.

Before you turn down a phone interview, think about all the benefits above. A thirty minute phone call can help you be even more strategic in your job search.

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Job Preparedness: What Employers Want

More often than not, I have job seekers approach me for some career advice. They ask me all sorts of questions, such as: how should I format my resume; how should I prepare for an interview; how can I display my skills to be attractive to employers; what skills do I need to build to be qualified; and so on. Of course, depending on the role, company, and situation, my responses tend to be different per each case. However, I do remind my candidates that certain skills can be taught but passion and business ethic cannot. So, I ask them what they’re truly passionate about and how they’re going about displaying these qualities to potential employers.

After speaking to employers and researching the topic, I’ve noticed that the skills that are most valued are actually pretty surprising. For example, employers value candidates who have strong business ethic and are accountable vs. candidates that have technical skills and can work well with others. Why? Because technical skills can be taught but accountability is an internal motivation factor that an employer can’t teach an employee.

To get a better idea of this, check out this infographic on The Undercover Recruiter Blog provided by Youtern.

This is a great visual resource for candidates to not only learn what employers are looking for, but to also see how their current experience level (entry-level, managerial, etc) can tie into this. Additionally, many hiring managers evaluate these skills through the interview process, so it’s important for candidates to be on top of their game. Review the top skills that employers are looking for and take the time to think of examples from your experience to display your competency in these skills. Thinking of these examples before an interview can not only help you be prepared with strong information, but it can also help you clearly show the employer that you have what it takes to meet their value expectations.

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Job Seeker: Maybe Your Online Personality is Killing Your Job Leads

The other day, a few of my peers and I were discussing our social media presence and how it’s evolved over the years. One of them had mentioned that they often Google themselves to see what the search results were pulling up. Of course, being that she was a consultant, I felt that this was necessary in order for her to gain client leads. However, as I thought about this topic a little more, I realized that this can also be true for job seekers.

I’ve been in a talent acquisition and HR role for a few years now and I’ve most definitely heard some stories in my day. One of the biggest things I’ve heard from other recruiters would involve their sourcing methods for candidates. Sometimes, when recruiters are in a crunch for candidates and can’t seem to get the contact information they need to reach out to them right away, they will do a Google search. This is an alternative method to find job seeker’s contact information. Sometimes it is an effective method and sometimes it’s just scary.

Some of the most interesting things I’ve heard in regard to this from other recruiters:

  • Blatant lies about work experience: Make sure your resume and your Linkedin profile match up because recruiters most definitely cross-reference. There have been times where candidates stated they had 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree, only for the recruiter to discover that this wasn’t the case.
  • Incriminating photos: it always baffles me when people (especially individuals who are 18 years old or older) find it ridiculously cool to post pictures of them with some sort of drug in their possession. It’s even more baffling if they have pictures posted of them using the substance.
  • Very bad posts on social media: discriminatory comments, racism, and the like are often found on social media. Whether the person is joking or not, the recruiter may never know. All they can do is take it at face value.
  • Police blotters: don’t mark off that you have no felonies or misdemeanors on your background check if there’s potentially an article about you getting arrested on the internet. With a lot of these publications becoming available online, it’s a lot easier to come across this information than if it was only in print.

It’s hard enough to land a job as a job seeker in this economy, it’s even worse if your online presence ruins chances before you can even get to do a phone interview. Do yourself a favor and Google yourself to see what kind of information is at recruiter’s disposal and do some damage control. This could help your chances.

More links:

Check out this Infographic about Social Resumes

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Recruiters: Are You Going Beyond the Call of Duty?

Last week, a group of recruiters and I were talking about some of the things we do to help our candidates make it through the interview process. We discussed tips, resume restructuring, and coaching. Some of us had success stories about how their tips helped a candidate land an offer. But I asked them: what about the candidates that didn’t make it through the interview process? What about the candidates that weren’t a fit from the start? Are we doing anything to help those candidates?

Maybe I’m overly empathetic, but I really identify with the job seekers and their daily struggles to find work. I’ve been the underemployed before. I’ve been unemployed. I’ve also been the employee that felt like my abilities were not being recognized or utilized for the benefit of the company. And even though I’ve been involved in Human Resources and talent acquisition, that advantage didn’t always help me when it came to securing my next job. Even with the knowledge of knowing what recruiters and hiring managers looked for, I still struggled. If I struggled, I can only imagine what it is like for people who don’t understand the recruitment processes or tricks of the trade.

As a recruiter or talent acquisition specialist, have you ever spoken to a candidate that you knew wasn’t going to be a fit for your job opening? Or have you talked to a candidate that had potential but needed some extra guidance? In those instances, what did you do? Did you simply send a rejection letter or pass them through the hiring process knowing that they might be rejected due to the areas that needed coaching? Or did you act like a consultant? Did you go above the call of duty and make it your job to help the candidate be employable and attractive to other employers even though you couldn’t offer a job?

I know that not all recruiters have time to do this. We’re overwhelmed and most of the time we don’t even have a second to breathe. But I often try to help out candidates as much as I can. I’ll give them tips on their resume, let them know what recruiters look for, coach them on their interviewing skills, tell them how to be easily found by recruiters, and so on. Most importantly, I let them know that they are always welcome to call me or email me if they need help or have questions. That extra time and effort feels rewarding especially when you hear the appreciation in the job seeker’s voice. I love it when I get emails and calls down the line from these individuals asking me for advice or when they let me know that they landed a job because of the tips I provided.

I remember wishing that someone saw the potential in me when I was a job seeker. I hoped that employers could see my passion and hear the conviction in my voice when I told them that I wanted to do great things for their company. Eventually, a company saw that and took a chance on me. Now, I want to be the person that returns that favor, even if I can’t initially provide a job to these candidates who honestly want a future for themselves. Maybe my assistance will help them get the interview they needed so they can sit in front of that specific manager who will see their intentions and give them a chance.

It shouldn’t just be about YOUR job opening that you need to fill. It should be about helping people get back to work. People have unnecessarily suffered the situations caused by the changes in the workforce. What are we doing to help them adjust?

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Sometimes, Culture Fit Overrides Job Fit

As some of you know, company culture is one of my favorite topics to discuss. So, in light of a current situation, I felt that today’s blog post should discuss this. Recently, an individual was referred to me for some career and job seeking advice. Of course, I jumped all over this because I absolutely love helping people figure out what they truly want and how to be proactive about getting it. As I provided some advice to her, I recalled some important lessons I learned while job seeking myself.

This woman told me about some of the job roles she was interested in and how a couple of the companies she interviewed with seemed to have great opportunities involving this type of role but the company in itself left her feeling uninspired. She also happened to know a few people that previously worked at these companies and she was able to determine that the company culture didn’t really seem to match what she valued.

Of course, the fact that she mentioned personal values seemed to pique my interest and we hashed out these details. After learning what seemed to be important to her and what she really was passionate about, it was easy to see why these companies left her feeling uninspired. The companies had nothing to do with any of that. And after thinking about it, I recalled the time when I was aggressively looking for work. I was so set to get my career going in HR that I accepted jobs with companies that didn’t match my personal values. Or what’s worse, I found that their culture and ethics were awful. Needless to say, I was happy to land a role in HR but I was miserable, I learned nothing, and I really felt like I gained nothing from working there. Before I knew it, I was looking for work again because I desperately wanted to get out of that less than ideal situation.

As I considered these situations, I realized that sometimes finding a job in a company that has a culture that matches your values could be more important than struggling to get your foot in the door for a role you’re targeting. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to find a company that made me want to stay with them long term. I realized that perhaps starting in a position that wasn’t necessarily what I was targeting might be the way to go. I knew that if I was happy with the company, I wouldn’t mind taking a little extra time to work my way up to where I wanted to be, career-wise.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just be involved in the role you desire if the company in itself isn’t ideal for you. If you’re a job seeker, it’s important to research the culture to ensure you don’t end up in a bad situation that leaves you scrambling for a new job and company that is better suited for you. Unfortunately, changing jobs so quickly doesn’t look great to recruiters.. It looks better if you stick with a company longer-term and progressively move your way up.

Spend that extra time to do your research and really dig deep to make sure the company you’re accepting employment with is going to offer you more than just a job title and a couple skills in your field. You spend a good portion of your time at your job so finding an overall fit might be the better choice when it comes to finding a long and lasting career.

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