Personal Finance

My job hunting journey, interview tips + job offers!

It all started when I went to a job interview.

I had been job hunting casually. Applying for jobs here and there, but in no rush to leave my current job. But on this day, something changed my perspective.

On the day of the interview, I arrived an hour early and grabbed lunch at the cafe across the road from the office. I sat outside in the courtyard, surrounded by lush greenery and the cool breeze on my skin, eating my sushi. As I looked up and watched the world around me, I felt something happen.

For the first time in a long time, I felt expansive.

I watched people walking around, enjoying their lunch, looking happy, having vibrant, animated conversations with their friends and colleagues. I looked at the beauty of the nature and architecture around me, standing tall and proud.

I stepped into the large office building, with storeys upon storeys, and felt this buzzing energy; that kind that comes with doing meaningful work. The kind of work I used to do.

I remembered what it was like to have good days and bad days; what it felt like even on those bad days to know that the work always meant something. That it was always worth it.

And just like that, I felt this realisation come to me, feeling like a forgotten truth my heart had known all along:

The world is big!

As my world suddenly became bigger, I suddenly felt full of possibilities again. I wondered, ‘How have I let my world start to feel so small? How have I let myself get used to feeling so limited?

It was then that I decided: ‘I always want to feel this expansive.’

Which is when the relentless job hunting started – after I went to this interview on 5th May 2021. I received the first of my job offers on 1st June 2021.

Here is everything I did during my job hunting journey. If you are also searching for something better out there, I hope it helps you too.

Finding jobs to apply for

The first step to any job-hunting journey – well, apart from brushing up your CV! Here are all the places I sourced jobs to apply for:

Do Good Jobs

Trade Me Jobs

Cultivate (recruitment company)

Madison (recruitment company – my experience with them has been the best!)

Tribe (recruitment company)

Bumble (LOL. Yes, I joined Bumble, on Bizz, the networking side)

LinkedIn Jobs

Remember to sign up for email job alerts!

Kept a job-hunting journal

THE. #1. BEST. THING. I. DID.

Every time I have job hunted in the past, I never kept a record. This time, I was determined to do it differently. This time, I kept a written record of every job I applied for. I also kept a record of my interviews, exactly what questions were asked, where I did well, and where I could improve.

This time round, I was asked a lot of tough questions. There were the typical ones: “What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why do you want to work for this company? What about this role interests you?”

I generally ace these typical ones, and it’s always clear when the interviewers smile, nod enthusiastically while making eye contact, write it down, or even directly say, “That was an excellent answer.”

But there were also some questions that definitely caught me out. An interview I feel like I failed epicly started its first question with, “Can you tell me about a time when you didn’t complete your work?”

I didn’t have an example, let alone a STAR example. Crap! It was an extremely strange question to me, anyway. Why would I have a situation where I didn’t complete my work?

Doing my own post job interview evaluation every time helped me turn every experience, good or bad, into a valuable one I could learn something from. No matter how well I think I already did, or how poorly I thought I did, keeping a record proved extremely useful every time I had another interview to go to!

Know the company’s values

Some companies use this interview format: they go through their values one by one, and ask for a STAR example of how you have demonstrated each example. If you haven’t come across it before, STAR is Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

I was caught out in one interview because I had spent a significant amount of time learning their company’s financial products and services, but forgot to properly read their values page. (Out of sheer luck, perhaps, when I was asked to describe my personal attributes, a few actually just happened to align with their values anyway.)

After I wrote this down in my journal, I went extremely prepared at my next interview, and aced discussing what the company’s values were and how I demonstrated each one. One of my job offers came from this interview. Failing at one thing isn’t the end – it just helps you shine the next chance you get! Remember, ‘you’re not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience.’

Make it personal

Personally, I’ve always found that the interviews where I expressed myself genuinely are the interviews that tend to be successful. Here’s why I think it’s important!

At job interviews, I don’t want to sound like a robot, reciting facts about the company back to them. So one thing I do is: I go through the company’s website and I find a few things that really resonate with me on a personal level.

For example, a company may have incredible stats and figures, but that is probably not going to excite me.

What does excite me, however, is a company having a Rainbow Tick certification; providing sanitary products for women; being committed to diversity; or winning awards for ethical business practice.

When I tell them that I love these things, the passion comes through in my expressions, my gestures, my voice, because I mean it. And they can see that.

I do occasionally bring up things I love about the company’s actual work. For example, I told a life insurance company something that I personally noticed:

‘I love that you guys have really put a lot of thought into your life and health insurance policies. I have looked at other life insurance companies, and most of their policies are the same, covering the usual things like injury, illness and death. But you guys have thought about everything, from childcare assistance to emergency transport to rehab, therapy & counselling costs. It shows that your company really cares about its customers, and has considered everything to protect them and their peace of mind.”

In a nutshell: find something you 100% genuinely love about the company so that when you talk about it, you mean it and it shows.

Remembering scenarios / STAR examples

It’s essential to memorise a few STAR examples! Here are some of the real situations I was asked to describe:

  • A time you negotiated
  • A time you worked extremely hard on a project, and the result
  • A time when you experienced conflict
  • A time when you struggled, and how you overcame it
  • A time when you had to change someone’s way of thinking to yours (yes, a real one – tough!)
  • A time you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal
  • A time when you resolved a complaint
  • A time when you went above and beyond

Something I learnt as time went on was that I could change the focus of each example to fit the question – even if it was originally about something else.

For example: describing a time when I negotiated. I might use an example I would’ve usually used for ‘going above and beyond’, but in the situation, it actually did include negotiation.

I would tell them about the situation, but focus strongly on the negotiation instead. Remember: no matter how challenging the situation, always close with a positive outcome.

Overall, I have about 6 real work situations committed to memory, which have all been useful at one point or another!

Dealing with rejection, doubt, fear of failure

Struggling with insecurity has always made job hunting even more difficult as it’s a process where many people often encounter rejection.

I’m really grateful that this time round, I seem to have become more resilient. How did I do it? Personally, I treated each interview as free interview practice.

Even if you go to an interview and don’t get the job, you’ve gained something – valuable experience! You now know what questions are asked, how to speak with interviewers, what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and how to do even better at the next one.

It’s like taking your university entrance exams, and knowing you only get one shot. Then imagine you get limitless FREE practice exams. That’s how I saw it, and it stopped me from taking each ‘no’ to heart.

In my personal life, I’ve learned to turn jealousy into inspiration. Instead of being jealous of someone’s success, I choose to feel inspired.

In my work life, I’ve learned to turn fear into curiosity. Instead of being afraid, I choose to be curious. What can I learn from this? What exciting new thing will I discover today? What new skill will I add to my repertoire today? How will I become more awesome today?

Two job offers!

I received my first job offer 3 hours after I had the interview for it.

“Hey Sophia, she was really impressed with you and wants to offer you a role in her team!”

YAY!!!

I received my second job offer 3 days later, from a company I’d had my second interview with a week prior.

I like both companies, so have a tough decision to make. I can’t wait to share more with you next time!

I hope you have found some helpful tips for your own job hunting journey. Best of luck, and always remember:

The world is big!

Your possibilities are endless. Your potential is limitless. If you lose one opportunity, another will come along. You are not stuck.

To living expansively,

Sophia

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