I’ve been actively applying jobs since early June. I’ve applied for over 40 jobs, adjusted my resume 19 times, and learnt a whole new recruitment dance.
It has left me scratching my head, wondering why the hell, in an age where soft-skills ARE the hard skills, applying for jobs has been reduced down to the strange act of filtering your life down to ‘what facts are acceptable and just land you the role – even if you have to lie’.
This is not to say I haven’t encountered some kind and honest recruiters and interviewers – but from my experience so far, applying for jobs seems very shallow and – dare I say – inhumane.
These are a few of my key learnings so far, followed by a summary of my work/life journey, for context:
- Finding a new job can take a long time and a lot of effort! Allow several months before you start somewhere.
- The older and more experienced in life and business you get, the harder it gets to summarise your skills into a resume. This difficulty increases if you are multi-skilled. Unfortunately, (and through no fault of their own) younger recruiters don’t seem to get that you can genuinely master many skills.
- If you have spent years working in the faith-based non-profit and church sector, and are applying for jobs in a new industry, translating the immensity of skills you have gained without sounding like a religious nutter is going to be a challenge. You cannot assume a job ad claiming the company really hires for diversity and inclusion extends to you – honestly, much of it is virtue signalling.
- In my opinion, some organisations give too much weight to industry experience – this is despite the research showing the benefits of hiring skilled people with the right attitude and aptitude from outside your industry. I’ve hired people, so I do understand that industry experience is critical for some roles – but in a world where innovation, disruption and critical thinking can give a company an edge in the market, too many recruiters still hire the safe & familiar candidate because they assess the onboarding as easier (and it may be) – in contrast to the outsider who is likely to be a fraction more clunky when they arrive but will quickly deliver great treasure from beyond the industry shores.
- It is hard, if not impossible, translating the value and relevance of the immense inner work you have done onto a resume. You might have resilience in abundance, be trauma informed and EQ to match the best psychologist, but barely anyone tests for this. (Thankfully, I see this changing as a new soul-savvy generation hits the workforce.)
- Unfortunately, some recruiters / talent acquisition people are very poor communicators. This may be my age and sales experience talking, but if you promise to contact someone within a period of time, and that time passes, do them the courtesy of contacting them – even if you have no update or good news to share. Use a diary, CRM or something to remind you of the promises you make candidates and take the 2-minutes to call or email them when you said you would. If you are late, apologies for the delay in your reply – acknowledging you said you’d contact the jobseeker earlier.
- Looking for a new job is a fantastic learning experience. As I’ve deep dived into companies, industries, products and role descriptions, I have discovered some very valuable and useful things. It’s been incredible. I’m very grateful to be looking and considering so many roles.
Some personal (and candid) context:
A lot of job vacancies aren’t advertised. Most people know that, right? They are filled through existing contacts, internally or roles are created for employers they want in their company. I have been that guy my whole life. I had not put a resume together for nearly 20 years – but several months ago I started the journey of actively applying for roles because life circumstances have changed and I wanted to get out of the network and industry I had been in.
At the time of posting this, I have applied for around 40 jobs, had around 10 screening calls, 3 final interviews – of which I was offered one position and came second place in two others because I lacked industry experience. I turned down the first job offer because they were not negotiable on remuneration and I wasn’t willing to take the salary I was on 12 years ago. I have another interview this coming week. In fact, while drafting this article, I got a call from the company recruiter who told me I made it through to the next level round. Who knows!? It may be the one.
Perhaps it helps to give you some candid background, I’m 44. White. Male. My parents were blue collar immigrants from the Netherlands. I have been working since I was 14. Full-time since 16. I was an early school leaver in the 90s (when it was common) who got an admin apprenticeship and worked for my dad in the family business till I was 20 when I jumped into IT before the Y2K and DotCom boom. A few years and jobs later I moved to become a business manager for the community services arm of the church I was attending.
In my late 20s my wife and I sold up our belongings and moved to Tokyo with our 18 month old daughter. It was incredible. I ended up managing and teaching for a small Business English teaching school, as well as launching the media department at an international church we attended in Tokyo. We became pregnant with our second child and moved back to Australia 19 months later. I got a job in retail marketing and then managed a digital signage start-up which failed when the GFC hit. I started designing website for local businesses and eventually was asked to manage a small RTO, which I did for a few years. At 32 we had our third child (with significant birthing complications) and I started to get interested in counselling.
While training in a form of inner healing, I was asked to take on a role as part-time GM at the non-profit that was delivering the certified training. They had a hand-full of staff and about 200 volunteers across Australia. To make ends meet I also served as an associate pastor at our local church and clocked up hundreds of hours in the counselling room helping people in the community. Across these two roles, I discovered I had a knack for helping people through tough and complex things – especially leaders and pastors (because I could relate). I started getting invites to speak at church events and was being flown around Asia Pacific to help traumatised and stuck people, especially church workers. I travelled to India, China, and Sth Korea, to name a few.
Demand grew and I eventually left the two roles, started my own non-profit and spent nearly 7 years travelling, speaking to thousands, training teams, and personally helping leaders of all types with emotional, psychological and spiritual challenges. Unfortunately, it became too taxing for me and although it was incredibly rewarding and meaningful work, it paid poorly and I had a family of 5 to house, school and feed. I pulled back the travel, offered less services, more training and my wife (who is my hero) was able to get some pelvic floor reconstructive surgery which allowed her to re-enter the workforce as a certified counsellor & mental health worker after nearly 15 years of living with an invisible injury.
With my wife back at work and our kids a bit older, at the age of 39 I considered some official higher study. I completed a Bachelor of Organisational Leadership at UNE while working part-time as a workplace chaplain and leadership/organisation development specialist at large international faith-based tech non-profit. It was good and rewarding work among some great people. Just what I needed for this season of my life and my work and presence made a large difference in the organisation. I enjoyed the study, got a good GPA and considered entering Academia and earning a PhD.
I ended up gaining a spot in a research honours program at USC, whom offered me a special research project with a University partner, exploring the impact of a restructure in a large regional hospital. In the first month of study, COVID hit and my research project blew out with many complications. It took a lot longer to finish and was considerably larger than expected but I earned a Class 1 mark (the highest possible grading). By this time, however, I’d seen the inner workings of University staff -life and witnessed tremendous layoffs as International Student numbers declined in Australia. The appeal of working towards a PhD declined and became not financially viable.
In the midst of all this, and in an effort to consolidate the heavy soul work and secondary trauma I experienced in my 30s, I started writing and sharing poetry. It helped a lot. I happened to be visiting a friend interstate who was hosting the author of the best selling book, ‘The Shack’. Wm Paul Young heard me reciting a poem and asked me for more. He started sharing my poems as he travelled, using it in books etc. He encouraged me to publish a book which I did in late 2020. It started a chain of events and I have now published 4 poetry collection and sold thousands of copies around the world. My entrepreneurial and therapeutic skills collided and I created a unique program called Poetry Chapel which empowers inspiring aspiring poets write and publish their own books. This has scaled out and now well-known poets are hosting this truly transformative joint-publishing program. That’s all good – but how does that fit on my resume? Would you include it?
So, after 4 years after my wife getting back to work, completing my studies while working at the tech firm, and authoring 5 books, I am currently searching for a full-time roll in the management, ops, HR, L&D and OD space. As mentioned, I’ve applied for around 40 roles with no success so far. As I’ve waited, I have been fortunate enough to gain well paying contracting work in L&D consulting, strategy development, and white paper copywriting, but have been sincerely surprised, amidst one of the lowest unemployment rates in decades, just how challenging it has been to get interviews and integrate all that I am and have learnt – presenting it in resume-speak – while making great efforts to be honest. Surveys have shown more than 75% of people lie on their resumes. I refuse to lie and am beginning to wonder if that’s why I’m not landing roles. If anything, what I am trying to do is work out where the line of under-share to over-share exists!
I know we live in an age where nearly every job vacancy states that the company strives for equity, diversity and inclusion in their hiring ad – but I have had several external recruiters and consultants review my early resumes and advise that I take or modify any religious elements of my resume that say ‘ministry’ ‘chaplain’ ‘church’ ‘healing’ ‘pastor’ ‘therapy’ ‘counselling’ etc. Instead, use terms like ‘non-profit’ and ‘well-being’. They have advised I don’t mention anything in the realm of arts and publishing poetry because that can be seen as flakey. I have been advised to not share that I have been active in raising my kids and intentionally adjusted my career to be in their lives – because, as Annabel Crabb recently reported on, most employers view men actively responding to children’s needs as a weakness (which is why many dads don’t take parental leave). Some have suggested I tone down any mention of empathy or emotional intelligence etc. – because it can be seen as too soft for people seeking management roles – as if EQ and empathy indicate a lack of business rigour! As if I haven’t had to enter incredibly difficult circumstances of letting staff go or performance managing them?! As if research doesn’t continually affirm the importance of strong EQ in leaders?! The world doesn’t need more narcissistic, egotistic or sociopathic leaders, does it?
Well, if you’ve read this far, thank you. Perhaps, like me, you are looking for a new job outside your regular network. Perhaps, you are a potential recruiter / employer who has now decided my story and vulnerability is what you’re after. Feel free to contact me (resume below). Or, perhaps reading my story has deemed me unsuitable for a role at your organisation. You know what? That’s totally OK with me.
It’s OK with me because several years ago my personal view on certain things became too progressive for some the conservative Christian organisations and churches I once served and I was no longer welcome. (Read: Being LGBTQ+ affirming, being open with my doubts, speaking out against religious trauma, swearing too often, holding to differing theological beliefs.). I had decided that I was not willing to bring a filtered-down, opinion-controlled part of me into that workplace/industry… and I still hold to that, because that says as much about your workplace culture, as it does about my personal sense of integrity.
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