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Why do people already with jobs get more job offers while I’m desperately looking for a job and I get none?

Why do people already with jobs get more job offers while I’m desperately looking for a job and I get none?

For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Matthew 25:29

The simplified version of the above Matthew effect is, “rich get richer and poor get poorer” but what it actually means is, for someone who already has something in abundance, more of it will be given and for those who doesn’t have much, even the little they have would be taken away. This is often used in economics to explain the cumulative advantage of economic capital.

But when I look at the Swedish job market, I always tend to think this is true. For those who already have high paying jobs, increasingly higher paid jobs are presented, while those who struggle to find a decent job are trapped in unpaid internships and rejections.

Why is this?

Because a person in the high-paying position gets access to the best of network, validation, brand and opportunity to take responsibility, practice and upgrade their skills everyday thereby moving up the spiral, while those who are unemployed surround ourselves with job ads, job-seekers and deafening silence of rejection, thereby spiralling downwards every day increasing our gap in career.

How do we break this chain reaction if we are spiralling downwards?

The key difference in behaviour between a person who’s currently employed and a person who’s unemployed is, the employed person is making decisions for the long-term while the unemployed is making decisions for the short-term.

That is natural. When our next month’s rent or next meal is under threat and we are desperately looking for a job, it is hard to think long-term. That’s the reason why most of us who are desperately looking for jobs send 1000s of job applications every month even after realising that the first 100 didn’t produce a positive result we expected.

We would never do that when we are in our most stable and strategic mind-set. But we are not. We are desperate and we are acting out of impulse to quickly wiggle us out of this unemployment quicksand. And that’s a problem.

The only way to break this cycle that spiralling downwards is thinking long-term. But how do we think long-term when we are desperate? Isn’t it paradoxical?

The only way to not drown is to relax

Long time ago, when I first tried to learn swimming, I realised something interesting and that is, as soon as I jump into water I get scared that I’m going to drown and so instinctively I tighten my body, making me drop like a stone. My trainer would scream me to relax but as an ape, I have always lived in land and in this terrain when there is a threat, I tighten my body to fight or flight. Hence, my instinct and reflex kick-in to do the same in water which works opposite in that terrain thereby killing me.

Hence, when we learn to swim, we learn to relax under threat of drowning to float in water. Similarly, however paradoxical and difficult it may sound, if you are unemployed, you need to learn to relax and think long-term.

Sending 100s of applications hoping if luck turns our side, we will get a job, is a wish not a strategy.

An ideal day must always end with us gaining something that we didn’t have or know in the morning when the day started. But when we are unemployed, an average day always end worse than where it began because all we learnt is another 50 companies didn’t want us.

So, what are some of the things we can do to change our game when we’re unemployed?

Step 1: Your Identity — Choose wisely

What is your identity? Unemployed?!

Identifying yourself as an “unemployed” may sound natural and logical but it may not be productive. Because the word unemployed literally means “not employed”. It is rather a temporary situation and so need not be taken as your identity. And another challenge with identifying yourself as unemployed is that you might have to tag a reason on why you’re not employed. This is hard.

If your reason is,

  • Sweden is discriminatory and I’m rejected based on bias OR
  • I don’t have a network or a friend to refer me for interviews OR
  • My industry is conservative and they don’t want to let me in

You are DOOMED! I’m not saying the above statements are objectively true or false. But subjectively, if you choose the above statements as your version of truth, then you are doomed because then you have become a “victim” of a social problem. And being a victim is never a healthy place to grow.

So, saying there are social factors that are making the job-seeking game tough is one thing, but saying we are victims of a social problem, is a totally different thing. Because in the first case, you have a game to play even though the level is made tough but in the latter all you can do is sit and complain because you have been victimized of a macro-problem.

To repeat myself, I’m not here to claim there is no bias or systematic discrimination. There definitely is. But choosing it as your truth when you are unemployed hinders your job search and your openness to opportunities.

Best identities are always related to skill or craft. Identify yourself as a marketer, sales person, designer, developer, growth hacker, data scientist, administrator or any of the million skills you’d like to work with in your job.

Instead of identifying yourself looking for interview, looking for job, asking for reference and asking for opportunity, turn the table and see yourself as a giver or contributor with your skills.

Now, write down 10 things you can do with your skills that adds value to your industry or market.

  1. I can build a responsive website within 8 hours.
  2. I can source 50 potential leads for sales within 4 hours.
  3. I can deliver a preliminary design for your company logo within 2 hours.

Step 2: Find, how needed are your skills?

Are the skills you are willing to contribute needed in the market? Now this is a tough question that most of us are scared to ask ourselves or do a market research.

List down top 3 skills that you have. Say,

  • Social media marketing, web design, google analytics
  • UX/UI design, photoshop, inDesign
  • Html, CSS, JavaScript

Now try to search it in LinkedIn Jobs (for example) and see how many jobs are returned that match your skillsets. If the number of jobs with exact matches is high, then there is considerable need in the market. If not, the market need of your skillsets is low.

During this exercise also write down all the associated skills that are in the requirements of these jobs that you currently miss and add them to your skill-to-learn list.

Now repeat searching your top 3 skills again in LinkedIn but this time look at the people who have these skills and are working in companies in the role of your dream. Try to study their profile in depth.

What are their academic degrees? Where did they get their first job? How has their job trajectory been? How do they describe their job?

Anything and everything that we can learn from their profiles is good for us. Now, feel free to add the skills from their profiles that we miss, into our skill-to-learn list.

End of this step, we’ll know the market need of our current skills along with the list of skills that we are missing that other professionals within our skill niche have today.

In the list of skills that we miss, there could be skills that would take years to learn (like Swedish language for instance if you’re a foreigner). But the key here is, intent and progress. Instead of waiting for an English-speaking job, taking the effort and making ourselves better every week in Swedish is a much better attitude to display to our employers.

Step 3: How good are we in our skills?

From 1 to 10 with 10 being a pro and 1 being absolute beginner, how good are we in the skill list needed for our dream job?

This another tough question because it is hard to be critical of our own strengths and sometimes accept that we are not as good as we think we are in certain areas. But this is the most critical step in improvement.

Here we can start listing all the skills needed for our target job and beside them rate out of 10 how good we are in each of them. Also, as we enter our rating, it would be good to tag all the projects, work experience, certifications and educational courses beside it to validate our rating for ourselves.

Once this is done, we would have a clear picture of our current skill status and now we can aim for a newer rating end of next week and how many projects or online courses we need to complete to reach the new skill rating we plan to achieve.

The goal is not even for a week to go by without us working on improving our key skill areas.

Step 4: Stop following and start leading your community

It is time to lead your skill community because you have the time and aspiration. How do we lead a skill community when we can’t find a job? Well, technically finding a job and leading a community are two different things.

Till now you were not able to lead because you identified yourself as an unemployed job-seeker looking for a job. But now that we have revised our identity to our skill area, you’re now a “skilled” person looking to help your skill community.

There are so many ways to lead a skill community or start an initiative. If you’re in a big city, the easiest way is to take the organizing role in your “skill” meetup group community. If you go to meetup.com and search for any skill area, there’s a high possibility that you would find a meetup related to your skill interest.

Book a lunch with the organizers and join them in organizing the next meetup event for your skill area.

If you’re in a place where there are not many meetup groups available, you can either start one if you think there are enough people within your skill niche looking for a community or create an online group (in LinkedIn or Facebook) and try to unite people within your skill area for a good discussion, industry updates, tool reviews, new trends or anything that is interesting for your skill community.

This is easier said than done. Because leading a skill community or organizing a meetup group event is not that easy or straight forward and when you’re struggling for a living or a basic survival, this might sound unrealistic. But this is exactly where I’d like to recall the analogy of the needing to “relax” when you’re drowning.

This is the key differentiator amongst leaders and followers. You are able to see long term and be generous even if your survival is under threat.

Step 5: Find a mentor

This is an incredibly important step. The reason I added this as a last step is because, if you don’t see yourself as bigger than a job-seeker, the first question you’d ask your mentor is, “can you give me a job?” and that may not be an ideal question for a mentor.

Within your professional area of interest, your mentor should be a person who can guide you in to understanding the right priorities, identifying pitfalls and giving you a wholesome perspective on your career. You can also choose to have a personal mentor who can help you with social integration, stability and support.

But with regard to your skill area, having a mentor who is an expert is invaluable. Because they’re a bundle of great experience, exposure, mistakes and experimentations. There’s no quickest way to learn than from a person who’s been through all that within your skill or industry niche.

That’s it. I’m not recommending to stop applying for jobs. But rather plan a routine that increases your probability of getting a job on all fronts. If you’re spending,

  • 20% of your day to apply for jobs,
  • 5% of your day, to ensure you are searchable online in LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster and other job boards.
  • 25% to learn, update and upgrade your skill areas,
  • 25% to build a skill community/ lead an initiative/ building your network and
  • 25% for a healthy diet, exercise and friends.

Set specific goals in each of the above area and you will soon prove that you are an invaluable asset to your industry. Recalling the Matthew effect that I quoted in the beginning, the more responsibility you take, the more responsibility will be given unto you.

I wish you all the very best in your job search.

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