Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On job hunting

With Japan still in the blue for me, it's time to consider other options. At any rate I meant to start looking for jobs towards the middle of my stay in Tokyo, and we are approaching that "deadline" even with me not being in the country at the moment. So, I'm updating my resume, trying to check out listings, searching the web and talking to friends and family about potential places to start looking.

I've also been thinking about job applications and what (hopefully) comes after the application – the interview. One of the things you will often be asked in an interview is to list three good and bad sides about yourself.

Let’s start with the bad. The worst answer of all is that you have no bad sides. This only comes off as arrogant and it reveals a lack of self-insight (which is a bad side). Instead, it is common for interviewees to try to pick bad sides that are possible to work on, or sides that also can be advantages. At the same time, it is important to be honest. Don’t say your worst side is your impatience just because you’ve heard this can translate to “getting things done”. And don’t say “I can never say no” unless it is absolutely true – chances are the interviewers will have heard both of those before.

I tried to think about my actual worst sides – at least those who affect work. Because some of my bad sides don’t affect my work – I can be terribly messy at home, but I’m far more organized at work, for instance. One problem I have encountered with my thesis and in my work life is a double-edged sword: I can (have had to, in fact) work independently, but I far prefer working in a team, getting feedback, having someone that depends on me. That is the best way I can employ my potential;  I perform better when I am not making all the decisions myself.

It is definitely a disadvantage because many job listings specifically mention “the ability to work independently” as one thing they are looking for. At the same time, I have shown that I can work independently, for instance by finishing my studies. In other words; this weakness of mine is something I consciously try to work on. Also, the fact that I prefer feedback suggests that I am a team player – which most employers value in their employees.

The bad sides were difficult, but ironically it was even harder to list my good sides. My work ethics, my loyalty, the qualities and abilities I have acquired through my education and experience – how to determine which ones are more attractive for the job? When applying for the job in Japan, I decided to go for my ability to adapt to new environments. The fact that I settle quickly, am a fast and eager learner and that I generally have a positive outlook were among the qualities that made me suitable for that position. For other jobs, I might rate other qualities higher. 

As a side effect of this exercise, however, I learned something about myself. It felt good to say something nice about myself. I gave myself a compliment, and I liked it. Thus, I have a challenge for you: skip the bad sides for today, but think through what your good sides are. Try to come up with at least three. If you want, post them in the comments section. Don’t be shy – it will feel good J


sue said...

YAY! That's such a hard thing to learn to do honestly. You've nailed it! But I have to agree, it feels like bragging or blowing your own trumpet. If I could, I'd do this in tiny pale lettering...mumblemumblemumble (it's SO much easier to be on the other side) I'm good at working with people and getting them to find positive things in themselves. 2. I like working on resumes and key selection criteria and 3, hmm, something not work related...I'm getting better at this blogging thing. Should I post this? ditherdither Sue@JumpingAground (Alliteration & drabbles)
Sue@traverselife(Workplace bullying)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Most excellent post, it's going to take some time to get over what you went through, I do hope a job comes along that will suit your wonderful capabilities.


Cruella Collett said...

Sue - I'm so glad you decided to reply to my challenge. It's scary doing that, so you're brave (another compliment, yay!), and I'd also like to add that you're an extraordinarily kind and caring person. That's a whole heap of good sides right there :)

Yvonne - if you're not going to list your good sides, then let me. First of all, you're such a sweet and caring person; probably the most committed blog visitor out there. Also, your write such lovely poems :)

Jan Morrison said...

Yep, that works - when I've worked in teams that meet on a regular basis, the rule that I imposed was that we go around the circle and say what worked well for us in the last session - most work teams start with the problems and wonder why they run out of gas. 3 things I like about myself are:
1. I'm kind.
2. I'm funny.
3. I'm awake!
Jan Morrison

Áine Tierney said...

It is so tough to list good points - we're all so much comfortable reeling off the negative. Hoping, sometimes, I'm sure, to be refuted by friends. Some of my pluses would be that I'm interested in other people; I'm good humoured; and I can get very excited about and engaged in what I'm doing.

David L Macaulay said...

ugh job interviews - don't you just hate them - well good luck with it, anyhow

ViolaNut said...

Yeah, I clearly need to be hunting too, but indeed, all I can see right now is the negatives, at least as relates to so-called "normal" employment. Bosses generally don't like to hear "just let me do it my way and it'll be fine". :-P You, on the other hand, should have employers fighting for you 'cause you're awesome. :-)

Anonymous said...

WIsh you luck with your hunt...I've been freelancing for so long, I wouldn't know how any more. Great to meet you via A-Z!

Cruella Collett said...

Jan - very good, you come well prepared :) Those are definitely great qualities, and you could add excellent writer, photographer and superb friend. Just sayin'

Áine - those are excellent points. May I also add that you also have a knack with words? I only recently discovered it through this challenge, but I'm really glad I did, as your posts always leave me thinking or smiling (or both).

David - I do hate them. Well, not the interviews per se (I've only ever had one, actually, and that went pretty well), but the whole process. Blergh!
And what's with not listing your good sides, eh? Then I have to supply a few, such as your incredible wittiness displayed on your blog, and a talent for making history interesting. Trust me, as a historian, I know exactly how challenging that can be!

Leanne - pfft - you're awesome! I can't list them all (because it would require more than a blog post), but let me start with the fact that you're a great friend, a talented musician/writer/knitter/encyclopedia/linguist/book catalog/teacher/I-could-go-on-forever, and that you despite challenges have managed to gain (at super-speed) education, you successfully juggle several jobs, you have traveled, you speak several languages... I actually think your resume probably ought blush for all your accomplishments!

Damyanti - thank you! I notice you didn't list your good sides either (guess you don't have to, eh, being a freelance writer and thus your own boss). It's great meeting you too, though, and I'm looking forward to further exploring both your blogs (I didn't realize you had two).

RosieC said...

Great idea. I have a terribly hectic day ahead. I'm going to try and focus on the positives of it. Thanks :)

East for Green Eyes

Marjorie said...

Hmmm Say something good about myself?

1. I'm creative
2. I'm genuine
3. I'm willing to make friends

I don't know if those would work for a job, but they are three nice things about me anyway.

Michael Offutt said...

Best of luck to you on your job search. I would send you a chain letter that says you will definitely realize all your dreams but to do so, you would have to pass it on to twenty other people...only I know you hate chain letters so no soup for you.

Kelly said...

I wish you well in your search for a job!!

I bet I could easily come up with three bad qualities, but since you asked for the good....

1. I'm organized
2. I'm loyal
3. I'm a good listener and follow instruction well

I realized after posting yesterday's comment that I think I gave the wrong date for the great flu epidemic! Hey, I'm not an historian. I'll leave that to you and my daughter. :)

Liza said...

As a professional interviewer for over 20 years, I never asked about strengths and weaknesses...that was way to subjective! Instead I asked things like: "What was your most significant accomplishment in your last position and why?" Or, "What was the most challenging obstacle you overcame at ABC Company," or "What was the one thing you disliked the most about working at ABC?" It's a better interview when the interviewer asks questions based on real life experiences (behavoral interviewing). Be prepared for some of these types of questions and good luck in your job search.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We're our own worst critic, right? Crap, um... I'm organized. I'm a perfectionist. Wait, that's probably not a plus...

February Grace said...

I'd much rather say three things I admire in you (in no particular order here...)

1.You aren't afraid to have an opinion and put it out there- and you know how to do it gracefully, with humor and kindness.

2. You're adventurous- traveling as you have, living in other places, it's inspirational.

3. You have a goodness in your heart that just comes though in everything you say. That's something that can't be faked- it either is or it isn't inside someone, and it definitely exists in you :~)


Cruella Collett said...

Rosie - that is a good quality right there: being able to see the positive in a hectic day.

Marjorie - those are definitely nice (and true) things about you, and depending on the job they can all be very valuable qualities. In addition you're a great mom, a great photographer, and you have understood the very important difference between agreeing with someone and respecting them.

Michael - I definitely appreciate not being sent chain letters! I you did send me one, though, I hope it would be one where you'd explain me technical doopidoodats in understandable terms, because that is your superpower!

Kelly - finding bad qualities in me isn't hard, but finding bad ones that don't sound too bad.. And I like your choice of good qualities. It shows great self-insight. Plus, you have an open mind and are always very supportive. Also very good qualities :)

Liza - oh, thank you! Excellent advice! I suppose the "at hand" good qualities of yours, then, would be that you're generous (sharing these tips with me), and you have an eye for details (as you're absolutely right - those questions are variations of the ones I asked, but more specific and with a crucial difference that make them less subjective)

Alex - I think being a perfectionist definitely can be a plus! It depends how well you handle the occasions it's not humanly possible to make it perfect. By the way, you should also add "great leadership" to your resume, since you're proving time and time again through blogging what a great leader you are! You're keeping us all in check, being a superb host, but still managing to keep it personal when visiting blogs.

Bru - so NOW I'm blushing. Thank you so much for your kind words! And don't think you're getting away from this - I think it's my duty to pay everyone who cares to comment here today (erm.. yesterday...) a compliment. Of all the many things I admire about you I think your honesty, and bravery in expressing it, is the one I mostly adore (I guess that was two..).

And let me add that I think this has been a nice experiment. I really hope that forcing you all to think through your (many) great qualities made you feel a little better about yourself, just like me :)

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