Having started my new full-time job this week, it got me thinking how other people handle the shift from freelance to permanent office gig.
Feel free to offer your insights on the poll below.
Last week was a marathon interview week for me. In fact, it was so intense it seems to have gone by in one big blur of a nanosecond. Long story short I had two job offers on the table and ended up deciding on one of the places. How did I arrive at my decision? Well, it wasn’t incredibly easy but it was a well-informed one that required a plan.
In an effort to help other job-seeking candidates in similar situations, I’ve bulleted out some key criteria to keep in mind when choosing on the right job for you. Heed them wisely. They come with a lot of wisdom and growing pains.
- We Can’t All Be Actors, But We Can All Have Defining Roles: Up until now, I’ve always been the type of person in my professional life that opts for place over role. This place has usually been a smaller company with a start-up vibe that gives a lot of lip service to words like “values” and “people.” The pay is never great in these gigs and the job I end up doing never what I’m promised, but as I’m a writer by trade and usually seek extra-curricular freelance opportunities, I figure I’ll get my creative/mental fix in the form of whatever I do outside of my day job. WRONG. (well, kinda…)
This time I decided to put the premium on the role I would be playing at both companies and assessed both the short term (the day-to-day tasks, deliverables) and long-term (my career trajectory) and it was a no-brainer decision for me. I guess it really depends on where you are in your career. Certain things such as benefits and other corporate perks are also important, but at the end of the day you need to be happy with the work you’re contributing and dare I say, “the difference you’re making” to feel truly fulfilled.
- Straight Talk: If you can avoid going through a 3rd party staffing agency, I would highly recommend it. It’s important to create as direct a line as you can with your future employer. If not, this dynamic can spill into every aspect of your relationship which can only hurt you. Leverage a company’s internal HR when it comes to negotiating for pay, but I would steer clear of going through a 3rd party when you’re negotiating in general. You want to be able to own that relationship and as long as someone else is brokering it, unfortunately, you’ll never have a stake in the opportunity and might lose out big-time.
- Be Open & In And Around “The Box”: I went in for a job interview for a Marketing position last week. Well, I didn’t get it, but I walked out with a spiffy new contact and a potential freelance opportunity that interests me way more than the job I was interviewing for.
- You Can Have it All…You Just Can’t Sleep: I used to think that if I worked full-time I couldn’t do freelance. The reality is that I’m a pretty driven and dedicated day worker and this sometimes flows into night so this can impede my ability to have time left over for freelance/side projects. What I have learned from freelancing in the past few months and working under tight deadlines is that I can spend a weekend working non-stop and pull all-nighters. Will I want to make a career of doing this? Depends on the freelance opportunity and what it might bring me.
- Do Your Due Dilligence: Research the companies you’re interested in working for. Go to their websites and check their “investor relations” section to see their annual reports. These are for public consumption. Do some comparative analytics to see that the company is healthy and not going anywhere anytime soon. Also check the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal and the local papers where the company is located.
So often in my job search I find myself wondering if I should apply to certain gigs based on myriad of reasons (I’ll go into detail below).
Having been out of college for 10 years now and accumulated solid professional experience, my interests have also led me down different corridors. I have a professional writing career, but I’ve also spent a number of years working in marketing for professional services firms and most recently dipped into communications roles. There’s also the nerd in me that’s embraced the web development/technical end of writing online and now has proficiency with HTML, CSS, and some of the other easy-to-learn web languages.
What’s the magical equation that gives me the # of years experience I need or packages my qualifications in a way that presents the best me to employers? In short, how do I brand myself? What jobs do I pursue? And then there’s the most glaring question of all…
WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP?!!!
Before I can answer that question, the one definitive I’ve learned through all the rejection and success in the job hunt is that in the end, the only person you need to bother selling to or convincing is yourself. This statement also begs the question of how do you measure success in your job hunt. ( a future post idea).
But before you can start selling a future employer on why you’re the tastiest treat since Julie’s Empanadas, you need to be certain you’re actually into the job you’re applying for. Below are some helpful tips and common scenarios:
- You see an ad for a job that lists in its criteria of desired or required qualifications a Masters/advanced degree or a certain # of years experience or certain technical proficiency, but you’re concerned you’re lacking in some of these areas.
This happens to me a lot. The key here is turning whatever you’ve deemed your “weakness” into your strengths. Life is a lot like Chess in that way. I used to never apply to jobs which called for over 10 years experience in a certain field or if I didn’t have expertise in some computer program I didn’t want to mislead anyone by submitting my resume. Now I’ve come to realize that it’s so rare to find a job that you’re 100% on board with pursuing that when you do, don’t let those types of things get in the way of you going after it. Let them do the weeding. That’s what recruiters are for. Besides, more often than not, that assembled list is an employer’s “wish list” of quals. Keep that in mind and even if they’ve written a disclaimer on the job ad that they won’t contact candidates who don’t meet their wish list, you do your thang.
- You see a job ad that sorta interests you, but you’re not really digging it, but you really need to pay the bills and find something steady. Do you apply anyways? Similarly, you see a job that you’re certainly qualified for in an industry you have experience in, but aren’t all that into, do you go back?
This one is a tough question for anyone to answer outside of you. I’ve taken jobs when I’ve really needed moola that didn’t interest me so much and been pleasantly surprised. I’ve usually gone the route of temping so that I can take my time more and opt to be more selective in my search, but there’s really no right answer. Anything that brings in a paycheck and brings you a certain level of fulfillment is fair game. When I do see jobs in my search that I feel qualified for but if I’m not really dying to go back into that line of work, I think twice about applying for those jobs and usually decide against it. For me, there’s a reason I moved on. Conversely, if it’s a job that’s more in line with where I am presently in my career within an experience industry, I may apply based on the company and cultural fit.
- Applying for jobs is a full-time job. It sucks up so much of your time and isn’t all that effective in terms of the output you get.
I hate sounding so cliche here, but getting responses from ads you’ve applied to is really luck. It’s also a bit of a numbers game. (ugh, I’m killing myself here!) A friend of mine developed an amazing computer application, Findbits, that saves you the time of applying to a number of jobs. It scours Craigslist for job openings based on keywords you’ve entered and sends out your resume and/or generic cover letter to those jobs. While you might get some undesired responses, your rate of receiving responses from gigs you might actually be interested also goes up. You can also filter based on location, company, etc (in case you don’t want to reapply to the same ad you already applied for or your former employer puts up an ad for the job you just vacated!).
- You see your dream job, but the payscale is lower than you’re worth or we’re shooting for.
I’m not the first person to address this question, but it’s one I come up against a lot. I guess this one depends on your finances, but generally don’t sacrifice too much on the pay. Your ideal job should also be in the ballpark of your ideal salary. Money is important. You want to be able to live comfortably without feeling your lack of pay is seeping into both your professional and personal life. Don’t be naive on this one. Negotiate!