On the road to becoming a job search expert, here are some job search mistakes that I've made along the way.
Not knowing how to negotiate job offers
In 1999, I interviewed for the position of Web Developer at what would become Amazon.fr, Amazon.com's French website.
After a few rounds of interviewing and a test of my HTML skills, I was back at the table sitting across from the head of HR as she made me an offer to join the team of people who would go on to build their new website.
Since I didn't yet have a European (Schengen zone) work visa – Amazon would need to formally sponsor my visa application for that – the offer wasn't an actual contract, more like the outlines of one.
I was unimpressed.
Like most people, especially someone who was interviewing for their first ever full-time job, my initial focus was only on money. The number thrown out at me was a decent salary for an entry-level developer but I already had a standing offer with another company that was 5% higher.
“I'd like 5% more,” I told her.
“We can't give you any more, because…”
Wait for it…
“While you have a Bachelor's degree, one of your future team members has a Master's degree and will be paid the same amount. It wouldn't be fair to pay you more than her. That's how it is in France.”
What she was saying made no sense to me but I simply didn't know how to respond to it. Actually, a better response would have been to tell me – if true – that all team members of equal responsibility would also get equal pay. That I would have understood, even if I didn't really care. I just wanted the most I could get.
On top of my lack of response, I had already decided that I wanted the Amazon job more than the 5% higher-paying one. So I fell for it and eventually signed with them at the proposed pay.
And the team member with a Master's degree? She didn't last 3 months in the job.
- Know the relevant laws and culture of the country where you're seeking work
- Research all companies you interview with (at the very least)
- Write & prioritize a list of everything a company can offer you in salary & compensation
- Learn how to negotiate for your compensation
In August 2001, I resigned from Amazon to leave France and move back to Israel after being away for 2 years.
My timing could not have been worse.
My plan was to take 6 months off to decompress and then start my first real Israeli job search. Coming off my success at Amazon, I expected that it would take only 1-2 months to find a good job since people would be impressed with a hotshot from the e-commerce powerhouse that Amazon was at the time.
It didn't work out that way.
After only 3 months of relaxation – mostly reading in the sun – I decided that I'd had enough and was ready to go back to work.
I updated my resume, translated it to Hebrew and began looking for jobs and companies that I wanted to work for.
The first obstacle appeared right away; there just weren't too many big Israeli e-commerce companies that could appreciate my skill set. Oh sure, people were impressed with my Amazon accomplishments but they couldn't see where to fit me in their (or their clients') own organizations. And I didn't know how to reposition myself to become more attractive to other companies.
My next obstacle was a far more critical one- the bursting of the dot-com Bubble. This was November 2001. High tech companies were collapsing all around the world but especially in the meccas of Silicon Valley and Israel. The few companies left standing were the ones who tightened their budgets, laid off staff and stopped hiring.
Wherever I looked there seemed to be no more jobs available, even after I opened myself up to relocation anywhere in the country. Nothing.
I did eventually get some job offers but the best one involved moving back to France, which is what I did in September 2002.
Looking back now, there were so many things I did wrong during that job search, it's almost laughable, as if the job offers came not because of my efforts but despite my efforts. If I had known more about how to job search, I almost certainly would have found at least a decent job, even in those hard times.
- Have a good grasp of your target industry/location/companies before making related decisions.
- Be realistic when making estimates, get second opinions, track & adjust as necessary.
- Prepare yourself to adapt so as to increase your odds of reaching your job search goals.
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