Many of us are looking for work. Some may have lost jobs that were part of our second career or an important day job. Others still have our main source of income, but are faced with bills or new expenses that come with the return to public space and offline work. Many of us simply need some supplemental income to fund a vacation or allow us to enjoy life again. Regardless of your level of need and your reason for seeking additional income, you are probably looking for it with some of those things “everybody” knows in mind. But there are a few pieces of such conventional wisdom that no longer hold true.
If you can stick it out for a year at an entry-level, low-wage service job you hate, better offers will come your way.
It is no secret that entry-level customer service work is usually not pleasant. You have to be on your feet for hours at a time, the tasks are often boring, and everyone from the customers to upper management gets away with treating you like dirt. And we haven’t even gotten started on the paycheck.
In the past, if you took one of these jobs anyway, and you could put up with that type of work environment for about a year, that sent a strong signal to employers hiring for better jobs. It let them know you were responsible, reliable, willing and able to follow directions, and able to cope with people on their worst behavior. Today, experience in entry level fast food, retail, or other service jobs seems to send the message that this is the only type of work you are suited to do.
This is not to suggest you should never do this type of work. If you need a paycheck, any paycheck, as soon as possible, and a fast food restaurant offers you a job, take the job. If you just need some extra cash, and you have the opportunity to wait tables at your cousin’s restaurant on the weekends to earn some, do it. Just don’t count on this type of work as a steppingstone to something better outside of the job’s field.
Always show up for an interview in professional business attire.
Wearing a suit, with a tie for men, is standard professional business attire. In the past, it was standard job interview attire. Today, this is not always the case.If you are interviewing for a job that has a professional business attire dress code, or a more conservative business casual dress code, a suit and tie, or the women’s equivalent, is still appropriate for your job interview.
In very casual workplaces, showing up in professional business attire will only make you seem out of touch with the workplace culture and unprepared for the job. You still need to dress professionally. If everyone who has the job you’re applying for wears neat khakis, oxford shirts, polo shirts, and loafers, wear something similar. If the staff wears jeans, tennis shoes, and tee shirts in the company colors at all levels, wear neat, dark wash or dark colored jeans and a clean, solid colored oxford shirt or tee shirt, not stained cutoffs and a ratty shirt with a beer logo. But you don’t need to wear a suit.
An interviewer showing you around means you got the job.
We used to think we could tell whether or not we got the job at the end of the interview. If the interviewer ended the meeting with a clipped, “Thank you for your time,” or “We appreciate you coming in,” keep looking, because they’re not interested. A relaxed, friendly demeanor and phrases like “It was nice to get to know you” or “We’ll be in touch,” were neutral. It might mean you got the job, or it might not. They could just as easily mean you seem cool but unsuited for the work being offered, or that you’d be getting a rejection letter soon. But if they showed you your future desk, took you into the break room and showed you where you could keep your coffee cup and fix your morning beverage, and made sure you knew where the restrooms were located, you were hired.
Some workplaces do reserve introductions to the whole staff, tours, and non-work details like where employees like to sit on their coffee breaks for people they intend to hire. Others do this as part of the screening process. They want to give other staff members the opportunity to form an impression of you and give their input, or to see how you behave in a situation you could not possibly have rehearsed for, as you can for the typical questions in the job interview itself.
Being asked a lot of detailed questions about what you would do in a typical day or for a specific project is a great sign that you got the job.
This one is more of a recently corrected long-term misconception than something that changed. It has always been tempting to assume you got the job when the interview is going particularly well, and being asked for detailed information and ideas is going to make you feel like things are going well.
It can be easy to forget that someone who was planning to hire you would have numerous, continuous opportunities to ask you these same questions. If they’re asking you for detailed ideas about the job during the interview, this likely means they have no intention of hiring you, and are just looking to collect ideas from as many sources as they can.
There is a lot of job hunting wisdom that remains true. Learning about the company before the interview, preparing answers to common interview questions, getting there on time and arriving alone, and putting away anything distracting, including your phone, while talking to the hiring manager will always be good practices. Other conventional wisdom may have been true in the past, or is true for certain industries, but could have a detrimental effect on your own search for work.