How I went from job hunter to hunted
I had to see myself as a product and identify ways to create demand around hiring me
Network: very important when sourcing a new job
After sending out hundreds of copies of my CV to dozens of companies over the last year, I realised that I was getting nowhere because my approach was wrong.
I did everything I was taught to do: I created a list of the top 20 companies I wanted to work for, I customised my CV for each opening, I networked online and offline. I met some fantastic people throughout the process, but nothing got me closer to securing a role, or even a chance to interview. What I had failed to do was ask myself some of the tough and honest questions early on.
My story began in May 2014 when, after 10 years of building a successful career in the Middle East, I decided to move to Silicon Valley to look for opportunities with tech companies.
I wanted to learn and to be part of something big. I knew it would be a challenge to restart my career in a new market, especially one that is densely populated with talent, so I expected the process to take a few months.
As a few months turned into a year and I saw no signs of progress, I reached a point of panic. Something felt wrong.
As a marketer, I decided to reframe the challenge. Instead of thinking as a job applicant, I had to think of myself as a product and identify ways to create demand around hiring me. I applied everything I knew about marketing and storytelling to build a campaign that would show Silicon Valley companies the kind of value I would bring to their teams.
The experiment was a report that I created for Airbnb that highlighted the promise and potential of expanding to the Middle East, a market that I am extremely familiar with and that, until recently, Airbnb had not focused on. I released the report on Twitter and copied Airbnb’s founders and leadership team. Behind the scenes, I also shared it by email with many personal and professional contacts and I encouraged them to share it if they thought that it was interesting.
Within hours of releasing the report, a recruiter from Airbnb contacted me to schedule an interview. Within a few days, I had interviews with many of the area’s top tech companies. And within a few weeks, I had identified an exciting role and have since joined Upwork, an online platform that connects businesses with freelancers.
What I realise in hindsight is probably one of the most important lessons of my career so far. The project highlighted the qualities I wanted to show to recruiters; more importantly, it also addressed one of the main weaknesses they saw in me. In my case, having moved from Jordan to California, I was at a disadvantage. I didn’t have a network of people that I had worked with in the past, people who knew my work and would want to bring me onto their teams.
The company I had co-founded there didn’t have the recognition it enjoyed in the Middle East either. I had only looked at those shortcomings from my perspective until recently. What I had failed to see was that from most recruiters’ perspectives, the market I was coming from was irrelevant.
What the report helped me to do was to show, not tell, my value beyond their doubts. It refocused my perceived weakness into a strength: an international perspective with the promise of understanding and entering new markets.
– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2015. Nina Mufleh is a freelancer growth manager at Upwork, an online talent platform for freelancers, where she works with top freelancers around the world to establish and grow their careers online.
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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