Going through the process of searching for a new job was terrifying and overwhelming, but staying in a job where I was stuck in my comfort zone made me feel even worse. The longer I stayed in my old job, the more demotivated I became and the less confident I felt. Although, I only realised this once I overcame my fear and actually made the leap to start looking for a new job. This is what I learned along the way.
I worked at my previous company for about 7 years and contemplated leaving for a while. This was because the culture had changed a lot over the years and I felt that I wasn’t anywhere near to where I wanted to be in my career. I was apprehensive though, partly due to the unknown, but mostly due to the fact that I was comfortable. I had it good; I was working in a great team, had flexi-hours and got to work from home once a week. But the work wasn’t really what I wanted to do and the longer I stayed, the less confident I became. I felt demotivated and hopeless, which eventually led me to doubt my abilities and even question my choice in career.
Around that time, my husband was listening to a podcast called the Art of Charm and he shared an episode about Imposter Syndrome with me. I realised that this was exactly what I was going through, because I felt like an inadequate and incompetent failure - despite my family and colleagues telling me that I was smart and capable. This was the point when I realised that my feelings were normal and that many people also went through the same thing. The sense of relief that I felt helped me make the decision to start looking for that new job. Don’t get me wrong, I was still terrified but I went ahead with a positive mindset and the thought, ‘Whatever happens, happens".
So I started the journey of changing jobs and transitioning through some key stages that come with that. Within each of these, I learned some really important lessons which I’d like to share.
Finding the right job search channels
The first thing I had to do was find the appropriate channel to use. A friend of mine had a bad experience with a recruiter who, in essence, tried to force him to take a job that he didn’t want. So I was quite apprehensive about going through that channel. I had come across a few adverts about OfferZen on social media and was intrigued because they seemed different to usual recruitment agencies.
One of the things I struggled with initially was representing myself and my wants clearly, but with OfferZen, I got a personal talent advisor to help set up my profile and, once I was ready, my profile went live. This aspect of having a personal talent adviser really did help calm the nerves and made the process a whole lot less stressful by making me feel more confident and positive.
After that came the best part… The companies applied to me! They sent me interview requests and then I got to deal with them directly. No recruiters! Which meant that I could avoid that same bad experience that my friend had to go through. Since I was nervous about making the right choice, working with someone who understood what I needed meant that I got personal tips to deal directly with the companies.
While it took me a week or two to build up the courage to actually register, I realised that I was really overthinking it and should’ve done it much sooner. The whole process wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head, plus OfferZen sent me some awesome swag. I mean, everyone needs a badass unicorn shirt in their life!
Lesson learnt: Don’t overthink it, just jump right in and take it as it comes.
Deciding what I want from a job
I had to reassess what I wanted going forward in my career and what kind of job I was looking for, because I didn’t want to get stuck doing work that I wasn’t passionate about. I had been a back-end developer for most of my career and wanted to move into full-stack development, including mobile development. After thinking about it, I realised this because:
- I wanted to learn about the front-end and be able to code it myself so that I could better understand it.
- Mobile development is constantly growing and filled with so much innovation, so I thought that it would really be fun to experience.
So, when setting up my profile, I added that and decided to accept interviews with those interests in mind. This would help me make sure that I was on the right track for the career I wanted.
I also started gauging what I wanted in a company as well as the things that I wanted to avoid. I decided that my job had to fit into my lifestyle and not the other way around. At the end of the day, a job is just a job, but family and friends are what makes life worth living. I wanted to make sure that I can spend more time with them and less time working.
I wanted a company that:
- Had a structured environment with flexi-hours and the opportunity to work remotely.
- Valued their employees and strived to help them achieve a healthy work/life balance.
- Wasn’t a corporate because I needed a change and wanted to avoid that kind of environment.
I didn’t want to waste my time, or the company’s time and resources, if i knew it was a position that I wasn’t interested in. So, I used these insights to help me narrow down the interviews that I chose to accept or decline.
Going through the interview process
Once I accepted the relevant interview requests, I had to face the actual interviews. I was nervous, but my talent adviser helped me feel at ease. He supported me by giving me practical advice on what to do and what to expect every step of the way. During the interview process, I learnt that you don’t have to prep for every imaginable question, for example, most of my initial interviews just ended up being casual conversations. All I needed to know was:
- Who am I?
- What am I capable of?
- What abilities do I have?
Knowing these things meant that the interview went well because I felt prepared, which took away some of the uncertainty. The result was that I felt more comfortable in the interview and not as nervous as I otherwise might have been.
Then came the dreaded technical test. I must admit, I had sleepless nights just thinking about doing technical tests before I even started looking for a job. It was one of the reasons I had put it off for so long, since I worried that I might not be able to actually pass the test. At this stage, I still didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. Once again, my talent advisor came to the rescue with some advice and example questions that I could use to prepare.
Some resources which really helped me at this stage include:
- Codewars: A good site to help practise and prepare for technical tests.
- Career direct: Offers a comprehensive report on your personality traits and possible career paths, with a personal consultant to guide you through the process.
- Medium: Shares many blog posts that can help you level up on technical subjects.
In the end, the technical test that I did was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was a practical, real-world test instead of a theoretical “explain what an interface is” kind of test. Going through this process, I learnt that most companies are more interested in how you solve a problem rather than whether you are a technical guru. Having these problem-solving skills is valuable because it can’t just be picked up so easily. Whereas, you can always use Google to find the correct code syntax or even more about how to do something in a particular language.
Within two weeks, I had found a job at a company that was much closer to home and more in line with what I wanted for my career path. While, I am in the unknown, working on tech that I’ve never worked on before, I am happy because I am able to learn new skills every day. I am much happier with my work and my confidence is growing every day!
Continuously improving myself
Going through this process of finding a better job, I started a journey of self improvement. Conquering the fears of interviews, technical tests and the unknown made me want to continue on with this new found freedom. This includes paying attention to, and constantly improving, the various aspects of my life that are important to me. These include my:
- Mind, body and soul,
- Professional competency, and
- Personal values.
Mind, body and soul
I try to live by the quote “Feel the fear and take action anyway” because I have missed so many opportunities in my life due to being scared of everything that could possibly go wrong. Doing this helps me deal with the things that don’t go according to plan. I am also using this mindset to constantly evaluate my job and how it fits in with my lifestyle to prevent myself from slipping into a rut again.
To help me keep my mind and soul in a motivated and positive place, I found that listening to podcasts and reading books has helped a great deal. To keep my body in a similar, healthy space I also took up Crossfit. It has done wonders for my energy and has also improved the way I feel about my body. Exercise is essential, especially if you sit at your desk the whole day, but don’t exercise for the sake of exercising! Find the type of exercise that you will enjoy doing, because that will be the difference between it being short-lived or long-lasting.
My professional competency
It is important to continuously evaluate your professional abilities because the IT world is constantly changing and it helps to keep up to date with the latest technologies. This will give you the edge when it comes to being a highly-sought-after employee. Udemy is a great source for improving your skills, but the trick is to wait for their specials because they drop the prices of the courses quite low. There are many courses to choose from, but I’ve recommended some in the resources below.
I’ve also started working towards a waste-free lifestyle, because I want to contribute towards saving our planet instead of contributing to its demise. If you are interested in doing the same, but are not sure what to tackle first, Eco bricks are a great way to start! An Ecobrick is made up of a large plastic bottle which is packed full of un-recyclable material like sweet wrappers, balloons, straws and chip packets. I enjoy this because it can greatly reduce the waste that ends up in landfills while also helping the community.
While I haven’t yet reached a point where everything is perfect, I try to keep at it and not give up. It helps to remember that a journey to self-improvement is exactly that, a journey and not a destination. The trick is to keep travelling and not to stop for too long. Take that leap of faith, because who knows what you will find.
Remember: Don’t stay in your comfort zone for too long, it could be your demise!
Podcasts I’d recommend:
Books I’d recommend:
- Dr Caroline Leaf’s “Switch On Your Brain”
- Personally, I like Tim Buchalka’s Java Programming Masterclass for Software Developers. It is very comprehensive and easy to understand.
- I also enjoyed Colt Steele’s The Web Developer Bootcamp course, which is great for beginners.
Other waste-free resources that I would recommend include:
- Waste-Ed’s Facebook page has tips and advice for eco bricking. You can also see what local South Africans are building with their eco bricks.
- Precious plastics is a great resource if you plan on starting a recycling project in your local community. They give you all the information you need to convert your plastic into products that you can sell.
- The documentary A Plastic Ocean is a real eye-opener to how plastic is affecting our oceans and marine life, which in turn affects each of us.
- Faithful to Nature is a local, online store that stocks a whole range of natural, organic products and also promotes waste free living.
Cindy Schönfeldt is currently working as a software developer in Edenvale. She has been a back-end developer, coding in Java, for the majority of her career, but has recently branched into full-stack development. She has has found a new passion for mobile development and is interested in exploring the world of IoT.