Like any graduate student I was at the top of my world, the day I completed my four year program in Chemical Engineering. After all the learnings and hardships from the years gone by and reaching the summit of achievement, I felt like a king and waited to take on my next big challenge-the world. I was mighty excited as I felt myself to be extremely skilled and qualified to do fantabulously well in the next big chapter of my life – a job.
Since my parents lived in Abu Dhabi, I didn’t bother to spend time looking for a job in India. Also apart from IT based jobs, there were very few jobs that came calling in my speciality-Chemical Engineering. Considering my engineering background it made sense for me to look for a job in Abu Dhabi as it is an oil rich province with several upstream and downstream processes. I thought it would be easy for me to find a job and I arrived in Abu Dhabi without much preparation just before the advent of summer.
In those days, Internet was just getting mainstream and hence most of the job postings appeared in the newspapers. I began earnestly applying for jobs that I found in the classified section of the local newspaper. Very quickly I found out that most of the plum chemical engineering jobs were in the national oil companies and they were ready to hire me on any given day provided I had ‘experience’. The word ‘experience’ is a dreadful word to any fresher looking for a job anywhere in this world. For the next six months I kept hearing this word again and again and came to the conclusion that I should have done a degree in ‘experience’ and not in Chemical Engineering.
The private sector of Abu Dhabi that worked in oil and gas were service providers with a majority of employees as hardcore salesmen. I was able to land a few interviews in many of these sales companies but I had to turn them down as had I taken the offer, I would have to bid adieu to all the technical knowledge that I painstakingly acquired in the past four years.
As months passed by, I began to grow desperate. I wasn’t able to land any good job. adding insult to injury it was the year when the oil price touched record highs and there were expansion or maintenance projects in the entire oil and gas sector of the Middle East. I realized that my resume which was basically an achievement based resume did not make any sense since I did not have the requisite experience for the position that I was applying. I then decided to redraft my entire resume to one where my skills gained prominence.
Next I decided to knock on doorsteps of as many oil services companies with print copies of my modified resume. With a keen attention to my presentation, I tirelessly walked towards many companies and did the honours. Incidentally it was in one of those companies that I landed my first job months later due to other reasons as will be explained later in this post. The next strategy was to ‘fax bomb’ all the companies with my resumes and some of the prestigious ones with both my resume and cover letter attached. Both the endeavours failed miserably. I did feel desperate, but I was not willing to give up.
Networking was the next thing I employed. In my community church, among our family friends, I made it a point to discuss about employment options in their companies. Many of them helped me with timely advice and forwarded my resume within their companies and to their contacts working in other companies. Most of the efforts were unsuccessful, but I kept hope and did my follow-ups.
Eight months later I received the call that would finally launch my career. It was for an oilfield services company that was looking for a Chemical Engineer to work both in onshore and offshore projects for their oil recovery equipments. One of the senior managers in that company on his visit to a subsidiary of my dad’s company remarked during a casual talk that his company was looking for a chemical engineer. One of my dad’s friend with whom I conversed about my job search, quickly reminisced and provided him with my resume. He took the resume to his company and I secured my interview.
During my first interview I realized how my education was so inadequate to the job that I was embarking upon and the only thing that helped me ace that interview was the skills that I cultivated during my education and job search period. I resolved to work hard even for a very low paycheque because I needed experience. As I made my way out following a successful interview, I noticed a person standing in the reception and dropping his resume to receptionist asking for a job. As he turned around, the receptionist threw it into the bin.
Some of the main lessons that I learnt from my experience is as follows:
- Finding a job is like trying to catch a butterfly. You need to be tenacious, focussed and remember never to give up.
- Education is good as long as you can show it as a skill and not as an accreditation. More the skills, the merrier your job search would be.
- Timing is very important. One of the main reasons why I had to wait 8 months to get a break was that I started searching for a job just when half of the city was planning to go on summer holidays!!
- Networking is very important in landing a job. If you can network far and wide and sell yourself extensively, you will be able to find your opening. However never forget any of your networking contacts or colleagues. They are your life-long friends.
- Always keep applying to jobs near and far. Be tenacious, focussed and aggressive. Remember all you need is that foot through the door.
- Presentation of your resume and even yourself matters. In today’s world, you do need a vibrant social media profile to complement yourselves. Remember that you are selling a product which coincidentally is you, your life and your dreams.
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