The Dark Side of the Job Hunt
By Tom Watkins
Sunday, 13th March 2022

I think the saying goes something along the lines of, ‘it’s always easier to find a job when you’re in a job’.

I’ve been lucky that for the vast majority of my career, particularly my 12 years in Asia, that was the case for me. As such I was able to navigate quite an eclectic array of industries and along the way meet some really interesting people, some of whom opened doors for me for my next professional challenge.

When my wife and myself decided in 2021 we were going to uproot ourselves, our 2 children and our Hong Kong rescue dog, the mighty ‘Coco’, to sunny old Sydney (a place we hadn’t called home for nearly 16 years) I had hoped the journey to employment would be pretty fluid.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think for one second I would ‘walk’ into a high paying, high profile role with some over the top title. (you know those ones you occasionally see and can’t even fathom let alone pronounce – Marketing Evangelist or Chief Marketing Innovation Experiential Custodian Officer). However, I was quietly confident that with nigh on 20 years of marketing experience whereby I started my career in Sydney, moved to London for several years and then on to Asia that this experience would be embraced slightly more than it perhaps has been.

There are always going to be one or two people who discount the international experience (there have been more than one or two) or indeed the odd person who bangs on about how Asia isn’t ‘creative’ (there has definitely been more than the odd person) and that person who just simply tells you, ‘sorry you don’t have enough Australian experience’ (that ‘one’ person has been a myriad of people by the way).

Yes, it’s incredibly deflating, draining and demotivating. At times it’s actually easier sometimes to just turn the lights off and lock yourself away from the world. I found myself listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ a great deal (I mean it’s an absolute banger of an album to be fair)

I took it upon myself to reach out directly to people via LinkedIn. People who looked and sounded interesting, companies that were appealing to me and some folks that were simply recruiting and I endeavored to prompt them (a little bit of excessive linguistic pressure let’s say) into just meeting me for a coffee. I’m happy to say that most were happy to do this – a kind of pay it forward mentality seemed to be quite thriving. I knew I had to be pro-active, after all my network in Australia was svelte to say the least.

Some people who I met were really helpful, encouraging and gracious with their time – not surprisingly most of these people had also worked overseas at one time or another and at some stage had experienced something similar to what I was going through so empathy prevailed.

Some people I’m sure, in fact I know, were sitting opposite me thinking, ‘why on earth did I agree to meet with this guy?!’ but hey it’s all part of the journey for me – I tend to not get too sidetracked by that stuff – the world is a big place and not everyone is going to gravitate towards you.

A couple of people I met with I connected with brilliantly and they even told me to reach out again asap and get another meeting in the calendar to discuss how we might be able to explore an opportunity perhaps (encouraging stuff I felt) – but when I did reach out it was radio silence, so another follow up was required and still nothing. I guess it’s 2 strikes and out in some scenarios. It was incredibly disappointing and disheartening.

It was actually these moments that were the most challenging – a glimmer of hope, a great rapport, productive conversations and an invitation (by them) to follow up only for things to flatline totally. That being said it was in these moments that it was more apparent to me then than ever that one has to put yourself out there – drop the ego, self-pity, disdain, anger - and just hit it head on.

There are of course recruitment agencies and headhunters and if I’m honest my hit rate with them hasn’t been great (or their hit rate with me wasn’t great – whichever way you look at it I guess). In fact, the overall experience was pretty damn average, some were unfortunately quite painfully discarding (I guess they couldn’t see a quick buck in me or perhaps I just don’t cut it ?). But there are a handful who are really, really excellent and it was these ones who walked, talked and held my hand throughout whatever process I might have been going through during that time and for that I’ll always appreciate them. They know who they are because I’ve told them.

I’m still not employed, although I have picked up a couple of small consultancy projects along the way. To say I’m hungry to get back to work is an understatement of epic proportions. I’m ravenous.

I learnt quickly that you have to be productive with your time – you simply cannot sit around for 8 hours of the day looking for and applying for jobs – it’ll literally drive you to despair. So, when you do allocate time then make it count, be productive and most importantly hold your head up high. You know your ability, your value and your worth and someone soon enough will pounce on it.

There will always be those who might discount your experience or try and take your profile and fit a square peg into a round hole. But one must be resilient, stay humble and stick to your strengths.

Not everyone knows you and not everyone knows what you can bring to the table so be patient. And if all else fails Pink Floyd have a massive back catalogue of albums. It doesn’t always have to be ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’. That’s apparent to me now.

Tom Watkins
Marketing | Brand | Communications | Strategy | Leadership | Podcaster | Property | Retail | Hospitality | Entertainment | Luxury

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