Finding a job in Chile – Take 2

mommy_watch_this_medI have mad respect for those moms that choose to stay home with their kids. I’m about six weeks into my unemployment and being at home with little human is a job that requires some tough skin. After about two hours with her inside I need to set her free or she turns into a Tasmanian devil that just rips through our apartment, leaving remnants of what used to be a cozy place to live. Where does all this energy come from, I ask you?

In any case, it’s not so bad. She’s mine and when I think back to the reasons why I actively chose to be in this unemployment scenario, even on the worst days I sit back and think “would I take it all back just to be working there again?” Then I immediately find myself in my “ooooom” place and realize that the best decisions have already been made.

BUT (of course there’s a but … hello – don’t you know me at all by now?)

There are women who choose to be stay-at-home moms (or as I like to say, moms who work inside the home) and there are moms who choose to be moms and work jobs outside the home. I’m one of those moms. See, my career has always been part of who I am and how I project myself. I worked to put myself through college, then did a post-grad degree in a totally different country (NO EASY FEAT) and in between all that, worked my ass off to do the best I could in each and every company I’ve ever had the privilege to belong to. My identity is very linked to who I work for, what I do and what I’ve accomplished in that part of my life. No, it’s no my entire identity, but it’s a good part of who I am and I like that. After all, how can I justify working so hard for something only to regard it as a necessary evil?

So you can understand why I’m about to go apeshit on the fact that I’ve been unemployed this long!

In my head (obviously) I consider the appropriate amount of time to be unemployed to be three weeks. After that you begin to get antsy and it really does a number on your self worth. Finding a job in Chile isn’t easy. This is something I mentioned a few years ago but wanted to write a blog entry about this because things have changed SO MUCH in the past few years! Don’t get too excited because the psychological tests are still a headhunter’s (or HR Manager’s) favorite tool, though I’ve noticed that in the past few years the weight these carry on determining if you’ll be a fit for a certain position has lessened. Kind of like when colleges stopped focusing so much on your grades and SAT scores for admission and started wondering what else you were about. See, they matter, but not as much as they once did.

There are a couple of standard go-to options for job searches here in Chile. The two main sites are Trabajando.cl and Laborum.cl. LinkedIn has also turned out to be a good resource for job postings though they tend to be jobs that require at least 2-3 years of work experience. Also, something I realize now that I didn’t know then is how prevalent headhunters have become for mid-to-senior positions. Most of my experience with these headhunters has come from their searches on LinkedIn and my profile popping up as an answer to all their human resources needs. Of course there is the traditional option of submitting resumes directly via each company’s website but to be honest, I’ve yet to hear about anyone landing a job – even an interview – via that apparently antiquated method so if you’re going to choose that route, do us a favor, don’t hold your breath.

Finally, the most effective way to land an interview here in Chile, or anywhere else for that matter, is the famous “pituto.” How can I describe a pituto, you ask? Listen, you want a job in social media? My good friend’s cousin is CEO at this company and all you need to do is email me your resume and I’ll pass it on to my friend. She’ll then send it on to her cousin, the CEO, who’ll send it on to the HR Manager and – viola!!! – an email summoning you for an interview will magically appear in your inbox before 9 am tomorrow morning. No problem!

Are you The One?
Are you The One?

Notice that I said that’s the most effective way to land an interview. Actually getting to the offer letter part is something you still have to do all by yourself. Interviewing is an art, really, and one you need to be prepared to do over and over and over, then over, again here in Chile. If you’re using a headhunter (and most well-known, and even lesser known, companies do use them) you need to charm him/her. They’re all business and, in my experience, range from the kind who know the client (your future company) and the position like the back of their hand to the waaaaaaaay other extreme –> kind of making it up along the way as the interview progresses. Whatever the case may be, the important thing to remember is that this mastermind who single-handedly picked you as a possible candidate is the very first person you need to charm. If you’re able to do that then you’re more likely to be pimped out to the client as “the one” they just “have to meet.” This is good. You want this to happen. The fact of the matter is that to the headhunter, you’re their meal ticket if all goes well. Unless you’re a total bonehead, chances are you can convince the headhunter that you can get the job done. After all, that´s their calling – selecting talent from a pool of equally talented people.

Otherwise known as "what won't get you a job in Chile!"
Otherwise known as “what won’t get you a job in Chile!”

One thing I’ll never get use to however is how slow the process can be. Even if you’ve interviewed and they’ve decided that you’re simply NOT the chosen one, it seems to be standard operating procedure to just not fill you in on that useful piece of information. You’re left thinking you totally nailed it and are pretty confident the next interview will occur within the week. But that week passes, then another one and another one. At this point you’ve pretty much given up all hope that you’ve been selected but decide to give it one more shot and email the headhunter just to see “how the process is going.” And still – NOTHING. Not even an awkwardly worded email apologizing for the delay in response due to a sick distant cousin that took a turn for the worst and prompted an unscheduled flight to the south of Chile. Just nothing. SO UNPROFESSIONAL and in fact, totally insulting! What the hell do they think I’m going to do?? Freak out about their lack of response on my own personal blog??? I mean … c’mon… I’m not that kind of working woman…. what?

Ah… but in all seriousness, looking for a job in Chile is not for the faint of heart. The Chilean market is fierce and it’s demanding. It’s better now, especially for expats. It used to be that if you weren’t an “ingeniero” this or that, your resume would be tossed aside. It also used to be that you absolutely 100% had to have work experience in the exact same way, shape and form as the position the potential company is looking to fill – no deviations, no excuses, stop asking! I think that with the globalization that Chile has experienced, the economic boom that’s been assisted by external investors and the sought-after companies that are looking to expand into LatAm and seeing Santiago as a fresh and viable option, Chile has had no choice but to open up to outsiders. I’m sorry Chilean workforce, but I refuse to believe you’re another Core Club.

Swinging RopeWhat’s the secret to landing a job in Chile? I don’t know. I’m gliding along the usual ropes in this wild jungle. I’m looking at the websites mentioned above, checking out what’s on tap on LinkedIn, networking and literally making myself available. I think I have a lot to offer (and so do my ex bosses, as all of them serve as professional references – how ya like them apples?) and I’m trying not to limit myself. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that you’ll win some and you’ll lose some. There are some things you’re definitely not qualified to do (hi, spleen doctor, anyone?) but in general, you just have to let go of the inhibitions and send resumes for positions you really believe you can do and do well. If the other side doesn’t think so, meh … let them keep looking for their miracle cure. Meanwhile you’ll be growing hair on your chest and becoming a total pro at this job market search in Chile. I totally feel it!

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At the end of the day

I just found myself googling, “At the end of the day, what was it all for?” Very Carrie Bradshaw of me.

What was I expecting? A pop-up that said “Andrea, the reason you left your job at ACME Co. only to fall into the worst possible scenario at the new job, that left you no other choice but to quit three months later because you couldn’t deal with the lack of professionalism and you now find yourself unemployed, which wasn’t part of the plan is because ___________ .” OH SNAP! No such pop-up appeared.

That’s what happened, you know. For the sake of privacy and of course, for the sake of my future career, I can’t spare details (that is, until my blogging becomes a career in and of itself, then hell yeah, I’m telling everybody, everything!) Right now, all you really need to know, I guess, is that I’m currently unemployed. Or “in-between jobs” as we like to say in the U.S. Or actively participating in the interview process of various companies. Not working. Against my will not working.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! – I repeat this in my head several times a day, like some kind of frantic teenager who thinks she has no control over her life and what happens to her.

When I left “ACME” (because obviously I’m not going to tell you the actual name of the company I used to work for – duh!), I remember feeling that I didn’t really want to leave, not truly in my heart. I liked it there. I may have even loved it. To this day I feel that the company’s values, traditions, processes and way of thinking are completely aligned with mine. I remember thinking “please, give me a sign, say SOMETHING, ANYTHING resembling a suggestion that I stick around.” The only thing I got from them was “You could have stayed through Christmas. Leaving before then just seems wrong. Can’t you quit in January?” Obviously I couldn’t stay.

Companies are run by people. People are proud and people are stubborn. I’m not saying that my ex company’s people were either of those but I AM saying that I certainly was both of those. I was stubborn in that I wouldn’t accept, in any way, the limitations they were putting on me and my team. I was proud in that I wanted to show them that someone else wanted me and the offer was so great, I was willing to leave prior to Christmas (just a hint, I worked in retail and Christmas for retail is JACKPOT CITY.)

Now that I’m unemployed, looking for work, sometimes with the success of an interview, sometimes not, I wonder, what was it all for? Why did I leave in pursuit of greener pastures when at the end of the day, the greener pastures didn’t exist? Was I proud or was I right in wanting to leave because the way things were being run (and are currently run) didn’t add up? Was my boss proud for never once asking me “what can we do to keep you?” Am I too proud for even thinking/writing that?

regret quotesJust so you know (and because this is my blog), I miss my job at ACME. I miss the people, I miss the operations and I even miss my boss. I also remember that I hated a lot of things, mainly the cluelessness from abroad and the way I felt my team was exploited. Maybe I was right to leave for the promise of greener pastures. Maybe now that I have nothing I’m like that girl who left her nice, sweet, boring boyfriend for that badass, handsome rebel on a motorcycle who ended up leaving her for the lead singer of a punk band and then sits at home crying, wondering why she ever left the nice, sweet, boring boyfriend.

WillWorkForMoney

Whatever the case may be, I’m here now, unemployed and looking for jobs. References available upon request (unless we’re in Chile, then references are listed on the actual resume.)

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Landing a job in Chile

We all need our lessons in humility; it’s good for the soul and puts hair on our chest. Though I’ve never been the kind of person who’s too big for her britches (in fact, I generally need a dose of self confidence more often than not) there are some aspects of my life that I tend to regard with a level of self assurance. In the past this has namely involved my career and my professional accomplishments. I generally felt secure in what I could do and what I could offer and never doubted for a minute that I could keep accomplishing one thing after another.

This outlook was immediately readjusted when I began looking for a job here in Chile in May of this year and I have since then learned a great deal about the job search process in my new home, all the while learning to reassess my strengths and weaknesses in relation to my career objectives. This year has already been chalk full of lessons in humility and picking myself back up again, rejection after rejection.

Let me rewind and clarify that during this process I’ve been fortunate enough to continue working for the company that employed me back in California, something I’ve referenced on a few occasions in this blog. I’ll always maintain that I am beyond grateful to this company for the opportunities they extended to me, including the possibility to work remotely when I moved to a foreign land (i.e. Chile) so that I could marry and be with the love of my life. I’m sure this sentiment of gratitude will not waver. What unfortunately did waver back in May was my sense of stability when, due to the economic downturn and other reasons I’m sure I’m not familiar with, the company I work for downsized. Suddenly I was in the dark and had no idea if I had a job, who was left at the company or even who would be my new boss (sadly, my former boss was let go.) Ultimately following the massive changes that took place, a level of normalcy was once again reached and I learned that I indeed continued to have a job, (thank God). However that feeling of uncertainty didn’t waver. In fact it began to consume me – how much longer would I have a job? What if the business in Latin America doesn’t grow? What if this market becomes completely incapable of generating income? What if they move the management of the territories in-house? In plain English I realized just how fragile my situation was and though I had years of experience working with the Latin American teams, I realized that in the blink of an eye, anything and everything could change, JUST AS IT HAD FOR MY COWORKERS WHO WERE NO LONGER THERE.

There is no sure-fire way to guarantee job security. G and I discussed that his situation was just as fragile as anyone else’s and he’s fortunate enough to head a department at his company. True, no matter the situation, I could never be guaranteed a job for an unlimited amount of time. However, I rationalized that I could help the cause by securing a job here in Chile. That way, should the worst case scenario someday catch up with me (i.e. unemployment) I would at least have Chilean work experience under my belt. So it was decided and the Chilean job search began.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to face when looking for a job here in Chile.

I’ve used this anecdote on various occasions when describing the general process here in Chile. Take, for example, a fruit stand in search for a tomato seller (yes, someone who sells tomatoes.) The fruit stand will post an ad that specifically asks for candidates with tomato selling experience. They will ask that this candidate have a degree in Botany, specifically with emphasis in Pomology. They will stress the importance of having graduated from X, Y or Z university and they will punctuate their need for someone with experience selling in fruit stands. As a candidate, you will be overlooked if you don’t have experience with tomatoes. Yes, you may have experience with lettuce but hello moron – a lettuce is NOT a tomato! And forget about applying with experience in bananas – banana’s aren’t even ROUND! How could the two possibly translate? How could you know ANYTHING about selling round products when your bag of tricks only contains banana experience? You also need not apply if you happen to fill the tomato selling requirement but have only done so in supermarkets. What part of fruit stand did you NOT understand? Oh you have a degree in Pedology? Yeah, that won’t do.

[I have a real life example to offer you in lieu of this fictional anecdote: G and I were passing by a Chinese restaurant the other day and outside, there were various “wanted” posts offering employment with the said restaurant. One of the posts read “Looking for a server with experience waiting tables. Must have experience in Chinese restaurants.” Chinese restaurant. Not Italian, not French, not Japanese. Chinese. Otherwise, move along.]

Once you are able to find something that somewhat fits your work experience (tomatoes!!) and education, the next step involves the Headhunter. This is the team (or person) that places the ad for the company and proceeds to do the narrowing down of candidates. Narrowing down means calling you in (once your resume and experience has been screened, of course) and asking you the typical questions one expects of a job interview. The frustrating part is that the Headhunter doesn’t work at the company you’re applying with and usually has a very top-line idea of what the position involves and demands. Further, many times the Headhunter won’t even tell you what company you’re being reviewed for until your 2nd meeting with them. It’s happened to me on various occasions that I’ve gone in, met with the Headhunter, didn’t satisfy and to this day I have no idea who the companies were that were looking to hire! In the off chance that you pass the Headhunters screening and you make it to the actual company for interviews, expect a series of interviews (something like 2-4). Also expect, in many cases, having to prepare a case study related to the position you’re applying for (as was my case with the searches I was involved in.) One thing is certain: of all the resumes the Headhunter receives for any particular opening, in general, only 3 candidates pass on to the company itself for further interviewing. So if you make it to that, congrats! You at least beat out a plethora of candidates before you! Note that if you’re a woman, you’ll most likely the ONLY woman passing on to the next level. Rarely have I found myself in the top 3 with another female.

During the interviews, they want to know everything – literally EVERYTHING – about what you did, what you’ve done, what you want to do and how you do it. They want to know about your significant other and they want to know what you do in your free time. They want to know where you see yourself in five years and they want to know what your supervisor would say about you and your working style. They want you to take them through your typical day at work and they want to hear about a time when you faced confrontation and how you approached it. In my case they’ve wanted to know how I would feel working with a team, outside my home, adhering to “office hours.” They also wanted to be sure that I was here to stay and not about to hop a plane back to CA at the drop of a hat. And finally, one of the most shocking things they want to know about you as a woman is if you’re thinking of popping out any kids some time soon … if so, that could immediately disqualify you as a potential candidate.

Somewhere along the lines, either before making it to the company itself for interviews or shortly thereafter, comes the biggest twist of all when it comes to interviewing for jobs here: the psychological assessment. Otherwise known as the “B*tch-better-not-be-crazy” test. I’ve been scrutinized, analyzed and prodded with inkblots (“tell me what you see here, first thing that comes to mind”); color selection (“of these eight options what’s your favorite color? Next favorite? After that? Next favorite? What’s your least favorite?”); drawings (“draw a picture of a person in the rain”); handwriting analysis (“write a letter about anything you want”) and finally, S.A.T. style logic tests that serve to give an indication of your math and problem-solving skills. Needless to say, in the last six months I’ve become a guru of psychological tests.

The verdict is still out on whether or not I’m crazy. However, I’m happy to share that despite the difficult selection process, the daunting psychological exams, the torturous waiting game and the devastation of defeat, I’ve finally landed a job here in Chile – after six months of searching. It’s actually more than a job – it’s definitely a career builder and an important stepping stone to whatever lies ahead for me professionally.

I’ve never been through so many series of frustrating events in my life. I’ve never worked so hard to make something happen for myself and I’ve never learned more about adaptation than I have with the experiences of the last few months. I’ve learned humility and patience as well. It took me SIX MONTHS to find something, with a few near hits along the way that ultimately didn’t pan out. I had to learn how things are done in this system and I had to mold myself to fit into their processes. After all, I’m looking for a job in their market – who am I to parade around thinking that just because I’m American they should be chomping at the bits to hire me? The fact is that they aren’t chomping at the bits to hire me just because I speak fluent English. Chileans are better prepared in universities than we are back home and if you add post-graduation work experience to that, they are BY FAR better candidates than many of us out there. Of course circumstances vary. One could be a recent college graduate, looking for an entry level position and entry level pay and that person may very well have a much easier time than I did. If that’s the case for anyone, awesome!

Ultimately though I think that this experience taught me to truly define what it is I wanted to do with myself professionally, where I want to be now and where I want to be 5, 10 or 15 years from now. It also made me slow down and truly think about the kinds of companies I’d be best suited to work for. Where would I excel and where would my skill set be most valued? I think the wait was worth it because I learned a LOT. I’m excited about this new career opportunity, the company itself, my future role in the company and the compensation offered. Yeah I’ve been dragged through the mud in this process but then again, keeping my eyes on the prize turned out to be the best strategy I could have possibly adopted.

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