I haven't been very vocal in the written sense lately. Partly because I really don't want anyone to think that all I do in life is wring my hands and whine about the unfairness of it all. But truth be told, there is a certain amount of that sort of behavior that is inevitable when you are coming up on the one year anniversary of not having a gainful job. (Please note the use of a descriptive: gainful). I have been very busy. I spend an inordinate amount of time scanning through multiple search engines each and every day, desperately hoping that something "new and improved" will present itself. Then I have all of that wonderful "advice" to wade through...I have discussed it in past rants. Advice that generally starts with "If I were you....." and ends with you feeling like somebody who is less than intelligent, lacking in confidence, and generally at fault for your situation as well as the lack of world peace and third world starvation. There are still those lovely online assessments and the phone interviews. These are pretty universally followed by the "Thanks, but no thanks!" emails, if there is a response at all.
I find it ironic, from time to time, receiving invitations and solicitations from companies that sent the rejection emails several months ago. Now based upon a review of my resume and credentials, they want me to apply to work for them....I don't know about you, but this is really like being the last person picked for kick ball. Or, to put it another way, being asked to prom the day of the dance. Your prospective's date has just come down with 24 hour typhoid and they don't want the expense of tux and flowers to go to waste. Somehow, this seems like a less than spectacular way to undertake a new business relationship. But I dutifully fill out the forms and assessments, yet again. But I don't truly believe that I am going to actually make it past the gatekeeper this time either. After all, they didn't tell me exactly what was lacking or wrong in my last application. This is Charlie Brown and Lucy playing football again, and I know that I am going to give it my best effort and wind up staring at the sky, and the football is still going to be in Lucy's hands.
I am actually finding it harder and harder to find new positions to apply to, despite the news reports of improving economy and new job creation. Somebody is guilding the Lily, and I know it isn't I. If you bother to read the ads, you quickly discover, even on Monster and Career Builder, that the dates for these job postings go back a month or more. Some leads are recycled from previous ads. I guess after reviewing and rejecting all of our resumes, the employer decided to start all over with a new ad. Sorry, but I think we discussed in an earlier piece that the definition of crazy was to continually do the same things over and over again, while expecting a different outcome. That applies to employers as well as those of us seeking employment. As stated earlier, the job search companies, the placement agencies, the employment consultants have offered very little of substance, other than the opportunity to practice assessment tests and typing skills tests. I have been able to test myself against the new self taught Microsoft Office Suite while waiting for the phone to ring or the email notification to ping. And I must say that I certainly represent a thorough and complete teacher. These programs can automate a ton of functions that are new and improved. I am constantly amazed that computers, which were supposed to simplify life and free us for more important tasks, require books that are more convoluted than War and Peace. I can do this stuff Old School faster than I can learn how to make the silly computer do it for me. But, the watchword in all the advice threads and columns is that we must be "tech savvy".
Anyone else out there notice that the definition of your job search radius has become extremely elastic? With gasoline being over $4 per gallon again, my search radius terms are within a 20 mile radius. Even without a PhD in geography, I know that Dwight, Illinois does not fit that description, but my featured job openings include places like Peoria. Does anybody actually commute over 150 miles one way for a job that pays $10 per hour? Can anyone actually afford to relocate a family for $10 per hour? But, I guess that in order to give you an actual list of new job opportunities, distance becomes a moot point. I have also discovered that the keyword search has become pretty stretchy as well. I have gotten "matches" for my search criteria where I don't even understand what the job description is talking about. A regular alphabet soup of abbreviations for which I do not possess the Rosetta Stone. These are jobs that I would, never in a million years, even give a second glance, but the folks at Monster and Career Builder consider them a "close fit for my qualifications". I guess we can add job search to horse shoes and hand grenades when discussing the definition and value of "close".
And then, we have the able and willing assistance of the good people at IDES, who cannot grasp a world where there aren't employers willing to hire each and every one of their charges. It is our fault. We need to redo our resume, change our interview strategy, change the way we dress. Heck, I have been through so many changes that I don't even recognize myself in the mirror any longer. My resume has changed more than a child's Christmas list to Santa, and is about as successful in delivering the desired outcome. No Virginia....you are not getting a pony. The association will not allow livestock. Mom and Dad are unemployed and cannot afford groceries, let alone another large mouth to feed and house. I am told by the employment counselors to be flexible, yet in interviews, HR people view that as being indecisive, not committed to the position or the company. I am instructed to think outside the box, emphasize my skills, branch off in new directions, and to the guy doing the interview, I am applying or a job that I have no direct experience for. And then, the statistics and news articles continually point to the fact that the longer one is without work, the less likely they will be chosen, because it is all our fault again. We are somehow lazy, or incompetent, or unrealistic....Funny how the economy is improving except when you discuss salary. At that point in the process, we must be realistic-meaning that we work for nothing.
Can't tell you how many times, I have opened notifications of job postings immediately as they have appeared in the old email inbox, only to receive a message that the position no longer exists or has already been filled...what, in thirty seconds???? But that is preferable to spending 40 minutes to an hour filling in page after page of online application, attaching resume, cover letter, references, completing assessment tests, and writing essays for sample interview questions only to get an immediate email response that the position has been filled by somebody more qualified, while you were filling in the forms. Still getting a good number of responses that the position was cancelled which seems to fly in the face of the improving economy scenario. And the most annoying, yes, by far and away, are the positions where you get halfway through the application, and despite the listing indicating it is full time, you are confronted with a question that states: "Are you aware that this is only a part time position without benefits?" The search engine description has given a company overview, and a listing of all the lovely benefits that go along with full time positions. The topmost portion even shows a full time, permanent position. Sometimes, you don't find out until the phone interview that the position is not as advertised. So the question arises. Who is responsible for these discrepancies? Is it the agent taking the information from the employer? The data entry person who puts it into the system? Perhaps they are firmly in auto pilot mode and clicking on the full time option without reading all the details? Or maybe the employer isn't sure what they want to do, so they are just doing the "full time" thing in the hopes of getting the best and brightest to apply.
I am being continually invited to online webinars on all topics relating to job search, interview, resume, and negotiating salary. I have found the content to be very similar, and often the same stuff that I was taught as a child back in the dark ages. Be polite. Be punctual. Dress appropriately making sure all aspects of personal hygiene are attended to. Don't cross your legs, or your arms (Don't want to appear closed and defensive-or as grandma used to put it "show attitude") It is a cardinal sin to have typos in your resume and cover letter. HR managers spend less than 60 seconds looking at a resume before deciding who to interview. I am guessing that an HR degree must also include the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Course. Don't be cute, funny, unique, but at the same time you have to set yourself apart from the herd. Resumes should be chronological. Resumes should reflect accomplishments, not skills....not sure how you can have accomplishments without skills, but there it is. Resumes should not be more than one page, but you are supposed to demonstrate with real examples how your skills brought value to previous employers. After listening in on enough of these, I have concluded that there are as many resume styles out there as there are people with resumes. I remember a college English professor, who once admitted that being faced with a mountain of essays to read and grade for several different class sections on exactly the same materials, decided in desperation to throw all the papers up in the air, in a stairwell, assigning the grades dependent upon which step the title page of the paper fell upon. Is that where we are in the job search lottery?
There are so many folks all claiming the same basic skills and experience. Do HR folks step into the fire stairwell, chucking the applications up into the air and determining who gets an interview based upon whose applications fall face up on the fourth stair from the bottom? There doesn't seem to be a great deal more rhyme or reason to these decisions.
Finally, I think I may have hit upon why networking doesn't work, why people who are your friends and relatives are not willing to give you the proverbial hand up, why nobody in your sphere of influence seems to know about any jobs that are hiring, why nobody, whose opinion you might still respect, has any suggestions of places to make application. In such uncertain economic times, we are all struggling to be secure, to feel safe, protected, insulated from unemployment and financial crisis. This goes beyond the notion that hanging around the unemployed is depressing...Actually, I think the reverse is true. I think that folks feel superior for having missed the axe, for not having to go hat in hand for help, for not having to bow and scrape to new potential employers. Why does anyone do anything that improve somebody else's confidence and feelings of self worth-particularly if it minimizes or mitigates the helper's sense of superiority for having income and a job? By numbering the unemployed among friends, those who are working are allowed to feel superior, smarter. Most folks are not going to trade that, and risk rocking their boats in the process. If somebody knows enough about you to make a genuine recommendation, they they also know enough to perceive your employment as a potential reduction in business, salary, prestige, for them. So, even if this is unconcious self survival mode, it works against the unemployed getting any sort of hand up, or foot in the door. It truly has become every man for themselves.
Thank you so mcy
Filed under: The Job Search