Thursday, September 15, 2005

You get what you pay for

Free job-seeking advice from MSN

Does hunting for a job give you the blues? Of course it does; few things suck worse in life, in fact. The insecurity of getting through life, the pitiful head-shaking of your peers and mentors and the frightening realization that you may lose everything you still own, among many other horrible thoughts, can painfully gnaw away at your being--oh wait, I mean, everything's going to be fine! That's the thrust of this article on MSN, written by Robert Half International (I'm sure it's an adopted last name):

Set goals.
When you're between jobs, you may miss the feeling of accomplishment derived from completing tasks and meeting objectives on a regular basis. Make up your own “to-do” list by setting daily or weekly targets for your job search. Give yourself firm deadlines and stick to them. Write notes, like “Send a tailored cover letter and résumé to XYZ Corp. by end of day” or “Thoroughly research 10 new companies in the next week.” Meeting specific goals will boost your morale and add momentum to your search.

Smart idea. Some of my objectives in the past few months have included, "Find 10 real jobs in Lafayette" and "Spend what's left of my money at Kinko's designing a fancy portfolio that's just going to be dumped in the trash on sight by some grumpy personnel intern." With a little perserverance and elbow grease, I have managed to accomplish these beyond my expectations.

Find the right targets.
You could save time (and avoid frustration) by narrowing your focus. For example, instead of faxing a generic résumé to every company that is advertising an open position, develop targeted materials and send them to a small list of firms that are most appealing to you.

Bad advice when even the positions for which you're qualified refuse to speak with you. But judging by the writer's use of the word "firms" to describe companies, I'm guessing this is some highbrow corporate advice that was probably unleashed to the filthy public by the wrong stroke of a key. So I expect a certain degree of detachment.

Seek expert assistance.
If you're sending scores of targeted résumés and cover letters and still aren't being called for interviews, contact a staffing or recruitment firm and ask for suggestions on how to improve your application materials. Staffing professionals can provide you with invaluable tips and feedback. It’s their job to stay current on market conditions and hiring trends. They also can help you locate temporary positions that will allow you to keep working — and earn money — while you continue searching for full-time employment.

Well, duh! The solution, of course, is to spend money on professionals just like the experts who created this job guide! Is the word "ADVERTISEMENT" at the top of this article?

Seriously, though, I can see how lots of people might need help with creating an attractive and professional employment package. The only thing is, I had an entire semester-long college course on how to construct all of that, along with learning the art of the job interview. I did so well in this course that my resume (the crappy 2001 version, not the sparkling 2005 version that we all know and love) was offered as an example to other classes in how to do it right. Even so, the main thing I've learned about resume-writing over the years is that different people want different things. And that even the most beautiful ivory paper can be tossed if no one wants to read it. There, just saved you a lot of time and money.

Get to work.
It’s often said that getting a job is a job in itself. Take a 9-to-5 approach to your employment search. Be disciplined for a solid eight hours each day — regardless of the time of year. A common misconception is that hiring grinds to a halt during the summer months and around the holidays due to vacation schedules. The truth, however, is that good companies are always looking for good people.

Yes, you'll want to fit right in with the next job that you get. So in addition to making your job search a 9-to-5 affair, set up a handy job cubicle right in your own home! Clip "Dilbert" comics from your local newspaper and study them carefully. Treat yourself to poorly percolated coffee every morning and lunch on half-eaten bologna sandwiches from the communal refrigerator stocked with your neighbors' leftovers. Don't forget to pitch in 50 cents every time you take some chips from your kitchen! Oh, and absolutely NEVER forget to punch out at the end of the day; that's a special skill you'll need when it actually matters. And with today's line between work and home blurrier than ever, you'll be ahead of the game when somebody finally notices the eight-hour days you've been putting in there in an effort to escape!

Keep it positive.
A long and vexing job search can test your pride, patience and self-confidence. The key is to recognize those feelings of doubt, accept that they are part of the job-hunting course, and redirect your energy back to your professional goals. Rather than thinking, “I'll never get a job,” say, “I haven't yet found the right job — but I will.”

Few people know this, but there's actually a standardized test for this sort of thing--the Normalizing Job-Optimization Battery, or NO-JOB. It tests such job-hunting particulars as pride, patience and self-confidence. I got a 56 on pride, 95 on patience and 12 on self-confidence. I haven't yet got the ideal scores--but I will!

Hit the club scene.
Many job seekers rely solely on family and friends for emotional support. But there are other helpful outlets that offer opportunities to vent (or even laugh) about the trials and tribulations of an extended search for work. Job club members meet to share war stories, employment leads, interviewing tips and more. Look online for groups in your area.

Is there any greater indicator of the crummy state of the job market in 2005 America than "Job Clubs"? I'm so out of the loop that I've never even heard of these (before, I just called them "my friends"). I ought to try a job club. It could be just like networking, except with other total losers without connections. Such an apt name, too, "job club." Like "fire fighters" put out fires, right?

Ask why.
If you interviewed for a job but were turned down, follow up with the company and ask why you didn't land the position. Rather than trying to convince the interviewer that the company made a mistake by not hiring you, solicit constructive criticism that can help you refine your approach. Ask the employer about areas that need improvement. Example: "What skills do you suggest I build in order to be considered for positions like this one?" Learning how you are perceived will help you in future interviews and networking situations.

It must be heartbreaking to get this far, only to not make it. I have no clue about this, so I'll just assume it's decent advice and move on.

Relax.
It’s important to keep your job search active, but not at the expense of your own sanity. Take respites to keep your spirits and energy level high. Unchecked stress can feed on itself, so make time for enjoyable pursuits. Go away with your family for a couple of days, treat yourself to a nice meal or simply place all applications aside for one weekend. You'll come back to your search with new perspectives and strategies.

Like the rest of this article, this tip is apparently targeted toward mid-level professionals facing a temporary layoff or who otherwise have enough capital saved up to actually enjoy things. And while not letting the job hunt consume you is the best advice given here--I myself sometimes have to take a week off--it doesn't address the very real problem of struggling young job seekers (college-grads or otherwise) who are jobless and have nothing substantial to fall back upon. Fortunately for me, I enjoy cycling, walking and similarly free stuff. And food. I enjoy that too, once in a while.

While keeping up your spirits during an extended job search can be difficult, you certainly aren't alone. At some point, most professionals will ride the highs and lows associated with finding a new position. If you're hunting for a job now, use the tips above to keep your search on track — and your head up. Success is just around the corner.

I sure hope so, for the sake of everyone who is suffering because of this job crunch. Sometimes it takes a little cynical keyboard-pounding to make you feel better. I highly recommend it. Why, I'm now fully recharged and energized, ready to grab the world by the horns and join the ranks of the movers and shakers! I learned that in my in-home corporate seminar.

8 comments:

The Goblin Slayer said...

Have you spoke with anyone from the ACLU, the DNC or the New York Times? Please don't think I'm being a jerk, I am just curious if you've have made any attempts to contact those oraganizations for work.

PusBoy said...

Ian,

Two words: reality shows.

What the hell else are you going to do? Don't you read Red Herring? Within five years, the entire U.S. economy is going to create and export nothing but reality shows.

If you're not willing to sing karaoke, dance like an idiot, or get an STD on national television, what the hell good are you anyway?

Ian McGibboney said...

Something I forgot to mention in the post, but that was just made clear to me yet again: on The Onion, the intro ads were for monster.com. Are they aimed at prospective employees? Nope! They're aimed at EMPLOYERS, basically saying, "We have millions of desperate people. Take your pick!" Such terrible times we live in.

Abdul said...

If then you he have the necessity of a work, you he must go underneath
your donkey and enter the world and procedure one to bring. Simply do not read of the things in MSN. I have work for infuence of the camels and recompensated a processing by lots. One feels in me, this you
would say that them vacations to they the things of the writing
therefore and would go something the uniform to do. If we are not, Abdul

Ian McGibboney said...

I ALMOST understood that!

Abdul, I am past looking only for jobs in my field. Way past that. But then, so is everyone else.

rhonda said...

looking for a job in my field? i remember the days in undergraduate where i still dreamt of that...thanks to NCLB, my field IS whatever i can get.

Flamingo Jones said...

The only time I've heard of "Job Club" is in The Full Monty. It's where all the unemployed guys have to go every day in order to get unemployment money.

And the only thing they wound up being able to do was be independent-contract strippers.

So, I think that MSN is giving really bad advice there.

And I also think that I've watched The Full Monty WAY too many times, given that was the first thing that popped in my head.

Mikel said...

Mandatory Retirement at 55. Offer Social Security benefits at 55 . Open up the job market for the younger and obviously more talented. I am 58 and my generation has managed to screw-up EVERYTHING and its time we passed the extinguised torch of hope. Social Security at 55 would flood the job market. Guys and gals like me would jump at the chance NOT to have to wait until we are DEAD to retire. Social Security at one time was based on life-time earnings. My generation changed that to earnings of the last five years of employment and then began the process of "Down-sizing", I'm sorry, getting rid of born in America workers, in order to clear the path for anyone NOT from America and willing to work for less after AMERICAN workers spent years fighting for better wages and benefits. Next year, the company that laid me off last May, announced that it would no longer offer medical insurance to its employees. Instead, they would add the amount the company spends on each emloyee for medical insurance to their weekly check. Of course, a group policy rate is much cheaper than one for a 58 year old "medically challenged" employee. It would be a raise for those that qualify for free medical service because they are immigrants enticed here by politicians seeking cheaper labor costs for their corporate bosses. Sorry, I am drifting, but to give a 58 year old employee a couple hundred extra bucks a month for medical coverage is just another example of how our leaders (the 2%ers) really feel about anyone other than themselves. While I am venting, one question then I will go apply for a job as a Greeter at WalMart, question, "Where the Hell were all the rich and famous bandwagon jumpers BEFORE Katrina?" The poor and aged and less fortunate were living much the same as they are now prior to the hurricane. Why have there not been benefits and charitable contributions from these same people prior to the hurricane. Or activities and donations to help repay the billions stolen from Social Security. Well, I better get to WalMart. The line, for the one Greeter job, is already around the block. Ian, my intelligent and extremely talented nephew, you make me proud.