The art of job hunting
New rules for the 21st century
By Carla Iacovetti 03/25/2010
“My son is now an ‘entrepreneur.’ That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.”
— Ted Turner
With the rise of unemployment across the nation, in California and right here in Ventura County — at a rate of 11.6 percent — job hunting is becoming an art. While the name is the same, the rules have changed, leaving many job seekers frustrated, overwhelmed and unemployed. What used to be protocol for job searching is no longer current, and for those who are not savvy to the changes or willing to adjust, they are having little to no success.
The current economic crisis is putting many who once had job security in a very vulnerable place. There is no age, gender or career discrimination. This phenomenon is affecting a wide range of Americans.
Looking for a job can be a daunting process. There is no easy way. The days of walking into a store or business dressed to kill, and aggressively hunting down the manager or the head of human resources is passé. Perhaps this is not as big an issue for some of the younger applicants, but for those who have not walked this path in two decades or more, it is quite an eye-opener.
Mike is a former contractor from Ventura County who closed down his business at the onset of this economic slump. Since then, he has lost his home, and struggles to make ends meet by taking various handyman jobs. Mike is 60 and still searching for full-time work, but in nearly two years, he has not found anything. Mike says, “It could be my age, but I think it’s partly the way jobs are being found today. Everything’s online, and if you aren’t computer literate — well, you’re pretty much screwed.”
It is not entirely about what you have done in the past. Employers today want to know what you can offer their businesses. Riding on the waves of a previous thriving career is not a guarantee for a smooth transition. On the contrary, it is easy for someone who has had a successful profession to assume that it will be easy to land a job, but this is not always the case. Mike says, “I figured at the very least I could just land a job at Home Depot because of my experience, but, boy, was I wrong! I paid out a hundred bucks to get a professional résumé done — as if that would even help, and then took it down to Home Depot, but when I got there I was told to go apply online. So much for the résumé.”
Résumés certainly serve a purpose. In fact, if you type in the word résumé in Google, you will come up with thousands of sites offering their résumé -building services. However, in Mike’s case, having a stellar résumé will not matter at Home Depot until he is actually called in for an interview.
Everything hinges upon the process.
Group Vice President for Ralphs Grocery Company and Food 4 Less Kendra Doyel believes in the process, but openly admits that the procedure has changed.
“Face-to-face contact is still very important, but what has changed in the job search process is the order of things.
Where the job market once relied on immediate face-to-face interaction, that important step comes later on only if an applicant is called in for an interview.”
This so-called application process that most corporations like Ralph’s, Vons, Safeway, Home Depot, Office Depot and even Starbuck’s require is nothing short of tedious and, according to Mike, “discriminatory.”
Ventura County resident Deborah Sullivan was recently laid off from her job, and she says, “It’s bad enough many of us are experiencing job loss, but it’s really unnerving when some companies want to actually run a credit check on you. One company that I actually got an interview with told me that I wouldn’t be hired if I had a bad credit score.
Well,@%#* that! Hello! I’m divorced and jobless; how good do you think my credit score’s gonna be?”
Mike says, “I’ve applied at other places online since Home Depot, and all of them are similar. They want to know your social security number, driver’s license number, race, gender, age and if you have any disabilities! It doesn’t feel right that companies can do this to people!”
Mike admitted to leaving things blank on his online applications, and getting very frustrated with the process.
With so much to answer and fill out, one cannot help but wonder if there is really someone at the other end of cyberspace spooling through all of these applications.
Doyel says, “If you want a job, you’re going to have to go through the process. As much as I can appreciate the frustration of filling out applications online, there are reasons for them, and to circumvent the system will not get you a job. The rules have changed.”
Even though there is a lot of potential frustration for job seekers wanting to get in with some of these larger corporations, paying attention to an employer’s requirements and instructions is paramount. Doyel adds, “We are now used to communicating this way. Honestly, technology is a good thing. We can process through applications much faster, and promptly get potential employees to the right spot.”
For example, there may be 20 Ralphs within a 50-mile radius, but people who are filling out their online applications are given the option of choosing how far they will commute. If they choose 10 miles, their application will actually only go to those stores within a 10-mile parameter. In other words, if a person applies at a Vons in Ventura with a 10-mile travel stipulation, he or she will not be getting a phone call from the Vons in Simi Valley.
Even though this process can be near mind numbing, the Internet has given job seekers a much larger base to choose from. Prior to the Internet, people searching for work had a very limited number of options. Generally, jobs were found either through the classified ads in newspapers, or through a job lead provided by a family member or friend.
The Internet has transformed job hunting in so many ways. Now, a person looking for work can stay in the comfort of his or her own home and search without driving from place to place.
Steve Gleason, a 22-year resident of Ventura County was the general manager at Silverstar Mazda and Subaru of Thousand Oaks for more than 12 years, and watched the bottom fall out with the auto industry. Since then, Gleason has become the founder and CEO of a company called Leading Cast, which is an employee search and training group in the sole business of putting the right employees with the right employers.
Gleason says, “The old concept of walking in and getting a job is pretty much over, and I don’t think it’s going to come back. There is no more face-to face access. Most all job hunting is done through a multitude of ways on the Internet. Whether it’s looking on sites like Craigslist, Monsterjobs.com or filling out an application online, you won’t get a job just by going in to a company and taking in your resume. The entire approach is now electronic.”
Having the right résumé is very important, but Gleason says that many companies such as Fortune 500 companies are not going to hire a person just based on his or her résumé. Gleason adds, “There is also another issue …. Human resource directors or internal recruiters will never answer the phone. That’s why having someone like myself comes in handy.”
Gleason is aware of the dynamics and difficulties surrounding the job hunt, which is why a person has to use all of the right tools, be calculated, informed and prepared when looking for a job. In addition, if a potential employee does not have an outside recruiter working for him or her, there is only a slim chance that his or her résumé will ever be seen.
In a recent article written by Jordan Golson for businessweek.com, he says, “The basics are the same: Find an opening and apply for it. But the Web has permanently altered the employment process. And with more than 1.2 million info-tech jobs lost this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a lot of people are going to be using every tool they can get to find their next job.”
While younger applicants will be savvier to the process, there are a number of changes that have taken place for them as well. With so many layoffs, a lot of students who are nearly graduating from college, or have recently acquired their degrees, are having second thoughts about their career paths.
Jay Derrico, the career counselor for the Career and Job Center at California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI) says, “We have had a number of students who have either been laid off, or they aren’t excited about their career path, and want to look at a change.”
This lack of enthusiasm is easy to understand with the instability in our present economy. Even with so many students and recent graduates questioning their career choices, Derrico says, “One of the positive things I’ve noticed about the current job crisis is that students are becoming much more proactive. They’re attending job fairs, taking more communication and résumé building classes, and preparing themselves for a evolving and challenging market.”
Keep in mind that career and job center is not a placement center, but an extension of the university, with a goal of equipping students with the best resources for acquiring distinction and stability within their chosen professions.
One of the best ways to help a student or recent graduate acquire a job is through internship programs and volunteering. Derrico says, “They should be available and open to the needs of the community, and be aware that 70 percent of all internships evolve into full-time jobs.” Experience is experience, whether it is gained with pay or not.
Gleason believes that the economy is not the only issue. There is a lack of “flexibility” on the part of both employers and employees. Gleason also primarily deals with people in sales and sales management, so career jumping and career searching is much more prevalent in that field. He says, “There is an insatiable desire for sales managers to look for great sales people because they believe the next best sales person is just around the corner. Managers are extremely fickle. They’re always ready to fire someone and hire someone new. There is also an unwillingness to properly train a person, and often times, those in management feel it would just be easier to start over. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and expecting different results?”
Not only have the rules changed, there is no embarrassment for people to stay with a job only nine to 12 months. People in today’s world switch jobs repeatedly, and have no problem doing it.
Is this kind of fickleness part of the real problem with job-hunting? Is it possible that employers are not relaying clear, concise messages to potential employees, and visa versa? There seems to be a lot of confusion within the entire process. If the methods of hiring have changed, then it stands to reason that those who are searching should not only listen to those who are hiring, but pay attention to newly established rules. It is highly important for a prospective employee to research, listen to what employers are asking, and not assume the old methods will work, because they do not.
Aggressiveness is not a bad thing, but should be seen in the ability to adapt and show oneself as strong in preparation, communication and following directions.
Gleason says, “People searching for jobs need to be flexible and willing to adapt. You don’t have to be the first at doing something, but you do have to be the best. Once you get to the interview stage, you have to pull yourself together. That means, research the company you are applying with, and show up prepared. There are still interview prerequisites, and if you can show that you have something better than the guy who came in before you, then you might have a chance at landing the job. “
The thrill of the hun
A local jobseeker talks about how not to land a job
There are a large number of Californians who remained unemployed because they have been given well-intentioned, but horribly misguided, advice that the only way to find a job is by harassing every employed person with whom they have ever communicated, not by doing what an employer says it what they would like done. Reasonable networking efforts may work sometimes, but pissing off a potential employer by excessively doing whatever one has been taught is the “correct” way to look for a job, while completely disregarding the potential employer’s wishes, is obviously counterproductive.
Nevertheless, we have been told so many times that this is the right approach that it is hard for a person to accept that everyone else is wrong. In fact, the idea of listening to what an employer says they would like done, rather than following the accepted mantra that a more aggressive approach is best, has become such a taboo in jobseeking circles that it is rare to hear about it publicly. A person who believes what he or she hears repeatedly is like a person in the 1850s who had been taught all his or her life that slavery was good.
In my job search, I have:
Been told that actually applying for a job that is posted online is a waste of time and should be considered a distraction, because it is not real job hunting.
Been told that if I want to be hired by a company that said “please send only ONE e-mail or fax” [capitalization in original] and not to call, then I should disobey those instructions, because it is thought to be more important to exhibit bold disobedience than to demonstrate ability to read and follow simple instructions.
Been encouraged to write a false positive letter of recommendation for someone who had actually been unsuccessful on the theory that this person might then tell me of a job opening somewhere, and that would be of greater value than my integrity or my reputation for honesty.
Been requested by a woman to “let the editor know you liked my work” that had been “published in the ... Ventura County Reporter.” It would have been responsible if I had read the piece and told her I liked it, but this was a mass mailing sent to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of recipients.
Had one person, who believes that everyone has leads to offer, and has apparently lost the ability to speak without mentioning his search for a job to everyone he meets, complain that when he tells “people that are working, that I am looking for work and their response is ‘Yes it is hard out there, a lot of people are out of work,’ these people go right to the negative and will remind you of how hard it is out there, but do not offer any leads. Like I need to be reminded. With these people I guess the best thing is just to say thank you and move on. These people, sometimes by saying that, just are being discouraging and instead of encouraging …”
Of course, a conversation about looking for work is going to be depressing. The strange thing is that the person is bringing up the topic himself, and then complaining when the employed person talks about it. He seems to be unaware that not everyone has leads, and that there is one (and often only one) effective way to talk to someone without receiving negative news about employment: talking about some other topic.
The problem is that the unemployed are taught that everyone with a pulse must know of a potential job lead and that if you let even one conversation end without obtaining a job lead, you have somehow failed.
Been told several times never to submit a resume directly to human resources, even if the company has specifically said to do so, and instead go to whatever lengths are necessary, including deceit, to get to talk to the hiring manager by telephone.
Heard from one recruiter who was not able to find the usable responses to a job that he had posted on craigslist, because he did not have time to go through the literally thousands of e-mails from unemployed persons who were not qualified for the job, but wanted to communicate with him anyway.
Received an e-mail in which an unemployed person, who currently wastes more time on futile networking activities than this person would spend working if hired, dreams of the “day I will [have a job and feel free to] stop attending networking events…. Instead, I will be home more often playing with my kids or enjoying a movie with my spouse or friends.”
The writer of this entry asked to remain anonymous.