Posted by: kimothy | January 28, 2010

Thoughts on the Job Search

So I have recently moved home and restarted the job hunt… my old job folded because the current state of the economy is not kind to startup companies. And, New York City is not kind to people who don’t have jobs. So I’m now living with my parents at home in Colorado, and starting all over again. It’s as if I graduated in December rather than May. Those last two sentences can spawn several rants on their own, but this entry is about the daunting concept of searching for jobs in the current state of the union (and Obama’s speech last night can fuel yet another rant… but a) politics makes me sick, and b) not what i’m talking about right now).

There are several things I dislike about how people are “supposed” to go about finding a new job. So many of the recommended (and sometimes required) tactics go against my own moral code, and I hate that I will have to do things that I flat out do not agree with. I am generally a modest person; I do not like flaunting what I have, because doing so has brought me trouble in the past. And, being boastful is part of one of the cardinal sins, no? But selling yourself, talking about how awesome you are, is one of the essential parts of the job search — in resumes, cover letters, interviews, and follow-ups. Unfortunately, tooting your own horn is the only way for companies to know what a valuable addition you would be; letting companies find out after hiring you is just not the way it works anymore. Finding the fine line between being boastful and presenting a good image is quite difficult… and I’m trying to find a way to present myself well while being modest, too, since that is a big part of who I am. But, since I don’t have many tangible assets (awards, job experience, volunteer records, etc.), I have to sell my skills, and presenting those in a non-boastful manner is proving to be exceptionally difficult.

I spent a while in a Barnes and Noble the other day, reading through Resumes for Dummies. Most of it was aimed for baby boomers re-entering the workforce; it explained what the internet is, how to use job search engines, and all kinds of other computer-related things that have been second nature to me since I was old enough to talk (it explained that you should use a word processor on a computer to create a resume, not write it by hand or use a typewriter. I’m sure that’s useful advice for someone in their 50s, but to me and my generation… seriously?). However, it did have some useful information on how to make a resume as a recent graduate, and how to make a resume based on skills rather than experience. The part I want to rant about, however, is the final appended chapter on follow-ups.

The last chapter presented methods on what to do after you send your resume to a company. It gave time frames on when to call the recruiting personnel, how to get past secretaries and “gatekeepers,” and what to say when you finally get through to the person who will make the decision about whether to hire you. Some of the time frames were weeks long, telling you to call several times per week to get through to to the person, and what to tell them in voicemails: selling your assets over and over again, and telling them why it’s stupid to put off hiring you.

I have several objections to that tactic. It seems to preach that as long as you stay persistent, the hiring person will eventually cave in and hire you. If you bother the person and his secretaries long enough, he will eventually give in. How is that a good tactic? Don’t you want to be hired by a company that wants you for your skills, not one that gave in to incessant messages and sales pitches? There is a line between being persistent and being belligerent, and the book seemed to recommend going way past the line. I might have a narrow-minded view of this, since I’m a recent graduate from a top university and just my degree puts me several notches above a lot of people; I won’t have to call incessantly to be noticed. I also balk at any small action on my part that causes another person annoyance or undue stress. The meek shall inherit the earth, or suchlike. I’m sure Type-A¬†potential I-bankers or traders would have a different view on this tactic than I do, but from my viewpoint (I’m 70% Type B), it’s a terrible way to go about things. That view might cost me some jobs. Maybe I’m relying too much on my degree to get me offers. But I would rather stick with my own moral code and get fewer offers over a longer time period, than throw the code out the window and bully myself into a job in a way that I would regret for a long time, no matter how awesome the job is or how fast I procure it.

Another thing that irks me is that most career search resources seem to only support one mindset when it comes to the job search: the aggressive one. That is, pretty much the opposite of what I believe in. I’m Type B, not aggressive, realistic, a still-waters-run-deep kind of mindset. I believe in letting my skills speak for themselves without having to sell them (relying on embellishment, which is just short of lying — and just as deplorable — in my opinion), and letting companies discover me. I think that once I get in, I’d be found invaluable and be able to flourish and benefit any company. But to get in, I have to be not myself. How is that possibly a good thing?

I haven’t finished redoing my resume yet, and haven’t started actually applying for jobs, so I don’t know if, despite my opinions on the job search, I will be successful in finding a job before I go absolutely stir-crazy living with my parents. I guess I’ll find out. But when I’m disgusted with the whole process, and face having to be someone I’m not, how can I possibly do this and stay true to who I am?

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