I never really planned on trying to find another job. Not that the old one was perfect but there were more good days than bad (not counting the last year). All of that means I didn’t really prepare for the day when I might have to put myself on the market again. Right now, I haven’t really done anything other than drafting a resume and attending a lot of the webinars that the outplacement service offers. And that’s been enough to convince me that the whole process of trying to find a job is going to suck for a whole lot of people.
Today’s webinar was on LinkedIn and how to optimize your profile so you stand out when some recruiter comes looking for a person. Nothing particularly wrong with that except that it all came across as so phony. There is actually something called a All Star Profile that LinkedIn gives out and I guess there are recruiters who only look there.
Well to be an All Star requires having a current position. So the advice we got today was to keep our last position current. In other words, don’t do what I did and change your status. Somewhere in the fine print, you can put down a date that you were last employed so it is not actually lying except that it certainly appears deceptive to me.
And, seriously, on a site that advertises itself as the modern way to find work, WTF is up with saying you can only be an All Star if you are currently employed. So they only want the upwardly mobile types who are actively or passively looking to job hop. If you really actually need a job, well then you fuzz the issue to make it appear at first glance that you are actually still employed.
Now the person doing the webinar acknowledged that people might be uncomfortable with that so the second option is to make up a position. Keep the job title you want but make up something that sounds like a company even though it may be obvious to a real human that it is fake. But it is OK because it checks a box that helps get you to the All Star status. She did warn us that a recruiter might ask but then that opens the door for your “leaving statement”. That’s where you (in a calm tone) give a quick overview of the set of circumstances that lead you to be unemployed but quickly change the subject to how much you want to find a job in field blah, blah blah.
I suppose I should issue a disclaimer here. I’m not at all saying that this is bad advice. In fact, it is probably very good advice. I’m sure that these people know how the game is played and they are giving you tips to rig the game in your favor. I guess because just honestly playing it is the wrong way to go about it. I just hate the whole idea of playing games.
Oh, and you definitely need a picture because people are going to evaluate you based on your picture. She didn’t quite go into this but I think it is more important if you are going for some executive level position where they expect a certain look.
For example, one of the last big meetings I attended was an overview of the company finances from the previous year. It was given by various “leaders” in the organization and the guys all wore jeans with a sport jacket. Kind of meshing both worlds. See we’re just casual guys who wear jeans so we can identify with you. But we are in positions of power and that requires a jacket since that usually symbolizes someone of importance. I swear they coordinated outfits but it is really just a false veneer and the one thing I can’t stand is people trying to pretend to be something they aren’t.
Which brings me to one other requirement to be an All Star and that is a certain minimum number of connections. Nothing particularly wrong with this. If you worked for a big company and knew a lot of people and they are all on LinkedIN, then it wouldn’t be that hard. (Except if you were like me and didn’t really care that much about LinkedIN). But if you worked for a smaller place or were more isolated, it might be harder. She gave us tips for that as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got a few connections from people I don’t know. As I said, I didn’t care that much about Linked In and it seemed rude to turn people down, so if someone asked, I typically said OK. (I haven’t connected with recruiters because I find them kind of annoying) But the whole thing about connections also seems kind of phony to me. It is probably more of a mutual thing as everyone tries to get the largest number possible so it looks like you are really plugged in. So you are kind of using each other which makes it different than “friending” someone on Facebook.
There’s so much more to the game. You have to target certain companies and maybe do some stalking to find the right person to get in front of. It isn’t what you know, it is who you know that often makes the difference. Which is one of those things I can accept even if I don’t like it.
One of the other things that bugged me is that the first line is typically some kind of automated system or some lower level recruiter. If you don’t have the right keywords, you get kicked out of the automated system. If your LinkedIN profile doesn’t catch the eye of some bored entry level recruiter, well that’s just one more position you won’t be getting. The excuse that is offered is that HR and the hiring managers are too busy to look at every resume so someone gets the job of screening them out. I feel like I’d rather work at a place where the hiring manager did review all the resumes. But I’m just old fashioned and not in tune with the fast paced world of today.
So you pad your Linked In stuff with so many keywords that you can get past the first line of defense or you spend three days a week networking to find the friend of a friend who just happens to be hiring or knows someone who is. You fill your resume with accomplishments (maybe inflated because everyone does that) and branding statements so that if you are lucky enough to get it in front of someone who actually makes a decision, there is something that makes them want to interview you.
In my coursework with this place, we still haven’t gotten to the interview which seems like more game playing. I’ve read enough to know that people try to guess what will be asked (maybe networking with others who went through the process) and then practice the answers. And you know that neither party is likely showing you all their cards. There will be stuff you find out about them when you start and stuff they find out about you. How do you know that a place is truly a good fit. I mean every corporation is full of mission statements and other buzzwords to describe their culture, but how many actually live it. My old workplace only lived the parts that were convenient for them.
I am certainly fortunate that I’m in a position where I don’t need to go through this. I think the biggest problem is that as a job seeker, you have no power. Unless you happen to have a degree in a hot field and have companies lined up to bid for you. Most people won’t be in that situation so the people doing the hiring have all the power. How much of yourself do you have to give up just to land a job?
And I think this is another thing I’m grateful for. When I started dancing, it kind of opened my eyes to the reality that work does not define who you are. I was always more than a manager in a large corporation. Husband, dog owner, dancer, blogger, etc. So my life and identity were not tied up in my job. That makes the transition easier and also makes it easier should I eventually decide that I don’t want to go through this mess. (Which I’m pretty much convinced I don’t anyway)
At the end of the day, I’m probably down to wanting a position that isn’t full time and offers a lot of remote work so I don’t have to be in an office every day. And I want a corporate culture that actually supports people and actively tries to help people when life becomes a problem. See that’s the kind of manager I was and that’s the kind of environment I’d like to be in. I just kind of think that this is some kind of impossible dream and that no amount of networking is going to uncover that set of circumstances. Which just leads me more and more to ask whether it is really even worth continuing.
If you are in the middle of a job hunt, I feel your pain. There seriously has to be a better way.
When I was looking for a job last fall, I was shocked at how much bullshit was flying around.
Job Placement Specialist: oh, you told people how to unload audio equipment off the truck and onto the stage? That’s management experience!
And being a recovering addict who is also quite the chameleon, interviews were just old behavior (in other words, make shit up to fit the situation)
I do not envy you the job search process, not one little bit. Follow your heart. You are not your job, you are not your khakis (“Fight Club” was a bit ahead of its time)
I know. It is all seems so phony. You have to do all this stuff just to get your resume in front of the right person in hopes something will spark their attention. In the end, the hiring decisions are usually made based on silly little observations as the hiring manager tries to guess who is the “best fit”.