Job hunting is miserable, miserable work. And while it should comfort me that lots of people are in the same boat as myself, I am absolutely horrified that so many people are in the boat with me.
As of June 2009, the number of unemployed people tipped the scales at 14,500,000. That’s over 14 million people who are making zero dollars. Count them, zero.
Whose Fault Is It?
Those doing the hiring have lots of room for improvement. I have, to date, applied for 74 separate jobs. I have received fewer than 15 responses. I define “responses” as either an email response, a phone call, return letter, or interview.
I realize that many of the companies to which I have applied are very large conglomerates, with entire departments dedicated to weeding out the incompetent ninnies; however, I am not incompetent, and very rarely am I a ninny.
I also know that many employers who post job positions receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. And I suppose that many times, employers are physically unable to contact every single person back.
But what about the local Mom and Pop eatery down the street? Even smaller companies are losing their humanity. I want to know what happened to common decency, and respect for the people who are working their butts off to read about your company, talk to people in it, tailor their resumes and cover letters, calling multiple times and leaving voicemails, emailing, and generally obsessing over job opportunity after job opportunity in the vain hope that someone somewhere will actually see their efforts.
The Blame Game
As much as I would like to blame everyone else, there is quite a bit of evidence that says that blame should be spread evenly. Teachers and even job hunters themselves make some colossal boners* when it comes to the job market.
How did I get so smart, you ask? By reading a fantastic book, of course!
What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers was originally self-published by author Richard N. Bolles in 1970, but has been commercially published every year since.
2010’s edition is appropriately labeled the ” ‘Hard Times’ Edition,” and is full of all kinds of awesome information, including scads of helpful websites and tools, as well as a workbook that comprises almost half of the actual text.
I was skeptical at first — like most unemployed/underemployed people, I’ve read all kinds of things “guaranteed” to make my interviewing skills better and my resume look more polished. But Parachute has–quite literally–knocked my socks off.
I can’t review the entire thing, or I’d be here all day, but I will give you some delicious tidbits to whet your appetite. Then it’s up to you to order the dish.
Top Ten List
Bolles sprinkles all kinds of interesting lists around Parachute, but the one from which I learned the most was “The Ten Greatest Mistakes Made in Job Interviews.”
- Going after large organizations only (such as the Fortune 500).
- Hunting all by yourself for places to visit, using ads and resumes.
- Doing no homework on an organization before going there.
- Allowing the Personnel Department (or Human Resources) to interview you — their primary function is to screen you OUT.
- Setting no time limit when you make the appointment with an organization.
- Letting your resume be used as the agenda for the job interview.
- Talking primarily about yourself, and what benefit the job will be for you.
- When answering a question of theirs, talking anywhere from two to fifteen minutes at a time.
- Basically approaching them as if you were a job beggar, hoping they will offer you a job, however humble.
- Not sending a thank-you note right after the interview.
I’m guilty of five of these ten things. It’s a wonder I ever got the part-time position I have.
Did You Know?
Worst way to find a job: Looking for employers’ job postings on the Internet (only 4-10% of people using only this method of search were successful in finding a job).
Best way to find a job: Doing a life-changing job hunt (86% of people using only this method of search were successful in finding a job).
Generally the phrase “life-changing” can be substituted with “OMG this is so hard and lame!” Fortunately, Bolles manages to make it–dare I say it–fun?
“That One Piece of Paper”
Nicknamed “The Flower Exercise,” Bolles’ workbook is a monster of an exercise. The flower contains a center and six petals, each of them encompassing aspects of the reader such as “Goals/purposes/values,” “transferable skills,” and five others. It’s a lot of work to complete, but please believe me when I say it’s totally worth it.
I have learned so much about myself by doing the exercises. I’ve learned that my years spent slaving away in the theatre and the choir loft does actually prepare me for a job market; that I need a job environment that is sometimes totally silent and at times completely ridiculous and distracting; that I need equal amounts of supervision and self-policing. I wonder what you could learn about yourself?
Whether you’re just getting into the job market, are getting back into the job market, or are thinking of changing careers, I highly recommend What Color is Your Parachute?. There is a chapter for people of 50+ entering the job market, as well as a chapter chock full of information for people who are wanting to start their own businesses.
Get it. Read it. Highlight and underline. Dog-ear pages (I know I have!). Take time to complete the exercises, and I guarantee that you will close the book with a greater understanding of yourself, your abilities and options.
*Teehee. I said “boners.”