A blog that needs work

Your Job Search is Screwing You

Yesterday, I rambled on about why learning is hard (which is still true); in particular, I mentioned that it is difficult because understanding is difficult. Relatedly, You just don't know what you don't know, and understanding what you don't know is, well, difficult, to say the least.

I was likewise reminded of a panel over the weekend hosted by a friend of mine, Steve Savage, about "Why you don't have that dream job" (his panel covers way more than what I'm about to cover, so you should probably contact him for more information ahout it). One entire section of the panel talked about the job search: assuming you were a hoopy frood and managed to have everything else in your life sorted out, you could still fail because your job search sucks, and it's not your fault.

Why is it not your fault? You probably don't know any better. If you are lucky, someone at high school taught you how to throw together a resume, and you probably learned that you need to go out to places, drop off your resume, firm handshake, introduction, etc. It's the 21st century though, you've learned a lot since then. Hard-copy resumes? Please. Digital copies.

Not even close. Of course, I'm deliberately being patronizing. You've probably learned a lot more than that, assuming that you've been on the job market for a bit. If you're still in school or just coming out of school, I'll excuse you (and I have other more relevant points for you soon).

To rattle off a few things you may not have known about the job search (mostly thanks to my copy of "What Color Is Your Parachute?"):

  • Only 4 to 10 percent of job seekers find work via the internet
  • Follow-up with companies is absolutely crucial: they will probably not get back to you
  • A person usually starts their application process with a resume from the outside; companies usually start their hiring process via existing staff (e.g. temp or contract workers), from the inside
  • You are much more likely to get hired if you send a 'thank you' note after an interview (apparently)

I'm sure that this doesn't come as a shock to you, some of you, at least, but the fact of the matter is that many people don't know this stuff, or much more. People don't know what they don't know.

It's particularly bad for say, co-operative education students (alright, I'm a bit biased). Why's that? Well, as far as schools like my alma mater are concerned, it's almost as though the school goes to the effort to teach some of these lessons that people don't know (good) except for the fact that they almost certainly teach the wrong lessons. To name just a few less than stellar lessons that seem apparent:

  • Your resume should follow a strict format
  • Your grades are the most important thing on your resume
  • Your resume should not include any links to anything relevant
  • Focus on why the job is good for you, and not why you might be a good fit for the company

I mean, perhaps I'm painting in too broad a stroke and it just happens that co-op students have bad resumes (because people are inherently bad at it), but I feel like some important lessons aren't being taught.

I'm no HR expert, but I have had hiring responsibilities at a few of the places I have worked at, and to be honest, it doesn't take a lot of resumes to learn that despite all the effort people put into their jobs search, people have no idea how to conduct a job search. It's a miracle that many of us (myself included) manage to find work at all.

How should you conduct a job search then? I've got some idea, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for me to break them down.

Nicholas Terwoord

A self-titled software developer, "code archaeologist" (whatever that means), and professional geek. Spends too much of his time coming up with new projects, and not enough time working on them. Likes video games, board games, anime, manga, and Pathfinder / Dungeons and Dragons (GOTO: Line #1 - Geek).