Playing the Game: What I learned about Job Searching 21st Century Style
In case you haven’t noticed, the 21st century job market and economic crash has forced millions of individuals search for answers. Job searching in today’s economic world is comical. Five or six years ago, you could pick two, three, or four jobs you were interested in, apply, and usually end up with an offer from one of those jobs. In fact, requirements were as simple as a generic cover letter, your resume, and list of three references (after you interviewed). The truth is, employers have no common courtesy in today’s market. Why is getting a job so long, hard, tiring, and quite frankly, a chore? There was even a time before the dot com era when you could get a job by walking in, applying, interviewing, and getting hired all in the same day. What experts fail to do is tell you about the realities of searching in the 21st century. Here is the reality of job searching after the economic crash, tips, and facts I learned during my journey and experience during my 13 months of unemployment looking for a job (the information may or may not apply to your individual situation).
Fact: Interviews today include a gauntlet of people. You can realistically title your cover letter one of two ways; Dear Hiring Committee or To Whom It May Concern and ignore all of the articles advising you to “find the hiring manager and address the cover to him or her.” You’ll more than likely have to go through this gauntlet of people or HR first before even getting to the hiring manager.
- Be prepared for whatever interview method you are subjected to, whether it’s a screening call, phone, skype, or multiple face to face.
Fact: Communication after you apply for a job is almost non-existent in today’s market. You will probably only hear from an employer if you’re invited for an interview. You’ll more than likely never hear from the places in which you applied. It’s an employer’s market. Employers don’t call back for months, if ever. You’re basically on their timeline. Unfortunately, there’s also a negative perception (by employers) on unemployment and the longer you’re unemployed, the worse this perception becomes.
- Keep track of all jobs you apply for. I applied for positions that ranged from non-profit, social services, human services, health care, event coordinating, training, education, insurance, banking and many more. From my experience, if two months pass from the due date, it’s safe to assume you’re no longer a candidate. If there is not a due date listed, set the time frame from the date that you applied.
- Remember to always cater your resume and cover letter to match each job.
- If you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, let it go to voice mail. By letting the call go to voice message, people tend to identify who they are, the purpose of their call, and the job. Listen to the message, go back and review the job description, and then call back. This makes it seem as if you’re not applying for dozens of jobs at the same time, very competent, and can speak intelligently about the position.
Fact: Phone screens are a common trend in today’s market. If you receive a screening call, it’s safe to say your resume and cover letter was at least impressive enough to survive the first round of cuts. If you get this far, you’ve done well. Also keep in mind, it’s not about you.
- Remember to sell what you bring to your new employer. The employer always wants to hear how you can serve them, not the hours and benefits the employer must give you to work for them (these items will be discussed if made an offer). Keep plenty of work samples so that if you are asked to bring some to the interview, you have them available. It’s also highly possible if you are asked to bring in samples, the samples won’t even be looked at. The employer just wants to see if you can follow instructions. This happened to me on a few occasions.
Fact: You will probably see a position you applied for listed again months later or multiple times after the close date. This is for a variety of reasons you will never know as the applicant. Possibly explanations include: the company may have selected a candidate they viewed as most qualified but turned them down; a supervisor thought there was a budget and turns out there isn’t; the position was put on hold after a “failure to hire”; the pay was insufficient to attract the skills required; the job description was off-target; a new manager has come on board; or you are the EEO person required by law to be interviewed.
- If you see a job posted you applied for, but nothing came of it, always try to follow up and get an explanation.
- Never be afraid to follow your gut. An interview is a two way street. This is a chance to see if you’d like working for an employer. You have every right to get up, thank the interviewers, and leave (remember to be very polite about it).
- Be prepared to go through a multiple application process which could include filling out a company online application (or paper/word/pdf), then uploading a resume, cover letter, a list of references, and letters of recommendation. Sometimes you’ll also upload your answers to supplemental questions too.
Fact: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that some 17 million Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree (Vedder, 2010).
- It’s cliché to say but this holds true more than ever in the 21st century job market; be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. Put in your time so you can appreciate the effort later in your career.
I have come to the conclusion that knowledge, expertise, experience, recommendations, being articulate, etc…, doesn’t mean a whole lot in today’s job market. Sometimes it’s obvious no one has looked at my credentials, my letters of recommendation or my employment history. It seems as if applicants are judged by these factors: 1) Young enough; 2) Decent looking; 3) Gender; 4) How little you can pay me; 5) How simple-minded I might be (i.e.. Will I do what you tell me or at least fake it well); 6) Are you the cousin, brother, friend of Susie (it’s not what you know, but who you know).
In today’s market, it seems as if employers are asking for everything except the DNA of your first born in order to be considered for minimum wage, hourly jobs. Ultimately, you have to follow the path that feels right. Finding the perfect job is attainable, but you have to put in the work, effort, and have faith that you’ll reach your destination. Take the time to explore the different paths that are available to you and really feel them out, see if your gut reacts to any of them. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. By being proactive, connecting with others and having a can-do attitude, you’ll be able to tackle some of the biggest job-search hurdles in the 21st Century.
I’m lucky, after 13 months of unemployment, I found a job and moved half way across the country, but I’m happy to feel like a contributing member of society again. I don’t like or make the rules, but I figured out how to play the game.
Vedder, R. (2010, October 20). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/why-did-17-million-students-go-to-college/27634
Aaron Worley Academic Counselor – Oklahoma State University Education: Portland State University: Master of Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Portland State University: Graduate Certificate in Teaching Adult Learners Eastern Oregon University: Bachelor of Science, Liberal Studies Following graduation from my undergraduate studies, I became the coordinator of student activities for Western Oregon University and pursed my masters part-time. Following my master’s program, I lost my job in what is considered the worst economic crash in U.S. history. I gained a lot of knowledge during my job search. I currently serve as an Academic Counselor for Oklahoma State University (OSU) within the School of Business providing students with a head start in mastering basic skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, working in a team, and professional development. My past and present experiences have allowed me to work with students of all ability levels while helping each individual meet their scholastic and personal goals, achieving academic success, developing life skills, and obtaining job readiness for employment opportunities. These experiences and becoming aware that students respond best in a multitude of different settings has helped me discover that advising students on academic success and career goals is my true calling.