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Operation Find A Job Pt. 4–How To Interview

4) You Need To Learn How To Interview. Now, let’s say you’re one of those people whose resume must be right and you’re applying the right way, because you’re getting called in for interviews. So, you’re going on interviews. Perhaps you’re even making it through to the next round of interviews, when required. But after that, it’s crickets. Or rejection letters/emails. You don’t understand it.

Um, not too hard to understand–there’s something about the way you interview. It doesn’t even have to be that you come across negatively in any way. It could just be that someone is always coming across as more so the type of person with whom this employer would rather work. That’s fine, to a degree…but at some point, you need to be the one who comes across as the person an employer would most prefer to have.

I know a bunch of people who just don’t “get it” about interviews. Look, once you get called in for an interview, you’ve basically passed the qualifications assessment test–now it’s a personality test. Now, I know everyone nowadays has social anxiety disorder or is taking pills for something or the other. I’ve told you a thousand times on this blog that I can’t stand people. But it’s time to put on your tap-dancing shoes and give the performance of your life. If I can do it, you can do it. Act your ass off in that job interview. Be likeable. Be friendly. Be agreeable. Appear as if you’re easy to talk to and as if you can talk about a variety of topics that have nothing to do with work with absolutely anyone. Have that can-do attitude. Be outgoing. Even if this is not how you are, you need to be this way for 30 minutes or an hour.

In the earlier stages of my blog, I worked tech support for a small company. And I used to write about this female tech with whom I worked who had serious personality problems. I know that she had been applying for jobs and going on job interviews for years while working for this company because others there told me. She thought once she graduated from college that she was out of there, but it just hasn’t worked out like that. Still, she has seen others at this company come and go, several of them leaving for better, higher-paying jobs. I’m sure she wonders why other people are getting good jobs while she can’t, especially since she is very knowledgeable in IT.

Um. So, someone who is quiet, awkward, can’t look people in the eye when she’s speaking to them, speaks at an inappropriate voice volume (either way too low or spikes too loud while she’s talking), is overly emotional and has a habit of speaking in a rude way wants to know why she doesn’t get hired after job interviews? I can only imagine how her job interviews go. If she didn’t know how to perform around her co-workers, even to some degree, then I’m sure she’s not performing in job interviews…because the performance you give in a job interview is going to have to carry over to the job once you receive it, even if not full force.

I think advice articles steer people a little bit wrong when it comes to interviewing advice, and I think people make too big a deal about interviews. For example, I don’t really think you need to “study” a company before an interview and then whip out info about the company to show how interested you are. I don’t prep for interviews beyond what I’m curious to know. I certainly visit the company’s web site, I ask questions in the interview and I might even look up reviews from former/current employees. But I do it for me–not for the interview. And I think when you do it for you, it’s easier to come across as naturally interested as opposed to “interested because an article about job interviews told me to do these things.” If you’re busy thinking about what an article or web site said, then that’s where your focus is in the interview–not on showing the type of personality you need to be showing.

To me, interviews are just what I said–a performance, unless you’re the type of person who is naturally sociable and outgoing. A lot of us aren’t like that. If you need to do any prep, it’s to get yourself ready to be “on.” Interviews are about you seeing if the job is right for you, learning about what the job is and the expectations, performing (if you need to) in order to pass the personality test that is before you and talking about you–largely your resume and past work experience.

Lost in all the traditional advice given in interview pieces is not only that you need to show the right personality and hit the right chords with the employer in terms of who you are…but also that you’re being evaluated on your speech. It really does matter in a lot of cases, and I’ve had employers flatout tell me it matters that I speak well during the job interview. So be mindful of this, as well.

You have to understand that the need to perform does not equate to the need to be over the top and obvious about the fact that you’re not being exactly who you are. I just think there are examples all around us of people who appear to be confident, friendly, conversational and such that we can easily copy in a job interview, and that’s what we’ve got to do. If you’re not comfortable with this, I think the best way to get comfortable with it is through doing a bunch of interviews. I feel like most interviews, more or less, go the same way, and they are–as I said–largely about your resume, which is a part of the hiring process that you’ve essentially already passed anyways. It’s funny that people worry so much about what questions they’ll be asked, especially given that they’ve already passed the questions, for the most part. Now it’s about how you sound, act and look when you answer. Do interviews to get used to the questions, but, more importantly, to get used to performing and speaking a certain way while answering the questions. Do mock interviews or real interviews for jobs you don’t really care whether or not you get offered.

Now that I’m used to the performance aspect, when I am contacted for interviews I know that the job is as good as mine at that point. This is despite being a black female who is almost always interviewing with a white man or a white woman (and I would like to emphasize again here that you need to appear to have no problem talking to anyone about a variety of non-work topics, which might be the #1 reason why I can get white Southern men to hire me). The hardest part for me is just getting the callback. I almost never get rejected after a job interview–and, again, this is coming from a self-proclaimed people hater, a loner, someone who is socially challenged and quiet (someone who, if I were a white male, would fit the profile of a serial killer, if you will–I know this). If you learn how to interview correctly and focus on what’s really important in job interviews, neither will you.

What can I say? Acting was the first thing I ever seriously wanted to do with my life. Didn’t work out, but it’s serving me well anyhow. 😉

Next Time: Pt. 5–Employers and Their Values

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

Pt. 3–You Don’t Know How To Apply

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 3–How To Apply

3) You Don’t Know How To Apply. A lot of people seem to think Craigslist is a scam. But in my experience, it’s the best place to apply for jobs. There are definitely scam listings on Craigslist, but you have to learn how to spot them before you submit a resume. I always try to look for an email address that seems valid that is posted in the ad, i.e. it has a company name in the address, and look for a company name or site address that looks professional (i.e. not salesbiz.com) in the listing. I also look at how much the advertised salary is, and if it seems too high for the job description I don’t apply.

I pay attention to how often I see the same ad listed, spelling and grammar, and how the job itself is described. There are job ads that seem to be posted on Craigslist several times a month for several months, and that just seems odd to me–seems that if it’s a real position it ought to be filled within a month, and even if they’re having to re-hire that tells you something, too. I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog about a previous job I had where I repaired laptops, and I see that company advertising all the time on Craigslist. It’s a legitimate job, but there’s a reason they’re always hiring–the best employees get tired of the bullschitt and leave at some point, and they “lay off” people who can’t meet their unrealistic standards all the time but they lie to them about why they’ve been laid off, i.e. that they don’t have enough work.

Also, I’ve found that legitimate Craigslist ads tend to be fairly well-written, though this is not 100%. More on this in a second, but the general rule is ignore ads in all caps, poor spelling, and poor grammar–especially if they don’t have any information such as a company name or an email address that seems legitimate or professional, not a Hotmail or Yahoo! one. And be wary of jobs that seem too good to be true or like they will hire anyone, or jobs that sound like sales or multi-level marketing jobs that don’t pay a steady salary.

Another good use of Craigslist can be posting your own “seeking work” ad, but it depends on how you write it. No matter what, you will get a bunch of fake emails. But if you’re creative enough and write the ad with your mind towards what employers look for, you will also get actual employers responding to you. I actually got a job this way once, and the woman who responded to me sent a poorly-written email. If she hadn’t put the company’s phone number in the email for me to look up online and verify it was a legitimate business, I might have ignored it. But it turned into a job interview, and I was hired.

The first thing you’ll have to do is write a subject line that stands out from the hundreds of other “seeking” ads on Craigslist. Second, in the ad make yourself sound like an employer’s dream–no excuses, always on time, can-do attitude, pleasant demeanor. Make yourself sound like an ass kisser who is always happy and willing. Third, let them know what skills you have and what you’re interested in. I’ve been contacted for legitimate positions almost every single time I’ve posted this kind of ad (just not always with the kind of position I wanted), but it really starts with having the right subject line in order to get employers to click–something creative and something that lets employers know you’re different from other employees. Make it sound like it’s all about them, not about how you need a job right this instant.

So, I’ve gotten several jobs through Craigslist, but anyone who reads the blog enough will also see that I’ve gotten jobs through employment agencies, as well. In my opinion, employment agencies are hit-or-miss, especially depending on where you live, and you also have to be looking for certain kinds of jobs in order for them to be of real use. Employment agencies weren’t worth schitt for me when I was in Chicago, but they’ve been the primary way I’ve found work since being back in my hometown. In Chicago, it just could have been the kinds of jobs I was looking for, as I had no IT experience back then and wasn’t really looking for IT jobs when I first got there. But in my hometown, it almost feels as if IT jobs primarily hire through employment agencies. Pretty much everyone I’ve worked with at my current and previous jobs came through an employment agency, even if they are now full-time employees directly of the company for which we work.

I’ve also found jobs through job listings on college career services sites, and this was despite not technically being a student at that particular college.

I think these are the best ways to find jobs–Craigslist, employment agencies and career services sites. I have never heard a peep through sites like Indeed or SimplyHired, and the one time I heard anything from sites like Monster is when an employment agency posted an ad there (the one through which I’m currently employed).

I think filling out applications in any way, shape or form is a waste of time. You always want to apply for jobs to which you submit just your resume and cover letter. If they want an app after that, that’s fine. But you need someone to actually look at your resume, and you’re probably not going to get that when you apply via app, especially if you apply online. Most, if not all, sites use a filtering key word system that will wipe out even qualified applicants, but the thing is their applications are extensive and time-consuming. It’s not worth it to spend an hour filling out an application when you have a better shot at a job where you just email your resume after writing a 10-minute tailored cover letter.

And I’m surprised that people still physically go out and submit resumes or apps. This, too, is largely a waste, in my opinion. What’s worse is some people still advise people to do this. I’ve seen people say that it helps your chances for the employer to see you.

Look, I’ve worked places where people would come in and ask for applications or submit apps they filled out already. Greater than 9 times out of 10, you’re handing in your application to someone who has absolutely nothing to do with hiring you. That person takes your app and puts it in a stack that no one touches or in a mail thingy on the manager’s office door. That manager might go through those apps if someone quits or is fired and he needs someone right away, but more often than not your app is merely one in a million that just sits somewhere. The manager will hire someone via recommendation from a current employee, family member or from an employment agency before he hires someone who submits a handwritten app. And even if you get the opportunity to hand your resume or app directly to a hiring manager, it usually makes no difference at all. He/she will encourage you to your face, but your app is still going in the stack of infinity.

You don’t need to go anywhere. And the thing about going out asking for apps is these places usually aren’t looking to hire, kind of as I suggested above. Just stay home, hop on the computer, make sure your resume is alright, pound out a good cover letter for each job ad you like and submit resumes via email. Focus on places that actually say they are hiring and are asking for submissions–this gets more results than physically pounding the pavement and submitting apps to random businesses.

And one more thing before I move on–passing your resume on to someone else to pass on. I haven’t seen where this works, either. Usually, the person to whom you give your resume has no real influence, so it’s as good as your emailing your resume to wherever this person is sending it.

You’ll notice that I don’t mention networking, although that’s not to say that networking doesn’t work. But I recognize that most of us don’t have that networking sort of personality, including myself, and aren’t going to do it no matter what. Many job advice articles you read will continue to tell you that you need to network, but I’m telling you whatever I think is more important, works more often or is something that any of us can or simply must do. You don’t have to network. Still, in a sense, I did get my last job through networking. The best part was I hadn’t purposely set out to network my way into a job when it happened, which is so awkward. Whenever I’ve tried to network, it didn’t get me anywhere. So I say don’t force networking. Focus on the other tips I’m giving you, and if you see a natural opportunity to network with which you feel comfortable take it.

Next Time: Pt. 4–The Truth About Job Interviews

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 2–Your Resume

2) Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It. A lot of people don’t really believe this is the case. But let me tell you–if you’re sending out resumes and you’re not getting any responses, especially if you’re focusing your job search correctly and using a variety of mediums for applying, then the problem is your resume.

While searching for my first “adult” job, I ran up against a few people who wanted to get a few hundred bucks out of poor job seekers in order to properly write their resume. But instead of getting scammed, I kind of scammed all of these people. I would submit my resume to them for the initial free consultation and, of course, they’d rip it to shreds. Now, you’d think that these people, just wanting money, would tell you some things that aren’t exactly true about your resume just to sucker you in and get you to pay them. But one, in particular, gave me a lot of really good info. The others gave me one or two things that were true and useful, but the guy who gave me a lot of good stuff? I scammed the hell out of him. I took all his good info and ran, never to be heard from again.

He basically told me that resumes should have active words and not just state what you did. Resumes should focus on results and achievements. So…I took the info he gave me, took it a step further by doing internet searches on resumes that did what he said resumes should do, and I looked at those examples. I spent one weekend re-writing my resume to be more like those resumes I saw online. Then I continued focusing my job search. I can honestly tell you that since changing my resume using this guy’s advice, I have gotten great results/more responses from employers.

With a lot of people, they will say something like, “I know it’s not my resume. Others have looked at it, and they respond positively to it.” Well, the same was true for me before I learned how to write my resume the way this one guy who wanted a couple hundred bucks to do it essentially taught me without charging me. Most resumes I see are not like how this guy said they should be or the examples after which I modeled mine. They don’t show how you, as an employee, have made an impact and gotten results where you’ve worked; they state the duties for which you were responsible and assignments you completed. No one knows this is relatively ineffective because this is how everyone was taught that resumes should be written. But up against a person who has presented solid figures for how how much they increased revenue, brought in more business or drove up customer satisfaction? Merely listing duties looks kind of bland.

Obviously, if you’ve just graduated from college and don’t have much or any work experience, you have a resume problem. Still, you should be able to get a ranky-dank customer service job without having a resume full of results/impact. Best case scenario is you have internships, summer work experience, part-time work while in school or just something that looks like work experience that can go on your resume. If not?

You gotta do what you gotta do. And what you might have to do right here is be less than honest. Yeah, I said (wrote) it. And this goes for anyone who needs a job right now. If worse comes to worse, you might need to stretch the truth on your resume. And it kills me how so many people poo poo this. Most people will tell you to volunteer or do something else that doesn’t pay. But what if you need cash? You have bills. You have student loans. You might even have kids. You don’t have time to volunteer for a year and hope somebody will pick you up permanently and pay you. I’m not telling you to lie–I’m just saying you don’t have to be 100% honest.

What is people’s deal with being less than honest? Are you worried someone is going to find out? Do you think you’ll be banned from working ever again? Do you think you will be fired? News for ya–you already don’t have a job. If you get a job based on less than honesty, someone finds out and you get fired, hey–at least you were getting paid for a period of time…vs now, when you’re sitting there with nothing. Big deal if you get fired. Get the job first. If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, what do you really have to lose?

Honestly, there’s no real reason why anyone ever has to find out you were less than honest. Don’t get the position and start running your mouth or letting inconsistencies fly. And if you use people to help you be less than honest about the experience you have, get with them ahead of time and work out what you all will say. Seriously, work out all the details ahead of time.

You gotta do what you gotta do, right? Nowadays, you are magically expected to get work experience without being allowed to get work experience. I advise that if there is something you know you know how to do–perhaps you do it all the time but just don’t have formal work experience doing it–get with people who are willing to say you worked for them and serve as a reference, and slap this on your resume, maybe as freelance or contract work. I am so not kidding. If employers are going to be ridiculous with you, they’ve got it coming. Nobody’s got time for all these unrealistic roadblocks to getting hired, and listing your education, all your school activities, all your school honors and semesters on the Dean’s List aren’t getting you anywhere. If you have to manufacture work experience in order to get a job, do it.

Like I said, this should be a last resort. I had several people who were willing to be references for me as a contractor when I decided I wanted to get into IT because they knew I had the knowledge–some of them are people I’d help with tech issues on several occasions–but I ended up getting an entry-level IT job where they just basically hired anybody (they hired hundreds of “just anybody”s, and it showed every single day). So I never had to use any of my faux references…but, trust me, I damn-sure would have had it come to that. I have no shame, and neither should anyone else when it comes to getting a job and surviving.

I can’t emphasize enough, though, that if you’re going to make up work experience, it does need to be something you know a lot about or for which you have skills, just not in a formal sense. On one of the tech message boards I sometimes visit, I saw another user basically advise a newbie to IT who is applying for jobs to be dishonest (and, of course, others jumped in and disagreed). But he also pointed out that in IT, anyway, if you say you know your stuff and you don’t, you’ll probably get found out. I think this is true. I mean, I had an interview for an IT position once where I interviewed with four different people, and my interview with one of the owners basically was a verbal quiz about networks. I don’t come from an IT background and, at the time, had very little formal IT work experience…but I aced the verbal quiz, and so I was hired.

Employers don’t always test what you know in job interviews, but it does happen–and if it does happen when you’ve made up work experience in something in which you lack knowledge, you’re busted. So, the user who was advising the newbie to be less than honest is on the same page as I am–be dishonest if you know you have what it takes but just lack the experience to prove it.

Next Time: Pt. 3–Looking For Jobs In All the Wrong Places

Pt.1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

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Operation Find A Job Pt.1–Focusing Your Search

It’s funny that I just put up an “about” page about how this blog is for me, because I’m about to present an entire series of posts that actually is for you. I have changed jobs, what, 50 million times since keeping this blog. And when I re-found my most recent job opportunity, it occurred to me that I should probably put up a post letting people know how I do it. But I’m just now finding the words to make decent post on this topic.

I definitely used to be one of those people who struggled to find a job. I was in the “degree but no experience” category, and our society was shifting towards work experience being the end-all be-all with degrees carrying less and less meaning or allure. Now, some 10 years later, you finally see articles, videos and stories on the news about the education debt crisis and the damage student loans are doing to young people’s lives, young people who are either not working or are “underemployed,” etc. But this problem, as I suggested, started well before the media really got hold of it. So…for someone like me back then, there were no articles or real advice out there to help me.

And if you have been in the position of struggling to find work for months, especially if you have had to rely on the help of others financially during this time frame, you know that people are not at all sympathetic or understanding. They throw advice at you, most of which is not helpful but with the tone of, “Come on, it’s easy; you’re just not trying hard enough.” Or they try to “help” find a job and show you job listings that, for one reason or another, don’t fit your background or interests. They give you generic advice without the understanding that each field is different and your field has its own set of rules–I have found this is true for law, and I have found this is true for IT, for example.

Well, let me introduce you to my motto, which has served me well:

You gotta do what you gotta do.

If you start to think like this and act with this in mind, you will find a job. I am not promising you the job of your dreams. Clearly, I have worked fairly steadily since conquering my problem of finding a job but have hated every job (except my current one). But still, you need the money. Get a job first, get the necessary work experience and then deal with finding a job you can at least tolerate. Best case scenario is the job of your dreams, but that’s something most of us never find/get.

There are six big things I see with people who stay unemployed for a long time:

1) You’re Not Focusing. Yeah, you sit at your computer every day and shoot off at least 20 applications. Or you drive around, stopping at every business you see and asking if they’re hiring, filling out apps, etc.

Yeah–this is not focusing. You need to figure out, first of all, what you’re most qualified to do. Then, among the list of what you’re qualified to do, figure out what you’re willing to do. Then you need to apply for those jobs only. See, you’re not getting results by applying any and everywhere because the hiring manager either throws your app/resume in the trash altogether or, when he/she looks at it, they’re trying to figure out why you even bothered because they see no connection whatsoever between your background and the positions they have available. Why are you interested? Why are you qualified? Never fill out an app and, on the blank by “what position interests you?” write in “any.” There has to be a match between your background and a known position if you want a realistic shot at getting a job out of the deal.

Focusing your search helps you get better results. It also wastes less of your time and causes you less frustration. There might be days when you only apply for one position. But if it’s a position that fits you perfectly and all signs point to there being a pretty good likelihood you’ll get a callback for an interview based on the listed requirements, job duties and what you’ve done, then that is far more productive than scouring every job board online and applying for 30 seemingly random positions.

For people who have the issue I had of not having much work experience, my observation/experience is you’re little qualified for much more than customer service types of positions. That’s the way it is–doesn’t matter how much your degree cost, and it damn-near doesn’t matter what your degree is in (there are, of course, exceptions). You’re looking at a low-paying job where you’re going to have to deal with assholes all day, more than likely. Retail, hospitality, front desk, call center, tech support/help desk, food/restaurant types of garbage. This is what you should largely be applying for. Sad but true. Stick it out for a year, do the best job you can so you can get good job references or be the first in line for a better position where you work, focus on getting promoted or gaining skills that will allow you to move on to bigger and better things.

For me, I got down to the point where I would do just about anything except fast food and cleaning. Somehow, I got the idea to apply to hotels/hospitality, which I had not been doing before. It just seemed like an easy job, and much of the time it was. It wasn’t long before I got my first full-time, post-graduate job working in the hospitality industry. Within a year, I was being offered management positions at my hotel. And if that had been something I wanted to do, I would likely be making more money than I currently do and working in hospitality. But the experience still helped me get other, higher-paying jobs than what I started with.

Next Time: Pt. 2–Why Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

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