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What You Don't Get About The Job Search
August 23, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

The Atlantic collects responses from readers on both sides of the current employment market:
part 1 - the unemployed
part 2 - the employers
part 3 - the jobless

posted by casarkos (119 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish I understood what the difference between "unemployed" and "jobless" is in this context.
posted by silby at 8:19 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


A place I hang out at online had an actual debate going over that until it was noted that the "show up on time" camp was gainfully employed and the "why does that matter?" camp was not.

Wait, are there actually people out there who don't think that showing up to an interview on time is a really, really important thing? I mean, yeah, I can see debate over whether getting to work late is okay or verboten, and that really depends on the work culture and so on. I've had jobs where I had to call in if I was going to be even two or three minutes late -- "where are you?" "I'm up the hill, I can see you in the window." "Why didn't you call?" -- and I've had jobs where nobody really cared as long as you showed up eventually and did what had to get done. Both of these jobs had people who showed up late all the time, and where always there at 8:30 sharp, respectively. Room for debate, sure.

But interviews? The one chance where you get to say "I am the best fucking person for this job and not hiring me will be the worst decision you ever made"? Who thinks it is okay to show up late for that?

(Yes, I know, the answer is "the person interviewing you.")
posted by griphus at 8:22 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Silby, read the parts. Unemployed seems to include those who cannot or will not work, for health or other reasons. Jobless are those who are willing and able to work, but have no job.
posted by LN at 8:24 AM on August 23, 2011


"...Get down here on the ground, and try to go a year on $350 a week with no hope in sight, and then tell us why the lazy unemployed just need a good swift kick to get the country moving again."

Does anyone honestly think nowadays that the lazy unemployed just need a good swift kick in the ass to get the country moving again? Maybe in the 90s yeah, but not now.
posted by Melismata at 8:29 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank God they are still young (just started third grade) but we're not having any sleepovers here no matter how much they ask. I am afraid for the social impact on them. They are so upbeat, so enthusiastic. They don't know we're in a ditch. It would break my heart if they figured that out.

You want the kids to feel normal and happy? Let them have the sleepover. Rent the movie from the library and use a coupon to buy them a pizza. I mean, Jesus Christ, forcing your kids to act like social pariahs is not the solution.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:32 AM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Whoops, forgot to close the blockquote. 2nd para is mine . . .
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:32 AM on August 23, 2011


Christ, the employers sound like assholes.
posted by beefetish at 8:33 AM on August 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


"It's an employer's market, so they can make unreasonable demands."

This sums up a lot of what I'm feeling, having read all of this over.

The idea that some future employer might reject my application because I once drew a porny piece of fanart in high school (posted online under my real name by someone else in a place where I can't remove it)....that is INSANE.

But of course they could do that! I mean, obviously it's only fair that they review my entire personal history for the last fifteen years in order to judge my worth as a human being before they do me the favor of hiring me. It's not like we're allowed to have a personal life that isn't held to the strictest standards of office etiquette.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:36 AM on August 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


somewhere along the line, we moved from a system where the hiring process was a matter of finding good people to do a job to one in which mindless and draconian social engineering is collectively practiced - (drug tests, facebook searches, people who are too old, "overqualified", don't know enough people, and have been unemployed too long - which may be defined by some as one day) - the list of "outcasts" is getting longer in this country

how much longer are they just going to passively accept this fate and their non-place in society without raising hell?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 AM on August 23, 2011 [35 favorites]


When I was unemployed (2-3 months, at the end of 2009) I had two big pink chunks in my hair. Yeah. I had to decide pretty much right up front whether I was going to pay for an expensive dye-back, or if I was just going to keep it nice, wear it conservatively, and dress as conservatively as possible (thanks former career in finance! Suits come in handy!). I kept the pink chunks in, because the monetary outlay was not worth it, since it seemed easily 50/50 that it wouldn't pay off to spend that money up front. It was a hard decision, and a risky one. I was lucky and ended up at another work place that was, if possible, less concerned with my sartorial choices than the last one.

If I was in that position now, I'm not sure what I would do. It seems worse now. I do what I can for people I know who are looking - my company isn't hiring but I have the opportunity to throw freelance people's way sometimes, and I try to keep my ears open about my friends' companies that are hiring. Meanwhile, my spouse's company is looking for a good Information Architect/User Experience person, and they can't find a single qualified candidate. IA/UE people are so thin on the ground here, competition for them is crazy fierce.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:43 AM on August 23, 2011


Having been on both sides of the hiring table, it's pretty clear to me that many people a) write bad resumes and cover letters and b) interview terribly. I have watched people respond to questions with monosyllables and monotones, reveal insane things (like "I am willing to do your job because I like living here," and the list goes on). However, it's also clear that employers often do a terrible job of hiring -- asking too many questions, the wrong sort of questions, ignoring problems that come up because "we have to hire someone" and so on.

No one wants to get experienced at interviewing -- most people want to get a job and not have to go through the process often enough to get expert at it. But, really, who wants to get to be an expert at hiring? Unless you are in a very large company, frequent hires mean that you a) have high turnover, which means that you probably have structural problems that are doing more damage than you think or b) rapid growth, which might be good but will also be stressful and probably lead to mistakes.

So, basically, when it comes to hiring and being hired, almost everyone is an amateur. Add in a bad job market and insanity comes to the fore.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


I am really sick and tired of this myth you have helped to create about the unemployed having terrible resumes and not being "positive" or "energetic" or whatever else is on your list. I am a very positive person, I have excellent qualifications, and take my work very seriously.Yes.

Fascinating. Thank you for the link.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


...drug tests, facebook searches, people who are too old, "overqualified", don't know enough people, and have been unemployed too long - which may be defined by some as one day...

Outside of the Facebook thing none of these seem to be particularly novel. That's not a good thing by any means, but I don't think it is any sort of indicator of the zeitgeist.
posted by griphus at 8:52 AM on August 23, 2011


.
posted by obscurator at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outside of the Facebook thing none of these seem to be particularly novel.

compared to 30 years ago? - drug tests weren't anywhere as common as they are now, older people were regarded as having a better work ethic and being unemployed was considered a sign that one might need the job badly enough to keep it and work well at it

i'll admit that the "overqualified" thing has been around for a long time - but then, it wasn't demanded that people have college degrees to be manager at a small store for 25-30k a year, either

the major difference is that hr departments have taken over the process from those who would have to actually work with the people they hire

right now my company has been hiring and i wouldn't have gotten my foot in the door with the requirements they have now - and i've been a good employee of theirs for almost 12 years
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is not having any web presence a bad thing? I also have a few people who share permutations of my (rather uncommon) name, and I'm worried employers will get the wrong idea and confuse me with them. I've considered making a Linked In profile for this reason.
posted by codacorolla at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2011


"Unemployment dehumanizes the real person. They lose the essence of their identity and value. To become a number, a label, a resume, a failure, a defect, unproductive, desperate, wishful, delusional, depressed, poor and separated from respectful society. Being unemployed is to be silently disrespected. On a par with being homeless, mentally ill or addicted."

Yeah, this is true. I'm not sure what's worse though, being silently disrespected by everyone I know or being outright insulted in an interview. I interviewed for a position a few months back that seemed okay. Pay was a little below my previous full time job, but I chalked that up to the bad economy. It did have benefits, which was better than my previous temp job. I got to the interview early, dressed conservatively and waited. The owner of the company was running late and I could accept that. What I couldn't accept was the ensuing 45 minute diatribe about how the unemployed were killing the country, how hard it was to run a business because of unemployment and minimum wage requirements, etc. This of course was after I admitted that I was in fact collecting at the time. It bordered on the ridiculous. I have a handful of stories like that from the last 9 months of looking for work, but that is by far the worst. Maybe equalled by the temp agency I worked for calling to ask me every month or so if I'm ready to work for 9 bucks an hour yet.
posted by dave78981 at 9:09 AM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


I left a decent job that I hated back in 2007 to go back to school and get a BS in finance. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I graduated May of 2010 and haven't been able to find a job since then. There are so many of the things from the jobless and unemployed links that hit far to close to home for me to comment on. Most of the stuff from the employers is good but there were a couple of things that really ticked me off.

-- You HAVE to be positive, enthusiastic and high-energy in ANY interaction with a potential employer

I'm not an outgoing energetic person. I work hard at everything I do and I'm VERY smart. This really can't be an expectation in analytical roles and employers shouldn't want every single employee to positive and high energy. I'm quiet and not excitable. That is what keeps me from panicking when the shit hits the fan keep working my ass off.

-- Apply for any job for which you meet at least 70% of the qualifications

I started out doing this but now I've applied for tons of jobs that I met every single requirement for and never got any response. I've had interviews for jobs where I met every single requirement, had wonderful interviews, had great second interviews, and still didn't get the job (or even a call to let me know that I didn't get it and why).

I always want to bring this up in interviews but I always want to tell them, "Look, you can't be in my situation for as long I've been and still keep applying for jobs without a certain amount of mental toughness. I can take criticism. I need it. If you are going to pass on the opportunity to hire me, that is your loss. I get that you don't want to tell people that you didn't hire them but its really shitty to bring me in for an interview and let me get my hopes up and then not hire me without telling me why."

-- You need to tailor your resume to EACH job posting

It was hard enough for me to create the resume I have. It was hard enough for me to tailor it to the first hundred jobs I applied for. Now its hard for me to just keep applying for jobs at all. I don't know why I bother to apply at all. I apply to so many jobs that its just too much to ask me to tailor each one. This guy clearly doesn't know what its like to be unemployed in this economy. After the energy I expend just keeping myself from falling into despair and screwing up what energy I can for interviews I don't have any left for coming up with ways to tailor my resume.
posted by VTX at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2011 [26 favorites]


It was hard enough for me to create the resume I have. It was hard enough for me to tailor it to the first hundred jobs I applied for. Now its hard for me to just keep applying for jobs at all. I don't know why I bother to apply at all. I apply to so many jobs that its just too much to ask me to tailor each one. This guy clearly doesn't know what its like to be unemployed in this economy. After the energy I expend just keeping myself from falling into despair and screwing up what energy I can for interviews I don't have any left for coming up with ways to tailor my resume.

Seriously. And it feels so pointless, too. My husband's been applying to jobs for about three months in our new location and hasn't gotten a single real contact back from any of them. It's like pissing into a black hole.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:16 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are times when I wish I was doing something else with my life other than web/software stuff.

Generally, the times when I'm reading about how employers tend to evaluate prospective candidates outside of my field are not among them.
posted by weston at 9:24 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not an outgoing energetic person.

There's a reason why those people get hired, or at least have more of a chance though. Finding work is not for introverts. You have to sell and market yourself, CONSTANTLY. The thing I came away from reading bits of What Color is your Parachute? is that one's mindset should always be set on finding opportunity. This means that the job search never truly ends, even when you've found work or go to school. The reasoning from the book is that employers don't owe you loyalty, so you don't owe them loyalty. So, it's sort of an understatement to say finding work is a full-time job. Finding work is your life. Period. Not only that it puts food in the belly. But that you have to dress best, act best, have your card and elevator speech ready whether you're being interviewed or when you're queueing at the supermarket.

It's more true that ever before that we're all mercenaries now.
posted by FJT at 9:29 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am over the bruises to my ego; I just ignore my mother-in-law completely now. The worst thing though is the impact on my kids. We were making $120K plus two years ago. Now, about $35K. Lost the house. Thankfully still in the same school. That said, the kids went from being respectably comfortable in their cohort to being comfortable if tattered (used clothes, battered rental, same old car, no summer trips, etc.). Thank God they are still young (just started third grade) but we're not having any sleepovers here no matter how much they ask. I am afraid for the social impact on them. They are so upbeat, so enthusiastic. They don't know we're in a ditch. It would break my heart if they figured that out.
This reminded me of that thread about kid kidnapped from Guatemala and brought to the US for 'adoption'. A lot of people in the thread seemed to be under the impression that taking the kids from being "rich" in the U.S. to being "poor" would be some kind of trauma. But kids just don't understand wealth the way adults do. They understand having a toy vs. not having a toy but they don't have access to the same freedom that wealth brings to adults and they don't have to work crappy jobs even if their parents do.
Generally, the times when I'm reading about how employers tend to evaluate prospective candidates outside of my field are not among them.
No kidding!
posted by delmoi at 9:31 AM on August 23, 2011


-- You need to tailor your resume to EACH job posting

Anyone have an opinion on just how much you have to tailor your resume for each job?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:33 AM on August 23, 2011


Anyone have an opinion on just how much you have to tailor your resume for each job?

Depends on the job, really. I carpet-bombed Craigslist with my resume while looking for entry-level clerical work a few months back. All the jobs required basically the same tasks, so I hardly had to tailor at all; maybe insert one line or two. I got a lot of callbacks -- at least an interview a week -- although I a) was applying while employed at a job I held for three years and b) live in NYC.

What I was taught was that if there is a specific list of demands in the job description, every one of those (outside of outright lying) should be somewhere in the resume.
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Outside of the Facebook thing none of these seem to be particularly novel. That's not a good thing by any means, but I don't think it is any sort of indicator of the zeitgeist.

Sure, but the super high unemployment rate makes it so much more intense. Check out this article about a guy who traveled to india to find out about the people who do phone support. One the things that was really interesting was the huge difference between a booming economy (theirs) and a shitty one (ours) in terms of employment. Basically, no one very worried about not being able to find a job Take months off, do whatever you want, quit your current job, whatever. These people didn't have to worry about their next job

The just basically showed up -- he didn't get hired at the 'elite' call centers (for IBM and so on) -- but once he interviewed at a slightly down market place they hired him on the spot. And he didn't even have a work visa (they wanted him to do a 1-week training for free, before they paid him because so many people would skip out after training. Can you imagine that happening in the U.S right now?)

With a good economy, you might apply those invasive filters, but ultimately you have to hire someone.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2011


Does anyone honestly think nowadays that the lazy unemployed just need a good swift kick in the ass to get the country moving again? Maybe in the 90s yeah, but not now.

Try watching some Fox News, if you can stomach it. This is exactly what Murdoch et al. is pushing.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:40 AM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


That "taught," was on-the-job, by the way. I worked at a clerical staffing agency for three years and had to help people tailor their resumes to be able to get jobs we offered them while remaining in compliance with the contract.

A lot of times it was plainly obvious that they were suitable for the job, but I'd still have to point out that the contract required someone who managed people/knew how to use Access/etc. and that you need to put stuff like that in the resume if you want the job that requires it.
posted by griphus at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Laziness causes unemployment! Mass sudden nation-wide outbreaks of laziness!
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting. I am considering writing a web app that would let you enter every line item you might possibly include. When you want to send a resume out you could just check each one you want to include and export.

If anyone else wants to do it, go for it.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Laziness causes unemployment! Mass sudden nation-wide outbreaks of laziness!

Without the tough hand of a republican running things, turning the country over to a Socialist. Everyone knows the Liberals preach not working to the poor. The welfare queens. Of course electing Obama has instilled laziness in the population.
posted by delmoi at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2011


@FJT, I understand that. What I'm saying that I disagree with it. Employers are wrong for requiring it. I'm sure that if someone studied it, they'd find out that being outgoing and energetic didn't necessarily make someone a better employee.

I try to become the outgoing, energetic person that employers are looking for any time I have an interaction with them but it is emotionally draining. Once I have a job, I can let me work speak for itself and I know I'll be fine but until then its like a mask that I put on and it gets heavier every time I wear it. After a year and a half (more than two if I count the internships I couldn't seem to get) I don't know how many more times I can put that mask on.
posted by VTX at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's a reason why those people get hired, or at least have more of a chance though. Finding work is not for introverts. You have to sell and market yourself, CONSTANTLY. The thing I came away from reading bits of What Color is your Parachute? is that one's mindset should always be set on finding opportunity. This means that the job search never truly ends, even when you've found work or go to school. The reasoning from the book is that employers don't owe you loyalty, so you don't owe them loyalty. So, it's sort of an understatement to say finding work is a full-time job. Finding work is your life. Period. Not only that it puts food in the belly. But that you have to dress best, act best, have your card and elevator speech ready whether you're being interviewed or when you're queueing at the supermarket.

This paragraph makes me want to scream, vomit, cry, and bang my head against a table all at the same time. I guess it's good that my long-term plans aren't necessarily conditioned on my continued employment. Perhaps I'll stumble upon some pirate treasure or, through comical circumstances, find myself the sole inheritor of Warren Buffett's estate.
posted by Copronymus at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2011 [26 favorites]


Interesting. I am considering writing a web app that would let you enter every line item you might possibly include. When you want to send a resume out you could just check each one you want to include and export.

Check out http://resunate.com/ before you start. I haven't gotten into the details with it as I'm thankfully currently employed, but I think it is based on exactly this premise.
posted by meinvt at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh, I can identify so much with these comments. I've been out of work so long I feel guilty and worthless and it's getting harder and harder to keep a positive outlook. Even talking with casual friends I'm ashamed to discuss my job search because they almost always ask why I'm having such a hard time - after all, I have a Ph.D. and there must be tons of jobs for scientists! Ergo, there must be something wrong with me.

Anyway, before I start feeling too sorry for myself, I just wanted to comment on the change in the hiring process over the years. When I first entered the job market in the 1990s, employers "sniffed out" candidates the age-old way, by asking for letters of recommendation or calling references. But nowadays nobody can provide references because their own employers forbid saying ANYTHING about former employees. Any queries must be directed to HR, who will only confirm dates of employment.

Which means that employers had to find other sources of inside dope on potential candidates. Before Facebook etc came along, they resorted to background checks run by other companies, which were intended to weed out security risks for certain types of jobs (where embezzlement, blackmail potential, drug/alcohol use impairing job ability etc, would be a major concern). These package-deal background checks don't make much sense for most jobs but it was a convenient off-the-shelf solution for small companies who wanted to shift responsibility somewhere else.

So now, potential employers look at my credit rating, police record, and I-don't-know-what-else to see if I'm qualified to do scientific research. But this is the new normal. Throw Facebook and Google into the mix, and employers have become more concerned with my personal virtue than my technical competence.

It seems like we're heading back to the Victorian style of sanctimonious prying, where one's personal life is held up to public scrutiny, and the appearance of virtue is a hugely important asset.

Anybody hiring biochemists?
posted by Quietgal at 10:00 AM on August 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


Smile Or Die
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


"...Get down here on the ground, and try to go a year on $350 a week with no hope in sight..."

Done it. On less. Working full time for that money, paying what I could on student loans.

I'm not fond of the right-wing "kick in the ass" philosophy, but I can state quite certainly that there's a psychological benefit to working even the crappiest job. It's not that all of the jobless should go through the muck again, it's just that those who do have that one more step up on the interviews. Yes, it's a system we need to change. Until then, be that mercenary who grabs every opportunity.
posted by Saydur at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank God they are still young (just started third grade) but we're not having any sleepovers here no matter how much they ask. I am afraid for the social impact on them. They are so upbeat, so enthusiastic. They don't know we're in a ditch. It would break my heart if they figured that out.

You want the kids to feel normal and happy? Let them have the sleepover. Rent the movie from the library and use a coupon to buy them a pizza. I mean, Jesus Christ, forcing your kids to act like social pariahs is not the solution.


Yeah. I mean, I understand it must be heartbreaking to have plans and dreams for your kids' life that may not happen now, but material stuff isn't really what kids are all about.

In third grade I had a friend in the less wealthy area of town who had a birthday party. They didn't decorate the house with all sorts of crap or give us goody bags and prizes and feed us pretzels and punch and candy. Instead we played games and her dad went to McDonald's and bought a dozen cheeseburgers and small cokes. It was fun and memorable and I never thought any less of that family or my friend. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that their financial situation was more tenuous then ours. Kids don't usually care unless their parents are snobs, in which case good riddance.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Interesting. I am considering writing a web app that would let you enter every line item you might possibly include. When you want to send a resume out you could just check each one you want to include and export.

I was thinking of a user-friendly template-driven front-end to some LaTeX files. Once the CV's in a text format you can apply standard branch-merge-and-tag tools to it and run several tailored copies of your CV concurrently, merging changes across branches.

Hoping the lazyweb will take care of it though, 'cos it sounds like a lot of work
posted by Leon at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kids don't usually care unless their parents are snobs, in which case good riddance.

It's not necessarily the kids don't care or the parents are snobs. It's advertising and marketing. They figure out a way to push your insecurities, dreams, and vulnerabilities and then provide a solution that just happens to resolve them. Temporarily, of course.
posted by FJT at 10:16 AM on August 23, 2011


the major difference is that hr departments have taken over the process from those who would have to actually work with the people they hire

And the HR departments outsource a lot of their work to the Web, doing automated searches or filtering incoming résumés on keywords. Which, as pyramid termite indicated, eliminates otherwise-qualified people that don't happen to have the right combination of keywords.

I frequently get called by recruiters based on my work experience in my online résumé, but my own inquiries go nowhere because I don't have the right college degree, despite having worked in my field for going on ten years now.

It sure makes HR's job easier, though.

At least I'm currently employed. I'm trying to find work closer to home that doesn't require living out of town, so most of the recruiters -- who have a national client base -- haven't helped much, at least so far.
posted by Gelatin at 10:20 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really, this is not a thread I wanted to read before actually getting some work done. It's just making me sick.

And I'm prepping for a game theory course, in which I make all sort of assumptions about how everybody is self-interested assholes. I wonder how many times this semester I'm going to launch into an angry rant in front of my class about how The Stuff You're Learning Is Really Depressing.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Melismata: "Does anyone honestly think nowadays that the lazy unemployed just need a good swift kick in the ass to get the country moving again? Maybe in the 90s yeah, but not now."

The driving cry of the Tea Party is not simply, "lower taxes and reduce government", but do those things because there is an entire class of Americans who simply mooch off of "real", "productive" Americans.

I'm absolutely convinced that if it were at all socially acceptable to publicly paint entire swaths of unemployed Americans as lazy, Tea Party candidates like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann would do it in a heartbeat, because it feeds right into the insane logic of their base. They're already out there bemoaning the "lucky ducky" working poor for not paying enough taxes.
posted by mkultra at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Another reason for the odd behavior of HR departments, particularly the black hole into which your resume seems to vanish, is their need to justify their existence. Namely, if you're not hiring anybody, why the hell do you need to maintain an expensive department whose primary function is to go out and find qualified people that you know you aren't going to hire?

So a lot of company HR departments are currently engaged in furiously looking busy and trying to seem necessary, often by telling upper management that they're busily creating a pool of perfect candidates that they can tap into when they do decide to start hiring again. I've seen some companies re-running the same job postings over and over again, in fields where I know there are plenty of highly qualified people out of work who must be deluging them with resumes. The explanation is that these aren't real jobs but ways for the HR department to look like its adding some kind of value at a time when they really can't.
posted by Naberius at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Apply for any job for which you meet at least 70% of the qualifications

For what it's worth, based on some of my conversations with recruiters, if you do that you're wasting your time. I've been told that in the current market, employers in certain professional fields like engineering can choose among candidates that *do* meet 100% of the qualifications, so they don't even bother looking at the ones that meet 70%. YMMV.
posted by Gelatin at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2011


I get that you don't want to tell people that you didn't hire them but its really shitty to bring me in for an interview and let me get my hopes up and then not hire me without telling me why.

This is not going to happen. You will never be told why you weren't hired. They don't want an argument or a lawsuit. It is much easier to say "We hired someone else." I admit I get annoyed when I don't even get a form letter saying the search was concluded (and not, obviously, with me), but that is a somewhat different issue.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2011


I've been out of work so long I feel guilty and worthless and it's getting harder and harder to keep a positive outlook. Even talking with casual friends I'm ashamed to discuss my job search because they almost always ask why I'm having such a hard time - after all, I have a Ph.D. and there must be tons of jobs for scientists! Ergo, there must be something wrong with me.

Aw man, my sympathies. FWIW some of us realize that having an advanced degree can make it much more difficult to find a job, and I'm sorry that you've gotten the opposite reaction so often.

I spent 8 months out of work during the dot-com bust, and the effects are still with me. It's brutal.
posted by asterix at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2011


FWIW, I have gotten some feedback from the hiring managers for a couple of positions that I interviewed for. I think the other aspect is that the only benefits to the employer is that next time I might do better and they'll hire me. Well that and knowing that they did the right thing but I'm not going to count on that to change any corporation's behavior.

It would be helpful if there were a set of pre-selected rejection reasons that they could put on a rejection letter/e-mail like they do with the adverse action notice for credit applications.
posted by VTX at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2011


I get that you don't want to tell people that you didn't hire them but its really shitty to bring me in for an interview and let me get my hopes up and then not hire me without telling me why.

If it's a company you really want to work for, call up the HR person who did the interview. Say, "I really want to work for your company specifically. What can I do to improve my skills/resume for the next job posting?" It gets around the problem of them not really being allowed to tell you why you weren't hired, and if you had good connection with them they'll likely give you a few helpful thoughts.

Even if a job with that company doesn't come open, you can apply it to the next one.

The job market is absolutely brutal and a rigged game.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


but I can state quite certainly that there's a psychological benefit to working even the crappiest job.

Perhaps there is for you. Not for me.
posted by josher71 at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


but I can state quite certainly that there's a psychological benefit to working even the crappiest job.

which is outweighed by the fact that I can't pay my bills when the going pay rate is half what the living wage in the state is and I wind up going to work to put money in my gas tank in order to get to work. And they want experience and a good attitude! HA!

When are we rising up again?
posted by dave78981 at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is exactly the thread I need to read to kick my ass while trying to start my own business. Because fuck this noise. I don't really have any other options.

If many of you are having trouble finding work, no one wants my scurrilous, scruffy, and strangely self-educated weirdo self. The last 12 months of fruitless sending out resumes are living proof of that.
posted by loquacious at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Finding work is your life. Period...you have to dress best, act best, have your card and elevator speech ready whether you're being interviewed or when you're queueing at the supermarket.

What an obnoxious idea. I can hardly imagine anything more exhausting.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


LevityFilter: "Are you employed, sir?"(YT)
posted by obscurator at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole employment procedure is a dumb antique. Every employee is hired or not based on their skill in sales and marketing. Most jobs aren't in sales and marketing. What job you do and who you hire are some incredibly important decisions and they are made by on small amounts of unreliable information.
posted by I Foody at 12:13 PM on August 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


Finding work is your life. Period...you have to dress best, act best, have your card and elevator speech ready whether you're being interviewed or when you're queueing at the supermarket.


Christ, what an etc
posted by beefetish at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Naberius: "Another reason for the odd behavior of HR departments, particularly the black hole into which your resume seems to vanish, is their need to justify their existence. Namely, if you're not hiring anybody, why the hell do you need to maintain an expensive department whose primary function is to go out and find qualified people that you know you aren't going to hire?"

You obviously don't understand what an HR department does. Recruiting is often just a small part.
posted by mkultra at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps there is for you. Not for me.

Alright, I'll give that it's not certain for everybody. I will say that plenty of people do derive confidence from having affirmation that they are employable, even if it's unpleasant. I can understand that being well below one's abilities is still depressing.

which is outweighed by the fact that I can't pay my bills when the going pay rate is half what the living wage in the state is and I wind up going to work to put money in my gas tank in order to get to work. And they want experience and a good attitude! HA!

When are we rising up again?


You mean you're only getting offers that are so bad, they don't add up to unemployment + cost of gas/bus fare/etc to work? If that's the case, I sympathize. If not and it's just "not enough" when unemployment benefits are also "not enough", then not so much. It's unpleasant, but be mercenary. That, or lead the way and start organizing protests, because there's plenty of desire to join in and nobody to lead.
posted by Saydur at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2011


Pardon me, above post has replies to josher71 and dave78981 respectively, forgot to note that distinctly.
posted by Saydur at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2011


That, or lead the way and start organizing protests, because there's plenty of desire to join in and nobody to lead.

Organizing protests shows that you work will with others and will ensure you are considered management material when there start to be jobs again.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an etc

Hey, I'm only a business minor. I remember in senior year of college I was at a finance job fair. It was half a dozen investment banks, a few smaller investment boutiques, and maybe a couple investment arms of major conglomerates/multinationals.

I just finished speaking to a recruiter and was walking to the center of the room. When I got there, I looked around me. It was a sea of black: Pressed suits, well-coifed hair, and maybe a smattering of red or blue for the women that wore something a bit more "bold". And it was right there I started to suspect I couldn't do this. And that was during the "boom" time of 2005.

Thinking back to it, I learned from both career counselors and peers the fastidious attention to detail needed when job searching: I mean, on stationary alone it was encouraged to possess a nice resume, business card, and thank you cards. All printed on textured or high quality paper and stored in a professional leatherbound folder or porfolio, of course.

And really I still haven't gotten down the ritual and proper etiquette of the job search. But I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm employed. For now.
posted by FJT at 12:41 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean you're only getting offers that are so bad, they don't add up to unemployment + cost of gas/bus fare/etc to work? If that's the case, I sympathize. If not and it's just "not enough" when unemployment benefits are also "not enough", then not so much. It's unpleasant, but be mercenary. That, or lead the way and start organizing protests, because there's plenty of desire to join in and nobody to lead.
Unemployment pays what, about $1k/mo? It depends on what your prior job was, your state, and so on. But $7.50/hr full time is only slightly more, and you'll be lucky to get full time. at a crappy McDonald's job.

And of course the minimum wage/cheap jobs have the most competition
posted by delmoi at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


@FJT: I think the point being made is that you're not qualified to give advice to those of us who have been unemployed for so long unless you've walked a mile in our shoes.

One of the things I hate most about being unemployed is getting job search advice from people who clearly don't know what its like to be searching for a job right now. The advice you gave isn't anything I haven't heard before, it isn't anything I haven't put into practice. It isn't anything that has worked.

The next time you're talking to someone who is looking for work, don't offer advice unless its asked for. Unless you have a lead for a specific job, shut the hell up or you'll come off as an asshole.
posted by VTX at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I want to ad this observation.

From 2001 to late 2004, I was un- and under-employed. I owned a mortgage in Tucson. It was horrible, although I never starved or slept in my car.

In October of 2004, I accepted a job in Phoenix, one that I had to drive 120 miles one-way every day to perform.

I had considered commuting to PHX before and concluded that it couldn't be done. It wasn't until I got the job (one that paid enough for me to rent a little Plymouth Neon on a weekly basis) and started making the trek that I discovered two things:

1)Sometimes, you might consciously ignore something that will solve your problems.

and

2)Nowadays, being mobile might be more important than owning a house in your wage-earning years.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think what would make a great addition to this post is one of those "he problem is clearly that Millenials are too coddled to work" pieces, perhaps followed by "Young men have decided as a unit never to grow up" and "Young women are much too serious".
posted by bleep at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unemployment pays what, about $1k/mo? It depends on what your prior job was, your state, and so on.

I clear about $1200 a month on unemployment. I pay my bills and have a tiny bit left over for gas and food every week. A job at $9.00 per hour, which is what is usually offered around here, at 40 hours, yields about the same, except that I would have to drive every day to get there. The psychological benefit doesn't even out with the financial reality.

I'm seriously considering going back to school full time to finish my degree, hopefully getting some grants to help me live. I can feel good about improving myself and ride out this current downturn.
posted by dave78981 at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone have an opinion on just how much you have to tailor your resume for each job?

I've been on the receiving end of resumes enough to know that when someone does this well, they really stand out in a good way. You create a specific job description listing skills and experience and then you get half the resumes that read from left field and you being to wonder. The person who states clearly, "it looks like you need help solving x problem, so here is my relevant experience doing that sort of thing" is head and shoulders above the rest.

In all fairness, I've also been on the job hunt and felt like I fit hand in glove based on my experience and the requirements posted. It is a tough dance and I it seems like employers and job seekers alike both feel frustrated trying to make good matches.

In conclusion, definitely tailor your message. I find it is best done with the cover letter when it can make it into the hands of hiring manager.
posted by dgran at 1:08 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's unpleasant, but be mercenary.

What does this even mean? Should I "seize the day!", too?

I'm not turning down offers-I haven't been offered a position I've applied to since last January. I've had maybe 6 interviews during that time, despite sending out resumes daily. I've tried to concentrate on jobs that offer full time work because in my experience, temping sucks. I also can't keep taking jobs that pay less than the last one just so I get the dubious psychological benefit of "working". That makes me angry.

And yeah, I agree with whoever said don't offer advice unless asked for. I've heard it all before and none of it's very compelling.
posted by dave78981 at 1:13 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


VTX: The advice you gave isn't anything I haven't heard before, it isn't anything I haven't put into practice. It isn't anything that has worked.

Well, first, thank you for pointing out that I was giving advice. When I was writing this I thought I was wording things in a way that it wasn't advice. I thought we were exchanging ideas. Having a normal conversation between two people on a subject.

I wasn't trying to give advice to you or anyone in this topic. I would never even pretend to understand or know what you're going through. I never stated or implied that I sympathize, or understand, or know what you're going through. And that's part of the reason why I thought we were here on this comment board: To exchange perspectives, not give advice (this isn't AskMe).

And finally, there is one thing I do know and that is I'm certainly not qualified to give advice. I think I made it clear in my last post where I mentioned that I never really got down the ritual or proper etiquette for this thing.

I'm trying to be clear as possible here. And if anyone else thought I was giving advice, I apologize, I wasn't.
posted by FJT at 1:24 PM on August 23, 2011


Oh, and if you do not want to exchange ideas with me, I will respect that. Thank you for reading.
posted by FJT at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2011


Yeah, sorry if I'm a little touchy about this FJT.

There is an expectation when you're unemployed, probably having to do with identity being so enmeshed with employment in this country, that others are judging you for being out of work. I get a lot of advice from people that is so obvious it almost seems like they're questioning my intelligence or my desire to work, but strangely only one person has ever actually passed along a lead on a job. Then there are others that just bombard me with useless platitudes about staying positive.

I really am curious what you mean by being mercenary in this context, though.
posted by dave78981 at 1:32 PM on August 23, 2011


I also can't keep taking jobs that pay less than the last one just so I get the dubious psychological benefit of "working". That makes me angry.

Doesn't exactly feel good to be told that what I did for years to pay the bills isn't even worth doing either. I hope you find a job that does meet your needs, but I also hope you take a moment to recognize that a lot of people wouldn't get that much in unemployment and have no choice but to take those jobs to stay afloat.

As for what I said about being mercenary, what I was suggesting was that a job isn't just financial. It's "employed is employable", it's working with people who may know people, and it's potentially working for a company that would much rather do an internal hire. I'll pass on giving any other advice though, since I can see why it would be more frustrating than anything.
posted by Saydur at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2011


I clear about $1200 a month on unemployment. I pay my bills and have a tiny bit left over for gas and food every week. A job at $9.00 per hour, which is what is usually offered around here, at 40 hours, yields about the same, except that I would have to drive every day to get there. The psychological benefit doesn't even out with the financial reality.

Look. I don't know you, I don't know your situation or anything like that and I'm honestly not trying to be a dick or a troll but you are staying on unemployment because the psychological benefit of supporting yourself isn't worth gas money?!
posted by codswallop at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2011


I'd like to second everything VTX has said in this thread.

Saydur: I'm not fond of the right-wing "kick in the ass" philosophy, but I can state quite certainly that there's a psychological benefit to working even the crappiest job.

I have that benefit -- I delivered pizza for a couple of years. It didn't exactly do wonders for my frame of mind.
posted by JHarris at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


unemployment because the psychological benefit of supporting yourself isn't worth gas money?!

Uh, gas money is nothing to scoff at. If you're using the unemployment money as buying yourself time to get yourself a job with a profit-margin of any kind (and I don't think that's too much to ask, I mean come on), I think that's pretty good strategy.

In my experience working at a job with a tiny or non-existant profit margin when you're qualified for bigger and better things can take a huge toll on one's self-esteem. Right now I'm lucky enough to be doing the job I went to school for and although it sucks and makes me miserable in many, many other ways, it at least does afford the "psychological benefit of providing for oneself, even if just barely". But that's *only* because it's what I spent a lot of time and effort and money to be able to do.
posted by bleep at 1:51 PM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Look. I don't know you, I don't know your situation or anything like that and I'm honestly not trying to be a dick or a troll but you are staying on unemployment because the psychological benefit of supporting yourself isn't worth gas money?!"

That's not what I said. What I said was that at 40 hours a week I would make the same amount of money, yet have the added expense of having to drive every day to get to my job. A job is worthless to me if it doesn't pay my bills- I can get that psychological benefit by going for a hike instead. But the psychological detriment of working full time and still not being able to support myself... nah, not at this point.

As for what I said about being mercenary, what I was suggesting was that a job isn't just financial. It's "employed is employable", it's working with people who may know people, and it's potentially working for a company that would much rather do an internal hire. I'll pass on giving any other advice though, since I can see why it would be more frustrating than anything.

I agree, but the very first thing it needs to do is pay my bills. I'm completely willing to take jobs below what I made in the past, but there is a low end cut off I've imposed that I'm not currently forced to lift. The last few temp positions haven't led to full time positions and that's why I'm being more choosy this time around.
posted by dave78981 at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look. I don't know you, I don't know your situation or anything like that and I'm honestly not trying to be a dick or a troll but you are staying on unemployment because the psychological benefit of supporting yourself isn't worth gas money

Pretty big assumption there from just one paragraph that you read. One of the big benefits of unemployment is that you get 40 hours a week to look for better work than just something that makes 9 bucks an hour. Once you take that 9 bucks an hour you are screwed - you're stuck there because it's much harder trying to look for work and make interviews when you're already doing 40 hours a week.

One more thing - unemployment laws are screwed up. I'm on unemployment now. I pull in $1800 a month before taxes - $1600 or so after taxes. I am getting very few interviews. I would love to take a part time I.T. job , even at 12 bucks an hour just to keep in the game and be out in the world.

You know what? I can't I can;t take a part time job because as soon as I work more than 4 weeks in a row and.or as soon as I pull in more than about $1000 or so California cuts me the fuck off unemployment and I have to reapply which takes several weeks without a check. I also risk being reclassified down to 10% or less of what I am getting weekly now because few of the EDD clerks there know of the new rules. Get reclassified? Expect to wait 6 to 8 weeks without any money while you fight that. Is all that supposed to happen? No. Does it happen? Each and every freaking time! Check out the unemployment boards and you will find story after story of people who took part time jobs and got cut off for weeks to months. I can't risk that. Very few can. The system is screwed up and worked actively AGAINST the unemployed. There were a whole lot of part time jobs that I wanted to take and wanted to do - but i CAN'T. Because the state will screw me and I can't afford to do that. Not going to risk being homeless for that.

So it's more complicated than you may think.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


"Once you take that 9 bucks an hour you are screwed - you're stuck there because it's much harder trying to look for work and make interviews when you're already doing 40 hours a week."

Exactly. Also, if you made a decent salary a few jobs ago, but have a string of low paying jobs since, what do you think that tells an employer?

And, btw, I AM supporting myself. I have no compassion for the poor poor companies that offshore their jobs, use temp agencies to get around employment laws, actively recruit "interns", and engage every tax loophole there is, etc. All those things are defended as being in the economic self interest of the company. Well, it is in my economic self interest to hold out for the best possible job, and I will keep collecting until then.

Mercenary enough?
posted by dave78981 at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


Due to weird chance and fortune, its been a long time since I've had a real job hunt -- a pound the pavement, knock on doors, phone and re-phone, contact and follow-up kind of job hut. At the time, even with no HR department gatekeepers, it was clear that the slimmest, might as well just give up, kind of chances were jobs with posted job ads where you submitted a cv or filled in an application. It was super hard slogging, and I was much younger and tougher skinned at the time.

Since then, I've been on hiring commitees and interviewing detailing for several academic job searches as well as recruiting scientists for corporate / industry type jobs. A few things stand out, in my experience that are relevant to this discussion, especially the comments about 'tailoring the resume to the job' and 'most people don't know how to write a resume / cover letter / etc'. For a typical requires-a-graduate-degree science job in academia or industry, there will be hundreds of resumes that make it through the HR gatekeepers. Its absolutely brutal, because out of, say, 200 resumes, you need to pare it down to a roughly ordered short list of 20 or so (of which you might contact or interview a half dozen). For an academic position, an application could include a cover letter, cv, statement of research interests and goals, statement of teaching philosophy, copies of key publications, portfolio of teaching materials, course evaluations, and letters of recommendation. I am not joking when I say I have often gone through applications that exceeded 50 pages of materials. Obviously these can take hours of even quick reading. Even industry / corporate evaluations can run more than a dozen pages (cover letter, cv, transcripts, references). Confronted with a stack of hundreds of these things ... its overwhelming (especially since recruiting has always been something I did on top of my normal job).

So you start going through them, and, depressingly enough, you start to realize that you are less interested in the application's merits than in trying to find an excuse-- any excuse -- to drop a given applicant. Couldn't be arsed to use a spell checker. Didn't bother to get an experienced person review the application. Terribly tortured writing. Very generic, form-letter like application. Screwed up on mail merge and got the company name wrong. Its terrible, and unfair, but these are the things that application screeners love to see, because they can instantly discard the application and go on to the next one. Moral of the story: having a perfectly written, perfectly customized to the exact job description and perfectly tailored application will not get you a job. At best it will prevent it from being summararily tossed.

The same goes for interviews. Any negative carries more weight than a positive. You can't 'win' an interview, but you can certainly lose.

But the really sad thing in all of this is that with even an ounce of common sense and honesty, you realize that this process is terribly imperfect. Application materials are a terrible predictor of hire quality and fit. Interviews are not much better and far too skewed by the kinds of interpersonal skills that some folks have, but are not necessarily relevant to the job. So the information is terribly imperfect, and you know for certain that you will be rejecting lots of potentially great people. You worry that its quite likely that the ones you short list and hire may not end up working out. The whole process is ridiculous, inefficient and ineffective.

It makes you start to reconsider the virtues of nepotism.
posted by bumpkin at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't know how things are everywhere, but around here it seems they have to post job openings by law, even if they already know who they are going to hire for the position because they're filling it internally or something. I have heard of this more than once. I always feel sorry for the people desperately applying for these jobs that they have no way of knowing they will never be considered for, no matter how customized their resume or positive and upbeat their cover letter. I will bet this happens an awful, awful lot.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:24 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. Also, if you made a decent salary a few jobs ago, but have a string of low paying jobs since, what do you think that tells an employer?

Since when do you have to tell your employer your salary?
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2011


That's not what I said. What I said was that at 40 hours a week I would make the same amount of money, yet have the added expense of having to drive every day to get to my job. A job is worthless to me if it doesn't pay my bills- I can get that psychological benefit by going for a hike instead. But the psychological detriment of working full time and still not being able to support myself... nah, not at this point.

Man, I don't know. I know it's tough out there, but we shouldn't have in society an option where you don't choose to work because the psychological & financial benefits of unemployment are easier on you. That's horrible.
posted by xmutex at 2:35 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, because what we need is more abject suffering all around. Perhaps workhouses would more efficiently eliminate mental and physical health in the non-working.
posted by bleep at 2:40 PM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]



Since when do you have to tell your employer your salary?

Many employers require a salary history and if they don't it's pretty easy to tell from your resume, even if you try to hype it up.
posted by bleep at 2:41 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


delmoi quite a few employers asked me what my salaries were at previous jobs during my job search this year.
posted by beefetish at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2011


I know it's tough out there, but we shouldn't have in society an option where you don't choose to work because the psychological & financial benefits of unemployment are easier on you.

We should have a society where jobs are plentiful and a decent wage is paid. 13 years ago, my profession paid upwards of 50K a year with full benefits and one could easily find a job within a week or two. Because of various legislations regarding off-shoring and work visas jobs are virtually nonexistent and now pay 12 bucks an hour likely with no benefits.

We should live in a society where the very very wealthy do not get to screw over the middle class.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:47 PM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Poet_Lariat, I disagree, I think we should all starve to death before utilizing the social safety net. It would be so much better for... something. I haven't thought this all the way through.
posted by bleep at 2:52 PM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I worked in my field for 25 years and was making very good money when I was laid off in 2009. I'm in my fifties. I have two kids in college and a high school junior (by the way, they figured it out). I had enough saved that we've made it by working odd jobs 'till now. But it's taken an awful toll on my family and my marriage. Seriously, do you really think I have any way to compete against younger people going after the same jobs as me? Really? I don't.
posted by DaddyNewt at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I clear about $1200 a month on unemployment. I pay my bills and have a tiny bit left over for gas and food every week. A job at $9.00 per hour, which is what is usually offered around here, at 40 hours, yields about the same, except that I would have to drive every day to get there.

If you get that 40 hours/week, of course. One of the other lessons employers have learned in this new age of ours is to work hourly employees right up to 36-38 hours. Never schedule them for 40. Laws and benefits might kick-in at 40 hours.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:06 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the point being made is that you're not qualified to give advice to those of us who have been unemployed for so long unless you've walked a mile in our shoes.

Sitting (for the moment, at least) on the other side of the table, I do think it's worth mentioning that a lot of what job candidates are doing -- presumably based on the advice they are getting -- flat out doesn't work. We had a couple positions open recently, and we ended up seeing a lot of examples of ineffective job searching. (And it's not just us: I was talking about this two days ago with a subcontractor of ours, and they have had the exact same experience with their open positions.)

I don't know about other fields/industries, but where I work a generic resume and cover letter isn't worth the paper it's printed on, for example. These are somewhat specialized positions, and while you certainly don't need to have every single desired qualification, you do need to explain that a) you understand what the job entails and b) have the capacity to perform most of its functions. A generic resume and letter don't do that -- and that's after HR has filtered out the ones that are wildly divorced from what the position description read.

But somewhere, people are getting the idea that bulk-mailing out generic resumes and letters is an effective approach (and perhaps in some fields, or for some kinds of positions, that is true). Meanwhile, I and almost everyone I work with got our jobs through some mix of personal contacts, getting a foot in the door through volunteer or part time work, asking around, things like that. The very techniques that were demonstrably effective for all of us, and still work fine when we have open positions (as witnessed by a hire we just made) aren't being practiced by almost any of the job candidates I encounter.

So while I agree that you have no need to listen to unsolicited advice, I do think that there are some strong commonalities in the experiences being described here by people involved in the hiring process, and learning from those might have some utility in job searching. A lot of the advice people are following is clearly wrong and ineffective, but that doesn't mean that nothing is worth listening to at all. It's no one person's fault that we have decided, as a society, to reward the ultra-rich and fuck everyone else, but within that shitty situation there are better and worse tactics to use.
posted by Forktine at 3:08 PM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Don't people go on informational interviews anymore? Or practice with friends? I'm a freelancer, so I'm always looking for work. I've been on zillions of interviews, both formal and look-sees, and think knowing how to interview someone else and to be interviewed is a vital skill. If you think your interview skills aren't great, practice, practice, practice.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2011


Look. I don't know you, I don't know your situation or anything like that and I'm honestly not trying to be a dick or a troll but you are staying on unemployment because the psychological benefit of supporting yourself isn't worth gas money
What the hell is the 'psychological benefit' of working a shitty job that barely covers your bills? A lot of times those low wage jobs are crap. They're not enjoyable at all. And they're tiring. Even if you have time in the day to send out resumes, you're going to be exhausted, you feet will might be sore from standing all day, and so on.

The idea that simply working is better for you then not working but still getting money is absurd.

And keep in mind you're company paid unemployment insurance premiums while you were working So really, you earned those checks anyway.

The idea that there is a 'psychological benefit' of exhausting yourself and making yourself miserable for a shitty wage day in day out is just completely absurd.
I know it's tough out there, but we shouldn't have in society an option where you don't choose to work because the psychological & financial benefits of unemployment are easier on you. That's horrible.
Why not? You paid for it while you were working? Unemployment is typically structured to pay you until you find an equivalent job to your old one for some time, and then after a while it requires you to look for any job.

But I don't really see what the big deal is. Why not take the money? It was your taxes (while employed) that paid for it. I don't understand the obsession with work to begin with. Why would you want to waste your time and effort doing something you don't want to do if you don't have too?

The reality, the unemployment rate is too high. If everyone took 6 months off between jobs, that would reduce the number of people seeking work, and
posted by delmoi at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's a wild and crazy thought ....

I'm getting about 22K a year on unemployment. What if the State or the feds gave any employer who hired someone on unemployment for a full time job with minimal wage & benefit requirements (40 hours a week, $12 an hour or so, 5 sick days, 2 weeks vacation, some Health benefit) a TWELVE GRAND A YEAR TAX CREDIT FOR TWO YEARS if they hire me and keep me on. The State is STILL paying out less - PLUS they are getting money from payroll taxes etc so they are getting some of that back PLUS I am now spending money in the State because I have a job and the State doesn't have to worry about paying for me if I go on welfare because I don't have a job. Let the State or the Feds give each employer a tax credit of 60% of what I would get on unemployment if they hire me.

The State benefits, I benefit, my employer benefits. WTF Government! ??? Why should this be so complicated?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:52 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't people go on informational interviews anymore?

Weirdly, the answer appears to be "no." My workplace is regionally prominent. We do good work. Even in the middle of this economy, we have created a few positions. We know pretty much everyone doing this sort of work in two or three states. Do you know how many "informational" phone calls I or any of the people I work with have received in the last year?

None.

But probably half the people I work with (and myself included) got their jobs by doing exactly that. Calling up or dropping by, making contact, and then when a position is created, it is magically tailored to that person. Or, even if I am not going to hire that person, I generally have an idea of which companies and agencies are trying to hire at a given moment.

And I am seriously not exaggerating. People are genuinely not out beating the bushes for work in this field -- they are responding to online ad postings. And since those are often, as I said above, already tailored to a known candidate, it's an even bigger waste.
posted by Forktine at 4:11 PM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wish I could favorite delmoi's comment a billion times. The concept of any work, regardless of type, having a psychological benefit is absurd. It's the worst parts of the puritan work ethic distilled into pure pop-psych.

I know it's tough out there, but we shouldn't have in society an option where you don't choose to work because the psychological & financial benefits of unemployment are easier on you. That's horrible.

Why not? What's horrible about it? Is the idea that if work isn't mandatory for survival that nobody will work? Civilization will complete to a complete stop? Or is it that we hate supporting people who don't want to work?

This is kind of related to our current drug policies. The idea being that if we legalize it, everybody will just decide to become addicts.

There are always going to be people who want to work, who are driven by something, whether it's their true passion or the desire for more wealth and power. An option where you don't have to work isn't going to stop those people from working.
posted by formless at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


The idea that simply working is better for you then not working but still getting money is absurd.

No, it's not. Making your own money when you can is better every single day than taking money from other people. At least, if you want to have any pride about yourself as a reasonably self-sustaining non-leeching member of a worthwhile society.

Opting to go on the dole when you have a viable option for work is reprehensible. It's an offense to people who genuinely cannot find work.
posted by xmutex at 5:05 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Poet_Lariat: We should live in a society where the very very wealthy do not get to screw over the middle class.

What is this "middle class" of which you speak?
posted by tzikeh at 5:40 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, it's not. Making your own money when you can is better every single day than taking money from other people. At least, if you want to have any pride about yourself as a reasonably self-sustaining non-leeching member of a worthwhile society.

Whoa - Stage 3 Smug Alert!

Taking a low paying back breaking job because some rich corporation decided that you're making too much money and they aren't making nearly enough isn't being a good member of society - it's being a chump.

You worked for 2 years of unemployment insurance. You paid for that two years out of the salary that you earned all the previous years that you were working. You deserve it to yourself and those who may depend on you to use all the time available to maximize your future income and get the best job that you possibly can
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


dooh !- unclosed bold strikes again
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:01 PM on August 23, 2011


Making your own money when you can is better every single day than taking money from other people. At least, if you want to have any pride about yourself as a reasonably self-sustaining non-leeching member of a worthwhile society.

Bullshit.

I had one of those crappy jobs a few years back that's supposed to have some kind of psychological benefit simply because one is working outside of the home for their money, rather than taking a weekly check from a fund generated by payroll taxes from one's former employer (i.e., a fund the worker has paid into and has every right to draw from).

I remember it was just after Hurricane Katrina because I had been watching the post-storm news coverage on the local NBC affiliate -- a channel I was restricted to because I could not afford cable and actually couldn't even afford a cheap rabbit-ear antenna, and the local channel was the only one that came in strong enough to be watchable. I was siphoning internet from my ex, who lived two floors below me and who had graciously loaned me a computer (mine had broken, couldn't afford to fix it) and opened up his wireless network so that I could look for work. I was denied UI benefits and had no income at all, so my parental unit was loaning me money for rent and basic utilities and food. I could have fought the UI denial (and won, my former employer denied all claims as a matter of course and rolled over if they were fought -- wish I'd known that then), but at the time I convinced myself that it wasn't worth it, and that I'd feel better if I just hurried up and got a real job instead.

After a few months of applying for literally every job opening I could find, I FINALLY had someone interested in interviewing me. The job was a temporary contract with a large internet-based bookseller, processing invoices in their accounts payable department. The contract was limited to six months only, no extensions, although once you got there you could apply for full-time openings. The pay was the lowest I had been offered since I left the fast-food industry in high school: $9 per hour. Because I was desperate and my next option was to sell as many belongings as I could, put the rest in storage, and secretly move into my grandmother's spare bedroom at the retirement home without her landlord finding out, I saw no option but to take the job offer. I was told that there was plenty of overtime available, and I figured I'd work my ass off for a few weeks to make some cash, then start looking for full time work and better pay and try to get out of there ASAP.

I never got a chance to look for other work outside of that place, not until the last three weeks of my contract. By then I had scoured all the internal job postings and found nothing that fit my skillset. I was also pretty burned out on the mandatory overtime. A few weeks after I started the job, our managers announced that the workload was so heavy we'd all need to work mandatory overtime each week to meet the demand. We started out at ten hours mandatory OT in October, and by December 1 it was 20 hours a week of mandatory OT. By the time I got off work and got myself home, I was so exhausted and my eyes and head hurt so badly from staring at an Oracle database all day that I couldn't force myself to spend more time on the computer without breaking down into tears.

I did a LOT of crying that winter, actually. Even working all that mandatory overtime wasn't making me a whole lot of money. After taxes, $9 an hour (or $12 for OT) won't go very far. I was able to pay my rent and my basic utilities myself, but I still needed financial help to buy groceries, and I still couldn't afford to pay for my own internet service (or cable -- I've never gotten that back, actually). My winter coat fell apart at the seams that year but I had to keep wearing it, because I couldn't afford anything else and I was so ashamed of my situation and of how much help I was already taking from my friends and family that I couldn't bear to ask for any more help even though I was in desperate need. I patched it as best I could and wore layers underneath and just pretended I was fine.

Looking back on it, and reading the meager journal entries I was able to eke out during that time, I'm genuinely surprised that I didn't commit suicide. I was exhausted all the time, and sick (everyone came to work sick and passed it around to everyone else -- can't take time off to get well when you're the working poor!), and hungry, and so desperately sad and scared and hopeless. That winter it rained for literally a month straight. I remember leaving work one night at around 9pm and going across the street to the grocery store for cat litter. I bought the cheapest litter I could find, because that's all I could afford, and when I got outside I realized I did not have enough change left for bus fare. I didn't want to call my ex to ask for a ride home -- things were tense between us at the time and I didn't want to deal with the situation so I decided I would just walk the two and a half miles home, even though it was raining like hell. I didn't realize that the 20lb sack of cat litter I'd bought wasn't waterproof enough for the hike, though. By the time I got home, I was soaked to the skin and the cat litter was a giant rock, unusable. I remember standing in my bathroom in my coat and shoes, dripping rainwater everywhere, and crying so hard I couldn't catch my breath, and just wanting it to end by any means necessary.

I did end up getting a job somewhere else, though, which I stayed at for a few years. Then I left that job, took a different job, and that job ended when the company went under. Lucky for me, I learned a very valuable lesson about being unemployed: 1., fucking FIGHT for your unemployment benefits if they are denied you, and 2., if you're getting unemployment, hold out for a job that doesn't make you want to eat a gun barrel. And that's exactly what I did, this last time around. A month or so after my last job ended, I got an offer for a position doing something I have the skills to do but am thoroughly uninterested in doing, at a pay rate lower than I was comfortable accepting, and with hours that didn't suit me and a sketchy location in an area of town unsafe for pedestrians (which I am). The old me would have leapt on that job like it was a life preserver. The newer, smarter me said, "Thanks so much, but I'm unable to accept your offer." Two weeks later I met someone with damn good connections. Three months after that, I was accepting a job doing something much more suitable to my skills and desires, in a damn fine location with damn fine benefits and a salary just less than twice what that other job was offering.

If you have the option of collecting unemployment benefits and you decide you'd rather bootstrap it because that's more "admirable" or something, you're nothing but a damn fool. If you look at people collecting unemployment and you feel comfortable making a moral judgement about their decisions based on nothing but your uninformed assumptions about their life and their needs, you're not only a damn fool, but you're a presumptuous jackass besides.
posted by palomar at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2011 [38 favorites]


Quick correction: my OT pay was $13.50 per hour, not $12. Also, "taking money from other people" isn't how unemployment insurance works, xmutex. I paid into the UI pool, I am entitled to withdraw from it when I am out of work. Get your facts right before you pull this shaming bullshit.
posted by palomar at 6:19 PM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]



It's more true that ever before that we're all mercenaries now.


Welcome to Capitalism.
posted by notreally at 6:46 PM on August 23, 2011


I don't know if anyone is still reading this far down, but here goes...

Here's my most recent unemployment story. I live in the DC area, which has been hit less so than other areas. December 2009 / January 2010, I learned that my job at a small nonprofit would be ending. They were losing all their funding and would have to shut doors in April of 2010, around my year anniversary. For a variety of reasons, a fairly new relationship, a busy life, but mostly a congenital fear of job hunting, I didn't get to serious applying until March. I lose my job on schedule and go into turbo drive of applying. I had been unemployed before for short periods, the last one was three months after I was fired from a job. I applied for unemployment after a month. The whole thing was humiliating to me, but I had gotten over it last time, I understood that this was money I paid into, leeway that I had socked away so that I could find a job.

So I applied. I made a job of it, I put more effort into it than most of my jobs. I got up at 6 every morning, just like I did when I had a job, and started at 7, earlier than a normal job. I generally worked until 5 or 6, sometimes later. I might apply to 20-30 jobs a day, when I had the fire in me, when I was finding listings that I was qualified for.

When the despair set in, I might get out five applications. I didn't personalize my resumes much because I felt it was a numbers game. I still do. Most of the job listings were so generic, that beyond tweaking the order, personalizing wasn't an issue. I knew I was competing against people with more experience than me, with more personalized experience with me. So it became a matter of blanketing the world.

And I got some responses I did. A few dozen phone interviews. A couple dozen first interviews, a handful of followups. And as the months dragged on, the despair grew. I wasn't at the point where I was eating catfood, if anything I was probably eating better than I was before because I had the time to cook. I had a family that supported me, both mentally and monetarily at times, friends that were understanding. There was a time in October where I was one of two left in a job that desperately wanted. I didn't get it.

As the time went on, my standards for the sort of jobs I wanted dropped. It wasn't that I was holding out for a great job, or holding out for a job that paid what I was paid before, either in the private world, or the much less in the non-profit world. But I had jobs before where I found out what I didn't want to be, and I was trying not to apply to those, or to apply only to a certain percentage of those. Because I had managed to get off that career path and onto a different one when I took the nonprofit job, and it was hard enough as it was. Hard enough going to interviews where I had the person say "Well, it looks like you've done a lot of tech writing..." and I have to tell them, yes, I have. But I've also done a lot more, as you can see. And for the past year I've done no tech writing, I've done project management, I've done the non-profit thing.

But I kept getting pigeonholed, I kept getting turned down. Or worse, the infinite void of not knowing. Just assuming that despite me calling back, I'd never hear from them. That I'd get a rejection in 6-12 months when my resume was kicked out of the automated system. And I pressed on, usually sending out 50+ resumes a week. I know, I kept a list of most of what I sent out, nominally for unemployment purposes, but mostly just so that I could look at it in either triumph or defeat and say "See!? This is what I have been doing with my time!"

It all takes a toll on you. I'm a shy guy, and job hunting in an economy like this is like one-neverending speed dating where the only possibility is rejection. It consumed my life more than any job could. I'm not saying it ended my relationship, but I think it contributed. The endless job-hunting sucks the savor out of life. I would spend time with friends, doing free or cheap things, and I found that I couldn't enjoy it. Because that was time, from 6-10PM, that I could be applying to jobs. Or thinking about it. Or at least feeling guilty about it.

The guilt was not merely being unemployed. It wasn't that exactly. I've never justified or identified myself with my job, it's usually something I do during the day so that I can have the money and life that I want. And I don't need a lot of money, I wasn't looking for a lot of money, just a salary that I could live on. I made it as clear as I could in my cover letter that I need I was overqualified for this job, but that I would take it anyway, I would take the salary offered, that I would do whatever it took to get my foot in the door at an organization. I was willing to debase myself, to throw away my pride.

Working retail or a fast food joint was not going to work. As has been noted upthread, it made little sense for me to work a 40 hour job (if I'm lucky), to earn about the same as I was earning before, but with the added exhaustion and lack of time to apply for jobs. But there were times that I considered it. I felt that there was a psychological burden to not having a job. But it was more that I was there, largely alone and by myself all day, with nothing but my thoughts. And lord knows I don't need more introspection.

Thoughts turn dark, and it becomes harder and harder to get any enjoyment from life. You start to lose whatever tenuous self-worth you have, and job hunting becomes harder and harder as you have to motivate yourself to even wake up. But you do, and I start to wish that I drank or took drugs. You hit your daily quotas (self-made), maybe try to exercise to burn off the frustration, but that's not working. Punching brick and concrete walls helps, and maybe, just maybe you'll hit it hard enough that it will yield. But careful now, you don't have health insurance, can't afford to injure yourself. You push on, more out of stubbornness than anything else, because that's all you have left.

You get advice from people sure. Why don't you do this? Or this? Idiot suggestions from well meaning people who have no idea what it's like to be job hunting these days. Why don't you apply here? Because the job clearly says it requires at least an MA, preferably a PhD, and I only have a BA. And that was a job posting for an admin assistant (no seriously, fuck you DC). And all the time you know that the more you are unemployed, the less employable you are. You've read the articles, hell you've even seen the job postings that ask only for those currently employed. And you know how it goes.

But you keep going on.

In December, I finally found something. I got the nod for a tech writer job, the exact job I didn't want to go to again, but had been applying to for months anyway, the one that was pushing me back to a career path that it became harder and harder to escape. But I took it anyway, so pitifully grateful that after I hung up the phone after the acceptance I wept for half an hour before calling my family to give them the good news. Because after nine months of unemployment, and the ever closer end to my unemployment benefits, the dwindling of my savings, the monetary support from family that you feel completely unworthy of, I needed the income. Perhaps more than that, I needed a change. I was getting to a darker and darker place, it was getting harder and harder to do anything, and my thoughts were getting worse... well let's not go there.

So I have this job now. It's not a job I like, it's actually a job I do not much care for, not just because of the work, but because I know it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I can see myself in 20 grey years sitting there doing the same thing. My supervisor told me early on how this is a job that one can have for the rest of one's life, and I nearly vomited after I got home. I've applied to some jobs in the meantime, even gone on some interviews. I haven't gotten any of those jobs yet. I get home from work, feeling like I've done nothing, exhausted, unable to stare at a screen for much longer for fear that my eyeballs are going to bleed. And I sit there and try to work up the energy to apply for jobs, and I start to get anxiety attacks, or nervous spasms. Some sort of pathetic PTSD.

This is the world we've made. We could have some real job training, but there's no money in it because we need tax cuts for rich people. We can't have a WPA because that's socialism. It's nearly eight months since I started my job, and while I've started healing, mentally, the scars are still there, might always be there. This isn't a terrible job, and I'll always be thankful for having it because I know the worse possibility is not having it.
posted by X-Himy at 9:37 PM on August 23, 2011 [22 favorites]


I paid into the UI pool, I am entitled to withdraw from it when I am out of work.

I don't think any employee pays into Unemployment, actually. It's strictly a tax on businesses. You may pay into it indirectly, as in you might've gotten higher wages while working if the company didn't have to pay blah blah blah. I think the program is set up this way in order to discourage companies from just wantonly laying people off and having a transient workforce, although they get around this by transferring much of the burden to temp agencies and contract workers. See here.
posted by dave78981 at 10:01 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


X-Himy : Wow - very moving story. I've been there. Try to remember that nothing's for ever and that everything always changes. Things will be different in this country and the world in five years and very much different in ten. For better or worse I don't know but wherever you are now, you will be someplace else five years form now so don;t let the soulless job get you down. It's not forever.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2011


No, it's not. Making your own money when you can is better every single day than taking money from other people.

It's better for them, but worse for you.

Except it's not that much worse for them because unemployment insurance provides security for them. I don't have a problem with my tax dollars going to the unemployed. Better then being spent on bombs.

(and of course there's the fact that you pay into the pool when you're working)
I don't think any employee pays into Unemployment, actually. It's strictly a tax on businesses. You may pay into it indirectly, as in you might've gotten higher wages while working if the company didn't have to pay blah blah blah.
Economically speaking, it doesn't matter where the tax is levied, both the buyer and seller contribute at an effective rate determined by market forces. The business has a total cost of employment for each employee, and the employee has their takehome pay. It doesn't really matter who "officially" pays the parts in between, if those taxes went away the gap would narrow. In a low-unemployment world employee takehome pay would go up. In a high unemployment world employee takehome pay would go down.
posted by delmoi at 10:27 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


(er sorry, last sentence should end 'total cost of employment would go down')
posted by delmoi at 10:28 PM on August 23, 2011


xmutex: "No, it's not. Making your own money when you can is better every single day than taking money from other people. At least, if you want to have any pride about yourself as a reasonably self-sustaining non-leeching member of a worthwhile society."

Ahem:

mkultra: "The driving cry of the Tea Party is not simply, "lower taxes and reduce government", but do those things because there is an entire class of Americans who simply mooch off of "real", "productive" Americans."

See how that works?
posted by mkultra at 5:33 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am a terrible employee, because I spend more time worrying about losing my job than I spend actually doing my job.
posted by Eideteker at 8:30 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I get that some folks here feel they are too good for some kind of jobs. I don't understand it, but I get that's the sentiment, and it makes sense for a lot of people to choose pretty sizable unemployment benefits over choosing work beneath them. I think that thought process sucks, and I know people who have held down 2 or sometimes 3 shit soulless jobs to make ends meat. I think that sucks, too, and anyone who does it has my total respect and sympathy.

I'll back out of the thread now because I don't want to seem to be shitting on the unemployed, because the real and staggering jobless situation in this country makes me ill and I'm not trying to add to anyone's burden.
posted by xmutex at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2011


No, you don't get it.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


xmutex: "I get that some folks here feel they are too good for some kind of jobs."

I don't doubt this is how you feel, but you're missing the distinction some people draw between "a job that's beneath me" and "a job whose short-term net gain is not worth the long-term opportunities lost".

You can disagree with whether you think the latter thought is a worthy one, but you can do it without assuming judgment.
posted by mkultra at 9:06 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get that some folks here feel they are too good for some kind of jobs.

You're a credit to humanity is what you are.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that sucks, too, and anyone who does it has my total respect and sympathy.

Claims of respect and sympathy are cheap, anyone can give them out. But words are just words.

You know what they have from me? They have my money and taxes for unemployment and social services.

And that's what it comes down to for me. It has nothing to do with people deserving unemployment or it being a right that they paid into, even though that's all true.

To me it's about helping people out of shit and soulless jobs. To me it's all about going back to the golden rule.

I don't mind paying a little extra to make other people happy.

We're really going to need to have an honest look as a culture and world at employment and work and what it means as the population continues to increase and technology continues to cut the need for human workers.
posted by formless at 9:44 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have come to the conclusion that the ability to see people on unemployment, food stamps, etc. must come from the exact same knot in the brain that allows people to hate on others while still considering themselves good Christians. I realize that in theory there are "freeloaders" out there somewhere, but I've never met one. Every person I've ever met on an "entitlement" desperately wanted to get off of it and become gainfully employed once more. Hell, most of them were the people I knew with the very best work ethics.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:46 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


My sincere apologies if I've offended anyone in this thread.
posted by xmutex at 9:53 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I caught my first layoff ever in early 2009, and I'm in my '50s. And working in a field where the median age is like 29.

2009 itself wasn't bad; I did OK freelancing. 2010 the freelance dried up and the jobs were thin on the ground, and I kind of stopped giving a shit. So, by the spring I gave myself permission to take a shit job, but one in something I like. So I apprenticed for about 10 weeks as a boat mechanic. I learned tons, lost weight, great tan, and made lots of contacts. When the mortgage is finished I'd like to work on boats full-time.

I got back at the job search last fall, had some good interviews, and finally struck paydirt in my field in February.

What works for me (as a fairly specialized tech sector worker):
- when you're working, live BELOW your means and save some money, FFS. you do not need an iPad or that ninja motorcycle crotch-rocket, or recreational drugs. You need to first save up a safety blanket of around $20k, for the inevitable downturn or layoff.
- tune the resume, be prepared to tweak for specific applications when appropriate
- do not shotgun reams of resumes everywhere. Instead put more effort into fewer applications to really appropriate positions. Most blah resumes only get used for puppy-training.
- write a very focused cover letter that appears to directly target the requirements of the job.
- network network network network network network network network. Some of the better employers offer their employees a nice referral bonus if a person they recommend gets hired.

(and to be perfectly honest, I've never gotten a job where I didn't have some sort of leg up by either having an inside reference, or an introduction, inside knowledge, or some other connection.)

To the person whining that they are too introverted to interview well... do you like to EAT? The job you say you are otherwise perfect for is going to go to the person who can sell him/herself, and not you. If you can't convince your potential boss that you would be their ideal employee... perhaps you wouldn't be. The ability to speak and to persuade is a part of just about any job above burger-flipper.

There is something wrong in our economy where companies sit on wads of cash while unemployment is high. I say tax the cushion right out from under them, unless they re-invest and create jobs.

Final thought. if fully 20% of the working population is not working or underemployed... spend your hours out there making noise. Seriously - take to the streets and drown those Tea Party assholes the fuck out. Bring downtown Manhattan to a stop. Time to form the "Work Party".
posted by Artful Codger at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I read things like the 20k number AC mentions above, it makes me realize why I never look at retirement calculators. I'm truly fucked.
posted by josher71 at 1:19 PM on August 24, 2011


This seems like an appropriate place to share an article from The Awl I found particularly insightful (as an underemployed freelancer myself): Understanding Your Unemployed Friend. At the time I read it I was living in someone else's house with essentially no income. Things are slightly better now, but the perspective's still handy.
posted by rhymeswithaj at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Taleo is the worst thing about being unemployed. And its used by more and more employers because it's exceedingly good at screening out resumes (not screening in good resumes).

Broken interfaces; 130+ form fields per application; uninhabited islands in the country list, and the knowledge that your resume will be likely be scratched before a human ever sees it. The brilliance of your previous career and the brightness of your personality mean nothing next to your resume's SEO.
posted by diorist at 11:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


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