Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Diary of a Twenty Something Job Seeker: Networking

I know many people who drop names to get where/what they want like it's their damn job.
I never once had the desire to be that person. I wanted to get where/what I wanted on my own terms and by my own hard work.

But now, as I'm desperately trying to find a meaningful career, I'm discovering it really is about who you know and not what you know. This, let me tell you, is incredibly difficult when you’re looking to break in to a new city or job market.

I've wanted to leave Missouri since I was 13 or 14 when my aunt moved to New York. She was the first person I knew to leave our fine state to live somewhere else, long term. The idea that I could live somewhere else when I grew up wasn't something that had ever crossed my mind. Yet, suddenly the possibilities were endless. I was overtaken by the idea of living elsewhere. It was all consuming. As soon as I hit 18 I wanted to be gone. I loved the adventure of it all.

I even tried to attend an out of state school for college, but that was a bust (long, long story for another day). But the issue here is that I got the taste for living in another state. I got the taste of freedom to live my own life, independent of pre-existing relationships. I've been itching to get out of here ever since. Then I met an awesome guy, we got married and now he's got the bug too.

It's just a matter of time before get the opportunity to go on our own adventure, but one of us has to get a job in a new city first. And here lies the problem: we know one person in one of the five or so areas we want to move. And that's it.

In the days of social networking, if you don't already know someone in the company you want to work for or don't have a local address, your application isn't really considered. As unfair as it sounds, it's alarmingly accurate.

Breaking into a new job market is where you'll find nepotism at its best. It feels as if hard work, a great resume, and determination do not get you anywhere when you're paired up against someone who knows an employee at your company of choice. I'd rather get hired on merit, than name dropping, honestly.

Despite my strong desire to avoid the whole ordeal of networking to get a job, I found a position that I really liked and had a roundabout connection to. I asked my close friend, a former employee of my desired company, if she still had any contacts within the company. Through a number of emails, I was put in contact with an executive at the company. I sent him/her my resume and cover letter nestled cozily in a very professional, yet approachable email and hoped for the best. The response I got? Something to the effect of: I don’t have any questions for you, as long as HR has your resume, they'll contact you accordingly.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone and into the land of networking didn't prove to be successful in any way - or at least not that I can see at this time. I hate name dropping and working the inside angle. It makes me feel less valued and like I would get a job because someone put in a good word for, not because my resume is fucking fabulous.

Then comes the issue of location. You pretty much have to live where you want to work, even if you're planning on moving. Employers apparently see Missouri on application/resume for a job in Chicago or Portland and toss me to the side.

Even my HR professional friends have told me to change my address on my resume/application in order to get a closer look from potential employers. This blows my mind. I'm being told to lie on my resume/application in order to be truly considered for a position that I am definitely qualified for. Why is this okay? I understand that many employers are worried about having to foot the bill to relocate a new employee, but if I'm telling them upfront that I want to move and that relocation expenses are not required, what more could they be worried about? If I am listing in my career objectives that I want to relocate for better career opportunities in said city, shouldn't that be clear enough?

When you couple the location factor with the notion of having to have an inside contact at a job in a brand new city, it's easy to see how quickly the discouragement mounts. I'm beginning to think there is only so much I can do to make myself stand out, short of flying into my desired locale and refusing to leave HR until someone speaks to me. That's all I want: someone to talk to me, someone to give me a chance. I promise that I'm worth it.

The Diary of a Twenty Something Job Seeker: The Application Process

Independent, educated, passionate female skilled in communications/public relations/writing/editing/event planning seeks meaningful career in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, or California (yes, the entire state of).

Said female seeks an employer that is willing to take a leap of faith and interview someone who doesn't have a "connection" to the business.

I started looking for career opportunities almost three months ago, thinking that I would absolutely have my dream job, or at least one step closer to one, by now. Alas, I have not.

Instead, I've applied to 120 jobs in something like five different states.

I've got it down to a science at this point. I spend 60-90 minutes per day, at a minimum, scouring the job boards and social networking sites for potentially meaningful careers. I then jump through all of the hoops necessary to apply for said jobs.

Register with a unique user name and complex password? Check.
Enter in all contact information? Check.
Enter in job history, complete with names, addresses, phone numbers, duties, exact dates of employment, and accomplishments, for the past 10 years? Check.
Enter in educational history? Check.
Upload carefully tailored resume? Check.
Upload job specific cover letter with details referring back to the original job description and how you'd be so awesome at their company? Check.
Five page job specific questionnaire? Check.
Save and submit? Donezo.

I've gone through this entire process nearly 120 jobs, start to finish, only to receive a canned email from the company's HR department saying the same thing EVERY TIME:

Thank you for your interest in our company and for taking the time to apply for the following position __________________.

Our company receives many applications for each vacancy. It is a very competitive process. Only the most qualified candidates will advance in the selection process. Should you skills, qualification, and previous relevant work experience best meet our staffing needs, a representative from our Human Resources department will contact you.

Due to the large volume of applications, we cannot respond to all applicants.

We look forward to reviewing your resume.

Sincerely, Company XYZ

P.S. This message is automatically generated from an unmanned mailbox. Please do not respond. P.P.S No phone calls, please.

Then we wait.

Some businesses have a dynamic application site that allows you to check the status of your application, though most do not. Sometimes you'll get an email saying that they're looking at other candidates, but never tell you why you weren't right for the job. Sometimes you're stuck in limbo and hear nothing at all. Ever.

Out of the 120 jobs I've applied for, I've heard from 18 of them. 5 of them were jobs that I was invited to interview for, but upon contact, I realized that I shouldn't have applied for them to begin with. They either A) were jobs in the financial industry and I've been trying desperately to get out of that industry for a few years now. OR B) were jobs that would pay me less than I'm making now in my current job. The other 13 jobs send emails explaining that they appreciated my interest but would be pursuing other candidates for the position.

It's incredibly frustrating to apply for so many jobs only to never hear why you weren't the right candidate for the job. It would be incredibly helpful to know if you're applying for things out of your league or if your resume looks sketchy so that you could take the appropriate steps toward correcting the issues at hand.

But instead, you're left to keep on fishing.