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When Job Search Advice Isn’t Working

March 14th, 2018

K. recently emailed Liz and said:

“I am still searching for a position. I use JibberJobber everyday it seems. It does help me keep organized and sort out my connections from Linkedin and elsewhere. I have been doing this now for 18 months though and I don’t seem to be getting very far. I have watched and applied techniques from videos but I’m still not sure what I am doing wrong. I really would like a job with a company that has a good reputation for its people and management.”

First, kudos for recognizing what kind of company you want to work for. I recently landed a job, after twelve years, at a company (BambooHR – here’s one reason why: PaidPaidVacation) that has won many “best to work for” awards and it is AWESOME. I work with people who have worked with some of the big, awesome local companies and hearing them talk about the cultural differences and work environments honestly makes me sad. Bamboo is pretty awesome, but it’s sad to hear about companies who have cultures based on fear, power-hungry bosses who “can’t get fired because they have dirt on everyone,” unreal expectations, and working the employees so hard that everyone is (a) exhausted and (b) worried about losing their job.

A great culture exists. If I were to start a job search right now, I’d make a target company list based on the “best companies to work for” lists.  Can you even imagine LOVING where you work? That happens when a company makes culture a high priority.

That was the easy part of this post… the hard part addresses the idea of “I’ve done all the stuff and it’s still not working.”

In my first job search, 12 years ago, I couldn’t hardly get an interview. I later learned that this was because my resume, which everyone said was “awesome,” was not the right resume for the roles I was applying to. All I knew was that I was frustrated that no one would reply to me… I just got those lame, cold templated emails about not being the right one for the job.

It was mentally and emotionally exhausting to do what I thought was all the right stuff and get absolutely nowhere.

In this last job search, within the last few months, the same thing happened. I applied to a small list of target companies for a Product Manager role. One recruiter said “you are easily $175,000,” because of my PM experience throughout my career, and with JibberJobber. This time around I got interviews, and even second interviews, but I wasn’t landing anything. No offers (until Bamboo, but that’s another story).

Here’s what I learned: I have been doing “stuff.” In many cases, I’ve been doing “the right stuff.” But, frankly, I’m weird. My resume is weird, my background is weird. My skillset and history and even my communication style is weird. I’m not the cookie cutter best candidate… I’m weird. And let’s face it, my AGE is weird. Yes, age discrimination, I’m sure, played a big part in both job searches.

The normal job search stuff that works a lot of the time wasn’t working for me. Because I’m weird, I needed weird tactics and strategies. Maybe it’s the Paretto thing… 80% of the time the stuff works, but for 20% of the people, 20% of the time, you have to do something different. Maybe, K, you are part of the 20%.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Don’t take the core, principle-based job search advice and throw it out. Just figure it out, and adjust it where it needs to be adjusted. Make it unique to you. I had to do this. I had to figure out what “networking” meant for me, in my town, in my industry, in this small group of professionals I needed to network with. What does it mean for you? Maybe you are “networking” but not in the right way for you, for your location, for your industry, and for your target role (and the people who have, or hire for, that role right now). This analysis of the job search process is what helped me understand what I was doing wrong and, frankly, come up with the idea for JibberJobber.
  2. Get help. The problems in my job search would have been identified and addressed if I had hired a resume writer and/or job search coach. I’m talking about a real, professional, certified career professional. I found my career center was, unfortunately, useless. The guy who ran the career center didn’t have enough experience to help me, at my level. He might have focused on managing his staff, or helping recent grads get internships, but he was not equipped to help a professional with a few years of experience. That was a major disappointment. I know other career centers have better resources, many for free, but I’m saying invest the money to get a one-on-one professional who helps people like you. Find one who specializes in your industry, or has many clients like you (your age, your level, your industry, your locale, etc.). These career pros have been in the trenches with their clients. And they CARE. Your wins are their wins, Your heartache is their heartache (although they are in a different place, so it’s not soul crushing to them – a coach is not as emotionally attached as you are). If I would have gotten help I bet I would have had a job within weeks, maybe a couple of months. But I couldn’t see past the initial investment and I dragged my job search on way too long.
  3. Consider consulting, even if you don’t make any money from it. My first real job offer came after I had proven what I could do. I didn’t realize it at the time but someone I had recently met, and really respected, was watching me launch JibberJobber. One day he called and, as president of his company, offered me a job. “I’ve seen what you have done with JibberJobber and I’m impressed. I want you to help our company…”  I politely declined and kept my focus on JibberJobber. But I was honestly in shock. Why was it that when I was unemployed no one would touch me… as if I were a leper? But after launching a “simple” website I was all of the sudden interesting? It’s because people could SEE results when I launched. They could wrap their brain around what I do. I’ve seen this with consultants… whether they make money or not, whether they have clients or not. When you say you are a certain type of professional, and what you help with, people can understand that. You are “substantiating yourself.”  There is great value in this tactic.

So there you go, my Wednesday morning wisdom. I’m sorry that this has taken so long… 18 months of looking is a special kind of Hell. I hope some of this resonates, and that you can make the right changes to get the right results. I’d love to hear back and see how things are going. One day you’ll make my entire week by saying “Jason! I got my dream job!”  That will be an awesome day!

 

3 Comments »

3 responses to “When Job Search Advice Isn’t Working”

  1. Adrian says:

    Good luck K – I hope your fortunes take a turn – some great advice from Jason here – I’ll be sharing with our clients – some of them are in a similar situation to you.
    And thanks for Sharing, Jason

  2. Susan Geary says:

    Jason, as always, great advice. The morale of the story, “everyday is your job interview.” Congrats on the new gig.

  3. Jason Alba says:

    Thanks Adrian and Susan!

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