Read Stupid!

Once upon a time there was an old Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith called “Time Enough to Read”.  Have you ever said those words to anyone, “Oh I really wish I had time to read” ?   Well, I have.  If you remember this episode (I have to admit it is fuzzy for me too), the main character is always upset because he never has time to read his books.  At some point, the world literally comes to an end and he finds himself, finally, with the time to read, but his glasses are broken (I know there is much more to the story, but you get the irony), so he has the time, but he lacks the ability.  Presently, I find myself with both time and ability, but I needed someone to hit me over the head and say “Read stupid!”.  It is almost as if taking the time to read is a luxury we only afford ourselves when we think we have earned it.  As writers, however, taking the time to read is a necessity.

The truth is that as a society we put much less time into the things we write.  Most of the positions I have applied for require filling out an online application.  In addition to the resume and cover letter, this form can give an employer a glimpse into your written communications skills.  This is where the power of words can be so important.  Good, really good, writers understand the power of the written word.  Think about authors throughout history like Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Nabokov, and Hawthorne to name just a few.  These authors painstakingly studied words and word origins.  Many of their works require thoughtful study and, many times, a second source to understand their meanings.  While it may not adventatous to require a future employer to have a dictionary close by to understand your answers, some careful thought and research may show just how seriously you take your communications skills.  A friend of mine, who often asks me to help him with his writing, tells me to “use some of those fifty cent words of yours”.  How can we place a dollar amount on words?  If carefully selecting words leads to a job then they are worth far more than fifty cents, but I feel as if this is how we treat our words sometimes.

So, here is my fifty cent recommendation.  Look through your resume and cover letter and see if you overuse words and find a thesaurus you trust.  Now, find some replacement words but don’t stop there please.  Take some time to look up these words to be very sure you understand their meanings.  And finally, the best way to allow these crucial words to flow more freely is to read more freely.  I recommend taking the time to learn from the artists throughout history while there is still time enough to read.

Is it Persistance or a Waste of Time?

One of my favorite quotes is from John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent.  In the book, the main character Ethan makes the statement, “No one wants advice–only corroboration” (93).  I assure you, dear reader, I would like your advice.  I would like to create a scenario and ask how you would proceed.  My motive in taking this poll is to try to figure out where persistence dies… and disintegrates into a waste of time.  I reserve the right to embellish this scene at my discretion so as not to bore you with how boring it really is.

A job has been posted that Bob (can we use Bob? any objections? Ok) is very excited about because it is an entry level position within a company he has been trying to breach for some time.  Bob goes through an interview process that takes about a month and then waits to hear the results.  After checking back with the very kind hiring manager, Bob learns that a decision could not be reached and the job is being reposted, and he is encouraged to apply again.  Bob wants to be diligent and persistent in his job search, but Bob is afraid he may be wasting his time.

So how many of you job searchers out there have had a similar situation to Bob’s?  The argument could be made that Bob should simply use this as a learning experience and move on.  But Bob could also incorporate this learning experience into re-applying for this very position.  It should be mentioned that Bob has the time to waste because he really would only be out  the time it takes him to fill out the online application again.  So the question becomes something more prideful, I think.  Should he stick his neck out again to show the kind folks at the company that he really wants the job, or should he take this answer as a closed door and move on?

A Question About Identity

There are so many subjects to discuss related to job seeking, but I like questions that involve self-reflection.   It seems as if there are many times in life when a person may contemplate this reflection, for example high school graduation, “What do I want to be?”; or college graduation, “What kind of job am I going to get?”; or marriage, “What kind of spouse will I be?”; or having children, “What type of parent will I be?”.  The problem with these milestones in our lives is that we are moving so fast during them that we don’t have time to pause and make these self-reflections.  At this time in my life I find I have the time, and I find myself returning again and again to the subject of how we allow our job to define who we are in life.  I don’t know if it is generational, gender specific, or even cultural, but we all do it from time to time to ourselves and to others.

This past August my husband and I traveled to his hometown of Durban, South Africa. The main reason for our journey, aside from seeing friends and family, was to attend his thirty year high school reunion (matric reunion).  I met so many lovely people who meant no harm with that age old question, but I found myself, for the first time, unable to give a simple answer.  The question was “What do you do?”.  One year ago I would have simply answered, “I’m a full-time student”, or two years ago I would have said , “I am an office manager at a small orthodontic practice”.  These are the easy answers that others are expecting…easy, but they are one dimensional.  I don’t even think it is a one dimensional question, but we usually supply the one dimensional answer that many times leads to an end to the conversation.  Because I felt the need to explain my current unemployed status, I lept into a ten minute monologue about my recent endeavours.  Truth be told many times we aren’t what we “do”.  Instead what we “do” is simply just that, what we “do” everyday for money to pay for for what we really care about which is truly who we “are”.  What I found with most people I spoke to that night was my answer didn’t scare them away.  Most folks found it gave them a platform to talk about some of their dreams, and it also gave them an opportunity to express how they really needed a change in their career as well.  I believe the reason people want to talk about this outside-the-box answer is because we are multidimensional, and sometimes we enjoy explaining these dimensions.

This issue leads me back to my first post regarding the disembodiment of the online job search.  Our resumes and online questionnaires are designed to take a multidimensional person and compact them into a one dimensional category.  We try to make our  make our strengths and experience match the qualifications of the job we are seeking.  In truth there can be many qualities and experiences unique to each of us or to our work experience that makes qualified, but we simple cannot complicate that resume.  It must clear and concise and fit the job in order for the computer or HR generalist to catch it.  I am wondering if I am alone in wanting to somehow scream from my resume and cover letter, “Hire me because I am so much more than what you read on these pages!”.  I do, however, realize that nothing would push me out the door faster than words such as these.  So, dear reader, I ask you.  Has anyone out there found a way to allow your true identity come through to make “someone” see who you are from what you have done?

My Narrative

The last thing I want to do to any reader is to bore them with too many details about my problems; however, I do need to tell my story.  I have recently entered the job seeking world after making a painstaking decision to quit my job and return to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree.  My husband and I considered this decision a wise investment.  I have been working for over twenty-five years to provide a second income for our family.  While all of my jobs have fulfilled this need for a second income, and they have been very rewarding and enlightening, but  they were never what I really wanted to do for a living.I am not complaining, mind you, about any aspect of my life including MY choices for employment.  I have been blessed with this opportunity to make a dramatic change, and I was never under the illusion that this would be an easy transition.  I want my readers to understand what I am trying to accomplish in this blog.  My journey into this new world has shown me that our new system of job seeking is flawed.

I have been working long enough to remember the days without internet and job seeking websites.  Back in the day, when we were looking for a job, we either heard about it through networking, or we simply found the job advertised in a newspaper or some type of publication.  Does anyone remember those?  Please understand that I am not against our new technology.  I absolutely love what we are able to accomplish in this new world!  But when it comes to something as personal as trying to place yourself in a job or a new company, I feel we have lost some of our soul.  We have become the page that pops up on the screen.  We have become disembodied.

After graduating in May the old fashioned way from a very large and very respectable major university, I began my search.  My husband and I both knew the process would take a while so we allowed six to eight months for this search.  If anyone has been through this process before you understand how looooooooooong six to eight months can be.  I think I should also mention that I have prolonged this search by turning down some offers.  I considered each offer thoughtfully, but I had to consider my investment as well.  All of these offers came from jobs I had done before.  This is where I believe I have a problem with my network.  I have built a network from my past work experience that is very positive, and now I wish to leave that industry.  All of my past employers are listed as references, and I still have very good relationships with all of them.  I used to think this was important, but this “good work ethic” quality doesn’t seem to be helping me now.

I recently came very close to getting what I believed to be my dream job.  The pay was not very good and I was overqualified for the position, but I really wanted to get my foot in the door of this community.  I did do some networking to get an interview, and it paid off.  I had two interviews, and I spent three weeks waiting for the search committee to make a decision.  I had two letters of recommendation from people within the company.  One letter was from a personal friend and the other was from my last supervisor.  When HR contacted my references, I heard from both that they gave me a great review.  In the end, however, I was notified that the committee was unable to come to a “consensus decision”, so they were going to repost the position is a few weeks.  I humbly asked the hiring manager if he would be willing to give me feedback, and he agreed to help me in any way.  From his feedback I realized that being overqualified for the position actually hurt me in the end.

I have decided to simply use this experience as a stepping stone to my next opportunity, but that lands me back in the same soul-less arena I was in before.  I am back to a simple disembodied page on a hiring manager’s screen.  This is where the reader of this blog finds me today.  Judging by the amount of people out there looking for a job I know I’m not alone.  I invite anyone out there to post your story, successes, failure, or concerns in this space.  Lets help each other get through the flaws in our new system.  Lets try to find a way to fix the flaws and become corporeal again.