Cold, hard, and emotionless statistics predict that it takes on average 21.4 weeks to land a job, and for those over 55 the hunt can last as long as 39.9 weeks. If you’re in the 100k plus snack-bracket expect for an average hunt of 30 weeks. Experts outline the top ten tips on how to be successful in your cover letter, 64 of the toughest interview questions, and the endless lists of do’s and don’ts. I feel like I’ve read them all. It is easy to talk in terms of figures and best practices; it is quite a different experience to live through it.
I’ve said it a hundred times in the past several months; sometimes you need to go through the miry clay of unemployment to learn about yourself; the good, bad and indifferent. I’ve discovered a few rare colleagues who were life-long friends in disguise; people who’ve had my back and sometimes picked me up by my collar to put me back on my feet again. I’ve been disappointed by some of my failings; and surprised at how my very strange idiosyncrasies protected me from getting a position with a company I later learned would have been a disastrous work environment.
I’ve worked hard, tirelessly in fact, putting myself out there. In the job hunt you’re aiming for one, just one, to close. It’s a win ratio that would crush any coach or sales person; it’s 100 to 1, or worse. With odds like that it is no small wonder we don’t occasionally get discouraged. Take it from me, the absolute best thing to do when you trip over your own feet and land in the mud is get up and walk again. I would get crushing news, and be back at it the same hour. It’s just what you have to do.
If I had it to do all over again I would change only two things; I would not take the first opportunity put before me without a lot of prayerful consideration. Many months ago I accepted an offer that looked too good to be true – and, as a matter of fact, it was. Secondly, I would have invested more time preparing interview responses; I spent a disproportionate amount of time on my portfolio packages and not nearly enough practicing for the interview.
If I had to do it all over again there are hundreds of things I would repeat; but only one thing stands out preeminently. I would surround myself with a network of folks waddling in the same clay I’m mucking through. These people have been my confidants, my teammates, and my friends. Nothing can replace a heart-felt, “I understand” from a person who has, and is, where I am. I’m not going to give you the pointers or statistics; frankly they are interesting but not always helpful – but let me leave you with one gem; find others going through what you are in and help them. Not for the expectation of getting something in return, but for the sheer joy that fellowship brings.
The application and candidate pre-selection process has undergone massive change but the classic interview method has remained static for many years. All my recent interview experiences are initiated with a phone call, scheduling of a face-to-face meeting, driving on the predetermined date and time, meeting with the key stakeholder, answering a series of questions, and then the long wait.
Today was the first form of interview innovation that I have seen an organization adopt. Granted, there is still a lot to be done, but it is encouraging to see the very first attempts being made. I was still subject to the phone call, appointment making, and long painful drive to arrive at the location at the appropriate time. Once at the facility, I was seated in front of a PC with a webcam. The facilitator logged in and set up the web portal for the session. She then excused herself from the room and I was left to complete the process independently. I went through all the electronic documentation required to ensure I accepted the terms and conditions of the session and proceeded to answer the interview questions while the webcam captured my responses. I could re-record any answers I was not pleased with, and then send the response once sufficiently satisfied. After approving my responses the video uploaded and I was on my way.
A natural next step to this would be to eliminate the appointment and driving. Why bother when all this can easily be done from home? Perhaps this will be the new “CV”, a video capture of specific questions employers really want to ask? I don’t for a minute believe that we will ever drop the face-to-face interview, but perhaps the pre-screening process is enhanced by video-answers before meeting with the candidate. There is a risk in adding this new element to the interview process, and that is a built-in bias propagated by making judgments on a person based on physical appearance. But if such a bias exists it is by no means worsened through introducing the video answer. Intriguing..
I was out for a long walk with the Jack Russell yesterday and caught myself captivated by one of the neighbourhood beautiful homes; ten acres surrounded by ornate cast iron fencing. I wondered about the occupations of the occupants as I looked on their large pond surrounded by the most beautifully manicured grounds. I wondered about how different their lives must be from my own. I pined for a career that could afford such a lifestyle. I don’t think I was feeling envy, jealousy, or covetousness, but I’m sure overtones of all three were floating around in my noodle.
Looking for work can be very discouraging. It is a never-ending cycle of seeking the right opportunity, preparing and submitting all your professional experience, crafting the perfect messaging, following-up, networking, interviewing, and waiting. For all the effort there is a disproportionate amount of rejection than acceptance available.
Fast forward just a few short hours I found myself at the church with our Friday Night Club (FNC), a ministry with and for young adults. The group consists of a core group of three young ladies, two with Spina bifida, one with Aspergers syndrome, and a young man with Downs Syndrome. We were the featured entertainment for the ladies gathering, and we were performing a play written by one of the ministry leaders. Each of the FNC girls prepared their own part of the play, which was a short testimony of their life in Christ. The play was closed with a prayer given by the young man of our little club.
I came away from the evening filled with many emotions; crazy-proud of the Friday Night Club, ashamed at my pitiful attitude earlier in the day, and encouraged that, in the ultimate sense of things, I’m gonna be just fine. Perspective is one of those funny things that you always need and rarely have.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with a recruiting executive for an hour-long interview yesterday. It was a joy to sit with someone who had prepared questions, took notes, and actually read the content on my CV. When once this would have been the interview norm, it is now an unusual pleasure.
We are the short-bursty headline generation, aren’t we? Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, but the phenomenon has led to a 140 character “bitelet” attention span. I’ve found myself longing for embedded tiny URL’s when I’m listening to a news broadcast on the radio or TV. I keep wishing I had CTRL-ALT-DEL on a piece of paper I’ve written on. I find myself strangely lonely when my blackberry service goes down when I’m in the heart of downtown Toronto at lunchtime.
The whole human interaction dynamic is changing. It started first with our writing, moved to our reading, and has trickled down into our interacting. Some of the richness of a metered dialogue seems to have dissipated. We rush through conversations and try to catch the highlights. It first struck me when trying to present a deck to a senior leader within a large telecommunications company I worked for. I worked hours to compact my message into three slides, four bullets per slide, size 16 font. I went into the meeting and didn’t get past the title page. I had introduced the topic and the meeting was over.
The instant-on instant-access wave has left a few casualties in its wake, but every once in a while there is a conversation, a speech, or a book that brings us back to the way we once interacted. Yesterday I had the pleasure of a good old-fashioned interview. It was a rare treat! The questions provoked reflection and the interviewer listened attentively to my responses. Like an artisan with her craft she carefully considered the answers, and based on our interaction directed the conversation into different areas and topics. It was likely the most challenging interview I have had yet because I know that I was really heard.
Those who know me will know which company it is that is implicated in my blog. There is no need for me to disclose the name of the firm.
Recently the company I worked for went into receivership. Before the unceremonious end the owners of the company had two potential investors expressing interest in the company in the form of term sheets. For reasons that I am not privy to, neither deal worked out during those last precious moments. The company, all the employees, and the long history had ended.
A few weeks ago a firm announced that it had made an acquisition of the debunked company’s product lines. This bit of creative marketing positioned the firm as having purchased the rights to all the products formerly sold and distributed by the firm and stated that it had retained key personnel. Very crafty, very shrewd, very dangerous.
I close with this, pointed and true for all marketing professionals. Winston Churchill once said that “Truth is so precious that she should always be guarded by a bodyguard of lies.” I leave you with this question, when did it become necessary to set up the bodyguard and why is it that we in the marketing profession are the one’s hiring the thugs?
You ever notice how interviews are an awful lot like blind dates? Think about it. You dress up as nice as you can, you carry a sort of nervous excitement, you even wonder the same sorts of things; will they like me, will they call, I hope I don’t say anything stupid.
I had another interview today. This is about the 5th once since Bayly Communications went into receivership in August. Unfortunately none have resulted in anything worth committing to at this point. Ah yes, and there is yet another analogy of dating.
Call me crazy but I kind of like interviews. I enjoy meeting new people and regaling them with the tall harrowing tales of the last 6 months of my life. I love to hear about new and exciting opportunities in organizations and visualize how I could play a part in the strategy. But, like dating, at some point someone has to commit.
I hope they call! I can actually see myself settling down at this company for a while.
Today we say good-bye to Steve Jobs. A man who most of us never got to know personally but his contribution shaped our culture and our generation.
For a time we recognize, and may even immortalize the name of Steve Jobs. But the personhood of the man will fade from our memory. Apple will continue as the powerhouse that it is but it will never be the same without him. Quite a legacy!
My thoughts and prayers are for those who knew Mr. Jobs personally; for his friends and family who are the most deeply affected by this loss.