The Online Job Search Fake

“I got scared reading that article,” shared a friend who happened to read Monday’s Boston Globe’s front page article, “Time is not on their side.” (The Boston Globe, 3/25/2013, A1, Woolhouse)  The article featured vignettes of three unemployed men who have been seeking employment for > 2 years.  “Did you see the age bracket? 45 and older.”  She was referring to a sobering statistic profiled in the article, “the number of people 45 and older who have been jobless for more than one year has quadrupled since 2007.”   For those in transition is this trend cause for alarm or time for some innovate thinking?


I’ll bet with my whole heart and soul that it’s the latter.

Let me give you some background.  At Iron Mountain where I served as EVP of HR and Administration we received 60,000 electronic resumes a quarter.  In any given quarter we had on average 700 open positions in our US business (2009 data).    The roles ranged anywhere from chief cook and bottle washer to grand poobah.

Given this experience I found the Globe’s article unnerving and distorted.  I realize the print media, o.k. all media, is designed to sell advertisement.  Despite the broad use of technology chronicled in the piece things felt a little unplugged.

What is the recipe for job searches in the tech-enabled sphere?  Whatever the recipe once you layer on transition the process gets harder!  Why?  Many who seek employment in transition are pivoting to something new.

For those willing to take the journey – albeit a harder, more circuitous one — here is Novofemina’s view of the tech-enabled transition job search.

  1. Articulate your core purpose or passion.   Can you articulate your passion?  What has your interest even on the cloudiest day?  The most expeditious job searches I’ve witnessed happen because someone can articulate how an open role aligns with their passion or purpose.  The trickiest part of this step is that it’s hard to articulate passion if the demands of life have muted it’s voice along the way.   Even if you’re not 100% sure…create a working ‘passion’ draft.  Harvard Business School’s Personal Elevator Pitch is wonderful to assist in this drafting.  It’s free and easy to use.    Once you’ve got a working model you can take a peak at job opportunities.  But…don’t waste your time applying yet.
  2. Conduct research & identify potential people or employers who align with your passions.    Does disruptive technology really interest you?  Does change management?  Does organic farming?  Snoop around for articles or info on folks or companies involved in these things.   Not sure where to look?  Don’t ignore industry associations or university symposiums.    Create a target list.
  3. Network to exercise your voice & establish targeted connections.  Hooray…finally a role for social media!   Here’s where you can use your LinkedIn connections to help you maneuver to your targets.    Use pre-interview networking to help you refine your story and establish contacts at companies of interest to you. Spend your time creating ‘assets’ to help with your networking instead of filling out online job applications.  If it’s change management you love what about it interests you?  Can you write it down?  How about a white paper?   Can you network to gain input into your emerging intellectual property on the subject?  This asset creation step is  particularly important if you’re pivoting towards your passion’s voice.
  4. Create a jobs deal flow.   Ever work in a sales department?  Think of the funnel from ‘suspects’ to ‘prospects’ to ‘qualified leads’ to ‘closes.’ This step requires you to leverage your networking contacts so that you hear about opportunities as they arise at your targets.  The opportunities may not be directly in line with what you are looking for but you want to know what is happening in your area…and ideally why.
  5. Apply for roles with the assistance of contacts.  Try your hardest not to be 1 of 60,000 electronically submitted in-bound resumes to Iron Mountain.  Use your networking connections to find out what you can about job opportunities.  Ask your contact to ‘walk’ your resume down to the hiring manager.  Today’s ‘walk’ looks an awful lot like email.  Note you will ultimately have to fill out an online application but try hard not to start there.
  6. Work hard to avoid dead-ends. Didn’t land the job?  Ask yourself where you could think outside the box?   Intrigued with the people you met?  How about outreaching to explore joint development of a panel or speech at a local meeting for an industry association?  No go on a full-time role?  How about a consulting gig to start?  You get the picture.

When I worked in technology we often started engagements by assessing a large in-flight technology implementation gone awry.  What we typically found was that companies liked to adopt fancy new technology but they’d often install it by trying to digitize their existing processes.  Have you ever heard of paving the cow path?

The folks featured in the Globe paved the cow path.  For them technology’s role was simply to wrap around their former notions of a job search.  Fill out an application.  Get a call for an interview.  Get hired.

Let’s face it.  We’re never going back to that time.  The fake is that folks think it’s easier to land a job now.   My take is that it’s time-consuming and requires more steps.

The sheer magnitude of the effort should convince you of the importance of step #1.  If it isn’t for your passion why else would someone go through this complex lengthy exercise?

Here’s the other side of the fake.  When it’s about your heart’s passion you don’t even notice the length or breadth of the steps.   By leveraging your passion’s voice the Globe’s only title option for an article about your job search will simply be, ‘Well Played!’

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