Monday, January 14, 2008

PREPARING FOR YOUR DREAM JOB: Bootlicking and compliance made complicated

Tell me your biggest fault as a worker!

Nothing can be finer than to read advice columns on getting your dream job. They're filled with complicated procedures and taxing networking tasks, filled to the brim with exhortations to always strive harder.

Trouble is, everyone knows that at least fifty percent of the jobs one can hold in the US are worthless. And many are downright evil.

For the rest of your life you will be confronted by the reality, if you haven't been beaten down by it already, that most Americans have been so conditioned by their rotten educational system they can think of nothing but corporate labor when meeting others. This has had the result that the first thing out of people's mouths in polite conversation -- rather than an innocuous and pleasant "How 'bout those Green Bay Packers?" or "Top of the morning to you!" -- is the belligerent and prying, "So, what do you do?"

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times business section ran an article on how to prepare yourself for life as a bootlick. It was gruesome.

We've dressed it up some.

Making dream job a reality is no easy task

Want to know the secret of landing your dream job? Making yourself over as a hardened job-hunting machine.

Victoria Secret has figured this out. She's still in college at UCLA, but an up-and-coming striver, hustling to land a position in the entertainment industry. She has interned with Sony, worked pro bono one year for Walt Disney Outreach and spends nights thinking up slogans and jingles for the Bruin Ad Team, UCLA's student run advertising team.

Secret is a skilled networker. She e-mails everyone she knows or has ever known who is still in the labor force, letting them know her talents and job interests. And she hands out business cards during her part-time job as a campus sales rep for a PC company.

Secret reviews her resume every month. You should too. "It's a constant work in progress, like your life."

Secret's leave-no-stone-unturned effort will pay off, experts say. She'll eventually land a job. When that happens, answering "So, what do you do?" will become a fulfilling and affirming experience.

Getting hired is all about doggedness, focus and learning to leverage contacts. No one gets anything worthwhile in the 2008 United States of America without being able to call in favors. If you haven't got faint acquaintances who can assist in getting your foot in the door somewhere, this country is a grim place.

You've got to throw yourself out there, reaching for any hands or legs there are to be grasped. If you can't do that, you'll face rejection again and again.

Here are several things you should do:

Post your resume on-line

You should buy high-quality paper and fresh ink for your printer. In these desperate days, some employers want to have the feel of a good piece of bond in their hands even as they're tossing it into the trash in favor of the name of someone passed to them by a co-worker or superior. In the meantime, accept that there are virtues to going digital -- those being that it's easy, fast and puts you in a nice position of being immediately accessible, along with the 250 million other people who posted their resumes on-line., for example, lists hundreds of thousands of jobs in virtually every category and works with 90 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies. To sift them, you'd have to be a machine. And while you are not as capable as such a machine, you must strive to be as machine-like as possible in your on-line search for a job. If you cannot be a ruthless job-hunting machine, you will fail and entropy -- the dissolving of everything into nothing -- will invade your life.

Other on-line sites target specific fields like focusing on accounting and financialization services, on the obvious, and, for employment at subsistence wages in the world of nonprofits.

Since there are so many resumes on-line you have about as good a chance at landing something decent as winning a raffle. Have you ever won anything worthwhile in a raffle? That gift certificate to Macy's doesn't count.

Apply directly to a company, on-line and off

Many companies post opening on their websites, but responding blind could land your application in a black hole, says Gary Kaplan, founder of Gary Kaplan & Associates, a Pasadena search firm. Do it the old-fashioned way: "Get the name of someone and write to that person."

Everyone knows corporate office-workers and administrators look forward to getting unsolicited mail from desperate people they don't know. You can check the company's dumpster for your cover letter and resume a couple of days after you mailed it, if you're job searching locally. This will allow you to informally keep tabs on the progress of your search. The technique is called "dumpster diving."

Tap the hidden job-market -- plead with your friends

Tell relatives, friends, friends of friends, trusted colleagues -- everyone you meet during the day's travels. Consider hiring a spambot to broadcast your need for a job. You're on a job hunt and only by being a ruthless machine will you succeed. For all the sweep of the Internet, only a machine-like focus will do. You must scour the Internet and shakedown your friends, even at the risk of alienating them. If you don't know about a position, you can't apply for it. And if you can't find that job, your friends and everyone else will not want to know you, anyway. When you reach that critical point, your job search will collapse into a black hole. And after six months in the black hole of failed job search, you will be hardcore unemployable.

So you see why you must always be a ruthless job-searching machine. Do not flinch or shirk in this duty.

Being a ruthless job-searching machine worked for Diana. She started with a computer search to build a list of companies where she might want to work and wrote directly to people at each specifying the type of job she hoped to find. You can imagine how that went. The employers didn't have any openings, but her job-hunting machine routine made such an impression that one eventually found a place for her. The 20-something Los Angeles woman doesn't want to use her full name because that job wasn't really a great job. In fact, she's out of that job and hunting for a new one and if someone sees her name on-line in one of the firms she's targetting, it won't be good for the image.

Polish your resume -- burnish your credentials, everyone else does

Putting your best self into pixels is a craft "that has to be mastered," says Richard Bolles, author of the job-hunter's bible, "Your Arbeit Will Set Your Free." Job-hunting first-timers and veterans can find plenty of resume tips in the book, as well as on major job search sites. You should be spending at least two hours each day reading up, but in case you can't get there today, here are some rules of thumb:

1. Be specific. Instead of saying "worked in a retail setting at the strip mall," try "trained and supervised ten employees, one of whom went on to be a doctor, and handled payroll and purchasing in a firm with annual sales of $20 million." No one can check or know how much places in strip malls pass in cash or if your co-workers were actually high school drop-outs and community college students.

2. One size does not fit all. Employers expect your resume to clearly show why you fit their specific opening, even if they don't know what they want in an employee. This presents you with a dilemma. To be successful, you must be a ruthless resume-reworking machine, re-editing your vitals for finicky people whose nature you can only make wild guesses about. As crushing as it sounds, for every job application that you make, you must make a custom rewrite of your resume.

3. Typos or grammatical errors will route your resume into the trash. On the other hand, consider a rigorously spell-checked and elegantly composed resume in the hands of a prospective employer. Think of the e-mails you've received from your older college-educated acquaintances now in the corporate workplace. Recall the communications you occasionally get from said-to-be-important people in corporate America at your blog. Now do you really think having a resume that's grammatical and well written is going to help that much? Come now, it could just as well have the opposite effect, pissing off a reader who gets it into their head you're probably one of those who thinks they're smarter than everyone else. So go ahead, make some mistakes. It's all headed for the trash anyway.

Prepare for the interview -- and brush your teeth

Spend time on the company's website, even if it's unusable. Check out their annual report and commit to memory the pack of lies that passes for their page of recent press releases. Be prepared to explain why you want the job and when asked what your biggest fault is as a worker, be able to convincingly explain how youve made it into your strongest asset, even though it's not true. Try to convey the impression that you would give up any prospects for a social life outside work hours and that you might possibly even break the law, if that's what is necessary to get that job done.

Be sure you come to the interview in a good-looking car or SUV. Make sure it's clean and shiny. Everyone in America judges the worth of others, whether they admit it or not, by the size and condition of their vehicles. Employers are no different.

Shake hands. Extend your arm, grasp the hand of the person you are greeting firmly but not crushingly. Don't go limp. And don't, don't, don't have a sweaty palm. Dry your hand thoroughly with some tissue paper before the interview.

Make eye contact. This one can be a little tricky if, like DD and about ten percent of the population, you are a bit cross-eyed. You may have to slightly align your head in such a manner so that your crossing eye looks lined-up straight with your healthy eye. If you practice in front of the mirror before the interview, it should come naturally.


Anonymous Dunc said...

My personal all-time favourite answer to the question "So, what do you do?" is "Huh? This! I'm doing it right now!" Watch and enjoy while the look of total confusion spreads across the questioners face as they try to figure out what you could possibly mean. :)

It also works wonderfully with the equally awful question "So, what do you plan on doing with your life?"

8:06 AM  

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