What “they” don’t want you to know about finding a job…
I have been through a round of employment game hijinx from which to glean useful tips for your practical application. I am also immersed in a money-making venture so haven’t had time to chronicle my experiences in meaningful posts. This first one after a long hiatus provides a few anecdotes and will be followed by some how-to templates to use in your own work searching.
This blog is a lot about losing and how to deal with it. Many self-improvement blogs tout having a winner attitude, and you need that. But getting your ass-kicked and getting stronger because of it is also part of the game. When looking for work however the defeats can be crushing and hard to see as having benefited you.
In contrast to most job-search experts I am actually out there getting stomped so the dirt and gravel of humiliation are fresh in my mouth. I share some of that here so you can profit from my successes and mistakes.
Six months ago we relocated to look after an aging parent who is still driving and refuses to leave her suburban house of nearly 50 years. Her town is fortuitously strong in technical and manufacturing work, so the move has some prudence for us. After getting situated in our rental we sought employment.
Recent Grad Example Using the Resume/Career Portal Approach
My son who got a 2-year tech degree practically free from a community college looked for work using the standard resume / job portal method and quickly got some interviews. In addition to the usual HR annoyances they didn’t pan out. We tweaked his resume to target another industry. He boned up on “PLC programming” and other particulars and hilited that on his resume.
I found some leads for him and the first one, a contract shop, called him within minutes of getting his resume. Long story short he got hired on to a contract with a high-tech company that makes tactical cup holders. This led to a permanent position.
It has nothing to do with PLC programming though. But when he was changing his marketing approach, free web resources provided him all the tools for coming up to speed on that subject. He didn’t claim work experience but added that in his education description listing the tech course he completed for his degree.
His experience with company career portals and HR machinery was maddening. The contract shop was a much smaller bureaucracy which got results quickly, and they sent him right out to the manufacturer for an interview. The manufacturer was staffing up for a big contract and subjected him to some humiliations during the interview process. Despite that they called the contract shop and gave him the gig.
The Old Guy Gets Out There
Using my trademark Employment Game tactics I sought out work in the local defense sector and succeeded in getting a half dozen high-level interviews. Despite my own book’s warning about resumes, on the advice of a friend in the industry wrote a standard resume with the right hooks to perk the interests of defense contractors.
With that I contacted CEOs and engineering managers directly along with a short cover email offering to “a brief presentation show some examples of my work and how that will help grow your company”. This only succeeded in him kicking it down the HR chain which would get me an interview with their engineering staff. Usually I had to endure some inane preliminary phone interviews with low-level HR chicks. I tried not to open a porn window while responding to their questions about “my greatest strengths and weaknesses”.
This would lead to the on-site meeting, and I managed to sober up and pull off some portfolio presentations as described in my book. These stressful sales attempts only lead to rejection. I will provide anecdotes in a separate post for your amusement.
The last straw though was when some company put me through 4 interviews, including a request for me to write a C# interface GUI to some embedded hardware, which I stupidly agreed to do and spent two weeks hacking.
They requested that I present the GUI and a technical overview of their technology to their top-level managers. On the day I went for the presentation there was an accident at the intersection next to their office building. I sat in traffic for an hour within a stone’s throw of their building. I called the main contact and he said no sweat we will do it when I got there. I finally made it but there were no top-level managers. They never intended to be there.
Of course they never called me back. Dammit was I pissed. Interview was on a Friday and I instinctively knew the outcome before Monday, despite it being a “great” interview (often a bad sign, it was too good).
It was my own fault for violating specific employment game rules and agreeing to perform unpaid work in anticipation of a contract.
I mean I was pissed. Rather than writhe around in agony I decided to act like an adult for once and make positive proactive steps towards finding another opportunity. I began searching again. Found an excellent lead for a proposal/technical writer (it really is my thing, baby) and 1) found out from internet sleuthing who was the CEO of that company and 2) contacted him directly by email with my brief marketing sheet instead of a resume. The next day their nice HR lady called me and asked for my detailed resume. Later emailed saying they wanted to interview me later that week. And that was the last I heard from them.
I am a Victim of the Government Retirement Complex
So what is going on here, besides the fact that I come off as a scary lunatic?
It’s that I am too old. All those companies immediately demanded I fill out a lengthy application form, each a carefully crafted piece of shit designed by some HR drone. Low-status women are the gatekeepers in our culture and concoct the maddening forms you get at the doctor, dentist, and employer.
Now of course the forms all state that they don’t discriminate based on race sex, age, etc. but then demand that you provide that exact information to them. So my birthdate is a killer.
OK I complain too much here. The problem in my particular context is that I am too damn old for those companies to spend money on getting me a security clearance. That is just tough shit. I already wrote a motivational post for those in this situation.
The experience hilites another phenomenon you could call The Government Retirement Complex. The federal government including the military (especially the military) is a vast gravy train of careers and benefits. There is a game to entering and executing a career with the government and I am simply too far on the tail end of that to get hired. Were it not for the clearance requirement they would probably have offered me work.
I can console myself that at least I made significant contacts and interviews in a specialized technical field using my work search tactics. I was getting about a 50% response rate on my attempts. I sought work in this sector because the companies are a short drive from my apartment and I have those niche skills they need.
I Violated Employment Game Principles and Got Humiliated
These recent interview experiences have only reinforced my book principles. One is that for an older man like myself the target prospects should be influential men who run small companies and have the power to hire and fire. I will only find work at small operations of less than 20 people tops who have an immediate and pressing need for someone with my skills. Otherwise there is just too much staff interference and company process for me to penetrate. There is always some blocker in the chain who says “No”.
A second point is that I must call those men directly instead of the easy email cop-out. The email tactic has worked only to the point of getting me funneled into the HR rejection chute. A simple phone call revealing no interest would spare me all the angst of interviewing and presenting.
So remember this handy tip when reaching out to prospects : Emails Are For She-Males.
Thirdly, I played along and filled out their infuriating job application forms, thus ensuring my beta status and giving HR the tools they needed to block me.
I Can Still Kick Your Ass
That’s the executive overview of my recent work search activities. I used the standard resume/email tactic and got an impressive number of interviews. Certain diversity issues are not working in my favor so I am shut out of the defense industry. The fallback is to search in private industry where they don’t care about the security clearance.
I still have the age issue to overcome. Pursuit of short-term contracts as a consultant may be my best option and I have the consulting infrastructure set up (web page, bizcard etc). It’s going to take some direct phone calling to men running small companies or nothing will happen at all.
I kept a log of my sales attempts and will use that material to write some posts detailing what worked for me and what worked against me (my big mouth usually). Those posts will focus on practical tips rather than amusing anecdotes. My purpose for writing this is to help you overcome the work search hurdle in a feminized economy. Wallowing in self-pity about the facts on the ground will not get you hired. Developing tactics for that reality will eventually put you in the slot.