One of the best things about getting a new job is that I don’t have to job-hunt any more.
I’ve been job-hunting nearly non-stop for more than six years. I say nearly; there was a brief period when I stopped after getting my most recent job, but I realized fairly early on that that wasn’t a good long-term fit so the search resumed quickly. And there were times when my sanity demanded a pause in the search, because the hunt really broke me.
Why does job-hunting suck? Let me rant the ways:
- The time. Finding openings and applying is a big time investment, even with the advent of time-saving job application systems. Wait, did I say “even”? I meant “especially.” More about that later. But even before those systems started existing, finding the openings and crafting cover letters was a big time sink.
- The terrible application process. Job-hunting has actually been the bane of my existence since before I was job-hunting, but that’s a lengthy diversion so you’ll have to check that out at the end of the post. But from a job-hunter’s standpoint, job application sites are the worst. After you post your resume, which has all of the relevant information in an easy-to-read format, you then have to re-enter everything from your resume. But often, the sites literally won’t allow you to enter your information correctly. I can’t count the number of times a field didn’t have enough space for the full information—usually job titles were too long for the space, but I do have one memory of a site that limited cover letters to 100 characters. Seriously, that’s barely enough for a fart. And you usually have to make an account, with a unique password that you have to keep track of, even though you probably won’t ever have to use it again but if you do it will be several years down the line and if you don’t remember it then, then you’re screwed. And plenty of places will send increasingly urgent nagging emails if you haven’t changed your password in six months. Gah.
- False red flags. I think this got me a lot; there’s a lot of things about me that I think raised concerns, even though they shouldn’t have, that disqualified me from jobs that I was great for. I was looking jobs in fields that are pretty geographically dispersed, rather than concentrated in one location. So I was looking for jobs outside of my hometown, but the prospect of relocating—even though I could have done it in the same kind of two weeks that would have been standard for any other hire—threw people. I was also going to a slightly different field than I had experience in, even though they were pretty closely related. And looking for slightly different jobs than what I had, even though the skills they used were mind-bogglingly applicable.
Oh, and I’d written a book, which instead of being a good thing marked me as a flight risk.
And then there was my last job, which made lots of heads explode, since I worked from home even though the company was based in another state. Oh, and I couldn’t give a precise hourly wage, because my pay varied slightly based on project and client.
When job-hunting, these things make you basically a serial killer.
Maybe I should have tried that.
- The interviews. It’s hard to fathom anything less like a job than a job interview. The environment is so stilted and the questions are designed so that actual answers will disqualify you. Like that “tell me a time you had a disagreement with someone you were working with” one. If you’re a grown-up, either one side listened to the other, or the person in power pulled rank. Those are the only two possibilities, and there are circumstances where either one might be appropriate, and if you’re a grown-up, you move on. But when an interviewer asks that, they’re looking for an inspirational tale full of pathos and struggle and ultimate triumph that doesn’t fucking exist. So either you lie or you’re disqualified.
And that’s an example from people who aren’t actively trying to be malicious interviewers. I’ve had worse. My very first interview in this round, the place didn’t actually bother to ask any questions. They did have a test for me: Come up with a Tweet promoting an event. Not a specific event, just an event generally.
A couple times, I was interviewed because the interviewer wished to register a complaint about my former employer, and they thought that telling their complaint to someone who used to work there was the most efficient way of bringing about change.
There was one place who scheduled interviews between me and four different people. But two of them missed the original appointments, so we had to re-schedule. There were also three different tests of my ability in this time. And then the final interviewer also missed our appointment and had to reschedule, but they let me know that I didn’t get the job before that could be done. But they were still interested in me, and wanted to start the process over for a different job. When I asked what other information they needed to properly evaluate my suitability for the position, they didn’t know.
Every interview is just tap-dancing through a mine field. Stumble over your words? Kaboom! Sound too rehearsed? Kaboom! Prioritize elements slightly differently than they would have? Don’t have an inspirational story about all the remarkable challenges you faced in your previous job? Haven’t done exactly the same things in exactly the same ways in your previous job that you’d be doing in this one? Fully qualified and therefore someone who will probably get bored? Kaboom Kaboom Kaboom!
- The oozing insencerity. Don’t worry, the rejection of you personally isn’t a personal rejection. It’s also not your qualifications, which we were extremely impressed by. We just don’t want you. But we’ll keep your application on file.
- The emotional destruction. This might be the worst. You put all of the time and effort into crafting an application, studying the employer, evaluating your abilities and how you can fit in well, send it off, and hear nothing. You do that several times a weak, for months on end. Sometimes you do hear something, and that’s worse, because you’ve got to be on edge for the rest of the process and you have to invest even more time preparing and doing the interview and it may be pointless anyhow because you know that if the interviewer wants to abuse you, and some do, they can. It fuels a really awful cycle of dread and misery and despair. Ugh.
Having this off my shoulder for the first time in six years has me feeling better about my prospects than I have in that time.
- Bonus hate! Employment advice. There’s a lot of job-hunting advice out there, and it’s generally as abusive as most advice is. It’s designed to prey on people who are vulnerable—wanting something makes you vulnerable to people who promise they can help you get it—but their primary method is to blame the people who want a job for not already having a job. One really egregious example was the one that tells you what colors you should never wear to a job interview. Seriously. If the color tie I’m wearing affects whether I get a job or not, then you have to assume that the entire process is completely defective. Which it is, but the proper response to that is to fix the process rather than blame the poor sap who wears the wrong color.
But that’s over, at least for the time being, and hopefully for a significant time being. I have better things to devote my energy to.
That was nice to get out of me. Thanks for listening, or not, as the case may be.
The lengthy diversion about my pre-job-hunting job-hunting horror: A couple jobs ago, powers way over my pay grade decided that the magazine I worked for needed to change its classified ad system (which was manual but effective) to an ultra-modern jobs website (much like the current standard), which was automatic unless it didn’t work, which it never did. I wound up spending as much time on job ads as I had before, only all of my time was being screamed at by angry people because they were wasting hours of their time trying to post ads on a system that didn’t work instead of sending their ad to a person who did. Oh, yeah, and because the system worked hard to discourage people from putting their ads in the magazine, it cut print advertising from 15 pages to 1 page an issue within a year. Oh, yeah, and since the online ads were cheaper, it also cut revenue by a lot. Oh, yeah, and since the system actually merged two magazine’s classified ad operations, it cut revenue by half again. Oh, yeah, and it took three years of meetings and several hundred thousand dollars to pay the developer to create the site, which, as previously mentioned, didn’t work. Oh, yeah, and while I wasn’t involved in the creation of the site in any way, I wound up being the person responsible for trying to make it function, even though my only administrative tool was to tell people, “Yeah, sometimes the site just doesn’t work, you’ll have to try it again.” Oh, yeah, and it was terrible for job-hunters too; you were forced to search for jobs by state, even though these were the kind of jobs that you expect to relocate for, and you couldn’t search by date to see the jobs that had been posted since you last visited, even though someone who’s actually looking for a job would check the site every day. Oh, yeah, and the day it went live, literally everybody who was involved in the site’s development decided to go on vacation.
Wow, thanks for letting me get that off my chest.