Facing a hanging in the morning is one way of concentrating the mind. So is getting a redundancy notice from your employer. In an idle moment late last night I calculated my time left in my current seat and had a wobbly moment. Is that all? I asked myself. A lot longer than many others who have passed this door to be sure but even so …
So I spent some time reviewing my progress in Operation find Redundant Public Servant some paid employment. My analysis broke down into three areas: what are my achievements with my current job and what am I good at (the dreaded CV stuff); am I being marketed effectively; and, is my networking up to speed.
What have I achieved? (Yes, apart from getting fired.) My trouble here is that everything I can think of is drenched in the shorthand of the organisation I’m leaving. I am pretty sure we had a Department of Acronyms and Meaningless Nonsense (DAMN) but I might have been hallucinating when I read that memo. So I’ve been peeling away the organisational varnish and grime to reveal the old master beneath.
What am I now looking at? Well it’s not The Haywain or, thank goodness, The Scream. It’s a bit more like Master Holbein’s The Ambassadors. There’s me and a pal looking a bit startled, if not a little shifty, surrounded by all sorts of clutter not all of which has any obvious meaning. And there’s a great big smudge that means nothing to us but you can plainly see it’s a grinning death’s head. An intimation of mortality.
Reinterpreting the clutter and symbiology of my career has been tricky. I’m not convinced yet that I am anywhere near recasting what I’m good at and what I have achieved in terms that make sense out there in the real world. But I’m painfully aware that until I am able to do this my tries at marketing are handicapped.
So if my CV is creeping towards adequacy how is the marketing going?
I did an early round of recruitment agencies. Some have been useless. Some adequate. And some excellent. What distinguishes them? First and foremost actually having, or brilliantly feigning, a real interest in me. The worst grab your CV, give you no feedback and then try to sell you something. I know these guys have to make a living but I was hoping that they might do it through finding people jobs rather than endlessly direct marketing stuff I don’t want and certainly can’t afford. The best have freely given their time with advice and encouragement even when they had nothing on their books that was at all relevant. But still no really hot leads.
I’ve been marketing myself through social media. (I’m excluding this blog from that campaign but maybe I shouldn’t?) In fact many of the most interesting and productive conversations have come through social media. That includes contacts from people I have never physically met but who again have spared a lot of their time to give advice and encouragement. There’s an underlying truth to the line about the kindness of strangers. So in the social media arena I feel that I am a bit ahead of the game and teetering on the edge of finding some productive things to do when my allotted span is up.
I’m also on LinkedIn. If you haven’t looked at this website you should. It’s a Facebook for professional life. It’s not a place to talk about your boozy night of abandonment. Not if you want people to take you seriously as a potential employee or business associate. But what it does do is enable you to maintain an up-to-date web presence that allows you to build networks and get to know people working in areas that you are interested in. I’ve had some good conversations from contacts on LinkedIn including invitations to networking events and even a speaking engagement. Again the activity here is a cheerful contrast to the other irons that are cooling in the fire.
There’s been much noise about how effective networking is essential to career building and job-hunting. Despite my current lack of any tangible success I think that’s right. But I don’t think it’s the whole answer.
And that brings me to the final part of the analysis. My performance in the applications made so far. I have put in six applications (I’m discounting the recruitment consultancy stuff). I have not been shortlisted. Two were very speculative so I’m not grieving too hard about them. Two were on the outer fringes of my CV. Two right in the bulls eye.
On the latter four I’ve obviously been thinking about how I could have presented myself differently to get shortlisted. I’ve had little feedback as, in each case, I’ve been told the numbers of applicants make this unfeasible. So I’ve reviewed my applications as objectively as I could. I think I have made three elementary mistakes.
1. Not being full-on: Don’t apply for any job that I am not sure I could do or even want. Such half-heartedness and doubting comes across in how you write. A potential employer would be well-advise in thinking you would carry this attitude into the job if you got it.
2. Not spending enough quality time: Work at the application properly and not leave everything to the last minute. Again this fosters a lack of attention to detail that comes across as an absence of seriousness. If you don’t take the job application seriously why should a potential employer think you would act any differently if you actually got the post?
3. Being too scattergun: Be professional in job-hunting. The internet age puts so many opportunities in front of you it’s hard to be disciplined. And, frankly, chasing too much stuff not only makes you look desperate it also can make you feel desperate too. Use recruitment sites intelligently to shortlist jobs that I am really interested in. Don’t apply for stuff that’s peripheral, you won’t get it and failure drives down morale.
Will any of this yield better results? I suppose time will tell. Meanwhile, where’s that postie?