The Unemployment Experience

A few people wanted to get some insight on what’s been happening with the job search. That is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. Honestly, I have been thinking about this post for a while. I’ve been struggling with how I want to approach it. So I think I’ll just hit the topics as they come to mind.

My Standing in the Rat Race…
For me, unemployment hasn’t been too bad quite honestly. Outside of bills and the student loans, I can’t really complain about anything. I don’t have a mortgage, kids to feed (besides my dog Maxx), and the cost of living here is relatively inexpensive allowing me to prepare for my next career. Yes, there are a lot of depressing days, but life is good. I try to keep the days fresh by checking in with contacts, seeking out new leads, and trying to maintain an active existence. I’ve said this many times before and it’s still true today: Even being unemployed is a job in itself. Just trying to stay sane and relevant in today’s economy can be extremely trying. In the meantime, I keep plugging away. I’ve tried the volunteer route locally only to be turned away due to lack of opportunities in this area, and a 45 minute commute to the greater Portland area is not a viable option. I even went to the employment agency, Worksource, which lead to them telling me to look at bigger markets outside of Oregon. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. My progress so far…..well, things have been moving at a somewhat glacial pace.

  • Recurring Comment: You have an MBA and some good work experience. You should have a job in no time.

At first, hearing those words was comforting. Now, I just want burst into the biggest fit of nerd-rage, because the past four months have indicated otherwise. It makes me wonder what is it I’m doing ‘wrong’. Am I applying for ill-suited roles? Am I not working my network enough or properly? Some of the questions I can answer right off the bat. For starters, I’ve focused my search just to the greater Seattle area. Second, many of the roles I’ve applied have some strict job requirements requiring 5-10 years experience with certain tasks or applications. This isn’t so much a barrier as it is a small hiccup. My professional background covers a few areas functionally. I wouldn’t label myself as a pure supply chain professional, or a hardcore number-crunching financial analyst, etc. Being a jack-of-all-trades does have its advantages, but today it’s more of a gamble than an advantage. In today’s market, companies are holding out for the perfect candidate who hits all the check marks. In fact, I have been told by recruiters and hiring authorities that they’ve selected another candidate due to more years of experience in a certain area. I’ve heard the inverse of this stance as well: I’m over-qualified for the role (which is sometimes code for candidates who are ‘too expensive’). I know I’m not the hottest commodity on the market; but you’d think someone with a master’s and some credible work experience would have something lined up after four months.

Recruiters & Career Coaches
Sometimes I feel bad for recruiters; they get a bad wrap generally. On one hand, they have to deal with a growing pool of impatient and resentful candidates. On the other, they have to work with their clients who can be just as frustrating. Some of the resentment comes from their lack of follow-up and candidness. My frustration actually stems from their clients with their “hot” requisitions that need to be turned around in 1-2 weeks. But after 3-4 weeks, I find out the position’s either been cancelled, put on hold, filled internally, or the manager is on an extended vacation. Regarding recruiter follow-up, I understand they can’t respond to every candidate. But it does show a lack of professional courtesy when they fail to adhere to follow-ups and appointments they set-up. No one’s expecting a five-minute hand-holding session, but a few quick lines or automated response would go a long way in quelling some people’s frustration. Thankfully, the recruiters I’m working with have kept me in mind for other requisitions they come across. It’s important to note that one shouldn’t put the strength of their job search in the recruiters hands. That ball is in your court; recruiters are just a convenient resource while you search.

I’ve also entertained the idea of collaborating with a career coach. This isn’t a bad route to go if you’re looking to penetrate a new field or just new to the job search game. The big draw here is that they’re supposed to provide you with “real job finding” tactics, evaluate your job skills, help structure resumes, prep for interviews, and how to access the “hidden job market”. This is good and all, but most of this information is readily available online for free. Plus, their services are terribly expensive. Not to mention, you’re not even guaranteed securing a job offer. I admit, it is something I’ve considered; but I’m just not entirely convinced of its worth it.

LinkedIn, Social Media, & Networking
I would say the most progressive aspects of my job search have come from LinkedIn and Twitter. I used to be one of those people who didn’t “get”Twitter; but has it become one of the most useful resources in my job search. Plus, it allows potential employers to get a partial glimpse of your social skills. I’ve been able to interact with a wide network of people and formed some genuinely, great relationships. That, to me, is one of the best aspects of Twitter. There’s also these weekly, job-related movements on Twitter such #workwednesday and the more popular #hirefriday. The idea is for job seekers to tweet about the kind of work they’re looking for and link to their resume. Then recruiters and employers can scour through the feed picking out specific people. LinkedIn serves as a great resources for networking with other professionals.

But even LinkedIn and Twitter have their shortcomings. For example, outside of a few recruiter accounts, I’ve yet to see any job seekers come back to vouch for the validity of the #hirefriday. It’s a good idea in theory but I would really like to see some numbers comparing the level of activity against the numbers of actual response (phone screens, interviews, direct hires, etc.). As for LinkedIn, the networking events are great opportunities in themselves; but it takes quiet some time establishing a solid, reliable network. This is especially true when you’re new to the area.

The Road Ahead…
Looking back, this post seems as though it’s laced with a thinly veiled, passive aggressive tone. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not really bitter, frustrated but not bitter or resentful. Yes, this situation does suck. And it perplexes me as to why I keep hitting dead ends. Disappointment aside, the last thing I am is a quitter. If anything, I’m one of the most persistent individuals you’ll ever meet. And I’m always exploring new leads and staying active from day-to-day. Something is bound to turn up at some point…hopefully before my benefits expire that is.

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