Read an Excerpt
All jobs are temporary.
There is no promise made today that cannot be erased with an apology tomorrow. Companies go out of business, mergers occur, divisions are reorganized, projects get cancelled, funding is cut . . . and we’re really sorry, but we’re going to have to let you explore other opportunities.
Or maybe your company has grown uncomfortably large (or uncomfortably small); perhaps you have realized that the job you started with is not quite the same as the one you ended up with, and it’s time to move on. Or your spouse has been promoted to a new area of the country. Or you took this last job knowing that it was only a two-year project, and it’s time to look for the next one.
Figures vary, but most experts (and the federal government) say that the average job lasts three and a half years. Which means that the average person becomes a job-hunter every three and a half years, voluntarily or not. And the trend, on average, is toward shorter job tenures, not longer.
At the same time, it’s taking each of us longer to find a job. In a trend that has been building for years, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in April of 2009, the average job-hunt lasted just under twenty-seven weeks; less than a year later, in April of 2010, it was thirty-three weeks. For older workers seeking senior positions, the job-hunt (again, on average) generally takes between one and two years.
What is going on here? It’s not like there aren’t any jobs available.
People are always quitting, being terminated, retiring, moving to another town . . . the turnover is endless. Even in the brutal economic times we have been going through, this country has shown a net job growth every year since 2001. I don’t want to keep bombarding you with numbers, but in 2007 alone, although there were 54.6 million “separations”—that’s government-speak for quits, layoffs, discharges, and retirements—employers hired 57.8 million people, for a net jobs gain of 3.2 million. Meaning, that every month, over 1 million people were finding jobs—158,000 people every day. But, on average, it took them each over six months to find that job.
This makes no sense. Every day, there are more jobs available; as time goes by, we have to go job-hunting more often; and yet, we are getting worse at it. You would think we’d be getting better, seeing as we need to do it so often. But all of the numbers point the other way.
Well, numbers can hide as much as they can reveal, but I do know one thing: this country is going through a revolution in the way the job-hunt operates. And one of the main factors in this revolution—perhaps even the main cause of the revolution—is the Internet.
As a job-hunter, you need to understand the Internet and know how to use it effectively in your job-hunt. If you can do that—learn how the Internet can help you find work, how it cannot, and even learn how the Internet will likely be harmful to your job-hunt—then you are no longer the average job-hunter that we have been talking about. Your search can take much less than thirty weeks, or whatever the average happens to be right now. You can, in a relatively short time, find the work you enjoy at a place you enjoy doing it. And that’s the whole point of this book.
First let’s look at some ways that the Internet is not helpful, and is perhaps even harmful, when you are job-hunting.
The first problem the Internet brings is unrealistic expectations. Many people think that the Internet will make the whole job-hunting process much easier and quicker. We are constantly bombarded with ads on TV, radio, in the newspaper, and on the Internet itself, all of which tell us that we merely have to put our resume up on one job site or another (the bigger the better) and we will soon be bombarded with job offers. For the vast majority of people, that is the complete sum of all they know about online job-hunting. It’s simple; it’s painless; what do I need a book like this for?
Unfortunately, Internet job-hunting just doesn’t work that way. I’ll explain more in chapter 2, but, for now, just know that when job-hunters follow these ads and only use what I call the Supersites (Monster, HotJobs—now part of Monster—and CareerBuilder), the average success rate is around 4%. That is, for every 100 people who use the Supersites, 4 people will find a job . . . eventually. The remaining 96 people never will.
The next problem facing the online job-hunter is data smog—the huge amount of information on the Internet tends to mask the information you are searching for. And the actual amount of information online is staggering: as of 2009, about 109 million different websites, with over 25 billion (yes, that’s billion-with-a-”b”) separate web pages. Great! Now—which ones are going to be helpful?
Well, let’s try and cut through that data smog and zero in on our intended subject—that’s what search engines are for, right? So we go to a typical search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, and type in “job-hunting.” Google alone claims about 23 million results and generally shows the first thousand (about 100 results pages). Of those thousand, which are the most helpful links for your job-hunt? If you think the answer is always on the first page—which is as far as most people go—then you need to learn a lot more about search engines. We’ll examine search engines closely in chapter 6, Research.
That brings us to the third problem facing the online job-hunter: data provenance. We already know there is a huge amount of information on the Internet; it doesn’t take long to find out that much of this information is vague, contradictory, and often just plain wrong. What, and who, are we to believe?
For example: In the last few years, there has been an explosion in the number of job-hunting blogs. Back in 2007, when I wrote the previous edition of this book, there were exactly three job-hunting blogs on the net. Now, just a few years later, there are literally thousands of job-hunting blogs. Thousands. It’s bad enough having too much information. But now the question becomes: is it likely that every one of these bloggers is a job-hunting expert?
It used to be that we could (and did) trust what we read. The books, newspapers, and magazines that were our primary sources of information were generally produced by well-trained people with knowledge, experience, and authority. Generally speaking, journalistic professional pride and economic pressures required careful research, caution, and fact checking.
But the web is completely egalitarian. Anyone can set up a website and say whatever they want, as loud as they want, regardless of the truth of the matter or the depth of their knowledge about it. Without a great deal of expertise on our part, it can be difficult to distinguish the expert from the fraud, or the well-meaning but mistaken voice from the sharp operator who wants to cloud an issue for financial gain. Therefore, when on the Internet, you must constantly ask yourself:
• Where does the information come from?
• Who wrote it?
• Why did they write it?
• Why is it worth money to keep it available on the Internet?
• How can I verify this information?
These questions may not be so important when you are trying to find out who was our eighteenth president (Buchanan, unfortunately), but when you are trying to find work in a hostile world, such questions can be absolutely critical.
To illustrate the care required when using the Internet, I bring you the story of dihydrogen monoxide.
DHMO—A Cautionary Tale
There is a chemical compound affecting the health of people all over the world, yet it seems as if no one wants to talk about it.
Dihydrogen monoxide—often referred to as DHMO—is now widespread throughout our environment. A major component of acid rain, DHMO also contributes to soil erosion and the greenhouse effect. High levels of DHMO can be found in practically every lake and river in the US.
By going to the web page of the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division (dhmo.org/), we can learn that:
• Inhaling even a small amount of DHMO can cause death.
• The gaseous form of DHMO can cause severe burns on human skin.
• Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
• To quote the website, “DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful.”
More recently, concern has grown due to the fact that DHMO is being used widely on dairy farms, and is showing up in the milk that we give to our children.
Given all of these facts, why is so little being done to curb the use of DHMO? It’s hard to know exactly why, given the close relationship between industry and people in politics. Some brave voices have been raised, but they are as those crying in the wilderness:
• A few years ago, the city councilors in Alisa Viejo, California, scheduled a vote on whether to ban Styrofoam cups at city events, because they learned that Styrofoam manufacture involves the use of DHMO.
• Some members of the New Zealand Parliament have thrown their weight behind efforts to curb the use of DHMO.
• In 2010, a member of the Canadian Parliament wrote a bill to ban DHMO from all federal buildings, though later tabled his bill (bowing to industry pressure?).
If you have any questions or concerns about DHMO, you should go to the website mentioned above, or to Wikipedia’s excellent article on thesubject at en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dihydrogen_monoxide&redirect=no.
At this point, I should probably tell you that dihydrogen monoxide, or DHMO, is another way of saying H2O, or water. And it is all true: water is a major component of acid rain; it causes soil erosion, and contributes to the greenhouse effect, particularly when it forms clouds. Breathing even small amounts will kill you, though we usually call it drowning; the gaseous form, known as steam, can cause burns; and prolonged direct exposure to the solid form (ice) causes tissue damage, known as frostbite. On dairy farms, they give it to the cows . . . somehow it works its way into the milk.
Okay, it’s a fun little joke, but the politicians I mentioned above (and others) have actually been caught up in this hoax, most of which is centered around the DHMO web page.
Maybe it’s built into our brains, or it’s part of our education system. We tend to consider published information as generally trustworthy. When this trust is broken by magazines or newspapers—as with reporters Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley, and Stephen Glass, who famously plagiarized and fabricated news stories—it is major news itself.
But as our information sources migrate from paper publishing to the Internet, we need to remember that many of the old restraints just don’t apply in the same way. On the Internet, you must always consider motivations, provenance, and expertise.
Much of this book will be devoted to steering you away from websites and job-hunting strategies I know to be inaccurate, a poor use of your time, or likely to cost you money. Instead, I’ll try to point you to resources that will help you find work in the shortest time possible, and I’ll show you how to research effectively online. I believe in empowerment: teaching you to fish is always better than giving you a fish.
Okay, we’ve talked about the net’s problems; what’s the flip side? What does the Internet have to offer the job-hunter?
Research: The huge amount of information available online, which in some ways is the Internet’s weakness, is also its strength. The Internet is a researcher’s dream, changing the way we approach learning and information. When was the last time you were at someone’s house and saw a thirty-volume encyclopedia? All of the facts and materials we used to have to search for in heavy tomes, or go to the library to find, are now just a few mouse clicks away, available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection (which should be every person who is actively job-hunting).
You can save a lot of time, and find a lot more information, if you understand how search engines work, how they differ, which search engines are best for certain tasks, and when search engines are not helpful. Moreover, much of the information on the web is not available through search engines at all. We’ll look at other ways of finding online information later in the book.
Networking: When you are job-hunting, what you are really doing is looking for people. People with the power to hire you, people who work at a company that may have an opening for you, people who know that you are job-hunting and want to help, people who know that a certain company has a problem that you know how to fix . . . like that. Networking is people. A website is not an entity in itself; it is created and run by people. The Internet is just another form of communication between people. Communicating with people—what we like to call networking—is always the most successful way of finding a job.
There has been an explosion in the popularity of social-networking sites. Many people spend hours every day on sites such as Facebook and Twitter; you might even be one of them. If you are, your job-hunt will probably require you to change your habits.
Though there are effective ways to use the social-networking sites when looking for work, you don’t need to spend hours at them every day. We’ll talk about how to use these sites in your job-hunt, and which sites and strategies are the most effective. We’ll also explore other ways of making contacts and reaching people on the Internet, and we’ll talk about the fatal flaw that all social networking sites suffer from and how best to get around it.