Friday, June 26, 2009

I have been filmed before a live studio audience.

I went to what I thought was a networking event, but really was more of a job support group than anything else. It was an event that somewhat surprised me on a number of fronts.

First off, I was the youngest person at this group, and it wasn't even close. At twenty nine, I pegged one attendant in her mid thirties, and everyone else was over forty. These were people definitely in a different stage of transition than I was in.

Also, while certainly I'm kind of stereotyping here, I got the impression I was dealing with a lot of people who had never faced the possibility that a job search might be in their future. Sadly, many of them stuck me as people who don't have computer skills, which are unfortunately at a premium in our modern world.

I showed up late, and the concepts were pretty basic. The moderators led a discussion on soft skills, which were basically subjective adjectives one would use to describe what you could add to an employer. Hard-working. Detailed. Integrity. It isn't as if those are bad skills -- few job positions that I've seen advertised requirements for narcissism and personal relativist ethics, but at the same time, I would have thought some of that stuff was common sense.

And because it really is common sense, what's tough in this environment is that with so many job seekers, you've got a tough row to hoe if ascertaining your soft skills holds educational value. Quite a few sites said to leave subjective qualities off your resume entirely as most hiring managers don't even give them a second thought due to the frequency with which they read them, and I tend to believe that.

Of all the advice that I read for constructing targeted resumes and cover letters, the one that I think is probably going to be the best principle to live by is that if it doesn't apply to the specific job at hand, strike it. And if the job requires "creativity" it's not enough to say you're creative, you have to cite an accomplishment you had at your previous job where you demonstrated creatvitiy.

Of course, I'm probably not necessarily fit to be dispensing advice and judgment. I still haven't had a call back from the leads I've pursued. I'm still confident that it will come, but I don't exactly have an idol of accomplishment to reflect sunlight's wisdom into the eyes of others.

I was asked to introduce myself to the group, which I was a little nervous about. After all, most of these people were laid off and lost employment involuntarily, whereas there was slightly more volition in the path that led me to where I am today. Furthermore, I anticipated resentment at the fact that I was blessed enough to have a cache of savings to buoy my career search.

The group leader asked if I felt grief about losing my position. I said that really I didn't feel any grief -- I am where I am because it was right -- but to an extent I felt stupid for failing at my previous endeavor and succumbing to the wishful thinking fallacy. Simultaneously, several members spoke up saying "why on earth do you feel that away? You are clearly not stupid." One gentleman turned around and said "you recognized the situation you were in and took a calculated risk that you vetted to the best of your abilities. Even though it didn't work out, I applaud you for that choice. I might not have had the courage to do that."

I felt a wave of emotion, and had to stifle a tear. It's one thing to have the support of your family and friends, but you sometimes wonder if their words of support are grounded in fact or merely their love for you. To have a stranger validate that I wasn't an idiot and that my career choices were valid and just relieved some of the regret I had over what has obviously caused some short term pain and discomfort.

Later in the meeding, the group leader discussed Amy Lindgren of Prototype Career Services. While I find the concept of career counseling attractive, I was resistant to pursuing it for two reasons. I think there's a lot of sharks in that industry who have no problem taking your money and telling you things you already know. Secondly, I have no wish to pay for services that if given time and introspection, I could accomplish on my own.

The group leader said that Amy, who writes a column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, was the best in town by far. He said she's expensive, but worth it. One of the group members said that he had worked with her and considered it more than worth the investment. I was only able to find one review on line, but it basically said the same thing.

So I decided to set up the appointment. I spoke briefly with Amy over the phone about my situation, and I will be meeting with her for two hours a week from today. I asked if I could prepare a small MS Word biography so she could get a better perspective on who I am and better fine-tune recommendations with me, and she graciously agreed.

When evaluating whether to pursue career counseling, I wasn't able to find much on-line that advocated or denounced it. To that end, I hope to have something to be able to report back on whether it's positive or not. I suspect it will be, but either way, I'm excited to be able to glean some definitive information on a neglected job-seeking subject.

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