Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Make whole body fit inside one inch!

I've gone a couple days without updates, so I apologize for that. Not only did that most sulfrous of holidays the 4th of July occupy some of my time, I spent some extensive time preparing for my first interview. Short answer - it went well, but that's not where I'm going to go today.

I had my meeting with Amy Lindgren of Prototype Career Services on Friday. I've been resistant to the services of a career counselor for a number of reasons. Many books I've read advised against it. I'm loathe to pay money for services that I could learn on my own. There's no shortage of those in the industry who would take your money and give you nothing.

However, job-searching skills are that - skills. And unfortunately as a first time job seeker, fairly underdeveloped ones. And while the job market is a little more like dating than you would think, the metaphor breaks down at the point that the imminence of foreclosure is an unlikely scenario when evaluating the prospects of long term bachelorhood. Similarly, unemployment would likely be more tolerable were its worst case scenario to be your mother nagging you for grandchildren.

Although I've begun to really synthesize the vast amounts of information I've taken in over the past four weeks, it was important to me that my each ounce of my job searching efforts register in the positive. As. Mr. Miyagi told us, the punch is more effective when your whole body is concentrated in that one inch. Because their are profound psychological and economic consequences to one's employment related choices, I felt it was completely appropriate to seek out the advice of an expert.

To that end, I felt I really benefitted from the experience. We spent two hours together and reviewed briefly numerous aspects of the job searching process. What I was really searching for, and found, was an evaluation of my current job seeking principles. Are my goals realistic? Is my approach sound? Has my time been spent wisely?

The short answer to most of those questions was "yes" and to those who consider these services to be not worth the money, consider this analogy. If you were lost in the middle of a forest, you can't very well stay in one spot if you value survival. You have to move, but that on its own is not enough. You are looking for civilization, not to further penetrate the forest's icy heart.

Depending on your survivalist skills, some people will be better equipped at orienting their escape path than others. Regardless of how much you may have studied, much of that prior knowledge carries little weight until they are applied for the first time. Given the consequences of starving in the forest, if you could pay a wilderness expert to materialize and help orient you in the right direction, you probably would should you value your existence.

In addition to affirming (and slightly refining) my job searching techniques, we rehearsed one of the toughest interiew questions I will be facing (my beleagured startup company debacle.) We discussed backup plans. We reviewed my creative portfolio, and she made several helpful suggestions that weren't very obvious to me.

Two other interesting tidbits: The cliche is that finding work is a full time forty hour a week job. Amy recommended that no more than twenty hours be dedicated to job searching per week (and no more than two on internet job boards.) What differentiates job-searching from traditional labor is the psychological millstone of rejection and damaged self-esteem that isn't associated with the typical forty hour work week. For most people, hours spent after twenty job searching are significantly less effective than the former.

Secondly, we discussed the average length of unemployment in this country. Amy said that by and large, duration of unemployment is closely associated with terms of unemployment compensation. If average Joe is getting six months of unemployment, he will wait until the last month before beginning his job search, skewing this statistic. It probably shouldn't be that way, but for many people, unemployment is an Uncle Sam sponsored vacation more than a stopgap between positions.

To that end, I would highly recommend the services of a reputable career counselor, and early in the process. If you can afford it, and you're willing to listen and admit that maybe you don't know everything, you can really gain some positive insight onto what is and is not realistic expectations for job hunting in 2009.

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