It’s been a rough few years for those in the job market. Finding a job is more like winning the lottery, and those who have won have no idea how lucky they are. Being qualified, working hard, and being proactive are almost blanket adjectives to describe the thousands out there still working to find work. Trust me – I know.
It’s been almost a year, and I’ve never felt more consumed or overwhelmed by a single thought for so long. Ironically, all I ever hear from advisors, friends and family is, “But you’re so qualified! And you’ve done so much – how are you still unemployed?”
My question exactly. Then it hit me – I’m dating the employers. No, not literally (would have probably landed a job faster if I was, though), but in some sense – the process of finding a job is like a sick dating game. And I’m really ready to sever this relationship. Step back and think about it; you may just be sailing this ship with me.
Saying the Right Thing
How many times have you found a job and struggled over what exactly to say in the cover letter? For me, every time. Every time I see a job that I know I’m extremely qualified for and also seems a perfect fit for me, I feel a little thrill. It’s a lot like meeting someone you know you could click with. But then – the tension begins.
What do I say? How do I talk about myself without going on and on – and sounding super fake, for that matter? Am I talking too much? Am I being myself too much? Do I use big words to sound smarter? I should just go with my instinct…right?
The whole process is bananas! It’s one thing to be nervous in either situation when you’re looking at it as something to gain, but to have to sew together a costume of the perfect person you probably aren’t is ridiculous. Personal life aside, I value professionalism immensely. But how are we supposed to know what each employer wants? Do your research online, and you’ll find hundreds of guides on writing a perfect cover letter written by recruiters, employers and career experts. Each one has a different piece of advice: be yourself; don’t be stiff; don’t be too casual; don’t exceed a page; talk about your accomplishments; don’t repeat your resume; etc., etc,etc.
Am I crazy, or do relationship “experts” (if there ever was such a thing) say a lot of the same things? There’s no simple way to impress an employer, and it’s not fair to lose out on a job because of stupid technicalities on your first introduction. If dating is about reading between the lines of who a person is, then finding a job shouldn’t be any different.
Once you’ve gotten over the first hurdle of sending out your comprehensive written package of “who you are,” it’s a waiting game from there. A lot like battling over making the next move in a relationship, it’s a torturous process of wondering who should take the next step. And the stress begins again.
Should I talk to him/her first? Is it too soon? What do I say? I don’t want to sound too desperate, but I really want this to go somewhere. This is exactly what I want, but I don’t know if I gave off that impression the first time around. How long should I wait?
If you thought these were the questions that belong in the dating world – you’d be right. These are also, however, the exact questions I battle with after I’ve applied for a job, too. There’s a time and a place for rules, but if something feels right and it’s something you want – why can’t you pursue it? If you like someone, go after him/her. If you want a job – go after it. But again, we deal with the “etiquette” of landing a job. Some employers like the persistence, while some want you to leave them the hell alone. Again, I ask: How. Do. We. Know. What. You. Want?! By no means am I big rule breaker so if you tell me to leave you alone then I will. But then my only hope is that a stupid letter will hopefully have said exactly what it is that you wanted. If not, then I lose. How is this fair?
Respect is Two-Way Street
So you’ve got the job (and the guy/gal), now what? As with every step of the dating game, someone brilliant out there decided there should be a set of rules. You put in your part, and I’ll put in mine. This sounds fair, right? Alas, this is where dating the employer seems a lot like being in a passively abusive relationship. After the torture and groveling, you land the job. Now it’s a process of being on your toes and never messing up.
I’m not sure about what I was just instructed on – should I ask? Will that make me sound stupid? Maybe it’s best to take charge and step up. I’m here because I’m worthy. But if I mess up, I could ruin this whole thing! But if I don’t ask, I might be in trouble. I can’t mess this up – I worked so hard!
Who is capable of this life? Boyfriends and girlfriends aren’t, and neither are bosses. Everyone screws up, but if you’ve had to be “cutthroat” and “promise to be hardworking and do whatever you have to do to get the job,” then most likely you’re going to be and you’ll bust your butt along the way. But isn’t there some point after getting the job that you can relax and feel like you shouldn’t be scared? It’s ridiculous that many employers treat their new employees as second-rate citizens and expect them to be okay with it. “That’s how it is,” say the experts. “Everyone has to pay their dues.” But if you shouldn’t stay in a relationship in which you always feel you should be impressing the other person, and are constantly scared to disappoint — then why is it acceptable for a work environment? Yes, you need that job to move up in your career, but not necessarily a relationship. Although try telling that to some teenager who “can’t live without him/her,” and you’ll question which is the relationship and which is the job.
This Has to End
I know there are thousands out there who can relate to my opinion on this, and every one of you is sick of this confusing process of “how to land a job.” If we have to be in this dating game with the employer, then employers need to meet us halfway. Read between the lines and understand that all those cover letters, emails, phone calls and resumes are from people who are in the shoes you were in years ago. Appreciate the professionalism even if you think a cover letter seems “boring and stiff.” No one really talks like that, and someone out there told us this is what employers expect. If it’s too casual for your needs, someone probably told us to “be ourselves” along the way, too. Look at the effort and judge someone on their actual qualifications and willingness to step up. Get to know someone before you deem them worthless, and please lower your expectations just a little. You want the best that’s out there, but that doesn’t mean you want the same thing every other employer wants. Please, oh please, stop dating us! We just want to work and do a great job - at a job!