Job Search & Conventional Wisdom

My particular expertise is teaching and coaching people about job search. It is driven and fed by 25 years in the executive recruitment business. I have learned much in those years but like all professions there is a dichotomy between what is the conventional wisdom and what I actually think.

What follows are some examples from my field:

What I teach. LinkedIn is the indispensable tool for professional networking, and is absolutely necessary in the job search process.

What I believe. The above is true, and yet, LinkedIn is getting more and more annoying. The constant unhelpful tweaks to its interface that actually remove useful features, its constant nagging to recruit new members using your contact list, and the ongoing transformation of updates to useless drivel in the form of tedious math problems and endless product announcements are very quickly transforming this once outstanding tool to, well, not. If LinkedIn is not careful it could find itself in the dustbin of Internet social sites. Can you say My Space?

What I teach. Networking is the key to successful job search.

What I believe. This is still correct, but true networking is becoming brutally difficult, and yet it is the only way forward for job seekers. Those of us in the field can do little else but preach the conventional wisdom but secretly we are all scrambling to find better (more successful) ways to network.

The truth is that modern networking for the average job seeker is a brutal, frustrating experience.

The use of the phone as a successful networking tool is problematic.  Time management professionals    (and the pressures of modern business) teach business people to screen calls and prioritize call backs. Does anyone really believe that job searchers will be anywhere close to the top of that list?

E-mail? Most busy business people can accumulate hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of e-mails in a single day. Need I say more?

What I teach. Accomplishments are the yardstick by which most companies will evaluate future success.

What I believe. If a candidate can accumulate a strong list of accomplishments that really highlight their commitment, then a couple of lingering questions remain. Why are they: out of work? Not promoted? Etc.

What I teach. That job seekers should always try to apply to the “decision maker” as opposed to Human Resources.

What I believe. Also true, but unlikely. Line managers and senior executives are very happy to give up the nuts and bolts of recruitment to Human resources, they know it’s wrong, but again, the pressures of the modern business world make it necessary. So in all likelihood starting with the decision maker is still a good idea but that contact will likely be met with a redirection to HR.

There are many more examples.

What does this all mean for the job seeker? Looking for work has always been hard. It seems though that with all the technological advances it has become even harder and, a moving target to boot. Even though the fundamentals are problematic, for the time being, there all we have.

Frank Bruni is the author of “Job Search, Looking for a career in the 21st Century”  

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