‘GAH!’ The plaintive call of so many, many job seekers today. We scour job boards day after day, pick out the jobs we think we’re least unqualified for, and toil over crafting the perfect cover letter and resume. All for an application that may not even get seen by human eyes.
This might sound like grousing by a frustrated job hunter. Probably to some degree that’s true. But I think there’s a bigger problem in today’s job market. We graduate from school, or switch to a different industry, and there is a poverty of guidance on how to land a job.
‘Network,’ we’re told. ‘Bring value to the person you’re approaching. Be direct, but not aggressive’. All well and good from people who are already resting comfortably in a job. The sad reality is that, in today’s economy, many people are understandably trying to protect their own jobs. There doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of willingness to stick out one’s neck for the unemployed. What’s more, it seems the vast majority of people wind up in their jobs through some friendly connection – a university buddy working in the same company; the CEO’s mum goes to the same yoga class as your girlfriend; or whatever.
It’s a confounding reality for me. On the one hand, it feels sleazy to showboat myself and go into networking meetings with an ‘agenda’. I also have an aversion to the idea of nepotism. As the executive director of Career Skills Incubator, an employment skills not-for-profit, I strongly believe in the idea of hiring by merit and personality fit. Yet, I feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot if I ignore the reality that most jobs are filled through an inside connection.
I think there are steps that governments, employers, and the nonprofit sector can take to make hiring more accessible to the masses. First, governments and social services agencies should do more to bridge the chasm between graduates and employers. Whether through setting up mentorship programs (such as the free Menteer tool); subsidizing job trials; or creating new platforms for job seekers to market themselves, there is plenty of room for growth in this space.
Secondly, employers should make hiring practices more open and transparent. This includes making the evaluation rubric available to applicants and providing meaningful feedback to interviewees. I’ve heard all too many stories about job applicants being jerked around by power-tripping hiring managers and given no regard for the hours they have invested in a single application.
Finally, there’s a need for organizations like Career Skills Incubator to give job seekers, career switchers, and entrepreneurs a forum to exchange ideas, provide constructive feedback, and generally support each other on their career journeys. For those interested, please visit www.careerskillsincubator.com to get in touch with our team!
Note: this article was originally posted on LinkedIn on June 22nd, 2016