Shit Advice for Your Job Search

Hey Sunshine, remember when I said your life is full of well-meaning people who want to give you well-meaning advice on every aspect of your life? One of the times they come out in full force is when you announce you’re looking for a job.

Everyone and their uncle come out of the woodwork to tell you what worked for them when they were looking for a job. It doesn’t matter if the last time they had to write a resume was in 1972, what worked for them should work for you! The thing is everything changes with the times. I’m sure your Uncle Howard looked sharp in his plaid suit, with his crisp one-page resume showing that he was fresh out of high school when he walked into the local department store or factory or whatever was the major employer back then. And sure, walking in off the street and asking to see the manager worked for him then. He got his entry level job and was able to stay there until retirement, slowly progressing his way higher up in the company until he was in charge of people.

Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore.

Even in the years I’ve been looking for work (on and off since I was 18), things have changed. I’ve been to dozens of resume workshops over the years, and just the changes in writing a resume are drastic. In high school, there was one format that everyone used because a streamlined resume made it easier for employers to find information. It was one page, with your name and info at the top, and a section called Objective where you explained why you were applying for a job. If you brought a resume like that into a workshop these days, they’d tear it to shreds.  Still, this is the way almost every well-meaning relative and family friend has told me to write my resume even to this day.

This is actually something we’ve talked about at length at quite a few job hunting workshops over the years. It seems everyone is somehow getting the exact same advice from people, who then get mad when you either don’t follow it or you do follow it and don’t get results. A bunch of us over the years talked about getting attitude from (or straight up yelled at by) someone who seems to think we lied to them about taking their advice because “if you really did do [xxx] then you would’ve found a job by now!”

But what exactly is this shit advice we’ve all gotten?

#1:”You don’t need the internet. You need to get out there and pound the pavement! Back in my day, you walked right into a place, asked to talk to the manager, and you shook their hand and gave them your resume. It helps them put a face to the name! You’ll never get a job just sitting around playing on that internet all day!”

When I was looking for a part-time job in high school, I walked through the mall with a folder full of my resume. I passed them out to every store that had a “help wanted” sign in the window, and eventually got a job at a mall kiosk.

Fast forward to four years ago, when I graduated from University with my first degree. I needed to pay rent and buy food, so I went back to the mall. No one takes paper resumes there anymore. Every sign in the window said, “apply at [jobs@storename.ca] or check our website”. The mall itself even has a page on its website telling you what stores are hiring, and where to email your resume. And this is just at the mall.

At the store where I work right now, all our hiring is done through corporate. You apply online, they do one massive day of interviews for all the stores in the area, and you wait to hear back from them. All of our job postings are done on the corporate website, and you apply online by filling out forms and uploading your resume. Still, we get an average of 3-4 people a week walking into our store with their resume, asking to speak to our manager. And every time, I have to tell them that they can only apply for jobs with us online.

#2: “Well even if they say to apply online, you need to show up there with your resume! They need to be able to put a face to the name. And showing up there with a copy of your resume after you applied online shows your dedication.”

Actually, when a company tells you to apply for positions with them online, showing up in person with a resume just shows that you don’t know how to follow even the most basic of instructions. They specifically ask that you fill out an application and submit your resume online, and leave it at that. Showing up in person shows that you can’t even do that. If you can’t follow instructions to get the job, then what would make them think you can follow instructions enough to do the job.

In a lot of cases, whoever you leave your resume with has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you get the job anyway. My manager has pretty much zero say in who we hire. All applications go through corporate. Two managers for the whole county interview every prospective employee, making notes and grading each applicant on certain criteria. Then, they sit down, divide the applicants up by what store they’re nearest to, and pick out the best employees for each store. My manager right now has no say in who we get at our store. The only thing he can do is, if someone worked seasonally for us before and is applying to us again, tell the hiring managers if he liked that employee or not.

My store isn’t unique in this either. The only time most managers, whether it’s a store or an office, get to see an applicant is if they’re chosen for an interview. For a lot of places, it’s not even that manager that gets to pick applicants: it all goes through algorithm software, corporate managers, and then the chosen ones end up on the manager’s desk. It’s only then that they would be able to ‘put a face to the name’. And from what a few friends in HR positions have told me if they have to interview someone who previously insisted on bringing in their resume in person, they toss the application as soon as the interview is done. Again, if an applicant can’t follow basic instructions to get a job, then what would make them think the applicant could follow directions on the job?

#3: “You just need a killer resume. Get a template to follow if you need to. It’s easy enough, just objective, education, work experience, and then references.”

This is so wrong these days. For starters, most people realize your objective for applying for a job as soon as you apply: you want to work there. You want a job, or else you wouldn’t be applying. You don’t need any of that “It’s my goal to use my 17 months of HR experience to further my career with…….” bullshit anymore. Yes, putting an objective in was THE thing to do for a very long time. No one reads them anymore. They just take up valuable space at the start of your resume and give those reading the resume a reason to toss it.

Second, stay away from just filling out templates!  Yes, you can use one as a guide. I have 4 or 5 different templates printed out and kept in a file folder at my desk. Different types of jobs or industries require different resumes, and it’s good to have a guide as to how that resume should be done. Don’t follow it step by step though, or just fill out a template. This is especially true if anywhere on your resume you mention being able to you Microsoft Word or any other word processing program. If you can use Word, then you should be able to create a resume pretty damn easily.

Resumes are more than just a list of your past jobs and education. Your resume is your own personal advertisement for yourself. It’s a marketing tool to show people what it is you can do, and what you can do for them. They don’t care for a list of your grade school and high school, or a list of your college and university courses. A job in a corporate office may not care that in 12th grade you worked as a line cook on weekends.

What do they want to know about? Your accomplishments, anything that shows that you can do the job you’re applying for. Can you spin your line cook job to show that you were willing to give up free time to work, that you showed extreme dedication to learning any and all new skills to advance your work, that you were able to work your way up from dishwasher to food prep to line cook despite being a full-time student and only being able to work nights and weekends? That’s the kind of things that make you look good. Showing up for a shitty job twice a week to flip pancakes for a few months is nothing. Unless you need to give a chronological list of past employment, or your past employment if only part-time student jobs, leave off what isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for.

And while we’re at it, forget the references. I actually know someone who, on top of having the most shittily formatted resume I have ever seen, would also include a page of references (each one formatted differently), and 3 or 4 letters of reference from past employers and a family friend. He never updated any of this and used the same little resume package for everything he applied for. Yes, he was able to get jobs while he was using this package, but to be fair he got them despite this. He already had the job and just needed to formally apply. You don’t need to include references with your resume unless a job ad specifically asks you to. And forget the “References Available Upon Request” line. Every employer knows that if they request references, you’ll give them some.

#4: “Ok, well now that you have a resume, just spread it out there. Blanket the city with it. Apply to every job you can, put your resume in everywhere. Print stacks of it, mail it out to companies and ask if they’re hiring. Just get that resume out there.”

Ok, how about you don’t do that. First off, we already went over why you don’t apply with a printed resume to places that ask you to apply online. Same thing goes for mailing them a resume.

Secondly, you shouldn’t be applying to every single possible job out there with one resume. Remember a few paragraphs ago, when I said that different jobs need different resumes? Well, that means that different jobs need different resumes. You need a different resume depending on your past work experience, your education, the type of job you’re applying for, and to make sure the algorithm software chooses your resume.

I know, that sounds pretty messed up. Hear me out though.

If you have a lot of relevant experience in the field you’re applying to, then a chronological resume should work great for you. It can showcase that you’ve spent years working towards the position you’re applying to and that you have a growing knowledge in that field. Just be careful with this one: if you have any gaps in your employment history or made any major career changes, this is going to highlight that like your mother pointing out every calorie you’re eating at Thanksgiving dinner while telling you you’re looking “a little more Monroe-esque this year”.

If you don’t have a solid build-up to the exact job you’re applying for, you were out of work for periods of time, or you are applying for something in a new field, then go with the functional resume. This just emphasizes your skills instead of your past jobs. I’ve got education in office administration, psychology, criminology, women’s studies, and a bit of business. I’ve worked in offices, customer service, academic research, security, food services, and have volunteered in everything from fraternity parties to food banks to fundraising. There is no way laying that all out in chronological order would impress exactly no one.

You can combine both of these types together like I do. My resume starts out as a functional resume, but then just lists my past jobs and education. Above all, it needs to be tailored. Like I said, companies use computer programs and algorithms to sort through the hundreds of resumes they get. If you throw a basic resume out there, putting the same resume in for every job, the chances of that resume having the words those programs are looking far are pretty damn slim. You really need to be tailoring your resume to each job you apply to, pulling words from the job ad that match your experience.

How the hell are you going to tailor your resume to every job you apply to if you’re applying for every single job out there? Well, you don’t. You just don’t apply to every single job out there. Want to make a general food service/fast food resume and use that at every restaurant and fast food place in town? Go for it. Make a general resume tailored to a certain field if you’re going to send out mass applications. But you can’t just use one resume for everything though, and you can’t apply to every single job out there.

#5: “Oh you Millenials are just lazy! Why don’t you pry yourself away from that computer screen for a bit, go out there and network! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and you’ll never get to know anyone sitting at that damn computer!”

What’s your LinkedIn profile looking like these days? I’ll tell you right now, mine is a complete mess. My summary is too long and wordy, I have too many former jobs and volunteer positions listed in detail, my photo is really old, and I don’t even have a decent headline. I know this holds me back at times. LinkedIn is a tool that more and more big companies are using, and it’s becoming a much more important part of job hunting and career planning.

Fact is, a lot more of our job searching now revolves around the internet. Job ads are sometimes only posted online, applications are submitted online, background checks by employers are done online, and networking is done through email and websites like LinkedIn. The internet is becoming more and more important these days.

#6: “Well that still doesn’t excuse anything! When I was young, I walked into the local factory and got a job there. I worked my way up to the office job I had, I didn’t just expect to have a job handed to me!”

You have no idea how many times I have heard stuff like this over the years.My hometown has one major industry that the town has revolved around for decades.  Back when my dad and all of my aunts and uncles were young, anyone with a grade 9 education could go and apply there, get a job right off the street.Starting on the line in the factory, a lot of these guys were able to work their way up to nice office positions by the time they retired.

Today, just to be considered a TPT (temporary part-time) job in that same factory, you have to be a full-time student in either college or university, under the age of 25. To get the same job these men got as high school drop outs 40 years ago, you now need a high school diploma with grades high enough to get you into post-secondary school, and then you need to basically win the lottery and be one of the dozens of people hired among the hundreds of people who apply. I know a tonne of people who would love the chance to get in there and work their way up the way people did 40 years ago. That’s just not possible there anymore.

I have seen job ads for entry level positions that required degrees and years of experience. More and more people are having to work at unpaid internships and volunteer positions to get experience just to get their first job. Jobs today require more education to qualify, more experience to qualify, need more specialized training to qualify. Basically, jobs are harder to get these days than they were before.

To top it off, the job market is changing. More and more jobs are popping up online, or in small start-ups. Now, these jobs can be risky to take but offer the chance to work your way up back like our parents’ generation did. Every single time I have applied to one of these jobs, the ‘work your way up’ crowd has laughed at me. It’s like they’re not respectable jobs.

Pretty much, no matter what you do in your job search, you’re going to get these questions. Nothing you do is right, you’re not trying hard enough, you’re not trying the right way, and everything you do is wrong. Fan-fucking-tastic, eh? Just remember that we know what we’re doing. We know things have changed, that markets have changed, that ways of doing things are different. Don’t let all of this get you down.

As always, if you need someone to vent to I’m always here. Drop me a line at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com and vent away. Don’t worry about annoying me, or bumming me out. Nothing’s gonna dull my sunshine, and I’m pretty much a recluse when I’m not at work. Emails are nice from time to time.

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The World is Full of Well-Meaning People

So I’m a little lost right now, as you know. I’m working a customer service job that I absolutely love most days. Problem is, I went to university and took out a shit tonne of loans. Then, to afford basic survival right out of university, I lived on very sporadic shifts at work, my life savings (which wasn’t a whole hell of a lot, to begin with), and credit cards. I have the education, the skills, and the knowledge for a whole bunch of jobs out there that pay a hell of a lot better than Customer Service Representative wages. There’s a tonne of competition out there from other people with the education, skills, and knowledge though, so shit is rough.

I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with job hunting. I’m not too worried about it because I have a job. I’m saving up to get more permanent residence in the next year or so, and trying to focus on the things I have in my life as opposed to the things I’ve been told I SHOULD have at this point in my life. I used to focus on those things a lot, and it puts me in a very dark place. I don’t like that place, the music is depressing and no one will dance with me. I know something else will come along at some point, and I’m not about to stress myself out any more than I have to about my job hunt right now.

But there are so many well-meaning people out there who just want to help, and it’s driving me crazy right now.

I have a few people in my life who send me job ads online. They’re usually accompanied by the usual “I thought you might be interested in this jobs, it seems perfect for you” message, followed by repeated “did you apply” messages in the days to follow. I always read whatever it is they send me, and I’ll tell you that a good 95% of the jobs are things I am completely NOT qualified for. It’s not even like “well they want 5 years of experience, and I only have 4 years” or anything super close like that. I mean, if I meet around 60% of the qualifications they want in an ad, I’ll apply to that job. But the job ads I’m sent are so far off of what I’m actually qualified to do, I have to wonder if these people actually read the ads before they sent them to me.

Case in point: a relative who will remain nameless (hi mom!) keeps sending me these job ads. I’m pretty sure they just see the company name, assume it’s something I could do, and send it off. She seems to think that, because she knows a few people who work for that company who have less education than me, I should be qualified for pretty much any job there. By now, she starts pretty much every job ad message with something along the lines of “I know you don’t like when I push you like this, but I just couldn’t pass this up”, followed by a job I am in no way qualified for.

Today’s job ad was for a company whose website I check weekly for ads. I knew for a fact that there were three jobs on there, none of which I am qualified for. The one I was the most qualified for (I don’t have the necessary experience, but I can’t pass up applying for a job that actually requires a degree in Criminology), I met maybe half the qualifications. This wasn’t the one she sent me. This job required at least 5 years of call center management experience, an advanced degree in Business, knowledge of computer programs I’ve never even heard of, classes in advanced statistical analysis using software I’ve never used, and bilingualism (English and French, since this is Canada). Like, the only things in the long list of qualifications that I had were customer service experience and the ability to use Microsoft Word and Excel.

So I messaged this relative that may be my mother, and I told her all of the things in the ad that I’m not qualified in. She didn’t believe me. It didn’t seem possible to her. She knew two or three people who got jobs at this company (in their call center, not in the positions available right now) who don’t even have degrees, who had jobs that have nothing to do with the industry, who had no experience. In her mind, because these people got jobs with this company, me and my multiple degrees should have no problem getting any position at all there. It doesn’t matter what the qualifications are, or what the position is. The fact that someone without the education I have got a job somewhere in this company means that obviously, I can get any job there I apply for.

This totally pisses me off and puts me in the foulest mood. Like, I was in a pretty decent mood this morning, drinking my coffee and planning my shopping trip to the local international market. Had a cat at my feet, flannel on my back, and caffeine in my veins. I was ready to get my day going, and then that message came through. I was in such a shit mood after that.

I know she was just looking out for me, and thinking about me. But all she did was see the company name, not the ad, and decided to send it off. The way most people send me these messages, it’s almost like they’re guilting me into applying for a job I either have no interest in or am totally not qualified for. Like I said, I have a job right now. I’m not going to rush out to take just any job. I like the job I have, even if other people seem to think it’s below me (I hate that thinking, but that’s a whole other post for a whole other day). I still continue my job search, but I limit my applications now. I’m only applying for jobs that I want, that I think I would be damn good at, jobs that make me think I could really make a difference doing that job. If I’m going to find a career, I want to make sure it’s not something that will make me completely miserable until I (maybe, possibly, hopefully, someday) retire.

We all have those well meaning people in our lives. They’re the ones who, without asking you what it is you want, push you forward in the direction they think you want. They’re the ones who say things like, “But you’ve always been so smart! Why wouldn’t you go to university” when all you’ve ever wanted to do was be a mechanic. They’re the ones say things like “well hopefully soon you’ll find a real job” when you really enjoy your job. They’re the ones for whom your life is just never good enough somehow. They want you to get a better apartment, or buy a house, or change jobs, or relationships. They’re totally supportive when you’re doing something that plays into their concept of you and would bend over backward to help you. But it’s that concept of you they’re trying to push, not the real you.

I have no clue how to really handle these people, Sunshine. Like I said, I have more than a few of them in my life. None of them seem to want me living where I live, working where I work, or writing what I write. In their minds, they’re just pushing me to be a better me. But for them, nothing is good enough.

Do you have these well-meaning people in your life too? Comment below, or drop me a line at thefailedgrownup@gmail.com . We can find a way to deal with them together.

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

I know people have been asking you this since you squeaked out your first words, and you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, but what do you want to be when you grow up? Any idea?

I wanted to do two things, Sunshine: I wanted to write, and I wanted to work in criminal profiling and research violent crimes.  They both seemed like the ideal career paths for me. I mean, I wrote all through my teens and early 20s (and then just gave up hope on everything for a good 10 years before trying to give it another go). And I’ve been reading true murder novels ever since I stole my first one from my mother’s bedside table in the 5th grade.

So, in my mid-20s I decided to go back to school and start working towards that whole profiling and research career. I studied Criminology (got my BA.H in that one) and Psychology (my second degree, just a BA), worked as a research assistant for a while, and obsessively read books and papers on murderers. I talked to a professor who was a former RCMP officer (those police officers in Canada that the rest of the world seems to think rides horses all day while they wear bright red jackets and doofy hats), and he told me all the steps I needed to get into the RCMP for a research position.

Dumbest fucking move ever.

You see, he hadn’t been an RCMP officer for a while now. Things change over time, like the qualifications for different positions. He told me I just needed my BA.H in a social science, preferably something where I studied crime (hence the Criminology), and a background in research. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

One simple Google search would’ve shut that down real freakin fast!

You see, in order to get the position I wanted, now you have to first BECOME an RCMP officer. Not only do I have no want or desire to do so, but my eyesight is bad enough that it disqualifies me from the position. Like, it is impossible for me to ever get this job, ever.

If I had realized this while I was still in school, there is a metric crapload of stuff I would’ve done differently. For starters, I would’ve done a little bit more research into what jobs my damn degree qualified me for. I would’ve gone for more career counseling, volunteered with different organizations, looked into addition certificates and courses to help me out. I would’ve switched to a double major in something else, got a minor or two to fall back on. Maybe even got a part-time job to fall back on once I was out of school (but that’s a whole other post).

As it stands, I have two degrees I got specifically to get me a job I can never have. They don’t qualify me for much specifically in the town I live in. I work customer service in a ‘spirits dispensary’ who would prefer I don’t name them in blog postings. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from those degrees, plus credit card bills falling out my ass crack from trying to live on 4 hours work a week for months without falling behind in my rent and other bills. And I have to pay this all off with the CSR wages I’m making now, NOT the profiling and research job and salary I had been working towards.

And this was all totally preventable if I had just sucked it up and done a bit more research.

So, as I say way too much to be healthy for my self-esteem, don’t wind up like me. Do a little work towards the work you want to do.

Check Out the Education Qualifications

If you have a job or career in mind, know what you need to get in order to get hired. You wouldn’t expect to just show up on a movie set one day and say, “I’ve never acted, written, produced, or directed in my life, and I have a degree in forensic science. Let me direct your next big budget movie”, and to actually get the job. Some places or careers require schooling, while others prefer you get experience for yourself.

Want to be a teacher? Find out how much schooling you need for that, what courses and majors you need, how many years you’ll be in school. Want to write? You could go to school for creative writing, or you could just write constantly. Neither one is wrong, but they’ll both take you down different paths. Same goes for other creative pursuits. You may be better off just creating content than getting formal school sometimes, while in some situations an education might give you that little something extra that could land you a position.

Have a Company or Position in Mind?

Study and use LinkedIn like it’s your lover: learn it inside and out, make it the best it can be, make it feel appreciated and wanted. LinkedIn can help you get an in with a company, meet people working there, find out more about the company’s culture.

Most businesses have a website these days too. Ever think to look at it? You can learn a shit-tonne from half an hour browsing a company’s website. Find out what they do, their mission statement, who works in positions you’re interested in, who is in charge of hiring.

Find Out Every Step Needed to Get That Job

I knew I needed to get that honours degree. I had no idea I needed to become an actual RCMP officer, which I physically can’t do. A lot of people see that you need to become an officer before moving on to a different job and give up altogether. They’d rather not spend 5 years working in a remote northern community, far from home and everything they love, dealing with criminals and violence and such, to get a desk job doing research. Hell, even if my eyesight didn’t disqualify me from the job, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the officer position anyway. I was just over 30 years old (and still am, btw) competing with people in their early 20s for a physically demanding position, which I am in no physical shape to hold. I’m a desk job person, not chasing perps through vacant lots and hopping tall fences kind of gal.

There are a gazillion different things that a job could require from you that could wind up being a dealbreaker. Believe me, it’s better to know what these are before you throw down $60,000 in borrowed money for a degree that is going to do you no good once you’ve realized you can never get the job you were getting that degree for.

Basically, you need to go and power up The Googles, as my mother calls it. Start researching shit. Look into the jobs you want, the companies you want to work for, the schooling you’re doing, the people you admire. See if what you want is even feasible, and see if it’s something you can definitely be in for the long-haul.

Don’t wind up like me, Sunshine. I kinda love-hate my job most days. It would be great if not for the crushing debt of the schooling and living I did over the last 10 years. I could make a living off of it if I didn’t have all these damn bills.  Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as me, Sunshine. Do your damn research. Plan shit for the future.

How Not To Keep Your Job — Update

OK, so things with The Kid got interesting during his last shift.  Aside from snapping at me that he already knew how to do everything (when I was trying to show him how to do something he hadn’t done before), he made a big bunch of glaring errors.  Then, at the end of the night while everyone was cashing out, a few of us ran to the back to throw our uniform shirts in our lockers and change into regular clothes. I had on my jeans and work boots, and a very high-cut tank top (which I made sure showed zero cleavage, since The Kid seemed so nervous even serving a customer with big boobs, let alone having to work alongside a set of Double D’s), and a co-worker threw on a pair of shorts. When the shift leader asked him what he drawer total was, The Kid started to answer, but mid-number he just mumbled and stared at my chest.

Now, I’m used to people staring at my chest. Hell, even I stare at my chest sometimes. It’s damn, near majestic. But The Kid sat there with his jaw dropped open, eyes wide, and was almost drooling while he stared at my non-existent cleavage. I even asked a coworker if maybe my shirt had been pulled down a bit while I was lifting drawers. But it was pulled almost up to my collar bone.

Still, The Kid sat there gape-jawed and silent while the shift leader asked him THREE TIMES what his total was.

The next day, on my laid-back Kid-less Sunday shift, a senior co-worker asked if I noticed any issues with The Kid that we could address. Now, we had been making lists of things he did wrong, not to shame him or get him in trouble, but to make sure we knew what to go over with him the next time he was in. Well this list was more than a page front and back.

Very long story short, the other night The Kid came in for his shift. The Big Boss Man made all the other people getting ready to count their drawers go out and do stock while he and the assistant manager had a “little talk” with The Kid. A few minutes later, The Kid was escorted out of the building, never to be seen again.

The Big Boss Man came around to each of us on shift that night to let us know that The Kid was “no longer under our employment”.

Shocker, I know!

(Actually, my reaction was,”Really? gee, no one saw THAT coming!” in the most Daria-esque sarcastic tone I could muster).

So it turns out, that last post really WAS a list of things to do to make sure you Do Not Keep Your Job.

Hope you’re having a better weekend than The Kid, Sunshine. We have our strike deadline at 12:01am Monday (so tomorrow night), so there may be some Customer Service posts coming up from that. Also, I’m working on a series on files you need to keep. I mean, filing is probably the least fun and sexy thing you can think of right now, but keeping certain things filed away in an orderly manner can save you a RIDICULOUS amount of times sometimes. Time that could be spent on much more fun and sexy things.