The ranks of the unemployed are having a difficult time maintaining hope in a dauntingly bad job market. It's hard to be positive, hard to imagine you'll be one of the lucky ones even if you are talented and have a lot of experience. And you have to be relentless in your job search, a pursuit that is at best mind-numbingly tedious and at worst disheartening and soul destroying. Seasoned professionals are scrambling for McJobs (and grateful to get them.) I know an accountant that just got hired as a waitress in a high-end restaurant. 200 people applied for the job.
There is a lot of humility happening.
I'm still gainfully employed but fear my present contract is on its last legs. Well-paid marketing consultants are usually the first to go (though it is certainly a quandary in this economy to know how much or little a business should be marketing. Is the spend worth the return? Can I grab any market share? It's kind of a crap shoot.) There is a contract in London I'm hopeful about but the project is taking forever to get off the ground and so I've belatedly redoubled my efforts to find new work.
I actually did a business plan, something I've done for many businesses but never for myself -- an egregious state of affairs for a marketer. I'd rather market anything than me. Developing the plan was only slightly less painful than writing a resume, where we must call forth all our self-esteem, list our accomplishments -- occasionally a wee bit embellished -- and employ hyperbole and action verbs like "created", "formulated", and my personal favorite, "implemented". Though implementation is actually the least fun to do.
Of course much of job search is done online now -- recruiters large and small post jobs, and sites like theladders.com have good jobs at good salaries unless you are at industry star level. This is the easy way to job search. I liken it to online dating in that there's no sting in the rejection. In fact, in this market, with the barrage of applications businesses are receiving, no answer is often your answer.
The problem with the present market, aside from that fact that there are many more job seekers than jobs, is that there are perfect matches for every job description. In a sellers' market, if an employer has 10 things they're looking for in a candidate, you can score an interview with 7 or 8 of those attributes. Now, your score must be perfect. Looking for a Gaelic-speaking-12th-century-peruvian-artifacts-expert? There's one (or more) out there. And oh yes, you can find one who's in her 30s. Cheaper, you know. To hell with experience.
While no youngster, I can pass for younger than I am - I don't list my college graduation date on my resume - and I'm a good interview. But even getting an interview right now is difficult. Headhunters aren't seeing you on spec unless you're a real player. If they haven't got a job for you, the courtesy meeting will probably not happen.
The holy grail of job search is of course networking, and this, truly, is humbling. For me, it is the most daunting. I am not a natural networker. I don't have hundreds of contacts, which I should for as long as I've been in business. But I did have a good 75 to whom I resolved to send an email. I grudgingly included big-time company CEOs who I know socially, a few ex-boyfriends, and people that had worked for me in past. Ouch. But I did it, only leaving out a few former colleagues who might've been helpful but who I thought might take a little too much joy in my asking. I have my limits.
I decided on something short and sweet so that they'd be done before they knew it was a sales pitch. I was characteristically irreverent and, perhaps ill-advisedly, amusingly self deprecating, all the while listing the many ways in which I could help. I did not use a single superlative to describe myself. The tone I took was that I was not looking for work from them, but anyone in their network. The whole approach minimized the stung pride for me and something self congratulatory would have felt awkward.
A lot of friends said they loved the note, "it was so you". But a couple said OMG you really sold yourself short on that. And I guess I did undersell. It's how I'm feeling right now, not too hopeful. My sense of virtue at having sent it was instantly deflated, fearing I had just wasted the one and only contact I would make with this group for this purpose. Again, not marketing myself the way I market others. I am actually very good at what I do and great if I like the project. I was instrumental in building a global brand that you've all heard of. There, I've said it.
But I'm happy to say it yielded some good leads and I think a new account. Though I did have one offer to dog sit from someone I guess didn't understand that my "babysitting rates available on request" comment was irony. Though, hey, check with me in a few months. I may be there.
And I guess now I've outed myself on my blog too. More growth. Tomorrow, Page Six. My humility knows no bounds. Or, it's just desperation masquerading as humility. Whatever, it's getting the job done.
Follow Val Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/valbrown_