Friday, October 09, 2009

The Great American Job Hunt

Ever since I got laid off, I've been seeing the pressing questions in every one's eyes. The ones that never get asked. After all, it would be considered impolite to ask the juicy details of how it all transpired.

I, for one, have no reservations. After all, nothing like a little drama before I talk about the mechanics of the great American job search.

For many cold and dreary days, it had been sure that we would not be warming our seats for long. The sure sign of this is when general emails to random colleagues bounce back, leaving you in grey realization of yet another sudden exit. It was my first day off and I was at a friend's wedding when I got an event invitation on my PDA - 'Meeting with the Partner' it said. Now, I had been with the company for barely a few months but I was smart enough to know that this didn't include candlelight and dinner by the waterfront. The actual meeting was smooth and painless. I was better prepared than I was for my interview and even found time to say 'This must be tough on you as well' to the bewildered Partner who had just meticulously delivered her much rehearsed lines.

That was how it all started.

Most HR people write such lovely articles on the steps to get the job you want. Since that is yet to happen, this is the story behind the scenes that doesn't get talked about. What happens in the months (maybe years) before you get to proudly change the work info on your Facebook profile.

Phase 1: 'Big Deal'

Right after the excitement of the ouster ceases, usually on the same day, you prep up a resume and hit the job boards. You are going to seize this by it's neck, you think, before you send out resumes and hastily written cover letters to a few hundred job openings. Every single one that you would remotely qualify for. Of course, you are also convinced that you must have at least a 10% hit rate and should be at your new job in another 10 days. Before people even realize you got laid off.

You do get 1-2 interviews. Except that you have not clearly understood the American job advertising tactics, in spite of an MBA in HR. Which is why a posting for 'Assistant Director -Admissions' tests your cold calling and telephone answering skills and an interview for 'Marketing Consultant' ends with an offer for a door-to-door selling job.

Phase 2: 'Focus Pocus'

In the previous phase, you have been so busy sending out resumes that you haven't had time to notice that you hardly received any responses. This is when that realization sinks in. You suddenly wonder if your gmail account works and grow to accept the existence of the great big application black hole. This is also around when you hear that you need to have a focused strategy. Like the ones you recommend to clients oh-so-often.

So you now have 4 different resumes, one each for each thing you claim to be 'specialized in'. After all, this is legitimately encouraged my campuses and career websites alike. You actually begin reading the job descriptions of the various postings you apply to. Which in turn has a serious side effect. I read a posting calling for ideas for a cooking show and for a whole day I dreamt of my future show that showcases street food from around the world. Oh yes, on those lines I have also, in my imaginary world, redesigned Heinz' entire line of products, changed the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates and done important tweaks to Bayer's organization structure.

Phase 3: 'Everything happens for the best'

By now, it has been 3-4 months since your last working day. You have slowly begun to accept the fact that the job market really IS bad. You have also attended some job workshops, including those which have truck driver jobs on offer. By now your resume has undergone 2-3 drastic makeovers, all with the same results.

You put your chin up and decide this is when you will do what you always wanted to do in life, learn yoga, direct a play or fly a kite. People appear to be impressed and they convince you that once you achieve this and put that on your resume, you will be fighting off hiring managers.

At this stage, you feel mildly superior to those in regular jobs because, they can only be an engineer or a manager or whatever they are. But you can be whatever you want and not answer to anyone. The fact that you will not get paid for it does cross your mind at times but is quickly driven away by other narcissistic thoughts like seeing your name on a poster.


Phase 4: 'Enlightenment'

You finish your earth-shattering mission and are back to the job hunt. You tell everyone how you are back to the market though you know you never really left. The resume is new, the cover letter is better but the goal is still the same. A job that would pay better than your unemployment compensation.

Your sense of self worth has taken an occasional beating by now. You might have graduated from the top school in India and outdone more than 50000 people to your coveted MBA. You might have also nixed three offers in a single day just 3 years back in a different country. None of it matters. All that only makes you the Persian cat in the dog fair.

By this time you have written enough cover letters and resumes to reach the moon. Yet the overlap between what you can do and what you want to do doesn't really coincide with who wants you to do it. The target is no longer the job, it is the elusive interview. In this stage you also begin believing in God, forced networking and fortune-cookie lines like 'Patience is a virtue'.

It is my opinion that this stage is long lasting, further research being on to prove it.

All I ask for is for my Mondays to stay loved. If you still like yours', let me know if your company is hiring.

18 comments:

Ajit said...

But wasn't Phase 3 the most fun part of this whole story? Isn't it so wonderful to be able to do all the things you've ever wanted to do in life? Like direct a play, hike across mountains, learn sports, music, dance etc.

Akila said...

I think it is refreshing to see that you are talking about it...
Think about this...which sounds better? Director Sandhya or HR Business Partner Sandhya?

WTH...both sound nice:)!

Good Luck in your search......

Vedic Verses said...

I vouch for every word you have written !

matchstick said...

This is a really good post. Last time I checked your blog I saw some lines lifted from the Great Gatsby :)
Your thoughts are refreshing

Shree said...

hi sandy,
nice to see some updates to your blog after a long time.

Anonymous said...

HTH: https://jobs3.netmedia1.com/cp/search.jsp?

Urs....Jina said...

Ah.I so know this.
Wish you luck.I am still searching while I ended up in a law school. Have faith.This too shall pass. And if knowing others have gone through the same helps, read this long post..;)
http://jinadcruz.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-i-still-believe-in-miraclesfairies.html

Anu Karthik said...

I like the last line especially, for Mondays to stay loved, it is also more about not loving your home much more than your job..which is my case :) good luck!

Meera said...

OMG!!! Thoughts clearly penned.. u jus missed the part abt how mixed ur explanation gets when someone asks "So What are you upto"?..The answer is usually a 2 min one.. with a lot of well, actually etc etc....
No matter how clear we think we are stuck between what we want to do, what we think others want us to do and what we think is the best thing to do...

amreekandesi said...

How painfully true!

Ms.N said...

he he - funny :)

hari said...

Good read. All the best! - Harish

Sandhya said...

Thanks everyone.
@matchstick - I had no clue who or what the great gatsby was until I googled it a few seconds back. I haven't read it but if you can point me to the lines that seem lifted I would be inspired to read the book :)

Lavanya said...

Excellent post... I hear a lot of people saying economy is picking up but no luck when it comes to me.. I wouldnt want to say that my profession is being a home maker after all... :)

Menon said...

You should write a book.

Krishnapriyacr said...

Hey babe..the best time for you to have a kid!!! You can always say you are home for them for a while and get back to hunting a year or so down the line when hopefully the markets have picked up and you have spent the most important years with you kid!!! Howzzat for an idea???? It is really an experience worth having soon when you have the energy and time for it! You can really delete this comment if it is too personal!

Sandhya said...

Hey Kp, nice to hear from you after so long. It's not the first time I've heard that suggestion. In my opinion, a lot of factors go into the decision of having a kid but the biggest of them all is not the availability of time :)

Jags said...

Am really very impressed by your thoughts and words. You have pinned the exact emotions. Kudos and keep writing.