Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Hunt for Green October

So, like I was saying, I am unemployed. I did not go all-out with the job search right away. I was getting enough aggravation from people connected to my ex-employer, as well as a number of other distractions, and did my best to balance that with a sincere effort to enjoy the summer.

But that doesn't mean I didn't expend any effort in the job hunt. I didn't knock myself out over it, but I still managed to come up with at least three realistic prospects almost every week. (The state only requires three "job search activities," not actual applications, each week. I figure three applications are more likely to yield results.) There was only one week when I couldn't come up with three prospects: it was the week of the debt ceiling dance-off, when nobody was listing anything new, and some old listings even got yanked.

Three realistic prospects per week is way better than what I was finding in 2009. Back then, I had to apply to some iffy things in order to make my thrice-weekly goal, and the job I ended up with had been one of those half-assed 4:30 pm Friday desperation applications. (My entire cover letter was as follows: "Please let me know if you think I'm a good candidate for this position. I am interested in aviation.") I don't ever want that to happen again!

And I was spending a lot of time each week to dig up those three leads. This time around, often these leads come from incoming calls.

Of course, I'd be happier if any of them ever panned out - if I could even get in for an interview. But at least people are calling me. And I'm not having to expend much effort to get my three per week. Not like last time.

This means that theoretically, if I were to spend more time looking, I might actually get something. I plan to spend more time looking after this weekend.

Aside from all of that, I still have the same job-hunting complaints I had in 2009: crap from afar (overseas "recruiters," i.e. telemarketers, calling with low-paying, short-term, out-of-state contracts for which I am not remotely qualified); inquiries from insurance companies that are looking for "sales trainees" who work straight commission and have to pay for their own training before ever earning a nickel.

Job sites are still full of ads that sound as though they are written with a very specific person in mind, with an awe-inspiring list of qualifications, who somehow has only 2 to 5 years' experience to work for $15/hr. Or they want someone with ten years' experience in a technology that didn't exist ten years ago.

I saw one ad from a company that listed "free coffee" among its benefits. Some companies (including my most recent ex-employer) actually have eliminated free coffee, either temporarily or permanently, due to budget problems, but when you're at that point financially, I think it's time to throw in the towel. Anyway, coffee is cheap. If you describe it as a benefit, prospective employees may wonder how petty you are. Is anything else free? Will they have to bring their own toilet paper and paper clips?

Some small creative contract jobs are listed as "contests." Applicants are invited to complete the work (on their own time, for free) and submit it to a website where everyone can see it, and only the winner gets paid.

My biggest gripe is the Taleo resume submission system. If I see a job that looks good and I click the "Apply!" button and it sends me to Taleo, I skip it. That's how bad Taleo is. It makes you upload your resume, and then it attempts to parse it into a standard form, which ends up a garbled mess. Then you have to cut and paste everything, piece by piece, into all their little fields until it is satisfied.

You have to "create a new account" and rebuild the form every time you apply to a different company that uses Taleo. You can't just say "hey Taleo, you remember me from that other company, right? Everything's the same, so go ahead and get the data I already gave you and then tell me if you need anything else." Nope. You start from scratch every time.

I'd probably grit my teeth and endure it for a really good job, but so far I haven't seen a really good job on a Taleo-powered site.

I remember encountering this a lot more often in 2009, even though I was applying to fewer jobs. It would seem that other resume submission sites have either given up on half-assed parsing or at least have the good manners not to require applicants to suffer for their software's deficiencies.

Fall is just around the corner. I can probably make it through the winter on just my unemployment and savings without missing any payments as long as it doesn't get too cold, but I'd rather get something sooner, before the furnace starts guzzling oil. That means that I should try to get something before the end of October. Is that realistic? Can I do it? And can I get something that's actually better than crappy this time? I look forward to finding out.

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