24 February 2011

Yes, job search discrimination exists – get over it!

I know the frustration people feel in the job market. It took me nearly a year after Microsoft let me go in July 2009 to find full time employment again. It’s hard not to get depressed when no one returns your phone calls for informational interview requests and the only thing you receive from submitting job applications are form letters.

I began to wonder if all my experience and training was for nothing. How could I support my family working as a hamburger flipper? Is the world just intended for the very young, willing to work for peanuts as they begin their careers? Have I finally hit a wall where my lack of a college degree will prevent me from finding a good job ever again?

One recruiter at a well-known technology firm (who I got to know as a friend through my podcasting efforts) told me there was no point in my ever sending in a job application to his firm even if there was a perfect opening for someone with my background. My lack of a degree would automatically divert my application to the dust bin, according to my friend.

Is life over?

I just wouldn’t let myself dwell on those thoughts. Instead, I would drag myself out of bed every day, telling myself that this could be the day I find a job! I reminded myself that every job I ever had ever found came through roundabout methods. I’ve never led an orthodox life (or career) so why should I start now? When even my friends tell me it is pointless to apply for jobs on-line I simply resolved to go around the gatekeepers and become friends with the hiring managers themselves.

Eventually, my determination finally paid off. I am once again gainfully employed as a program manager at a software firm AND I have built a network of professional connections I wouldn’t have even dreamed possible when I was at Microsoft. Nevertheless, it took a LOT of effort and a willingness to jump into new things with both feet (again and again) to get me here.

The keys to my career salvation were twofold: 1) my willingness to work for free and 2) starting podcast shows as a networking tool.

Instead of sitting on my hands collecting unemployment insurance (and sending out resumes), I would reach out to local cash starved startups and offer to work for free, or for a promise of stock (which almost certainly would never amount to anything). This allowed me to keep my skills current AND to meet interesting people. When I do apply for jobs there is no embarrassing gap in my resume since I can legitimately tell people I have been working, and even go into great detail about the interesting work and accomplishments I have racked up. I was doing more interesting, and innovative, work at these startups than I ever did in my whole career at Microsoft! That alone was a very empowering feeling.

I also made it a goal to make at least 4 new professional connections a week, and my efforts at creating podcast shows helped immensely with this goal. I would invite business people, recruiters, and all manner of people I wanted to build friendships with to be guests on my podcast shows and to my surprise MOST PEOPLE SAID YES! I have interviewed nearly 200 people in the last year and a half, most of whom have become good friends.

Not one of the interviews I have been on came through submitting job applications. All of my interviews resulted from making connections with people in the industries and businesses where I wanted to work.

I know how hard the job market is these days, but I am able to tell people that there IS hope. Creativity and a willingness to work hard can make all the difference.

If you would like to learn more about my strategy for using podcasting to get a job check out my 10 minute video:
http://bit.ly/podintro1

2 comments:

  1. As someone who's worked for the same company for 29 years and is about to get laid off, I want to thank you for the encouragement. I too lack a degree, but feel my experience should count for something. I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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  2. @Judyb - I am sorry to hear that you may soon need to find another job. I know it tough out there. That said, I truly believe that there is hope, and that a determination to get out and try new things will eventually pay off. Do check out my ideas about how to use podcasting as a job search tool. I REALLY believe this can help anyone who is looking for work, or who wants to position themselves to improve their career.

    My short video outlining the idea is here:
    http://bit.ly/podintro1

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