If you read my previous post, you know that I’m changing jobs — offer signed, notice given, starting in a month. And it brought up yet another contrast from my younger days.
Now…I’m the guy who gets the job.
This is a big realization for me, and possibly for anyone who entered the job market in the mid 1980’s. ESPECIALLY for people who grew up in areas that relied on manufacturing jobs. Personally, I grew up in Michigan…post-automaker-layoffs Michigan. Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” Michigan.
When I was in high school, and got my license, I tried to get a job. You know, like every teenager ever. Except I couldn’t. I lived about 15 miles from town, and I couldn’t get McDonald’s to call me back. Or Burger King, or any fast food place. Because GM had laid off most of the City of Flint like three years prior, and Ford and Chrysler had laid off thousands more. So for every simple burger-flipper job, I was going up against thousands of unemployed auto-workers who would do ANYTHING to bring in some money to feed their family.
I also lived about 10 miles from the small town I went to school in, and I couldn’t get myself hired by the stores or ice cream stand there — those jobs went to the kids who lived in town and had the “right” last name. I finally got a job with the neighbor’s janitorial company, because my parents were his friends.
Fast forward to when I graduated from my first college — 21 with a pair of shiny associate’s degrees. It was 1991…most of those autoworkers were still unemployed, so I was applying with piles of people that had the same degree as me, plus 20 years of experience. Those were truly the years of, “umm, sorry, we’re looking for people with experience.” “Well how can I get experience if nobody will hire me!?” “Ummm…sorry. Next!”
It didn’t help that my job interview skills were abysmal at best. I went into interviews with the mindset of “Dear God, I need this job. I don’t care what the job is, I just need it. I will say or do anything that will be the right answer to get me the job.” I sweated. I stammered. I was stiff, and nervous, and needy. Not to mention I had great coaching like “if they ask what your weakness is…say that it’s being too much of a perfectionist. Or just lie.” Or, “if they ask you if you can do something, always say yes.” And always, “if they offer you the job, just take whatever they offer.”
I got turned down for every job I applied for when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. If I got called for an interview, I blew it during the interview. I got jobs if I knew someone, or if the job was so wretched that nobody else wanted it. In the case of the job I got 15 years ago, the one directly before my current job, I was totally NOT their first choice. They hired their first choice….and he quit after a week…then their second choice didn’t answer their calls…and they called me.
Fast forward ten years. I went through the Career Services program while I was earning my graduate degree at MSU, and they took all the mystery out of interviewing and negotiating. I interviewed for and got a great job when I graduated. That was five years ago.
In the past couple of years I’ve been looking for jobs to take us away from Florida, and looking back I realized that things are different now. I applied for and phone-interviewed for a job in Pittsburgh…and they offered it to me. Same for a job in my home-town early this year — interviewed for and had the job offered to me. In both cases it would’ve been a large pay-cut and I couldn’t accept.
And then last week I finished the interview process for the job I just accepted. The company’s founder and CEO mentioned that they screened 1,400 applicants for their 40 positions. That’s a 2.9% chance of getting a position. And I got one.
I credit several large things. First of all, I’m certified and experienced in a field that has a limited number of people looking for a job. Not everyone can get Epic certified, so there are more people looking for people then there are people who are looking. Second, not to brag, but I’m good at what I do.
Next, I can’t say enough about the Career Services program I went through. They were spot-on with their advice about resumes, interviewing, negotiating, and everything. When I worked with them, they were ranked 3rd in the world by the companies that they worked with. So now I’m comfortable in interviews, and actively interview the employer as much as they interview me.
Actually, that calls out another big point — it is a completely different environment out there now. I don’t have to take a job if the pay, or culture, or people are not what I want to work with. I really am interviewing them while they interview me. Gone are the days of “WE have the job, and if YOU want it, you will lick our boots!” It’s a sea-change, and serves to really make the interview process less adversarial.
Also, I’ve been part of the interview process at my job, when we are hiring new associates. Somehow being the one asking questions and evaluating takes a lot of the mystery out of the situation.
So given all of that, and in stark contrast to my experiences when I was young…now I’m the guy who gets the job.