Many readers are jumping aboard this thread. One writes:
Your reader wrote, "I have a great distaste with the idea of having to "brand" or "market" myself in order to even land an interview ... since when do my qualifications not speak for themselves?"
While I sympathize with this perspective, this is a pretty unrealistic view of the job scene. Everyone has to market themselves - that's what a resume is. Still, in my experience, both perspectives have a little truth.
After I was laid off, I spent roughly a year hopelessly looking for work online like everyone else. Nabbed a few interviews, never made it to round 2. By the end I had so much anxiety I was getting heart palpitations. Finally, a friend of mine asked me to come in and temp at her production office for one week. I had actually interviewed at her office before and got passed on, but I jumped at the chance to feel legitimate again - even if I would be working next to the guy they hired over me, doing some demeaning office work.
I put my sweat and blood into that temp job. And they liked my work so much, they asked me to stick around. Eventually they bumped me up to bigger responsibilities, gave me more hours. 6 months later, they made me a fulltime Associate Producer. Not only do I have benefits, I'm hiring people.
Networking got me in the door, but it was my work ethic that helped me stick around. And hiring people has totally challenged my former concept of the job market. The central thinking running through HR's mind? We know you're qualified. Now are we going to actually like working with you? You have to find a way to answer this question as soon as possible. Call it marketing, call it whatever. Just try and imagine how you would fill a position if you had 50 qualified resumes in front of you. Your e-mail attachment will never speak for itself in this economy.
What makes this reader think that having or making personal contacts within a company is the same as bullshitting? I've had to interview and provide input into hiring numerous people, and there's no way we would have hired someone who was unqualified simply because they knew someone in the company. Instead, we were often faced with a number of seemingly qualified candidates, so having someone on our team personally vouch for one of them made a huge difference.
"Marketing yourself" does not mean lying, it means using every tool at your disposal to get a job. If your reader refuses to do so, he or she should not complain about losing job offers to those who will.
I almost wrote after I read the initial advice from Career Counselor, but then I thought that maybe I'm just an exception and a little rigid due to my position. But after reading today, I wanted to assure one reader that not everyone these days must be "a professional marketer and kiss-ass."
I work for a small but highly profitable niche investment firm. Though my title is Executive Assistant, due to the small size of our office a lot of duties fall to me, among them handling the preliminaries when we are looking to hire, including being the initial contact person and weeding out the resumes. As you can imagine, even when we post a job on just a few elite schools' MBA job boards, we get hundreds of resumes. And even though the posting specifically requests no calls, I still get dozens of calls every time. I am not a dedicated HR person. I have a LOT to do. When I say "no calls", I mean "no calls." I don't want to chat with someone about where our industry is going and what my firm is doing. I don't have time for their flattery or to refer them to other people, or to hand-hold them about whether their experience is right for the job. If someone calls me after I've specifically requested that they don't, I do dig their resume out of the pile. And then I put it on the bottom. I figure that someone who can't follow simple instructions, who thinks that they are the exception to the rule and that being pushy gets them what they want isn't really someone I want to work with in the first place.
I will say that the counselor got one thing right: jobs are filled via personal connections and relationships. We had at least 25 qualified candidates for our last position; any one of them had all the requirements and would have done a fine job. The person who got the position was recommended by a professor who was an old friend of the boss. But trying to force a personal connection by cold calling and nagging isn't going to help you, and a lot of times it can hurt you.
I've found your postings on readers trying to land jobs very interesting. Thankfully, I have a job with the Federal government and have held onto it during the past few years.
Regarding the aggravation many of your readers seem to have regarding the nepotism and self-marketing required to land a job, I believe at least in this sense the Federal government stands out as a much more meritocratic system. I got my job without knowing a soul in the organization, after responding to a posting on usajobs.gov. It took a while, but I was contacted for an interview, and the rest is history. Most of my colleagues report similar experiences. I've had friends ask me if there is anything I can do to help them land a job here, and I can honestly say no, there isn't. At least where I am, there's nothing I see where I can push to have friends be considered for jobs ahead of anyone else. Some is luck, but mostly you have to stand on your accomplishments.
So for all the moaning about "big government" I think they actually have a much more egalitarian hiring process than the private sector.
Since I've been freelancing for so long, I take for granted the need to market myself and deal with the fact that I don't know where my next job is coming from. It's hard, yes. But stop being such a baby, and become relentless and shameless in seeking out work directly, rather than looking on job boards. Luckily, in the theater, most people seem to return emails, and if they don't, I keep bugging them anyway. Most people I've come across don't mind being bugged, they're just busy and if you catch them at the right time, you'll get the job.