A reader writes:
The career counselor nails it. I've been looking for a job for about two months now and have come to the conclusion that Human Resources is, without question, the most useless, bureaucratic, least efficient department in ANY organization. HR has, ironically, perfected the extrication of any sort of human contact imaginable when applying for a job - no names, no contact info, no phone numbers, no nothing. I even went to one job fair where an HR rep for a company refused to accept a resume I was trying to hand her. "We only take resumes online for jobs posted," she said.
Your reader attempts to offer some good advice for getting a job in today's market, but I feel like the his/her outlook is beyond cynical and really gets to the heart of the matter of the jobs crisis in this country: no longer is it sufficient to be driven, motivated, competent, and skilled at one's job; one must also be a professional marketer and kiss-ass.
I have a great distaste with the idea of having to "brand" or "market" myself in order to even land an interview. I have made available my work record, my marks in school, professional and personal references, a cover letter tailored to each individual position for which I am applying ... since when do my qualifications not speak for themselves? It makes me think that the only people who are going to get jobs are those who, while perhaps not as qualified or competent as me, have connections and know how to bullshit their ways into positions. I have an ethical problem with that (not to mention that I'm a terrible bullshitter).
I very much agree with the general thrust of what this former career counselor has to say. Tomorrow I will be starting a new job - a temporary position managing a small project for 3-4 months with a decent chance of becoming permanent by autumn. I didn't get the job through Monster, CareerBuilder, the Washington Post's job section, or any other online or print resource, but through two friends and former co-workers working on my behalf - one who works at the company that laid me off last year, the other at the company which hired me last week.
Ever since getting laid off 15 months ago, I have strongly suspected that the only chance of finding a new job would come through people I know. I used every contact I could think of, "cold-e-mailed" every company who seemed to have projects up and running or in the pipeline, talked directly to the people running some of the largest construction projects in the metro area where I live, had friends circulate my resume - everything. I applied for maybe 200 jobs over the past year, and landed a grand total of zero interviews.
In short, I have come to believe that unless you are a superstar who can choose your job offer and name your salary, then personal contacts are not just the most important factor when it comes to finding a new job, they are pretty much the ONLY factor.