by Mariam Williams
I was browsing CNN.com last week when the following headline caught my eye:
“Hired! A grad gets a job”
I find it highly disturbing that someone finding a job is considered news and equally disturbing that I clicked on the link. I learned that recent graduate Roy Ma followed a very traditional job search strategy: He focused his search on companies he was interested in and jobs for which he was particularly qualified; he wrote a new cover letter and résumé specifically tailored to each job each time; and he performed several mock interviews before the real meeting. He was hired at the interview.
I’m impressed that Ma got to the interview stage at all. I’ve met with a few leads for potential freelance assignments, but I haven’t been on a job interview for a full-time position since shortly after I was laid off. That potential employer could tell that I wanted, and was capable of, more than the job could offer me and that if the opportunity for something better came along, I would take it.
So I began to look for jobs that were more directly in line with what I wanted, without regard to salary. I revamped my résumé to highlight only jobs and activities that showed how I have effectively used my strong oral and written communications skills. I rewrote my objective to show that I could bring in money through creative and professional writing and research. I did the same in cover letters. Any time I found out I knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone, at a company of interest, I informed the connection of a pending application and sent that person a copy of my résumé. If a job fit me particularly well, I walked into the business establishment dressed for an interview and asked if it would be possible to speak with someone about the job that day. Walk-ins were never accepted, and only once was the front desk official permitted to tell the hiring manager that an applicant had inquired in person. I wanted to stand out to the Louisville Water Company so badly that I used a connection to get a hard copy of my résumé to HR; showed up interview-ready just to show interest; and after the security guard at the front desk informed me that she couldn’t tell HR that I had shown up in person, I folded my résumé into one of the company’s own water bottles and resent it to the HR department and to the department in which I wanted to work. When I called to follow up on the status of my application, they recognized my name. They remembered my message in a bottle, and while my work experience was in line with the position, my undergraduate major wasn’t, and hence, I would be called for an interview only if everyone else who had the major they were looking for wasn’t hired.
(Sidebar: I have a special complaint. I often find the same stumbling block in jobs requiring strong written communications skills or other verbiage indicating the need to hire a gifted writer who has mastered the grammatical intricacies of the English language: a degree in English, writing, communications, or journalism. I have none of the above. While the rationale is obvious, I catch many of the mistakes people with those degrees routinely make in various publications. It’s as if employers believe that no one with a degree outside of those four particular areas would ever be able to write or edit any type of paper or publication. And even if they could, why would anyone without a degree in writing want to write? Can you imagine someone holding expertise in a different subject area AND being able to write about that subject effectively, or being able to compile research on an unfamiliar topic and summarize it in a way that the public can understand? How ridiculous!)
My undergraduate degree is in psychology. I’m not going to bemoan its futility now; as a freshman, I envisioned myself with a PsyD. After several internships and a practicum … not so much. Unfortunately, I made this discovery well into my senior year, and I had no money, energy, or desire to remain at an expensive private university as a fifth-year senior. The degree hasn’t been a waste: I’ve been told that characters in my plays and screenplays tend to have a depth that makes my major evident, and I was taught that the best commercial writers appeal to their listeners’ or viewers’ emotions in order to trick them into buying things they don’t need. I’m thankful for the ability to spot the trick and to play it, but convincing potential employers that I could write – well, something like this blog – wasn’t so easy before the blog. Now that I can use posts from The Pink Slip Blog as writing samples, I no longer see jobs from employers that would be interested in them.
So maybe it’s time to make another change. I feel like I’ve been less picky lately, applying for positions that I would likely find boring or unfulfilling, but that have one key benefit: tuition reimbursement. Yet, as appealing as cutting the cost of graduate study is – and no, school is not the official plan yet – I haven’t been tailoring my résumé to fit the less exciting positions. Perhaps it’s laziness, or stubbornness. I still believe the perfect job for me is out there, or that I will soon have all I need to create it myself.
I saw a couple of links from the graduate’s story that made me think that my perfect job is inside a perfect company. Knowing that I’m unlikely to have my relocation expenses paid, I had been keeping my job search local. When I clicked on links to the headlines, “No layoffs — ever!” and then, “They’re Hiring!” I experimented with a major change to my search parameters. I disregarded location completely, went to the websites of 20 of Fortune Magazine’s top companies that have at least 350 job openings, and entered marketing, communications, public affairs, or public relations under the search criteria, or searched within those specific departments.
Out of at least 7,000 openings in top companies, 245 fit the search criteria in some way. One hundred fifty-seven (give or take about 90 at Google – I was too tired to look through all of them by then) were positions for which I believe I am qualified. One position matched the kind of job that would allow me to take Roy Ma’s focused strategy. I’m going to apply for it and see how much longer I will be living life laid off (in Kentucky).
For a closer look at the number of jobs I found in my areas of interest at each company, continue reading.
Marketing – 0
Public Affairs – 0
Marketing – 14, but all senior marketing (minimum 5 years experience) or web positions
Marketing and communications – 0
Research – 0
Marketing – 0
Baptist Health South Florida
Marketing – 0
Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota
Marketing – 1
Publications – 1
Marketing & Communications – 0
Price Waterhouse Coopers
Public Relations – 3, all requiring at least 8 years of experience. Students and recent grads had more options.
Communications or Marketing – 5. Two required at least 10 years of experience, and the rest were more directly related to IT or to business integrity.
Booz Allen Hamilton
Communications/Marketing/Media – 27. Maybe I could get used to San Antonio, TX.
Ernst & Young
Communications, marketing, public relations – 1
Burns & McDonnell
Communications/Marketing – 4
Customer Research, Government & Community Affairs, Marketing, Marketing/Communications – 64. Two were non-management positions requiring less than 8 years of experience.
Marketing, communications, public relations – 0. However, I admit that I got bored with doing the job search state by state, since searching all U.S. locations at once was not an option.
Methodist Hospital Systems
Marketing, communications, public relations – 0. Those categories aren’t even found under “areas of interest.”
Communications – 1 managerial position that related to what I was actually looking for
Marketing or corporate communications – 4, all technical writing
Wegmans Food Markets
Marketing, communications, public relations – 0
Marketing – 90
Communications – 31
Public Relations – 0
I found it odd that a search under U.S. jobs in the greatest search engine’s job site yielded results in the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Singapore, and other locations. Also, these were just search results, not necessarily the categories under which these jobs would normally fall.
Marketing department of two corporate headquarters locations – 0
“written communications” as search term – 0
© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.