Job Searching Highs and Lows

An exhausted woman falls asleep at her desk, amidst paper and notebooks.I recently accepted an offer for a new position at my company, and will transition to the role in one week — but I am still tying up a few loose ends from my months-long job hunt. To start, I am closing out a partnership with a resume writer I hired to develop both a resume that would stand up against the dreaded scanning software used to screen applicants, and a new LinkedIn profile.

Using a resume writer was not a decision I took lightly. It can be a big investment, as well as time-consuming. I did my research, sifting through a long list of vendors and methodically rejecting those who didn’t have the right accreditations, a Better Business Bureau rating, good references or yelp reviews, and a compelling website. I also eliminated writers who collaborate with clients only by email – a questionable approach in cases like mine, involving a shift in career direction. Finally, I required a brief introductory meeting with a writer before I would commit, to test out our creative chemistry. (Remarkably, some resume writers refuse to do this.)

I settled on my guy, and prepared to pay his sizeable down payment, then stumbled across the job opportunity that next week will become My New Job. I knew I was a good fit for the role, but there was no guarantee I’d come out on top. What if I put my resume writing on hold, and spent weeks interviewing, only to lose out to another candidate? With the holidays approaching, that could mean pushing my search into 2014. 

Enter Murphy’s Law: Based on my personal history, I had a hunch that once I plunked down cash to begin the process, my job search would take off. And it did.  In fact – I kid you not — I accepted the job offer a mere two days before I approved the final version of my resume. Suddenly, I felt all dressed up, with nowhere to go. 

This is the first time I’ve had my resume professionally written, so I don’t know if my experience was standard — but it was exhausting. So much self-reflection! There were multi-page questionnaires focusing on my strengths, interests, work style, accomplishments and fundamental values, which I spent several hours each evening completing, until I collapsed – emotionally drained – into bed.  There may also have been a bit of gentle weeping.

I’m not sure all the information I provided made it into my resume, but the introspection and rereading of old performance reviews turned out to be great interview prep – an ancillary benefit I wasn’t expecting. 

Now, the writer and I have moved on to my LinkedIn profile. For better or worse, as more recruiters adopt LinkedIn as a tool, a trend has emerged that one’s profile must be different from (yet not contradict) one’s resume. No more cutting-and-pasting. Thus, a new industry is born.

That said, in some ways LinkedIn still has a touch of the Wild West to it. There are profile photos of children, pets, and stuffed animals, as well as glamorous pics of female subjects that are just one spaghetti strap shy of a boudoir shot. Occasionally you will even see a profile photo of someone doing something incredibly dumb – wearing a red foam clown’s nose, or making the “rock on” hand gesture – presumably to appeal to recruiters from The Improv club?

Image for "Photo Not Available"Some LinkedIn members don’t have any profile photo at all, which reminds me of the sad “photo not available” graphic in high school yearbooks. Generally speaking, kids without yearbook photos were not the coolest kids. So, invest in a professional head shot, guys.

For a brief period, I subscribed to LinkedIn Premium for Job Seekers – a service purported to boost one’s chances of landing a job. I never really understood how most of its features would benefit me, though. For example, the service provides detailed information about anyone who views your profile.  Yes I’m nosey, but why would I want to see a list of people who checked me out on LinkedIn and said, “Meh, I’ll pass”?

Job Seeker Premium also has a private LinkedIn group, with a members-only message board. Some of the posts are helpful, others are just plain odd. Quite a few posts ask how to shut off the Premium service, which isn’t exactly a strong endorsement. It does, however, prove that the Job Seeker Premium message board is censorship free!

I’ll be thrilled to conclude the resume/profile writing process, and launch the output online for the world to see. For better or worse, these days professional networking is an ongoing activity, rather than something done only when you are actively seeking a job change.

Thankfully, networking doesn’t involve interviewing – possibly the most frustrating, demoralizing part of the job quest. Another day, another blog topic…      

Anyone have tales from depths of job search despair to share?  (No gentle weeping permitted, though.)

5 thoughts on “Job Searching Highs and Lows

  1. Sean

    A bit of gentle weeping is essential… It’s really interesting hearing your experience, Kim. Finding academic jobs sounds like a very different experience, though I got mine in the pre-LinkedIn world, so maybe there’s been some convergence since I last changed jobs. The academic publication record (what you’ve published; in which journals; how often; how well cited) is absolutely critical to making the interview short-list (our CVs have a fairly standard and ‘dry’ format, but can include some reflective statements on things like ‘teaching philosophy’). if you do make the cut for an interview, you typically have an excellent chance of getting the job, as only 3-5 people are brought in, separately (it is expensive and time-consuming for universities to run them). The 1-2 day interview includes one-on-one meetings with fellow academics, students, deans, etc, with additional panel interviews. As part of the interview you usually give major talks to strut your research and teaching stuff. All highly nerve-wracking (I’ve been through it four times). It’s recently got much tougher to find a tenure-track academic position, as research funding in the US has been drying up fast. Your Congress no longer likes to fund ‘basic’ scientific research — and the Sequestration, in particular, is proving fairly devastating for research in general — so much damage.

  2. Boo, Congress. I doubt LinkedIn is used much in academia, I think it’s probably more for corporate. The available sections in the profiles pretty much point to that. Once you are established in your field, wouldn’t everyone in academia already at least know OF you? So, not sure why they’d need to a tool to do the kind of blind searching recruiters do on LinkedIn, where they search through hundreds if not thousands of potential candidates. “Show me everyone who has the skill of XYZ, and has been published in the journal of blah blah blah with the title of “adjunct professor”.

  3. Sean

    Surprisingly, quite a few of my colleagues seem to be linked in (judging by the number of invites to join that I get). Or maybe they are all considering careers in other fields! Moving between schools is quite common… but I can’t see LinkedIn helping with that. Headhunting is rare, but not unknown (done for very senior positions, Museum/institute directors, etc) – done by specialized agencies.

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