Monday, August 3, 2009

Trying to be Unemployable

I've just finished a job hunt. I've accepted a new position in the Saskatchewan public service. I thought I'd share some of the things I observed after not having been actively "in the market" for the better part of five years.

Your typical employer seeking to hire an employee these days seems to be working under the impression that employees are desperately seeking employment and are always on the cusp of yelling out "Yes! I'll take it!"

If you count my Mom and my wife, there are at least three people that think I would add value to your organization. If you want to hire me,
  • Understand you're being evaluated.
  • Have a clear picture of what you really need. Don't do a selection process without first thoughtfully establishing what skills and functions you need the candidate to be able to fulfill. If you're choosing to name a certain degree or a number of years of experience as a key criteria, it's an immediate flag that you're looking for an image, not a result.
  • Respect my time. Don't be late, unprepared or easily interrupted. I want you to be expressing how important this role is from the moment I meet you. If you don't respect what staff do for you, I self-select myself out.
  • Ask good, relevant questions that make me sweat. If you are interested in demonstrating that you're competent, that's how.
  • Don't hack on current employees. I'm trying to be one of those. I'm savvy enough to know I'll get the same treatment.
The employee version of these rules has always been a requirement for applicants to follow, but for the employer, they used to be optional. You used to be able to assume the power position and indicate that you could hardly be bothered with this process... you could do everything including saying, "I'm kind of a big deal." No longer.

Applicants, especially applicants with some skill and experience, can be way more selective.

Some things I've enjoyed being able to say to prospective employers during this process (and yes, it did take me a while).
"If you're concerned that I'm only going to work eight hours a day, I'll make it easy on you. Don't offer me a job."
"I didn't have the inclination to spend any more time on that exercise. It was very detail focused. You need someone who is looking at the bigger picture."
"I like to build the skills of my staff. This means, sometimes, we don't meet deadlines, but we get better in the long run. You [the supervisor] should be aware of this. I can be frustrating some times." (This one hired me.)

Let me be clear. I'm not being a prima donna. I'm not looking for a job where I get to lounge around a lot. I'm going to work and create value and focus on results. It's just that I have a lot of confidence that success requires a lot of change. From what I can tell in this process, I'm one of the few people bringing a challenge to the status quo. I don't want to work long hours, I want to do the work that's challenging.

If I had weighted "getting a well-paying job" higher than the expectations I had for myself to tell my truths, I think I could have wooed a prospective employer long before now. I also would have gotten a job under a pretense I would loathe and I would have missed the opportunity that finally came around.

On Twitter, @chrisguillebeau just recounted a conversation where @strongcraig called himself "unemployable." I've got a ways to go, but it seems like a good goal.


deannie said...

I am so glad to have found your blog. You made my day :)

Nevin Danielson said...

Let this be an example for all readers! More comments like this are definitely in order. If you run out of things to say, please feel free to log in under a different alias and just repeat what you said.

Thanks for the comment deannie!