Main image of article Why Career Advice Sucks and What You Can Do About It
You may have noticed that every time we post job-hunting advice, we get pasted. Sometimes I think we could provide the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of every person hiring in the top 100 tech companies, and someone would lob mortar shells at us because we didn't include #101. Okay, I'm exaggerating. The point is no one is ever completely satisfied with the advice they get, whether it's from us or from somewhere else. I've been thinking a lot about this lately because in the last few weeks I've talked to several people trying to get entry level jobs in IT, even while they're paying off student loans, holding down a full-time job elsewhere, and facing things like mortgages, credit card debt and an out-of-work spouse. If they've got a computer science degree, they have few nuts-and-bolts skills but plenty of knowledge about theory and math. Then, I went to CompTIA's Breakaway and listened to employers grouse about finding too few candidates with the skills they need, and lamenting the fact that computer science degrees leave people with a lot of theory and math but precious few job skills. So there is one of the biggest disconnects in the tech job market, and all the resume advice in the world isn't going to help you bridge it. My conclusions:
  • Advice only works if it's customized for your approach to each individual employer.
  • Career advice is great on paper, but not so great in the real world
  • Despite the number of blogs, books, workshops and the like, there's only so much advice out there. I mean, how many articles can you read about organizing a resume?
All that begs a question: How can you handle it when you need help figuring out what to do and how to do it? The answer, I think, lies in understanding and accepting the realities of looking for work. Some of these float at 40,000 feet, others at 15,000 and others are on the ground. If a job hunt is about flying, remember there's this thing called gravity and you have to take it on its terms. If you don't believe in what's going on at 40,000 feet, you're going to plunge to 15,000. If you don't believe what goes on at 15,000, you're going to crash. So, today let's talk about the 40,000-foot stuff (we'll descend later). Up here you'll find Mark's ten things you have to accept in order to find a job. They are:
  1. You must network.
  2. You must network.
  3. You must customize. It's better to send 50 customized resumes and cover letters than it is to send 500 identical copies.
  4. Despite #3, job-hunting is a numbers game. The more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to find one.
  5. Don't be surprised if you don't get a job you're not qualified for.
  6. If your skills haven't evolved with technology, you're going to have trouble.
  7. Accept the dynamics: HR's not going to respond if you don't make the first cut. Hiring managers aren't going to say "aha" when they see your resume. You have to smile whether you like it or not and convince them you're the right person for the job.
  8. Managers aren't stupid. They know the business and if you think otherwise, it's going to show.
  9. Job hunting takes time. A lot of time. If you're working, it's like having a second job.
  10. There are three other options: You can start your own company, become a contractor, or be the child of, or marry the son/daughter, of the company's CEO. And even that doesn't always work.
Yes, there are exceptions. You'll hear from the guy who sent out 1,000 resumes on Tuesday, had an interview on Friday and got an offer the following Monday. Or the guy who was hired despite spending his interview pointing out all the flaws in the company's strategy. Or the kid who posted pictures of himself body painted at the nude beach, only to discover HR thought he'd be a great cultural fit. But these are exceptions. They're like playing the lottery to pay off your house. These ideas are tough to swallow, especially when you've spent, say, a year sending out resumes that don't get answered, interviewing with managers who make it plain they'd rather be doing something else, hearing you're a solid candidate and then never hearing from the person again, and finding it harder and harder to believe you haven't wasted the last X number of years on a career you turned out to be not very good at. Let's put that last notion to bed. Even if more companies are hiring -- and they are -- it's still a tough job market out there. A lot of talented people, big names in their fields, are sending out resumes, too. What these ten things are about is maximizing your chances of getting in the door, convincing the managers you're the one, and finally getting to work. So let's get into all this. Consider this the first post. I'll write some more every Friday.