Networking when you just want a &%!#^*@ job
June 19, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Okay, so I didn't "dig my well before getting thirsty." Now what? (Vent Warning)

I'm the person who wrote this entry:

I've decided to focus on getting a better job for now, but it's been hell on earth trying to find entry level work either in IA (or UX design, whatever you want to call it) or technical writing. I've met some people and exchanged contact info, but most of the time I never hear from them again. Of the ones I have kept in touch with, they tell me I'm doing the right things by building up my portfolio, attending events, and even getting involved with local groups online and off. And yet I can't get a position for the life of me. I'm also very frustrated when I come across internships that are limited to those currently enrolled in degree programs. The last thing I can do is take on a certificate program/second Masters with the debt I'm currently swimming in. I'm working with the skills I currently have and I'm always willing to build them up and also learn new things.

WTF? What kind of song and dance do I need to do to show that I can do the work and also learn on the fly if need be if I was just given a chance? Do they just not care about helping out a rookie (since they have *their* jobs post-recession, after all)? I'm trying to maintain a positive and non-desperate demeanor when I'm interacting with others, but my frustration and anger is getting more and more difficult to keep on the DL. Are there any other related jobs a want-to-be-former librarian can take immediately? I just need to get out of the nightmare that is my current job, and breaking into these fields is taking too damn long. Why is this a cakewalk for others but not for me?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is an absolutely shitty time to be looking for a job. Getting one isn't a cakewalk for most people--though it may sometimes look that way, you usually don't see the blood, sweat, and tears they went through to get it--and it's especially difficult now that the economy is still shedding jobs faster than it's creating them.

You're probably doing what you're supposed to be doing. Just keep doing it. The way most people get their jobs is by knowing people, so keep trying to make that happen.
posted by valkyryn at 7:16 AM on June 19, 2010

Agreed with valkyryn 100%. People who are much more qualified than I are going begging for work (as am I). It was a "cakewalk" for me during the Y2K boom but right now - nada, zip, zilch.

Can you at least put together a portfolio online volunteering on projects and such? I'm adding to mine even though I've been working a net pay zero job for a while now that I had to use all of my personal contacts to get, eventually the market will upturn a bit ...
posted by tilde at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2010

Stop stressing yourself out. You may need to look for another job that fits your resume to just get you in a different/better situation for awhile. I don't know where you live but have you heard of the recession going on? I applied for a job that was in my old skillset - went through three interviews for this position that was part-time for pretty low pay. I didn't get the job. They had over 150 applicants. That's crazy!

This is the time to get beyond creative and that includes looking at all aspects of your life - get creative in managing your finances. Get creative in networking and building skills. Get creative in finding any job that shakes things up for you since it seems like you need that as much if not more than a brand-new career trajectory. Also, the field you are trying to get into is crowded with limited positions. It will not be easy to break into as a newbie.

Have you gone to temp agencies? If there's a creative temp agency that places people in the kinds of companies you want to work for that's a great way to start figuring things out. If you haven't gone to all the employment agencies in your area, get on that. Work on your resume, too. Temp agencies are swamped right now! You want to look like a creative generalist with some highlight skills in your area of interest. Don't say "no" to any job if you go this route. Agencies call back the workers who work.

Take some comfort that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the same spot as you. You don't have to feel grateful for your crap job but if there's a way to get creative and make the employment work for you - try to do that. Don't stop plugging away. Something will give eventually.
posted by amanda at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just went and read your other question and I got to say, there's lots if great ideas in there that it looks like you haven't followed up on? Maybe take a look at the answers you got there with fresh eyes. Also, look into student loan forgiveness programs. I think a stint in the Peace Corps can reduce your debt load. I can't imagine a better place to tap into resources like a public library but maybe yours is particularly crappy? For instance, have you looked into legitimate credit counselors? They are out there and may be able to help you. Though don't roll any student loans into any other product! But for consumer debt a counselor may help you manage that.
posted by amanda at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2010

Maybe I've misread somewhere, but it sounds like you've been looking for a new job for *9 days*?

My best friend has been laid off for 9 months. Just a data point. It's a shitty time to be looking for a job.

Patience and luck to you.
posted by lilnublet at 9:04 AM on June 19, 2010

I know it will be frustrating to hear this, but your other question was just nine days ago. It's taking months for people to find jobs when they're well and obviously qualified. You may need to prepare yourself for a longer job-search time frame than you seem to have. "Jobs a want-to-be-former librarian can take immediately" are the same as jobs anyone can take immediately: fast food, hotel housekeeping, etc. Immediate jobs aren't a reality in this economy. It's not a cakewalk for anyone, and you need to stop being mad at people who have jobs if you want them to help you.

Also, if you think you might be asking a series of questions as you job search, you may want to sign up for a sock puppet account to ask them if you feel your main account is too tied to your identity. Without knowing where you are and what kind of work you actually have done, it's hard to suggest resources for you to follow up on. It would be nice to be able to ask you clarifying questions.
posted by donnagirl at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2010

Anon, please email me (email address in my profile).

I have some small IA work that you might be able to do for me on a freelance basis over the next few weeks.

[postscript: Hey look, you're networking!]
posted by zpousman at 9:29 AM on June 19, 2010

You're interested in technical writing and UX? I don't know how practical this is, but have you considered contributing documentation or usability testing to an open source software project? The KDE project, for instance, has been making a push for the last several years to improve usability. These guys were begging for help with documentation a couple weeks ago. In general, it's not difficult to find open source projects with inadequate documentation (to put mildly).

This could be a way to gain experience, build your portfolio with things that you did that are actually being used and accepted for use by more experienced developers, and possibly make some additional contacts.
posted by nangar at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the open source volunteering route. I can't speak for technical writing, but in the UX/IA/XD/etc. fields hiring is frequently based on reputation and visible history. Take some time (weeks, months I would expect) to familiarize yourself with what projects out in the world need help, and pick one to work with that aligns with the job you see yourself doing. Do this publicly and use your real name.

When I look at job candidates, I'm interested primarily in what people have produced and what they've written as an indication of their strengths, and it helps to walk away with the impression that they know what problems in the field are interesting and worth talking about. I'm not sure where you're located, but maybe there's a chapter of near you?
posted by migurski at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2010

I've been (very) successfully freelancing in UX/IA for the past 20 months, with 10+ years of experience. Where I live, the demand for UX folks is out of control. Please send me a MeFi mail and we'll see if I can be of any assistance. I've got contacts pretty much all over the US, Canada and some in the UK.
posted by gsh at 10:28 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Slightly OT, and not to be further discouraging, but what is the truth to the meme that is going around frustrated job-seekers' blogs like a deadly virus -- that employers are not hiring people who are unemployed?

The meme seems meaningless without specifics as to industries, region (U.S.), the education and social status of the applicants, even gender.

My own experience is that people in idea fields (at an extreme, creative writers) tend to have periods of unemployment which are not regarded as pejorative if they are talented and can show that they kept trying.

In very routine, conservative, low-skilled fields, maybe you would be regarded as damaged if you were unemployed. Or in areas with very severe unemployment, such as the Rustbelt, Southwest or likely the Gulf, HR managers are trying to discourage the numbers of applicants.
posted by bad grammar at 4:59 PM on June 19, 2010

Oh Anon. I'm in your boat, except that I graduated from my lovely prestigious Master's program sans job and a year later I'm still sans job. And I've been networking and job-hunting like mad; I'm even organizing an alumni get-together for my fellow program grads.

It really is not you. Let me tell you, NO-ONE, repeat, NO-ONE, that I know is "cakewalking" into a job. Nosirreebob, not in this state (CA) anyway. The only people I know who are sailing through this recession are those who had jobs to begin with, or those who have 10+ years experience, a boatload of connections, and absolutely impeccable reputations. People who are experienced but don't have the perfect credentials/personalities for what is out there are sheltering in PhD programs, or are still unemployed. GOOD people. People who just a couple years ago would be sitting pretty. It is BAD. (There was a story in the LA Times about a recent grad who rolled up his resume, stuck it in a bottle, and set the bottle afloat in the ocean as a last-ditch effort!)

There are times when I, too, feel like breaking down and kicking things or just sobbing uncontrollably because I'm one of the long-term unemployed. It really is soul-killing. However, we who are "Joneser" or younger generations (born after 1960) are really kind of spoiled, in a way. No Great Depression, no stagflation. The dot-com bust was really bad for many, but not nearly on the disaster that the Depression or even the 1970's was. I got some perspective from talking to my Depression-born dad, who told me that the only reason his parents didn't lose their house was that everyone was unemployed and no-one paid their mortgage so the bank said, why bother? Nobody was going to step up, buy and pay for any seized property, because no-one had a job or any income. No-one in my grandparent's neighborhood (Midwest). It was that bad.

The best advice I can give you is keep reaching out, networking, and plugging away. Something that really helped me loads and loads was a) talking to my wonderful therapist, and b) taking advantage of a free tele-coaching program that a wonderful volunteer job coach organized. Just knowing that you are doing something, however small, every day towards finding a job is a big help. As my therapist said, while times are bad, you take control of what you can - networking, searching for jobs, just not giving up - and you will feel better and less helpless.

Bad Grammar, in re the "employers don't want the unemployed:" that was discussed on a Linked In group I'm on. The consensus was that the employers just want to thin the herd a bit, given that there are hundreds of applicants per most openings. It's probably also psychological - the unemployed are seen as a downer, a reminder that It Can Happen To You even if you pray and floss every day and help old ladies across the street. It's not nice, but it is what it is.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:31 PM on June 19, 2010

Someone told me a few years ago that one could get a job that is reasonably in their field of search if they are willing to relocate ANYWHERE. I don't know if this is true, but the person who told me was a senior official in my field who retired two years after my entry into it (he became like a father to me). So his advice may be right or wrong, but I will only be able to see it as right because I trust him implicitly. Are you willing to move anywhere? Are you willing to research, fill out applicatons/send resumes, travel to see if this is true? It's up to you. Best of luck.
posted by boots77 at 5:42 PM on June 19, 2010

Masters degrees in a field without relevant work experience basically make you hirable at--maybe--a low paid intern level. This is particularly true in the UX field. There does not exist (yet) a single HCI/IA/UX program that is worth pursuing, period. The field is just too young and the academy is mostly woefully behind.

I have interviewed and spoken with so many bright eyed, wannabe UXers who come out of these grad schools with tens of thousands of dollars of debt who don't understand that every company who could potentially hire them will need to invest considerable time and money in training them to be at all useful.

Please sign up for mentoring programs through the IxDA and the Information Architecture Institute. Start attending UX groups in your area: IxDA, CHI, UX Book Club, whatever.
posted by gsh at 8:05 PM on June 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

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