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March 26, 2014 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm having some struggles with my job search. Any way I can effectively market myself?

So I had a six-month internship four years ago at a government agency that wasn't expendable, spent 2011 and half of 2012 job-hunting without much success, then finally got hired at a reputable, well-known technology retail chain as a "salesman." I worked at this retail store for 1.5 years, but grew burnt out and disillusioned, so decided to resign late last year, wanting some time off. I left the store on good terms, and let my manager know I might return. I'm now kind of regretting this decision, but felt it was the right thing to do at the time.

Since then, I have been submitting resumes on USAJOBS.gov (I'm Schedule-A eligible, which helps) for the DC area, and on various private sector websites. Absolutely no luck has came my way; some didn't reply, but most said I either didn't have enough experience, or my undergraduate GPA wasn't enough (2.75 GPA here).

This is very frustrating to me because I'm Deaf, but I have plenty of skills. I have people skills. I love to write; editing is my area of strength. I'm good with computers and know quite a bit about repairing software issues. I'm emphatic and team-oriented. Wait, is this a job application or... oh, it's AskMeta. Joke aside, I really feel I'm qualified for, and can learn quickly, on many jobs. It's disillusioning that I'm not being given a chance. I'm not sure if it's my resume, the economy, a combination of both, or stingy hiring practices.

I've re-applied for the retail store I used to work at, but I really want to find a job. Any tips or suggestions? I'm pretty lost and grasping at straws with finding a job. It's a paradox to be searching for jobs, but that experience is required. How can I get hired if I don't have any experience in the first place, yet most/all jobs require experience to some degree? I don't want to live on SSI again; I really want to make something out of myself, but I'm not being given the opportunity to do so. Am I missing something or doing something wrong?

tl;dr: I'm currently in an employment slump right now. I'm actively searching for jobs without much luck. I have skills in many areas, but nothing too specific.
posted by dubious_dude to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have friend in a company where you'd like to work? Referrals and networking can be very helpful in a job search. If nothing else, they could get you informational interviews that might expand your network more and lead to other opportunities.
posted by xingcat at 7:21 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try temping -- what most people really want to hire is a known quantity and in my experience managers would prefer to go with someone they know they can trust, even if that person doesn't look like the best fit on paper. There are a number of temp agencies in DC (MeFi mail me if you'd like to talk about them). If you're placed with a company, you'll hear about job listings there, have great answers for interview questions, and it gives you a chance to show what you can do and prove that you've got the skills you mention*. If you just need to get your foot in the door, this is a way to do it.

*My last job was a temp job and after a few months I was hired to supervise people at the level at which I'd be temping so it can definitely happen.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:21 PM on March 26, 2014

You say you love writing - do you have a blog? You could write thoughtfully about the career areas that interest you and do some research. Link the blog on your linkedin profile - it's like a souped up resume, a bit more personal but still professional, where you get to market yourself.

Volunteering is another way to increase your network and beef your resume.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 7:22 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Is it filled out? Are you applying to positions on Craigslist? If I were you, I would leave that GPA off of your resume. Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:26 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Getting a federal government job is kind of tough right now because of all the budget cutting going on.
posted by empath at 7:37 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If all else is failing, you might try volunteering for non-governmental organizations you'd like to work for. Enough of my friends - and I - have experienced being hired after volunteering that I think it's worth a shot. The way you do it is, volunteer but be transparent from day one about the fact that you'd love a paying job in the field (though don't be pushy/whiny about it - you're just a cheerful and hard-working volunteer who will upon being asked say that you are looking for a job right now but would like to do something productive and keep your resume active while looking, thus the volunteering). Once you know people better (at least a couple months into volunteering, if you haven't found a position by then) you can also just straight up ask for advice or any leads people know of.

I also have had great success at college career fairs. Even as a graduate student looking for better than entry-level positions. If you have alumni access to a career fair, I'd definitely go and talk to every booth to see what's on offer (and bring ~10 copies of your resume).
posted by vegartanipla at 7:43 PM on March 26, 2014

I'd apply for jobs very similar to what you've done before. When I was on the resume-reviewing end, I was surprised by how many resumes felt almost unrelated to the job at hand. I'm sure they were smart people who could've learned, but they were competing against people for whom the job was clearly one step beyond (but very similar to) what they'd done before. When I hear "salesman... government agency" I wonder how related the majority of your work experience is to the jobs you're applying for. Competition is stiff out there. If I'm off-base, take this comment with a grain of salt.

Also, get someone else to proofread your materials (e.g., extendable vs. expendable above, happens to the best of us).
posted by salvia at 9:16 PM on March 26, 2014

I had luck using LinkedIn.
1: Find company that's got the opening.
2: Find a linkedIn path to someone who works there.
3: Ask via the people in between to pass the resume along.

I also have had luck with recruiters, but I'm in software (I have also been in software for government subcontractors, which seems like it would be up your alley.) I didn't start out as a coder: I was in QA and did some technical writing.

Also: nthing salvia: make your resume show how you are a good fit for the job you want.

Do networking things: attend job fairs, go to MeFi meet ups, investigate the schools placement office, do on-line training in your field (or general open courseware study) in areas that will help you be able to answer the questions prospective employers might ask. (E.g. if you think a programming gig might need Database knowledge, get some...).
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:30 PM on March 26, 2014

In Washington DC, you're not just Deaf, you're a member of the Deaf community -- and apparently it's substantial there. Have you tried networking with other members of that community? There are probably jobs for which you are uniquely qualified, and if people know you, they can recommend you for things -- or at least clue you in to very particular opportunities.

Networking within a particular community is how many people get job leads (for me, it was community theater), and there might well be some way your skills and personality will be particularly helpful to folks who need you.
posted by amtho at 12:46 AM on March 27, 2014

Here's what I've heard: If you're not getting any interviews, there may be something wrong with your resume. If you're getting interviews but not getting any offers, there may be something wrong with your interviews. That said, I've been full force looking for jobs for nine months now and gotten to the final stage of the process several times and lost out. It's a hard job market right now. But you can pay $30 and have your resume rewritten by a resume service, which is something I did that I think helped condense my resume to the important parts. I used Resume to Interviews (which I saw recommended on Mefi) and they did a great job.

Also, if you can just get a lower level (than what you're looking for) job for the time being, that may help. As much I hate, hate it, there is discrimination against unemployed people out there. So much so that my company has just instituted specific guidelines for hiring saying that hiring managers should basically give the long-term unemployed a chance. I was looking for a job in 2009-2010 in my field and was having no luck whatsoever despite connections, a good resume, everything. After nine months I took a crappy sales job for $35k/year because I needed to pay the bills and I found a job in my field (the job I have now) two months later. So keep your head up and keep looking and you'll find something eventually. Good luck.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:22 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Finding a good job is hard for EVERYONE, being deaf isn't necessarily hindering you.

You have to be willing to go in at an entry-level and work your way up. I have applied for years on USAJobs and I get close, but have yet to land a position there. It's hard, competative and if the budget is lean, they won't hire. Also, you and I are competing with returning veterans, who have experience AND are getting lots of points for being veterans. Keep applying, but don't hold your breath.

You might want to have someone review your resume and give you some pointers.

Get marketable skills. EXCEL and Word to start with!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:47 AM on March 27, 2014

Someone mentioned informational interviewing, and I think that's a good place to start. I'm sure you can Google it and find more info on how to do it. I see at least four benefits for you doing this.

1) Information - You say you want a job, but you seem rather vague about what field you want to pursue and would be a good match with your talents. The information you get will help you focus your search.
2) Expand your network
3) Practice - You'll get experience dressing up and feeling comfortable in a professional setting.
4) Momentum - With each interview, you'll personally feel as if your job search is moving along instead of stagnating. You'll feel less frustrated, more hopeful. That positive outlook will carry you along.

Set a goal for yourself (say two interviews a week, maybe) and make sure you do the interviews in person. Good luck!
posted by Leontine at 8:33 AM on March 27, 2014

Agreeing with giving temping a go. Myself, as well as a bunch of my friends, has had good experience with it landing to a decent job within a few months.

I recommend finding as many temp agencies as you can and especially focusing on finding ones that do niche hiring for whatever you're interested in.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:18 AM on March 27, 2014

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