What do I need to do in order to get a job?
March 24, 2004 4:40 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to do in order to get a job? (more inside)

I'm asking because I've passed my six-month mark of unemployment, and it's pretty disheartening, especially when you see the number of jobs I've applied for.

I thought I had plenty of skills, and plenty of experience, but I'm apparently missing something. I'm not sure what, and I figure that since this is MeFi and all, some of you will have tips for what I need to pick up in order to finally get a job doing what I love doing. Do I need to learn a new piece of software? Some programming language? Is it because I'm now in the UK and all my academic marks are US-based (which means a totally different system)? What am I missing that makes it so that most companies aren't even getting back to me?
posted by Katemonkey to Work & Money (24 answers total)
Not to be flippant, but have you asked the companies that didn't hire you, what skills they were looking for? Peg them for a critique of your work. See what the weak parts are in your abilities, and strengthen them.

I find actually talking to a person is much better than email. Although the email is great way to get in the door, follow it up with a phone call.

I'm in employment limbo myself, and it's frustrating at times, but this may be the opportunity to do something else. Be open.
posted by grefo at 5:07 AM on March 24, 2004

I don't think it's you, but rather the companies. I was out of work for a while, sent tons of resumes and less than 1% response.

In this market, they don't have to be polite.
posted by Dagobert at 5:23 AM on March 24, 2004

Grefo is right. Pick up the phone. Make calls. Schedule informational interviews/informal sessions -- everyone has 15 minutes they can spare to talk to you if you're flexible. That way, you can find out what potential employers are looking for and, if necessary, adjust your job hunt accordingly. Emailing your resume into the void at a place is the worst of all possible situations.
posted by ph00dz at 5:38 AM on March 24, 2004

Another thing you should do is network. If there's a professional group in your area, join. And don't rule it out just because it might not seem to be a group that would be appropriate to your skills. Locally we have a generic consultant's group and a software developer's group -- either would be great for finding either permanent jobs or contract gigs in the web design and development field.

Have you thought about temping? This could be a good way to get your foot in the door for a permanent job.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:01 AM on March 24, 2004

So you live in Nottingham hey? Whereabouts?

Anyway on the job front, you seem to be getting hardly any interviews from your applications. I think this points to a CV/letter problem.

How do you usually apply? Do you sent an email with a link to your online CV or do you send them a paper copy?

The CV is incredibly important. I think your one needs work. The best CVs are brief and to the point. You need to cut out the chatty 5 paragraph "About me" part, and replace it with a one-sentence intro explaining what you would like to do with your life, and then an improved shortened version of your current paragraph 4. After that should go into the details.

Although your sites are all nice and standards-compliant, they look very 'standards compliant', flat background colours, very few graphics, in a word not very creative. Many companies don't even care about standards compliance. All they care about is the fact that their website works on IE, and that it looks nice. They obviously don't want to spend on an extra weeks work to make sure it works on a whatever-zilla browser that less than 1% of people use.

Anyway basically i think you need to make a choice between a creative or techie career. If you want techie, you really need some server-side/database skills, php/mysql or preferably asp/sqlserver. I wouldn't worry about qualifications in this field, if you can do the job then qualifications don't really matter.

If you want the creative career, I think you need to get some more modern design skills. There's plenty of colleges in Nottingham that do graphic/multimedia design type courses. New College would be a good place to start.

Anyway sorry to have gone on so much. Drop me an email if you need any more advice, my mum used to do this careers advice thing for a living, and she's good :)
posted by derbs at 6:04 AM on March 24, 2004

In addition to the advice above, this sounds hard, but how about trying to change it from a 'I did this, I did that' format? Every other resume sounds like that too. You could start with a very brief punchy 'mission statement' kind of thing - define *what* you do in very high level terms - "helping clients to reach their clients' but much more exciting - then follow up with *why* quality content design is very important to your client and something they should think about, focusing e.g. on the potential of the WWW to reach people more and more people with more and more content, blah, blah. (This is just of of the top of my head). Then move all of the 'I' stuff to a series of bulleted 'accomplishments and successes' underneath, that reflect and reinforce your mission statement thingy.

It's hard to talk about yourself without using 'I,' as I know from experience, but maybe it's worth a try. They're not interested in you, they're interested in what you can do for them.

Good luck!
posted by carter at 6:25 AM on March 24, 2004

Aaii! So discouraging! I've had some very great jobs in the past, but they all stemmed from one single step that I made at a very early age, which was taking a very low-profile job at a start-up company that ended up doing very well. To be specific, I started as a typesetter (yes sportsfans - that long ago) at a brand new weekly publication, that went on to become quite successful. Unlike you (I'm assuming) my on-paper qualifications would never have led anyone ever to even consider hiring me in any of the fields I was/am quite certain I could excel in, but the fact of me being there, and always solving problems, and making everything easier, and doing some great creative work did lead to just rewards, and I ended up with really good jobs in graphics and then (when I decided to switch over) editorial.

So I would just put forward the possibility of taking a lesser job at a place you respect as one option. This may not be the greatest advice, though. In the 20 years that have passed since I took my first daring step (since I knew absolutely nothing about typesetting), maybe things have changed so much that this idea is completely silly. Still, it might be a thought...
posted by taz at 6:29 AM on March 24, 2004

P.S. Decompose the "I am fluent ..." para into two bulleted lists, e.g. "Major skills" and "Other skills." (All these sub-headings help HR people find what they want instead of reading the whole thing). Also it's a nice graphic but consider having something that looks like a boring ol' resume you send by post, so people can *think* they can just print, and it comes out looking almost like something you posted to them ...
posted by carter at 6:36 AM on March 24, 2004

Almost all of the friends I know getting jobs right now are getting jobs through networking.

All other things being equal (and they often are) the hiring manager is likely to end up picking someone who is a friend or a friend of a friend of someone who works in the company already. This makes sense since its difficult to know who someone is behind a resume and a connection of any sort is a reference and one assurance that this person isnt completely unreliable or inflating their resume or any number of other things.

1. Think back on anybody who has admired you or your work in the past. Make sure they all know that you are looking.

2. Get on any job list that has some exclusivity to it. A (large) former employer of mine runs a list for its alumni. Tap into college alumni lists. Anything that narrows things down.

3. Focus on jobs that tap a unique skill of yours. For you, that you read and speak Japanese makes you stand out, for example, but only for positions that have that as a desirable skill.

4. The advice from derbs may or may not be good advice, though it has the ring of truth and of course the same caveat goes for my advice! But do find someone who has done this successfully, whom you trust and who can give you constructive advice on ways that you can best convey yourself.
Offhand I would highlight that many people wont spend more than a few seconds looking at your resume before deciding if they should look further. And yours could use a bit more organization and bulleting. Your skillset "I am fluent in..." is lost in the middle of a bunch of paragraphs and it really shouldnt be.

5. Your next employer is also out there looking for you! Help them find you :)
posted by vacapinta at 6:48 AM on March 24, 2004

i guess everyone has their own cv style - i seem to have had some success with the following:

page 1:
- at the start, a list of every damn acronym they could be looking for.
- next, a list of skills with examples
- finally, contact details

page 2:
- employment history, supporting claims on front page

[on preview - i'm trying to do what vacapinta says - provide all the info they need at a single glance]

you can see examples at http://www.acooke.org/andrew/bio.html#cv (ignore the photo - that's a chilean thing that i don't like, but do anyway).

your cv, at least the web version (presumably you have a print version too) looks pretty good, but doesn't give a clear picture of your experience. it's not clear whether you have had a permanent job before, or are fresh out of college, for example.

another thing i do is produce a targetted cv for each job. this means mainly juggling the order of various things and maybe adding one skill instead of another. so that it appears that you know many things, but that you're particularly good at what *they* are looking for...

have you considered doing free charity work? it would give you a recent external website as an example link.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:51 AM on March 24, 2004

if you are sending out that url then this bit isn't doing you any favours : "There isn't much here. For a reason. That reason is laziness. When there's energy, there will be content."
posted by twine42 at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2004

There are a couple of comments I'd make on your CV. It's not really database friendly. It's got the hard skills keywords in there, but your soft skills keywords (managed! deployed! bang! pop! pow! ) just aren't there up front as your initial sentences are so passive. Sentences themselves aren't particularly database friendly. Bullet points, especially ones that are dictionary style (keyword: comment) tend to work much better for that sort of fast read/searching. Your employment section does this quite well, but it would be so far down the page, that the person viewing the results of their keyword search would potentially give up before they got there.

Plus, that link is on your CV. I'm not sure I'd hire a designer that thought what appears to be a naked village person was an appropriate background image for their resume.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:21 AM on March 24, 2004

I know quite a few people who've had more than 6 month unemployment terms recently, including myself (9 months), or my neighbor, who went over two years. Or my friend who was a Rhodes scholar who couldn't find stuff for months. Or my ex-girlfriend who speaks three European languages and has a degree in Finance and several years of real estate experience and couldn't find something. It's as much the job market, especially for web work, as it is any particulars about you.

So while I don't know how much specific advice I'd have about solving your problem, I'd say: don't take it too personally. I'd work to make sure you address any weak points in your resume. Do what you're doing here, network, ask people for ways to improve your presentation, write articles for ALA, do that cool project for fun that you've wanted to do a for a while... and maybe begin to train for some kind of work in another sector, in case things get worse. But don't get discouraged about yourself.
posted by weston at 8:03 AM on March 24, 2004

Have you considered a course on web applications? Not that you have to become a programming wizard, but it could give you an understanding into how dynamic content works on the web.....the point is, you may find it interesting AND there's no end of work in this area....an understanding in database/programming (and I emphasise "understanding") would put you out of the league of millions who do straight web design.

Looking at your resume, one obvious thing I noticed was the links to your personal website and e-mail were just text, not links.
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:07 AM on March 24, 2004

You know, you could always start your own consulting business. It's a great way to improve your contacts, it looks dynamite on your resume, and you'll be working, even if it's pro-bono.
posted by bshort at 8:49 AM on March 24, 2004

What, specifically do you want to be doing? I would edit down the cv, or even split it into 2: a Project Management/Editorial/Managerial one and a specifically skills-based one (Design/Developer/Webmonkey).

I've had to cull a lot of things from my resume, and split it--while a wide range of experience showed how well-rounded and jack-of-all(?)-trades I am, it's not at all of value to someone looking to fill a specific slot.
posted by amberglow at 9:04 AM on March 24, 2004

twine42 said it, but I second that an intriguing link at the bottom that only leads to "There isn't much here. For a reason. That reason is laziness." can't be doing you any good.
posted by whoshotwho at 9:37 AM on March 24, 2004

Put your web samples in case study format - with an emphasis on what problems you solved.

My degree is in music (most job applications don't even have "BM" as a checkbox, so I have to scribble it in!), so I had to sell myself damn hard when I was hunting for a web job. Putting my portfolio in case study format with a clear emphasis on problem solving and return on investment cinched me my job over folks with "real" degrees.

When I did my in-person interviews, I also brought a paper version of my portfolio - this was a real springboard for the conversation and helped me concentrate on the results I got for my clients, rather than my scant schooling credentials.

SpaceCadet brings up a good point - I've become a pseudo-programmer at my job. Though I don't write much ASP/VB code myself, I know enough about programming and DBs where I can design all a site's functionality and work with the programmers on every aspect of the site development. I propose DB fields, outline loops, if/thens, and any special math involved -- then they write it up in the proper syntax, as well as make their own refinements. At the same time, I develop the graphics and templates for the site's visual end.

Being able to think in terms of DB relations and programming conventions will put you a cut above the rest if you intend to stay mostly in the visual/graphic design side of web work. Graphically, there are folks much more talented than I, but I end up getting the big enterprise-level gigs because I've taken the time to learn how web programming (and programmers) works. Get close to a few programmers and they'll want you for every job & will usually be happy to give you referrals.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:41 AM on March 24, 2004

I'd also mention that you seem to have a naked man as your background.. While this may be a plus for some employers, it doesn't scream professional.

As everyone has mentioned before, the overall page has a 'blog' type of feel. I think a simple streamlining into more of a professional, cv type of look may draw the sort of attention you are looking for. It's not uncommon for people to make snap decisions based entirely on aesthetic.
posted by jazzkat11 at 9:43 AM on March 24, 2004

Amberglow's comment is a good one. Splitting up your current resume and cv into multiple resumes is basically a must-do in todays job market. A one shoe fits all resume is a disappearing breed. Rewrite your skills and experience using different language, and these days you must think keywords, keywords, keywords.

The first filter these days (besides the networking which is huge and well-covered above) is often an entry-level employee who is doing a keyword search on Monster, Hotjobs, etc. The more specific you make your resume, the higher the chance you'll make the first cut. It's a hassle to make multiple resumes but it will increase your odds of getting that first callback.
posted by jeremias at 9:49 AM on March 24, 2004

I've been told to never use "I" in a resume. That is to say, they're supposed to be written in the third person. Your "about" section doesn't seem appropriate for a resume. I would go with a summary--a good, meaty sentence about your skills, talents and obvious tenacity--in place of your "about" section. You can put all of the personal stuff in your letter of interest.

I love the blue background, but any online cv should be printable.

The advice above about bullet points is good. I would also put an extra hard return between each job and each degree, for ease of comprehension.

I disagree with the sentiment above about employers not caring about whether their sites are standards compliant. Since you can work with XHTML and CSS, you would be a great asset to any company that is forward-thinking about accessibility and extensibility. I'm not sure I could work for a company that didn't care about those things. Having those skills makes you a professional.

I also liked Sangre's idea about doing the case-study format for your samples. Emphasize how you listened to the client's needs, then solved problems or streamlined processes for them.

Finally, I just want to say hang in there! Whenever you don't get a job you applied for, your first response should be "may I ask why?" Keep track of the answers, you may notice a pattern.

disclaimer: I used to do resumes for people and have become an "accidental expert" of sorts on the hiring process due to the number of openings and potential candidates I've had to deal with. But I am in the USA, so YMMV.
posted by whatnot at 10:21 AM on March 24, 2004

Response by poster: I should've said above that the link to the CV I have on my website is not the CV I send out to people -- this one is a blend of my CV and what I end up scribbling into those big empty spaces on application forms.

So if a potential employer sees this, it's only after s/he's seen the proper application. But I'm definitely taking everyone's comments into thought on the main one I use, and I'm going to make it all pimptastic. As it were.

Also, derbs -- inbetween Sneinton and Netherfield and thankfully not in either.

And, thanks, whatnot -- it was good to get some esteem-boost on the XHTML/CSS thing -- I've discovered that a lot of the local councils and agencies around Nottingham are in desperate need of someone who can standardize and make everything accessible -- it would just be nice if they'd hire me.

And he's not naked! He's just doing construction! He's a good construction worker! It's okay, little construction worker guy -- I still love you!
posted by Katemonkey at 11:35 AM on March 24, 2004

Thank god for that , i was getting worried you'd gone off me.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2004

I just got a gig after 2.5 years of looking (hurrah for me!) and towards the end participated in a very useful group which, sadly, does not exist in England. However, I would pass on two tips.

On your CV, use bullet points that describe your job accomplishments in "results - solutions" format. For example, "Reduced costs for the IT department by GBP500K per annum by implementing a new online problem reporting system."

Network! Talk to people. Every person you know, and let them know you're job hunting. That's how I got this gig, which is by the way something I would not have expected to get because of no previous experience in storage technology. But my neighbor got a job, and she introduced me to one of her co-workers, who has a friend, whose friend is now my boss.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2004

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