Clues To Why You're Not Landing A Job

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Why aren't you landing the next great job? The answer varies for each of us, but clues are sometimes obvious when seen from a distance. Below are some comments received on past blog posts, that when reviewed provide some insights. If you share some of the feelings expressed in each comment, feedback after each comment may help correct some of the misconceptions. Take a look at the comments, and see how you might react if you were in an employer's shoes.

Comment: "... Even someone who has some college, no drug usage, no arrests, no tattoos, gets paid the same here who is a HS drop out, smokes pot all day, has a few arrests, and is tattooed and pierced from head to toe. $8.25 hr! "

Degrees matter. Attitude matters. Comparisons don't. "Some college" is not a college degree, and in most cases is no better than just a high school degree. There are many values to a degree. One of them is a demonstration that the person can start and finish something. A two-year associate's degree counts far more than some college at a four-year school.

These days, dress codes vary by the job. It's not the 1950s anymore, and employers look for employees who match their culture. Someone with tats who is talented in a specific aspect of work and wants to do the job is far more appealing to an employer than someone who feels entitled to a higher salary just for having "some college." When you see someone gainfully employed who seems less qualified than you, it's time to ask yourself if you're valuing the same qualifications as the potential employer. You may be valuing your "some college" level of education, while they're valuing attitude and a person's potential ability to meaningfully connect with desired customers.

Comment: "Most of the job fairs I attended ... The people behind the booth are not decision makers and are instructed to tell you to apply online, which is a complete waste of time. Why the hell get dressed up to hear that?"

Ladders have rungs. A job hunt is very similar to a career. It takes consistent steps up a ladder. A job fair is a low rung on the ladder, but it's a rung. And it's true that the people at a fair are rarely the hiring managers. Fairs, most often, are staffed by HR people.

A job hunt always starts with getting through various layers to get to the hiring manager, including the HR department, computer screen, or the boss's administrative assistant. If you're not willing to start working the layers, you're not likely to get to the hiring manager.

In many companies today, online applications are required by company policy. That's why the fair representative will both take your resume and tell you to apply online. They are giving you info on how the company works. But after a fair, it's not uncommon for an HR person to go back to the online applications and then pull the resume of fair attendees to give to a hiring manager.

Why get dressed for a job fair or any aspect of a job hunt? Because appearance matters, both for the people you may meet, but more importantly for your own self-confidence. If putting on a suit makes you feel vulnerable, then just dress business casual--but dress up to some degree. It's as important for you as it is for the first impression you give to anyone you may meet who can have the lead for the next great job opportunity.

Comment: "For over 30 years I was/am a dedicated, highly skilled, current on new technology and education. My work ethic is impeccable. Two years ago I was "let go due to lack of work" and a new graduate, family friend moved right into my chair. All my patients were told I retired, but that is not true. I was fired due to my age."

Connections count. Age discrimination exists, but there are other factors. In this case, the person was replaced by a "family friend," and relationship trumps many things. It's the same with landlords. A landlord can evict a renter at any time when a family member needs the space. The same protocol exists in the workplace. Is it fair? No. It is reality.

The lesson should be to make sure your contacts are yours and not just your employers. It's the reason many people make sure to connect via Facebook, LinkedIn, or exchange emails. Service professionals such as hair dressers are good at this, and do themselves and their customers a favor as customers are equally distraught when a favored provider leaves a company with no way to follow them.

Employers value employees who have a following. This is proven by comments received, rave reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor, and criticisms when a person leaves. In the sales profession, salespeople call it "having a book," and companies like to hire sales representatives with strong books. Ironically, the older sales pros have the strongest books and are the least likely to be let go. To protect yourself, make sure your customers know who you are and how to get in touch with you so your following is really yours and not the company's.

Comment: "I just graduated from _______ and finished my 160 hours of externship. All the jobs I look at wanted two years experience; how am I going to get experience if no one will hire me? I graduated top of my class and have great references."

Degrees aren't guarantees. Many graduates learned this the hard way, especially from 2008-2013. If the jobs aren't there, no amount of degrees can help you land a job that just doesn't exist. Experience always trumps degrees, and it has always been a challenge for young people to get a toe-hold.

Here's where temp jobs and internships--paid or free--can help. The point is to work at something relevant to your chosen profession, so being an admin in a doctor's office at base pay can be a better fit for an aspiring hygienist, for example, than a higher-paying waitressing job. In the first, you'll make connections within the field, and be exposed to potential job listings before others. In the latter, you may be making more money in the short-term, but are out of the loop in your industry.

Comment: "One day the new owner called me in and said, "I'm thinking about firing you." I said, "it's your foot...shoot it if you like. If you think you can find someone that can do all the different duties that I do in a company that's so specific you WILL NOT find anyone else in town with any direct experience in this field, GO FOR IT!"

No one is irreplaceable. This mantra has been in all business books well before this latest recession. Thinking you're irreplaceable is rarely true and a type of poor attitude that employers and colleagues rarely appreciate or desire. In any job, if a new manager or owner appears, it's a warning sign to be nice, not testy. New owners want players willing to be on the team.

I was once fired and talked myself back into the position, but not by challenging the employer to do the dirty deed. Instead, I made a reasoned case on why my job and my skills were important. I recognized the employer's right not to choose me, but noted that I wanted him to be fully informed about my background and projects before cutting the cord. I was not fired, but the job did disappear six months later. Meanwhile I had new insight into my employer's mindset and a solid clue to start looking for a new position. Once an employer is considering cutting a position the odds are the cost cut will be made at some point in time. But by threatening an employer to make the decision, his decision just got easier.

Attitude, experience, and degrees count, whether we like to admit it or not. The person with the bad attitude on the job is likely to be the person with the bad attitude on the unemployment line as well.
The job market, like life, is not fair. You can play the victim or meet the challenge. There is no doubt that job hunting is a challenge, but negativity doesn't help. How you approach the market, your boss, or any of life's challenges is deeply personal, but sometimes it helps to take a step back and consider how you appear or present yourself to others. The reflection is not always the pretty picture you might desire.
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