Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Job Reality

Seth Godin has two posts (one and two) about the current state of the job market.  From his first post:

1. The traditional way to get a job is to send a boring resume in response to as many posted jobs as you can afford. Your resume will be scanned, culled and if it doesn't stand out too much, a person might look at it.

Then you go for a job interview and try to be coglike in your malleability and desire to fit in. If random acts are working in your favor, you get the job.

2. Then, the big Fortune 1000 company that hired you complains that all their people act like cogs, don't care enough, aren't creative in solving problems and don't push the status quo.

3. Then, the big Fortune 1000 company realizes that as long as they've got interchangeable cogs, they ought to just move jobs offshore, cause that's cheaper


3.a. The company doesn't do that, succumbs to Wall Street pressure and either cheats (and gets caught and tanks) or doesn't cheat (and gets bought or folded and tanks).

Even worse in this process is that many big companies will not let employees give recommendations to anyone anymore; you can verify length of employment, dates of employment, and whether the employee is eligible for rehire.  Any other comments that you make could potentially open the company up to litigation.  So it's best to build a network of people that are willing to provide glowing endorsements without fear of litigation.

Seth continues:

It turns out that 100% of all job growth is now coming from small (under 500 person) companies. In fact, the big companies are shedding jobs, not adding them.

Also true: more likely than not, the best jobs, the most interesting jobs and the most secure jobs happen in small organizations.

Do you remember the vibe and feel and energy of the startups in the 90s?  Where everyone had an Aeron chair?  Where every minute of work that was done was directly contributing to the value of the company and therefore to the value of the stock or options?  People had a lot of fun at those jobs and made a lot of money.  The jobs weren't necessarily the most secure, but a lot of those people are still working in jobs at small companies that we have not yet heard of; still having fun, still doing interesting things.

In the second post, Seth asks and answers:

. . . what's wrong with the current system?

In my experience, little companies are rarely so organized that they know just what slot to fill, what to call that slot and who to hire for that slot. In all the fast-growing companies I've encountered, a new job is just that... new. More often than not, companies bump into someone cool and find a job for them. Or, even more likely, they see someone really cool at ANOTHER company, wish they had that person and invent a job that they hope someone like that will fill.

So what is the new medium for finding really skilled, genuinely intelligent, enthusiastic people?  I don't think that the traditional resume really fits the bill.  Maybe you evaluate people based on their blog -- look at what interests them, look what they write about, read their opinions.  Job titles in resumes can be nebulous and it's hard to document everything that you do in a position, especially if you are "following the rules" and keeping your resume to 1 or 2 pages.

Maybe we stop following the rules.  Maybe we need to start publishing our resumes as Flash animations.  Maybe we need to write songs about ourselves.  Maybe we should present ourselves in the setting of a fable.  Maybe we stop using bullet points and just tell our stories.

Of course all of the above is predicated on the small companies hiring "talent acquisition" people rather than "HR" people.  Part of the change has to occur on the company side.  Because if we are forced to look like cogs to get in, why would you expect us to act any differently?

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