Friday, November 19, 2010

Job hunting with social media

As you know, I have been job-hunting lately. And I've been thinking about the history of job-hunting... or at least my experience of it.

My first few jobs were part-time or holiday affairs while at school and drama school, and they were a case of word of mouth. I was advised by someone in the know that John Orr's was looking for holiday sales staff for the Christmas rush. I was advised that Communikon School of Performing Arts was looking for part-time drama teachers. I was advised that the provincial board needed adjudicators for drama eisteddfods. This was in the very late 70's and early 80's.

Once I graduated from drama school, and while I was waiting to be discovered by Hollywood (or at least the SABC), I found a couple of jobs in the small ads of the local newspaper. This was in the early 80's.

My first office job was found via newspaper ads, again. But this time, it was a feature ad. The same applied to my next office job.

In much the same way (feature ads in the newspaper), I found a job at a theatre agency in Cape Town, but I treat this one separately, because this job led to my getting a few photographic modelling assignments and a contract as a TV presenter (at which I sucked, royally).

During this phase, I met and married my husband. For a year after this, I tried and failed to find a steady, 'proper' job. Of course, my efforts were never enough to please the in laws, who felt that I was sponging off their son. This was in the late 80's, and my search consisted of cold-calling and responding to newspaper ads. It was soul-destroying. But I took every opportunity to upskill, and did run the occasional computer applications training course (as they were then known) during the dry spell. This was to prove the best move I'd ever made. After nearly a year, I finally landed a job working in a learning centre... and found my vocation. The company that had set up the learning centre was way ahead of its time for the market, and the initiative didn't take off. I found myself back on the job market within 16 months. But this time, I had built up something of a network and a reputation.

I went freelance. I tapped the network for opportunities, and they came. I worked as a freelance training consultant until we left South Africa, fitting my career around my children. During this time, I got to work with some of the big names of South African industry, as well as taking on ad hoc overflow work for specialist training organisations. I was offered a few chances to take full-time posts with some of my clients, but, with my husband's full support, I opted not to accept them. I will never regret having been able to be a hands-on Mom, even though it almost certainly impacted my career development.

When we arrived in the UK, in 1999, I took a year out to settle the family in to our new home. By the time I started job hunting again, it was via the local newspapers. I took a part time job at an FE college. We had pretty much decided that I would go back to work full time only once both our sons were in secondary school. However, I continued to scan the papers for opportunities. When a 'perfect fit' full time job came up earlier than expected, we decided to take the plunge. The office was 3 miles from home. I could make the trip in 7 minutes. Our kids were 11 and 9, and would be home alone for 1.5 hours each afternoon. We lived in a safe neighbourhood. This was 2002.

During this period, the Internet began to come into its own as a place to go job hunting. I found and applied for my next job via the world wide web. I felt so modern! This was 2005.

In 2008, the wheels fell off and I found myself at a crossroads. I decided to take the plunge and go back to being self-employed. But it had got a whole lot more complicated since my last shot at it. And I was under pressure to earn more, because our commitments had been based on what I had been earning while working for 'the man'. That was in 2008. I did look for alternatives, and didn't find a whole heck of a lot, so the Learning Anorak was launched.

Now that that venture is coming to an enforced close, I am job hunting again.... and it looks very different.

I have automated searches in place with several of the biggest recruitment agencies. Almost daily, there are jobs I can apply for. Sadly, as I have mentioned before, the first-line screeners are not the very clued up. They are utterly unable to identify that skills in X map across to requirements for Y. So I get turned down for a lot of jobs I could do blindfolded... sometimes within minutes of submitting my application.

I also check out the online vacancies pages of some of the organisations I am consciously targetting. This is a huge plus.

But I am also able to be far more pro-active than before. When I was job hunting way back in 1988/9, I was at a loss as to what else I could do. Other than cold-calling and responding to ads, what was there? Especially in a city in which I was unknown (ergo, no network). This time around, I have put feelers out across the network, which is global. I have made my position known on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I have written a blog post. And all of those have taken several hits.

The support from my beloved community, while thus far not yielding anything, has been enormously comforting. Harold Jarche even created a hashtag for me on Twitter (#YesYouShouldHireKaryn). Okay, so it didn't get a lot of take-up, but the fact is that he did it. It was a very kind gesture from someone who has become a real friend, even though we have never met face to face. This is the beauty of the network. And it didn't go unnoticed. Someone, a complete stranger to me tweeted something to the effect that he didn't know who this @karynromeis person was, but she must be worth hiring, based on the support she's getting from Twitter "big hitters".

I have had several job offers, actually, but all of them have been spam, bar one. The one genuine job offer I received was at a lower rate of pay than I was getting 5 years ago, and involved 3 hours of commuting time every day. It wasn't easy to pass up on the bird in hand, but I decided that I had to. The level of sacrifice by my whole family simply wouldn't be worth it. Fortunately, my incredible husband has been staunchly supportive. He simply will not have me sell myself short. He has always had more faith in me than I do in myself.

It remains to be seen if this method of job hunting yields something more quickly than previous methods have done.

Watch this space.


Rob Alton said...

Lower than 5 years ago - sounds familiar. I work in elearning and the rates/salaries are what they were 10-12 years ago. I don't know where they get this 'elearning is booming' from.

Chin up it IS very hard out there.

The upsycho said...

@Rob As of now, I have been job hunting on a full time basis for two months. I have had two job offers. I already mentioned one in this post. The other took place fairly recently. A woman phoned me from a recruitment agency to offer me a job in sales admin at slightly more than minimum wage, which is in turn slightly less than the hourly rate earned by 17 year old son at his part time job.

She hadn't read my CV, but the computer system had matched me to the role. This is because, the job I referred to as my first office job in the post above was in sales admin. It was also more than 25 years ago. It seems the system can match me to a job I did 25 years ago and haven't done since. But it can't match me to the job I have been doing for the past 21 years!

Rob Alton said...

I often wonder if those jobs on the various recruitmernt sites actually exist.

You seem pretty well connected in the l&d field and I'm astonished that none of your network has anything for you.

Perhaps we should move to Brighton! (although I am in work atm fortunately).