Learn The Job Search Game

Running Of The Bulls

So after spending a lot of time discussing the Dark Side Of Do What You Love, I’m going to focus on one more depressing subject right now: the recruiting mess.

Now let me preface this by noting that I’m going to defend recruiters. In my experience most recruiters are great people in a very challenging situation. As I often note if you think your job is awful, imagine having to interview twenty or thirty people like you in a week and you get the idea. For extra spice, imagine what kind of other bad decisions they have to put up with.

So I’m not going to diss them.

But let us be honest, the process of finding a job sucks. It’s not fun. It’s challenging, and unless you get into it (as some of us do), it’s painful. It’s why I keep writing and speaking on it.

And here’s something you need to do.

You need to learn the game.

Informatively Awful

I follow recruiting news and information as much as I can. It might be news for the tech industry (which I work in), layoff trends and business trends (such as http://consumerist.com/), and personal blogs and newsletters on work trends. I also talk to recruiters and HR people as much as possible.

I want to learn the rules of the game because I’m a working guy and I need to be aware.  Well, that and I share it with you.

And you should do the same. Because right now there’s no real guide out there saying “this is what sucks and this is how you deal with it.” There is no one perfect job search book, not even mine. There is certainly no plan to explain the pitfalls out there – we may not even know they’re there.

No, I and all my fellow job bloggers don’t have all the answers – if one of us gets all the answer’s we will be unto a god – and land a great book deal. I don’t see a lot of shrines to me right now.

So your goal if you are any kind of professional is to know not just your industry, but to know how you get a job and how you play the game out there – because there is a game. Someone’s finding jobs and it may not be you.

It Will Hurt

And yes, it’ll hurt. Because you will have to confront a lot of unpleasant truths that say things about your life, your career, your culture, and you.

Take it from a guy in Silicon Valley. You know all those horror stories you hear? Well many are exaggerated, but trust me we know we’ve got all sorts of problems here, from age bias to sexism to weird pay gaps, to education issues. We’re actually more aware of it down here than many realize, more working to deal with it than many think.

Worse, you’ll have to confront what it means about yourself. Are you part of the problem? Are you going to be a victim of the problems? Are you more ignorant than you want to admit? Are you making things worse?

You may be part of the problem. But at least you’ll know and can stop it.

But You Need It To Survive

So you learn the game of finding a job, of what it takes. You need to read up on it, watch how your job search goes, talk to friends. Because if you want to survive, you’ve got to beat a system that probably isn’t in your favor – and for that matter may not be in anyone’s favor.

If you work in an industry where everyone complains about recruiting, you know what I mean. I guess you do – everyone complains, no one fixes it.

So, time to play the game. Learn the tricks, learn what not to do, learn what you’re facing, learn the bigotry, learn the foolishness.

Sorry. But that’s the way it is in the economy.

How You Do It

So how do you learn the game you face in recruiting?

  • Talk to recruiters. Make friends with them. Help them. When you’re interacting and helping them you learn how it works. That’s taught me a lot (and is why I’m so sympathetic)
  • Read industry news – and not just the abstract numbers stuff. Dig deep. Someone out there is clearly complaining about problems, you just have to find the people talking about dark truths. Sure there’s gossip, but it may lead you to real stories – I even learned things from anti-Silicon Valley writing.
  • Look for people who write on careers from a personal level (like yours truly). We’ll share on-the-ground advice.
  • Watch your own job search experiences. What did you learn? That’s how I learned my more uninhibited interviewing styles worked – people synced up with me easier, we knew if I was right for the job easier, and people were glad not to be bullshitted.
  • Talk to people about their experiences. That’s taught me a lot about bigotry in some industries, and is especially useful for getting out of your comfort zone. It’s how I learned that “evolving” versus “re-inventing” yourself sounds different to people depending on context.
  • Read books. Look some are B.S. but if you know how a good job search works, then you can also note where the rules break down. That’s where you learn.

Finally you dedicate yourself to doing it. Because it’s how you get ahead, how you survive, and how you beat problems in the system.

It may also be how you fix them.

I Wish It Was Different

Of course I wish the job market was different for people. I recall different times. I didn’t even think of being the Geek Job Guru until I saw so much unused talent, and that led me into being more aware of the job search’s issues and issues that got worse over the years.

But it sucks.

So let’s do what we can.

But first, let’s have you learn the rules. Then maybe you can share them.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.