Many jobseekers spend a great deal of time applying for job postings hoping that their fine-tuned resumes will land them the job of their dreams, or at least a job--or if nothing else, an interview. Their efforts often go unnoticed, their applications unanswered, and they hardly ever find out why. On the other hand, others are landing jobs even when they are not looking. Phenomena such as these are realities of life and career building. However, they are usually not included in the narrative that career advisors tell.
The purpose of this post is to shed light on the untold portion of the job search narrative.
Narrative Assumes Ideal Conditions And Denies All Variables Except One--The Job Seeker
Career counseling is built on many incomplete claims predominantly focused on how things "should" be, but not how they really are. The narrative generally disregards all variables except the job seeker. It assumes fair and transparent application processes that meet industry standards, that every application is considered equally and that the people processing the applications are doing their jobs competently. Career advisors' narratives usually do not consider the political environments in which hiring takes place or possible shortcomings of the persons involved.
Formality To Claim Transparency
Many jobs are posted merely to claim transparency. Some of the best jobs don't even get posted. They are filled through networks. Additionally, some jobs that are posted don't get filled for financial or other reasons. Subsequently, interviews are often not what they appear to be. Interviews are more about chemistry than content. Assuming that a candidate is interviewing for an actual open position, the necessary impressions are usually made within few seconds.
Regardless of the facts, career advisors continue to claim that one can write the "winning resume" and conduct the "winning interview." Naturally, one can optimize a resume to a level that can lead to an interview. However, that can take days or weeks. Additionally, since an interview does not always mean that one is being considered for an opening, it does not necessarily increase the chances of landing a job significantly; particularly since jobs can also be filled without an interview.
Last but not least, employers are looking for the best fit, not for candidates with the highest credentials or most sophisticated skill set. The message that more education and a better skill set increases the chances of landing a job has little do to with facts.
Testing And Extensive Planning
The way one's career develops has little to do with what one went to school for, envisioned, or carefully planned. Careers generally result from coincidence. Regardless of these facts, job seekers are told to endure extensive career testing and planning, or they are asked to create artificial networks that seldom lead to more than frustration. They are given tests that allegedly determine which careers a particular individual would excel in and be a good fit for based on his or her skills and interests, as if the individual would not excel in other careers as much, or as if being a "good fit" at a job would simply be a result of the role one plays instead of a complex string of factors that depend on various personal and job-related variables.
Obtaining Opportunities--"Who You Know, Not What You Know"
Obtaining opportunities is one of the most crucial aspects of a career. Opportunities are not necessarily determined by hard work, qualifications or skills, but by the chemistry one has with the hiring manager or someone with influence over the selection process. Career advisors rarely mention this or that superior qualifications and skills can, in fact, even halt one's career by intimidating some decision makers.
People who are aware that they have received opportunities fairly easily claim that they were given an opportunity, but they had to work hard to excel in it, disregarding the fact that this is exactly what differentiates them from the others: They were given the opportunity to "work hard," to showcase their skills while others were not, even though some others may have been equally, or more qualified.
Opportunities are often spur of the moment events--coincidences. They are mainly determined by, as the saying goes, "who you know, not what you know." Obtaining an opportunity is, for some, the most challenging, and for others, the easiest part of their careers. The best job fits are the ones that one "falls into" without too much effort or force.
Future Of Work--Fewer Employment Opportunities
Hope should be encouraged. However, hope based on inaccurate perceptions can encourage individuals to waste their efforts on unrealistic outcomes. When job seekers believe the way careers develop is solely up to them, they work harder. They feel more powerful. Such positive thinking is more likely to translate into positive outcomes, and some people will excel as a result of the positive and empowering messages. However, the opposite can be detrimental and more people are likely to be affected by the negative outcomes than the positive ones because traditional employment opportunities are limited and becoming rarer, and the quality of existing opportunities are deteriorating. Even white collar work in the 21st century is industrialized (similar to blue collar work at production facilities), leaving little room for creativity. To maximize profits, employers are working to specialize and systemize work through uniformity even more. Lacking ethics and integrity in leadership levels that most people are familiar with encourages further deterioration of the white collar workplace, meaning traditional employment, as attractive as it can be, is not necessarily always a desirable one.
Disproportionately Large Applicant Pools Benefit Employers, Not Necessarily Individuals Or Society
It is in employers' interest that career advisors--backed by schools, universities--continue to claim the "winning resume" or "winning interview" narrative because the narrative helps maintain a wide applicant pool. However, with a few exceptions, disproportionately large applicant pools also indicate oversupply of human capital and shortage of work--quality work, to be specific. Employers can pick and choose from a pool of highly qualified candidates while offering less and less. At some point, they can offer so little that many workers cannot even meet basic living expenses in spite of full-time work.
It Is Critical That Job Seekers Know The Truth About Hiring Processes
The truth about hiring processes must be told because an accurate perception of the situation can help applicants make more educated choices. Instead of wasting much of their energy and time to get hired by someone, they may find other avenues to maximize their potential. Naturally, they can still continue to apply for jobs selectively, however, while investing more energy into starting their own businesses or doing other creative work. Additionally, when individuals stop being dependent on others to hire them, and instead, start their own ventures, "everyone" benefits. Individuals benefit as they are able to explore their talents and skills, and are more likely to succeed authentically; businesses benefit from more competition and society sees a better offering of services. Career advisors can contribute to better outcomes by telling the full story of how careers are made so that job seekers can make better choices.