The Hilarity of the Bloated Job Description

If you’ve ever searched for a job online, you’ve seen it: the thousand word job description. You know the one with the sixty bullet points detailing all the expertise the employer is looking for. Applying for a job like that scares the hell out of me for fear that they actually mean it.

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FreeImages.com/Hamidreza Ahmadi

It’s as if the job requirement was written by someone who was going to be water boarded if they overlooked anything. Whether such a person actually exists who meets all the requirements is another story. And of course they invariably leave out the most important requirement: that your eyes not roll back into your head when you read the job description.

I once came across a job listing for a program manager requiring a minimum of 18 years of experience. Really? Who comes up with these numbers? If I needed brain surgery and my doctor told me she had only been performing brain surgery successfully for five years, I’d let her operate. But I need 18 years of practice to construct a Gantt chart?

I think the job boards should start charging employers by the word, with an accelerated fee schedule over a certain limit. A thousand word job posting should require the approval of the board of directors. They need a good laugh too.

Dear employer. We get it. The job has a hundred different little tasks we might be called on to perform. Guess what? Every job does. But that’s not why you’re hiring us.

There reality is that there are two or three really important skills or experiences you’re looking for. If we don’t have them, there’s no way your hiring us. And if we are the best around at those, you’ll pretty much overlook everything else. That’s what goes in the job description.

You’re welcome for the free advice. Now, you looking for any writers?

 

 

I Wish The Resume Would Die – An Open Letter

Dear Resume,

Do not take this personally, but I wish you would die. Not once in my career have you ever really helped me get a job. I know that because there is not a single position I have ever held that I was fully qualified for on the day I started. I did not have everything they were looking for and you made damn well sure they knew it. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to find companies and hiring managers who saw beyond your limited abilities and gave me a chance in spite of you. And I feel confident in saying that all of them were glad they did.

The problem, Resume, is that you can only see in one direction: backwards. In that regard, you are like a history book. You are fine at documenting what I have done, but you stink at estimating what I am capable of.

You are exceptionally good at pointing out some software program I have never used, or some skill I have yet to demonstrate, even though I have quickly learned to use dozens of new programs and rapidly assimilated many new skills over the course of my career, and could certainly do so again if need be.

You are no longer a tool, but a hurdle. A hurdle I have to get over to help a company who can really benefit from my service. Today, the only thing you care about, Resume, is keywords. You can literally prevent me from helping some company by the simple omission of a single phrase. That is some mighty influence you wield.

I bet on the day he started Microsoft, you would have prevented Bill Gates from getting a job at IBM. You would have succinctly let IBM know, in that way that only you can, that young Mr. Gates clearly did not have what it takes to work there. Well, you know what he was good enough to do then? Start a business that would go on to dwarf IBM. See, you are lousy at measuring potential, and that is why you need to go.

I do not know what should replace you Resume, I only know it is time for you to leave. You have been around for over 500 years. You have done your job. Kudos to you. Now just sail off into retirement and let somebody find a replacement for you.

R.I.P. Resume.

Regards,

21st Century Worker

How to Start Your Life Over in a New City

About five weeks ago my wife and I moved from Southern California to Austin, Texas to start our new life—no jobs, no family and no friends. We are truly starting from zero. But it isn’t too bad because we are taking some very-well thought out steps to ramp up our new life here quickly.

Goodbye LA.

DSCN1818Step 1: The first thing we did was make a list of friends of friends and other acquaintances we could reach out to once we arrived. If you are moving to a new city there is a chance people you know in your old city know people in your new city. Of course a lot of that depends on what city you are moving to. In our case, Austin is a pretty cool city, so we had about a half dozen names on our friends of friends and acquaintances list.

Hello Texas.

DSCN1875Not long after we arrived we reached out to these friends of friends and acquaintances to see if we could meet them. I have to admit it is a pretty awkward thing to do. After all, these people are total strangers. And I would love to tell you that all of them dropped what they were doing to respond to our unsolicited invites, but that is not the truth. Most never responded, which is okay. I did not take it personally. They have their lives in place and we are just strangers trying to intrude. It did not hurt to try, and a couple of them did agree to meet us, including our real estate agent. She told us that she enjoys wine tasting, as do we. So, now we have agreed to plan a wine tasting trip to the local vineyards in the near future. A new friend in place? Check.

Step 2. I joined every Austin-based LinkedIn group that interested me. Since I will probably need a job someday and I am an entrepreneur at heart, those are the groups I focused on. Fortunately, LinkedIn makes it very easy to find these groups. Here is a list of some of the groups I joined.

• Austin Job Seekers
• Connected in Austin
• Door64 (for high tech professionals)
• LinkedIn Local Austin
• Network in Austin
• Relocating to Austin
• The Austin Entrepreneur Network

I fixed my settings for these groups to receive daily email updates. Many of these groups sponsor networking events, which I want to know about in a timely manner.

Step 3. I joined every Austin-based Meetup group that interested me. In some ways Meetup is better than LinkedIn because all of the Meetups are live events, and attending live events is essential if your goal is to actually meet new people.

Many Meetups occur once a month. That means if you sign up for enough Meetups you have something interesting to do every week. In addition to entrepreneurship, I chose Meetups for activities my wife and I like to do together like hiking, wine tasting, and of course, eating. Here is a list of some of the Meetups I signed up for.

• Local Austin LinkedIn Networking
• Austin Inventors and Entrepreneurship Association
• California Transplants in Round Rock (seriously)
• North Austin Hiking Meetup
• Central Texas Foodies
• Secret Dinning Super Clubs in Austin
• Eagles Nest Austin (a Philadelphia Eagle’s fan club, seriously)

Step 4. I attend at least two live events every week. So far I have met at least a dozen nice people, all of whom I have added to my LinkedIn network, and all of whom I expect to see again in the future at other events. I even met a man who introduced me to two executive recruiters in the Austin area for my area of expertise. We really hit it off as fast friends. I think that he and his wife and me and my wife will go out for dinner after the holidays. My wife even met a woman who is an executive recruiter for her area of expertise when we went to watch an Eagles’ game at a local pub. Our network seems to be coming together nicely.

Step 5. To balance out all the networking, I decided to do some volunteer work. There is no better way to fully immerse yourself in your new chosen city than to volunteer some of your time. The opportunities I am considering include mentoring troubled teens and working in hospice care. I have not actually done any volunteer work yet, but I do expect to after the holidays. The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities in any city is through VolunteerMatch, Idealist.org and Craigslist.

Step 6. Finally, the last thing my wife and I have been doing to ease the transition to our new city is to treat every day with a sense of adventure. There are not many advantages to starting your life over in a new city, but one of them is that everything is new, which means you can make it as adventurous and fun as you want. So far, we have gone on multiple hikes, waited 3½ hours in line for barbecue and shot pistols for the first time at a shooting range. It is all what you make it.

Starting life over in a new city is a challenge, but it does not have to be intimidating. There are plenty of ways to quickly meet new people. They won’t all become life-long friends, but a few will. And before you know it, our new city will no longer be our new city. It will be our home.

 

 

 

The Most Important Question You Will Ever Be Asked

The unemployment rate is high; nobody really knows how high. But I bet the employment dissatisfaction rate is even higher. How many people truly love their job? Can’t wait to go to work? Would do it for free? Turns out, not that many. Less than half.

I am sure there are many contributing factors to this statistic, but one of the most influential is the understanding that few people plan out their life, and even less have the courage to correct course midstream. Back when I was in the real estate industry I used to joke that nobody goes into real estate, then end up in real estate. That is probably how it is with most people. By some combination of random events and aptitude tests they ended up where they ended up. They got hooked on the paycheck and have been there ever since.

 

But I think it is worse than that. I think the dream inside most people is dead (or extremely dormant). Knowing what they know now, how many people would know exactly what choice to make if given another chance? Would you know what path to take if you were given another shot? So, here is the question, the most important one most people will ever have to answer, and one most people have never given a second thought.

At the end of each pay period you take home a certain amount of money. Imagine that exact amount of money—no more and no less—showed up in your bank account every pay period BUT, you did not have to go to work. How would you spend your days?

Unlike the “What would you do if you won the lottery?” question, this one does not improve you life financially one bit. You are in the same house with the same car wearing the cloths and taking the same vacations. No around-the-world cruises for you. Just the chance to spend your days differently. How would you do it?

Now for the tough love part. If you can answer that question, really answer it, honestly, and know it is the truth, then that is how you should be spending your days right now! My suspicion is that most people cannot answer that question because they just have not given it that much thought. As you grow older you become aware of this extremely unfair exchange of time for money. You give up this very valuable and very scarce (and getting scarcer) commodity called time in exchange for a very abundant commodity of increasingly questionable value called money. And then you realize that you are here for a purpose and not fulfilling that purpose is the biggest mistake of all. And time is running out.

If you do not know the answer to that question I suggest you get busy. And if you do know the answer then you need to get even busier, migrating from the life you have to the life you choose.

Do You Suffer from Sunday Night Syndrome?

Imagine it is Sunday evening: not too early, not too late, mid-evening. You start to feel it. It is familiar to you because you feel it around this time every Sunday evening. It starts  small: a vague feeling of unhappiness. You try to ignore it—it is barely noticeable at first. But over the course of the evening, it continues to grow until you cannot ignore it (or deny it) any longer. You are depressed. It may not be one of the medically recognized depression types, but its symptoms are just as real: pervasive sadness, loss of appetite and difficulty falling or staying asleep

There are two sources of unhappiness you can experience from a job: systemic and inherent. Systemic unhappiness is caused by attributes of your job that have nothing to do with how you spend your day. Maybe you hate your commute, or you hate your boss, or your co-workers, or you do not make enough money. You can actually have systemic unhappiness and still enjoy your job. Systemic unhappiness does not cause Sunday Night Syndrome. What you need to if you experience systemic unhappiness in your job is to find the same job—if the one you have makes you happy—only with different circumstances. You need to change the source of the systemic unhappiness.

The Sunday Night Syndrome, on the other hand, is inherent to your job. It is unhappiness you experience as a result of how you spend your day. The feeling, deep inside, that you are wasting your time, your are unfulfilled, and this is not why you are here. You are selling out for a paycheck and it is taking its toll.

I experienced Sunday Night Syndrome back in the late 80s. That is when I coined the term. I had been working at Hughes Aircraft Company (now Raytheon) as an engineer for nine years by then. My first five years there were great because I was a design engineer. It was a time before PCs, so I spent my days in a lab with an oscilloscope and a soldering iron making things, and it was fun. Then they promoted me to project engineer. I suppose they called it project engineer because manager of minutia was already taken. To make matters worse, we were over-staffed. I used to joke that we had twenty thousand people doing the work of ten thousand. That was back in the days of Cost-Plus military contracts when a bigger payroll meant bigger profits. So, even if I did not have viable work to do for forty hours a week, I still contributed to the bottom line. To say I was bored would be an understatement.

There is only so much unfulfilling boredom you can take before your body lets you know something is wrong. You can lie to everyone else, but not to yourself. The overwhelming feeling of depression you face every Sunday night at the thought of going to work the next day can morph into self-loathing. You hate yourself for the situation you are in because you know two things beyond doubt: your choices are the reason it is happening and you are the only one who can get you out of it.

I knew I had to get out, but I was not the kind of person to just quit a job without something to fall back on. I found a compromise. I requested a six month leave of absence (without pay) and it was granted. I suppose my managers at that time also knew we had too many workers, so granting me the leave of absence was probably a relief to them. I was single, with no bills, modest rent and a few bucks in the bank, so I could afford to go six month without a paycheck. In my mind, I had just quit my job, with the option to return.

The first thing I did during my leave of absence was to get part time job tutoring math. It got me out of the house and the money helped. That part time job morphed into a full time job tutoring. I was not making nearly as much as I had been in engineering, but I made enough to get by, and more importantly, I was no longer suffering from Sunday Night Syndrome. And when my six months were up, I confirmed what my managers back at Hughes Aircraft already suspected: I was not coming back, ever.

When I was working at Hughes as an engineer, what I really wanted to do was sales engineering, but I was thwarted at every turn. I suffered from the classic Catch-22: I could not get a job as a sales engineer without sales experience. Having not been born with sales experience, I was stuck.

After a year of tutoring I tried my luck again at seeking employment as a sales engineer. This time I was fortunate to find a company that was willing to train me—no prior sales experience needed. The job had three requirements: 1) had to be an engineer—check; 2) had to have contacts within Hughes Aircraft (they would be my customer)—check; 3) had to have not worked at Hughes for at least one year (that was the rule for selling into Hughes)—check, check, check.

By quitting my job I had unwittingly set events in motion to create an opportunity for myself I could not possibly have foreseen at the time. I got what I thought I wanted by giving up what I knew for certain I did not.

I am not going to tell you to quit your job—not in this economy. But I will tell you that life is short, and if you suffer from Sunday Night Syndrome then you are paying a dear price for whatever it is you think your job is giving you. All I can do is leave you with the famous quote from Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement speech:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”