Apr 17, 2012

HigherEd webinar: seven steps to a better job search

Just listened to the "first-ever webinar geared toward higher education job seekers" by a "job search guru" Peter Weddle at HigherEd jobs. Even though it wasn't actually geared toward job search in academia at all, some of it still might be useful. Peter Weddle suggests to practice career activism as a new approach to job search. According to him, the usual horrors of the existing job market, such as biased selections, inept recruiters, employers behaving badly, and a bad economy are not what makes it difficult to find a job. The problems are a) that there are too many applicants with too few jobs and b) that there is a new definition of a qualified candidate - not just meeting the requirements (i.e., doing the job), but excelling at work (i.e., doing the job + making a contribution). To succeed in this environment, one needs to adopt a new persona of a career activist with the following seven steps:

  1. Come out of the past's boxes - see yourself as a person of talent, as somebody who has the capacity for excellence; to do this one needs to discover one's talent.
  2. Adopt a new workplace paradigm - career and education are not a destination, they are a journey.
  3. Modify your "brand" - revise your CV so that it looks as a work-in-progress (change "objective" to "contribution"; in addition to responsibilities described in previous jobs add "knowledge I've acquired")
  4. Modify your behavior - networking is not about acquiring connections, but about building relationships
  5. Pick right employers - look for career advancement opportunities, not just any jobs, research employers at glassdoor.com, vault.com or jobitorial.com
  6. Excel at online job search - use multiple sites that focus on your industry and location (employmentwebsites.org)
  7. Practice self-management - career fitness is similar to physical fitness, you have to work on it every day to maintain career "muscles": build your expertise and keep it up to date, maintain your networks, be multidimensional (core expertise plus additional skills and knowledge), increase your flexibility, work with suitable employers, apply your talents to the good of others, learn to rest (a.k.a life/work balance)

So what is useful here? Probably, the idea that you need to constantly work on how your present yourself. Not just tailoring your application materials (btw. CVs usually don't have "objective" and "previous job description" sections), but revising your own understandings of what you do, what it means, and to what and how it contributes. The ideas of a career as a "work-in-progress" and a journey, etc. are not very useful. Such ideas are part of working on an advanced degree, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. If most of us already see our careers as a journey (a long journey through learning, knowledge, self-discipline, method, and so on), then what makes each one of us different and unique? A set of skills. Which kind of takes us back to the "destination/normal distribution" approach.