What’s the best part about being out of work?
When you’re no longer out of work. Obviously, getting hired was the highpoint of my recent job search. That aside, throughout my journey from unemployment to becoming Texas’ newest cowboy, I went through a range of experiences, some great, most mediocre, some far from great, and one that shocked me so much—and really, almost nothing surprises me since Nov. 8, 2016—that I can barely talk about it to this day.
Who am I kidding? I love talking about it!
I love talking about a whole bunch of things that happened to me as I zigzagged through a process that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Who am I kidding? Of course I would!)
I could go on and on about the highs and the lows of my unemployment escapade, but instead, let me tell you about a couple of incidents at both extremes.
Here’s the best (aside from my candidacy with my current employer): During interviews, I like to ask the person across from me a simple question: “What would failing at this job look like?” It’s a nice way to get the interviewer to view things with a somewhat slanted perspective.
Respondents tend to cite a smorgasbord of quantifiable and qualifiable results. “Results” being the key word. So when I asked the question of L’Teisha Ryan, Aetna’s senior director of enterprise communications, she replied:
“You’re failing if you’re coming to work unhappy.”
That’s all. She didn’t attach qualifiers. She didn’t mention results. She didn’t reference herself, or the job, or the department, or the company. What’s more, her response seemed genuine because it was instant. L’Teisha didn’t recline in her chair, arms crossed behind her head, and repeat what I asked or say anything like, “That’s a good question. Hmmm…” in an attempt to buy time to cook up an answer—honest or otherwise—geared to impress me.
She impressed me because she made it about me. Her answer was powerful in its focus and simplicity. And it was the right one. No one defines your own success but you.
Look around at everyone you know who earns more than you, produces more and better results than you, is smarter than you, is better-looking than you, writes wittier blog posts than you.
Are they more successful than you? Maybe. You don’t know. I don’t know. They don’t know. That’s because the answer depends on whose yardstick you use—yours, theirs, or that of some $50K-per-session motivational speaker.
Ultimately, every individual is his own success barometer.
Furthermore, to argue that someone is successful but unhappy is to misunderstand both notions. Success does not determine happiness. Happiness doesn’t lead to success. The two concepts aren’t even intertwined. They are the same. Thankfully, L’Teisha recognized this, and I truly hope you will, too.
(Come on! Those words of wisdom were worth at least $50,000, right? Maybe give or take a few zeros? You just got them for free! You’re welcome.)
So thank you, L’Teshia, for giving me one of the best moments of my job search. You didn’t hire me in the end, but hey, we all make mistakes in life! No matter, though, I landed a great job elsewhere, and, as it turns out, your employer is my health insurer.
Meanwhile, hiring managers and recruiters: Want to give people a great candidate experience? Think about how you can infuse L’Teisha’s reply and its meaning into your own talent-acquisition efforts.
Now for the worst: As part of an interview process, after meeting with the hiring manager, I came in to speak with a director with whom I’d be working. (I threw in her title only because at her level, she should especially know better.) The moment we greeted each other, I sensed something awry. Like, girlfriend, would it kill you to smile and at least fake that you’re eager to talk to me?
Things got even weirder when she sternly asked a colleague to summon another coworker who was running late for our panel interview. Like, girlfriend, would it kill you to feign that you don’t generally address people that way in front of a candidate you just met?
Nonetheless, I figured, OK, at least one of us can behave professionally by maintaining a congenial attitude. In other words, in that moment, I was alright pretending. Too bad she wasn’t.
Now this is where things get really bizarro. Picture this director and her colleague sitting directly across from me at a conference table. Picture her asking me all sorts of questions. Picture me answering them. Picture her looking down and playing with her Apple Watch as I’m speaking. Not once. Not twice. Not thrice. She tapped and swiped her watch constantly throughout the entire 45-minute interview.
Like, girlfriend, can’t you try harder to impersonate a decent human being during our brief time together?
If you have something more important going on in your life in this second—maybe you’re bidding on eBay?—let me know. We can pause. We can reschedule. Instead, Watch Witch was sending a signal that she was not paying attention to me, even if she was. Worse, she showed a complete lack or disregard of basic manners. Like, girlfriend, you don’t have to be interested in anything I’m saying, but haven’t you learned throughout your career and your life to act like you are interested?
It was all pretty repulsive. Imagine if I, as the candidate, had done the same. I hope you can only imagine because you care enough about others to offer rightful respect.
I remember leaving the company that day, calling up some friends and family, and explaining how Watch Witch was not a very nice person. Naturally, “nice” was not the actual or only four-letter word I used to make my point.
This individual, and by extension, this company, had mistreated me as a candidate. More than that, they mistreated me as a human. I walked away from the interview questioning if I even wanted the job anymore because I like working with nice people. “Nice” as in nice.
Eventually, the hiring manager and I had a conversation during which we both gave feedback. She explained why I wasn’t a right fit for the role, and I filled her in about my candidate experience. That included throwing Watch Witch under the bus, because this company will lose talented candidates if that sort of behavior persists.
And so the moral for hiring managers and recruiters and all interviewers: You need to ensure that you humanize the candidate experience—really, it’s not all that hard to get it right. You have to try pretty hard to get it wrong. As I always say, you’ll accomplish a lot if you treat people with kindness, empathy, and respect.
I feel like I need to throw in something about my attire to justify the title of this blog, so here’s how I gussied up for my interviews with both L’Teisha and Watch Witch. It’s a shame that not everyone is as skilled as I am when it comes to pretending to be an adult.
Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I got a job, with a bit of flair.
But before I begin, I recognize that it’s been seven hours and fifteen days since I blogged last (sorry, couldn’t resist another song reference). I hate myself even more than usual for neglecting my tens of fans for so long, so I promise to try to inform, provoke, and entertain more regularly.
With that half-apology out of the way, you guys, omigod, I got a new job!
Of course, lots of people write about how they landed a new role to encourage job-seekers brag: “Look at me, everybody! My dreams came true! And yours will, too…if you do exactly as I did.”
All this Oprah-fied pseudo-inspirational babble rarely cites the most important skill to score a job—because it isn’t a skill at all. And since it isn’t an actual ability, then everything else this slew of swaggerers spews resembles nothing more than gloating for clicks.
So, what is this essential non-skill skill that you need to win a new job? Continue reading
I have a friend who’s looking for a job. For real, a friend. Not a “friend.” While I’m also currently searching for new work, this isn’t an after-school special in which we all know the real identity of the “friend.” But like the moral tales you sometimes watched when you got home from class, this story also offers a valuable lesson.
What I’m about to describe is every candidate’s worst nightmare. It’s something that lots of people wonder: Does this actually happen? It happens. Sometimes like this:
My friend Steve* (of course there’s an asterisk) was recently offered a job at America’s Most Disorganized Employer* (there it is again!). He was eager to accept it, except the offer letter lacked enough details. Beyond salary, it mentioned little else. Clearly, a red flag demonstrating a sloppy hiring process or total ignorance about what candidates value, or both.
So Steve did what every candidate should in such situations. He contacted the hiring manager for more information. That’s when he learned that America’s Most Disorganized Employer allows only 10 days for PTO, including sick days. But who cares. Is there free soda? A ping-pong table?
Nothing like companies offering stupid, meaningless perks to try to hide an unwillingness to recognize that people have lives outside the workplace, right? The best talent such firms can hope to lure are job-seekers desperate for work.
Steve was one of those people. He was planning to ultimately accept any offer, but again, he did what every candidate should. He negotiated for more money and more time off, to which the hiring manager replied, “There’s wiggle room.”
No there wasn’t. Continue reading
Many years ago, I got a call from A&E’s Biography magazine. I’d applied for an entry-level editorial job, so upon answering the phone, I was excited. “Yes, this is Vadim!”
“OK, I just wanted to check. Thank you,” said the caller.
“Oh, OK,” I replied.
She continued: “I was curious if you were a real person. Your resume was”—after a contrived pause—“interesting.”
“Interesting good or interesting bad?” I asked.
“Umm”—more silence to stir drama—”interesting bad.”
The conversation ended and I thought two things: (1) That call didn’t go as planned. (2) That worked out as planned.
A New Serif in Town
Let me explain: I’m thinking of this story because I’m once again looking for work. The other night, I spent hours researching fonts to use on my résumé. I discovered that Times New Roman is the sweatpants of fonts and conveys laziness (that’s me!), so I should instead choose a sans-serif typeface like Helvetica because it will show that I’m forward-thinking (hey, that’s me, too!). Except, I do love a good serif! But would picking one highlight my stupidity? Don’t I know that all those little hooks appended to letters can cause electronic scanners to misread a résumé? Maybe I should listen to my friend who suggests Futura because it’s gorgeous (totally me!). But crap, Microsoft Word doesn’t include that font, but there’s another one I like, but it’s too big, while another is too small, and yet another is—
Who am I? Goldilocks? And is it really 3:30 am? What the hell am I doing?
I knew exactly what I was doing. I was experiencing what every job-seeker feels at some point—insecurity. What if my résumé (which you may view here) turns off a lot of employers? It’s already a bit quirky, at least by HR standards. What if no one will hire the weirdo who also decided to dress his résumé in sweatpants? Continue reading
I’m currently unemployed, so like most people without a job, I wake up each morning, grab my laptop, plop down on the toilet, and trawl through bookmarked job sites. Sometimes I’ll remember to pee.
Either way, my day begins with a lot of shit. The job postings, I mean.
There is so much that is so wrong with how most companies throw together employment ads. You can imagine some HR woman—of course it’s a woman!—writing an ad, struggling to find the right words for the 14th bullet point. After staring at her screen for an hour, it finally hits her! Her normally abnormally pursed lips broaden into a wide smile; her eyes dance in delight. “You go, girl!” she whispers to herself, flinging back her hair as if in a Pantene commercial, and feverishly taps those keys:
- Must be proficient in Microsoft Word
I feel bad for her, and her employer, but mainly, I feel bad for myself. No one should have to start a day this way.
I recently stumbled upon this bullet-less Craigslist ad, which began:
Are you a writer with intermediate to advanced writing skills?
You know it! I have a blog!
Can you convey your thoughts about the positive aspects of a consumer product?
I’m a miserable person who feigns happiness daily. Sure!
If you answered yes, you are a perfect candidate for a task that can be repeated unlimited times as opportunities surface. Our marketing agency handles online reputation for many large brands offering consumer goods. If you feel comfortable writing about products on consumer shopping portals, please contact us for more information. Most work takes less than 15 minutes to complete and pay is up to $30. Must have a Paypal account to accept payment.
I already had my suspicions, but I figured, what the hell? I fired off an enthusiastic email highlighting my commitment to
potentially earning $120/hour creating great copy.
Here was the reply: Continue reading