A number of years ago I visited the Aalsmeer Flower Market, in he Netherlands. This Market (technically called an 'auction') is the largest building in the world (by footprint), covering 10.6 million square feet, an area equal to 120 football fields (or 100 soccer fields! And you can stand on a catwalk, looking down on much of it. I have never forgotten the sight. 20 million flowers and 2 million plants are auctioned or sold there daily.
I was told at the time – and being of simple mind, I believed it – that Aalsmeer was the only flower market in all of Holland, and that to this central market each day came every flower that was to be sold in the Netherlands, and to this central market each day came every wholesale buyer (or shipper) who wanted to buy flowers in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be true. Though Aalsmeer is the largest to be sure, there are actually seven flower markets (which is to say, 'auctions') in the Netherlands. But never mind. The fantasy that there was but one central flower market for all of Holland, had been indelibly burned into my mind, forever.
When, some years later, I came into the field of job-hunting and career-change, I kept hearing the phrase "the job-market," and I always thought of Aalsmeer. Or my fantasy about Aalsmeer. Great! As with Flower Market, so with Job Market. Maybe there is one central market in the world, where everyone who is looking for a job and everyone who has a job to offer, comes. One central place where they all could come, and meet and find each other!
Alas! The phrase "the job-market" is a merely a poetic metaphor, that exists only in some poet's head. There is no real "job-market" – not in the sense of that Holland flower market, as I first understood it. There is no catwalk anywhere – metaphorical or otherwise – that look down on all the jobs to be sold, and all the potential buyers of those jobs, in one central meeting place.
Rather, in real life an employer can go out the door, and walk up and down the streets, looking for a certain kind of employee, while some job-hunters who exactly matched that description can pass them right by, on the street, and they will never know how close they came to each other. They have no meeting place, except perhaps on "job-boards" or employers' own site. And there are so many of those, that an employer may be looking in one place, while a job-hunter is looking in another. "And never the twain shall meet." It would be nice if there were but one meeting place. But there is not.
Pete Weddle, human resources expert, says there are now 100,000 "job-markets" (employment sites) on the Internet. Still, people speak of "the job-market" as though it were One, Well, let's go along with that. What are the characteristics of "the job-market"? What are the changes in "the job-market" from, say, ten or fifteen years ago? I can think of four, in particular:
That is, 'of uncertain length.' 90 percent of the workforce in the U.S. is not self-employed; so, you are probably working for someone else. And how long that job lasts will be up to them, and not just you. If they so will it, your job may end at any time, and without warning. Even if you are self-employed, your job may end at any moment, if your customers prove fickle, and flock to another vendor. The question in any case: will you be ready for the next job when this current temp job of yours fails?
If you have a job, the question is: what are you learning there? Of course you want this job to put bread on the table, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head, plus give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. But. Almost every job today is moving and changing so fast, in its very nature, that you must think of this job as exactly like enrolling in a seminar. There is a lot you have to learn, when you first begin, there, and throughout the time you are there. You must not only be ready to learn, but eager to learn. Prize the job for its learning.
If you are working in an organization of any size, it is very likely that the dramas which get played out there, daily, weekly, monthly, rival any soap opera that is on television today. Power plays! Ambition! Rumors! Poor decisions! Strange alliances! Betrayals! Rewards! Sudden twists and turns that no one could have predicted ahead of time, will unfold before your very eyes. Sure you can get bitter about it all. But since most of us love adventures, why not think of it as an adventure! Hang on to its every twist and turn. Pretend you're in Congress.
Despite your best research during your job-hunt, you may have ended up in a job where your bosses fail to recognize or acknowledge the fine contribution that you make, leaving you feeling unloved and unappreciated. They may fail to give you a raise, or at least the raise you believe you deserved. They may fail to give you the promotion you were hoping for, even passing you over for another. And, to add insult to injury, they may suddenly let you go, and without warning, citing a business turn-down, the need for 'new blood,' bankruptcy, merger, or the full-moon.
In other words, you are getting none of the future rewards you were hoping for, when you signed on. Well, future rewards can't be counted on, in most jobs today. So, where should you look for rewards? I reply, simply, "In the very doing of the work." Be sure it is work that uses your highest skills, work where you take pleasure in the very doing of the tasks that job requires. Where you are working with people you really like. Present rewards. And if your present job doesn't give you that, better start thinking about moving to a job that does.
So there you have it, the four basic words or phrases to describe "the job-market" of today, if there were one job-market.
(must be found in the work itself.) Paste them on your mirror. Look at them each morning while you're getting dressed. And start preparing for your next job-hunt the day you began your present job. Close your eyes and dream. Open your eyes and prepare.
In his book, "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut," author David Shenk argues (cogently) that whereas information was once something we just couldn't get enough of, now we are all drowning in too much information.
Of course, David isn't the first to make this point. That honor belongs to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament: "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh."
Which brings us to our subject for today: the job interview. What a superb example of David's (and Ecclesiastes') point! Go look in any book superstore, and you'll drown in information about the job interview.
David argues that we all need to acquire a new skill in this Information Age: learning how to sift information, and boil it down to its essentials. (Excuse my mixed metaphor!)
So, let me offer here "The Two Minute Crash Course on Interviews." Everything you need to know about interviews, in just two minutes reading time. (Three, if you're a slow reader.)
It divides, predictably, into Before, During, and After.
Do an inventory of your skills, knowledges, and traits, before you go to any interview. Figure out what makes you different from 19 other people who might be applying for that same job.
When you're ready to go out on job interviews, don't just look for places that have known vacancies. Approach any organization that interests you, even if you have to walk in off the street.
Research your 'targets' ahead of time, thoroughly, in a library or on the Web.
Once you've chosen your target(s), use every personal contact you have, rather than resumes, to get in to see the-person-who-has-the-power to hire you for the job you are interested in (that's not likely to be the human resources department).
Always remember you are coming to the interview as a potential resource person for this employer, not as a job beggar. Keep in mind that the only purpose of a first interview is to be invited back for a second interview.
Know what you want to ask about the place, and the job. Plan on doing 50% of the talking, and let the employer talk 50% of the time (or more).
Realize that the employer has many fears about this whole hiring process, and that some fear is beneath every question the employer asks. (Figuring out what fear is behind every question can help you answer the questions most helpfully.)
Never bad-mouth a previous employer or a previous place where you worked.
Your answer (to any question) should be no longer than two minutes; it can be as short as twenty seconds. Don't run on and on!
Take into the interview room with you any evidence you have of past accomplishments. (An artist, for example, has his or her portfolio. A computer programmer has a printout of programs they have written.) You'll know whether to use this evidence or not.
No matter how many thousands of questions an interviewer could theoretically ask you, they all boil down to just five:
Why are you here?
What is it about this place that attracted you?
What can you do for us?
What do you have to contribute to what we do?
What distinguishes you from 19 other people who can do this same job?
See your homework, above.
Will you fit in?
Will you get along with, or irritate, all my other employees? And:
Can I afford you?
Never do salary negotiation until – in the second, or third interview – they have definitely said they want you. Always let the employer name a figure first.
Always write a thank you note the same day, and send it to the employer. Always. (Get their card, while you're there.) Also send one to any secretary or receptionist who helped you.
Being able to do the job well will not necessarily get you hired. The person who gets hired is often the one who knows the most about how to get hired.
Hopefully, this crash course has helped make you that person.
Resumes, ah resumes! Or call them "CV"s. Whatever.
How they are ever with us, in any talk about the job-hunt, whether in magazines, newspapers, or in books, or on the Internet.For the employer, the virtue of resumes is that they offer an easy way to cut down the time employers have to spend with job-hunters. It only takes a skilled human resource person about ten seconds to scan a resume (30 seconds, if they're really lingering), so getting rid of fifty job-hunters, I mean fifty resumes, takes only half an hour or less. Whereas, interviewing those fifty job-hunters in person would take a minimum of twenty-five hours. Great time savings! Resumes are obviously here to stay, if some employers have anything to say about it.
For the job-hunter, resumes also appear attractive. After all, they offer an easy way to approach an employer. No maddening phone tag, no frustrating attempt to get an appointment with someone in authority, no taking the bus, or driving the car, or sitting in someone's outer office for a blue moon, only to be rejected after all of that.
No, with resumes you just take a piece of paper, summarize your qualifications, and mail it to the organization, if you have a particular target in mind. Or post it on the Web if you have no target and you want to cast a wide net – an "Inter"Net. And voila! – so the myth goes – with your resume "out there," your job-hunt will take care of itself.
Who perpetuates this myth? Well, job-hunting "experts" mostly, and job-hunting writers in particular: most of them emphatically tell you that a resume is the way to go.
So, let's look at what is never discussed, namely, the three dangers of resumes.
"Employers" are not a united group: they are as diverse as a mob at the Super Bowl. Many employers dislike resumes, some detest them. I run into such employers all the time. "Can't tell a thing about a job-hunter from his (or her) resume." So, especially on the Internet, the odds are terrific that your resume is not even getting read.
Pete Weddle, who writes for the National Business Employment Weekly, got some resume sites on the Internet to tell him (last year) how many employers actually looked at the resumes on their sites. (Sit down, while I tell you the news.) A site that had 85,000 resumes posted: only 850 employers looked at any of those resumes in the previous three months before the survey. Another site with 59,283 resumes posted, only 1,366 employers looked at any, in the previous three months. Another site with 40,000 resumes, only 400 employers in three months. A site with 30,000 resumes, only 15 employers looked in, during the previous three months.
So, you send out your resume or post it on the Internet, confident that employers are reading them, when – in a depressing number of cases – nobody is.
Resumes may be a useful part of anybody's job-hunt, but they should never be your entire plan. You can send out tons of resumes, or post them on every resume site on the Internet, and not get a single nibble. The statistics are: only one job-offer is tendered and accepted, for every 1470 resumes floating out there in the world of work. Consequently, 51% of all job-hunters who base their job-hunt solely on mailing out or posting their resume, get discouraged, and abandon their job-hunt by the end of the second month.
This is the greatest danger, by far, of depending on resumes. If it were just a matter of trying a job-hunting method that didn't work very well, it might be okay. You pick yourself up, and go on, still keeping a good self-esteem. But in fact, the danger of resumes is that if you believe in them, and they don't work for you, you start to think something is really, really wrong with you. And if some of your friends tell you their resume actually got them a job (not true: it only got them an interview), you may feel lower than a snake's belly. Many job-hunters never snap out of the depression and feeling of worthlessness that ensures. Every resume should carry a warning label: "Using this may be hazardous to your mental health."
Given these three dangers, there is a better way to go: choose carefully the organizations that interest you (find them in the yellow pages), research them, in libraries or on the Internet, ask every friend you have if they know someone at that organization, and – using these contacts – get an introduction to the employer on the inside. It takes more work, but your self-esteem will end up riding high.
I had been in this field (Career Change and Job-hunting) for about twenty-five years before I first came across this study. I don't recall who did the study, or where; but its findings were: There is a simple thing you can do at the end of a hiring interview, that will greatly increase your chances of being offered the job.
And that simple thing is, at the end of the interview: ask for the job.
The actual words don't seem to matter.
It can be something simple, like: "Can you offer me this job?"
Or something a little more elaborate, like, "I believe that I have both the skills and the experience to do the work we have been discussing, in a way that will benefit your organization a lot. Can you offer me this job?"
Why asking this question should make such a difference, in terms of whether you are offered the job, or not, I have no idea. My guess would be that employers want to postpone making a decision just as long as they possibly can, but when put on the spot - - as, by your question - - they are perfectly capable of saying "Yes" or "No."
(Anyway it is now part of my standard advice to job-hunters, when I am coaching them about the job-interview: "Be sure, before you leave the job-interview, that you ask for the job." They always doubt that this could possibly do any good, but after their job-interview, they almost always come back to report, "I couldn't believe it! I thought the interview hadn't gone very well, but when I asked them if they could offer me the job, they said, 'Yes.'")
Many months after I first encountered this study, I was browsing in Barnes & Noble one day, when I happened to notice a little book, with a white cover, whose title was "ASK!" And the sub-title was "You'll be amazed at what you can get simply by ASKING…" It's author was a woman named Barbara Rollin, and it had been published in the year 2001 by St. Martin's Press (175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. The price is $7.99 Kindle edition, $.78 for a print edition. I got the last copy in that Barnes and Noble store, but I have since special-ordered countless additional copies, to give to my friends and family. (Just search online for "Barbara Rollin ASK!")
Of course, I was interested in the book because it sounded like a rhapsody on the same theme of "asking." Barbara introduced her book by saying, "the real lesson of this book is that no matter what problem you have as a consumer, the chances are you can and will improve your lot if you only ASK."
It is a book of stories, about what happens in situations where you think nothing can be done, but then you Ask! Her first story concerns banks. She had bought five year certificates at an interest rate of 5%. A little over one year later, the rate had climbed to 6.35%. She was irritated with herself that she had locked herself in at the lower rate (there were hefty penalties for early withdrawal). Finally, she called the bank where she had the most money and simply said, "Can you help me? The rates have gone up since I purchased my CDs. (Certificates of Deposit). Could you raise my rate?"
The woman said she'd have to consult her supervisor, and after a few minutes came back on line, and said, "We'd be glad to do that." As Barbara observed, "Just like that. I didn't have to tell them a hard luck story, or plead, or threaten, or beg. I just asked."
Two months later, the rates went up again, this time to 7.08%. She asked again, and again got the raise. So, over the next five years, she gained $10,000 more than she would have, had it been left at the lower rate - - simply because she asked.
She concludes this story by observing, "The lesson I learned was - - if you don't ask, the answer is always no.
The book has 236 pages. And those pages are filled with story after story of how simply asking for what you want, can get tremendous results.
I told a friend of mine the thesis of this book; he was flying back from San Francisco to England, his native land, on a coach ticket. After we parted, he went up to the podium and said, "I have a coach ticket. Is there any chance I could be upgraded to either business or first class without any additional charge?" They said, "Wait here." Finally, when the plane was all-boarded, they put him on - - in first class. At no additional charge. Just because he asked.
Apparently, what we have stumbled across, here, is some basic principle on which the universe runs. Every Christian knows the mantra: "Ask, and ye shall receive." Other faiths know it too. Apparently it applies to more than just heavenly things.
The power of simply asking. I have begun to notice how common this is. I even notice it during elections. Every candidate concludes each speech by saying "I ask for your vote." Just bold and bluntly, like that. I ask you to make a decision. I ask for your vote. Is it yes or no? I know it doesn't sound like there's much difference between that and lesser phrases, like "I'd appreciate your support." But somehow I think there is.
We do not say, at the end of the job-interview, "I'd appreciate if you'd consider me." No, no, no. The magical phrase is, "Can you offer me this job?" It is a phrase that demands an answer. Yes, or No. That's the difference.
There is magic in asking for what you want.
Wherever you are; whatever you do: remember that.