Monday, March 1, 2010

Browsing the Web Before Bed: Terrible News That Spins In a Good Way

While I was browsing Digg Tonight I found this ridiculously over sized image that tells harrowing statistics. It brought me down. For only a second. There are six unemployed people for every job available. Wow that is pretty intense. That means I only have to be better than five other people for a position I am applying for. I know. I know. Not true but if I own my job search, stay optimistic, put on a smile, and work at finding work like its a full time Job, I Know I can be one of the one in six. I know it.

Find The Position You Want: Postings

Everyone knows the easiest way to find a job you want: Search the web postings, the help wanted ads, the newspaper, the cork board at the Gym.

However, at first glance this method seems to be easiest. Click. Search. Read. Apply. QED. But this works at finding the Job you want but it's not much help in actually getting the job. Think of the tens of thousands of people perusing the board everyday, and all the different skill sets they have. You most likely are the same medium-small sized fish as I am, and the competition is huge. Well I have figured out a few ways to make my fish seem and actually be a whole lot bigger. However let's first consider the effective way to use to web based job boards.

First, do what everyone else does. Search for the Job you want or the skills you have. I typed Mathematician. Several hundred opportunities popped up and I find oh wow I don't have a masters degree and I am not a PHD. I could apply for the jobs but I dont meet that fundamental requirement and what's the likelihood of getting it?

But I do notice a few of the postings seem to include similar words: Quantitative, Excel, R, SAS, and SQL. I have a quantitative degree! I can use some of that Software! Now I just found key words that hone in on my skill sets. I search again. And Again. And Again. Keeping track of these words and phrases that apply to me. After a while I have compiled a great list of words and phrases for my cover letter, resume, and keywords that find positions I am interested in and qualified for. Huzzah!

Also, I do not want to teach middle school math in Albuquerque so I remember those awesome Boolean operators. AND. NOT. OR.

So now I can search "Math NOT Teaching" and cut out those random teaching position results real fast. The more time you spend learning how to search effectively now, then the less time you have to spend working on your resume. Which leads us on how to apply for that Posting.

Now most sites send you to an application or resume submission portal. This is great but not all by itself.
  1. Look at the job posting and adjust your resume to match those key words and phrases you found in the position description and qualifications.
  2. Take note of the Company you applied for and learn about it, see my previous post. Use what you learned to further adapt your resume.
  3. Take a couple hours to pound out a cover letter. I will go into more detail on how I have learned an effective cover letter is written in a future post but appeal to what the company wants.
  4. Scour the job posting for an email address, if it's not there check the website, try to find a way to make contact with someone in the company. Send them your resume and cover letter.
  5. Submit your resume and cover letter to the online portal.
  6. Check Back. Frequently. A lot of companies that have positions that appeal to you have more positions like those.
  7. Try to make a contact in the company, cold calling is a bear but it can be effective.
  8. No luck? Rinse your hands of that position and repeat.
Essentially these boards are great for finding jobs but you must go above and beyond your competition. Show yourself as committed and ambitious.

Here are several of the popular job boards:

Companies and Friends: Enough in Common


Most of us understand at least to some degree what is required for two people to be friends. Just a handful of the many qualities required for me to be friends with someone are:

  • Common Interests - You and your pal need to have at least a few things in common. You both like swimming then you can swim together. Obvious.
  • Mutual Benefits - You and your pal should be able to benefit one another in some way. You like to listen and they like to talk.
  • Fun to be around - No one likes someone who brings them down.
  • Good Conversation - If you are not talking at least some of the time then what's the point.
  • Understanding - If you cant glean at least a little bit about how your friend is and why they do certain things than are they really a friend.
  • Challenging - A friend helps you grow as a person.
When I am looking for work I try to evaluate companies the same why I would a friend.

But right now I am looking for work, I really need it, should I really care that much about what a company does if they may hire me? Yes. A thousand times, Yes!


First, suppose my qualifications are a perfect match for Company XYZ or so it seems from the Job Ad I found online. I personally have never heard of XYZ but the position seems to pay well and I am happy with that. I apply and they want to interview me. I am elated I finally got an interview! I go in and we talk about the position and they ask about my personal interests. I am a big Green Energy supporter. They ask a few more questions and I answer everything truthfully. The interview ends right on time and a few days later they call back and they regret to inform me another party has filled the position.

I was a perfect match what happened?

Well little did I know Company XYZ a major manufacturer of construction machinery has most of it's contracts with major Oil Companies. The position I was applying for was for development of new oil drilling technologies and when I mentioned my Green Energy interests it gave them a big RED Stop sign screaming "don't hire me!"

What would have happened after I was hired? Would I have been happy supporting an organization I disagreed with? No.

I did not do my research to find out if we would be a good match.


The correct way to look at prospective employers is to do a bit of research before you even apply. Find out if they meet the same qualifications as you have for your friends.

  • Common Interests - You like cutting edge research and the organization is known for its R&D department. Ding!
  • Mutual Benefits - You are a good match with your skill sets and the compensation for your work is what you are looking for.
  • Fun to be around - Will you be able to enjoy your job at least some of the time?
  • Good Conversation - Can you relate enough with the company or with the position that you could talk about it comfortably?
  • Understanding - Do you understand the goals and purpose of the organization and why their protocols are the way they are.
  • Challenging - Will this make you more of a person or less?
If they meet your personal qualifications or at least most of them then it is definitely a good opportunity for you. When you walk into the interview and you say I am a Green Energy advocate then maybe they will ask about it. They may share how they feel. What the company does to promote Green Energy. You make a better impression when you can relate.

When I am doing my research I tend to check out the following websites:

  1. The Organization's Site: What do they have to say about themselves?
  2. Wikipedia: Many Companies Have Pages on their Histories and Practices
  3. GlassDoor: Reviews of Companies and Salary Information

Difficulty: Looking for a Job > Having a Job

About two months ago I graduated from College. I left with a degree in applied Mathematics from a tiny university on the east coast. I learned a fair amount in Statistics, Calculus, Computer Programming, Numerical Analysis, and a handful of other interesting yet mostly novel subjects. My professors instilled rigor and difficulty into all of their courses and expected nothing less than almost perfect.

I selected my field because it was challenging and it seemed like something that companies may have a use for. That was is 2005. It's 2010 and the industry is different and I probably don't need to tell anyone, finding a job is just about the most difficult thing in the world for a quantitative pawn with all the ambition in the world. Hell, from what I understand it's difficult for someone with several years of experience.

I found this out two weeks after I graduated. I expected two or three of the companies out of the big ten I applied to would give me a quick call back and I would be sitting in a cube in no time.

How did I apply?

Google->Search->"Name of Big Company"->website->careers tab->submit resume

That my friends is all I did. I spammed my resume to only ten companies by submitting it to the huge database of other unexperienced college grads like myself and thought it would be enough.

Hold on. Before I continue take a moment and laugh at me. I deserve it. O.K. that's enough don't make me feel completely awful.

Moving forward. I now understand that the Job hunt is going to be more difficult than the actual job I end up landing. I make an effort to remember that:

"the Job hunt is going to be more difficult than the actual job I end up landing"

If I keep this in mind then I have a quantifiable prize for the end of the race. With this mindset I have learned a few ways to win this race.