A Hopeless Romantic on the Job Search

Cover of "A Hopeless Romantic"

Cover of A Hopeless Romantic

Yes, I admit it.  I am a hopeless romantic.  I dream of meeting that right someone – eyes locking across a crowded room, both of us knowing that the other is just who we are seeking to fill the void, to help define who we are, and who we want to become.  I read all the articles on how to meet, how to impress that special someone – even how to seek them out to find that right person and romance them just right.  I bother my friends and family to get me phone numbers, email addresses, or even just word that someone out there is single and has the slightest chance of being interested in me in return.

Of course I’m not talking here about romantic relationships, but work relationships.  And searching for the right job can, in many ways, be much more frustrating than the search for the right mate.  In fact, when you’re having trouble meeting that right person, the best advice you can follow is simply not to look anymore – just to relax and do the things you want to do, and love will find you.

Most of us don’t have the luxury not to look for a job, and I am very thankful that I am one of the lucky few who hasn’t (yet) had to settle for a relationship which would be unsatisfying to me. 

But when we are looking, it’s hard to have to settle, to play games, or to do the other things necessary to land that right position.

I had to excellent first dates the week before last – two interviews which went fairly well.  Actually, I’m not very good at assessing these things, so I’m more hoping they went well enough.  One was for a position which would be good enough – a relationship I could throw myself into, one which while not ideal in many ways, would give me the opportunity to be happy and fulfilled in my own way.

The other position was my dream job.  Or, at least, the best damned thing I have interviewed for in the past two years which was also in the realm of plausibility – in other words, in my league.

But both of those were still first dates, and those two potential partners are interviewing many others who also want to enter into relationships with them.

So I am back in a waiting game.  Hitting the dating sites (job boards), going to the nightclubs (job fairs) and flirting with any potential opportunity I come across while I wait to hear back from either of these partnership candidates, either of which might be my soulmate.

A boy can only dream.

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11 Responses to “A Hopeless Romantic on the Job Search”
  1. Jurate says:

    This is unfair. I’m thinking of a social media campaign. We need something like Old Spice video campaign to promote you. Is there any fairness remaining in this world? Can’t they see? Who do the HR people think they are to block you from YOUR CAREER?

    • Doug says:

      Thanks Jurate 🙂

      The fact is, I’m uncomfortable having to play all those games – including having to sell myself to the HR departments and hiring managers of the world. I understand people’s general attraction to confidence, but I’ve always leaned more towards modesty than towards arrogance.

      Unfortunately I’m still waiting to hear back from those two positions, and even though in one case the wait is expected and in the other the wait might actually be good news, it can be tough when you’re left stewing in your own insecurities. I do really want both of these (one more than the other, certainly, but still either would be pretty good), which makes the waiting even tougher.

      I do really believe that if I can continue on my path – putting the best word out there that I can – in the relative security of not having to take a McJob then someday I’ll “get discovered”. I think my Web site, my fact sheet and the project work I’ve been doing will help me achieve that, given enough time, and I am always open to other ideas on ways to get my proverbial foot in the door. I’m not sure a social media campaign is my style, though I have been flirting with the idea of doing something via LinkedIn.

      Would you actually try something like that for yourself? Do you know of real-world cases where that has worked?

  2. Jurate says:

    in short, I call those “communities of passion”. You get followship in circles where people are crazy about doing what you like to do; skills are the only prerequisites. So as a knitter, I can easily become famous on Ravelry (the knitters’ network). If I was a coder, I’d fly in game-design communities (well those are not necessarily games for nerds, I see “serious games”, educational technology, etc. there). The examples where people’s hobbies are their jobs definitely works. But as soon as we start wanting work where ‘passion’ is not that common, or discarded, it becomes more difficult. And finally, recruiters are the darkest zone, where I expect nit-picking at the very least, and naturally, zero passion for what I can do (I fail to comprehend where their passion is).

    I had though of suggesting looking into activities on LinkedIn. There are some fantastic groups there (plus group members post jobs that do not appear on regular job notice boards). But not for bibliometrics. It’s ridicilous, after checking profiles of people who interviewed me, I joined ‘informetrics’ group and there are no discussions. The only person brave enough to post a question was another Lithuanian. As it turned out, she invited me to an event and I’ll be giving a speech (in the Parliament, of all places!) next week. And hey, I expect the audience to have passion for the topic, and for at least someone to continue discussing with me during the lunch.

    When it comes to passionate bibliometrics, altmetrics is all the rage now. And they are hiring. Wikimedia foundation is hiring (it’s kinda revolutionary… they got talents leading the trend, and are wanting more technical expertise). They are leeching on grad. students’ ideas by organizing conferences. But I’m not even sure you want to stay with citation metrics.

    These last days, I finally became active on Quora. Not sure if it will yield anything, but at least I get to help by answering questions. But today a comment on my answer even made me think about a research business opportunity… So to conclude, I believe that yes, like in search of a mate, chemistry is key! We need to find people who are in love with our trade.

    • Doug says:

      I have started to look at those “communities of passion” type things, as well as have joined some groups on LinkedIn – but even then I find that I have little to add to the conversations at this point. (Maybe that means I need to join different groups, but in the end it’s just another form of schmoozing and self-sales, which isn’t really me.

      I’ve said before I’m not a real bibliometrician – all of the sites you mention here (as well as previously) are looking for follks with Masters degrees, ideally in Library Science or Statistics. They are really looking more for academics than for people such as myself – self-taught, seat of the pants analysts – though I do think I could offer a unique perspective on certain data types. And bibliometrics is indeed a unique field, mostly underappreciated and too unknown. Alas.

      But in the past couple of hours I’ve been hooked up with an opportunity – a Facebook friend told me that a friend of hers from High School is looking for a Senior Pricing Analyst. Turns it out it is his wife, who may forward on my information. But how specious is that? I’m happy to get a foot in the door any way I can, and if the wife of a friend of a former colleague gets a referral bonus for it, more power to her. But I don’t know this woman or her husband, so what kind of recommendation can it be that the woman will forward to her HR folks?

      I’m all for serendipity if it works in my favor, and this opportunity does sound cool. I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth and will gladly accept the internal referral.

      I had looked at Quora, though I’m not sure I have much that’s unique to offer on that site. But I do wish you luck – it sounds like you’re also trying all the right things, following those “communities of passion” and hoping to turn that into finding something with the right chemistry. But should that prove successful, how does one follow up with their contacts? Is it better to keep yourself in their minds, writing or calling with questions and ideas? Usually I send the follow-up thank you notes but I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, nor do I want to feel like I am pushing myself on the other party, so I try to give them their space. But it’s very possible that certain hiring managers might respond to a more direct approach. What do you think?

      Good luck on your speech at Parliament, by the way, and congrats for landing the gig! That’s exactly the type of opportunity that can really help you land the right position – even if indirectly. Staying public as an expert in your field is a great approach, and is sure to pay off in the long run.

  3. Jurate says:

    Sorry for all the spelling in the previous comment, I should not be commenting past midnight. Going to be be critical here! 11 years with TR – that counts for a phd, if not beyond. So I would say sport something in your education section – corporate education should be OK, self-taught stuff should be OK. Formal education is far behind you, and after that many years in the real world it is also irrelevant (anything beyond Bachelor’s degree is becoming irrelevant, and considered a waste of time). Unless it is in academia, the fact that they expect people with Master’s barely means cultured and civil, knows how to work with information; an explicitly stated “has masters” equals “has 2-3 years experience in the real world”. I am an academic. When I went to that interview with a former academic (PhD in chemistry!) for a company job where responsibilities include plenty of contact with “true academics in academe”, I bombed the interview because semantically, that hiring manager no longer thought/spoke in “academic” way (the rest of the panel even less so). We talked about different things while talking about what matters. After all, I am glad it did not work out, as I think the “academic customers” of that department are not receiving proper care (although I would have helped it: it’s in my personality ;)) ).

    As for following up, I am that shy and overthinking too. I try to think of it as an ego issue. So the solution is to ignore what my ego tries to make me do, and do the opposite. It does not hurt to follow up, to time strategically another follow-up if nothing is heard from them (the above case ended badly – I got a “how dare you, we had sent you a rejection email!” reaction (and no, their corp. domain was set to never be marked as spam, and to be forwarded to my mobile, it was impossible to miss it).

    Hey I knew someone in the U.S. who switched jobs to a career highway right after she spoke to a neighbor after having moved to a suburb from a townhouse, these things definitely work (and no college degree was involved, but as I say, to consider lack of diplomas as detrimental is not really smart). You know what my “schmantastically successful in social media” professor would do? He would arrange for half-a-day kayaking with the facebook friend and the couple in question. Too bad this weekend is not really good for that.

    • Doug says:

      A kayak trip would be particularly difficult this weekend, as my FB friend is in her final two weeks of a pregnancy, and probably wouldn’t want to go careening down a river just yet.

      Anyway, your point is well-taken, which just again leads me to the whole concept of having to “play the game” to get the job. I am willing to demonstrate that I have the experience, that I can do the work. I am even amenable to paying some dues again, especially during a learning curve to pick up a new industry, and if it’s for the right company I would back up my career (and salary) a few steps just to get the opportunity.

      But the idea that I need to start befriending people – and doing so aggressively, with the clear intention of garnering employment – just sits wrong with me. I understand the need to have a good fit, personality-wise, in addition to meeting the required knowledge and skillset, but it shouldn’t devolve into a popularity contest. Those of us who are not as outgoing, or are initially shy, or simply have different interests from the hiring manager still can get the job done well, and become a beloved member of the team given the time just to be themselves and do the job.

      Like the person looking for a mate with a long list of specific qualities they seek, the hiring manager who sticks to their own list (whether it is an issue of personality or education or specific job titles) is limiting the possibilities that Mr. Right may slip through their fingers simply because they did not meet the preconceived image the hiring manager was looking for.

      I don’t know how much this happens in the marketplace – and with the vast quantities of internet applications some openings receive, I wouldn’t blame the hiring manager too much for letting their past experience (read “baggage”) prejudice their hiring process somewhat. But it can be frustrating.

      Your academic story is a great example, where the company didn’t even realize that they were out of the loop, and simply couldn’t appreciate that you had the qualities they needed, and missed out because you didn’t meet the criteria they were looking for. Had they openly listened to what you had to offer they might have gained exactly what they needed, instead of likely being stuck with another drone just like themselves in personality and abilities.

      There are a lot of good people out there, and despite a true sense of being realistic (if not cynical), I am optimistic that there still are a lot of good, nice people out there who aren’t prejudicing their processes, who are prepared to hire the right person when they are found. I know these people exist – while there are a lot of jerks in the world, there are also a lot of basically good people just trying to do their own jobs. These are the people I want to find, the people I want to work for.

      The question is where to draw the line. When I go shopping I prefer the salesperson to stand nearby, attentive to my questions when I have them, but waiting in the distance while I go through my decision process. Not everybody responds to this sales method, and certainly the most successful sales reps have their own fence on which to balance, depending in large part on the commodity or service they are selling. Sometimes it is a one-time process, but in many worlds the sales reps have to maintain a strong relationship with the customer, just as in the case of the job hunt. If I make this sale, I am going to have to work with, work for this “customer” for (hopefully) a very long time.

      I think I will give it a try – this may be the reason that while I have often made it pretty far into the interview process I simply have not landed the gig. It is very possible that I was among the top qualified, but other candidates were demonstrably more interested in the position, more willing to prove themselves hungry and dedicated. But it is also very possible that I was simply not the most likeable, and that’s they type of situation I fear may be happening.

      Oh well. Something will turn up. For both of us. I guess it is best to try different approaches in the end. I do get stuck on your comment “it does not hurt to follow up”, and I have read that contacting the hiring manager up to weekly is acceptable, but I suppose if it is done politely and professionally you are right, it probably would not hurt to keep one’s “brand” on the hiring manager’s radar.

      But is it fair that those of us who don’t do that may be missing out?

    • Doug says:

      I also agree with your comments regarding education, but of course it benefits me to do so 🙂

      I know I am as well-read as most Literature majors, I am strong in both the “hard” and “soft” sciences, and have the business experience and knowledge to rival any MBA out there. But I also understand that people who have it on paper, proving these skillsets to a reasonable degree (pun intended), have an edge over me, simply because of the paper.

      In most cases, even a Bachelor’s degree pales in comparison to equivalent time of experience – 4 years of even drudgework at a company provides most people with more knowledge and opportunity to learn than the same 4 years at Party State U – but other than IT fields, this is not truly being recognized. But even in IT, companies want to see that you’re skills are proven, ideally in a very recent time period. And getting certified in something such as Project Management, or just taking a Networking course at your local community college can cost quite a bit of money.

      More missed opportunity on my part – focusing solely on my job and family, and not taking the chance to get TR to pay for me to be certified in other areas is certainly coming back to haunt me as much as my original education-related missed opportunities, maybe even more so.

      But I’m looking into addressing that as well, though since having a sufficient salary is much more urgent an issue I find it difficult to focus on that when these job opportunities do exist.

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