The economy sucks. The job market sucks. Headhunters, online job sites, HR people; they all suck. Like a fifteen year old giving his girlfriend a hicky. Like a remora on a great white. Like medicinal leeches on Henry the VII's hindquarters. If you're getting the idea that my job search is turning into a giant suck-athon, I'd say you're pretty perceptive. In fact, I am about at the point where I'm starting to believe I suck too.
I have been jobless in a new market before. I trolled LA agencies with a spec book and eventually found freelance. I got jobs in Cleveland and Washington DC through old fashioned networking. I've never used a headhunter in my life. Now, I'm in San Francisco, and I can't get arrested. (Then again, it is hard to get arrested in San Francisco. I could run down Market Street starkers yelling "Dick Cheney ate my bubby", in a flawless Australian accent and the cops wouldn't even blink).
So, headhunters. Far's I can tell there are two types: the ones who can't wait to meet you in person, present themselves as your new best friend, promise you the moon and deliver nothing and the ones who communicate over the phone through a flunky, vet you as carefully as a prospective vice presidential candidate, claim they're sending out your resume and disappear without ever giving you feedback. My favorite was the jerk who sent me a whole page of questions before finally submitting me for a job for which I am actually overqualified. This is the question that put me over the edge: "What year did you graduate from college?" Why don't you just come out and ask me how old I am and I'll tell you where to stash your blackberry?
Online job sites make the process a lot more convenient - for the headhunters. Most of the job postings just take you right back to some recruiter. Sometimes, you can't apply on line unless you take a little quiz which determines whether you should even be considered for the position. If you're rejected, you have no way of finding out why, much less applying for the G D job. This is especially perplexing when, based on the job description, it's stuff you can do in your sleep.
I recently met a freelance art director who came to this market 4 years ago and also had a helluva time breaking in. His analysis is that people have become too lazy to do their own vetting. Nobody wants to meet you in person. There is no way to convey how well-spoken, charming, funny and fast on your feet you are. When they determine there's not enough interactive in your portfolio, you're not there to tell them the two extensive, complex websites you wrote are no longer online and provide a link to an archive. When they see that you're low on financial experience, you can't point out that you basically learned pharma overnight and have worked with some of the most uptight regulatory teams on the planet. You're held up against the checklist and found wanting.
Now here's the irony. Based on what I've seen in over 20 years in the workforce, I have become the ideal employee, a middle aged woman. Think about it: we came up right after the first wave of feminism. We don't feel entitled to our jobs - we're grateful for them. We're used to working harder than the men we've been competing with, and resigned to getting paid less for the privilege. Those of us who've raised teenagers know better than anyone how to negotiate, debate, placate or motivate. We're not going to get pregnant, or screw our way up the ladder. We basically invented multitasking. It doesn't make a lot of sense to put the work horse out to pasture.