Xoterica 42: The Hunt
“Nothing is more dangerous than a half-hearted attack; let your attacks fly.” (Bruce Lee)
Dehumanizing. Nullifying. Depressing.
I wish I had better words to describe my experience trying to find a job since I was unceremoniously and callously laid off by my previous employer in a "cost-cutting" move.
The CEO called it "rightsizing". In reality, there's nothing "right" about it. Poor decisions by years worth of management, bad strategic decisions, and a market turning away from their core product forced them to find a new identity, and they've done it at the cost of their workforce and talent.
I started a brand blacklist now because of them, my own little form of activism so I - and others - don't forget what happened to me and can reconsider patronizing the brand or business based on my treatment.
It took a bitter layoff for me to get angry, but here I am: can't get a job to save my life and staring at a life collapse. During winter, no less. Good thing I don't give a shit about the coming holidays - I'd be far more negative about my situation.
I guess I'm supposed to be understanding and sympathetic. I'm supposed to smile and nod and think this isn't about me. I'm supposed to pull up my bootstraps, be proud of what I did over the last two years, and be excited about new opportunities and adventures.
These days, all I can think about is how I'm going to survive off unemployment, what the process is for getting SNAP support, and what life will be like if I'm still jobless on my 50th birthday. The internal pressure is building and beginning to boil into my conscious life.
The clock is ticking, and I can't do anything to slow it down.
With my experience and success in marketing over the last two decades, these shouldn't be my thoughts. At 3M, I consistently exceeded expectations and was on an upward trajectory for almost a decade. At Deluxe, I exceeded expectations regularly and delivered them increases in AOV, CR, and revenue that should've secured my stability - not to mention bridging SEO into Ecommerce, advancing their content experiences, and leading and taking on projects regularly.
I did whatever they asked me to do, not what I should've been doing to advance my career. At the end of the road with them, turns out that they were nothing more than a paycheck and a short line on my resume that seems to be hurting more than helping.
Kiss My ATS
The state of the workworld post-COVID means that most jobs have a remote or hybrid element to them - which means that more than anytime in our employment history, opportunities are more national and global than ever. Employers don't have to take a flyer on someone with great potential and interesting job history because, well, they don't have to. If every remote job gets hundreds to thousands of applicants, then they'll find the exact match easily and discount anyone else in the pipeline.
How easy? Most medium-to-large corporations use Applicant Tracking Systems to manage their intake for applications. These systems boil resumes down to scores based on matching keywords. They also don't work with any kind of designed resume that isn't formatted explicitly to appease these automated tools. Where I once was able to show off my skills by weaving design and job narrative into a compelling answer, I'm now reduced to keyword stuffing, minimizing my resume content so it's quickly scannable by recruiters, and creating 10 different resumes and cover letter versions that appeal to a specific job title.
End result: I've applied for over 80 jobs since mid-September.
Out of that, I've had 2 30-minute interviews with "talent reps" that screen whether or not I should make it to the next interview step. I've got a full interview for a Marketing Manager job next week, and I will jump at the chance to take it - even though I'll take a $30,000 salary hit and fight to survive in the non-profit industry.
I suspect the organization that I'm interviewing with doesn't use an ATS. Ironically, it's also a job that I didn't have any help from my network finding or getting an interview. While many connections in my network offered job listings and in some cases had a conversation with a hiring person about my candidacy, so far none of that has helped.
What really defines a career? Gone are the days when you could feel comfortable staying in one place for your employment history. Growing with a company. Valuing who you work for and feeling valued for your contributions.
Even at my previous employer, I tried to be a leader, drove volunteerism, and engaged in resource groups that advanced company culture. I coached and cheered my colleagues. I took on work that was never congruent with what I was hired for. I showed a willingness to learn, adapt, and excel.
Those things don't end up on a resume. Neither does empathy.
Even now, I'm considering drifting away from what I do best because it doesn't seem like my best is what employers want. In fact, I'm starting to feel like I don't know what I do best anymore. The last three months have made me question whether or not I even know what I'm doing. Impostor syndrome has set in.
I built a brand that provides no financial stability and amounts to little more than creative masturbation.
I have books and a website full of content that should serve as a great portfolio, but I can't get regular traffic or subscribers.
I have a resume bursting with achievements and talents, but not the right success to give me (or employers) confidence that I'm on the right track.
The Waiting Game
I wish I had the life fluidity to not care so much, to believe the bullshitters that say "the best things come to those who wait". They've obviously never been unemployed and under stress to pay bills and provide life support to others. They've never felt like their best is constantly not good enough. They're not strategizing how to survive.
I suppose I could turn that wisdom back around and shine the light on my progress - once, I was a temp worker struggling to survive with a severe disability and with a dim light of hope; now, I've had over a decade of professional experience with two reputable companies, traveled around the world as a Global marketing manager, and achieved some neat bullet points on my resume.
I had patience, and patience saw me through - with some great people that offered me opportunities and were looking out for me.
For the first time since 2010, I'm relying mostly on the power of my resume and past experience to open doors. Unfortunately, they're now the same doors that have hundreds of people huddled in front of - weary souls hoping for the same desperate shot that I am.
How did it come to this? I made most of the right moves over the last thirteen years. My only key failure was believing in the lies people were telling me about how great an artist I am, the whispers that drove me off of my career path in 2019 and into oblivion clutching the whisps of a dream that faded fast.
I chased my dream of being a welder and full-time artist, and fate laughed in my face.
Hero for Hire
"You're not good enough".
I was told that by a former friend and fellow artist in 2021 at the end of my solo run before I turned my focus back to marketing and digital experiences. I'll never forget that statement. It hurt immensely and still sticks with me to this day, and unfortunately is reinforced by every wrong turn in my career path.
When are we ever good enough?
The reality is that we're all disposable heroes. One minute, your job is touting how they support work-life balance and how happy they are to have you; the next, they're stripping away the human parts of the job until you're an automaton that exists to meet numbers and lives in fear for your next annual review.
AI has already started taking over our lives, and a key area right now is hiring. If automated engines don't assess and score your resume and experience well enough, you don't even get a 30-minute opportunity to sell the 360 narrative of who you are and what you can do. And so there are thousands of great people left to struggle to survive, cast to the bitter battle lines where we fight against each other to thrive.
That's the new American dream: if you survive the algorithm, the brass ring and white picket fence can be yours.
Until the next time that you don't fit "right", search well, or aren't good enough and have to hunt for your survival again.
Truly, our modern times are as Darwinian as they ever have been. Welcome to the new Thunderdome.