June 10, 2009

"Things Ain't Like They Used To Was"

Every summer residents of my home county gather for Old Settlers Day.

My great-great-grandfather Washington “Wash” Long received a loving cup at the 1926 County Fair for being the longest continuous resident of Whitley County that year. The Powers That Be asked him to say something. Wash said to the gathered crowds around the courthouse, “Things ain’t like they used to was.”

In finding a job in today’s economy, things ain’t like they used to was.

Sometime in the last nine years the way you get a job changed dramatically.

Now the Internet is the prime driver in a job search. While networking and personal contact is and always will be the best way to find a new job, it’s a one-way road through the potholes and crevices of the virtual highway. And to bastardize the old saying, “It’s the Internet highway’s way, or no way.”

Here are some examples. One recent job – which mirrored my qualifications almost exactly – was of great interest to me and I learned about it from a personal contact. Still, one must go through the company’s web site, contact or no contact. Rules are: no applications are accepted through the mail. Human Resources will not take phone calls.

I could set fire to my hair and dance naked through the company’s lobby, and I would still – prior to the police arriving – be advised to use the website.

Nothing can prepare you for the fight against the Internet Beast to even get noticed in a job search. Each website – and sometimes each job search – requires a new password and repeated, detailed information.

I have been asked to list my college activities – does it matter to a potential employer that I was president of my dorm? I have been asked to provide current college transcripts. Employers are captivated by the “D” I received in Bowling my junior year. (In my defense, this stimulating 1-credit class was required to graduate and only offered at 8 a.m.)

Job ads are also changed. Sales ads now appear from recruiters with language like “no more than two jobs out of college.” From my vantage point, that feels like age discrimination. Ads often state no phone calls will be accepted, and a disclaimer that reads something like “due to the huge volume of qualified applicants, you may receive no response.”

A night owl, I often check the job boards late. Two nights ago I applied for a position that matches my qualifications closely, and I spent an hour writing a thoughtful cover letter outlining why I should be considered and what I could do for this company. At six a.m., there was a rejection letter in my e-mail “in box,” a computer generated memo no human laid eyes upon. Resumes are frequently screened for key words. I have to wonder, do these “data mining” programs screen out for gray hair? D’s in bowling?

Shake the Magic 8-ball. Situation cloudy. Shake again. I know that I am fortunate in that my husband has a good job, and my son has college scholarships. We have few basic problems in life, so I take the lessons of this time period as a gift.

I continue to do things the old-fashioned way – I have mailed out resumes to everyone I know, and I continue to have lunches with people who might be able to steer me in the right direction. I have attended some conferences, and continue to serve in the community. Fully believing “things ain’t like they used was,” I am also on Linked In and Facebook and getting more techno-savvy on line daily.

With any luck, I’ll be too busy to write this blog very soon. Meanwhile I’m polishing my bowling skills and hoping for the best. Quoth the raven.