Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Joys of Jobhunting

As of a few days ago, I'm finally getting my act together and looking round for a new job. Hopefully a change of company won't be necessary - I do actually like the people I work for - but if they try to send me out on placement again then they'll have to catch me first.

We're now several evenings on, and certain axioms of jobhunting are starting to become clear to me. To whit:

1) The jobs that catch your attention are the ones you have neither training nor experience in.

I've lost count of how many really cool jobs I've looked at and reluctantly clicked past when it became clear that BA Hons Cantab was not going to cut the mustard.

2) The jobs that match your specialist skills are boring as hell.

As a maths grad, my options are apparently finance, finance or - just to push the envelope a little - finance. I do not find finance particularly interesting. It varies between the accountancy end of the spectrum, which requires basic numeracy but no real maths knowledge, and the predictive disciplines (actuarial, quant, etc), which require the ability to pull large numbers of assumptions out of thin air and then pass the blame when it all falls through.

There's also cryptography, but apparently only if you have a first class degree. I have a 2II. Ohttre gung.

3) The jobs that you don't need specialist knowledge for are dangerously vague.

At present, the best example of this is "project management". Beware of any job with this label: chances are it's a pure documentation job. What has happened is that large number of job jobhunters have decided that PM is the fashionable thing. In response, large numbers of recruitment agencies have started mentioning PM in all their ads, regardless of appropriacy.

Ditto "analyst", which normally turns out to be a sales job.

4) More recruitment agencies does not equal more opportunities.

It is incredibly hard to find actual decent job opportunities online. The major online recruitment agencies just recycle each other's listings. Any good jobs vanish like a rump steak in a piranha pool, and the remainder circulate until they're withdrawn or some idiot applies for them.

This seems to be a classic case of the Internet exposing how dysfunctional an industry is. Maybe recruitment agencies are better in person than online, but I doubt it.

5) Life's too short for this crap.

Every single vacancy you come across will have the phrase "please send CV plus cover letter in it". Sounds easy, right? Problem is, it takes a fair few hours to thrash out a decent cover letter. This can quickly become a limiting factor.

Requesting a cover letter is good sense on the part of the company. If applying for the job ceases to be a ten-minute task, applicants can't just employ a "CV shotgun" approach but must actually consider whether it's worth their time to apply. It encourages respect for the application process.

Unfortunately, this encouragement of respect is entirely one-way. In general, companies don't bother to reply to CVs they don't like, not providing even a soupçon of feedback. When you've spent three hours preparing your application, this is very lame.

Conclusion) I hate jobhunting.

As far as I can tell, the entire jobhunting process is a sneaky trick by companies to help them retain their employees. I've been actively hunting for less than a week and I'm already concluding that sticking hot needles through my fingernails would be less painful than attempting to leave my current employer.

But I know that, if I don't, before I know it I'll be a 40-year-old "placement specialist" and candidate for Ark B. I want to do something with my life, dammit.


Dunc said...

I'm all for doing stuff with your life, but paid employment doesn't have to be it. I'm not a great fan of work - I see it purely as a means to an end, namely earning the money I need to live my life. Work is just work, life is what goes on outside. That's the really pernicious idea of the late 20th century - the idea that your "career" should be central to your life, that it defines you. It's just a fucking job, fundamentally no different to cleaning toilets or working in a factory.

Lifewish said...

This is a valid point (although I don't think the attitude is unique to the 20th century).

I have two personal issues with it, though. Firstly, I have a fairly low boredom threshold. Eight hours a day in a tedious job is my idea of hell. I need something interesting to get my teeth into or I wind up bouncing off the walls.

Secondly, I'm at the stage of my life where I need lots of useful skills. It's easier to pick up skills if they form part of your day job.

Thirdly, I'm at the stage of my career where everyone expects me to travel a lot and work late. As such, it's very very hard for me to have a good life outside of work - for example I can't join clubs, because I might only be around for a month before I get moved. So I kinda need a good life inside of work.

On this last point: yes, I could just flip them the finger, but then I'm likely to get even worse jobs than I've got now.

Dunc said...

I'm just bitter... ;