Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Work Insecurity Post (But Not the One You Think)

I try to avoid Penelope Trunk, because she is mad annoying, but she seems to always show up. Most recently, she showed up here, not that I read Guy Kawasaki's blog--I don't even know who Guy Kawasaki is, except that he always seems to show up too, especially around Penelope Trunk--but something linked, and I clicked, and there she was, doing her usual "let me tell you how it is based on nothing but how I think it should be because I'm Penelope Trunk" schtick.

Let's not even talk about the "The glass ceiling is over" thing (especially if you're a professional WOMAN who feels compelled to tweet her SEX LIFE). But I was struck, as I always am, by this: "Only ten percent of jobs come from sending a blind resume. Most people get jobs by leveraging their network."

Here's where we get to the difference between me and Penelope Trunk. OK, just one difference, another being that I don't tweet my sex life, and a third being that, despite what I am about to say about my anxiety versus her chutzpah, I am not the one in therapy.

I've heard this a lot: all the career books and blogs and experts say that the way you get jobs is by networking, not by responding to ads. It's certainly been true for me. Have I ever gotten a job through an ad? Mmm, I did get one consulting gig completely blind. My job in No Longer Red State was advertised, hence my application, but I knew two people there, which surely helped get me the job.

Other than that: Camp counselor? Boyfriend's sister. College internship? (Same) boyfriend's friend. First job out of college? Former boss at college internship. Second job out of college? Semi-boyfriend's old friend whom I met at a dinner party. Oh, I did get a part-time job in grad school from an ad. Fast forward to East Coast Big City. First job? College professor. Second job? Friend of my mom's. Current employment? Main consulting gig #1 came from someone I met at second job. Main consulting gig #2 sort of came through an ad, but I think I had a name to drop. Just started a big chunk of work for D, and probably heading into another big chunk via a friend who has been insisting for months that I do some work for her company.

Now, if I were Penelope Trunk, I would say "Go me! Look how I worked those networks to make myself successful! Rah, rah, I am a poster child for the actual workings of the workplace economy."

But I am me, so I think "The only people who want to hire me are my friends, and that's just because they like me and take pity on me, so clearly I am a total fraud."

Hmm, maybe I would be better off as Penelope Trunk...

Edited to add: S, on the other hand, has gotten dozens of jobs from blind resumes in response to ads, though his current job, which is his Best Job Ever, was total connections, the main connection, of course, being me.

Edited again to add: Dawn just made me realize that the other piece of this is that I do occasionally apply to jobs that are advertised, including jobs that seem perfect for me, and just about nothing ever happens, which is probably one reason that I read my networking history as evidence of pathetic failure, rather than professional efficacy.


Dawn said...

I got about half my freelance jobs from networking and about half from ads. Current job? Answered an ad. Go figure.

Libby said...

I got my first and second jobs out of college by answering ads, and knew no one at all at my current job. But academe's weird.

I do think you're right about that difference, though--how we feel about networking can get right at the heart of our feelings of self-worth. Sigh.

Kelly said...

I've only landed one job by answering an ad and one by sending out postcards. Otherwise they've all been via my network. At the moment my network is all out of work or afraid of losing their job at the moment, so having a network isn't helping me find more work at all and the hundreds of ads I've response. Pondering waitressing for the first time in 20 years and I have no network in that arena.

landismom said...

The older I get, the more I am convinced that everyone only gets hired (at least for decent jobs) through networking. Therefore, I tend to interpret my failure to get hired for jobs where I'm just answering an ad as either, "they must have done an internal hire," or "there must have been a candidate with an in."

Which may just be my own arrogance talking. After all, who wouldn't want to hire me, if they knew me? ;)

Penelope Trunk said...

Hi, Becca. Your post is really interesting because it's about framing. If you get three jobs from people you know, do you tell yourself you're great at networking or do you tell yourself you can only get a job from someone you know.

There is great research from the Positive Psychology Center that says that how happy we are is dependent on how we frame what happens to us. If we believe we have power over what happens, we are generally happier than if we believe that outside influencers control what happens.

So maybe it doesn't matter whether you or I are good at networking, or if people like hiring us, or blind ads work, etc. What matters if if we believe we can control what we do in our lives.


Jackie said...

Hmmmm. I don't think of myself as a particularly networked person, but I got my foot in the door for both my current teaching jobs because I knew someone at the school. My husband's gotten most of his jobs through networking, but I feel much more like you about networking. The idea of relying on someone's relationship with you for a job/career/livelihood? Nerve-wracking.

Also, Penelope Trunk commented here! She must have a killer Google Alert set up.