Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to Find a Job: Gurus

(This article is part of a book called How to Find a Job, which now is available as an ebook on Kindle, nook, and Smashwords. All of the chapters have been revised, many have been expanded, and the book contains three bonus chapters (including Negotiating) that are not available on this blog.)

I’m going to put my general upbeat-ness on hold here for one moment, and confess to something:
I’m not a fan of job coaches.
I’m not saying they’re bad people. I don’t think that’s the case. As an unemployed person, I spoke with a handful of them, and I found them (mostly) to be smart, kind, folks who wanted to help unemployed people find jobs.
But the ones I met tended to fall into three categories:
First, there were the coaches who knew some industries really well, but couldn’t help you with anything that was even vaguely off of their particular beat.
I live in a fairly industrialized area. There are a lot of major corporations around, mostly dealing with manufacturing, and our local gurus know those industries. They know who you need to talk to, and can probably get you a meeting with someone in the companies in question.
Unless you’re me, and you come in saying you’re a writer. Then they sort of nod vaguely, and scratch their heads, and say, “Well, you could try this person. Maybe. Possibly.”
The thing of it is, for a long time I thought I had some other kind of problem, and the coaches were unable or unwilling to tell me. Then I asked my friend, the videographer and director how his search was going. He said, “Well, when I talked to this job coach, he implied it was time to look for a ‘real’ job.”
Me? I got, “You know, there’s your vocation, and then there’s your avocation.”
That’s an actual quote. It was not useful. And kind of hurtful besides.
The second group of people I encountered were best described as arrogant.
One went so far as to say that if you did exactly what he said, you would get a job. It was a brilliant scheme, because if you didn’t do exactly what he told you to do and you didn’t get a job, he got to blame your unemployment on you.
Even if you did do exactly what he said, and it didn’t work, he could claim that you did it wrong.
Stranger still, this particular coach developed a weird kind of cult following around him, who did everything short of claim he could walk on water, even while they wandered around unemployed. It made me feel somewhat uncomfortable to talk to his disciples after a while, as some of them would heap burning coals of blame upon their head for not finding a job, while unemployment skyrocketed to 15%.
Finally, there were gurus who spouted stuff straight out of the books I was reading. Had I been paying for the advice, it might have cost me hundreds of dollars.
One coach was incredibly kind, and really wanted to help. I could tell. He’d been in the business for decades. But when I noted that I had just finished reading “What Color is Your Parachute?” he informed me that he didn’t like the book, because he found it overly simplistic.
I observed that it seemed to mirror his system of job-finding almost exactly. I even went on to cite examples. And that was kind of the end of our conversation.
To conclude, I think a job guru, or career coach, or whatever you want to call someone in that position might help you. But I also know that they usually cost money, and quite a bit of it.
So save yourself some money, and try to exhaust all cheap or free options before pursuing a job coach.
Now, if your company is paying for it, by all means, check it out. It might even be useful to you, if you’ve worked at a more “conventional” type of job. But it costs. And it costs at a time when you don’t have that much money coming in.

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