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Posts Tagged ‘job

How much work will it take to land your dream job?

The first time I migrated,  I set up the 100:10:1 ratio.  100 applications: 10 interviews : 1 job.

I set the ratio for psychological reasons.  I was being practical.  My goals and plans include the endurance I need to succeed the race.

Do you go green at the sight of these figures? Want to puke?

Truthfully, most people don’t have the stomach for these figures.  They go green, and then grey.  They aren’t motivated by these figures.  They are depressed.

Now I tell you, that the position is far worse than this

If you are a migrant, which you may be for many reasons, or if you are changing career track, the figures will be a lot worse.  Think of 200 applications.  Think of 300 applications.  Think of 1000!

And think of the worst possible behavior on the part of people who process them.  They ignore you.  They patronize you.  They stand you up (even when they’ve paid for your air ticket).  They lie.

Oh those 999 who don’t hire you are seriously depressing!

This cannot be true you say

“I know someone who got a job first time”, you say.   “This cannot be true!  I have never had this trouble!”  “This country needs skilled migrants.”  “They advertised and asked us to apply!”  “You are being cynical.  You are jaded.  This is just sour grapes.”

Indeed.

Let me tell you how it works

Today I found this mantra for advertising.

“The first time a man looks at an advertisement, he does not see it.
The second time, he does not notice it.

The third time, he is conscious of its existence.
The fourth time, he faintly remembers having seen it before.

The fifth time, he reads it.
The sixth time, he turns up his nose at it.

The seventh time, he reads it through and says, “Oh brother!”
The eighth time, he says, “Here’s that confounded thing again!”

The ninth time, he wonders if it amounts to anything.
The tenth time, he asks his neighbor if he has tried it.

The eleventh time, he wonders how the advertiser makes it pay.
The twelfth time, he thinks it must be a good thing.

The thirteenth time, he thinks perhaps it might be worth something.
The fourteenth time, he remembers wanting such a thing a long time.

The fifteenth time, he is tantalized because he cannot afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, he thinks he will buy it some day.

The seventeenth time, he makes a memorandum to buy it.
The eighteenth time, he swears at his poverty.

The nineteenth time, he counts his money carefully.
The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys what it is offering. “

This was apparently written by Thomas Smith of London in 1885 and was reproduced to “advertise advertising” and to make the point that we need, what may feel like, excessive redundancy in advertising.

You need 20 contacts to make a sale!

I said 100:10:1.  Yes, that 1 sale will come from 20 contacts.

So if we contact 100 people, and we instinctively home in on that one employer who will eventually employ us, we need to make 100 (inital contacts)+10 (interviews) +20 contacts with the luck employer of me!

And as we are not likely to be so lucky, we need to make initial contact with 100 people and expect to contact each of those 20 times, with the one we stay in contact with employing us!  100 people x 20 contacts = 2000 meetings.

OK so lets get real.  Are you starting cold?

How do some people get jobs more quickly!  Well they are already in a sales funnel.  They are using their Dad’s contacts.  Their university does part of the work for them.  They belong to a network without understanding that they do.

If for some reason you are starting cold, or you get part way down your career and you realize you want to make a big change, you need to take charge and weave your own network.

You cannot afford to act randomly.  You have to be prepared to find out

  • Who you want to work with
  • And assiduously build up contact with them.

If you are at school or university, begin early.

Compare with these figures

In a social network, 1% of people generate content, 9% critique content and 90% consume content (1:9:90).  We see the same “J curve” on student chatter lines and in professional associations.

Ken Thompson of SwarmTeams talks of the 2% economy.  Only  2% of messages to people are opened when they are from someone we don’t know or remember.  We open all the messages from our friends.  And we respond to about 10% of them.

Yup, we ignore 90% of what our friends tell us!

Get cracking!

I strongly recommend listing 10 firms who interest you on 10 old envelopes and look for ways to meet people who work in the department you want to join.

Keep notes.  Add envelopes.  Prioritize them.

Budget your time.

If you are starting a 3 year degree, you need to meet 2 people a day, every day, including Saturdays, Sundays and Christmas, to make 2000 contacts before you graduate.

And think career from the outset.  Don’t think job.  Think career.

Start now

Start exploring now and start collecting information, contacts and know-how.

It all adds up and takes you closer to that team who is doing exactly the sort of work that you want to do and that they need you so badly to do!

(And if you haven’t started and need a job now?  Then divide your time.  Put time aside for this project daily and do whatever you have to do to survive as a separate project.  Just don’t let go of this one. That you will regret.  The lost time will irk you more than flipping burgers.  Begin!)

Are our markets efficient?

Gee, I have been so buried in writing proposals, I no longer have any idea of which day or week it is.  Rather literally.  But it is in writing proposals that we realize just how inefficient the market economy is.  All these people marketing, selling, bidding, cajoling.  Do we really increase the value of the economy this way?  Isn’t this time wasting much like the perennial security guard at every doorway in a third world country.  Doing nothing, going nowhere?  Don’t you get incensed at the waste of your time?  Let me explain further why it affects everyone.  You, me.  Our sons. Our daughters.

Flexible labor markets

You all know the concept of a “flexible labor market“, don’t you?  If not follow the link to a clearly written A level crib sheet.

Good markets

Flexible labor markets are based on the idea that a good market  “clears”.  A market is good if I can bring my tomatoes and customers come and buy them.

The price is not determined in advance. The price is allowed to change with supply (number of people selling) and demand (number of people buying).  And as we all know, at the end of the day, the price can drop significantly as sellers contemplate no sale.  Equally, the best stuff will sell at a higher price early in the morning.

Good labor markets

When we come to labor markets, the idea is that you and I, sellers of labor can go to the market and sell our goods, that is, our time and expertise.  If there is a good market, we will be bought, when we want to be bought; and buyers will find someone to buy, when they want someone to buy.

Labor markets that you and I know

Of course, labor markets are not 100% flexible.  We are blocked in by contracts.  The employer guarantees to give you work and to pay you on time.  You guarantee to do work and have to give notice if you want to change employers.

Rigid labor markets

Some labor markets are very inflexible.  I believe in the UK, 30 years ago, if we wanted to move a telephone in a student dormitory, it would be a nightmare.  Why? A telephone technician wasn’t be allowed to screw the device onto the wall.  That was the carpenter’s job.  If this story is not 100% accurate, then it was similar.

Not everything has changed

The “defined benefit” pension scheme also adds rigidity to the markets.

A defined benefit (DB) scheme means we pay in a fixed % of a our salary today for the right to draw a pension at a given age (usually 65) at 66% of our average of last three year’s salary (or similar calculation).

The importance to this calculation to what I am saying today is not the pension, much as it is on everyone’s minds, but that the 66% was based on an assumption of working for 40 years out of 60 for one employer (starting in your early twenties).

Here you can see the legacy of rigid labor markets that we haven’t sorted out, even in theory.

Why do systems like defined benefit pensions distort the labor market?

Implicit in your monthly donation of a fixed %, is that you will stay for 40 years.  If you leave before then, you will pay a heavy financial penalty.

So most people stay.  Every year, some people retire and we can replace those with 20 year olds while everyone moves up a notch.  Neat?

Yes it is, BUT

.  .  . this model doesn’t allow for radical changes in skill.  And it only works when people do retire – which they haven’t been the case with the bulge of the baby boomers.  Of course now the boomers are approaching retirement, organizations running this model will suddenly need to take on a lot of young people, some of whom will not be able to get the experience they need quickly enough to replace people who are leaving.

Equally, if you have to take people on for 40 years, as an employer you may think twice.   It is much more convenient to be able to ask someone to leave when you have no work for them or cannot afford to may them.

Why employers like a flexible labor market?

So employers like a “flexible” labor market.  They want it to be easy to ask people to leave.

What is the payoff for us?

And the payoff for us is that

  • young people are more likely to get “starter” jobs
  • we should be able to move employers more easily
  • the economy should be more vibrant with a better match of skills to changing conditions.

But what a muddle

The downside is that we haven’t thought this through.

Pensions and in the States, health insurance, are tied to employment.  So employees are unable to move.

If employers don’t provide these benefits, an underclass of employees develops.  In the trade this is aptly called the secondary labor market – cheap and disposable.

And where does this leave employees – people of working age

My biggest concern is that when a labor market is massively flexible, how do employees – that is you and me – the sellers of labour, see far enough ahead to know what to invest in?

Of course this is an issue in all business.  How do farmers know how many tomatoes to plant?  How does Warren Buffet know what stocks & shares to buy on the stock market?

They do it in three ways:

  • They form institutions – trade associations or their own firms – to do research on markets and to influence markets through lobbying and marketing.
  • They make long term contracts – e.g., agree to sell to TESCO’s at a pre-determined price
  • They get better real time information on markets.

Think of third world farmers contracting with FairTrade to sell you coffee.  They are doing it less for the price and more the stability of the contract.

Think of third world farmers who adopt mobile phones at the speed of light because they can find out prices readily in local and international markets.

What the theorists haven’t delivered

So why then do we assume

  • Employees (you and me) don’t need information on future prices to decide how much to invest in skills today?
  • Employees don’t need sane coherent contracts that allow us to complete a season.  A season may be 6 months to a year for a farmer.  Our investment in a 3 year degree is repayable over what period with what certainty?
  • Employees (you and me) shouldn’t band together to form trade associations to research and influence markets.  I know that is what unions do, sort of. I know that is what good professional associations do.

My question to you

My question today, and I hope some people can answer it, as I am a noobe in this part of the world, is

which political parties have an explicit agenda to make sure each and every person has sufficient information to make informed decisions about the investment in skill.

I don’t think governement has to make decisions about our investments for us.  But it does need to make sure there is an environment in which institutions who repesent us emerge (and do their job well).

Where does a young person in the UK and the USA find out this information?

Is the internet good for you?

Was it this week that we had the media telling us that Facebook would give us cancer?  And a professor telling us that the internet makes us scatty?

Well, I won’t go where angels fear to tread, but I do know this.  The world has changed in a fundamental way and it is very important THAT YOU GET IT!

The internet has changed the way we make a living and before you go off and spend 5 to 10 years getting a qualification and doing low paid jobs to get experience, have a look at the business model of the profession you are entering.  Will your profession survive the intenet?

And don’t ask recruiters and HR officers either.  They rarely know the answers.

Ask experienced people who are responsible for strategy in their field and don’t join up unless they can ask clearly!  Invite people who have a hig profile in your future career to talk to your school, university or service club, and ask the questions you need to ask!

Managing risk

At the heart of any profession or occupation is the management of risk – yep that thing that bankers didn’t seem to understand.

Very simply, we cannot know everything in the world and when we have an unfamiliar decision to make, we turn to professionals for advice – doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and even, bankers.  Even my lowly purchase of a loaf of bread at the supermarket is the purchase of advice.  I am trusting my supermarket to sell me something wholesome and good at a reasonable price.

But how do we know who we can trust?

We have several mechanisms.

  • First is a system of licenses.  A body, like the British Medical Association gives a doctor a practising certificate, for example, to indicate the doctor has the training and knowledge that we expect.
  • Second is a system of audits & inspections.  Chartered Accountants like KPMG and Deloittes check the financial affairs of a business and tell us if it is a going concern.
  • Third is the business model itself.  Newspapers, for example, would verify information is correct before they printed it and it was for that verification that we would pay a shilling or a dollar for our paper, though we often felt that we were buying the content.  They are motivated to get information correct so they stay in business.

The internet adds another way to manage risk

The internet has changed the game of business, and importantly the careers available to us, because it adds, among other things, an additional way to manage risk.  This additional mechanism for managing risk affects how consumers get advice and who gets paid for giving advice.

  • Google Search, for example, allows us to pull up information from all over the world in the blink of an eye.  For many particularly simple matters, we can find information for free and save ourselves the fees of professional advice.  Knowledge has become more easily available and much cheaper.
  • Twitter provides recommendations with equal speed and allows customers to speak to each other. The wisdom of crowds gives us assurances that previously were only available from auditors and inspectors.
  • Blogs, YouTube, Flickr make us all citizen journalists.  Collecting and transmitting data is now so cheap and easy that events like a plane ditching in the Hudson are transmitted as they happen.  No paper or TV service can report events so quickly.

But there is so much rubbish on the internet

Indeed there is.  And it is very important to treat the information for what it is.  IT IS NOT information provided with a stamp of approval from a professional body or a well established business.

This is frightening for many people.  And so it will be until they think clearly about what is happening and act accordingly.

We have two tasks therefore.

  • First, understand how to verify information on the internet.
  • Second, to understand how the internet changes the value of various professions and how much people in those professions will earn in the future.

A lot of people write about the first task.  I am interested in the second.

How does the internet change the value of various careers and the salary you can expect to earn?

Whether you are in a profession or ‘old school organization’, or if you are changing careers and thinking about your next move, these are the questions that I think you should ask.

5 questions to ask about the value of information in your profession or organization

1   Why did you want to go into this career?

When you chose this career, what value did you believe you would add to the world?  Why did you undertake the qualifications instead of just opening up your business?  What did the qualifications teach you that cannot be taught elsewhere and freely on the internet?  How are the systems of knowledge maintained so the knowledge of your profession is deeper and more valuable that information on the internet? To what extent is the profession protected artificially and will these artificial barriers be stripped away by the internet?

2  How do you maintain integrity?

What are the promises that your profession makes to the public and are these promises genuine?  For example, do you send someone to jail for breaking these promises?  What areas of malpractice does the profession look out for?  How do you check that your core promises are being honoured?  When your customers are able to talk directly to each other, what aspects of your service can they inspect better than you can? If they are able to check themselves, of what value is your guarantee?  What aspects can they not check and is the responsibility of your profession?

3  What does your online profile say?

Are you on professional groups like Facebook, Twittter, LinkedIn and Xing?  If we Google your name, can we find you?  What issues are Googled by your clients/customers/patients and what do they find? How do you maintain your profile?  How good is your understanding of information traffic on the internet and the way Google chooses what to show people?  How is your profession learning about the internet and the way it is developing?  How is your profession managing the conversation about the internet among your members?

4  What is your ‘authority’ on the risk management issues which have been the basis of your profession?

What are the issues on which your profession is expert, experienced and willing to help other people, albeit for a fee?  Who in the internet world defers to your opinion and how do they link to you?  How does your profession monitor your online authority?  How do you manage your online authority?  How do you manage the way one member of your profession competes with another for internet domination?  How do you ensure that your clients/customers/patients get access to well debated information and ‘honest authority’, so to speak?

5  How do you help your customers/clients/patients find the information they need and make intelligent choices?

What choices are your customers/clients/patients making on a daily basis?  What information do they use?  What do they search for?  How does information find them and are they able to process it safely and to their advantage?  How has the internet changed this process? And how have those changes, and ongoing changes, changed the basis of your business model?  How you make a living, in other words, and how future members of your profession will make a living?

Your comments?

This is the first time I’ve written about these issues.  So I’d be very interested in your views – or comments – or indeed questions.

How do you think the internet changes our work and our long-term potential to make a living?

What questions should we be asking leaders of professions and encouraging our young people to ask before they invest in an expensive training?


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