Thursday, November 6, 2014

Job Searching

To some extent, searching for a job requires you to be a sociopath. You have to be willing to act as though every opportunity presented to you is the one you've been waiting your whole life to fill.

This is a bad economy. There may be a lot of job openings, but businesses aren't actually filling them. If you’re unemployed, if you just finished school, or if you decided to change careers at exactly the wrong moment – even if you’re a great employee whose résumé doesn't rely heavily on that time you found two quarters in your couch – you might be waiting a very long time before someone hires you.

Going without work can be both mentally and financially devastating. It eats at your self-esteem and seeps into your social life. After all, whenever you meet a new person, what’s the first thing they ask?

Eventually, you develop a careful dance to explain your circumstances. “Between jobs,” “finding yourself,” and “taking some time off” all make you sound worthless unemployed, so you have to be more creative than that.

This period doesn't last forever, though. If you keep looking hard enough, eventually you’ll find something. But even then, you're not out of the woods. You could wind up perpetually underemployed or - perhaps worse - stuck in pre-employment limbo.

Pre-employment limbo is when you get a conditional offer that’s better than any other offer you have on the table. It’s when you line up the perfect job, but the start date is “any day now” or “as soon as we get the funding.” It seems to be happening more and more lately: a lot of people looking for work but little work to be done means employers can be choosy. They can hire the best people ahead of when they need them, but not give them any work to do (and therefore no paycheck) for months at a time.

Now, if the future job you’ve been offered isn’t that great, it’s easy to ditch it once something else turns up. But if it’s a totally kickass, well-paying dream job? You have to stop and think a little longer. You hesitate to commit to anything else, for fear you'll miss the chance of a lifetime.

It’s the business-world equivalent of being on the hook for a potential relationship. Like when the captain of the football team says they’d love to go to prom with you, but only if they weren't dating all the cheerleaders.

Companies do the same thing. Even if they don’t have a spot for you at the moment, they want the potential of hiring you later on. So they give you a hook to keep you from getting snapped up by someone else.

The obvious thing to do in this situation would be to move on and find another job that will love you for who you are pay you actual money. But jobs aren’t like girlfriends (for one, if your girlfriend is paying you, she probably isn’t your girlfriend). So instead you have to make a cost-benefit calculation. How long are you willing to wait for this job? How long can you afford to work part-time, or take an internship, or burn through your savings to see if it comes through? What are the odds that it will actually happen?
It's tempting to wait forever for the one perfect thing, but the reality is, you can't. At some point, you have to break out of limbo. You have to take control of your own life and find something to make you forget the job that got away. Something that propels you forward and restores your faith in yourself.

Or, you can just give up and start a webcomic.

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