Friday, May 9, 2014

Job-hunting and how to go about it

How should the photographer attempt to job hunt? Well, given that photography is largely a casual occupation, photographers need to hunt for work like regular people. Clearly the definition of casual needs expansion for readers not based in Great Britain. Casual work in Great Britain is work that is very irregular in terms of hours and days. For example, an escort might be classed as casual as an escort might not have any work one night or might not get work the whole week while at other times work might be plentiful.
First off, you need to get together a really good resume (curriculum vitae). The old idea of having a list of jobs you've done is old hat. Most applications these days seem to have to go through resume scanners and these do a completely awful job of scanning resumes. In fact, one Human Resources specialist called the whole job application system thoroughly broken. It is true - it as as broken as it can possibly be. If you're mediocre or less, you'll get through if you say the right things on a resume. If like the rest of us you're totally clueless about how to do a resume that counts, you can either hobnob a Human Resources specialist - by that I don't mean some clerk that works in a Human Resources department or some student that read a bit about Human Resources on one of their courses - go higher up the food chain and ask the Human Resources manager or the Human Resources directors that you may know. If you don't know any then join a Chamber of Commerce or join LinkedIn and get to talk with them. They'll set you right about what to put and how your resume should be designed.
For the rest of us with no Human Resources managers in our circle, it is recommended that forgetting everything you think you know about resumes and doing them exactly the way described is generally the way forward.
At the top - name and contact details. Try something like this:
My Name
My PO Box
My Phone number
My eMail address 
At this stage it is recommended that the phone number be a Google Voice number specially selected solely for job applications. This way you can simply block spam callers readily and any nuisance callers readily. Your job search is going to turn up a ton of scammers and spammers. The PO Box is recommended for the same reason. There is no reason on earth why any employer has to know your real address until after an interview and any that ask for financial information or social security numbers prior to interview should be left well alone. The email address needs to be specially selected solely for job hunting. Again, Google is good for this. At this point you are applying for jobs on websites and you have no way of knowing whether the job is real or a scam or whether the "advertisement" is somebody on a fishing expedition.
Next some people like to put a career goal. Personally I think they're a load of rubbish because most people's goal is to get work that pays that allows them to be able to afford to pay rent and pay for food. Career goal is just for the select few that actually have a career. Most people are just trying to survive and employers know this. Thus if you must put a career goal then put something innocuous in like this:
Objective: To obtain a position that utilizes my skills and experience
Underneath that you could put the kind of experience you wish to highlight for positions you're looking for. Tailoring a resume to a job is recommended. Just sending out random resumes is not really worth your time or effort. Something like this would seem worthwhile:
Experience: Administrative assistant experienced at registering patents, scheduling
appointments and recording and filing patent records. Enters orders and information quickly and accurately.
Below that is where you can put skill highlights. Again, this is very job specific. One of the main tasks in looking for work is focus. The employment department of your country/government wants you to take a job - it doesn't matter what - as quickly as possible. The fastest way of doing that is to focus on specific job types that your experience reflects. This reflects my own resume.
Skill Highlights
  • Ph.D. degree in chemistry, physics, materials/polymer science, physics or  chemical engineering.
  • Direct R&D laboratory experience for 5+ years.
  • Experience in foreign patent prosecution.
  • Experience in working with business and technical teams to develop IP strategies for key technical programs.
  • Six Sigma Green Belt certification.
Now all those listings can be found online in job descriptions if you have done the job and don't know what's important to say about it. Personally I always find myself at a blank when I have to think about what I did in a job. I look up the online sites and they remind me what I should be saying and what I have done. I remember it then - when you're actually doing the job, everything becomes second nature and you forget what skills you're actually using. Everybody can make an eggs, bacon and toast breakfast but what are the processes involved? It's easy to forget the detail of what you do when you do it automatically.

The next most important section to put is the latest position that you were employed to perform. Opinion is divided as to whether you try to hide unemployment by putting something in to disguise it. Women can generally get around unemployment by putting "housewife" or "raising family" as it's generally expected that women will enter and leave then re-enter the workforce. Men are regarded with suspicion if they have gaps in their careers though there is no reason on earth why they should not put "house husband" or "raising family" as plenty women earn far more than their husbands. The approach taken is entirely up to you. I put "photographer" down as that's on my business license yet the photography I do is pretty much related to the books and blogs that I write for.
Professional Experience
October 2007 to Present
Zephod Photography Tacoma, WA
● Conducted all photo shoots in a calm and professional demeanor.
● Collaborated with clients to guarantee satisfaction with advertisements.
● Defined image requirements and planned photographic events.
● Collaborated successfully with a variety of personalities and work styles.
● Photographed special events, including weddings, parties and school portraits. 
Clearly headings, underlining and bold should be used throughout wherever possible but it's possible to use plain text. 90% of resumes are never read by people. Keyword stuffing (in context, obviously) will get through the automated systems. 
The next thing after experience (and I suggest listing experience over at least the last ten years if possible and more preferably) is education. With the experience though it is recommended that you forget all about resumes being thrown away if they're more than a single page or two pages. That's all been taken care of by automation - automated systems now scan resumes so the more detail that you can put in, the better. If the resume is 50 pages long, that's fine. The resume clerk at the end will just retrieve resumes that get through their system. 95% of resumes never make it through automated filtering systems. Thus, the great complaint by HR professionals is they don't know how many great candidates get filtered out before they receive the resume.
 Muggle University, London; 1994 - 1998
● Bachelor of Theology
○ Italian Language
○ Crochet and tapestry of the Middle Ages
○ The Wars of the Roses
○ The 100 years war
○ Physics
○ Organic Chemistry
○ Italian Prose & Poetry
○ Urban Studies
○ Third World Development
A list of course modules isn't really needed but it might trigger something worthwhile in the resume scanning system. Those systems are looking for positive keywords, not negative keywords. If the system has been programmed to look for "face painting" then it will look for that. It's not going to find "face painting" and then reject somebody for having "body art" on their resume. If that went on with resume scanning software then the question would have to be raised as to whether people were rejected for having black or Asian-sounding names or because they did or did not speak Spanish which could be construed as racist and therefore be actionable.
The final thing is to put "References available on request". If a system asks you to enter your references before an interview, walk away. It's more than likely a scam artist at work.
Finally, letter of application. This is the biggest annoyance of the modern application process. It can go one of two ways. Either somebody will read it or it will be ignored. If you reach somebody that will actually read it then you're in good stead so it has to be worthwhile. This has to be tailored not only to the job but to the company to which you're applying. Cookie-cutter letters look very cookie-cutter and will generally not be viewed well. No application letter- you're cutting your chances down by 50%.
An application letter should make some reference to why you want to work for the company. This is a trick question. I was asked at an interview why I wanted the job. I just said "I need the money and I'm prepared to work for it". I got the job and stayed in it for five years until the company closed. The application letter should highlight things that aren't on your resume or should expand on things on your resume. These days though with automated resume scanners, it's more important than ever to have everything on your resume.
One thing I'd love to have on a resume is who I don't want to hear from. Having said that, negatives don't come over well. Everything has to be positive. I don't want to hear from scammers and spammers nor do I want to hear from agencies that are just looking to add bodies to their books without an actual position being available for that body.
Finally, let's talk about agencies and websites. Perhaps the biggest annoyance for job-seekers is the plethora of jobs websites. Which one to use and so on. Generally, registering on a website and leaving a resume up there is worthless. No employer worth their salt is going to browse websites looking for candidates as 90% of those who put resumes up won't be actively looking. Believe it or not but there are swathes of unemployed people that actually prefer to remain unemployed. I suppose they get worn down by the system and stop looking. 
Websites - particularly the general jobs websites are usually best avoided. This is where the spammers, scammers and phishermen all prowl for their latest victims. is one site that I personally have sent probably several hundred applications through and had no responses at all other than from scammers. I turned up to three scam interviews before I learned the signs of a scam. The first two were a fake company name - the name could not be located anywhere online and the telephone number was for a marketing company. I turned up and it was a commission only sales job going door to door selling cosmetics. The dollar stores killed trade in cosmetics - when you can go to a dollar store for a nail polish or lipstick, why buy it off some unknown fellow knocking your door? Aside from that, knocking on doors to sell things is not only frowned upon but can be illegal in many areas - without mentioning the likelihood of nervous householders shooting through the door rather than opening it. The next scam was pretty much the same except it was car maintenance products. The last one - somebody had broken into a closed bar and were getting people to fill in applications to sell furniture from the premises, pretending that they had really got the ownership of the premises. 
The best advice I can give is to apply in person or if that's absolutely not possible then solely at company websites - if the job is on one of the general websites then look it up on the real website and apply there. It's more work but if the job has long gone, it will still be listed on the general website but not on the real website. Very often it's possible to see non-existent jobs being advertised. The best example I saw of this was a job that had been offered by a company that had already been closed 2 years before I saw the advert.
Agencies are a very mixed bunch. Some are slightly less use than a chocolate teapot while others can be good or vary from good to bad depending on the weather. Government bodies like the unemployed to join agencies as it looks good on paper. If you have little or no experience then they aren't going to help you. They'll all take your application and promise you the earth but largely they're a waste of your infinitely more valuable time. 
As stated before, the best application is an in person application. Online applications just smack very much of there not actually being a need for an employee and online being just a way of fobbing people off. It is possible to find jobs where an online application isn't necessary. Generally this is my favored way of applying as so little of this online stuff seems actually to work.
Given that unemployment insurance does run out quickly, your goal is not to mess about with time-wasting agencies but to get a job. The way to get a job is to focus. Focus on the kind of job you want, focus on the companies that have that kind of position. Focus on who you know or can get to know in the company to support your application. Focus on getting that job.
May 9th, 2014, 4:43PM EDT. A late addendum... 
When you get a call to attend an interview, type <insert company name> + scam into Google. You'll be utterly amazed at what dirty little secrets come up. While it's not wise to judge a company based on what people write online about it, what you read can lead to interesting questions to ask the interviewer questions based on what you read. 

I had a phonecall the other day and was suspicious. I asked the caller detailed questions and was assured it was a legit job. I turned up and managed to find them in Google as I'd written down the company name wrongly. It was an insurance job where people apparently had to pay for their own training and provide their own leads. Basically, do all the company's work for them. I asked at the interview whether the company supplied all the leads and the interviewer was knocked back by the question. Being fairly inscrutable - it takes a bit to knock a Chinaman off his train of thought; the answer was "it's a bit of both". The eyes never lie to me and those eyes told me that what I'd just been told would fertilize quite a few rosebeds. Smiling gently, we parted. Typical financial services scam! It all went to prove what I wrote earlier - focus on one specific type of job and one specific field.

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