In a basement somewhere, standing up I introduce myself. “Hello. My name is Andrea and I’m an entrepreneur.” The circle of bodies say, “Hello Andrea.”
You see, I am an entrepreneur in recovery. The support groups I go to aren’t really like AA meetings, they are more like conferences and networking events. And, I’m not ashamed to call myself an entrepreneur because in the past decade I have created jobs for myself and for others, provided value to the marketplace that spurs the economy and I have gained more experience and education than any university could provide. I see the title of entrepreneur as an attribute of honor, a badge to be worn with pride.
Except when it comes to my current goal. I have come to a point in my career where I have realized that I want to be part of something more than me and my own ideas and strategies. After launching my own agency in Chicago, acquiring new business, building new practices, carving out niches, launching media platforms and investing in the first cowork space in Indiana, I have learned that I have exceeded my career growth as a small business owner. I want more. I want to surround myself with the trailblazers and buzz that can challenge me and fuels my passion for innovation in digital media. To do this properly, I need to be part of a bigger engine with more resources than I can acquire on my own. Therefore, I am seeking employment.
Yes, I am looking to work for an agency that is influential and innovative. And, here is where the entrepreneurial gloom sets in, revealing the real problem with the current job market.
In the time it takes me to squeeze my creative innovative career track into recruiters’ teeny tiny boxes and then wait for a non-automated response, someone like me could have responded to a government RFP, launched a new company, flipped it, written an eBook, sold hundreds of copies and written content like this on a blog that Forbes named the Top Job Blog in 2012, just because I can.
Today’s job search is laborious and expects the job seeker to invest so much upfront with little to no return. No human connection, no constructive feedback, no hint to opportunity, no ROI. And, no return of investment for me is a red flag, a nightmare and I avoid it at all cost.
Here are some of the problems I’ve faced on my own journey and I can’t help but wonder if these issues are impacting the marketplace at large, stifling innovation. Are other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges? Are these obstacles purposeful and designed to weed out the entrepreneur? If so, I’m in it for the win. Here’s a glance at my job seeking journey.
Are Recruiters Robots?
The Economist recently published an article titled Robot Recruiters that highlights software that reports on applicant’s data. Such technology can tell recruiters if I am using the same browser that was installed when I bought my computer, or if I installed another browser. Apparently this data point tells the recruiter if I am a job-hopper. Or, it can tell the recruiter that I’m an out-of-box thinker. There are many angles this big data technology can tell recruiters.
My guess is that it won’t be able to illustrate the human side however and after all, isn’t the real MO of the HR profession all about the human resource-side of business? Technology tools are only helpful when they assist us so we can have more time to be human.
What are the humans saying about success? A reoccurring theme from industry leaders points to this: Be passionate. In other words, leaders don’t want drones. They are encouraging people to have passion. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications interviewed women executives in public relations on career advice. Siobhan Aalders, EVP Head of Technology at Ogilvy shares, “Know your passion and what gets you excited, then go after it.” Sticking with the passion theme, Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vayner Media says, “Find your passion and make it work for you, now.”
Can the level of an applicant’s passion be found in the current practices of recruitment industry? Or has the industry become so robotic that the need to build systems that keep the riff-raff out forced the role of the recruiter to be less of a recruiter and more like a gatekeeper or obstacle to allowing feisty firecrackers like me to meet the amazing Oz.
The Online Hiring Process is Broken
On a rare occasion when I have the pleasure of reading a dazzling job description that inspires me, I cannot help but invest in the opportunity. This requires me to write a customized cover letter, attach my resume, fill the entries on the online application according to recruiters’ instruction and hit send. Then, I wait. The luster I once had for the well-written job description vanishes as quickly as my application is sent, both disappearing into the land of the lost. I spend time researching how and who to follow up with, like a sleuth seeking to solve a never-ending mystery.
Power of the Network
They say it’s all about who you know. Thanks to social networking and the event reporting practice I have been doing for the past three years, I can honestly boast that I know people.
So likely, I have reached into my own network to scout for job leads. The traction stops when it comes time for me to deal with any recruitment activity. I can get CEOs, EVPs, and PYTs to take my calls, return my emails and even buy my lunch but the likelihood for a recruiter to respond to any of my attempts to reach out or follow up is slim.
I have even upgraded to a premium level so that I can use LinkedIn to ask my own connections to introduce me to their company recruiters. I recently asked a friend who is a big deal in the industry, and he’s the EVP at a PR agency to make an introduction to one of his recruiters who posted a job I had wanted. He did. He also sent an email to the recruiter telling him that I was awesome and blah blah blah… I made attempts to follow up with this recruiter two times, with not even an automated email response from the recruiter.
At the Crossroad
I’m faced with two choices. Give up the job search and continue as an independent professional. Or, continue to reach my current goal of acquiring a job at an innovative and influential agency.
Since I like a good challenge, my eye is on my goal and to achieve it, I must tap into the traits that allowed me to succeed as an entrepreneur and apply them to my job search. These traits are: Passion. Vision. Tenacity.
Passion to know what I want and the boldness to get it.
Vision to map out a plan to reach goals, make connections and create opportunities.
Tenacity to persevere, adjust and improve when necessary to avoid burnout. Find support systems. Maintain focus. To continue to have passion and vision.
Coincidently, these are the same traits that women must have to succeed at entrepreneurship according to the 2013 State of the Woman-Owned Businesses Survey conducted by Web.com and NAWBO.
To achieve success in today’s rapidly changing digital world, leaders must exemplify these attributes regardless if they are entrepreneurs or working at larger companies.
Standing at the crossroad, I introduce myself, “Hello my name is Andrea. I am an entrepreneur who wants to work for your influential and innovative agency.”
How would you respond?