Advertising your Ambiguous Ambitions

I remember the reward for my liberal arts degree during the recession of 1982, where all of the economy was changing and the manufacturing jobs were disappearing. I had taken a very important and responsible position mopping floors, cleaning toilets and taking out trash. At least most of the work was indoors and I had the option of doing it about any time of day I chose as long as I had it cleaned before the place opened.


I remember the owner, who was an adept businessman, attempting to collect on a loan that he had made. It was early afternoon, and the borrower pulled up to the business in his rather new and quite comfortable car. Wearing nice clothes with his fingernails trimmed and clean, he explained to the owner why he couldn't pay the money he owed. It was one of the  "if you don't have it you can't pay it" scenarios.


Bottom line, he wore nicer clothes than my boss, drove a nicer car than my boss, and had more free time than my boss, and yet, he couldn't pay my boss what he had borrowed. As time passes, I am less and less inclined to offer money to people who seem to wear nicer clothes than me, drive nicer cars than me, and have more free time than me. I am also less inclined to believe, that for whatever odd reason, I am obliged to roll up my sleeves and get the job done when no one is willing to help out and yet they all agree it needs to get done.


Negotiating what you will do and what you will not do is a delicate process in our personal and professional lives. One of the things my experience has taught me is never take a position that does not have a written description of the job and the responsibilities that go along with it. While an enforceable contract is good, they can always put at the end "all necessary tasks related to this position, at any time" to which you amend "with adequate compensation for previously undefined duties in either pay or time off." That said, let me point out that I am not an attorney and that was just a guideline. The thing is, if you walk into job negotiations with your attorney at your side, things will get sticky quickly, unless there are millions on the table, in which case the employer already has consulted lawyers.


Obviously, companies want to make as much money as possible, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are, however, certain times when you realize that you are making a lot more value for your employer than matches  your compensation, or, you are the only one generating revenue while dozens of your coworkers make themselves invisible when  the work shows up, always happy to leave the heavy lifting to you. There you are, again, holding the bag, all alone, staring down that great big pile of work. You end up being like my boss, financing someone's lifestyle, sweating it out so they can relax and enjoy life. I guess some people find that rewarding.  


People quit jobs because, according to the Harvard Business Review, "they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years.” Keep in mind high turnover jobs blow through a lot of people because: the boss is a jerk, there's nowhere to go, or the pay is bad. I would also add, the job isn’t something that you want to do. In the interview, listen very carefully for the explanation of how the job opened up, and do not be afraid to ask about turnover. If a few dozen people tried it before you, your chances are not very good.  


Ever notice how the really good jobs don't open up much, or that those positions are filled from within the organization, and if you see the position open at all it is only because the firm had a legal obligation to advertise the position, but you don't see the advertisement very long? The other thing that I see a lot are positions that are always open. Always. You have to wonder who takes those jobs and why the firm cannot find some way to keep employees.


My favorite, however, is where you look at the website and it does everything it can to keep from telling you what it really does. Most of these firms are "marketing" firms that don't mention very much in the way of techniques or the names of clients, but are always offering "wonderful opportunities" to applicants. I like their websites because they always have a photo of the "team" which all sport bad haircuts, ill-fitting clothes, and forced smiles, usually at a sparse, fly-by-night looking office. Usually, at least one of the people in the picture has left the company, but if the picture is more than a month old, it's an "old picture." All of those businesses give me this this odd feeling, like something isn't right. I recall one of the interviews where the person interviewing me claimed to have made fifty thousand dollars in the last six months, which was all fine and well, but honestly, I could have gone to a Goodwill second-hand store an walked out better dressed than he was. When you make 100k a year, there are people who can tell you how to look like you make 100k a year, and if you want to impress me by telling me you make 100k a year, at least try to dress like you make 100k a year. 


I often tell the story of an interview with a "vice president" with of one of the firms asking a marketing question that anyone with any marketing education would know, but of course, he didn't. Age-old joke, what do you call a salesman who can't sell anything? The “director of marketing.” Important tip: if the interviewer doesn't have a business card, or just as bad, has a business card with the old name scratched out and his/hers handwritten in. This handwritten is not always the case, however. One of the highest-paying jobs I ever had started with an interview with a manager whose name was handwritten in, but this was in Ohio and he had transferred from California, so things were a bit behind.

At times I am tempted to send an ambiguous resume as vague as their websites.


Ambition plays a big part in my life. I have always been ambitious. In job after job, my ambitions thrive as well as my determination comes through. When I am determined to do something, I see it through. Many times I’m the one who makes it happen, because of my ambition and determination.


Marketing is important. Marketing knowledge can mean the difference between success and failure, and I know marketing. Some of the products that I have sold were in high demand after I explained why the customer needed the product or service. Let’s face it, marketing is the key to selling. The right sales pitch at the right time to the right person is the key to selling, and knowing your market and your product is part of the formula for success.


I have had many people say that working with me is a unique experience. I like to make experiences unique and memorable, that’s just one of my qualities. I really enjoy a job where I can make the experience unique and memorable, where I can apply my unique abilities to make the experience a one of a kind.


Education is important. I remember a lot of my teachers and the things that they taught me. I think that an education can be the key to success. I value education, and have a lot of respect for people with an education.


I hope you realized that in the last four paragraphs I have deliberately said exactly nothing. This is a lot like the website of these “marketing” firms. No marketing strategies, no target markets, no clients, no descriptions other than vague generalizations as solid as balloon juice. I would love to be a content writer for one of these websites. How do you tell someone to write  several pages and say almost nothing but vague generalities, with nothing specific? I also wonder who the owners of these firms are and where they get these ideas. What some of the jobs these “marketing” firms do is walking door to door in neighborhoods trying to sell something, called “d2d” in the current marketing jargon. There’s b2b, b2c, and d2d in marketing jargon. They consider themselves brilliant because they have mastered this jargon, and throw those terms into every conversation they have just to illustrate that brilliance. “Yeah, Bob, I was at the car dealership, you know, they were doing the b2c gig, but I wanted to talk to the decision maker.”


I don’t know why they just can’t tell you that if you take this job that they take you to a neighborhood, where you “canvas” the neighborhood (another one of those brilliant marketing terms) walking door to door trying to close a sale. Oh, wait, I know why, because if they told you that your job is walking around a neighborhood knocking on doors trying to sell something, you would probably never apply to work there. (Even though in the interview they’ll tell you this product almost sells itself.) You could cut out the middle man and just walk door to door (d2d  to you marketing geniuses) and offer to trim lawns, tend gardens, or shovel snow, or whatever talents you might have that someone could use. The best thing is, you won’t have to listen to your employer explain why your commission check hasn’t come yet, when it was due two weeks ago.


Neil Lock Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:12am
It's said that 20 per cent of the people get 80 per cent of the work done. (In software development, it's often even more extreme than that.) You're obviously one of the 20 per cent, Jeff.
And I really enjoyed your bit about "working with me is a unique experience." I could surely say the same about myself when I do my software testing work! I'm noisy, cackling loudly when I find a good bug (which, usually, is several times a day). I make terrible puns. And I don't let anybody get away with anything. I hope you provide your "unique experience" to your co-workers in different ways to me!
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 9:28am
Thanks for the comments Neil. I have to say that historically, when my boss made a poor decision and then I was the one who had to stay late and fix it, I was, shall we say, unsparing in my criticism. I was a software bug finder myself, and one time I found a bug because of the way it was configured, and the software people chewed me out because they said that would never happen, no one would configure it that way. My boss said that software bug finders got chewed out a lot, because we find things no one likes to fix. I accused the software people of being short-sighted, that if I could do it a customer would likely do it as well.
I never liked having to stay late fixing a problem that I told my boss would happen. In one career, I became the boss, so I didn't have to stay late, but I also would help anyone fix anything that I was responsible for goofing up, which most of the time wasn't much. I did have something loaded into a trailer that wasn't ours, but the option of not having them do that was to pay $5,000 per hour if it was late. They created the urgency, I just dealt with it. Had I insisted that they take the time to correct the problem, and it was late, they would have insisted that I knew better than to allow it to be late. It was a lose-lose situation.
Autumn Cote Added Dec 2, 2017 - 10:06am
Please note, to improve your article's readability I recommend adding white space between paragraph breaks.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
opher goodwin Added Dec 2, 2017 - 10:19am
If you want a job done give it to a grafter.
George N Romey Added Dec 2, 2017 - 10:47am
The new buzz word for firms of questionable character is to call their HR Director ( at one time Personnel Director) the Director of Culture. Just like when Wal Mart co opted the term associate. The sleazier they are the more they try to sound authentic.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 10:52am
Yes, George, I love all of the new terms that they invent. If they had any business acumen, they would improve the business rather than trying to make themselves seem important by changing the names of positions.
Leroy Added Dec 2, 2017 - 1:30pm
My favorite all-time acronym that was a literal translation from the French mother company was for After Sales Service or ASS.  It was even better than the VD department.
Ari Silverstein Added Dec 2, 2017 - 1:38pm
Searching for a job based on what’s written in some ad is bound to be a frustrating and ambiguous endeavor.  The best way to find a job is to use your contacts.  As you point out, the better jobs are not usually given to some stranger that comes via the internet.  I would also add that from the employer’s perspective, there are employees not worth the cost. 
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 4:30pm
Thanks Leroy, that was a good one. I agree with you Ari, there are certainly employees that aren't worth paying anything for. My problem with hiring people that you know is that if their friend is working with them might they take measures to minimize mistakes and "cover" for bad decisions that their friend and coworker makes?
Some really good people come out of nowhere. The Beatles were four unknown lads from Liverpool. When one searches for talent only within one's own connections, there might be some genuine talent that has been working the graveyard shift that didn't have time to socialize and make friends in an industry. A lot of talent comes out of nowhere, and I'm none too big on legacies, circles of friends or mutual admiration societies that only see each other as qualified and ignore anyone who might have more skills, talent or education. I see a lot of schools that concentrate on legacies and connections, and I will leave that statement right there.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 2, 2017 - 6:13pm
It always seemed the most important question to ask was how many people have had this job in the last two years.  When you get answers like "5" it is reason to reconsider or not consider any offer at all.  The two gigs I passed on asking, then discovered later were high turnover, were terrible, stressful jobs I didn't keep for long. Nobody else could either...
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 7:10pm
Good point Jeff. Does anyone in the management of these organizations give a hoot that they are turning over people quickly and they might want to do something about it? McDonald's finally figured out that if you offer a little more money, people will stay longer. I'm sure whoever figured that out is a high-IQ genius, probably an Ivy-league MBA grad who speaks three languages fluently and solves differential calculus problems for fun in their spare time. Or, maybe it was someone who simply realizes what the reality of a job and work really consists of.
Ari Silverstein Added Dec 4, 2017 - 5:30am
“My problem with hiring people that you know is that if their friend is working with them might they take measures to minimize mistakes and "cover" for bad decisions that their friend and coworker makes?”
That’s not a question or a problem. I think it’s good to minimalize mistakes and for employees to help each other out. 
An employee that helps get someone they know a job at a company is sticking their neck out.  Said employee is going to look really bad if the new-hire turns out to be a dud.  In addition, an internet-found employee will always look good on paper.  That and the interview is all the employer has to go on to make his or her decision.  It’s only after they get the job do we really find out what the employee can do the job or if the employee is reliable.  This is why companies generally look to hire from within. By within, it doesn’t imply the things you responded with, such as people from the same city or same family.  The people we all know, we know for a multitude of reasons.  However, even if what I said were wrong, as you point out, the Beatles all came from the same small geographic area.  Frankly, I’m surprised companies ever hire via the internet. 
Dave Volek Added Dec 5, 2017 - 12:32pm
Great article Jeff
LinkedIn used to have a lot of trashy articles about getting a job, and I had to wonder whether these writers ever had to hustle for work. Your article was much more realistic.
I have to wonder about companies that try to sell their unfilled position as "careers". Please just call it a "job". Worker does the work the boss wants; worker gets paid. It's that simple! If there is some upside a year or two down the road, great. But it is a "job."
Many years ago, I had made peace with co-workers who were trying to earn a paycheck with the least amount of work. I just do the best I can and let their lack of work ethic take them wherever it needs to take them. 
The job interview is a game to be played by both employer and potential employee. It is seldom an honest process. I'm guilty of telling lies.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 5, 2017 - 10:26pm
Ari, I'd like to think that companies hire from within, and some certainly do, but I do not see as much of that as it seems to be reported. Some of the high-tech firms, and even traditional firms look for someone from outside to bring in a new perspective. The old  "fresh blood" notion.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 5, 2017 - 10:34pm
Well Dave, certainly we can embellish what we have done, but that's not lying per se. What we call "dumpster divers" could reasonably called "resource recovery specialists." Sometimes its all in the name.
I once had a client ask me to lie on his resume. I declined and let him keep the several hundred dollars that he owed me. I would not be a part of a lie, although, like any resume, you are pointing out your best accomplishments and successes. I once hired a fellow who was a former bank robber who had done some hard time. He was one of the best employees I ever had. He hated, hated lazy people, and especially criminals. Apparently, he had spent all the time he ever cared to spend with criminals, and could not abide them any longer.
I still maintain that a lot of talent comes out of nowhere, you know, just people who had never been given an honest chance, never been cut a break, who don't know any important people, who no one ever allowed to get their toes, let alone their feet, in the door. I know that there are a lot of great musicians who have never been offered a record contract, who have a great deal of talent. Think of all the other areas where this could be true.
Dave Volek Added Dec 6, 2017 - 12:17am
Gee Jeff
I hope that "talent coming out of nowhere" applies to my new book about an alternative system of governance. My only credentials are six years in a political party to learn why the system is failing us. I have no Ph.D, no actual elected experience (I would suck at this job), and no journalistic experience. My part in this process is only to vote once every four years or so.
I suck at job interviews. My reference do better talking than I do. And sometimes there wasn't much talent at the trough--and I got the job in that way.
George N Romey Added Dec 6, 2017 - 10:39am
LinkedIn simply is there to monetize off of people's unemployment or bad job situation.  They make you believe that if you pony up $39.99 (or something like that) you will get this wonderful networking access.  Its bunk.  You get a bunch of excess HR people writing articles that are either juvenile in nature (like Network!) or just plain wrong.
Getting a good job today, particularly if you are older or just out of school and have no specialized in demand skill is plain old never ending pounding out resumes and from time to time actually getting an interview.  Its comes down to a numbers game and unless you are in the aforementioned in demand skill roles the numbers are very much against you.  The process is akin to playing the lottery every day.
Now if you can economically survive on a 20 hour a week, $12-$15 an hour job there are more jobs than you shake a stick at.  However, I've not met anyone lucky to be in that situation.
Welcome to the new economy.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 6, 2017 - 9:43pm
Once again, I'm with you, George. I'm amazed that some of these folks are posting "job seeking advice" when they might have had two jobs in their entire career. It's nice to know how the young people are looking at it, though, because there are a lot of them getting publishing opportunities on some of the websites. I'm working on a "big break" essay that might make WB soon.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 6, 2017 - 9:46pm
Well Dave, congrats on the book and if your book is as observant as your postings I think it would be worth a read. My last interview landed a job (long term work) and I used the same answers I always do, so I'm thinking it sure isn't me, now is it. They're good, honest and thoughtful answers. Perhaps that's not what they're looking for, huh? Or at least some of them are.
Edgeucation Newmedia Added Dec 11, 2017 - 3:33pm
Very nice job. I especially liked your resume that looked like something but really said nothing pertinent at all. 

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