July 21, 2010

The Great Recession

A couple weeks ago, I was at IHOP, sitting across from Kortney, who was making weird faces while listening to a recorded message on her phone. On that evening, she was sending out resumes, looking for a new job. She called the phone number on a listing, and the recorded message told her to call another phone number (long-distance) to hear a presentation.

Let me tell you: the job market is a-changing. Degrees have taken on the value of Monopoly money. (Nothing, that is. They are worth nothing, although sometimes you can fool a kid into swapping it with real money. Unfortunately, kids won't pay you for a diploma. Monopoly money is a higher-ticket black market item, apparently.)

Regardless of the job you apply for, there will naturally be someone with more experience or lower salary requirements. For example, I recently went on an interview for a company which specializes in African safaris. Really. This job was fairly below my level of both experience and education. I had all the skills they required and more.

Yet the following week, the company informed me that they had chosen another candidate, one who had "experience in the industry." Who are all these people with super-obscure industry experience? Someone already had experience working for an African safari company?

As Kort put it, "What? Did they hire a Bushman?"

Employers are taking advantage of this barren economy to find the Top Guns of the working world. "Well, I know we are just replacing our receptionist," they muse, "and we can only afford to pay her in beans and erasers, but I think we should hire this candidate. Her last position was as a partner at a law firm! She must know her way around Microsoft Office. We've really scored big!"

Think about it, employers. The very minute the market turns around, do you think your new receptionist will stick around in this crummy job, answering the phones and making your coffee? No. She will move to a position that is more on her level. And she will not even feel guilty for abandoning you without notice.

If I think back to everyone I have known (or currently know) over the past two years, nearly every single person has been laid off, fired, or just deeply unsatisfied with their positions. I have personally changed jobs two times in the last two years: the first job laid me off (along with most of their employees), while the second just stopped paying altogether. (But strangely, the boss still expected me to keep working for him.)

"What do you think about companies that have typos in their descriptions?" Kort asked, in between chugs of coffee.

"It makes me think they need an assistant with a strong attention to detail," I replied.

"It makes me not want to apply for their jobs," she said.

The idea of loyalty to a company or employer is not just dead, but long since decomposing. Keeping your resume updated is not just a formality, it's a necessity. The two-week-notice has become a liability.

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