Posted by: kenwbudd | August 17, 2009

Building Careers or Selling Dreams?

Let me tell you a tale of caution and disillusionment but maybe also of unrealistic hopes and an, all to rapid relinquishing of personal responsibilities.

A sad fact of life is that there are a large number of people currently unemployed and an even larger number that fear they will soon be unemployed.

A large number of these people will be either senior in status or senior in years and it is this group that can be so easily disarmed, during such times.

Its been a long time since they were in the job market and longer still since they had to ask other people for help. Our tale begins with Mr F, a newly unemployed hard working guy, desperate to regain his status and station in life and also in the eyes of his family. Unfortunately, desperation is a negative emotion and a poor master.

Outplacement Companies
Seeking an edge to regain his rightful place in society, Mr. F paid an outplacement company $8,250, believing it would help him land a six-figure job in his area. At least that’s what their sales person promised. Unfortunately, the company did little more than redo his résumé, encourage him to cold-call employers and expand his network.

Took Advantage
Mr. F, aged 58, firmly believes that the company misrepresented its services and exaggerated its capabilities. He eventually found a job, but without their help, and gratefully received a partial refund from the outplacement company, after threatening to report them to the authorities.

Alarming Concept
This alarm, raised to the righteous authorities, is simply a vain but heart felt cry, to some unseen, and benign power of ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ that is said to pervade the complex societies in which we live. Our ‘state’ buildings are decorated with statues that give fantastic form to these concepts but they are rarely seen in public.

Two Sides
One side of the argument says that the company misrepresented itself but the other sides says that Mr. F’s expectations were too high. Either way there was a misalignment or lack of negotiation but Mr F’s experience does highlight the naivity and vulnerability of job seekers, when they are seeking help in the most difficult of job markets in decades.

Unregulated
Job seekers can encounter a bewildering and largely unregulated array of individuals and businesses offering various levels of assistance. While some people have clearly benefited from their work, others have accused the companies of using misleading sales tactics. Selling little more than promises and vain hope.

Up Front Fees
Unprofessional “career management” or “career marketing” companies, which charge large up-front fees, are easy to stumble upon, the’re on every employment Web sites. From the other side, it is certainly very easy to contact job seekers, once they have posted their résumés, they are in the public domain.

Senior Service
Given a startling choice, it is clearly more lucrative to focus on senior professionals and managers of advancing age, easily massaging their egos by claiming only to accept the most desirable and marketable candidates.

Beware of companies that place advertisements that appear to be job postings but instead are lures for their sales pitches.

Valuable Support
Many good employment and outplacement services provide valuable support and assistance, but others can easily misrepresent themselves and the effectiveness of their services, in an attempt to take your money. It is not difficult to find good, legitimate agencies that will meet your needs, but it is critical that you do your research and homework first.

Overhauling CVs
Many of the companies do little more than provide ordinary job search assistance: overhauling résumés and assisting with covering or introductory letters, giving advice on how to start networking and helping sort through open or public job listings. While this can be a legitimate and useful service, much of it you can do yourself or it can be obtained more cheaply elsewhere.

No Happy Ending
To stop you getting bored, let’s look at another example. Mr B, aged 44, who managed the technology centre of an Technical college before losing his job during a restructuring, paid a career management company $5,000, after responding to what he thought was a job posting for professionals looking to earn $100,000 a year.

Instead, he got a sales pitch from a professional careers hijacker. He was told that a search for someone his age would normally take 13 months but that the company would cut that in half, guaranteed.

Magic Beans
Mr. B believed that the company was a high-end recruiter, with access to a vast and somehow magical, “hidden job market” At least that’s how the company officials put it. They claimed that they had connections to positions unavailable to regular job seekers. A ‘secret’ path to a quick solution.

Only later, after he began working with the company, did he realise that it did not have any special pathways to job openings. He demanded a refund but got nowhere. Two years later, he still does not have a job, and the company’s charge on his credit card has helped push him and his wife to file for bankruptcy.

Summary
In the end, Mr. F was very unsatisfied with the service he received from his outplacement company but by then, he had taken another job which he got through his own efforts, using his old résumé.

Misalignment
You could claim that in both cases, the company maintained their morale and motivation over the period of unemployment and, in Mr F’s case, you could equally claim that they had given him the impetus and confidence to do well during the interview but, is that what the company claimed they would do when first they met and agreed the contract, perhaps not. Perhaps the company under stated their ability to ‘influence’ the candidates.

Influence
The power to influence others is most effective when the other party is unaware of being manipulated or directed. Our wives and partners do it all the time and still we remain together. Only when the curtain accidently falls and the charade is revealed do we feel cheated, used and misled and then we realise it was all done for our own good.

Magic Solutions

We readily accept external influences in advertising and marketing. We even suspend our dis-belief at the movies but for some reason in desperate times and in the face of adversity, we are all too willing to believe in the ‘snake oil’ of instant resolutions, the ‘magic bullet’ of quick results, or the ‘magic beans’ of sustainable new growth, that the brightly dressed wizard is selling. Reality bites and sometimes it bites very hard.
Remain open to new opportunities but do not travel unguarded against old adversaries
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