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I’m only writing this post because I’ve seen so much bad advice out there from so-called self-proclaimed “experts” on how to land a job. I followed some of this advice myself only to have it go nowhere. First I’ll mention what did NOT work for me.

Getting good grades and doing well in school: My parents used to preach that mantra while telling me that getting good grades is more important than even having friends. While I think that doing enough work so you won’t flunk school is important, I found out that most employers don’t give a damn if you were the high school/college valedictorian or were a straight-A student all through school or you got a perfect score on your SAT. I’ve had some job interviews that completely dismissed my extra-curricular activities (especially on the college level or even the post-college volunteer work I had done in my church or community) as not being enough experience even if these activities were directly related to the job I was applying for. I’ve worked with managers over the years who didn’t seem knowledgeable about the job that they were doing and they only got the job not because of their education but because they knew the CEO or some other upper level manager. Or these managers had gotten their college degrees from the so-called “name” universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton while ignoring someone who may have been more qualified for the job but that person only had an MBA from a state school like the University of Maryland.

I also think my parents were wrong on how unimportant making friends were. (My mother especially was always telling me about how having nice things were more important than having friends.) I found out the hard way that the key to landing a job is not based on what you know, it’s based on who you know. This explains why I’ve seen so many unqualified people get hired for jobs they have no business landing simply because these people belong to the same country club as the CEO or are golfing buddies with an upper-level manager or were college roommates with the Senior Vice President. My mother forced me to take two years of typing in high school because she said I’ll land a job faster only to find out that most companies I’ve interviewed for could have cared less about that fact. If I had kids, I would place even more emphasis on teaching them how to make friends than making the honor roll at school.

Indeed.com: Like I wrote in my recently published book, The Cash-Strapped Person’s Guide to Thriving in the Digital Age, Indeed.com aggregates job listings but the big problem is that many of those listings are out of date. Indeed.com lets you apply to jobs through its website and you can also upload your resume on that site as well so employers could find you.

I uploaded my resume on Indeed.com and I got a response from an employment agency in Baltimore where they needed to interview me for a job that they had me in mind for. So I went there only to discover after the interviewing process that their client wants a temp but the temp agency had to provide a list of 10 names to that client, the client will select three names, the client will interview those three finalists and then select one person. The agency only wanted me just so I could be a name on that list. I was so angry over being misled that I ignored all further calls from that agency.

I sent my resume to the various job listings through Indeed.com only to have it go through a proverbial black hole and never heard back from anyone. That method resulted in one interview where I didn’t get the job but seven months later that same place contacted me offering me a coupon in order to entice me into buying something from them.

Attending networking events through the local American Jobs Center: I went to several of these events and the only job I got as a result was a two-night gig as an extra at the taping of a TV special featuring financial expert Ric Edelman. These networking events announced that there could be recruiters mixed among those looking for work so we were encouraged to bring business cards and resumes. However, most of those events I went to either had no recruiters at all or there would only be one recruiter among 30-40 people looking for work. I stopped going to these events after I went to one last year with the same result—only one recruiter present with 30 other people looking for work.

LinkedIn: I would go to seminars at the local American Jobs Center where I was told that LinkedIn was the key to finding a new job. Except that didn’t happen for me. I tried signing up to LinkedIn’s ProFinder only to get rejected simply because no one whom I worked for in the past had gotten around to writing a recommendation for me on that site. I tried getting people whom I done work for in the past to write recommendations for me but they never got around to doing it and I can’t force someone else to write something for me. The big irony is that the last few jobs I’ve landed—including my current job—were with people who rarely use LinkedIn.

Job Fairs: I tried going to a couple of them with my resume in hand only to have no luck in finding work. I remember turning in my resume with a temp agency that was at this one particular job fair. The woman gave me her business card. When I attempted a followup call, I was scheduled for an interview. So I brought another copy of my resume to that temp agency. I met with a different recruiter from the woman who was at the job fair. She scanned my resume and told me that there was no work for me. My job interview lasted just fifteen minutes. Shoot, she could have told me that there was no work available for me over the phone when I did my followup call since they already had a copy of the resume that I handed to them at the job fair.

Meetup.com: I was also told by the American Jobs Center that Meetup.com was another way to network with people and possibly land a job. Here’s the thing I learned—my ability to network depended on where a certain meetup was held and how many people attended. I’ve attended meetups that were held in bars during Happy Hour and the noise level was so high that I couldn’t even talk to anyone without shouting at the top of my lungs. I go to the weekly animation meetup at the Greenbelt Makerspace but that one is relatively quiet compared to being at a noisy bar during Happy Hour. I once went to a meetup that was held in the basement of a library and that one was nice. (I should think about attending more meetups at that location in the future, but I digress.) While Meetup.com is a useful tool, one has to look at where that meetup is held and decide whether that event would be one to go to or just a colossal waste of time.

Craigslist: I had friends telling me that Craigslist is a great resource for finding jobs. I got one job through that site that turned out to be short-lived for me because, even though I liked the work, the organization was incredibly dysfunction and toxic and many of the problems stemmed from the business owner herself. I’ve applied to other jobs through there only to get ignored. Then there are the jobs that seem very suspicious. I recall seeing one job listing looking for writers where I was sent to this website that had a video that automatically started the minute I arrived at that site (which is always a bad sign). That video was rambling about how I could do writing jobs using this software that’s so amazing that all I needed to do was to just type in three keywords and that software will automatically generate an article. I kept on thinking if this software was so wonderful that it will automatically generate articles using keywords, why do the people behind this site need to hire anybody.

So those methods didn’t work for me, even though they were recommended by parents, friends, or so-called “experts.” Now I’ll go into one method that used to work for me but doesn’t anymore.

Temp agencies. There was a time when temp agencies was the way to go for finding work. The one advantage was that you could earn a paycheck quickly while getting a view of the various work environments you were sent to. It was through a temporary assignment from a temp agency that I landed a permanent job in the corporate offices of a now-defunct computer reseller where I lasted six years until I was laid off just a few months after the CEO sold the company to one of its competitors (and that competitor would later be sold to someone else). Back in 2016, after I left my job with a startup that ultimately went nowhere (mainly because I wasn’t getting paid and that check didn’t arrive until six months later), I decided to go the temp agency route again only to find out that they now have a different way of hiring people seems to be more focused on turning away more people than hiring them. Instead of calling them, setting up an interview, and going through some tests to make sure I have some basic business skills (like math and basic English grammar), most temp agencies will tell someone who calls them to apply through the website. I would send my resume into a certain agency’s website. Whenever I made a followup call, I would get someone to tell me to do a job search on the website, if I find a position I was interested in, I would send my resume to the email address on that position, then the assigned recruiter would decide if I really was qualified then call me. I tried doing that only to get zero response.

There was one temp agency that is so awful to deal with that I don’t know how it stays in business. I would call that agency, a receptionist would patch me through to a recruiter’s number then get a voice mail. I would leave a message and the recruiter would not even call back. I would call that temp agency again and it would be the same result. All I know is that now that I’m employed again, if the business owner ever needs to hire more workers through a temp agency, I will tell her NOT to even consider that temp agency. The lesson here, folks, is that a job searcher could one day turn into a hiring person and if you treat that person like garbage, that person will NOT do business with you.

Now I’ll go into the methods that actually worked for me.

Classified ads in the local newspaper: The local American Jobs Center kept on saying that using this method is outdated and no longer works. Yet last year I used this method to get one job where I worked with the executor of his late aunt’s estate. (It didn’t last long for me because I was promised full-time hours and they never materialized beyond the 18 hours per week in the four months that I was working.) I also answered another ad where I did some work for a therapist. I still do the occasional job for her when she needs the help. I found that using the small community newspapers worked the best for me because they tend to be more hyperlocal with smaller circulations than The Washington Post. This method isn’t perfect because several weeks will go by with no new Help Wanted ads but it doesn’t hurt to scan these local newspapers (if you have one in your town).

Taking classes in person. Since I’ve received my bachelor’s degree, I’ve taken classes over the years in an effort to gain new job skills and better myself in the hopes of landing better paying work. The one advantage of this method is that you get to meet people who may be instrumental in helping you land your next job. I know it’s not feasible for everyone because it requires time (including commuting to and from class as well as doing any required work outside of the classroom) and money to pull it off. But this method led me to my latest day job.

Back in the early 1990s I was towards the end of my six-year stint working in the corporate offices of that now-defunct computer reseller. Things were so chaotic in that corporation with frequent layoffs and reorganizations that I sensed that I had no future with that company. (Which turned out to be correct in my case since I got laid off.) At the time the World Wide Web was in its infancy and there were all kinds of computer technologies that were springing up, some of which were leading to career paths that didn’t even exist just a few years earlier. I read that desktop publishing was the next big hot field.

I found out that George Washington University had a non-credit division, known as the Continuing Education Program, where it offered certificates and desktop publishing was among them. While the money for each class was expensive (I think it was around the $200-300 per class), money was no object at the time because I was married to a man who worked at a well-paying job at NASA and he agreed that I should take desktop publishing classes.

Each class in the desktop publishing program lasted eight weeks. I remember that I had to take around 10 classes in order to get the desktop publishing certificate. I found the first five classes or so to be really interesting because I was learning new concepts and skills. The last five classes were annoying because even though those classes were supposed to be advanced, they basically regurgitated what I had already learned in the earlier classes and I felt like I was wasting time and money being taught things I had already learned. My husband pressured me to continue going to the classes just so I would get that desktop publishing certificate.

Some teachers in that program were better than others. One of them was a woman whom I felt was an excellent teacher and I had her for about two or three of the classes I took in that program. She had her own design firm so she was able to use her knowledge to teach desktop publishing classes. We got along well together.

Well, anyway, I got that desktop publishing certificate and I called the teacher for advice on finding work in that field. I took that advice only to discover that many employers could have cared less about the fact that I had a desktop publishing certificate from George Washington University. Some places I interviewed at seemed to totally scoff at my certificate.

I ended up using my newfound desktop publishing skills by volunteering with my church to help out with its newsletter for a few years when it had to forgo hiring an administrator because of tight finances. I also did the occasional desktop publishing work for other groups, my most recent effort was the monthly events calendar I did for the New Deal Cafe for a few months from fall, 2017 through early January, 2018.

I remember last year when I was working for that executor of his late aunt’s estate and he noticed that I had never gotten a master’s degree or any other advanced degree beyond my bachelor’s. When I mentioned that certificate in desktop publishing, he said something to the effect that it seemed like a waste of time. I agreed with him even though I told him that desktop publishing was once touted as the next big red-hot thing in business, which was why I had gone for that certificate in the first place.

But then it turned out that the certificate was a savvy move on my part in the long run. After I received that certificate and unsuccessfully attempted to break into that field as a desktop publishing professional, I had moved on with my life and I lost contact with that teacher. Fast forward a few years later when I was divorced, jobless, and broke. I had a friend move in with me just so we could split costs. He works at the public library in Takoma Park. One evening during the 10-day break between Christmas and New Year’s Day he came home telling me that someone he knows stopped by the library. They were talking since they haven’t seen each other in a while and she told him that she needs help with doing administrative stuff with her business. When he gave me the woman’s name, I nearly flipped because it was the same woman whom I had as a teacher when I was taking desktop publishing classes at George Washington University.

So I met with her in person and she recognized me from among her former students. I learned through her that George Washington University had discontinued its desktop publishing program a couple of years after I received my certificate but she still teaches and she even has the occasional class in the basement of her home (where she runs her business). We’ve hit it off and I’m now working for her on a trial basis.

So far things are working out but I’ve learned a long time ago not to take things for granted. Things that seem stable now could suddenly go away, such as what happened with my marriage when my husband went from being a loving person to someone who showed disdain for me like I was a piece of used toilet paper who should be flushed down the toilet.

The biggest irony is that it was my then-husband who pressured me into finishing the classes so I could get that certificate. If I was still married to him, I would have told him about how I’m now working for my former desktop publishing teacher and he would have said something like, “Aren’t you glad I pressured you into finishing that certificate? I was right, you know!” I would have responded, “Yes, you were right and I’m glad you pressured me into finishing that certificate program instead of dropping out.”

Instead my husband decided to run away from home back in late 2011 (just three months after I had hip surgery). Then he put me through months of pure hell as he refused to talk to me other than to demand that we separate our finances in order to keep with this schedule he had in his mind and he also said that we must get a divorce. He still kept up with that behavior after friends told me that he left me for a woman with severe mental health problems, whom he married just two months after our divorce was final. It’s all here in this post, which still remains among my most-read blog posts of all time.

After all the hell he put me through, there is no way in hell I’ll ever tell him how he was right about me completing the desktop publishing certificate. He doesn’t deserve to know. In fact, I’m so adamant about this that I have not made a Facebook post about this because I’m still Facebook friends with a couple of his relatives and a few friends who have remained in contact with him. (I have a few longtime friends who have confided in me that they no longer socialize with him because they have become so alienated by his behavior since he left me.) I don’t want any of them to see such a post on Facebook then turn around and tell him. At least with this blog I know he no longer reads it so I’m safe with posting this information here.

Instead my roommate is the one who knows this even though he had nothing to do with my decision to finish that desktop publishing certificate all those years ago. Meanwhile my ex will remain unaware that he was right about me finishing that certificate.

So the moral of my post is to not just rely on the experts alone when it comes to finding a new job because sometimes their advice is not worth a hill of beans. And continue to keep your current friendships while trying to make new friends because knowing people is the bigger key to finding a job than having the perfect grades or being a know-it-all about a variety of different topics.

UPDATE (February 21, 2019): For another perspective on the job search process, I came across this link on why landing a new job have become so difficult despite the frequent economic reports saying that employers are desperate for new workers but there is a shortage. This link says it all about how fucked up the job search process have become: Employers can’t Find Workers, So They’re Making It Harder to Get a Job.

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Here are the craziest parts from the worst Craigslist job ad ever.

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Ramadan

I’m starting to realize why many people are reluctant to post anything on Craigslist. Last week I mentioned that I posted an ad trying to sell a stereo set with cabinet on Craigslist and the only response I got was this strange spam e-mail that had nothing to do with what I’m trying to sell. That message was the only response I got for my ad so last week I decided to knock $50 off the price and sell the stereo for $250. The good news is that I got more reponses. The bad news is that all but one of those reponses were just as weird and suspicious as the first response I got. The one real e-mail I got was from a man in Baltimore who said that he’s interested in my stereo but only if I knock down the price below my current asking price of $250. He also invited me to contact him with a lower price in two or three weeks if I fail to sell the stereo.

As for the others I got, they all followed the same format: The first paragraph had nothing to do with my ad while all of these e-mails ended by reposting the first sentence I wrote for my Craigslist ad. Here is a litany of the responses I got just hours after I posted my ad on Craigslist.

RESPONSE 1

3:56:36 AM Growth and understanding we done deeper level of divine guidance our down we are all beautiful beings worthy of love support sweet innocences. It would be fabulous if you reach me straight away to avoid confusion on Eaowjy@live.com

This stereo once belonged to my parents but my husband and I have rarely touched it.

RESPONSE 2

3:57:16 AM Clear example of this Yet for most of us the shining essence with which we came into this life became obscured over the years as our families. Could you contact me as soon as possible for some discount please Fuiid@live.com

This stereo once belonged to my parents but my husband and I have rarely touched it.

RESPONSE 3

4:12:03 AM Others were unable to give us the kind of unconditional love and support we so craved as children when we were repeatedly told that we enough. It would be fabulous if you reach me straight away to avoid confusion on Obakl@live.com

This stereo once belonged to my parents but my husband and I have rarely touched it.

RESPONSE 4

4:12:53 AM We are grown most of us have developed a protective mask or persona to hide these layers of fear and insecurity from others and at times even. Come through if this is still available so I know who I am talking with over on Erxvhz@live.com

This stereo once belonged to my parents but my husband and I have rarely touched it.

It’s obvious whoever sent those responses didn’t even bother to read the ad in its entirety. I’m only trying to sell a stereo, not looking for online emotional support regarding my childhood or my past relationships. I don’t get this crap from posting the same ad on relevant Facebook groups or making a sticky post in this blog about my stereo being for sale. Craigslist is the one that’s attracting spammers and I don’t even know if they have even attempted to do something about this or if the site decided that it doesn’t give a shit about spammers. If this continues, I’m going to tell everyone to stay the hell away from Craigslist.

In the meantime, I’ve knocked down the asking price of this stereo. Now you can get the entire system (including the cabinet) for $200.

Ramadan

I’ve recently put out the word that I’m currently selling a stereo system with a cabinet that once belonged to my parents but I’m looking to downsize and simplify my life (and to raise some money for myself). I not only made a special post in this blog but I also made similar posts on various relevant Facebook groups. For added measure I decided to post my ad on the Baltimore, Washington, and Annapolis pages of Craigslist.

I’ve never posted anything on Craigslist before but I am glad that I’m using Craigslist’s automatic mail router rather than posting my e-mail address outright. Several hours after I posted on Craigslist for the first time last Sunday, I got this bizarre e-mail, complete with typos.

Throughout the years spilled tears and shared truths somehow they love better when he talk about his loot chain like see life. E mail me I believe we live pretty near by each other so just wana double check will be wiating for ya – Bdlect@live.com

This stereo once belonged to my parents but my husband and I have rarely touched it.

The first sentence not only didn’t make any sense but it was totally unrelated to anything I posted in that ad. The last sentence was directly lifted from the first sentence of my Craigslist ad. I did a Google search on "Bdlect@live.com" only to come up empty-handed. There’s no way in hell I’m going to send a response to that e-mail because I think I would regret it the next time I open my e-mailbox and see tons of spam e-mail.

I know that Craigslist has had a less-than-sterling reputation for years but at least it could be worse than just getting weird e-mails. A few days ago The Washington Post had a front page article about men who use Craigslist to impersonate their ex-girlfriends as a way of harassing their exes as those women had to deal with strange men appearing at their front door asking for sex.

Since that strange e-mail was the only response I got from Craigslist, I decided to re-post the ad with the asking price knocked down to $250. (I’ll admit that the original $300 asking price was based on what I thought was the maximum amount that the stereo was worth. Even though I had a feeling that no one would be willing to pay that much for a used system, I decided to give it a try just in case I was wrong and someone was willing to pay that much.) I’m hoping I don’t attract any more crazies like Bdlect@live.com because they are a total waste of my time but I’m going to have to brace myself for more e-mails like that until I find a buyer for the stereo.

As for Bdlect@live.com I only have this to say: Nice try but I gotcha!

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