Learnings from a Learning Job Search

As many of you know, I was suddenly laid off in January. With a new baby and not a lot to fall back on, finding a new job was urgent. I've been successful (yay!) and had an interesting learning experience along the way. In this post I'll share some of my experiences.

My Network was Amazing

A couple of years ago I took some courses with Jane Hart and Harold Jarche on personal knowledge management and social learning. They talked about the value of your network and how to build connections. Sharing is a key component of building a network and PKM, which is why I started this blog.

I received an amazing amount of help through my network: suggestions, connections, ideas. This is primarily through people I have never met in person (although I hope to). I'm incredibly grateful to the support I received. I hope I'm still putting back into my network with my posts. 

Interestingly, very few of the people who interviewed me had looked at my blog, twitter feed, or LinkedIn posts before we met.

Ahead of the curve

I wrote in my last post that I was pitching new ideas about L&D to old job descriptions. The same points showed up again in interviews, as I heard many times "you're ahead of the curve. We want to get there, but don't know how yet." Despite my ability to talk through a map from current state to future state, with coherent and convincing reasons for why, what the comment actually meant was "we don't want to go there."

There is a palpable sense of fear of aligning L&D (or HR in general) to business goals and organizational performance, using social technology to facilitate where appropriate. I'm still not sure why.

Application systems - worst UX ever

Job application systems are not created with the user in mind. They are terrible: inability to upload when required, missing buttons, nonsensical layout, no logic. Add to this opaque organizations with no-one to contact, or HR contacts who do not understand the job and no avenue for Q&A with those actually hiring. 

Check out Liz Ryan's post on 10 Ways Companies Drive Away Talent for a much better overview of poor job application processes

Faster is better

Why would I want to work for an organization that takes six weeks to respond to my application? And only then with an email saying "we would now like to start by asking all applicants to answer three questions on paper, please schedule a time for us to send you the document." Such a slow process is indicative of organizational culture.

Don't just tell me you're a great place to work - show me how.

Every organization says it is a great place to work. It is standard employer brand speak. But when I asked for examples, many could not provide specifics. Many things spoken of as "great" were actually things that all organizations should do anyway: healthcare, professional development, vacation. But few could tell me their engagement scores or anything that made their "great place" actually great.

Similarly, I have a very different idea of what a "collaborative culture" means to many organizations. It doesn't just mean you work on projects together.

Know your stories

To succeed in interviews, I've always found it important to know your stories (and I don't mean made up). Truly good employers are interested in examples of reflexivity. It's not about I did this with this effect; It's I did this, for these reasons, and this is my reflection.

The best interviews

The best interviews were those that didn't follow a script. Instead, they followed the interest of those doing interviewing and led to a conversation. I have to give a big kudos to my new employer and FRHI (the new Fairmont hotel group) for the speed of contact, genuine conversations and personal interest.

Thankfully I only experienced a few interviews like these: How to answer stupid job interview questions

Most workplaces are outdated

In the office, M-F, 9-5 (at a minimum).  Why are we still adhering to arbitrary rules? Why don't ideas such as Harold Jarche's Flipped Office appeal more broadly.