Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stop Being Insulted!

It's tough out there.

It is. Jobs are scarce and competition for them is stiff. Especially if you're trying to break into a new field, or get your first "real" job out of college. Job searching should be, and generally is, a humbling experience.

Which is why I'm so perplexed when I see letters on Ask a Manager like this and this, where people are offended by employers offering them the best they have. Let's take these one at a time.

The first is a letter from a few months back from someone trying to break into a very competitive industry (something in professional sports). The writer applied for an entry-level job, was rejected, and was insulted when the organization asked if she wanted her materials forwarded to the internship coordinator. The comment section and I totally agreed: if you have no experience in an industry or sector, and few transferable skills, then you are starting at the bottom. Your age, how long ago you graduated, how many kids you have, how much experience you have in other industries, those factors are all irrelevant to this new job you're trying to get. If you apply for a job and you don't have the requisite skills or experience, you probably won't get the job.

But in this case, the employer is actually helping the applicant out by telling them how to get the experience they need to get the job they want. And yes, for most white-collar jobs, that means being an intern. You don't get to skip being entry level in one industry because you already went through being entry level in a totally different one.

The second letter is more recent (look at Question #5). The writer is a consultant with a company, and they get a good offer from another. The first company doesn't want to lose the consultant, but they can't even begin to make a comparable offer. So they make a crappy one, and the letter writer is "very insulted."

For the employer here, they had two options, once they found out a valued consultant was planning to leave for a competitor, and they realized that they were powerless to stop them. First option is to offer whatever you can. The second is to assume that nothing you have the ability to offer is enough and let them go.

As an applicant, which would you prefer?

The key is that you shouldn't compare offers like this to getting what you think you deserve. In the case of the internship offer, you got rejected. You were never getting that job. And in the second case, the company clearly valued you enough to make the effort, offering what they could (and it was a real, salaried job). You should compare it to the actual alternative: just plain getting rejected. Offers like the one above are almost never intended to be insulting; they're actually showing you a great deference. What if the company or sector is your "dream" company or sector? Maybe you'll take a low wage/unpaid internship position to break in. Maybe you won't. The point is that the employer is giving you the choice. They're offering you the absolute most that they can commit  and to be insulted by that is absurd.

Take it or leave it, but don't paint the employer like they're an asshole because they're trying to help you out.

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