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Why I Gave Up Looking For Work

March 25, 2015

I gave up looking for a “J.O.B” job a little over 7 years ago. This doesn’t mean I’m sitting on my ass playing games, because I hate games anyway… especially those nonsensical time-wasters on Facebook Games.

I’m usually busy working as a freelancer in a variety of industries, and have been for a decade or more. During that period of time, I have had a few job interviews – because you never know what’s out there – but they’ve never “panned” out for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons is that I’m usually older (much older) than the person interviewing me. Another reason is they feel threatened by my being “over-qualified”… whatever that means. Most of the time, those saps who say that haven’t even taken the time to read my resume. And while my CV is impressive on its own, I don’t consider much of the 9 pages relevant to today’s markets.

In 2002, shortly after 9/11, I had to retool myself: re-invent myself, so to speak. I took on the task of learning everything I could about Internet Marketing and how to use the medium as a means of communication. This blog post is just one of those examples of how the medium of the Internet can be used to communicate your ideas, your strengths and your weaknesses.

On that note, there’s a comical story about an older “worker” (I hate communist narratives for employees… but that’s another rant…) being interviewed by a much younger HR type.

At the job interview, the Human Resources Manager asks the Old Man, “What is your biggest weakness?”

Old Man replies, “Honesty.”

Human Resources Manager comes back with “I don’t think honesty is a weakness. I think it’s positive trait to have.”

Old Man replies, “I don’t give a shit what you think.”

End of interview.

This is why old men, and older workers probably don’t get hired, and why many of them have quit looking for work. They don’t know how to interact and interface with Millenials and Thirty Somethings… but, that’s another article.

Now, I realize that all that being said, there’s still hope for the older worker and the younger generation working together. There are potential rewards of returning to full-time salaried employment if you can find it. In this economy, it’s doubtful.

So, instead of putting out the effort of finding another J.O.B. that will only keep me “just over broke”, I have come to the conclusion that the negative results are outweighed by the effort of finding a job. It’s far better if you can find something you’re good at, and that you enjoy doing, then do it with 10 times the effort to go beyond your limitations.

Here are seven reasons why I quit looking for a traditional job and went full-scale into my own business:

Reason # 1. Most, if not all, companies just don’t respond. Period.

You would think, that, in the Internet age, when sending a sentence needs no paper, stamp, or trip to the postbox, it would be easier to get responses out of people. Not so. Personal responses to job applications just don’t happen these days; and if they do, they’re awfully rare. At best, you can expect an acknowledgement to your application with “If you haven’t heard from us in 30 days…” which is just a less than polite way of brushing you off… because it’s an automated message anyway.

I have a lot of sympathy for young people starting out in the work force, and for older job hunters: the young experience rejection because they’re “too young” and don’t have… well, experience. The older worker experiences age descrimination (whether you believe it true or not, it’s true… employers can “date” you by looking at your resume or application).

Without feedback, young people looking for their first job can’t get an idea of what the market wants. And older people faced with layoffs (“old” here in some cases meaning 45) have a hell of a time even securing an interview.

I’m someone whose marketing campaigns get less than 1% response to cold lists, yet know I’m kidding myself if I think any non-form-filled application even gets read by a human. I wonder how many great candidates these companies are missing out on?

They’re probably missing out on a LOT of talent, if you ask me.

That’s the first reason I gave up looking for work.

Reason # 2. Recruiters suck.

They do. I’m not going to apologize for saying that. Over 99% of the recruiters I’ve dealt with over the last 30 years are the least professional, worst trained, laziest sons of bitches, most “inside-the-box” people anywhere in business. I’ve never met one that could find a job outside of the recruiting industry. No industry fails more consistently to provide quality output than the recruiting industry.

How many times have you received a “Hi! I saw your resume… blah, blah, blah” email that’s quite obviously a hundred thousand deep email blast to any resume they managed to scrape off the web? And – my personal pet hate, which prompted this post – the phone call from someone you’ve never heard of who dives into a job description without even checking basic questions, like whether you’re looking for work?

I have recruiters calling me from an old resume that they found on the internet somewhere that’s over 10 years old. Hell, the resume isn’t even current anymore! Don’t they even take time to look at the dates on the job descriptions?

NO!

I know few recruiters personally, and don’t want to know any more. They’re intrusive, presumptive, and ignorant. And the tiny percentage that isn’t… isn’t statistically significant. The one recruiter who I did work with about 20 years ago, who actually produced a quality “match” between me and an employer is out of the business… and I can’t even remember his name anymore.

In short: recruiters suck. They’re another reason I gave up looking for work.

Reason # 3. I’m a working stiff. I’m NOT a “thought leader”. Get over it.

I had a high-paying job back in the corporate world, and naturally wanted the same level of income when I went freelance. So I did all the things freelancers do. Proper office, used “We” and “Our” on my website a lot, gave myself important-sounding titles like “blah, blah, blah”… (fill in the blank with your own ideas for a fancy title). I tried to look big.

It worked, sort of…

But a few years in, I realized the truth… and so did prospects.

I wasn’t a high-falutin’ consultant or fast-talking sales expert. Freelancers are blue-collar working stiffs. You set up as a lone wolf, and your customers expect a hard day’s work for a fair day’s pay like anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Think about it: How many “thought leaders” does your company hand that title out to? How many people are really “ninjas” or “gurus” or “spearheading paradigm-shifting breakthroughs” in your cube farms – and how many need to be?

Just as a unit of Navy SEALS need to remain functional as a team, most companies don’t have teams that can operate the same, much less do a few tasks competently. And most HR Directors would grumble even those people are hard enough to find.

(This is why I would hire a former Navy SEAL over anyone else. They’re competent… and competitive.)

Once I realized I wasn’t a “thought leader” I started to celebrate it. Today, I market myself, and I brand myself for what I am: one guy, no employees, some unusual skills and proven experience, who will get the job done for you, and produce some exceptional results at the same time. And customers bite a lot faster.

Reason # 4. Interviews are a drag… and they suck, too.

If I show up for a job interview with your company, I’m only interested in what the work is and how I can get it done and help you look good. I don’t give a shit about my weaknesses and strengths, or “Where I see myself in five years” or “Listing five situations where I showed leadership”, and you shouldn’t, either. You should get off your pontifical high horse and hire me so I can get to work. This dilly-dallying around for 6 weeks in the interview process is costing your company a lot of money.

In today’s organization – and this goes for large and small companies – they have some of the most arbitrary and nonsensical interview policies around: it forces me to show up looking like a banker plumber’s overalls.

Nothing wrong with plumbers, mind you. Great job and great skill. I would rather call a plumber to come fix my clog than do it myself… and I’ll pay them, too.

But, most formal interviews in today’s Corporate America is about the worst hiring idea I’ve ever seen.

Think about it: you’re sitting in front of an H/R person who doesn’t have a grasp on the needs at the departmental level and you’re asking them questions about the job.

YOU’RE TALKING TO THE LEAST OBJECTIVE PERSON IN THE ROOM!

Get the hell out of the H/R interview and go talk to someone who knows WTF they need in the department!

It’s personal qualities that get you through life, not qualifications. And there are far better ways to gauge personal qualities than across an interview desk… especially with someone who you’re not going to be working with anyway.

Dealing with pin-head H/R types is another reason I quit looking for work. And if anyone besides the hiring manager from the department I’m going to be working in calls… I don’t waste my time on them. They need me. I don’t need them. No matter how long I’ve been out of a job.

Reason # 5. Normal jobs need normal people. Super jobs need super people. I’m not “normal”…

Outside of a few creative sectors like marketing, advertising, and sales, few companies want employees outside societal norms. They’re just too scary. Take people like Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Joe Vitale, Grant Cardone, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: you wouldn’t have hired these people. And neither would I.

They’re mavericks. They’re professionals. They’re lone wolves. They’re eagles: they don’t peck the ground with turkeys like most job seekers.

H/R professionals know how hard it is to promote a “renegade” through the hiring process… which is why most H/R managers can’t get me through the process. I’m a threat to the department manager. They are DEATHLY afraid that I’m going to take their job. If I wanted to, yes, I could, in most cases. But, I’m not really interested in fitting nicely into a box that’s been defined by someone else. I’m not interested in checking off items on a “To Do List” that has been written by someone else…

People with an unusual background – like me – don’t fit into boxes… we think “outside the box” and we have no boundaries or limits.

That’s another reason I stopped looking for work. I just got tired of dealing with H/R types and department managers who had their heads up their proverbial ass so far that their brains couldn’t be found on a CAT-SCAN.

Reason # 6. High paying jobs mean high hassle.

Reason number 6 is a market reality rather than a human bias. Many high-paid jobs only pay well because the job involves… managing people.

Ugh!

The higher your pay grade, the more of your salary represents your employer’s investment in your ability to get the most out of other human beings.

“Managing” other people is the stuff of stress, divorce, heart attacks and high blood pressure. (Just ask my brother.) And those are just the easy options. People who can manage other people (efficiently) are the rarest and smartest people you’ll ever employ. Hiring people, managing them, allocating reward fairly… these are the hardest things in the world. Perhaps one in a thousand people has the necessary skillset to do them competently. And that’s being optimistic.

The problem with most companies that hire “people managers” is that they don’t pay them enough. They expect million dollar results from their managers when they pay them a paltry 5 figures a year, with little to no benefits.

So even if someone’s “hard skills” are a million miles from your market but their “soft skills” are in the top 1%, you should hire them immediately. They’ll make your company sing.

The trouble is, once you’ve tasted high-level freelancing – $1,000 a day and up, choose who you work with, set your own schedules – why would you want the hassles that go with a “proper” job in the upper percentiles of pay?

I don’t. I’d rather do what I’m actually good at, for the same money.

And that’s another reason I’ve given up looking for a job.

Reason # 7. Because I’m no good at it!

I’m really not good at “looking for work” or looking for a J-O-B “just over broke” job. I just can’t get excited over a $50,000 a year job that has no future, no benefits and no challenges.

I’m not being self-deprecating: I’m being brutally honest. I’ve been in too many interviews where I’ve totally “blown it” so bad that, not only did I not get the job, but the recruiter who sent me on the job interview lost his job because of the way I “handled myself” in the interview.

I had a smart-ass interviewer in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Budget Car Rental crowing about how many programming lanuguages he was fluent in. I was not impressed. And neither was the recruiter who came with me to the interview. (He had already heard about my interview style and came to see if he could keep me in restraints. He didn’t… and he got fired, too.)

Needless to say, what I told him (the interviewer) in fluent Italian made him look like an ass, he even looked sillier when I had to translate it for him.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, and the recruiter learned a very powerful lesson that day: do NOT accompany one of your referrals to a job interview. It just might get you fired.

But, there’s one note of consolation in this: recruiting jobs are a “dime a dozen” and he didn’t have to look long before he was back to work in… another recruiting position.

I never heard from him again.

Let’s face it: some people (like me) are just not cut out to be employees. They will never fit into the communist “worker bee” box, because they’re independent and free. We have never been “figured out” by the H/R types. They just can’t seem to get their heads around it. They can’t codify the secret codes and behaviors of the ideal, hireable individual.

Some of my clients have been with me for years and I remain on excellent terms with those who’ve moved on – but the daily commute of the 9-to-5, even without a suit and tie, just doesn’t feel natural. Until my 30’s I solved it by working all over the United States and overseas, and on several well paying contracts. But after 15 years of working on the W-4 I decided that I needed to get back to doing what I was good at: freelancing.

That’s the last reason I stopped looking for a job. And of the seven, it’s probably the one that matters most. I do NOT apologize to Corporate America, but for an increasing number of experienced workers – now in the millions – working for you just isn’t an attractive option. You might want us. You might need us. But we’re not looking. We don’t want you. We don’t need you. You need us… you really do.

While I’m not looking for a job, my one-man creative outfit is in the market for interesting clients and projects across the United States, and beyond. I am my own brand. Ernest O’Dell is my name. That’s all you need to know.

If this article resonates with you, you’ve probably got freelance inclinations yourself – in which case you should probably subscribe to this blog and get in touch with me.

And if you’re a company looking to make your next ten million dollars and you’re wanting to quibble over $1,000 in the quotation, don’t call. If you’re looking to “up your game” and 10X your company’s revenues in the next 12 months, give me a call. You know where to find me.

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