After a year-long search, Josh got a new job this week. And as reality about this good fortune has slowly begun to settle in, I reflect on what it takes to look for a job these days. Josh found it takes as much time and effort to look and apply for jobs now as it does to actually hold a job. For the last year, he felt like he’d had two, full-time jobs.
And I’ve noticed how impersonal the application process can be, especially at the beginning, when you first fill out your information. Back in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when we looked for jobs after college, we were regularly advised to drop off our cover letter and resume to a prospective employer in person. Heck, if the hiring manager was there that day, he or she might even be able to squeeze you in for a quick interview, which could turn into a golden opportunity to show how capable and sane you are. You might be able to explain away some holes in your resume or lack of experience. A face-to-face conversation right at the beginning could go a long way and might even give you the edge over some other chump who simply sent their information in the mail.
This advice is no longer true. In fact, the recommendation now is to never ever drop off your information in person—that’s not just a faux pas, but it could put you on their shit list as some sort of crackpot. Thanks to technology, the application process is now managed by huge databases that crunch your education, experience, and salary requirements into numbers that jibe with a company’s bottom line. If the numbers fit their profile, you might get an email about a phone interview, which may lead to a face-to-face interview. But for the most part, applying for a job involves a lot of copying and pasting into one form after another, resulting in little more than an automated email telling you that someone would be in touch if they are interested in speaking with you further. Have a nice day. So it seems like small miracle just to get to the in-person interview stage, which thankfully, still feels nerve-wracking but familiar.
I know it’s ironic to be writing this in a blog post, but the internet seems both to be a tool to personalize and impersonalize at the same time. It simultaneously connects and isolates. By being able to connect directly to Kathy Griffin, one of my favorite comedians, through her Facebook or Twitter or other social media connections, I’m made to feel like I am actually in direct contact since I receive her postings as she sends them out. At the same time, because I am one of a gajillion followers, I am no more differentiated than someone in the back row of one of her shows or even someone watching her stand-up special on Bravo.
I take this into account when I teach online classes. I want my students to feel my presence online as much as they would in a face-to-face class. I bombard them with announcements, video lectures, and comments on their work. I’m not spamming them, but giving them personal and appropriate feedback. I answer posted questions and messages within 24 hours. I even conference with students over the phone. But I’d be kidding myself if I thought it was the same experience as a face-to-face class.
Applying for jobs online, buying clothes with a mouse click, downloading games, and chipping away at your degree with online courses is certainly more convenient in many ways, but it may not be better or more gratifying.