This article originally appeared in Tips on Life & Love from Simon & Schuster.
Finding work has never been easy, but today we face the additional challenge of having too much technology. Do job-hunting web sites make a difference, or is networking still the best way to find a new position? How do less tech-savvy job seekers stay relevant and put their best foot forward? Learn more in The Episodic Career.
Just as America’s labor market has changed, so has job search. Twenty-five years ago, there was no online job search. Today there are dozens of sites that enable you to look for opportunity, including Monster, Indeed, and Simply Hired. Often, sites give headhunters and recruiters the opportunity to look for you, as they sort through the millions of profiles on the current big dog of job networking, LinkedIn. Networking — both online and off — is more important than ever. But it’s also fraught with questions: How do we gain access to people who can help us if they are busy, powerful, or hard to reach? And how do the biases that exist in everyday life factor into online search?
For example, while I was giving a speech at the University of Texas at Austin, a woman told me she didn’t want to put up a LinkedIn profile because she thought her job history and photo would open her up to age discrimination. She asked me if she should lie about her age. I told that her rather than do that, put up a truthful but youthful-looking picture and consider compressing her job history to just the past few years. That’s not lying, but it’s creative. Others might disagree. In the end, when you walk through the door for an interview, you will have to disclose more about yourself, and you will be judged partly on your appearance. But at least you will have gotten through the door and, hopefully, be able to make a clear case why you are valuable at any age (or race, gender, and so on).
Not everything has changed. There are still some very traditional Help Wanted signs in store windows—plus newspaper classifieds, industry conferences where headhunters solicit résumés, and civil service exams. But the rise of the internet has altered job search forever, just as it’s changed our world forever. Employment figures are improving at the time I’m completing this book, but there are still roughly twice as many job seekers as there are jobs available. Some jobs that get listed are essentially filled already, because someone has an inside track on the job. No matter how many résumés the company gets, sometimes because it has to list it as a formality, the person hiring already has his or her mind set on an internal or external candidate.