Ask LH: Who Can Help Me Find A Job?

Dear Lifehacker, I left my job of five years 12 months ago due to some health issues. I'm now back in the job market but I can't get a response to the applications I'm sending out. I'm not sure if it's because of the year off work (although I'm lying and saying I've been travelling), or because it's a tough market right now in my industry (my contacts say that most advertised positions are already filled).

I've reluctantly gone onto Newstart and had an interview with the assigned job agency which was a waste of time. I'd pay a reasonable fee to an agency who I could be honest with and could help me with my resume and a possible move to another industry. How might I find a great and helpful agency? Any other ideas? Thanks, Wanna Work

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Dear WW,

Depending on the nature of your health issues, you may be able to use the services of a disability employment agency which will campaign to find work on your behalf. There are various disability employment services in Australia which exist to provide employment assistance for people with injuries or health conditions.

These agencies can provide job-search support and help to prepare you for work, including training and resume creation. You can find out more information at the Australian Government's Department of Human Services website. Alternatively, you can call the Employment Services line on 132 850 or head down to your nearest DHS Service Centre for immediate assistance.

As to your hiatus from work, I think honesty might be a better policy here. While it's true that some employers might be reluctant to hire a person with a serious illness, they're even more likely to balk at hiring someone who goes on 12-month holidays. It might even be worth noting the reason for the gap in your CV -- it will look better than an unexplained hole in your work history.

If you want to move into another industry be prepared for a challenging road ahead; especially if you're north of 30. A recruitment agent can be helpful in this situation. You said you found this to be a waste of time but it's worth trying a few different agencies on for size: some will understand your personal requirements and professional aspiration better than others.

You should also be able to find plenty of career change advice on our website via the Job Search tag. Happy hunting!

If any readers have advice of their to dispense, please let WW know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Some comments in response to the O.P.

    -Why lie. People get ill. It's not a secret. Sure, there might be some employers that baulk at applicants with previous serious illnesses - and do you want to work for them? Let them shun you and dodge a bullet. And, what happens if you have a relapse? Do you want to relay that to an understanding employer, or an employer to which you lied to?

    - It's a tough market. You're not the only one not being contacted when you apply for positions that are already filled. I could also add to this, and I'm perhaps being speculative, that given the current market (world wide) the benefit of ANY recruitment agency is going to be massively depleted - after all, the employers aren't facing any problems sourcing applicants (in general), why should they pay through the nose to ask half a dozen agencies to do what they can do themselves?

    - In Australia it's illegal to pay any agency any fee (as a candidate) - or rather it's illegal for an agency to charge a fee. You can, however, choose to pay a professional resume service for something that you could do yourself in 5 minutes should you have money to burn.

    - There are also various Job Services agencies which will help the long term unemployed, regardless as to disability status or personal circumstances. Although I don't know the ins and out of all of that. But, to be honest, for most people the best person to help you are themselves.

    "If you want to move into another industry be prepared for a challenging road ahead; especially if you’re north of 30. "

    There's nothing magical about the age of 30. The writer has no idea what they're talking about. And sure, it can be challenging. If you have 20 years experience as an Accountant and you want to become an Architect with no previous experience or appropriate qualifications, that will be challenging. If you're applying for positions to which you have appropriate skills and experience, and are prepared to take a salary level commensurate with your position within the industry, then it's not unachievable at all.

    The challenge is all about the competition. And right now, for most jobs, there's a lot of competition.

    "A recruitment agent can be helpful in this situation."

    I think the writer would have been more helpful if they explained why. I personally have no idea why. I'm not a mind reader.

    "You said you found this to be a waste of time but it’s worth trying a few different agencies on for size:"

    No, don't try out different agencies for size (whatever that's supposed to mean). Apply to those agencies that are advertising positions that you're interested in and suitable for. Anything other than this will be sheer gambling with their time and yours. They may be happy to waste your time and theirs; you don't have to be.

    "some will understand your personal requirements and professional aspiration better than others."

    This comment is completely pointless. You're not looking for understanding, you're looking for a job. If you want understanding go to a counsellor, or speak with a close friend. Go to a recruitment agent to help you with a specific position that they're working on that you're interested in and applicable for.

    It's important for everyone to understand what the purpose of a recruitment agent is.

    The purpose of most recruitment agents will be to make placements in order to charge clients high fees, and if they don't make placements they will not have a job for very long. They are not there for any other reason.

    The purpose of recruitment agents from Job Service providers will be markedly different and I believe will have more responsibility to the applicants, which they (are paid to) view as their clients.

    Please don't view a recruitment agent as a career counsellor, or as your friend. They're not.

    For some more direct and practical advice, all you can do is carry on doing what you're doing.

    12 months off is not the end of the world, and I doubt that that's had a significant effect on the outcome of many (if any) of your applications.

    There really is no need to concern yourself about it. Especially when there's a legitimate reason for the time off. Not that taking a year off for any other reason would be illegitimate. It's your life after all.

    Make sure you have a nice, tidy, informative, concise, and honest resume.

    Go to the appropriate job forums and apply for those roles that you feel suited for and are interested in.

    Don't fall into the trap of applying to 20 positions whilst you're sat on the toilet just for the sake of it. It helps no one. And you may get haemorrhoids.

    Be patient. Don't feel self-conscious when your phone's not ringing off the hook when the market has been so slow for the last, 2.5 to 3 years or so.

    If you need cash in the meantime, pick up a casual position or two. Do what you have to do.

    My impressions of the market, for what it's worth, is that it's pretty flat. Not dire. But far from being buoyant. There's been signs of improvement, but then there's been signs before and nothings eventuated. Things could change next month, but they won't. We'll soon be going into the end of the year and things will slow down further. In my experience, the last 5 months of last year were very slow, and it might be again this year. I'm hopeful that it won't be as bad but it's unlikely to be bubbling.

    Last edited 22/08/13 7:48 pm

      There's nothing magical about the age of 30. The writer has no idea what they're talking about.

      Sorry, but swapping industries in your 30s and 40s is definitely more difficult for most people. If you're going for a senior position, there's likely to be other applicants with more direct experience. And if you try to start from the bottom, you may be considered over-qualified or "not the right fit" (i.e. - everyone else is young). I never said it was impossible, but I do think the going get's harder once you reach a certain age.

        Hang on.

        Are you arguing that swapping industries is more difficult with age, or swapping industries AND securing a senior position within the new industry is more difficult with age?

        They are 2 different things.

        AND, why would you expect any applicant that's entering a new industry to be in a position to secure a senior position?

        Here's some news for you, applicants, you don't get to the top of the tree just because you want to be there. Not that I think most applicants will be as blinded as you are.

        AND, I presume you have some stats to back up your position. Could you share them please.

        Yes, being considered "over qualified" or "not the right fit" is THE issue to be faced, which I raised in a comment below as it happens, but really that's the ONLY issue that is faced. In contrast, the benefits of being experienced in another industry includes a different perspective, a more mature and experienced applicant. transferable skills etc etc. It's not all bad news. In fact many employers will welcome those applicants that can bring tremendous value and experience to their organisation AS LONG AS the applicant is happy with the potential pay cut, lack of relative career development, and lack of relative challenge and seniority, AND CAN CONVINCE THE EMPLOYER that they will be sticking around.

        Being over qualified has genuine issues associated with it. If you can over come those issues you can be in a very strong position, as an applicant.

        BUT,,, if you want to jump from one ship to another and expect to be welcomed with a red carpet prepare for a rude awakening.

        Yeah, you think the going gets harder at a certain age, but you provide no evidence of that, and a very flimsy argument to support your view - which wasn't at all mentioned in the initial article.

        Last edited 23/08/13 6:07 pm

    I've been fortunate enough to have some multi-year sabbaticals to go out and explore the world, but while employers/hirers may say "lucky you, I'd love to do that" or rattle on about work/life balance, they tend to be far more conservative in their hiring practices than their rhetoric would indicate.

    I'm in a similar boat... Downsized end of last year, tried to get another job for some time then gave up and started a diploma to improve the odds... No newstart because my partner earns too much. Its not fair on her to support me so I've sold lots of things including my car to stay afloat...

    Had my resume looked at by lots of professionals, reddit and the HR person at the college i attend, no notable issues.. Hoping when i finish the diploma in 3 weeks and have the capacity to apply for full time jobs things will turn around..

      I'm guessing that you already had an established career, and if that's the case I'd be thinking that a Diploma might not make much of a difference.

      I'm not saying that to be mean, just saying what I think in the hope that it may be of assistance to you, or others. And of course I don't know anything about your specific situation.

      But, if you have several years experience in a given field, that experience is likely worth much more than a Diploma.

      I work on campaigns in which the client states a preference, or requirement for qualifications, and I can tell you by and large it's given a back seat to experience.

      If an applicant is ticking all the boxes but doesn't have qualification XYZ do you think I won't process them? Of course I will. And if the client doesn't then they're not being very sensible.

      No notable issues means that the resume is just fine. And it should be - they're not that difficult.

      Just keep your looking at the appropriate job forums, read the adverts properly, apply to role you're interested in, avoid agencies that look bogus for one reason or another - which is pretty much saying avoid most agencies, and be patient.

      Any how, good luck.

        I've previously only worked in sales jobs, with no formal qualification and often zero chance of career advancement. Switching from sales job to sales job with the illusion of progression often just makes things more difficult, resetting the process of learning the products, the market and establishing a relationship with the customers. I havent done that often but can see the absolute drawbacks and perceived instability...

        I made the decision to get out of the sales game for many reasons.. One being to pursue other interests and aquire an actual qualification in something.. I dont expect a diploma to make any difference but it was a step toward getting into uni, and may assist with general employment in admin or something non specific...

        In saying that, all my experience in customer service and negotiating hasnt helped me land any interviews, despite it being accentuated in my resume.. Waiting game it is then..

        I actually considered taking the risk and buying a business with training and a good support system. I'm a keen learner, i just cant seem to get a start anywhere

        Thanks

          Again, I don't know your full situation, so take these comments with a pinch of salt.

          One difficulty you may be finding is that if you have a Sales background, and are applying for Admin positions, your level of experience with Admin focused roles is probably going to be limited, and similar to those that are towards the beginning of their career.

          Added to that, the average salary for a sales person is significantly higher than that of an Administrator with a few years experience.

          Employers will be thinking to themselves

          a) has he applied for the wrong position?

          b) is he going to stick around when we can only pay him a fraction of his previous earnings

          I would say this would be the biggest hurdle.

          Again, it's not only about your ability to be able to perform the duties of a job - you could be super good with Powerpoint for all I know, but it's about the competition - and for Admin roles there are lot of competition.

          An employer might well hone in on those applicants that more likely to be happy with a lower salary.

          Just some food for thought.

    I think people would be more receptive to someone who was off for being ill/medically unfit than someone who is not stable enough to stick around because they want to be jetsetting around the world or whatever. Don't keep that lie going.. what are you going to do if you do get the job? Keep lying about it??

    One thing I might suggest if you can afford it, is to go to a professional resume/cv provider. Sit down with them, get a professional cv and cover letter done up that is specifically targeting the line of business you want to get back into and then start sending those cv's and cover letters to all the HR departments of all the companies in that line of business. These professionals know the business, know what HR departments are looking for and so on.

    I think your response focused too much on their "disability" when infact they never said anything like that, just that they perhaps want to work in a different industry.

    Please add some actual information helpful for how to actually find a [new] job? :)

    Believe it or not, there are still employers out there that have no freaking idea what the job market is like, or has been like for the last year or so.
    I've been looked at with some suspicion, having been out of work for nearly a year, and the tone has always been "Why haven't you been working?" Resist the urge to punch the smug prick in the face.

    When job markets favour the employers, typically two strong characteristics come to the fore:
    1) Their job descriptions turn into wish lists.
    They will want twice as many skills and pay a third less than the normal market rate. Don't be too fussed if you do not meet all of the requirements - few people will

    2) They get super choosy.
    All of sudden, you're going for 3 separate interviews, and it takes them 4-6 weeks to decide, on who they will pick. This is when you will get to see the real idiots. If it were legal, I'm sure some employer would arrange gladiatorial fight-offs, to see who will be their next Operations Manager.

    For one job interview, I was asked what would distinguish me from the other candidates, to which I answered, I could not tell them as I did not know the other candidates.
    After a stunned 10 second silence, the HR Manager mentioned that was probably a good point, and that is was the first time someone had given her a logical answer.
    Didn't get me the sodding job though.

    If you apply for a job that you feel are a strong fit for, apply for it, then wait an hour and call the recruiter. With the high demand for work, recruiters simply aren't getting through all the CV's, so may not see yours. Get their attention with a phone call.

    When you call - and you if you get someone other than the recruiter that placed the job, do not say that you would like to talk to Person X about Job Ad ZY.
    Rather, say that you are returning their call about Job Ad ZY.
    The person will make much more effort to get hold of Person X, and will tell them it's about Job Ad ZY, rather than taking your details along with a vague promise that someone will call you back.

    Now is the time to be really ramping up your job searches, as once we get to the tail end of September, the jobs start to evaporate, and it's usually lean pickings till Feb/March next year.

    Wish you the best of luck in getting a job.

      "Why haven't you been working?" Resist the urge to punch the smug prick in the face.

      It's a fair question to ask; but yes, it would be unfair to throw too much scepticism on the answer.

      A few years ago many or most clients would think twice about applicants that have been made redundant, nowadays only the blind would be so sceptical. But you're right, some employers are still blind.

      "1) Their job descriptions turn into wish lists.
      They will want twice as many skills and pay a third less than the normal market rate. Don't be too fussed if you do not meet all of the requirements - few people will"

      I'd agree with this. I'm seeing it quite a lot. BUT, I don't think it's ONLY due to more applicants being available on the market. It's also very much due to the financial pressures on the business.

      The employer isn't necessarily being nefariously greedy and opportunistic, they're likely trying to maximise the strengths of their business so that they don't go under just like a significant proportion of their competitors have.

      It's very choppy waters out there for everyone and businesses have to do what they can to strengthen their crew.

      And you're also right about not needing to tick every box. At the same time I would hate to encourage anyone to apply for roles that they're not suited for because, as a recruiter, that is the bane of my working life and is becoming a major issue for everyone AND HAS TO STOPPPPPPPPPPP. :)

      "2) They get super choosy"

      Yep. Same as no. 1 in a lot of ways.

      Also to be fair on employers, a lot of them are dithering and chopping and changing because they don't have the level of confidence in their financial situation that they would like, or that they would have had several years ago.

      One minute the employers looking for this, the next they're looking for that. They really don't know and they have to get it right because a wrong hire could be catastrophic - even if they get it right!

      Treacherous waters indeed.

      "For one job interview, I was asked what would distinguish me from the other candidates, to which I answered, I could not tell them as I did not know the other candidates."

      I ask a similar question at times. It's a tough question. I only ask it if necessary. It causes too much stress to be used willy-nilly.

      Your answer, and I do hope you take this in the spirit in which it's meant, would not have won favour with me.

      The HR officer would be fully aware that you don't know about the other applicants - you don't need to inform them of that. If the HR officer classified that as being logical, they may very well have been being extremely generous and diplomatic.

      Here's why that question is asked...

      I have 50 to 100 applicants on my desk. They all tick most of the boxes. You have good experience. You're looking for the right money. You're not dribbling. But you know what, the other applicants are good too. Some are clearly better. Some perhaps not. Right now, i'm not entirely convinced.

      So why should I back you?

      And this would be your opportunity to:-

      a) show that you have a real interest in the position, have researched it (if you have), have given the position and company adequate thought (if you have) etc etc

      b) re-iterate your strengths in terms of your relevant experience and qualifications - especially if specific details didn't arise during the main interview.

      Essentially the question is a last chance for you to impress. If I don't get an enthusiastic response I'm likely to call it quits.

      "If you apply for a job that you feel are a strong fit for, apply for it, "

      Yes

      "then wait an hour and call the recruiter. "

      No.

      "With the high demand for work, recruiters simply aren't getting through all the CV's, so may not see yours. Get their attention with a phone call."

      Please don't. We're busy. You don't get to the top of the list just because you want to be there. Please allow us to do our jobs.

      You're right, there is a (good) chance that your application won't receive full attention - and that's a factor of the number of applicants. It's not that the recruiter is burning every application that comes through, it's simply that it's not reasonable to fully process every applicant when there is a huge number of applicants received.

      Be reasonable with your expectations.

      Recruiters aren't obliged to fulfil every applicants desires.

      No need to get upset about it. It's just a part of life.

      If that means you miss out because you weren't within the first 100 applications, then that means you miss out because you weren't within the first 100 applications.

      "Rather, say that you are returning their call about Job Ad ZY."

      Yes, lying to those that are helping you without you paying them to do so. That's sure to go down well.

      "Now is the time to be really ramping up your job searches, as once we get to the tail end of September, the jobs start to evaporate, and it's usually lean pickings till Feb/March next year."

      Yes, now is a good time.

      October and November are normally busy months, but they weren't last year, in my experience. December and January have been much quieter in the last 2 years than would normally be the case.

      In my experience, so far 2013 has been very much the same as 2012, but I suspect that the last few months won't be as bad as they were last year, and they were awful last year, and might even be fairly good, but probably not.

      I'm hopeful things will hold up, and we MUST see some improvement in 2014 - Shirley.

      Last edited 23/08/13 7:50 pm

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