when the government requires you to listen to bad career advice

I’ve ranted before about how some of the worst career advice seems to come from the places where it’s most important that they have the best — college career centers and state unemployment offices. Not all of them, of course — but enough that there’s a trend, and it’s troubling.

And now comes this story from a job-seeker whose state unemployment office required her to attend a state-run job-finding seminar. Over at workcoachcafe.com, she writes:

“I’ve had a mandatory Unemployment Office job-finding seminar, where the instructor made me super nervous — he was telling us about how we needed to call every company after submitting a resume and even gave us tips on how to get past the receptionist and call other people in the company that might transfer us!”

Now, the advice to make application follow-up calls happens to be wrong, but that’s not the really egregious part here. Calling around to find other people in the company who might transfer you to the person who the company is specifically attempting to keep you from reaching? That’s a really good way to get yourself kicked out of the running. (It’s also precisely the kind of BS advice that we hear from people who have done little to no hiring themselves in the last decade.)

So we have a state government requiring job-seekers to listen to bad advice in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits. Let me just restate that, because I’m so outraged about it:  If you want to continue receiving unemployment checks in this state, you are required to attend a class where you’ll be told to do things that will decrease your chances of finding a job.

If this state agency can’t be bothered to ensure that they’re actually giving out good advice from people who know what they’re talking about — advice that will actually help the people they’re supposed to be serving — then they need to get out of the advice-giving business altogether and stick to sending out checks.

My sympathies to the job seekers in this state (and any other) who are subjected to this kind of insulting, unhelpful treatment.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

    1. anon-2*

      Or who got his job through political connections, and has never been on the “other side of the desk”.

  1. Anonymous*

    Oh for heaven’s sake! This happened to me, too. One week after getting laid off, I was “randomly selected as a candidate who may need extra help finding employment.” The reality was, I had interviews lined up almost right away and was getting compliments from interviewers on my resume and cover letter.

    Anyway, I had to go to this “job seeker class” and the advice was so bad. I got the same advice to follow up on resumes with a call, cold call other companies, and – AAM, you’ll love this – add an objective to my resume. I was also told I could come in for extra classes about basic grammar and basic software. I have a graduate degree and several years of experience as a designer and writer.

    This whole thing told me they really don’t have a very good screening process for pulling people into these classes. It was the single most wasted hour of my time during my three months of unemployment.

    1. Christine*

      Exactly why I’ve always hesitated to use the county career centers. I have a graduate degree too and just feel like these type of services are geared to those with just a high school diploma…maybe a bachelor degree. JMHO.

      1. Job Specialist*

        Wrong again, do not judge people, EVERYONE has something to bring to the table IF you can listen. I’ve found VP’s , Teachers, Laborers, Engineers, Sr. Financial Advisers, and countless others jobs. I do not need to defend myself or them. Just hoping people like yourself stop putting everyone in the same boat that serve the public. Especially when it’s at the worst time in the persons life. It is not an easy job. Attitudes of better than make it difficult for Job Specialists like myself doing their job.I have NEVER forced anyone to use my services, I have SO many that sincerely want them and need them, why would I?
        Prior to this I worked for Genzyme Corp. for 20 years, does that somehow make me better?
        I am always happy for people who are fortunate enough to have the skills to find their next employer . Have you ever thought about the people who have worked their whole life, perhaps one employer for 20-40 years, have no resume, scared, no help, not enough education to be as fortunate as you?
        I don’t get people like you, at all. I found 218 people employment last year, came in early, left late, no extra pay, no comp time. Not sure if you’ll get this but I care. The people I speak of are forever grateful for my help and I am forever grateful to do such a wonderful job helping my fellow human being down on their luck.
        Next time you go to a Government “mandated” Seminar instead of sitting their for an hour pouting and thinking how above everyone you are, look around the room, take yourself down a notch and offer to help someone, just because. Trust me, people that have your attitude make it rough on other people there.

        Sincerely, ( with some justified anger)
        One Hardworking Caring Job Specialist

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just because one person is good at what they do doesn’t mean that everyone is that field is good at it. If you read this site, you’ll find tons of stories of awful experiences with professionals in your field. Criticizing them is justified.

          1. Job Specialist*

            I just happened upon your site. You should acknowledge there are good people out there also. I have had great managers, and horrible managers while working for corporate America. After all, you are a manager. I would never jump on the negative bandwagon . Of course all Job Specialists are not good at it. It takes a special person who does the hard work to find out how and what employers use as standards to hire the unemployed. More so, how to get my customers in those Interviews, fully prepared for those not so tough questions, but nerve wracking questions.
            You are correct, there are many awful professionals who don’t deserve the jobs they have, but I can tell you it’s in all occupations, including yours. I hear horrendous.
            stories every day. I see the look in so many middle age peoples eyes who have had awful experiences also, only it’s with the corporations who would rather pay $10 an hour and get rid of a person who devoted 30-40 yrs to the business.
            Listen, whoever you are, I understand everyone in my field is absolutely no help and misleads people. It happens everywhere. All I’m saying to you is PLEASE give credit where credit is due. Some of us are really good, and we do really great things with little compensation in very understaffed centers. It’s a tough job, but I love it, I was meant to do this. I give it my heart and soul. I am very good at it and very proud to say I have quietly helped so many find employment. It is the most stressful, fulfilling, greatest thing I have ever done. After weeks or months of struggling with them, worrying about them is all forgotten when I see that smile in their face and light in their eyes. I am so proud to be a part of this in such a horrible economy. So do not categorize everyone in the same boat. Even managers can be bad eggs, hopefully you are a good one. Take Care. God Bless.

            1. JT*

              “So do not categorize everyone in the same boat. ”

              Please read more carefully and consider examining your apparent need for affirmation.

              1. Job Specialist*

                Knock it off. Your not better than anyone else. Get off the blog and do some charity work at your local library. My affirmation would be from someone much more powerful and smart than either of us. You will probably go on to knock me and that’s sad, however the more you do that the worse it is for you “Ask a Manager”. I will no longer look at your site because I feel silliness starting from your statement. I will not insult you back either. This is a blog for different opinions and feedback, you should think about that seriously and stay professional. Hopefully you are good at your job because you are very judgmental and assuming. I’m not trying to be mean, but why start would you say that, if anyone has the need to be right it seems like that would be you with your silly comment. I hope you are a good person, despite your comment. Our country and fellow Americans really need some help. Wishing you the best of luck on your blog. Stay focused instead of trying to dog people . I remain hopeful this coming week will be another week that my clients will find good stable jobs. No affirmation needed my dear, just trying to make you understand we’re all not “bad” Job Specialists. The good ones get people jobs and quietly go home , exhausted I might add. And the their clients……….well I hardly think they look for derogatory blogs to post on. A small Thank you card in the mail is what we get. Good luck and try not to scare good people with different opinions off your blog.
                You may be a good manager but should work on the human part. Sometimes things are better left unsaid. God Bless, Best of Luck.

              2. JT*

                This comment is for “Job Specialist”‘s April 14 3:58 post:

                “No affirmation needed my dear, just trying to make you understand we’re all not “bad” Job Specialists. ”

                As I said, please read more carefully.

  2. Under Stand*

    OK, any chance you can give us the heads up as to what state it was without getting someone in trouble for posting this story. It is funny because it is not happening to us, but it is sad because some sitting there actually believed it was a good idea.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d love to, but she didn’t mention it in the post. But I’d bet money that this kind of thing is widespread, not just happening in one state.

    2. Irena*

      Not sure what state this was in but in VT, if you’ve been unemployed for a long time (one year +), you are required to fill out weekly “job search” sheet that requires you to apply to at least 3 positions via email and 1 in person. So you actually have to go to the company, and hand in your resume to the manager or the receptionist. I think this is absurd – first, it’s a small state and if you’re in a specialized field, there are not a lot of positions posted period so to apply to 3 different each week is impossible. And second, walk-ins are definitely a way to go in any case, especially as an unemployed person. It reads as desperate.

      1. Irena*

        forgot “NOT” the way to go regarding walk-ins. lol. Oh and you have to get the manager’s contact info as proof (not sure if they actually do call to check)

      2. Julie*

        Given that applying in person won’t really get you anywhere, you could just drop off your CV to random companies that you don’t care about (ideally ones within a few minutes of your home, so you don’t waste too much time) and save your energy for the ones you really want. If you really want to be sure that the random companies don’t call you back, you can just read through old posts from AAM and do all the things she says not to do. (Generic objective statement, don’t include a cover letter, “references available on request,” list of weird/controversial hobbies, etc.)

        1. Jamie*

          This happens all the time.

          Every company I’ve ever worked for would have at least a couple people a week dropping off resumes at random which had nothing to do with the business. But they needed to get a signature proving that they were looking for work.

          I am usually hidden from the public – but if someone is unlucky enough to get me answering the door I’ll only accept those who can articulate that they are looking for work in an area we might have slots open (now or in the future.)

          Otherwise I won’t sign – it’s ridiculous and there are usually arguments along the lines of “please just sign, I need this for unemployement.” Okay, if you’re a welder I’ll take your resume and sign, because we need welders on a regular basis and I will give your resume to HR and it will be on file. You might get a job out of it.

          If you’re a waiter looking for work, or a house-painter, or an auto-mechanic and you’re trying to get me to take your resume? You don’t want a job here, and I’m not in the business of helping people pencil whip some governmental requirement so you can extend your unemployment benefits without actually looking.

          1. Julie*

            Out of curiosity, what would you recommend to people who are, like Irena, in a small state/specialized field, where they may not be enough companies or positions listed each week for her to fill her requisite amount?

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t know – other than addressing the problem with the agency itself and seeing if there are other valid ways of showing the effort to look for work.

              I’m aware that dealing with these government agencies can be futile – but I’ve never worked for one so I have no recommendations.

              I just personally refuse to sign my name to something when the end isn’t getting a job, it’s getting the benefits extended. That’s certainly not the case for everyone…but the more I read of the comments here:

              Insisting on welding classes for computer professionals, counter productive information being disseminated in government run programs…it seems like the system needs a drastic overhaul.

              It costs more money to maintain an inefficient system than to retool and streamline.

              1. Anna*

                I think you could put your friends in the HR dept out of a job Jamie. Why not hand the resumes in and let them decide.

  3. Kelly O*

    Oh merciful lord, I may need a soapbox for this one.

    When we moved to the rather large and proud of itself state in which we now reside, I spent some time in the Workforce office. I mainly went in because it took bloody forever to get our internet up, and the local library stayed packed. I needed a place to check email, submit resumes, whatever, so I went in the Workforce office.

    While I was not part of any instruction, I read some of the literature they provided, and overheard many conversations and classes they gave. It was so dated, so out of touch with the common-sense approach to job searching that AAM and others like her provide it made my head spin.

    Not only were they telling people to add objectives, but the objectives needed to be things like “I want to obtain employment with a company that will provide me an opportunity to expand my skills…” No mention of what you can bring to the table, just what you want from your employer. Leave your high school on the resume, even if you’ve been in the job market for twenty years.

    I tried helping some people I’d met with their resumes. I offered to proofread, but got frustrated because they kept insisting that they didn’t need to spell out acronyms, or take out the long paragraphs of “I” statements.

    Heck, one person I know now from that small community is trying to get a job using the degree she got recently. Great, more power to you, but she’s got a generic objective statement, the resume reads like a very basic job description, and there is a line at the bottom about “reference available upon request.” Again, tried making a couple of suggestions and found out that not only is that not what her online university counselor told her to do, but also the person she’s been talking to at Workforce.

    So, these people get this advice, and they wind up working at crappy companies and can’t figure out why they don’t get jobs at the “good” places – never realizing they’re putting out the wrong image. Plus, you have to go through trying to help someone see that they’re not getting good advice – but if it’s coming from their school or the Workforce office, isn’t it true? (Which leads to the whole “what makes you think YOU know better than the government office” line of questioning, which is a whole other mentality issue.)

    Suffice to say, this irks me to no end too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to climb off this soapbox.

  4. Joey*

    State unemployment offices are a complete waste of time, money and resources when it comes to attempting to help people find work. As an employer I’ve always found the worst of the worst applicants there. Those with any sense know better than to waste their time with their job seeking services.

      1. Kelly O*

        That’s the worst of it – many times you have to check in with these places so you can keep getting your benefits. A few years ago my husband’s company closed down and he had to check in with a “career counselor” at this office, who wanted to see what he’d submitted for the time period in question.

        The older lady he met with didn’t know a thing about computer technology, and kept telling him he had to get his resume to one page and “take out all this junk” which was his technical certifications.

        So basically he wasted his time every so often going to Workforce to sit there and pretend like he cared what they thought so he could continue to get his unemployment. Which is clearly a great use of taxpayer dollars, right?

      2. Anonymous*

        Yep, I’m Anonymous @1:28 and I had to keep submitting resumes through their awful website to jobs I wasn’t even interested in in order to keep getting unemployment. I mean, jobs I’m so overqualified for and aren’t even in my field. It was seriously awful. I had to check in with them every so often and when I found a job, I had to send them the new employer’s name, address, contact info and my new job title.

        Plus, the online application system was the worst and most frustrating system I’ve ever had to use in applying for a job. And sometimes, you’d get through the whole process only to be redirected to the employers website because that was the preferred application method (and then you’d have to go through their application process).

  5. Anonymous*

    I work in one of those local unemployment offices, and I can say that in my state we have a similar program. I’m not familiar with what specifically is taught in the orientation, though, so I can’t speak to that. I do know that the other workshops, which are required when you’re selected for the program, are very well done and useful and tailored to our demographic and the local business profile (we do still love the resume objective, though…grr). Unfortunately, I do suspect that many trainers are kind of left to their own devices in offering job search tips, and this can mean that outdated information gets passed down.

    One of the benefits of the state mandated programs is that it gives people who have no idea how to job search a place to start. Many of the people selected for these services are on unemployment after working in the same place for 20+ years, and as an internet filing state, if they have computer access and a saavy friend or relative, they may be drawing benefits for two years and never set foot in our office if these services didn’t exist. In my office, the orientation directs job seekers to take advantage of other services that are more closely related to their personal situation (one on one assistance, for example; or they may have to attend x number of workshops, but whether they attend a smattering of computer workshops or taske interviewing and skills identification is up to them).

    From the inside, my opinion is that better, more standardized and ongoing training is needed for staff, but the idea itself serves a purpose for the people I work with. I help people every day using the services we offer, we just need to develop systems in every state that place a premium on provideing staff with top notch, up to date information and resources for the people we serve rather than clinging to the status quo in an area where change is the norm.

    1. Anonymous*

      Sorry about all of the typos there, my internet commenting skills are no reflection on workforce development professionals as a whole, I swear!

  6. John*

    I completely agree. It’s appalling what some kids I mentor in college are hearing in school! In a world where they push for innovation, they are oftentimes taught and counseled by people who have the low risk (tenured) positions in the world.

    1. Ellie*

      Yes. I’ve found that college professors give some of the worst career advice out there. They may be brilliant and well-meaning, but most of them have never worked outside of academia and have little understanding of how different academia is from the rest of the workworld. I hate to say it, but I haven’t found career-teachers to be much better. Many just don’t seem to understand that the skills that matter in a classroom don’t necessarily overlap with the skills that a good employer will want to see.

  7. mouse*

    California does this too. I was on food stamps/GA for a few months when I was still in Sacramento and it was required as part of the application process that I apply for Veteran’s Benefits (even though I was in the military for less than a year and never applied for status with Veteran’s Affairs for that reason) and unemployment (even though I was previously self-employed in a way that made me ineligible for unemployment). The idea is that they want to make sure you aren’t eligible for aid from other sources to help save the state money; all fine and good (except I wonder how much money is “saved” with the bureaucratic nonsense). But as part of my unemployment application I had to attend one of these classes where they told me to put an objective on my resume, to remove the instances of “accomplishments” I had listed and replace them with job duties, and gave similar advice on endrunning receptionists. Since I was actually looking for reception jobs, I thought this last point was particularly amusing. Mind you I was, predictably, denied unemployment, so why they had me in the class before that was settled is beyond me.

    As an aside, having been a bix-to-biz telemarketer, I was once very good at working around receptionists and my unemployment class instructor gave really terrible advice for how to do so. Not that it matters since it’s such a terrible idea in these circumstances but I thought it was an entertaining bit of insult added to injury.

  8. Henning Makholm*

    A hypothesis: It’s all a great conspiracy orchestrated by big businesses. Logically it would make sense for AAM to be in on it, but it’s also possible that she’s merely an unwitting dupe.

    Here’s how it works: First you meet the “bad cop”, namely university/government career advisors. Their job is to tell you, authoritatively, to do the wrong thing. Afterwards, if you put a bit of effort into it, you will meet the “good cop”, people like AAM, who tell anyone to do the right thing, with much less implied authority but more common sense.

    Those job seekers who’re capable of critical thinking, and who can independently judge conflicting information and make a decision based on merits rather than inertia, will — for the most part — follow the good advice. This allows employers who’re part of the conspiracy to recognize those applicants easily, which is the point of the scheme because the relevant skills are ones that are needed in key positions.

    The “bad cop” advisors are a necessary part of the plot because without them even the sheep who can do nothing but mindlessly follow instructions would be following the good advice too, and so ruin the entire scheme.

  9. anon-2*

    The most ridiculous thing that happened to me — I have been unemployed once in my entire career.

    First of all, they wanted me to prove I had a child. I stated that I would bring in her passport, but I wasn’t going to take her out of school, and worst of all, I didn’t think the unemployment office was any place to take a child. A senior official accepted her passport as proof.

    When my unemployment ran out, I was advised that I could extend my benefits, but I had to talk to a counselor. So I did. He advised me that there was a “welding program” — I could learn to be a welder. (for the record, I am a computer specialist). “What good is that? There are WELDERS ON THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE WITH ME!!! And I’m a computer analyst, not a welder!”

    “Do you want your benefits extended, or don’cha?” Let’s go with don’cha, I’ll spend the time pursuing opportunities out of state, and even out of the country, rather than take a welding course.

    It seems like these “employment re-training” programs benefit only those who provide the “employment re-training”. There was even a cosmetology school in the same building as the unemployment office, which turned out hundreds of cosmetologists. Did they get jobs? Duh…..

    And nothing is more cruel than to have someone counsel you, or to train you for jobs that don’t exist.

      1. anon-2*

        Your benefits in this state are higher if you have kids. I guess they get a lot of people going in there who had one, for instance, and would say they had two , etc.

        Similar to what happened in 2010 – when corporate America started auditing their health care benefits programs and learned that a lot of the “dependents” listed were either over-age adults, or weren’t even their own dependents.

        1. Natalie*

          Probably the most famous example of this is when the IRS started requiring that parents provide the social security numbers of their children to claim them as a dependent. Between 1986 and 1987 seven million dependent children disappeared.

          1. Jamie*

            Exactly. If you get higher benefits because you have dependent children I don’t see why you wouldn’t have to offer proof?

              1. Jamie*

                Oh, for sure. If you just needed to bring a kid I could have made some side money renting out my three over the years!

                The way it was worded it seemed to me like they asked for proof and the commenter said she wouldn’t take her out of school. If the agency suggested that, I agree that that would the lease effective way of proving up dependents.

    1. Jamie*

      There is nothing funny about this situation – but they wanted you to learn to weld??

      I’m IT at a manufacturing plant – we have welders here – they government should have given me a call and I’d have told them that the skill sets aren’t transferable.

      This stupidity would be funny if there weren’t people getting hurt.

      (And if you try to teach us IT types how to weld many people would get hurt. Just saying.)

      1. anon-2*

        To answer your questions, people HAVE brought in others’ kids to collect a higher benefit. I didn’t think it made any sense, so I just called my daughter’s school and advised, yes, please verify my daughter’s relationship if they call, and I brought her U.S. passport to the office. They accepted that.

        As far as learning to weld, no, of course not. They didn’t want me to learn to weld.

        They wanted me to attend a vocational course that taught welding. Big difference, Jamie, big difference! That way they could justify the course’s existence, and those running the welding school would profit, and that wing of the state’s unemployment program would have a reason to continue to exist at the public trough.

        As I said, the local cosmetology school cranked out hundreds, perhaps thousands of graduates during its existence, on the public dime. I don’t know how many of them found jobs, but there have to be more nails palaces per capita in my city than anywhere else besides abandoned factory cities in the Rust Belt.

  10. anon-2*

    I want to add — I was better off using the time to find opportunities, rather than take six weeks and “collect” while wasting time in a vocational program.

    I appreciate that others might take advantage of these training programs — and some might get something out of them — but — if there are no jobs to go to, then WHY?

  11. NJB*

    I work in the Nonprofit sector, DOL funded Employment and Training grant for Veterans, many of our clients come from the state employment office and I share the frustration!

    I spend a significant portion of my day unteaching bad habits and rewriting resumes. I have skin in the game getting the Vets to work since I am tracked on performance so it is worth my time to make sure the job seeker has the skills they really need to find employment.

    I have noticed that a significantly high number of employees in the state employment office has absolutely ZERO private sector experience. You would go blue in the face trying to convince me that fact does not matter before I would listen to you. I am positive it does.

    1. Rose*

      See, that’s an easy solution. These “counselors” should have their jobs be dependent on how many people end up being employed as a result of their counseling….

      1. NJB*


        However from what I know, many of states set the metric for success around how many job orders they bring in, not how many people that find employment.

        1. just another hiring manager...*

          In the case of advising and counseling, it would be unfair to base someone’s job security on the actions of others. You could be the best counselor in the world giving out awesome advice and still not have as good as a placement rate. You can’t hold the counselors responsible for the slackers, people who decide not to re-enter the workforce, those bilking the system, or whatever. Quality here, not quantity.

          1. NJB*

            I understand the concept of what you are saying, but the Department of Labor tends to not agree with you.

            We weed out fairly quickly folks who just can’t cut it, not hard to do. We each have specific Vets assigned to us, which we case manage and assess the individual training and service needs. Since each Department works with a specific category of Vet, we develop specialized resources. Each week I am tracked on how many new Vets enroll, how many are in training, started work AND how much they earn plus how long they keep the job.

            No pressure…. :( If you can’t cut the mustard, you don’t last. We are all clear that ultimately, if we on not at the top of our game daily, it is the Vet who suffers. Since I currently work with homeless female Vets, I consider it a moral imperative to excel at my job. I should be held accountable.

            Next time anyone wants to know the real reason for such high unemployment with the Veteran population, please ask someone like me that does it all day.

  12. Kerry*

    We have this same program (with the same bad advice) here in Wisconsin.

    They also tell you to apply in person whenever possible. Seriously.

      1. Joey*

        Here’s the problem more simply. Beauracratic employers highly prefer to hire people with beauracratic experience. Why? Because working in a beauracratic environment is highly frustrating because there are so many more external forces that make it harder to do your job. But the problem with that is so few people with beauracratic experience have ever worked in an environment where high performance is the focus. State/government jobs have traditionally been more about following processes/policies than maximizing performance which takes a degree of flexibility.

  13. Scot Herrick*

    I was unemployed and went to one of these orientation sessions. In my state, it was quite useful. You needed to attend to get benefits and you needed a current resume to bring with.

    First, a complete explanation of how to use the services, how to file claims and the rules around ensuring you maintained benefits.

    Now, after that was done, the orientation class was separated — basically, if you had a “good” resume you went on to a second session on networking to find work and other online resources to help. Nothing about bypassing anyone or doing crazy stuff mentioned in this thread.

    The other part of the class was for people who were out of the job search business for a long time and really didn’t know how to write a decent resume for the work. That session focused on getting the resume right and making sure you knew what you wanted to do next. Plus networking to find a job.

    Now, I don’t know the advice given in that session. It could easily have been as poor as noted in other comments. But I don’t think so.

    Their objective was to get you back to work. Sure, it saved dollars for the State, but it really was about getting you back to work.

    Obviously, your state’s mileage will vary…

    1. Anna*

      Sounds good to me . Some very skilled people do not have and do not need the skills to write a brilliant resume.

  14. Meghan Seawell*

    OK. I get the problem, but I have to ask: How do you expect government to afford top career-advising talent? I don’t see what good it does to be outraged at the government for trying to provide a very sensible service, rather than addressing the fact that this service can’t get enough funding to be effective.

    AAM, you say that government should “get out of the advice-giving business altogether and stick to sending out checks.” But do you really think it would be more responsible for an unemployment office to not even *try* to help job-seekers? To me, that feels wrong. They should be giving out advice to those who need it, to the best of their ability.

    Now, when the State goes to hire career advisors, they’ll need to use inflexible criteria, like “10+ years of experience,” etc., because this salary is taxpayer-funded. So they’ll hire the person with the best statistics, who may very well be outdated. But their hands are tied. They have to follow their set criteria in order to be fair to taxpayers.

    I feel like rather than taking up pitchforks against the stupidity of the advice, maybe we should be more concerned about the underlying causes. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for a nonprofit to spring up who matches Unemployment offices with top career-advising talent willing to give pro-bono sessions to State-funded job seekers?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      “The State” shouldn’t be in the business of handing out checks at all, but that’s a different story for which I will probably get no sympathy.

    2. GeekChic*

      But then the AAM wouldn’t get to rant about the evils of the government and how nothing good ever comes from it. (That’s how it looks to this long-time reader…)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I think that’s not really fair. I don’t think I’ve ever ranted about any inherent evils of government, but rather have pointed out specific problems when I see them — which I think is a fundamental duty of citizens to do. It’s our government after all; we should speak up when something’s not working.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Meghan, I would rather have them give out no advice than give out advice that will actually hurt people’s job prospects. Yes, it would be nice if they could give out GOOD advice — but giving no advice would be better than advice that’s going to get candidates kicked out of the running.

      If “to the best of their ability” means lowering job seekers’ chances at finding work, then yeah, I’d rather they stop altogether. Effort doesn’t matter here — impact and results do.

      If the advice was harmless — neither useful nor harmful — I’d still be annoyed that they were requiring job seekers to waste their time, but I could write that off as typical bureaucratic crap. This is different; this is having someone in a position of authority — who will be assumed to know what he’s talking about by virtue of his position — tell a captive (and vulnerable) audience things that will lower their chances of finding work. That’s not okay in any paradigm.

      1. Anon 74*


        I get your beef, but I don’t think that the real-life application of this is really all that harmful. The people who are ‘vulnerable’ to this type of bad advice (ie, they don’t know any better) likely aren’t applying for the kinds of jobs that are looking for cutting-edge applications and applicants. This isn’t likely going to impact project managers, IT analysts, and accountants, but rather welders and fast-food workers. Do you really think the hiring managers for those jobs are so picky that not having the best job search advice will ruin a candidate’s chances?

        The alternatives, as has been pointed out, are either doing away with unemployment, finding better ways of making people ‘earn’ their check, or somehow funding good advice for the job-seekers. I’m personally in favor of putting them to work (if they are able) for a few hours a week, in the style of that post-Great Depression group that helped develop and maintain our national parks (whose name escapes me at the moment). For those that are not able, sadly, getting bad advice might be the way to prove some investment and ‘earn’ the unemployment check.

        Meghan accurately points out that the vast majority of taxpayers seem to prefer lower taxes out of hand, as if “you get what you pay for” somehow doesn’t apply to government and the employees of government. Pay crap wages, get crap advisers. Other solutions include joining Warren Buffett’s call for higher taxes, or, if you happen to be someone who provides good advice for a living (say, by writing a blog and publishing books on the subject), offering your services at a rate that the taxpayers can swallow. But…if you wouldn’t be willing to work for that pay, why should anybody who is well-qualified?

        1. Jamie*

          I have some first hand knowledge here of hiring in manufacturing and entry level positions.

          You are 100% correct that having an objective on your resume or a a crappy cover letter won’t eliminate you from one of those positions. However, I will tell you emphatically that if you have a good cover letter and resume you just surpassed 95%+ of the other candidates and if the basic skills are there increased your chances a hundredfold.

          I had to pinch hit for HR for a while back and was fielding resumes for entry level to management and engineers in the manufacturing sector.

          Management and engineers we expected the resume/cover letter to be in order. Entry level, however – good cover letters not only got immediate calls from us, but the good communication skills actually moved some candidates from the entry level pile (to which they applied) to being talked about for more advanced positions.

          The skills Alison extols here stand out even more for those positions.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do think it does impact project managers, IT analysts, and accountants! I have seen their resumes and cover letters when I’m hiring, and believe me, they are clearly as vulnerable to bad advice as anyone.

          I don’t think paying people what I personally charge is necessary to get these agencies giving out better advice. Most of the readers here could do that job better than it’s currently being done, simply because they’ve steeped themselves in current advice on the subject. And again, in the example, giving no advice would be better than actually lowering people’s chances.

          1. Anon 74*

            Looks like I need to reconsider whom it effects, and how much :)

            I still don’t think you’re quite aware of the implications of keeping government employees up-to-date. That requires not only the money to hire reasonably skilled employees in the first place, but also the money to hire enough employees that those who are hired have enough time to actually keep up on current trends.

            I don’t think expecting reasonable competence from these government employees is out of line – so long as we’re willing to pay for it in both of the ways mentioned above. Asking someone to keep up with private-sector standards on a fraction of private-sector salaries is a sure-fire way to attract lower-level talent. I’m just saying that I think many of the readers here would absolutely love the chance to help government out…for a price. Even if it’s a price lower than your rates, AAM, I still have my doubts that it’s what government pays.

            From my experience as both a government and non-government employee, think of working for government as working for a short-sighted company that always tries to squeeze more out of less, to the point of not only diminishing returns, but harmful returns. When you’re a government employee, your boss is the people who are taking their marching orders from elected officials (or their appointed designees). In our current political environment, that means that short-sighted cuts are the flavor of the week…month…decade.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m going to argue that it’s less an issue of pay and more an issue of a bloated bureaucracy that focuses on dozens of factors other than actual impact. I come from the nonprofit sector, which often pays less than government salaries, and it’s still possible to hire fantastic people there. So I attribute it to factors other than money.

              1. Joey*

                Actually it’s both. Good luck trying to change an inefficient process or an outdated policy. I think what anon 74 is trying to say is that high performance is usually not rewarded appropriately. At the same time there’s always this perception that professional development is not the best use of tax dollars. As a result good people leave.

  15. Ms Enthusiasm*

    I’m so happy Alexandra Levit wrote that book (per your previous post). I’ve tried to read some other blogs by so-called “experts” but I just think their advice is outrageous (Penelope Trunk). Thats not how the real world works. I actually think it is kind of sad that more outside-the-box thinking like that isn’t appreciated but until it is we just have to play the game. I’ll have to add that book to my reading list.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I had wondered if Alexandra was thinking of P. when she wrote parts of this, although P. is far from the only offender, of course (just perhaps the most visible).

      1. Ann Nonny Mouse*

        OTOH, I found AAM on the same google search as a P post came up months ago. Took the AAm road. :)

  16. Chris Walker*

    Rigid advice is all over the job search counselling world. I work for a non-profit (mostly DOL funded) that provides training and placement services to job seekers 50 and older. We take all comers. In one session we had a retired senior VP of a regional bank and a guy who had just served 30 years for murdering his wife. You learn pretty quickly that different people need different kinds of help. But so much of what I read and hear from ‘experts’ is a one size fits all canned spiel. Yes, the state unemployment offices are guilty of this, but so are the people who preach ‘personal branding’ (don’t get me stated on that one), and ‘Linkedin is the only way to find a job’ (there’s not a lot gonig on there for forklift drivers or machinists). It’s scary and difficult to break free the broken record approach, but it’s the way to really help people.

      1. Anonymous*

        Where can I find the following stitched into a throw pillow:

        “Do great work and build an awesome reputation. There’s your F’ing branding.”

        It’s my favorite statement. Ever.

            1. Heather*

              I vote for “Your manager is a weenie” (or is that Evil HR Lady?) and “These are dumb companies.”

      2. Christine*

        Awww…I liked the Personal Branding seminar I attended a few months ago. Yeah it was a bit complicated, but it was an interesting concept.

  17. K*

    I’m at the point now where I feel that any career advice given is subjective so most job seekers take bits and pieces of what they’ve learned and apply it to their job search.

    I hate to rain on the parade, but the sad reality is that a lot of unemployed will resort to the old way of *networking* because it’s all they know and they’ve probably gotten results from it as well.

    Wilton Businessman, how else are the unemployed supposed to get payment when they are out of savings, severance packages (if they get one) if the state shouldn’t be in the business of handing out checks?

  18. Ellie*

    This post makes me think of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book _Bait and Switch_ (which she wrote after _Nickel and Dimed_). Ehrenreich goes “undercover” as a job seeker, and chronicles her experiences attending job-search seminars, resume workshops, coaching sessions, networking events and career fairs. Along the way she gets some seriously bad advice. The whole time I read this book I couldn’t help wondering what AAM would have to say!

      1. Julie*

        Bait and Switch is sort of like Nickel and Dimed for the white-collar world. Except that Ehrenreich spends more time trying to get a job (and going through all the related consulting Ellie mentioned) than actually working.

        If you read it, I’d love to hear your reaction!

    1. Jen M.*

      Two excellent books.

      _Bait and Switch_ made me cringe horribly. _Nickel and Dimed_ made me want to cry, and it hugely affected how I treat people with whom I deal in the service sector.

  19. Mike Matuszewski*

    Gosh, I thought all of the wasteful spending the government does was bad. You have to wonder if the government is in tune to reality anymore.

  20. JT*

    @Ellie. Yes, but there’s surely a lot of variety out there. I’m in grad school and the job search-related info my professors have given has been great (though I’m not looking for a job). All about networking, building a good elevator pitch, talking to people who have your dream job, suiting class projects and papers to things we can describe as accomplishments.

    What this sad thread shows is that it would be good if the job counseling offices in government had more training (*ongoing* training) for their employees. Not everyone can an Ask a Manager level expert, but if someone is being paid for it they ought to at least be as effective as a regular reader of this blog!!

  21. Steve Berg*

    re: college career centers. I went to a lot of work to format my resume exactly the way the “Career Skills” instructor wanted it, including Objective and listing education first. I ran this past an HR rep at the company that laid me off and completely rewrote it, and it came out sounding a lot like I have been reading here: No Objective and listing my skills and experience (20+ years) before education.

    re: state unemployment offices. I had to go to one of those all-day seminars where I learned almost nothing. The presenter told those of us seeking IT jobs not to use our local ISP-issued email address because employers would think we had dial-up connections. (He said use Yahoo or gmail instead.) What he didn’t bother to find out was that many of us use an ISP that runs fiber-optic to our homes.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Are you serious? They had you put your education before your experience after 20 years? Obviously they had delusions of grandeur about how good their education was.

      1. Steve Berg*

        Hard to believe, but true. I even told her I thought 20+ years of experience should come first, but she insisted that a potential employer would be more interested in the degrees I had earned. And these people are supposedly in frequent contact with businesses in the state.

        1. Jamie*

          You’re in IT and they want college before experience on a resume? Yikes.

          Anyone in IT knows that while college is great, I’m not knocking it, a CS degree more then 3 years old speaks to fundamentals only.

          IT is the ultimate “what have you don’t lately?” gig.

          The only time I can see listing education first is if you’re up for a job which requires an advanced degree. Lawyer, CPA, doctor, etc. Meaning really required by licensing mandates, not “required” in an ad as often that can be downgraded to “preferred” for the right candidate.

  22. Suz*

    My experience with MN’s workforce center is similar to what Scot described above. Most of the information was similar to what I’ve found on this blog. Except they never told us about the magic question.

  23. Tracy Brisson*

    This is related to how we value education and training, especially for those in need. People in these jobs are always paid less in the public sector and in turn, the organizations attract talent that is valued at that. You can see this in teaching, too.

    I’ve also seen this in the non-profit sector. I was driven to career coaching because of my concerns with equity in education and access to social capital in the economy. I’ve reached out to a number of ed reform programs that say they share that mission- helping disadvantaged young adults get to college and receive leg up in the economy and inquired about opportunities to do workshops, etc. They all used volunteers who had no recruitment, training, or coaching experience to do haphazard mentoring and didn’t see the value in thinking about that differently. It seems to a shame that people who need the biggest boost only have access to subpar career services.

    1. katinphilly*

      GAH! I used to (and still do occasionally) help many friends and colleagues with their resumes and cover letters. They got interviews and even jobs!

      I did this while unemployed and searching myself, but I just can’t do it anymore. I would LOVE to do this as a job, and feel I have a lot to offer (thanks to the “mentoring” of AAM, Evil HR Lady, and many others over the years, coupled with my own experience), but as you say, they don’t want to pay, rely on inexperienced, hapless volunteers (Really? These unemployed people are looking for PAID WORK and need relevant advice and experience from their trainers.), or would pay worse than the job I have now.

      And yes, I would be more than happy to do it at an evil government agency.:)

      1. Natalie*

        If you ever do have the time to volunteer your services, consider it. There are definitely social services agencies out there that would love the help.

    2. Anna*

      I completely agree. Jobcentres should have a big sign at the entrance

        1. Anna*

          Can pretty much guarantee that you are wrong about that . I am people …….I am a jobseeker.

          “Bad Fortune Has Good Fortune Hiding In It”

          This is a friendly greeting, It says don,t worry, your down on your luck and we are here to help you.

          A lot of the complaints have been aimed at the attitude of some jobcentre staff treating customers unfairly. Like lazy scroungers. And of course that is crap

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But you are not “people” — you are one person. And while your feelings on this are absolutely legitimate, different people feel differently about this stuff. Look at that post I linked to just above — great example of some people being infuriated by something some others thought was perfectly fine.

  24. Anon in the UK*

    I don’t know how it works in the US, but in the UK, your standard unemployment office seems to have little to no idea of what to do with anyone who actually has a profession, and their advice fits accordingly.
    It may well be acceptable to drop in at restaurants outside peak meal times and ask if they are hiring waiters, or whether they will be taking on extra staff at Christmas. If you try that as a fully qualified accountant looking for a job as such, the hiring partner will probably think you have lost your mind.

  25. Doug*

    I hate it when organizations or businesses that host job fairs give terrible advice to job seekers. For example, about a month ago I went to a job fair that was hosted by a local job board. There was no company list on the site, and even pre-registering didn’t yield any company names or profiles. Whilst waiting in line to get in, just before they opened the doors, the “spokesperson” yelled in one of the most annoying voices I have ever had the displeasure of hearing, “Be sure to visit EVERY company and EVERY booth!” Um, what? I have heard many pieces of conflicting advice during my job hunt, but one universal tidbit has always been to only go to targeted booths at a job fair.
    The job fair itself was a complete joke. The majority of the booths there were for-profits (I counted no less than half a dozen), MLM companies and armed services recruiters. Everyone said “apply online”, but what stunned me was how desperate the people were in the booth to avoid networking. No one had any nametags, no one had any business cards to give me with an email or number (the ubiquitous claim was “I forgot”) and everyone said that they “didn’t do linkedin” (one person tilting her head like I asked her what the square root of 1300 was). Meanwhile, the “spokesperson” of the fair was busy talking to a local newscaster, no doubt gushing about how they are “helping the community.” Ugh.

  26. arm2008*

    I may have all of you beat when it comes to a local workforce center: the main focus of the homepage for my local center (http://www.csswfny.com/) is Quit2Get Hired – “Up to 50% of area job seekers within our three-county area cannot pass the mandatory drug test at hire.”

    I’m thinking that they really don’t have a lot to offer me, except I have thought about standing outside their office and offering to sell my urine and hair to people heading off to interviews.

    1. Doug*

      Not a bad idea. Actually, I am kicking myself for never selling my horrible movie ideas to the SyFy channel that I come up after having a few adult beverages. I am sure that my idea of a gigantic, radioactive parrot/toaster hybrid attacking Los Angeles would be picked up for a SyFy original with at LEAST two sequels.

  27. Jen M.*

    AAM, you are a management consultant. Have you ever considered hiring yourself out to government agencies in that capacity? My guess is that, if you did, things would probably improve a LOT in that sector.

    In particular, I’m referring to THIS situation–the state unemployment office. Sounds like they could use some updating!

    Just a thought.

  28. Christine*

    My goodness…I just read this entire thread and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was less-than-impressed with their state unemployment services. I was laid off in 2008 and had to attend the re-employment orientation. I think it was slated to be an all-morning class, but I don’t think we were there more than an hour or two. Plus, I found it to be useless. I never went back. I have a masters degree and want to work in either a nonprofit or university, and have felt that state services were more geared to those seeking jobs in skilled occupations and for-profit companies.

    I could seriously write a whole novel about my experiences with the various resources that I have utilized, but I won’t bore you all with that right now ;)

  29. cheryl*

    Here’s what seems so sad to me. Our economy is in trouble. People are unemployed in record numbers. They NEED jobs. Then, the state, which should be helping them, requires them to attend a job-seeking seminar in which they teach bad job-seeking advice. Now, instead of helping them, they have wasted their time, and ensured they will continue to be unemployed. What’s wrong with this picture?

  30. Jamie*

    I do know this is hugely dependent on the position and region, but we’ve actually had a hard time getting people in the door for months.

    From entry level positions to supervisory we’ve been running ads for months and while we’ve done some hiring we have positions we’d love to fill…where are the applicants?

    A major news network actually filmed our company a couple of months ago about this very issue, companies doing well and wanting to hire but due to lack of applicants jobs are still unfilled.

    We have posted in all the usual places, along with the local employment agencies (government and private.) We pay market, offer benefits, and have a good reputation in the manufacturing sector. I know there are a lot of unemployed people out there, but we’re begging to hire and we’re not the only company who is in this position.

    So if the government is in the business of putting the unemployed back to work, and they have a list of businesses that want to hire…where is this falling apart?

    1. K*

      Jamie, what type of business is your place of employment? Are you posting these jobs on your company’s job board? It was sounding to me like your company is a staffing agency, but then I re-read your statement in paragraph 4.

      1. Jamie*

        No – we’re a manufacturing company just looking to staff open positions.

        The national news team contacted us because the discovered businesses like ours going to job fairs and the like trying to find people (in addition to traditional local advertising) and we were among several companies having a hard time getting applicants.

        I do understand that it will tougher for the engineering stuff – but when you’re offering entry level factory work at above minimum wage (on the high side of market for the area) in a city with considerable unemployment it’s hard to fathom. And it’s not just us…you can’t reject people who don’t apply.

    2. mouse*

      Are you in Portland, OR? Because I have a bizarro jack-of-all trades background that makes me great at learning just about everything on the fly. I’ll apply. Maybe you guys won’t hire me but I like my chances at a company having a hard time filling positions that sounds as good as you make it sound.

  31. Anonymous*

    Need some cheese with your whine. I happen to be one that gives these presentations and like with anything else you will always have the cry baby. I have literally spoke to over 2000 people and I can say that 99% of them are thrilled to have attended, at least that is what they say on the critique sheet they are given. The WI Workforce Development Centers are staffed by highly trained, highly educated and up-to-date staff. We have an entire business section that speak with employers each and every day. Maybe the information your hearing is current and what your thinking or believing is outdated. Obviously there is a reason that you have been unemployed for so long.

    1. Jamie*

      A couple of points:

      Every agency runs things differently, so even if yours was the epitome of awesome it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement in the other areas of WI and 49 other states (and DC – didn’t want to offend the stateless residents of our nation’s capital.)

      Also, I think the harshness of this response and the personal nature illustrates that some people in positions where they can affect change not being open to hearing alternative points of view. I find that troubling in anyone working for a government agency.

      One last thing – you can’t get 99% of people to agree that they are thrilled with anything. Ever. If those critique sheets aren’t anonymous then there is no way people who need the government to green light their benefits are going to risk angering the presenters…if they are anonymous? Anonymous feedback tends to be given only by those who feel strongly one way or the other…people don’t generally have a need to opine on the adequate.

    2. Kerry*

      I live in Wisconsin, and I have been on the hiring side (not the unemployed side) for nearly all of my career. I’ve done HR work for Midwest Airlines, Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, JohnsonDiversey, Quad Graphics and a number of other Wisconsin-based companies. I know that the WI DWD does talk to companies, but they don’t talk to EVERYONE (and they couldn’t possibly do so, so that’s not a criticism). Some of the stuff on the forms is…well, outdated. It just is. Telling people that in-person applying is preferred is not appropriate for most positions in most parts of Wisconsin in 2011 (although I last saw that form in 2008, so maybe they’ve changed it).

      It doesn’t mean that you suck, because goodness knows the state doesn’t give you much to work with (and public employees in Wisconsin have taken more than enough crap lately). But I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that everything is peachy. Some of it is, and some of it isn’t. It’s just like every other organization (public or private) in that regard.

      I also think that like in any other organization, you might be fabulous, but the quality of your colleagues is naturally going to vary (just like the quality of my HR colleagues has). Your post-seminar evaluations might be good because you’re really good, but the person someone else heard wasn’t. You can’t (or at least, you shouldn’t) take that personally.

      I can understand reading some of this and feeling discouraged…but honestly, there’s some good feedback here. I hope you don’t dismiss it because you’re offended.

  32. JT*

    Jamie – what part of the country and what industry are you talking about?

    Nationwide, there are just under five people seeking work for every open position.

    1. Julie*

      JT – I don’t know the statistics, but anecdotal evidence here in Montreal tells me that while there are lots of people looking for work, their skill set doesn’t necessarily match up with the jobs employers are looking for. There is a dearth of tradespeople, for example, while there is an overabundance of liberal arts grads. There is a lack of people able to do sophisticated math/science, but an overabundance of entry-level service workers. I suspect the situation is similar in the States. So it may very well be that the jobs Jamie is hiring for are the sorts that are difficult to fill, because of this mismatch. (Can’t say for sure, just a possibility.)

  33. JT*

    Julie – That is true, but the skills mismatch doesn’t fully explain the huge spike in unemployment that started two years ago. Did the economy suddenly change in terms of hiring needs/available works at the end of 2008?

  34. Brain*

    I am outraged that everyone seems to be taking the job seeker’s story at face value. How do we know that this even happened? We only have the job seeker’s word that this actually happened!
    Where is the evidence that this is at all true?
    What about the UI Presenter’s side of the story? Is it possible that the job seeker completely changed what the UI Presenter actaully said? Not only is it possible, but it is most likely this is what actually happened!
    Wow! Now I understand why people outside of HR always complain that HR people have no critical thinking skills – even though I defend HR about that. This article and all the comments certainly don’t help me defend HR at all.
    Is this what hapens when people who don’t have BUSINESS degrees (and no, a BS in Psychology doesn’t count as a business degree!) get into HR; we lose basic critical thinking skills?

    1. just another hiring manager...*

      Brain, save your outrage! You’re asking for evidence to back up the claims made in the post but feel confident to say “this is what actually happened” without evidence of your own? That’s outrageous.

      And most of what is said here has absolutely nothing to do with HR or HR professionals, so whose critical thinking skills exactly are being called into question?

      I just felt compelled to respond to this troll…

      1. Brain*

        TO just another hiring manager,
        Troll, me thinks you project too much. When you quote someone, you must quote accurately, completely, and in full context. The actual quote of mine:
        “What about the UI Presenter’s side of the story? Is it possible that the job seeker completely changed what the UI Presenter actually said? Not only is it possible, but it is most likely this is what actually happened!”
        There ia a HUGE difference between “most likely this is what actually happened!” and your poor attempt at trollism by claiming I only said “this is what actually happened.”

        Most of what was said here could fall under general “Recruitment” which has been an HR function for decades.
        And the critical thinking skills ( I really do have to spell this out??? This is one of the points of my post, yes?) lacking here are: to question the claim of the job seeker, get the UI Presenter’s side in all this, did the job seeker quote the UI Presenter out of context (like you just did to me)? etc., etc., etc.

        Now, back to my original point my post asked: Where is the evidence that the job seeker’s claim is even true?

        just another hiring manager, we await your answer to this point. Don’t be a troll and try to change this discussion to be about me. This is about the article and most of the commentators assuming the job seeker’s claim is true with absolutely no evidence submitted to substantiate that claim.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Honestly, you sounded like a troll to me too. This comment doesn’t help.

          There are plenty of stories similar to the OP’s in the comments. I’m not sure why you’d assume any of them are making it up.

          1. Brain*

            Wait a minute; I was blatantly quoted out of context. This was done for the purpose of deceiving people about what I posted – and you say I sounded like a troll???

            There’s an old saying, “The plural of anecdote is NOT data.” I think that fits here. Hearsay is still hearsay no matter how many different examples you have of it.

            I have supervised as many as 50 employees at a time in a high pressure deadline intensive environment. I learned very early in my career that people misquote what they claim was told to them all the time. I learned that when you are told a story, you as the manager, need to INDEPENDENTLY verify the story as best as you can and this goes DOUBLE for when you are told only one side of the story.
            I just thought that, for all but rookie managers, this would be common sense. I am very surprised I am wrong about this being common sense.

  35. Laura*


    (and DC – didn’t want to offend the stateless residents of our nation’s capital.)

    And as a newly (as of June) stateless resident of our nation’s capital, I thank you for that. :-)

  36. Anonymous*

    I would like to say, since I do this, we are all awesome and above reproach. But I would have to say, since I do this, we are far from it.

    There are certainly several things going on here:
    1. Nearly all of these governmental positions are temporary in most states so there is extremely high turn over of the most qualified staff, and low for those who aren’t.
    2. They are underpaid for the highest quality staff and overpaid for the lowest quality, and this is pretty much nonnegotiable. This means…you guessed it, your best people leave, your worst stay.
    3. The training is poor, and often done by people who are not well qualified. They don’t bring in AAM to train these staff due in part to things mentioned above.
    4. In most cases these staff aren’t dealing with the clientle who reads AAM, we are dealing with people who have zero computer skills, who haven’t ever created a resume, who think that the first thing you should do when sitting down with an employer is bash your former employer, who aren’t looking for a job, who have criminal histories, who’ve been fired over and over. So when by random chance or whatever someone doesn’t come in fitting this mold many staff are flummoxed about how to address them and their particular needs. (If you get me it’ll be great! But if you get my coworker? I’m sorry she’s going to tell you to apply in person, it is her only trick.)
    5. It is boring. There is all this stuff we are required to do, we have to mention all of these specific pieces, for me this means, here look at this later you don’t have to worry about it. For some it means the exact same spiel every single time. But even when you change it up the job is still crushingly repetitive. Again you are going find people who are really interested and engaged leaving for something more interesting.

    Your few people who are really compelled to help people, willing to get paid very little for the abuse (yay being yelled at every day!), and willing to endure the boredom should not be lumped in with this generalization. Some people really do a fantastic job and really do care about the clients and want to make a difference and know the right tools and resources to point them toward to get them there.

    1. Anna*

      The people are the job, everyone is unique so the job isn,t boring. Use your flair as well as all the compulsory spiel. And if you still hate your job be good to yourself and look into private sector recruitement if you think you will gain more job satisfaction. Good Luck

  37. IV*

    In advance- sorry for the mini-essay. This riles me for personal reasons, though.

    I graduated with a law degree from a good university in Australia. I got through to the final round for grad positions, but everything I applied for fell through without an offer materializing. I did make a good impression though- not that I had a clue at the time!

    I was on benefit for about 10 months. In that time, I did some temp office work. The temp work also reduced the benefits significantly. Financially, I would have been better off not working at all.

    I followed the advice given by the jobseeker department. Apply for everything you see! Call after every application! Tell the receptionist you want to talk to the ‘person in charge’! Hand over applications in person! Have a generic business-formal letter for every application which regurgitates your CV!

    Of course this didn’t work. After a few months of benefits, I had to attend a 2 WEEK course for the ‘long term unemployed’, where this advice was repeated verbatim, like a mantra every day in a morning workshop. In the afternoons you applied and made follow up calls in the state approved fashion. It was horrendous and honestly actually quite personally devastating, in that it really felt like everyone in the room was seen by the presenter as stupid. It was infantile and degrading how they repeated this day in and day out, as though repetition would make it stick in our thick heads.

    Fortunately, about two weeks later, despite following all this awful advice I got a job with one of the companies which had taken me to the final round for grad roles. My manager was a brilliant and lovely man, and I had bypassed the grad route altogether, thereby advancing my career atleast three or four years in the process.

    About six months after I started, my manager gently told me how wrong my entire application approach was. When I asked him why I got the job with him- he said that the HR contact (who was the recruiter for this role as well as the grad roles) remembered my very unusual last name, and insisted the hiring manager make time for an interview because I was ‘interesting’… despite my horrible mess of an application.

    Honestly, all that advice is more a ‘what not to do’. It generates long time unemployment amongst the gullible and vulnerable. And its hard, really hard to not get angry when I think about it. I’m very lucky, it worked out well and I learned some valuable lessons in the process. Doesn’t work that way for lots of people.

  38. Rachel*

    Sorry to see that things aren’t any better in the US than they are in the UK. I’m going through this exact nonsense at the moment: I left my senior-level software development job recently, and am presently looking for a better opportunity. I’ve never been out of work for very long, I know all of the things I need to do to find my next role, and I am doing them. However, I still need to go through all the BS that goes along with being unemployed, including receiving outdated and profoundly-inappropriate advice from Job Centre staff, that seems designed more to make me look desperate and socially-inept than to be geared at helping me find actual gainful employment within my field of expertise. E.g., I was asked to “check regularly with family and friends” to see if any jobs were available. (You know, just in case granny has some secret pull with Bill Gates that I hadn’t previously been aware of). I was also advised to “check the newspapers for jobs” – you know, in case any of the employers with web development roles that I might be suitable for haven’t heard of the internet.

    Quite honestly, I’m certain that the people giving the mind-bogglingly inappropriate advice in these government bureaucracies know full well that they’re spouting rubbish. On the whole, these forms of organisational incompetence and time-wasting nonsense seem designed purely to make claiming tiny amounts of benefit an even more unpleasant experience than it already is, as a way of discouraging people from choosing not to work. If the government thought they could get away with putting people in prison for not working any minimum wage job they could get, I’ve no doubt they’d do that too; but, since they can’t, they’ll instead merely waste your time and make you scratch your head until you’re back in work and paying taxes instead.

  39. Job Specialist*

    I have worked in 3 Career Centers, Resume, Interview, Employer Recruitments, and Pre-Screening Customers for Employers. Last year I placed 218 unemployed people with new employers. So far this year I have placed 96. I have done countless workshops and ALWAYS go the extra mile to help a fellow human being down on their luck, it is my job and it is no joke.
    My cubicle is filled with Thank-you letters, copy’s of emails from people I quietly helped. No medals, no awards, just me and them smiling, sometimes hugging for joy. This IS my reward.
    I take offense to your posting. do you generalize all workers in every occupation or career? Are they either all good or all bad?
    Shame on you, I am very offended.
    However, I have 18 people coming in tomorrow for Interviewing workshop so I should try to sleep. Most came to my Resume workshop, took some suggestions on how to stand out in the piles of Resumes employers receive and “walla” got interviews now.
    I do not know of anyone who would tell someone to make random harassing calls to get an interview. Many of us do care very much.
    I for one do. The reward is unspoken.

    Good Caring Hardworking Lady

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Um, did you read the post? The very first paragraph says that not all of them are bad. But surely if you’re that engaged in your work, you’re well aware that there are plenty of people in your field who are not good at what they do.

  40. a ninny mouse*

    I’ve been to these “job classes” in California too. Here’s all the “advice” I got:
    Apply to ANY job even if you are not qualified for it.
    Come into work sick because it shows you are a good worker.
    Objective statements on resumes.
    Count ebay sales as “job expirence”.

    They also wrote me a ridiculously inaccurate resume. It said I had an associates degree in business, and that I was proficient in Microsoft Office suite. Neither those things are true.

    I was told by social worker to go around getting names and going to businesses to keep getting my benefits. I don’t have much experience so I was looking for retail and food service jobs. A few of the people were scared and wanted to know why I was doing what I was doing. Some even gave me fake names.

    I also got resume writing advice from some city run job fair who told me that I should make business cards and only use linkin. And again the objective statement.

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