This week marks two years since the great crunch at my last job left about 20% of the employees, and my entire department out on the street. While this is partially due to my advanced age, a computer science degree that predates the personal computer, and a major shift in the market from employee to employer-focused, it’s probably also that, being constantly hit by or barely surviving downsizing exercises at my last five companies going back a decade, I’ve just been a little pickier about saying yes to jobs that exhibit the same destructive behaviors, or that I just have a bad feeling about going in.
I’m increasingly convinced the type of job I want doesn’t exist anymore. Certainly if it does, it’s only found via one of those “inside networking” things and isn’t going to land in my lap courtesy of a recruiter who has my best interest at heart and really wants me to be happy and successful. (You read that one, right?) So, as long as some know-it-all recruiter can force me to sit through his boring “Ten Things You Need to Do To Land the Perfect Job” post on Linked-In, allow me to retort with my own “Ten Things I Want to See In My Next Job.” On the off chance that I’m wrong, and my dream boss is out there scouring the Internet for me (probably sitting next to my dream girl in a locally-owned coffee and sandwich shop somewhere), “Hi, boss. Call me. Let’s get something moving.”
1. Don’t make me retype my resume in your on-line job application. We live in the 21st century. I carry three different versions of my resume on my phone, and I have professional profiles exhaustively detailing 30+ years of my professional history on three different job boards, Linked-In, and PMO-Elite. If you’re using antiquated HR software that can’t parse a Word document or pull data via API from a job board, and your HR department isn’t capable of converting it in the one format they need to work in, then sorry, we’re done before we even got started.
2. Don’t ask for my desired salary on the application before I’ve even gotten to speak to you about the job. First off, this just screams “looking for the cheapest person we can get to negotiate from a position of weakness.” Second, a lot of your answers — even knowing what your benefits and vacation package looks like — will affect my salary requirements. Finally, as a thirteen year business analyst and sales support engineer, I can make very strong arguments to back up my numbers. I do know how to put together an effective argument and cost/benefit analysis, after all.
3. Sell me on your company vision. This is becoming more and more important to me. When someone asks me what my company does, I would love to be able to say something other than “insurance,” “pharmaceuticals,” “mortgages,” or “makes these three rich guys who own it even richer.” Not that it needs to be anything altruistic or honorable. One of my favorite jobs of all time is best described as, “made a bunch of people happy.” At least that I can get excited about.
4. Have free parking nearby. I am sick of freezing, roasting, and soaking, before I even start my day, but most of all, I’m really sick of having to factor the walk from my car to my desk into my commute time. I don’t need to scratch my car door on the side of the building when I get out, but I do require that I be able to SEE the building from where I park.
5. Put a ring on it. This is the one that’s apparently really killing my prospects. Have I mentioned that contracting work is a career-killing racket? I have finally put my foot down on changing discount insurance companies and wrapping my sports-loving child in bubble wrap any praying for the best during the “benefit grace period” every couple of months when I switch contracts. I’m sick of being treated like a disposable second-class citizen by co-workers, and I am over having a “likely extension” or “possible conversion” dangled in front of me like a carrot.
6. Give me an opportunity to add to my skillset, or at least tell a new story. I might as well laminate my resume for the past thirteen years. “Worked as a liaison between business and IT … Effectively captured requirements … managed a portfolio of complex projects and directed development teams … blahblahblah …” If you’re going to make me do that stuff again, at least make the projects more interesting than “modified a program,” “developed a report,” “built a dashboard.”
7. No damned ping pong tables, indoor basketball courts, or video arcades at work! If you need these kinds of things to get through the day, put your company next to a family recreation center, or better yet, go work for one. I had my fill of “Oh, you need to talk to me, let’s have a ping pong meeting.” No, I need to talk to you, not compete for your distracted attention. “I’m not going to have that ready by the next sprint, your time estimate was completely unreasonable.” No, my time estimate was generous, and I just happen to notice you wasted all of Thursday afternoon in a Galaga tournament with the Finance department knowing you had a deadline on Friday morning.
8. Let me control my environment. Now we’re getting into the big ones. Also previously mentioned, this agile seating thing is only good for me about 25% of the time. In the early phases of a project, it’s great for getting a cadence going, disseminating information, and building rapport. The other 75% of the time, it annoys me with having to hear office gossip and bitch sessions, getting drawn into other teams’ meetings two feet from my head, listening to people directly in front of me lead conference calls I don’t care about, and generally makes me claustrophobic when I can’t stretch without poking the guy next to me (who is breathing too #@$&-ing loud) in the eye. Most of my job is thinking, reading, and typing. I like quiet, no interruptions, a diet coke, and maybe a bit of bebop music during these situations. It just makes things go faster and keeps my blood pressure at a reasonable level. Which brings up …
9. Do not micromanage my time on task. I love working for multinational corporations that write off amounts ten times my salary as rounding error, but then want to jump my ass if they determine a task should take no more than 40 hours, and I logged 42 hours to get it done by the deadline (it was actually 50 hours, but I didn’t count the 8 hours I worked at home), especially if the extra time required was due to the stuff in #8. This also ties into …
10. At least pretend to listen to employee opinions. I usually pick this up studying your responses to a few carefully placed questions during the interview, but it’s surprising how often I find hiring managers (particularly younger, insecure ones) are so easily put on the defensive when an employee offers an opinion or *gasp* suggestion. I think my favorite example was when, as a contractor, my 20-something millennial boss cut me off mid-sentence in a meeting with the phrase, “Yes, that’s all well and good, but in my experience…” Like, look, ya little pipsqueak, I’ve been doing this since you were in diapers. When was this experience, last week?! Even if you ignore my opinion because you think I’m an idiot, you will let me finish my sentence when we’re in a public setting.
So there ya go. Ten demands. Maybe it makes me sound like a cranky old fart, maybe it’s the reason I’m blacklisted by most hiring agencies in the city, but life is to short to put up with a job you’re not happy at. I’ll pay a finder’s fee, or take a discount on my salary, if anyone can prove to me that jobs like these are still out there.