The Devil and the Dogs
My long quest to find a job took me across deserts and through mountain passes and there were naturally, many merchants, shops, and outposts along the way. Capitalism doing its thing, created several options of goods and services to assist me in my quest. It is however, truly amazing that when there are people in need, how many and how quickly other people line up to exploit their desperation. I came across several merchant wagons with folks peddling magical elixirs and fantastic flying machines that would make finishing my quest as easy as breathing. Four years into this quest, tired, beat down, curious and desperate, I was ready to explore all options, routes and means, even looking into what the devil had to offer. So I hobbled into the “career counseling” tent and began to look around.
I realize that every person’s situation is different but let’s face it, mine is the only one that really matters. Zack got that. Zack was a mid 40’s, self-made and proud, faker of success, a font of watered-down wisdom, petered-out platitudes, generic and indifferent rah rahs! He was your man in the stands, there for support and to cheer you on with his head in his phone and hand in your wallet. He exuded all the elements advertisers use for short-hand to convey a mix of pushy, underhanded, arrogant and cutthroat. He would be perfectly pictured in a business convention or Golds Gym.
“Fins to the left. Fins to the right and you’re the only bait in town”
~”Fins” Jimmy Buffett, 1979
I sensed a shark. He spoke to me, my needs, my wants through pseudo examples of others and vague notions of what he would do. The promise of always being available for unlimited consultations to practice interviews and network smelled to me of the busy, insincere and always over-promising go-getter who cared more about the metal on his wrist and the stiffness of his collar than turning out actual results.
The services he offered in various packages were
- To re-write my resume for me, showing me a couple tips and ideas of how and why.
- Re-write my cover letter in a successful business-standard style. (flash watch again).
- Update (or in my case, create) a resume-matching Linkedin profile.†
- Interview practice and coaching.
- Continuing and unlimited consultations until I found a job.
- Networking events (with other unemployed and struggling clients).
- A copy of his (self-published) book.
He spoke like a disinterested and slightly disappointed father would speak to his son giving him a slightly compassionate “what ‘cha gotta do is… now go get ’em” speech. An estranged father. A father that has seen his son but a handful of times since he was born, after he knocked up his mother then continued to galavant around in his faux playboy faker lifestyle. His collar was stiff, his shirt neatly pressed, his build enviable, his spray tan noticeable, his cologne musk, and I got the sense that in the alley was his banged up ’99 Corolla. And for that I’d have to applaud him for knowing the importance of projecting success in his career while maintaining a modest lifestyle in the background. I’m not saying Zack couldn’t help me, and I think he would have liked to. It’s hard to say if he believed in his product more in his ability to sell. He tightroped on fine edge of pragmatism and you can do anything if you try. He knew his product couldn’t offer a guarantee. He knew it wouldn’t work for everyone, maybe only 17% which essentially makes it either a placebo or snake oil. If Zack did want me to succeed it was more out of a proof of his product and a boost to his ego than for my sake. He wasn’t above asking someone for thousands of dollars for his snake oil, but craved justification for his exploitation to help him sleep better at night. But after all the baseball analogies, white boarding and business seminar style motivational speak, I concluded Zack wasn’t a good fit for me, and that me and what money I had left were a better fit.
If you’re considering a career coach or career counselor, know one thing, these guys are expensive. How expensive is a little difficult to say because in the handful of exchanges I had with him, over email and in person, the price and package seemed to shift several times as he “customized” it for me. I’ve heard of people spending up to $6,000 with little in exchange but a resume, letter and mounds of frustration in attempting to reach them after. The right career coach for the right person in the right situation might be a good idea. A college graduation gift. The person with a job looking to change careers or push for a promotion. And there are good and sincere career coaches out there. It’s just that a large number of them target the weak and infirm. They prey on the desperate. They scour Linkedin, Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, Careerbuilder and Ziprecruiter looking for victims. They misrepresent themselves when they call making it sound like they want to interview you for a job. I had several contact me this way.
“Your resume is quite impressive. Are you looking for work (insert position from your resume here) because we’re looking for candidates like you and I’d like to learn more about you.” It’s cleaver because all in all it’s not an outright lie but when I asked what company he was calling from, he told me where they were located (in a massive business center) and dodged the question by asking if I knew where that was, then launching into something about parking. As soon as I acknowledged where it was, he moved right into scheduling a time. Since I was getting nowhere on the phone, I decided to schedule an appointment with the him then do some research. I Googled his name and his phone number, and cross referenced with business listings at the Nikumaroro Business Center and then with his reviews. Many many unhappy customers. They said the same thing, called complimenting them on their resume, asking to meet them in person, then he would try to sell them $6,000 worth of nothing. This guy didn’t respond when I called back to learn more, nor to my email but respectfully I cancelled my meeting with advanced notice and removed my resume (again) from searches.
Zack hadn’t contacted me, I contacted Zack. Zack has mostly positive reviews, and if you’re going to do something like this, you really want to find someone you are comfortable working with. You’ll want to research them, read reviews and get a clear contract outlining the work and services to be performed, access for additional sessions and of course, a price. If you’re looking for work, or going to be, decide about this route early on and do it first or second in your quest. Don’t wait and do this out of desperation, as a last resort. And shop around. Compare. Do their free consultations. Find someone you jive with. If they offer free resume evaluations, of course they will tell you it needs work because that’s what they sell and you can almost always improve a resume. You can tweak it more to fit a specific job, or industry so there is always work that can be done. But before you do any of that. Do what you can. My post on How To Resume Like a Pro is essentially a guide to creating a crowd-sourced super resume and support team. That team will provide the pep talk your Zack would and help you refine your resume and cover letter. There is plenty of good information about job hunting on the internet, in blogs and in publications, how to dress, interview questions, company reviews and pro tips like how to use Linkedin to make connections, ask for feedback and how to contact your hiring manager. Kiapolō has nothing to offer that you can’t get cheaper elsewhere.
So maybe a career coach isn’t what you need. Zack told me my resume was good, about 90% he said, and he was going to help me push it to 100%. To me, that didn’t sound like enough to justify the cost. If I was already at 90% and still only getting casual interest, I had a bigger problem.
A career coach wasn’t what I needed. I needed access to jobs. I needed critical feedback, additional skills and most important, ACCESS TO JOBS. Friends and referrals and networking were getting me no where. Job boards felt far removed and out of date, and searching individual companies was tedious and often yielded no result.
I needed the dogs.
†I burst his bubble by not being impressed with the example Linkedin profile he showed me. It was cold, generic and impersonal. It was filled with buzzwords and internet-searched phrases of “business success”. And it utilized a stuffy profile image and the painful blue background image carefully designed by Microsoft to fade away into your subconscious and not be noticed. It was AI’s attempt at the perfect profile.