Conducting a Job Search: Why This Outcome Was Inevitable and Avoidable
Over the weekend this post, An Open Letter to My CEO went viral. The now former employee of Yelp/Eat24 Talia Jane wrote the letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. In her letter she tells her story—a story that includes hunger pains and taking a handout from a CVS employee that overheard her conversation about not knowing how she would get to work.
Since then I’ve read posts about Millennial entitlement (yada yada) and a thoughtful article in Inc. by Justin Bariso about emotional intelligence which I recommend reading.
As I read the posts and Bariso’s article, I couldn’t help but identify lessons on how Talia Jane might have conducted her job search to avoid the situation she found herself in at Yelp/Eat24.
Values are your compass
What makes you tick? A good way to figure this out is to look at your values—your personal compass. Values give direction to the choices you make and the way you behave.
When you pursue a career, job, activities and interests that are in line with your strengths and values and what’s important to you, you have a greater opportunity to achieve your goals.
Your values can point your decision-making in the right direction so you can spend your time in the best-fit areas for you. It’s powerful when you align who you are with what you do and how you do it; spending your time on pursuits that have meaning to you.
Talia talks about how she chose Yelp/Eat24. “I left college, having majored in English literature, with a dream to work in media. It was either that or go to law school. Or become a teacher. But I didn’t want to become a cliché or drown in student loans. I also desperately needed to leave where I was living… I picked the next best place: somewhere close to my dad, since we’ve never gotten to have much of a relationship and I like the weather up here.”
Doesn’t sound to me that Talia’s strengths and values are aligned. Why is that?
Takeaway: Develop your job search evaluation criteria.
Running away from your current situation and not having a good relationship with your father are not strong criteria for taking a job. Before you conduct a job search, take the time to identifying your values, needs and wants from a career, job and company.
Culture is the most complex of all.
An organization’s culture is hard to pin down. Business books are written. MBA courses taught. CEOs think hard about it and you should too.
Culture is about people, and creating an environment where they can grow, contribute and are rewarded for their effort.
When I talk with college students and recent grads across the country, I listen in order to hear what they want from the company they work for and the workplace environment. Talia writes, “Coming out of college without much more than freelancing and tutoring under my belt, I felt it was fair that I start out working in the customer support section of Yelp/Eat24 before I’d be qualified to transfer to media. Then, after I had moved and got firmly stuck in this apartment with this debt, I was told I’d have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department. So here I am, 25-years old, balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn’t involve crying in the bathtub every week. Every single one of my coworkers is struggling.”
The clue is in the last sentence. Every single one of my coworkers is struggling. I’m struggling to understand how Talia conducted a job search. She writes, “I found a job (I was hired the same day as my interview, in fact.)” A quick search on glassdoor.com probably would have told her how long it takes to make the first advancement at Yelp/Eat24 and that with the salary offered for that position it’s hard to make ends meet.
Takeaway: Do your homework.
Although my heart breaks for Talia, she didn’t do her homework. Had she, Talia would have uncovered information about Yelp/Eat24 that might have encouraged her not to take the job or at least know what she was walking into. From all appearances she did none.
There is no excuse to not do research on a company. Information is everywhere and none more available then the information you gain by asking questions in your interview. Not questions where the answers are readily available by doing a Google search. (Nothing infuriates CEOs more than asking those types of questions.) Questions based on your evaluation criteria—the things that are important to you. Your interview(s) will tell you how you fit into the organization’s culture.
Get it right from day one
Talia says in her open letter to the CEO, “Did you know that after getting hired back in August, I’m still being trained for the same position I’ve got?” Talia accepted an entry-level job that, as she points out likely has a high turnover rate. Regardless of how Talia views her customer support job, this is an important function within a company and how it is handles it customers says a lot about the company and its brand. That aside, let’s be real. The moment you start a job at a company you are on a yearlong job interview.
Takeaway: Show your value
As a new professional, learning how to be one is your first task. You want to get noticed for the all the right reasons. You want to differentiate yourself from your peers in the appropriate way. You want to be effective at what you do.
Now is the time for you to show your value and fit to your new employer. You want to be seen as an asset; the new hire they want to keep and mentor. There are things you can do in your first year to ensure your employer knows and values you and your work. Talia’s suggestions on how to give back to the community are noteworthy but I can’t help but wonder how these were presented.
I don’t know why Talia was fired or by whom. I do know that when you accept a job without understanding what’s important to you, what that looks like in terms of the tasks that you will be expected to do and do well, and how you align with the organization’s values; you often end up like Talia. Unhappy in your job and in your life and often unemployed.