Posted by Erik Even on Aug 20, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
For a nation supposedly built on the backbone of Capitalism, we sure have a lot of companies who want you to work for free.
If you are (1) a recent college graduate, (2) a creative professional (artist, writer, web designer), or (3) trying to break into a heavily-impacted industry (entertainment, fashion, advertising, music), then someone is going to ask you to work for free. They may call it an “internship” or an “apprenticeship” or “on spec” or a “contest.” But the practical upshot is that you work, the company makes money off you, and you get nothing.
You’ll be told that you will gain experience, and will expand your reel or portfolio. This is true. But people who get paid also gain experience and a thicker portfolio. So when should you give away your work?
Don’t participate in “contests.” This scam is especially prevalent among web sites and online t-shirt sellers. You’re asked to design web graphics or a t-shirt, and then submit your work as a “contest entry.” If you win, you get a “prize” — like one t-shirt, or $50. Meanwhile, your design goes on to make the company a ton of money. You have just gotten screwed. Never fall for this scam.
Don’t do free work just to get an interview. Lots of job ads out there now require applicants to actually do work on their behalf just to get an interview. Your existing portfolio is not enough — the ad describes a specific assignment the company wants you to complete and submit before they even look at your resume. This is unethical, and blatantly exploitative in the current job environment. You do not want to work for these people — they will never value your time, energy or talent.
Some internships can launch your career. If you’re trying to get into fashion or publishing, you may have to just bite the bullet and spend six months or so working for free. Make sure the internship is with a reputable firm, and find out what happened to previous interns. Were they offered jobs? Did the firm give them a solid recommendation? Only work for free if there’s good reason to believe the donation of your time and talent will turn into a real job, either with this company or another one.
If you’re trying to get into the entertainment industry, be very careful. Once you establish that you write scripts on spec, or work crew in exchange for lunch, you’ll get nothing but offers for free work until you get sick of it and go back to Nebraska. Don’t work for free for the same person twice. Donating your labor is a favor — and eventually, you need to expect the favor returned. Remind producers and filmmakers that you helped them out, and now you need a paying gig.
What about giving my own work away for free online? Absolutely do this. Work on your own projects and make sure people see them. It’s your own work, and you’re giving it away of your own free will. No one else will make a profit off of it without sharing a cut with you. Look into Creative Commons licensing. But if someone steals your work and uses it for profit, make a lot of very loud noise. Even if you can’t afford a lawyer, the Internet community may very well rally behind you.
Got any more advice for readers contemplating internships and spec work? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 18, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Job applicants often give thought on how to maximize the positive impact when they first meet a recruiter or interviewer.
But by the time you meet the person who decides whether or not to hire you, you have probably already interacted with at least one other firm employee, and been seen by several others. You need to start making a good impression from the moment you arrive.
Walk into the office exactly 15 minutes early. By which I mean, leave an hour early. Employers don’t care about traffic, cars breaking down, and buses off-schedule. Leave extra early to ensure you get to the appointment early.
But don’t go into the office too soon before the appointment. Fifteen minutes early says “I’m taking this job interview seriously,” without saying “I have nothing better to do than loiter in your reception area for 45 minutes.”
Arrive at the office an hour early? That’s why they have Starbucks.
Be fully prepared before you enter the office. Make sure your clothes are taken care of before you arrive. Check your hair and makeup. Use a restroom — but not the one at the company! If you have to, plan ahead. Does the office building have public restrooms? Is there a fast food place nearby where you can spruce up?
Also, be sure to TYCPTFO. That means “Turn Your Cell Phone The F–k Off!”
The receptionist may not be a receptionist. Never assume the first person you see sitting at a desk by the front door is a receptionist. Treat this person with the same respect you intend to show the interviewer. Apologize for bothering them and ask for the person you’re there to see. Don’t ask this person for a drink, or the location of the bathroom, or if they can validate your parking — even if they ARE the receptionist. You can ask about the parking validation on your way out.
Don’t pace in the reception area. If there is a reception area, just sit quietly. You should be able to sit still for 15 minutes. Don’t mess up the magazines. Don’t bother the “receptionist” — he or she has work to do. Don’t chat with anyone unless they initiate the conversation. Smile politely at anyone who walks past.
Don’t bother anyone if your interviewer is late. If it’s 20 minutes past the time of your appointment, you’ll feel like asking what the heck’s going on. Be patient (but make a mental note that this company may not be the place for you, if its employees miss meetings and/or don’t value people’s time).
If you haven’t heard anything in a half-hour, then you may wish to bug someone. A receptionist is the perfect person to bother. If they do not have one, maybe you can turn your cell back on and call whoever you have dealt with up to this point (a recruiter, HR manager, etc.).
And if no one helps you at the 45 minute mark, you should probably walk.
Got any other advice? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 11, 2009 in Job Search
Since I’m always going on about honesty, here’s a humorous Internet meme I found: the Honest Job Application:
DESIRED POSITION: Reclining. Ha Ha. But seriously, whatever’s available. If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn’t be applying here in the first place.
DESIRED SALARY: $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz-style severance package. If that’s not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.
LAST POSITION HELD: Target for middle-management hostility.
SALARY: Less than I’m worth.
MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT: My incredible collections of hubcaps and beer bottles.
REASON FOR LEAVING: It sucked.
HOURS AVAILABLE TO WORK: Any.
PREFERRED HOURS: 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS? Yes, but they’re better suited to a more intimate environment.
MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?: If I had one, would I be here?
DO YOU HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROHIBIT YOU FROM LIFTING UP TO 50 LBS?: Of what?
DO YOU HAVE A CAR?: I think the more pertinent question here would be “Do you have a car that runs?”
HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?: I may already be a winner in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
DO YOU SMOKE?: Only when set on fire.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?: Living in Bimini with a fabulously wealthy supermodel who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, I’d like to be doing that now.
DO YOU CERTIFY THAT THE ABOVE IS TRUE AND COMPLETE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE?: No, but I dare you to prove otherwise.
SIGN HERE: Scorpio with Libra rising
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 4, 2009 in Job Search
I’ve been doing a lot of research on job searches and interviews. I’ve read dozens of online articles containing advice for both interviewers and interviewees.
For the most part, they all contain the same advice — dress properly, prepare answers to common questions, eat beforehand but not too soon beforehand.
But some interview advice surprised me, just because I never thought anyone would be so dumb.
Do not use your cell phone. Apparently, someone somewhere actually answered their cell phone during an interview. This is probably the same idiot who answers their phone on a first date. Don’t (in both cases)! Turn off your cell phone before you arrive at the interview, and don’t turn it on again until after you leave. During your interview, there is nothing in the world more important than that interview.
Don’t take things off the interviewer’s desk. Don’t “borrow” items like pens from off the desk. Don’t take candy from a bowl unless it’s specifically offered. The stuff on that desk is not yours.
Keep your private life private. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear about your spouse’s inverted colon, or your mom’s lawsuit, or that manipulative woman your son is dating. If something in your private life may affect your work, you might want to be up front about it — but in generalities only, please.
Don’t ask to use the phone. This isn’t a friend’s house, it’s a job interview. Leave the interview location, and go find a pay phone. Prepare an explanation of why, in this day and age, you don’t have a cell phone. Even the Amish have cell phones now. I’m not kidding.
And finally, one piece of advice for interviewers: Don’t play games. Some overpaid HR consultant might have told you to be “creative” in the interview — pretend to be asleep, convince the interviewee they got your name wrong, stage some kind of altercation. These stunts are supposed to tell you something about the applicant. They won’t. They just tell the applicant that you’re a jerk. Respect the interviewee’s time (and your own), and stick to normal conversation.
Got any good (but unusual) advice for interviewers or -ees? Leave a comment!