Permanent employment not just a thing of the past

October 15, 2007


Q: I can't seem to find a permanent job. My current resume is littered with temp jobs. I left a good job in 2001 to start an Internet business that was a spectacular failure. I have been unable to find a professional job since. I would love to work for a nonprofit doing communications. I really want to move on and stop reminiscing about the good old days (i.e., the late '90s). - Garrison

Dale: Ah, the late '90s. Seems like such a simple time. Now, Garrison is attempting a difficult career maneuver: moving into a new career within a new field, while going from temp to full-time. That's skating onto the ice and opening with a triple axel.

J.T.: He could get down to a double, by altering his resume. There's no need to list temporary work as a separate entity. The reality is we're all temporary workers. No one stays at a job for more than a few years these days. So, Garrison, there's no need to point out they are temporary simply because they didn't offer full-time benefits. You were at each of those jobs full-time and for a nice stretch.

Dale: However, because you have neither communications nor nonprofit experience, you're going to have to set aside a traditional search and network in, finding someone who's willing to take a chance on you, or else split the career move in two.

J.T.: If it's the latter, I'd start by finding a company that will let you do PR/communications for them. Then, once you are on board and settled in, you can volunteer to run (or establish) the company's relationships with nonprofits. Over time, you'll have a network of contacts in the nonprofit world. At the same time, you'll have the added perspective of having been on the private-sector side, recognizing what it's like to be the corporate donor.

Dale:The end result is that you'll be doubly valuable and thus doubly likely to get an assignment that's as "permanent" as they get in the good old 2000s.

Q. What are your thoughts in regard to personality tests in the work environment? Where I work the tests are being used to some degree to determine promotions. We were amazed at what a short and simple test got correct, but at the same time concerned with what statistical testing got wrong. - James

Dale: Personality tests remind me of those people who say, "What's your sign?" and when you tell them, make a snorting noise and say, "That explains it!" as if they know everything about you.

J.T.: Personality testing is a hot topic with me these days. I think such tests can be helpful in starting a dialogue, especially right now, when generational differences are creating workplace friction. However, I don't believe that they should ever be used in a "pass/fail" manner. I recently learned that a well-known company is using online personality tests as a major criterion in promotions. One of my clients was given the test and was told, in effect, "We're sorry, you did not pass our test, and therefore you're not a candidate for this position." After which, the manager who suggested the employee apply for the job failed to return the employee's calls for two weeks, then finally called to say, "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have suggested you apply." What a horrible way to deliver such sensitive news - but I assure you, the story is true. So, I say, use tests to leverage the insight they provide, but never use them as cowardly means to turn someone down for a promotion.

Dale: Or, more generally, never use testing as a trampoline to jump to a conclusion. Personality tests fail when they're used to create stereotypes and thus provide an excuse for closing minds; they succeed when they open minds to an acceptance of personality differences.


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