We all know that the Internet is changing the way people work and tools like LinkedIn are changing the way people find work, but is it possible to post your work experience online and hope that people will come to you?
That’s what British graphic designer Joe Evans has tried. He has been a designer for many years, but has never had enough design work to make it worth pursuing as a full-time option. Now that his day job at the British embassy in Paris has ended – as the entire department he worked in has closed – Joe has decided to use social media to try entering the world of graphic design on a full-time basis.
But his 100-day campaign is now in the final week. Joe has found that to build some buzz using social media is actually a lot of work. If he spends time applying for jobs then he isn’t building an audience on the social platforms and if he just spends all day tweeting about his need to find work then he isn’t applying for a job.
I asked Joe what he is really looking for: “For me the most important thing is to feel like I’m contributing to society in some way. I’ve worked with a lot of charities and social enterprises in my career and I always find the job satisfaction goes up, as does the innovation. Communications can be forgotten about in the third sector and I’d love to get the chance use my experience and knowledge to help on this front,” he said.
Joe also explained his inspiration for trying to find a new job using his blog: “I’ve been really interested in social media and especially crowdsourcing for a few years, in fact a large part of my master’s thesis was about it. In May I was beginning to panic about my imminent redundancy, and at about the same time I saw Amanda Palmer’s Ted talk on The Art of Asking.”
Naturally Joe’s response to Amanda’s talk was to go out and ask. But Amanda has a big audience already so when she asks for help on a social network a lot of people will respond with offers, or can at the very least share the request with their network of friends. If you don’t have a big platform to start with then one more request for help can just sink into a deep ocean of tweets.
When I talked to Joe he was about three quarters of the way through his 100-day campaign to find a job and he explained what had happened: “So far I’ve had one formal interview and loads of correspondence, I wouldn’t have seen the adverts for most of the positions in the normal run of things so that is a real win. I’m continuing to look and following up leads from people while also trying to see if I can get some more freelance work to tide me over in the coming months. The really good thing is how much people have helped me, It’s been a great chance to get back in contact with people I haven’t spoken to in a while and just to get a much better idea of what the market’s really like,” he said.
So even starting from a lower base than a famous musician with a following, it’s clearly possible to generate connections and noise about a job search, but is it enough?
It is tough for everyone to get a job these days, even those with experience and skills so I asked Joe if he felt that things have changed since he originally graduated in 2007: “Yes, I was pretty naive then and took some temp jobs before trying to start a career and before I knew it the financial crisis happened. That really changed the game, the number of candidates seems to have skyrocketed and with restricted budgets, internal appointments have become even more common,” Joe explained. “In feedback from almost every interview I’ve had I’ve been told one of two things either an internal candidate got the job or I don’t have enough experience, even when applying for entry level jobs,” he added.
Joe’s own experience shows that competition has increased. Professionals, like graphic designers, need skills and experience to find a job. There is something strange about companies demanding experience when they are offering entry-level positions, but if they are this demanding then there must surely be people out there with experience applying for those jobs.
Tools like LinkedIn are making it easier to seek out new opportunities, but they have also created more global competition amongst those skills that can be easily traded or delivered online. Journalists used to getting several hundred pounds per thousand words of copy are finding that their work is drying up as people on the other side of the world are hired for a fraction of the cost – and the same applies to jobs in areas like graphic design.
My wife has commissioned several pieces of commercial art recently, logos and website themes, for start-up businesses. She tried asking local designers to quote, but ended up working with people in Mexico and the UAE. Why? Because the other designers were just as qualified, just as professional, also had a great portfolio of work, but were far cheaper.
This globalisation of professional work also means that there is a global market for the services of a computer programmer in Wales, or graphic designer in Hampshire, or journalist in Glasgow. However, the people with these skills need to learn how to sell what they can do to an international audience and that leads us back to the Internet and social media.
Because of his blog, Joe has found a lot of people who are really interested in his 100-day search for a job – many people have got in touch and shared their own experience, but he still doesn’t have that elusive new job. At the end of this month, he is going to have a lot more time on his hands to stare endlessly at LinkedIn, so if you have a role for him, or even just some more advice, then you can reach Joe by reading his blog here.
Photo by FanBoy30 licensed under Creative Commons