It takes more than just posting resumes online
Unlike most of my clients, Betsy Zouroudis knew what she desired as a career when she came to me – she wanted to work for a U.S. federal agency back in the U.S. What she couldn’t comprehend was why she wasn’t getting there.
Betsy was born in the U.S. and her family moved to Canada when she was five. She possessed dual Canadian and American citizenship and had just turned 30 when she came to my office.
She wanted to relocate back to the United States, but said she wasn’t getting anywhere applying for U.S.-based jobs from Canada. She was “falling through the cracks applying on-line,” and she was afraid to quit, return to the States and be in a position where she’d have to take just any job to get by.
Betsy said she was beginning to wonder, “What is wrong with me?” As she said, “It isn’t that I’m not qualified and don’t have a good résumé. It’s hard not to be down on yourself.”
My first task was to convince Betsy that there was nothing wrong with her. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t about her.
She had been working as an assistant in the Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa since 1998. This was a professional level support role, reporting and researching various issues, including political military affairs.
Betsy told me she felt discouraged. She loved working for the American government and wasn’t interested in working elsewhere. However, although she was an American citizen, she kept receiving comments like, “Are you allowed to work in the United States?” It seemed to her that, “I was foreign to them.”
She mentioned that she had attended several interviews in Washington, D.C. while on vacation. To her dismay, interviewers kept saying, “Oh, you’re in Canada. I don’t think some people understand how widespread the Internet is and how I was able to reach them via this medium. A mental block seemed to exist, even though I was closer to them than half the people in the United States.”
In point of fact, the number of people actually hired from the Internet is low. There’s a lot of inherent suspicion of strangers and of outsiders. People want to hire people they know.
I encouraged Betsy to be more aggressive in going after what she wanted, emphasizing that it was critical she get face to face with people in order to overcome their fear of outsiders.
If she wanted a job in a U.S. agency like the FBI, she had to physically go to New York or Washington and knock on doors. Merely sending out a résumé from Canada to the U.S. wasn’t going to secure the kind of position she desired. Also, when people go job hunting, they tend to focus on themselves ¥ how to make themselves look good ¥ and presenting themselves in the best light in their résumé. Instead, they need to tap into the self-interest of potential employers.
Managers want to hire people who are going to make their lives easier. Studies show that about 35% of people lie on their résumé. They present well, get hired, but then can’t perform in their jobs. What employers want is a level of comfort that you’re not going to be a problem for them. They hire the least threatening person – not necessarily the best-qualified candidate.
The type of job Betsy was applying for needed security clearances, so they were even less likely to take risks, especially after September 11, 2001.
Betsy eventually got her dream job. She’s working for the U.S. State Department with the Foreign Service representing the U.S. Government abroad. The last time I talked to her she was on her way to Washington, DC for training and then an overseas assignment, which could be anywhere the U.S. has an embassy.
She secured the job by being non-threatening from her employer’s point of view. Instead of applying in the States, she applied for the job through the American Embassy in Ottawa. They understood somebody who was an American in a foreign country. It was a position for a U.S. citizen that required a security clearance, something exceedingly difficult to attain. In addition, to assure themselves that Betsy would be an asset to the Foreign Service, the Ottawa-based hiring personnel were easily able to contact local people who knew her for references.