26 May 2007

While I'm on the topic of contradictory advice...

Contradictory advice isn't exclusive to writers, of course. The Gadget Man's career has stalled, through no fault of his own, and his current contract is about to expire. The job is done, so his contract won't be renewed, and so he's about to go on the hunt for a new job again. It's such a demoralising thing, I think -- sending out your CV and not even getting to the interview stage. (Rather like sending out that beloved short story or poem and having it richochet right back.)

Anyway, he seems to find it hard to get to the interview stage. I've looked over his resume, and it looks fine to me. So the other day our students had a careers session, and a friend grabbed a spare booklet on how to write up your CV, which she passed on to me. The Gadget Man has read books on the subject, and the other day did a course on it. Only, you guessed it -- all the advice conflicts. Do set out your information in dot points. Whatever you do, don't set it out in dot points. Don't make too much of your technical expertise; employers are more interested in whether you're a team player. Make sure you expand on your technical expertise...

One friend who was going through a similar thing said he couldn't get interviews either; then he sent his CV off to a professional resume formatter, and he said the only thing she changed -- the only thing -- was to add a horizontal line at the top of the page. She didn't touch the wording. And he said within a week, he'd had three requests for interviews. He swears it was because of that line. Bizarre.

The Gadget Man's problem is that he's too humble, too honest. He lacks the bullshit-factor. I must say I'm not really good with that either. But I've seen people who are -- especially in my science career. Someone would be toured through the lab, and we'd be told they were starting on Monday, and they would seem so knowledgable and impressive, and would turn out to be absolutely useless. Why is it that dickheads are so good at selling themselves? Where does all that self-belief come from? I think employers need some kind of magic mirror that can see through the bullshit-factor. Perhaps that's why a lot of them insist on pyschological tests. Trouble is that everyone tries to second-guess the answers that an employee wants to hear. No magic mirror there then. I don't know what the answer is. I just hope The Gadget Man comes across would-be employers who can sort out the bullshit-factor from the real deal!


Sherryl said...

You know, that's one of the things I like about writing. A person can bulls**t all they like, but if the writing on the page doesn't work, all the ego and front in the world won't get me to buy their book. Even the big names like Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling still have to have what it takes on the page - and let's face it, all the marketing hype in the world won't make someone a bestseller. Only people forking out $$ for their books do that, and if they feel they wasted their money, word of mouth will soon kill sales.
Yes, some people won't read Brown and Rowling, but plenty of others do, and they wouldn't do it if they didn't enjoy it.

Snail said...

Why is it that dickheads are so good at selling themselves? Where does all that self-belief come from?

Having observed this at work, I believe it's down to a complete inability to comprehend their limitations.

There's a paper called something like "Incompetent and unaware of it" that explores the phenomenon. I'll try to rustle it up.

And once the dickheads get into positions of power, they tend to recruit and promote other dickheads.

And so it goes.

*gets off soapbox*

Snail said...

Here's the paper as a PDF.

Tracey said...

Sherryl, you're spot on about the writing on the page. But, I do think sometimes people who have got "a name" get away with more than new writers. New writers have to be even better. But I'm with you about sales. Readers might by a book by a much-loved author, and if it's crappy might still come back for a second, thinking that one was just an anomaly, but if they continue in that vein readership will drop away.

Snail, thanks for that. I'll have to go have a read. And you say on that soapbox! That's just fine.