The problem with applications

I’ve filled out a lot of applications. Online mostly, though still some on paper. The online revolution and conversion was ushered in between the times that I was looking for work. In 2003 I fell into my first after high school job, which I don’t even recall if I filled out an application for. It was an office manager for a nonprofit, and until the office space we had was lost, I thought it was going okay. I learned a lot about business skills in that one-man shop, though maybe not enough.

After that, I started what could have been my first career I suppose you could say. Had I not resigned to pursue professional acting, maybe I’d still be there. It was a service organization affiliated with NASCAR, and while I have many problems with the way some of that went down, I can remember fondly my times at the track.

I think from there I learned that work should be fun. Could be fun, at the very least. I was a highly effective worker, and given increasing responsibility during my time there. (In five years, I received two promotions and was asked to handle several increasing complicated aspects of the job – mostly related to computer systems or point-of-sales.) And I had fun, mostly. When the crowds started slowing to the races, then concern gripped the corporatists – cut budgets, watch the bottom dollar, churn out the returns. 

But we’re not robots. Not cogs that, if tightened, can produce two more widgets. (This theme has been coming up recently – the production of widgets.)

Long story short, when it was time to go, I knew it was time to go. The exact phrasing of my last meeting with my boss and my boss’s boss (Office Space anyone?) went like this:

My Boss: “It’s either you quit your outside activities and commit to this, or you should go somewhere else.”

Me: “I have my two weeks notice ready. Let me grab it for you.”

Now my outside activities were my first volunteer endeavors with community theatre, and I had requested a day off a week after the Daytona 500 to be involved with a professional production of an opera. Whether or not either of us were right or wrong is just a lot of conjecture, but we both did what we did. 

I go by my gut a lot. Every job I’ve known it was time to leave, I went ahead and did it. Sometimes without a safety net. Thankfully, I’ve managed to land on my feet. (This time is a little harder, as I’m more keenly aware of the level of debt I’m carrying from my student loans.)

So when I go out and look for those jobs, and I come to a website where I am filling out over and over again the same information. Name. Number. Address. Work history. Education. Etc., etc.

Exactly why we have resumes. And, truth be told, nearly all of my jobs have come through people I knew, or people who knew those people. Not online applications. So what then is the point there? 

When they ask you in their application (posted online, and responded to in the same way by every applicant) “what about this company makes you want to work here?” – the most likely honest answer is “if hired, you’ll give me a paycheck.”

Company culture isn’t bought into in an online application. And good companies will have trouble matching good applicants in that way. 

Companies – if you want good workers (and to retain them), be different. Don’t be another online application for a hopeful paycheck.

Applicants – if you want to work for a good company (and do well), be different. Bring your talents to someone who will take those talents, and let you use them. Let you fail. And then help back up.


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