The Other Side of the Fence – The Lost Dream of Corporate America?

Barely a day goes by where I don’t stumble upon another article that tells me how to properly interview, “the things hiring managers won’t tell you,” what to say, what not to say, how to dress, how to look and how to be to find that career I’ve been yearning for.

Reading these articles always leaves me with mixed emotions. I have been on both sides of the fence; having been a hiring manager and having been laid off.

As a person who was laid off in 2008 I can tell you, a lot of the “bad” stuff that is written about how companies interview and treat you these days is true. The worst part about it all is that, these days, we are told that we need to be grateful for having a job and therefore forget any prior experiences that we’ve had. I question the validity of such a statement. And yes, I do realize that I am in a niche market that pretty much allows me to find a job any time, but the emphasis here is on “job.” Note that I didn’t use the word “career.”

The past 3 years have been a continuous stream of strange, disheartening and bizarre experiences. I could write a book about complete incompetence regarding interviewing processes, companies, hiring managers, rejections and strange offers. Some of my experiences are so crazy that I actually see the humor in them and have considered collecting them under the guise of “I couldn’t make this s*** up if I tried.”

There are places I interviewed with for months; just so I could then receive offers so far below of what I had requested in my very first interview that I just sat there speechless. There is the roach infested, fecal-matter-on-wall office that made me hold on to my purse, while desperately trying to not touch anything. And there are hiring managers and recruiters who kept getting my name wrong. In one company I was first called Karen, then Carol and finally Carmine. I had people who high-fived each other in the interview when I told them how much management experience I have. There are places that require you to bring your own office supplies, including mouse pads and above all, places that have no idea what they are looking for and why.

But all of them have one thing in common. It seems the era of great companies, started by geniuses that care about their employees and are interested in finding the best candidates for their positions has gone. Unreasonable demands of degrees from, preferably Ivy league schools, are listed, amongst years and years of experience one is supposed to have. However, the salary that used to come with such experience is no longer attainable. Instead, you are offered about 30% less than what you are worth, or used to make.

I don’t understand the philosophy behind it all. Have we truly slipped into the cheap labor, cheap stuff and cheap world mentality so much that we are not aware that we are getting what we pay for? Are we truly the nation of Walmart? I don’t understand how companies are willing to low-ball the proper candidates, then end up with people who do not have the proper skill set and therefore take considerably longer to train, if they can cut it at all. Have they not learned that recruiting, hiring and training, as well as managing an incompetent person out of the door, costs more money than paying the right person to begin with?

Yes, I may have gotten spoiled when I worked for Overture/Yahoo for almost 8 years. I am used to a nice, and most importantly, fun, professional office environment. I am used to being surrounded by hard-working “geeks” with great ideas, excellent benefits and pads on my shoulder for a job well done. Geez, I received an award for outstanding performance!
Having been laid off from Yahoo is the equivalent to having found my soulmate and losing him to death! Yep, it’s equally as devastating, depressing and shocking. And hence, I have spent the last 3 years trying to recreate what I once had; never quite fitting or belonging at the places I went to and talked to.

Maybe I have no room to talk, because I, unlike others I worked with, have consistently found work since I was laid off. But if I would only be able drop my guard for a moment and begin sharing how disappointing, maddening and downright degrading some of my experiences have been, you’d easily see how difficult it is to remain my generally upbeat and idealistic demeanor. I usually keep that part quiet, because I feel guilty for having had a great experience and now feeling sad for continuously going from the frying pan into the fire. Plus, it is so unprofessional to talk bad about companies. Yet, each time I think it can’t get any worse or crazy, trust me, it does! The psychology surrounding all of this creates the same one an abused wife would have. Granted, the husband is a cheating, lying and abusive jerk, but he provides for her and the children. And just like an abused woman I can’t help but wonder if it is maybe me, not them.

I used to be able to give advice on how to find the right fit, how to move up, how to get where you want to be and how hard work, loyalty, integrity, intelligence and decency truly win. But now, I must confess, I am equally as clueless as the rest of my fellow laid off brethren in regards to what one has to do to find one’s “home” again. Yes, I am working but the struggle of trying to find my passion and inspiration amidst lackluster companies who couldn’t care less about doing the right thing, leaves me feeling drained and exhausted.

I work in a field where doing the right thing and being part of the “Justice League” is a must. Fraud prevention, just like law enforcement, is all about having a strong sense of integrity and sticking it to the bad guys, while protecting the good ones. I feel as if I am part of a dying breed, and that thought really depresses me. I used to be excited about “new endeavors.” Now the thought almost frightens me. I find that now, more so than ever, I should be the one screening more carefully, instead of taking the next best thing that comes along. Alas, most of us don’t have the luxury to do that and so the cycle of feeling guilty for wanting better starts all over again.