Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Secret Skill for the Job Hunt

**This post brought to you by the folks at Webucator and their 2014 Most Marketable Skills Campaign! They have some great resources, including free, self-paced Microsoft training courses.**

Three years ago my aunt, a vice president of a well-known corporation in the U.S., laughed at the idea that an applicant for any job wouldn’t be vetted according to their social media use. “We can get in there,” she said when my sister and I brought up Facebook’s privacy settings. Since that moment I’ve come to realize what most millennials already know: employers are checking all job candidates’ social media accounts, not just LinkedIn.

In their forthcoming paper, Buzzanell and Berkelaar interviewed 45 employers in a variety of fields (IT, law, media/communication, etc.) about their hiring practices, looking for what kinds of information employers were accessing and how they were using it to evaluate potential hires.

Summarized from their findings:

The vast majority of employers acknowledge the importance of cybervetting in their hiring process. Employers are tired of clean cover letters, worked-over resumes, and recommendations that all say the same thing. In order to get a feel for real personality of the candidates applying for their job postings, employers “do a quick Google search” or Facebook check any and all applicants—from entry-level to executive. Most look first and foremost at pictures, vetting for unprofessional party pictures or PDA. Fair or not, photography of “unprofessional behavior” in a candidate’s social life disqualifies him or her as the kind of person an employer doesn’t want representing her company.

After that they’ll look at textual information: what, how, and how often a person is posting. Racist or jargon-such-as-YOLO-filled language, bad grammar, misspellings or improper punctuations: all of these can disqualify a candidate immediately. They will even look for hobbies “incompatible” with the proffered job (such as “that Farmville game”).  Employers trust their initial impressions of candidates based on a quick social media scan. Similarly, candidates who spend “too much” time on Facebook or Twitter will be judged as time-wasters. On the other hand, job candidates with no social media presence are also disqualified. As Buzzanell and Berkelaar (2014) write, “Just as lacking a credit history lowers credit scores, these data suggest that lack of visible online information negatively impacts employability assessments” (p. 25).

While the implications of these practices about privacy and work/life balance are, frankly, horrifying, knowing what employers are looking for gives job applicants a crucial leg up in the job hunt. One of the top marketable skills for recent or upcoming grads is the ability to craft an online presence that is attractive to employers. Employers are looking for millennials who are professional in their social media lives, adept at social media use, and high achievers with volunteer experience and a dense social network. 

 Berkelaar, B. & Buzzanell, P. M. (2014). Online employment screening and digital career capital: Exploring employers; use of online information for personnel selection. Management Communication Quarterly.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Genesis 22: Murderous Father or Vocational Anticipatory Socialization?

“Here I am, Lord,” Abraham says to God in Genesis 22.
He says it a couple times. Once is after God tells him he wants to test him. I picture Abraham wiping a sweat-or-blood-stained hand across his forehead and look up from delivering a baby sheep and accepting the invitation.  
The next time Abraham says this he’s standing over his only son with a knife. He’s traveled three days to a mountain God told him about, he’s tied up his son, and he’s about to kill him when an angel of the Lord appears and says, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” Abraham replies.

Common Christian parlance says that God speaks in mysterious ways. According to Jody Jahn and Karyn Myers’ work, this could mean through parents and teachers and House, M.D. Jahn and Meyers were examining messages that influenced students to choose careers and found that students framed career expectations according to those messages.

Students constructed frameworks (an ability framework, an enjoyment framework, a goal-centered framework) about the careers they wanted to pursue. These frameworks were built on the foundation of the messages they received: uncles telling nieces that engineering needs women, fathers telling sons which jobs give them money, mothers encouraging daughters to be self-sufficient, teachers telling students to “follow their passions” or their talents. “You’re good at X, why don’t you be an X-doer.”

I can’t remember the things my teachers and parents said to me growing up that turned me into a teacher/graduate student/itinerate blogger. My guess is that the students in this study won’t remember in ten years either. Losing a message the in the morass of things your brain has to remember does not make that message less real or influential.

What we say around children defines their values, frames how they understand self-worth, pushes them where they will be in ten years. Without the explicit memory of your words, a person will rely on instinct or feeling—a voice easily confused with God’s. If you tell a child she is good at X, she’ll believe you. And in many cases she won’t pursue A, B, or Q because she hears God’s voice in her “gifting” in X. If you tell a child he is smart, he is less likely to be resilient in the face of failure (Gunderson et al., 2013). When he fails he may hear God telling him he’s no good at A and should stick with X, even if he hates it.

Hearing God clearly is not an individual matter of perking up a little after we’ve asked God a question. It’s also about the messages given to us over the years—even the ones we can’t remember. The miracle of that Genesis 22 isn’t simply God’s providence of a substitute sacrifice caught in a nearby thicket.

The miracle is Isaac’s ability to hear God’s words, to know what God expected, and to act accordingly. Most sources place Isaac at 25-30 years old when he allowed his father to tie him up on an altar. Genesis does not list every message Abraham gave his son Isaac—spoken and unspoken, telling him that Molech killed children, not YHWH, obeying YHWH in everything so that Isaac could see the blessings—but it shows us the possibility of sending the right messages to those we love.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Calling: Chaos, Contentment, and Control

Beginning with a summary: A person calling shifts with the seasons of a person’s life and morphs according a person’s awareness—of the season, of their own gifts, and of others’ needs. It can be spiritual. It can be relational. It seems to be connected to submitting oneself to a broader picture of something akin to God or goodness itself. Sometimes a calling becomes apparent in the moment it is being fulfilled, sometimes only as the past pattern amidst the changes emerges; sometimes retrospection brings nothing but more questions.  The completion of a calling is not its goal.

Reading a myriad of academic studies conducted on “calling” taught me nothing compared to the wisdom I found in the responses sent to me. I hope you find the same peace and encouragement from these responses.

1.       Do you have a calling? Has it ever changed?
I currently have no calling that I’m aware of. If calling means a general sense of dissatisfaction with life or the way things are, then sure, I’m being called . . .but the question after all this remains, what is my calling?”

“[My calling] has remained constant at its core for about decade, but I have seen it grow in depth and perspective.”

“Yes. I believe I have a calling: to humbly serve in the background. To make others look better. To quietly facilitate. . . As a pianist, I prefer to be the accompanist and do my best to make the soloist look good. In my job, I’m a copywriter for a publishing company. My name is never attached to my writing; my goal is to make our authors look good. And I like that. [My calling] hasn’t changed so much as that I just never quite figured out what it was until I was in the middle of doing it.”

Looking back years later, Whether or not I really had been called, or just subconsciously saw the convent as an acceptable way to get away from a chaotic home, is murky. . . . Callings are not in the realm of rationality; they are in the realm of mystery and faith.”

2.       Should everyone have a “calling”? Should a “calling” lead to financial gain?

“My mom was a nurse. That was a calling. Teaching and married life in the fifties in at least the Catholic United States were also callings. They were callings because they demanded commitment, dedication, sacrifice, and were directed to the greater good of society. Women (always women) in these roles were expected to routinely put others' wants and needs above their own. They were expected to work long hours, be ready to serve at a moment's notice, to be unselfish, undemanding (except on behalf of others), and agonizingly cheerful about it. If they could manage all this with little or no reimbursement except the occasional thank you from a grateful patient/student/child, so much the better. . . . . (And that answers the question about a calling and financial gain. While some callings can lead to financial gain, that's not the motivating force. A called person will follow the call regardless).”

“Full time, great benefits, short commute, etc. etc, but is it my calling? I certainly hope not. . . . If I can make money and support other people that are willing to reach out to others, while attempting to exert a very small sphere of influence on the people around me, couldn’t that be a calling?”

“Yes. I don't think it needs to be blown out of proportion. . . . It doesn't matter to me whether someone's or my calling leads to financial gain. My world view places very little value on financial prominence.”

“[N]o, in the end, I don’t think calling and financial gain are necessarily intertwined. I think God generally calls us to things that align with our gifts and passions, so it often does work out to tie in with a career.”

3.       Is personal control an important aspect to your “calling”?
4.       What is the role of submission to your personal calling in life?

“[A]s far as personal control regarding my own calling is concerned, no, it’s not that important. I’ve made terrible decisions for most of my life, so if I can give control to someone [who is] perfect and omniscient, that works for me.”

“I don't think ‘called’ persons can help themselves. Feeling called, being called, is intrinsic. They would not be themselves without that quality. . . . [T]hat answers the question about submission. There are plenty of stories of people who refuse a call, who try to avoid a call, who resent a call, but who, eventually, sometimes churlishly or grudgingly, acknowledge the call. . . .  A sentient human being, full of free will, looks clear-eyed at what is being asked, and in some mysterious way says, and says again and again: ‘ok.’”

" . . . Because I believe callings come from God, I think that the individual will feel most satisfied and fulfilled when living out that calling. . . . [I]t is a willingness to give yourself for something that is outside of yourself."

“[P]ursuing a life calling is a conscious and uncoerced trail of decisions and priorities. . . . For me, my life calling is only part of the bigger picture. Therefore, submission is an absolute reality and necessity. I have faith God's wisdom for that mosaic. I would rather conform to that road map rather than cause it conform to my desires.”

**“If you’ve received a direct calling I think you have to be obedient to that calling for as long as you are called to do it – which probably looks like discerning daily whether or not you are still called.”

      5.      How do you know if you’ve fulfilled a calling? What does that look like?

“I have no clue.”

“I can only imagine that I will be content in retrospection, knowing that I can withdraw from the ambitious daily grind. I will have peace concerning the things in which I invested my time and my energy.”

“Maybe it will feel ‘finished’ once you’re done or no longer feel called to the thing, but I suspect it will look more like your calling is shifting to a new thing rather than ending.”

“[There are] three ‘stars’ that align when one gets it right: 1) a natural gift, 2) a spiritual gift, & 3) something you're passionate about.”

I don't always like the demands a called kind of life can make. Sometimes I take a little break. I get cynical. I get tired. I get grumpy. It's not the kind of calling you'd see in a saint. It's not as good as on my best days I want it to be. But I always come back to the core. I miss it when I stray. And that's how I know it's there.”

**Doug Koskela helpfully distinguishes between “missional calling” (a guiding purpose) and a “direct calling” (a certain deed, e.g., Moses, lead my people out of Egypt) in his forthcoming, faith-based Calling and Clarity: Discovering What God Wants for Your Life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Calling in Relationship

Before you get to far into this post, I wanted to introduce myself as a friend of Elaine's who will be sharing this blog for the next couple of months. My name is Virginia and I belong to the same cohort as Elaine. The purpose for us sharing this blog is to offer insight into the various articles we will be reading for a course on career theories. With that said, I hope you enjoy my first post!

"There's a lot of pressure being the child of immigrants."
"Why's that?"
"My mother is Thai, my father is from Chile. They met while working at a restaurant. There's a knowledge among first generation immigrants-- that they aren't going to be the ones to achieve the American Dream. They have to work hard and struggle so that their children will have a shot at it. So they educate their children and pass the Dream along to them. And now I have an obligation to make more fucking money than them, to live the American Dream, to validate all the risks they took and everything they went through. And that's a heavy burden.”
(Humans of New York, Facebook, September 9, 2013)

    As a young adult, my dad used to go out most nights to work as a backup singer and guitarist in four local bands, playing with a different one each night. He describes this period of his life with pride, often throwing around monetary figures to emphasize how successful he was and claiming that had he continued in this business, fame would have soon followed. Despite this, I can’t remember ever hearing him play an entire song.

    The quote above was originally posted onto the Facebook page “Humans of New York.” I too am the child of first generation immigrants. My dad first emigrated from Mexico in 1980 and my mom followed in 1988. Since then, my dad has been employed in the restaurant industry, as a musician, and in several foundries. From him, I’ve heard about the struggles it took to get to and support a family in the United States. I was also, at first forcefully, sent to school and have been given guidelines for finding my first “real job.” According to my dad, my first employment will pay a minimum of $30/hour (those exist?). Suffice to say, I can relate entirely to the person quoted above.

    Despite my childhood indifference towards school, I currently find myself in a graduate program interested in what constitutes a “calling,” among other things. Having read a few articles I have formed two preliminary conclusions about “callings”: 1) “calling” includes the self and others, and 2) “callings” are interdependent. In this post, I want to analyze calling in connection to the immigrant parent/child relationship.

    For anyone looking for a brief but informative piece about “calling”, I point you to Zhang et al (2014) who studied conceptions of “calling” in Chinese culture and compared those to Western idealizations. Interpreted in their findings was the participants’ interest in serving their families and communities. They note that many of the participants glorified jobs that serve others. However, I argue that calling is not entirely related to the position held by the person, but rather to the application of benefits gained from the job. In other words, who is benefiting from an immigrant parent holding a job?

    I assert that the answer is the child. My parent’s work has lead to my well-being despite never having experienced a job as labor intensive as I imagine their work to be. Sharing these benefits with me has forced my parents to push aside their hobbies. In my dad’s case, having a family forced him to quit musical night gigs and apply for more stable employment. However, he did more than just quit a few bands, he stopped playing. What fore fronted his decision to stop doing something he enjoyed? One possibility is that he separated aspects of his life into serious activities and pleasure activities. While creating that separation between serious work and pleasure work, he never attempted to marry the two.

   This brings me to my second conclusion, that “calling” is interdependent. My dad’s goals have always changed when mine have. He plans to one day return to Mexico, making this the only part of his plan that remains unchanged. How long it takes him to move back changes depending on my plans. Right now, he plans on returning to Mexico in a year, but when I announce my plans to pursue a PhD I can accurately predict that this time frame will change by about four years. Although I cannot speak for him, I assume he is motivated by family practices, which involve younger family members providing for older members. Both of my parents are eager to enter that phase of their lives but are heavily influenced by the hopes of my attaining the high-paying employment that is expected of someone with higher levels of education. My failure to do so would break this chain of “callings” and would invalidate all of their efforts.

    To end this long post, I ask for any suggestions, comments, questions, etc. For any immigrant parents or their children, what do you perceive your “calling” to be? For the parents out there, is there anything you gave up to pursue your “calling”?

Zhang, C., Dik, B. J., Wei, J., & Zhang, J. (2014). Work as a calling in China: A qualitative study of Chinese college students. Journal of Career Assessment. doi: 10.1177/1069072714535029

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some Questions about Calling

Perhaps my favorite grad school subject I’ve run across is “calling,” because it’s something church taught me eons ago. In church, “calling” meant something like “a task or role God is directing you towards.”

In grad school (or as we say in our ivory tower, “in ze literature”) “calling” is a (buckle up for ze jargon) “transcendent, yet not necessarily religious, engagement . . . . often toward an other-oriented or pro-social purpose . . .initiated by internal or external summons, duty, or ‘urgency’ . . . that manifests in an individualized manner” (Berkelaar & Buzzanell, 2014).

Translation: Though it appears to involve altruism and might come from God, “calling” is a nebulous term at best, applied in a different way by everyone.

So, I want to know how you apply the term to your own life. I’ve sent these questions out to a few trusted souls, but I’m looking for as many answers as you can give me. Answer a question or two in the comments, message me, or maybe post a question to your facebook world and watch the opinions unfurl. Next week I’ll wrangle a post together on what people have said.

Ze research questions:

      1.      Do you have a calling? Has it ever changed?
      2.      Should everyone have a “calling”? Should a “calling” lead to financial gain?
      3.      Is personal control an important aspect to your “calling”?
      4.      What is the role of submission to your personal calling in life?
      5.      How do you know if you’ve fulfilled a calling? What does that look like?

My not-so-ivory tower.

Burkelaar, B. L. & Buzzanell, P. M. (2014). Bait and switch or double-edged sword? The (sometimes) failed promises of calling. Human Relations, 1-22.