by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

I read an interesting article in yesterday's New York Times on how job applicants can cover-up a "job-hopping" history. I just don't understand why it would matter.

Aren't all the rules pretty much moot by now?

We're talking about a tsunami wave of employment seekers...thousands more anointed every nanosecond, or so it seems. They're competing for a shrinking list of available job descriptions, and whatever career paths used to connect one to the other have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

So employers are going to be worried that a candidates changed jobs in the past? Isn't that kind of like being disappointed that a would-be immigrant at Ellis Island used to live in a foreign country?   

You could just as easily reason that a would-be employee who hasn't changed jobs more than once -- in other words, he or she just got evicted from a comfy corporate la la world -- perhaps doesn't possess the skills required to keep a job in the new reality.

This also brings into question the concept of "personal branding," about which a fellow dim bulber asked my opinion a few days ago.

The job help racket seems to be thriving these days, and the Internet is clogged with epistles about envisioning the job you want 3 years from now and rules for branding yourself. Etc. I think most of it is probably as out-of-date as the New York Times article.

We're not as unique as we'd hope our life experiences or Moms would suggest. 

I don't care if you did time in the Peace Corps, had a giant title before you were old enough to drink, can sing the national anthem backwards, or whatever. In this economy, there are dozens, if not thousands, of job seekers who pretty much claim the identically similar differences. You can waste your time massaging your past, or imagining your ideal future, but it's just so much wordsmithing on your PC. Nobody cares.

The one variable that could make a difference, and that’s in your control, is now. Present tense. 

Act. Do things. Find a company and consult for them, free if that's what it takes. Work for your place of worship, or favorite community service. Take a class, develop a hobby, and do just about anything else that 1) legitimately interests you, and 2) gets you off your email/Blackberry, and interacting out in the real world with real people.

Don't be looking for a job guy; be the I'm doing interesting things guy

Think about it. Looking isn't doing something, it's just waiting only in a more politically-correct way. But nobody likes dealing with someone who needs something. Your "personal brand" is only as unique (or real) as what you're doing with your life today, not how you massage your past, or profundicate about your future.

Now how does this help you find a job? 

Well, for starters, if you're busy doing things that matter to you/reward you, you're not only unique but you're also interesting. You have some things to talk about other than your need for a job. Whatever things you're doing now might suggest to you 1) people with whom you want to network, and 2) a reason to contact them, other than to beg for their help on your job search. 

It might also help you better define the behaviors you want to engage in vs. the inert, static job description you otherwise might have thought you wanted. It's good practice at making your life meaningful, as it's more than likely you're going to be out of a job again sometime in the future. Maybe a lot of times. So start defining your "brand" by doing the things you like to do, not dreaming of some job description that would give them to you.

Finally, there's a good chance that whatever personal branding, job seeker nonsense process you might read about online, there are a zillion other people reading, and ready to follow, the same process. Doing what you're supposed to do will land you right in the middle of the pack of all the other people doing exactly the same things. 

So I come back to variables again: what can be truly different, and something that you own, is how you spend the rest of the hours you have today, and then tomorrow, etc. 

Your best opportunities may emerge from some activity that you could never have expected to yield a result. Don't waste your time trying to predict payoffs. 

Give to the Universe, in a macro-cosmic way, and in lots of little, everyday moments.

Skip wasting your time trying to get it to do something for you.

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