Tuesday 3 September 2013

Sell Yourself

Some of you may be aware I’m currently looking for work. Being self-employed for ten years the last thing I really want is full-time employment for ‘da man’ but it’s an option I would be foolish to overlook. So, yesterday, having knocked my ‘interesting’ CV into shape, I began the long haul trawl through various job sites. My god, what has happened to the world of work?

Years ago jobs had proper names, names that told you what people did; butcher, baker… candlestick maker. So much were people identified by their trades that many took them as their family name. Archer, Carpenter, Draper, Fletcher, Fuller, Hayward, Mercer, Prentis, Taverner, Taylor… class assembly used to sound like a recruitment fair. (I have no idea what a Patel does, or did… if recent reports are true it may mean ‘lives off the state’.)

But back to the search. Jobs no longer have real names or defined purpose. Many are mundane roles genetically modified to sound more important and less judgemental. Thus nobody is looking for plain old nurses any more but there are many jobs in the burgeoning ‘care’ sector all of which appear to require an arm’s length list of qualifications of dubious utility; how many courses do you have to go on to be capable of wiping arses, chatting and doing a spot of light housework?

The realm of sales recruitment is just as impenetrably worded as ever: “focus heavily on brand awareness and relish the opportunity to create a personal and positive customer experience” In sales the ‘opportunities’ are always ‘exciting’ and ‘dynamic’ and ‘interactive’ and ‘focused’, presumably in ways that say, Ice Road Trucker, is not, even if it’s a counter job at Debenhams. Actually, I do know why selling is so oversold; I shudder to recall the years of my life when I did myself irreparable mental harm trying to sell stuff; it’s basically lying to people’s faces every working day of your life. That has to take its toll – for years I suffered Post Traumatic Sales Disorder.

The gobbledegook language of sales and management speak has bled over into the most ordinary of jobs and our litigious culture has added further layers of box-ticking bullshit. No wonder the poor old indigenous young Brits can’t get a start when even the most ordinary job is described in incomprehensibly vacuous ways and requires a ‘skill set’ a multi-lingual rocket surgeon would be hard pressed to acquire. No wonder they are reduced to mailing out multiple CVs with no hope of a reply – they don’t even know what a ‘Petrol Colleague’ (Asda) might be, let alone know how to sell themselves as one.

The truth of the matter is simple; most jobs are utterly basic and can be performed by anybody with a bit of what we used to call gumption. There are few occupations out there where the knowledge and skills can’t be acquired quite quickly and fine-tuned over a relatively short period. But in our politically correct, equality and diversity monitored, qualification-centric world it seems everybody must jump through those flaming hoops.

The art of finding a job seems to no longer be matching your ability to an employer’s needs but negotiating your way through the minefield of ridiculous HR rhetoric. It’s easy to see why there appear to be more jobs advertised for recruitment consultants (just sales, really, but selling people) than any other. 


  1. A story about salesmen, though I expect everyone has one such tale at least. This is about the gift of the gab within the organisation and why it is more important.

    Years ago I worked with two salesmen who sold space in a local newspaper at a time when local advertising was essentially about local papers, other than the scratchy and faded generic ad for the Indian restaurant 'just five minutes from this cinema'

    Salesman A in this was older but outwardly not very dynamic. He just went out everyday and sold space. Small ads, but he hit his targets. He didn't excite and so clearly wasn't going anyplace in the organisation.

    Salesman B however had it made. He was gregarious and outgoing and a good laugh. He would come back to the sales office with grand tales how next month a major business had promised it was going to take a full-page ad, or even (roll of drums) a supplement within the paper. Awesome stuff, and though little of it ever materialised he always had a new promise of a bigger ad space next month. Clearly, Salesman B was going places.

    Eventually A left and went elsewhere to earn his modest crust. B however stayed and because he was such a good salesperson and could get all sorts of promises he eventually rose to be sales manager.

    I understood then that selling is not just 'out there' but within the organisation. Sell well in that hothouse and you can go far...

    1. Indeed. And a fundamental reason why I don't play those sort of politics. It's a house of cards, founded on the shifting sands of a kind of face-fitting favouritism. And having gone from a very good fit to being ousted in a bloodless coup and subsequently ostracised, it is a game I have no intention of ever playing again.