Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Warning Signs

Since moving back to Atlanta, I have been using local Web sites and community-based listings to aid me in my career search. Of these, craigslist has been a constant source of leads. As you are aware, the want-ad behemoth lets companies post job listings for free or for a low cost, making it an important, low-cost tool. Unfortunately, that also means not all of these leads are legitimate.

I am shocked by the sheer number of positions that claim to be entry-level public relations jobs. I have found everything from cold-calling, customer service jobs to borderline pyramid schemes masquerading as marketing jobs.

One of the biggest warning signs I've found for these jobs is the requirements. When a listing announces: ENTRY LEVEL NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY WE WILL TRAIN!, I know they aren't looking for skilled professionals. What I want to do requires four years of study, and another two training as an intern. I am the first of my family to earn a bachelors, and I am proud of my education. I don't want to learn to sell in two weeks just to make calls off a list.

Language is usually a hint, too. Promises of huge earnings in one year or commission-only compensation sets off loud alarm bells. Excitement that can only be expressed in ALL CAPS isn't something I want from a firm, nor are promises of incredible rewards.

The frequency of these posts, or a large number of openings, is another sign. It tells me that turnover is great, and if the positions were as incredible as the company is claiming, why would there be so many openings?

One last warning sign I have come across is the call for a head shot. Head shots are perfectly fine when you are auditioning for an acting job, but not for a PR professional. Why is my appearance important if I am a communicator? I want to write content and strategy, not show off my good looks. When a job asks for a head shot, it tells me that they aren't looking for communicators, they are looking for pretty girls and guys to sell sex, not their client.

I am sure that there are people who are right for these jobs, but they are not what I want to do. Weeding through the clutter has made me all the more driven to find that right position, but it's tough. What sets off your alarm bells when looking for a job?

Image copyright National Geographic.

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