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Examine the expectations and inferences underlying selected job positions. Consider timely topics in career preparation and the struggle for fulfilling employment. Analyze what could be improved in either situation. If this blog reminds you too much of work, then peruse my namesake blog for lighter fare.

Fuck UWM and all universities! UW-Milwaukee and their brethren are mediocre. Click banner ads on ClixSense instead; it's a better use of time than a college education in the UW System.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Psychology of the Combative Job Applicant

Iconoclasts and admirers of deviance alike shall enjoy today's post! In my transgressive crusade to expose the declining returns of a university education, I came across a staffer bemoaning how increasingly common it is for a non-placed job applicant to snap at the third-party staffer -- either as a proxy for or in addition to the client company who hired someone else, for whom one might anticipate anger to be directed towards.

And would you know it? Many of those being told to "not call us" staffers are, in fact, college-educated and losing their ability to be polite following a harrowing rejection streak. There's only so much deflation of one's self-esteem one can take before thinking of ways to inflict emotional abuse on the rejecting parties!

The psychology of job applicants -- even interviewees -- who say offensive things to and/or about recruiters and interviewers goes something like this:

1) "I'm applying for a job as a form of ritual psychodrama, to say that I never give up (even if not currently receiving unemployment benefits);"

2) "But I understand from many prior negative outcomes when I had been polite that today's job application or interview will be no different;"

3) "Ergo, I will purposefully offend those who view my application and/or interview me so that I may offend them before they offend me through inevitable rejection. I'll no longer be exclusively a victim but also a victimizer!"

This phenomenon is understandable to those who have been implied over and over -- even told outright -- that they are worthless. Being generally successful people, scads of human resources personnel cannot decipher why an employment applicant would lash out against those who nominally hold the keys to his or her economic prosperity.

As I had told Staffing Talk, chronically unchosen job applicants no longer see themselves as credible candidates for employment; they are merely following a social script to position themselves into a line of communication by which they direct verbal -- and occasionally violent, overtly criminal -- abuse at anyone and everyone in HR to share the misery.

Staffing Talk readers did not take this revelation very well. In fact, those who didn't bury their heads in the sand took a second to downvote me, as shown in the screen capture below. I feel honored to have ruffled their feathers by breaking their echo chamber!

Staffing Talk columnists and readers alike disliked me for shattering their echo chamber.

It is for this reason that interviewers are loathe to produce business cards during first-round interviews: Angry also-rans would have a direct line to air their grievances -- if not to the interviewer, then to his or her jaded receptionist, who more than likely has learned to be a virtual roadblock for pesky callers by directing to voice mail or by purportedly "taking a message."

Staffers are especially prone to Parthian shots from jilted jobbers. Being one of the few regular HR-related contacts the job seeker has, a candidate facing a continued crush of unemployment may believe the recruiter and/or staffing agency are purposely not recommending him or her to suitable positions!

Next thing you know, the exasperated employment searcher is asking the recruiter how s/he -- the presently under-served labor consumer -- may someday acquire the staffer's very job! Or more than likely, the question is how to best qualify to work in another instantiation of the recruiter's; but most people asked by an unemployed person how to get into their line of work are viewed very suspiciously as potential backstabbers who'll do anything to get ahead.

I know the staffing recruiters I've worked with -- QTI, QPS, and especially the self-important egomaniacs at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation -- have reacted rather defensively when I inquired about which jobs comprised their career path up through their present position. One DVR agent said, "Oh, so you think you can do my job?" I replied, "With enough training? Yes!"

That was after they had failed to place me during all my college years and for over a year thereafter, so I had nothing to lose by springing that tactless question upon them. That person in particular was far more upset than I had imagined, so I was satisfied to know that if I ever wanted to burn someone in human resources, then all I need is to ask just how they qualified into their position!

As a final scratch at DVR, I quit their program to forcibly close my case file just weeks before Pizza Hut hired me. It was my outside initiative which earned me the job, so I made damned sure DVR wasn't going to steal credit! They had nothing to do with my applications to fast food restaurants; they had discouraged me from trying those places; and no one from DVR had contacted Pizza Hut. The victory was all mine!

My time at Pizza Hut is enough for a lifetime of tales, critical analysis, and subversive entertainment! That job was the worst I ever had, but that's another anthology of stories altogether.

Staffing Talk
readership a
audience when
facing contradictory

Friday, March 14, 2014

Deconstructing UITS

And more specifically, dissecting its use of student labor. But first -- some institutional context!

The history and culture of an information technology (IT) organization are just as important as its current vision: These collectively provide the vantage point of first-hand experiences, lessons learned, and biases from which future decisions -- including personnel selection -- are made. I recently visited the present UITS homepage for an understanding of how it currently operates its student wing. The student workforce has grown from a modest 120 into "over 300" -- none of the current UITS pages disclose a number of employees, student or otherwise. But extrapolating from prior growth, I'd say UITS has around 600 student workers as of 2013-2014.

While the student workgroup cuts across functional units, all are housed within the silo of Client Services. This departmental structure has remained more or less the same since the founding of the organization that would become UITS. We'll perhaps see a few more project managers by year's end.

So what do I care?

Though never employed by UITS, I exploited its resources intensely and interacted with senior staff as members of the Educational Technology Fee Committee. I observed many people -- students and permanent staff -- who worked at UITS and even befriended a few. So although I never made it, perchance you will.

Just in time for the March 14, 2014 deadline for student applicants to be considered for summer positions, I hereby present my experience and insights pertaining to the job application process and culture at UITS; these should help the reader form realistic expectations about trying to join.

I had applied for Help Desk and lab attendant when University and Information Technology Services (UITS) at UWM was known as Information and Media Technology (IMT) at UWM. Housed within IMT was Student Technology Services (STS), essentially a workgroup distributed among six or so functional silos and comprised of students.

Besides cosmetics and some names, little has changed between the current UITS student jobs directory and the erstwhile STS subdomain. This is a testament to the leadership of Bruce Maas, who was Interim CIO at UWM from August 2004 through May 2007 and then Official CIO at UWM from June 2007 through July 2011. He kept directors accountable for staying within budget and advised committees on IT policy but had no voice in which student employees were selected.

Hired to be then-CIO Joe Douglas’ “Assistant to the Director”in early 2000, Beth Schaefer served in that role for a year before advancing program manager for an equally brief period before settling in as Client Services Director for over a decade. Her responsibility as CSD included overseeing half a dozen supervisors, each of which kept tabs on non-supervisory technicians and other support staff.

Another long-timer, Ann Nehring had worked in the IMT data center and became supervisor for the Help Desk / Campus Computer Lab (CCL) functional unit, which included the bulk of STS employees and is where I had applied. Both she and Schaefer debuted in STS just after Douglas and team deployed PantherMail campus-wide.

Schaefer and Nehring implemented many changes to the STS Handbook, of which a more exhaustive treatment is reserved for later. But one of the most relevant changes is the elimination of a right to merit increases, recognition for work well done, and professional development in general.

Understand that both remain in charge -- of Client Services and Help Desk, respectively -- as the relevance of UITS student career preparation dwindles. Where's my evidence? Right here: There is presently no professional development listed for students at UITS! And in case UITS uploads a Potemkin page with some training modules, then here's a screen capture:

Zero training modules are to be found.

The entire 2003 roster of UITS student supervisors has all but disappeared. This trend of unaccounted-for student UITS alumni has remained intact for subsequent cohorts, averaging 43 student leaders graduating every four to five years -- where are they professionally?

This is notwithstanding the 2004-2005 student leads, two of whom re-joined IMT/UITS as permanent staff. Compare the immediately preceding STS lead chart to the present UITS organizational chart: Can you find the two from 2004-2005 who were hired full-time as functional supervisors? This is really an excuse to hide a clue in a hyperlink title!

Much-needed levity aside: The fact that most of these 600+ former UITS student supervisors don't turn up in a LinkedIn search is an eerie omen; most tech professionals maintain at least a minimal representation on LinkedIn for the purposes of bragging and finding clients. Or perhaps they are very private, thereby reflecting the clannishness of UITS and university employees generally.

IMT/UITS has complained for quite a while how difficult it is to find job applicants with technical support experience for PeopleSoft and other human resources information systems (HRIS) are scarce -- so why aren't staff training student workers in those skills? Add that to the otherwise blank listing of UITS professional development courses available to students.

Take a gander at these 110 UITS employees who pretty much have a job for life! Which of them are responsible for PeopleSoft support? They're all responsible for the low turnover among full-time employees -- a phenomenon that prevents student workers from apprenticing into those positions!

I imagine their collective rebuttal, “Hey, we earn our paycheck! And if you want an apprenticeship, then go to trade school!” If only the higher education hucksters would admit that to get where they are -- in gainful employment as non-academic or "classified" staff -- completing highly specialized training in a vo-tech program is a superior alternative to the university career non-preparation.

When you have six full-time staff to a single function as UITS does, the workload balances out to two FT per shift. Compare this to most other university departments, where each function has only one director and an assistant director -- not to mention at least five entry-level staff, as in the case of “journey accountants.”

So what about my tips for applying? Those are on the drawing board, as I’m still piecing together what I could have possibly done differently in my responses to interview questions. Here’s an over-simplified summary of what I’ve learned over the years about student employment in UITS:

Things I did to get an interview with UITS (formerly STS)

1) Say you're available for third shift.

2) Include Help Desk as your primary area of interest.

3) If you're on the cusp of being [X year], then say you're [(X-1) year] credit-wise. Examples:
  If sophomore, then say "freshman;"
  If junior, then say "sophomore;"
  If senior, then say "junior;"
And if graduate student, then say you "will pursue a PhD at UWM" (even if not, and you shouldn't be in grad school anyway unless someone has paid you stipend or reimbursement to be there).

I'm so busy that I cannot say whether there will be adequate time for me to post my interview introspection before UITS begins student interviews later this semester. In 2007, the lag time between entering the waiting list and being interviewed was between four and six weeks; it might be less now due to more staff.

As a reward for reading, I'll let you in a chilling secret -- one that STS tried to cover up by setting its robots.txt file to "no index" in September 2005 for internal STS pages that had been indexed since inception. The restriction has been released as summer 2007. So why the move to prevent indexing for almost two years?

I've linked to the one instance of the 2005-2007 internal STS portal that had been crawled. Look at the graphics -- how creepy! What were they thinking?

Weird stuff on the 2005-2007 STS internal login page!

Yes, part of the rationale for re-branding IMT into UITS was that too many people began to think STS meant "Student Technology Satanists!" With the Goat of Mendes as your mascot and Futharthic Runes underlying your department name, who wouldn't get an impression of occult shenanigans at play in STS?

For closer comparison, here is a closeup of the 2005-2007 STS mascot alongside a revelatory photo-illustration:

Unaltered Sinister? Certainly not innocent! With overlay Baaah! Baaaphomet! Baaah!

If the questionable long-term professional outcomes for student workers and the sketchy flirtation with the sinister symbolism don't dissuade, then go ahead -- exercise your tuition-bought right to apply at UITS! "Good luck."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Useful Is LinkedIn's New Profile View Tracker?

LinkedIn recently updated its interface for monitoring who has viewed your profile. The most useful change has been to include a segmentation of views by the top four sources on each job-related characteristic of users. Hovering over the "other" segment of each pie chart reveals the next four following the top four, as well as the number of visitors who concealed their information for that metric. "Unknowns" are not counted in the top eight but are pre-pended to the top of the list that shows ranks five through eight under "other."

New LinkedIn Profile View Interface

Those who want further percentages may divide the categorical subtotals by the dimensional totals to calculate relative frequencies for all segments shown. However, I give the top two most-frequent occurrences by industry and general occupation.

The plurality of visitors to my LinkedIn profile hide their industry of employment or leave it blank (17.5 percent). The plurality of visitors who make known their employing industry known are within the nebulous field of education management (19.9 percent), which includes such widely differing roles as chancellor, financial aid specialist, school board president, and freelance tutor.

The plurality of visitors to my LinkedIn profile hide their job title or leave it blank (18.4 percent). The plurality of visitors who make known their job title are members of one or more nonprofit boards (6.6 percent). As you might infer from the plurality and near-plurality having such small percentages, I attract profile views from many different industries and job roles.

And while I dislike using the term multiple times within a paragraph, there really is no technically accurate equivalent for the term "plurality" -- "majority" and "most" speak in comparison to the entire sample, when in fact a coalition of categories is necessary to achieve a share greater than half the entire sample size.

That phenomenon is why third-party candidates can swing an election for or against one of several more popular candidates: the unpopular candidate may leach away less dedicated fans of a candidate who would otherwise lead in the polls if not for this electoral distraction by the oddball candidate. For a job seeker -- whether you're marginally attached to the workforce or firmly established as a world beater -- knowing your profile visitor's livelihoods in the aggregate reveals the types of occupations where people are most interested in you.

The dispersion of views among sectors is not necessarily a benefit: Those who are seeking to advance within an industry should have the greatest concentration of profile views from that industry, or else you're some person who has professional identity issues. And even if you have plenty of online observers, viewership information alone does not disclose the proportions of gawkers to admirers.

Impression quantity and impression quality are components of impression management: LinkedIn profile views give you a ballpark figure of your reach but nothing in terms of how many leave your profile with a favorable, unfavorable, or undecided impression. Perhaps adding a thumbs-up / thumbs-down mechanism to LinkedIn profiles would facilitate a quality-of-impression metric -- but as with any popularity contest, that feature would be prone to gaming. Then again, it would reflect the reality of office politics and would therefore have some convergent validity with the work world.

I'd say that before LinkedIn bothers with that, it should streamline its skill keywords to more systemically parse into clearly defined, exclusive XML tree branches such as that different capitalizations and punctuations of a skill would all parse into the same skill tag; they currently do not.