The difficult definition of "job"

Iwould try to contribute to the discussion about jobs (paid and even unpaid ones) focusing on the very beginning of the topic and using my personal experience, of course, as a source of thinking and experiences.

As you might see on my profile I have just obtained my PhD so I am currently looking for a job (what a lottery!)…while reading jobs advertising on websites, as you may know, is pretty common to find this kind of request:

“young expert with at least three years of experience”

the issue as you coud imagine is: what do “three years of experience” mean?

this topic is strongly related to the main topic of this mission (the paid work): is it possible to count the years of unpaid or underpaid work (mostly internships and traineeship) as the requested experience for applying?

II would say yes…but I open the question to you all!

The reason why I would say yes is related to the definition of “job”: I think that even volunteeiring should be considered as job experience if it is done in a proper and consistent way.

On the other hand, taking into account the fact that often big companies, NGOs and Institutions base part of their activities on interns: it should mean that they are considered reliable.

The other aspect of the problem is exactly the high level of unpaid work!

well this is my point…what do you think about it?

It’s all about autonomy

I have had the chance to write the job description and the ideal candidate description for some positions. Never once have I required experience: it did not feel realistic, maybe the stuff I do is just too weird and the whole point is that there is no experience to go around, because it is supposed to be, you know, new. So I am really not the one to ask.

But it seems to make sense that interships and volunteering would count as experience. A smart, committed intern or volunteer can learn a great deal in a little time. And really, in the context of an interview it is quite simple to find out if the candidate knows what she’s talking about or has never seen a similar working context.

Experience per se does not mean much to the employer. It is simply a proxy of how much handholding the new recruit will need before she can handle the job at hand independently. I would totally accept somebody who told me “Well, I don’t have that sort of experience actually, but I did learn to [insert impressive activity here] all by myself in about three months.”

I forgot to reply

Hi Alberto

I read your message, I found it interesting but I totally forgot to reply…

Well I am afraid you are not the typical Human Resources office manager…even if I  would rather prefer to have you as a recruter!

Until now I have no idea about which kind of evaluator read my CV so far, considering that I have never done an interview ( which is also pretty normal considering that it is not a lot of time I have been applying for jobs).

However I am happy to know that you agree with me!

networking instead of CVs

ciao Betta,

I can’t find the statistics right now but if you look at the most efficient ways to get an highly qualified job, either in Italy or abroad, you can just forget the CVs as a first-contact method. What really works is networking.

By reading your ride I’ve seen you’re really involved in many movements so you should be already in a good position… maybe you just have to expand your connections into more professional circles… or am I oversimplifying it? :slight_smile:

That’s what I deleted from the previous post…

well I am afraid you are not oversimplifying! what you just wrote about networking is…what I had written at the end of my reply to Nadia’s post (on this same mission) , but I decided to delete my last sentence. I don’t know exactly why…some sort of feeling that networking is not always “good”.

But yes, I am pretty sure you are right!

I hear you, Betta. As an italian, like you, I know that here job seeking is actually… a mess. You find offers like “wanted experienced apprentice”, and you just feel bad.

I agree with the others about networking: it’s way different from recommendation, and the best to discover new opportunities. I feel like you’ll be lucky about it :slight_smile:


well actually I am not even trying to start any job seeking in Italy…I don’t want to hate my country more than necessary :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Howevere for sure networking and reccomandation are different what disappoints me is, in general, the context!

Getting a Ph.D is definitely experience …

I think in general the number of years of experience part can be fairly safely ignored. There have been some quite notorious job postings in Computing asking for more years of experience in programming language X, than the programming language had actually been around for.

When I’m reading resume’s I look at what the candidate has done, I’m not really interested in some arbitrary number of years they’ve done it for. I also once applied for and got a job I didn’t have the requisite number of years they asked for. Internships certainly count as experience - that’s the whole point of  your doing them, although I fear the main point of offering them these days is that its free labour.

The best advice I can suggest is to try to decide if you want to do the job, and then try to decide why they would want you to do the job. Remember there’s a human being on the other side of the process, who thanks to email now has to plough through a pile of 100 or more resumes. They want to hire somebody, try to make it as easy as possible for them to decide to hire you.

a comment

Well the example about computing (is not at all my field so for me they are not notorious!) is very “examplificative” and I thank you for sharing this…well it’s also pretty fun but there is another point, behind : the very fact that someone posted a job asking for an objectively impossible amount of experience makes me feel that some recruters are not exactly precise!

one of the things I am disappointed about is the feeling that people reading CVs might not be the actual recruter; of course it’s not an  hypotesis: in two different occasions in two completely different contexts and fields, while doing an internship I have been asked my advisor to look at a certain amount of CVs, make a summary to let the comittee evaluate them (it was, in both the cases, about scholarships). I did my best, but being at the candidates palces I would not appreciate that it was an intern evaluating (honestly I could say that my evaluation was more consistent than what the supervisor would have done…but still!)

Thanks for the advice…I will ignore the number of years of experience part!

Automated processes + rigours selection + purpose

Hi Betta and Jacky,

I’ve come across an article in which the author explores the difficulties of matching work and talent or skills. The article itself I think is less interesting than  the discussions in the comments from both recruiters, hiring managers and people who are or have been looking for employment.  I wonder if there are any points in there that you think are worth highlighting or exploring further ?

Some points I see in popping up in the discussion highlighted by the quotes:

1.  Automated matching:

" Last year (or the year before?) the employment system spent $1.3B on alone. Until employers stop pretending that algorithms find talent, talent will appear to be in short supply. Meanwhile, a small handful of very smart companies are hiring great workers at a discount. "

I’ve come to understand is that finding a job through database matches is a complete waste of time. You have better chances winning the lottery than popping up as a good match in an HR database query. Using automated tools to sort through the data may sound like a good idea, but, unless the recruiters are also exceptionally talented, it will just provide an excuse for poor hiring decisions to mediocre medium-level staff who try to not hire others for a living. It is, after all, much safer to claim that you could not find anyone to fill a position, rather than take a decision which may at some point in the future come to haunt you.

" Lchanio: You raise a very important point. “Poor automated matches, combined with a rigorous selection process” …  is what everyone is hiding behind. HR knows the matches are poor, but emphasizes the “rigorous” process they use to scour the databases. They debate which databases are the best. But they fail to get their butts up from the chair behind the pc screen to actually go out and recruit. (Remember recruiting? I once did an entire workshop for an association of HR recruiters titled, “Recruit Is A Verb.”).

The rigor of “the process” hides the total failure of the process. Older professionals face a double whammy. It’s easy to discriminate out of ignorance when you can blame the lack of a match on the database. No need to interview anyone and make a judgment.

I don’t like to sound like a total cynic, but the recruiting and hiring process is overwhelmingly corrupted. When you’re spending billions of HR dollars on just one job board, it’s already too late. Your infrastructure has been swallowed whole. There is no way out. "

  1. People hiring focusing on potential vs. exactly matching experience:
  " This is the first time that I have looked for a job in 34 years. Now there is a "Berlin Wall" of HR that must be satisfied before an applicant gets exposed to the person they will be working for. In order to be thorough, HR looks for someone who has actually performed the exact task that the company needs filled.  They also make sure that the applicants education is exactly what the position requires. IMHO, we don't hire people based on their potential. "
" In fact, any time a technical skill is required for a job I'm willing to bet hr will forward all resumes that have some of the keywords in it. When I have an open position hr sends me every resume they get it seems. I'm the one turning down the ones I don't like. I'm more inclined to believe hiring managers are to blame. They need to be willing to think creatively about candidate potential. If there's an exact fit for a job, you're hiring for yesterday's job opening instead of tomorrow's. I want the guy/gal who can take me someplace better, rather than do exactly the same thing he last employee did before they quit. "
  1. More?


Hi Nadia

thank you for sharing.

Unfortunately all this seems very realistic. And sad!

I came across some practical advice

On how to set up feeds so appropriate ads find their way to you. It’s very practical and hands on so more useful than the generic job hunt advice I’ve come across before: How to Curate Your Own Personal Job Feed

twitter and LinkedIn

Thank you for the interesting link. The most interesting part is the one on LinkedIn and twitter (I am not a Twitter addicted but I had never known that people can use twitter for job seeking).

By the way my issue, at the beginning ot this mission, was not to better understand how to find a job (well I am actualy looking for a job…but I am not -yet-desperate ;D ). My issue was to understand what “job” means…which is, Nadia, pretty close to the “conversation” we have had on your mission report “Job, no Thanks!”

As always, the comments are better than the article…

I’m not sure any general conclusion can really be drawn beyond, hiring is hard, finding a job is hard, and that both are extremely time consuming if you approach them properly. Also there’s a lot of specific instances that people are generalising rather badly from. For example a lot of jobs really are highly specialised, and require very real skills. Would we want people to hire brain surgeons or nuclear power station engineers by thinking “creatively about their candidate potential”? I rather suspect not.

Then there’s the I have X years in real estate, general management, MBA, etc. crowd, for whom I have some sympathy, but they unfortunately have to face the harsh reality that  the need for people doing those jobs has been sharply reduced by technology. (I’d have more sympathy, but I don’t recall hearing all that much from that general class of people when the people getting disintermediated by technology were coal miners, factory workers, etc.)

I do think that as a society and employers need to think a lot harder about training though. A lot of companies seem to have stopped doing this, which is a mistake on their part, but it’s one of those short term cost, long term gain things - and of course, companys that do, run the risk of training people who then get poached by company’s that don’t. Tax breaks for education may be one way to address that.

different kinds of job

Of course none hires a brain surgeon on the biais of creativity…but I would rather say that a brain surgeon is not someone to be hired! Recruitment works differently in this case.

I agree with you with the fact the that kind of people complains because they are now the victims but they didn’t when the victims were miners or factory workers!

However whatever is the context the issue is not hire or be recruited, I feel like the issue is the general approach to the very idea of job!

Hello Betta,

I have the same

Hello Betta,

I have the same questions every time I need to review my CV. Most of my work experience is unpaid or underpaid… I consider myself as the “queen of internships”… (lol). I have done around 5-6 short or longer internships. Everytime I go to an interview, employers ask me “why you haven’t settled down in one job?” and of course my answer is “I would like to find something that really inspires me to settle” and then thinking “I want to do different things and be independant of a place. Can a permanent job offer me that? If settled down for more than one - two years means quitting my independance?” …

I really can’t give answers…

Coming back to your initial question, I think the perception of what “job” is and if volunteerism and internships count, depends a lot on the cultural mindset of people and the nature of your field. In Greece I think there is a taboo about having a paid job related to what you are applying for… In UK, I have applied in different areas and none of them asked me for relevant working experience ( I supppose my enthousiasm, there, counts more…). Fortunately in my field (social media & communication) “portfolio” and cases count more than paid working experience.

What do you think about this location-based definition?

I agree!

Hi Luna

I definitely agree with you. I am pretty sure that the location counts a lot. however I would also add that context is extremely relevant too as well as the field you are in (as you said about yours).

Are you Greek? do you live there or abroad?