Put Your Money on You

Put Your Money on You

Recently, there’s been some angry commentary online about the small but growing number of job boards that charge visitors for access to some or all of their services. Many, but certainly not all of the posts talk about these sites as if they were the second coming of Bernie Madoff. In the view of the writers, they’re ripping off innocent victims and undercutting the American Dream.

There actually seems to be two different threads to the complaints. One has to do with lousy services. Results have apparently been promised and either not delivered or delivered poorly. When that’s the case, I’m with the complainants. We’ve seen far too many promises made to America’s working men and women and then not kept.

It’s the other thread of complaints, however, that I want to talk about today. The anger in these posts seems to derive from the fact that the services aren’t free. You have to pay for them. And, for at least some of us, that’s a double faux pas. In their view, both content on the Web and content about the tools and techniques of successful job search and career self-management are supposed to be free. How dare someone or some company require that you pay for it?

While I’m respectful of this view, I think it’s tragically wrong.

  • It’s wrong because spending money on your career is actually an investment in you. And your future. And in today’s (and tomorrow’s) hyper-hard job market, everyone—even the superstars among us—needs that kind of career boost on a regular basis.
  • It’s also tragic because if you don’t invest in your career, you’re likely to fall into career bankruptcy or what most of us call unemployment. If your occupational skills are out-of-date, if you’ve grown complacent doing one thing, but only one thing well, your career portfolio looks like your 401k, and no job search technique in the world can make up for what you’ve lost.

But, here’s the good news. Paying for a service that advances your career is unlike any other kind of investment you can make. As we’ve all painfully learned, when you put your money into stocks, you’re actually turning control of your investment over to someone else. When that person makes a stupid judgment, they don’t get hurt—in fact they make millions—but you lose your shirt.

When you invest in yourself, in contrast, you stay in charge—you decide where to put the money and what you can expect to get in return. Now, just as with any other kind of investment, you have to be careful. There are rip-offs in the career field just as there are in every other field of human endeavor. People will take your money for work-at-home scams, pyramid schemes and “career marketing” ploys. And, as some of the recent complaints about job boards seem to indicate, they will also promise you a service and then not deliver as they promised.

So, what should you do? My simple suggestion is that you practice a skill that you already have: be a good consumer. Invest in your career, but be smart about it.

  • First, know what you need. If you’re looking for a job, you can have the best resume in the world and still come up empty-handed, if you’re skills are out of date. So, before you invest in upgrading a document, spend some money on upgrading your qualifications—that’s the best way to develop an effective resume.
  • Second, know who you’re dealing with. Check the credentials of any vendor you’re considering. Make sure you know their track record. As with every product and service online—whether it’s offered on eBay or craigslist or a job board—the rule of thumb is always Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware.
  • Third, know what you’re buying. Make the vendor specify exactly what you will get and when you will get it. Don’t accept vague terms and conditions. If a vendor won’t tell you precisely what service they will provide, if they ignore your requests for specificity and press you for money first, walk away. You have many other options that are ethical to consider.

What’s the bottom line? It’s always tough to spend money when you’re in transition. It’s even tougher to consider making an investment when you look at what used to be your retirement fund. If you believe in yourself, however, if you are convinced that you deserve to make the best shot you can at success, then put your money on you. That’s the one sure place where it will grow.

Thanks for reading,

1 Comment

  1. Great post, Peter! Let me add my 2 cents for how to make an educated decision to buy career services.

    Job seekers should ask the following 3 questions before purchasing any career services. Specifically, I’m referring to career coaching, career counseling, resume writing and other career-management services, not job boards. Then, depending on the answers, job seekers should be able to determine whether or not they’re spending their money wisely.

    1. Is the career professional certified or credentialed? If so, that’s a great indicator of their commitment to furthering their own knowledge and expertise in order to provide their clients with best-in-class services and support. If they’re willing to spend money on developing their own careers, they’re serious about their business, about their services and about their clients (you, the job seeker).

    I personally know hundreds of career coaches and resume writers, and the ones who are really good at what they do have studied, attended training and worked very hard to develop their skills and expertise and advance their own careers. How can they help you – the job seeker – succeed if they don’t know everything they possibly can?

    2. How long has the career professional been engaged in career coaching, resume writing or whatever their specialization? My recommendation is to find someone who has been doing this for years and years. As we all know, you can’t beat experience. What’s more, if they’ve been around for a while, they’re most likely credible, honest and successful. Remember that “only the strong survive.” If they hadn’t been doing their job consistently well and if they don’t have clients who are consistently delighted with their services and support, they most likely won’t stay around for too long. So, length of service – as in any other profession – is very important.

    3. What do they know about your profession and your industry? Ask a coach or resume writer what they know about what you do. It’s a huge advantage to work with someone familiar with your profession and your industry. They’ll know the right keywords, understand your job, know the industry and its key players, know the marketplace and more. The more “intelligence” you have working on your behalf, the more successful you’ll be in the marketplace.

    Ask these 3 basic questions when you’re shopping for career services to help you find the “right” career professional to accelerate your search and land your next great opportunity.