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 If your occupational skills are out-of-date, if you’ve grown complacent doing one thing, but only one thing well, your career portfolio looks like your 401k, and no job search technique in the world can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,