During my final semester at Virginia Tech, I was able to only spend minimal time job searching. This meant a two-hour visit to a career fair in mid-September and brief talks with various interesting companies, most of whom just said "Oh hey, submit your resume on our website."
During this career fair, I did have a wonderful, promising conversation with a representative from a large multi-national corporation and expected a phone call regarding an interview. This phone call never came, and I was later informed that, most likely, my resume had been passed over by the other, recently-hired company representatives because I did not belong to a fraternity (as, apparently, this was the only meaningful criterion for said representatives).
I had a series of short conversations with a representative from another company some weeks later, but correspondence suddenly stopped and my attempts to reach him again fell short. This, however, is at least as much my fault as it is his, if he is at fault at all.
Over the past few months, I have applied to a good number of engineering firms. The vast majority of these have an online system of job postings to which one may apply.
Find something for which you think you qualify, fill out the form, attach the resume, and send it in.
Receive an automated message. Thanks for submitting your resume. It will sit in this black hole for an indeterminate amount of time. Then a real person might contact you. Maybe. Sincerely, Skynet.
Wait. Fill out more applications.
In the cases where I was able to email a real person and ask them questions, the company was not hiring at the moment, sorry, but encouraged me to check back often for openings. Some companies keep my resume on file for 5 years. Some don't keep any on file. Some promise to remember me for sending them a typewritten letter stating my interest in working for them.
Other people I know are doing the same thing. A family member who lost their job has sent out hundreds of applications over the last year and has received approximately three responses. A friend well-qualified to do nearly anything with music, recording, and animation is having difficulty finding an opening.
A fellow worker on my senior design project recently told me that the job he was hired for has basically nothing to do with what we learned in school.
Maybe there's a system and I just haven't figured out exactly how to work it. There's the whole "It's who you know" angle that I haven't engaged in as well as I could, and perhaps I just haven't asked the right friends the right questions to give me a job lead. One of my good friends was hired for an engineering job not simply based on his skill, but because he knew someone who knew someone.
Whatever the case, this whole process seems flawed in many ways. Hundreds of people send in applications for jobs with a resume that barely says anything about a person, when it comes down to it. Writing a cover letter also seems, at times, like a silly exercise - I feel like I am just trying to guess what will make an employer interested in me above other people. Concise, poignant, exciting, and well-written.
Seems like a big machine. And perhaps the constraints placed on this hiring contraption have actually served to make it rather inefficient indeed.
But enough rambling thought and unanswered questions. I need to send in a few more online applications.
And if you're reading this, future employer, I'd love to actually talk with you - because I am so much more than my resume, and your job opening is so much more than the five-bullet-point description on your website.