Last week I talked with Jason Davis. "I'm planning to write something about the Jobster layoffs after I've researched the subject. You won't take offensse or feel like I'm making a personal attack if I do so, correct?" We agreed that I have the right to do my work without concern for retribution from those who suffer paranoia.
So I went into reporter mode for a few minutes and probed for a good quote. "How do you feel about this news coming out that Jobster is going to lay off so many people?" Jason is great. There wasn't a second's hesitation. He went straight for the answer, "I hate to see anyone lose their job," was his reply. Good PR answer. Good answer. Whether someone coached him on what to say if asked or whether he's been through this probe so much that he's primed to respond in such manner, it was the right answer to have.
In striving to collect the facts, in searching the Web for the news of what's going on at Jobster, I discovered there's lots of blogging (which, as far as I'm concerned, is opinion), a couple of snippets here and there of information, and little else. So I'm still left the way I started. I have opinion, observation, and conclusions based on the same.
Sometime during the summer, John Sumser wrote about Jobster and its lack of identity. He essentially commented that the business seemed to morph at various, continuous junctures. To ask "What is Jobster?" or "What does Jobster do?" was to ask an unanswerable question. No one had an answer and they sort or (literally) tap danced away before getting to any point. As the company took on and absorbed (or merged or acquired) another business, it could arguably be said that they were in that business. But they were not. Over the past two years (that is, from 2004 to 2006), I've asked a few of the company's representatives to talk with the Los Angeles Metro Recruiting Network during either one of their monthly online meetings or else at one of the quarterly live meetings. Each representative sort of disappeared and a substitute had to be found. It isn't clear if that means during those periods they had no identity and rather than admit as much, they simply chose to not speak.
Whatever the case, Sumser and I agree. It's difficult to say what Jobster's identity is. How can an outsider define them when the internals can not? So it shouldn't be a surprise that Jobster is talking about profitability for 2007 and layoffs of 41 people, looking for C-level replacements, and doing maneuvers that indicate restructuring.
some of the current barbs about Jobster relate to the corporate attitude. This also seems to be a pretty consistent observation. The evaluation that comes up most is the smugness of the people, from the top, down. When you're a start-up, it's healthy to have a lot of confidence in order to have the strength to carry on through difficult situations. There's a delicate balance between confidence and smugness. It's better to err on the side of humble and accommodating in order to retain goodwill, customer relations, and public appeal. But the criticism is there and to some extent, it is verifiably legitimate. There's time to fix that.
So what does Jobster have to offer that sets it apart from others? I decided to give them a test drive. I signed up for an account. Pretty snazzy site. Very clean looking. A few places where you stumble. Interesting attributes. It is a social networking site. It appears its focus is creating a profile so that the passive job seeker can connect with viable opportunities and the active job seeker can connect even more readily.
It is possible to create your profile of interests, location, contact information. You can upload your resume. You can connect with others on the site by sending an invitation to network. Here, Jobster is very much on top of their job. They have their employees connect with new registrants to say they want to connect. But when you have four Jobster employees invite you to network in three to five days and no one else contacts you within two to three weeks, the likelihood of this being a good place for results begins to dim.
The list of potential employers who are connected to the site is short. Some, such as the L.A. Times, are going through major layoffs. Some are relatively unknown. That is actually a positive because there won't be as many people inundating the employer with resumes and queries. What is left is to do the proper research.
Getting oriented in the community was interesting. There were questions that could be answered that were basically like questions fielded at a cocktail party. They were not from anyone in particular. They were simply questions randomly spat out at the user by the algorithms of the site. Unfortunately, the questions didn't have a lot of relevance to disclosing significant things about the user. Most likely no one cares how meticulously I keep house or scrub my pots and pans. I doubt that whether I listened to any music yesterday will make me better at something or worse at it. What I'm saying is the questions were a little senseless. I lost interest in responding to them after reading about four. There are hundreds.
My experience with the trial membership was around early November. I cancelled my membership after three weeks or so. That was also interesting. There's no way to cancel the account. But the person who responded to my "Help" request was polite. They wanted to be certain that I truly wanted to cancel the account and assured me that I was more than welcome to return at any time in the future. I like people who are polite and efficient.
During Blog Swap I, Jason (as in Goldberg) contacted me for some comments that were to be used on his blog. There was a timely response from all of those he solicited. Mine got lost. I resubmitted. It never got published. It appears my response was too much of the same as others. But that's something that starts to impact users of a networking site -- lack of responsiveness. If the pattern continues and over a protracted period of time, you get back to the impression of smugness and that there's little to no value in the connection or the person.
When there are no answers about what a company does, it begins to appear that there's a reason for the secretiveness other than lack of information and an accurate focus. When there are no answers, the spectre of being untrustworthy rises. If there were initial questions in the back of the mind of one who is not popular with the site, then their discomfort begins to be confirmed, even if inaccurately so. One can preach and shout "transparency" all the day long but when there are no answers, there is no transparency. Try the adjective "occult" instead.
We are struggling to survive one of the worst economic depressions in the last 75 years. I still call it the New Millennium Depression. Our President keeps manipulating our economic tools in order to create a false recovery. Thus, we are continuously struggling to make the best of being survivors of the Dot Com Bust. Just when you think you've got things under control, like yeast bread, something pops out somewhere else. In this regard, I'd say Jobster is going through a spontaneous start with little planning. It's been changing course at many junctures in order to find its niche. And in the process, it's been spending.
It's time for the start-up to grow up. It's time for the start-up to stretch through adolescence. I believe it will get its bearings. Meanwhile, at least one worried employee attests to having found the best employer they've ever had. No doubt they'll be able to repeat that accomplishment many times over and in short order.