It may be time to retire this machine; it's too slow for even the job hunting websites. Which makes an already unfun process that much more so. I'm curiously attached to this computer though; we've been through a lot of words together, not to mention lots of job searching. Maybe a little bit more memory could do the trick...
I think the hardest part of job hunting is that when you are voluntarily looking -- i.e. you've made the decision to move on -- you're impatient to move on and put whatever it is that is causing you to leave your current employment behind you. Mentally, you've said good-bye to the company, to your colleagues, and you're already trying to wrap up projects as not to leave any loose ends behind. With that mindset, it makes the time horizon seem even longer than it really is.
While I admit to being relatively passive in the job hunt, it doesn't mean I'm immune to the impatience. The only thing I could do once I made the decision to move on is to take action and do what I could to find another job. At the same time, you have to stay engaged and committed to the current employer and energetic and enthusiastic at home to get your daily chores done as well as the job hunt. It's not easy so I don't want anyone to think I was implying it's easy. It's stressful, soul-draining, and just awful.
The two pieces of advice I would give -
* Start looking for a job before you're absolutely desperate. This is easy enough to do if you are employed and not involuntarily terminated. The problem is drawing the line of when is enough enough, when is it time to move on, and what are you willing to put up with? In one case, I decided to move on because my manager was verbally abusive not only to me but to my teammates; the day I threw up at the office because of stress was the day I realized it was time to move on. Already, I was late making the decision because I was desperate to take any job that came along. Luckily, the next job that came along came with great people who are still my friends now even though it's been several years since we worked together. I believe in being honest -- if something's not working, you need to either figure out how to make it work or leave. Evaluate what your threshold for pain is and make a decision accordingly.
* In conjunction with the above advice, even if you're relatively happy with your position and aren't really interested in looking for other jobs, take some time every couple of months to see what else is out there. There might be something you're interested in applying for -- it doesn't cost anything but time. And even if you don't see anything, at least you know what's out there and you're making an informed decision about your situation with full knowledge. I think it's always important to know what types of jobs are out there, what types of skills are being asked for in the marketplace and who is whiring; after all, in this economy, the more information you have about about your marketability, the better.
As a follow-up to my previous post, I realized after talking to a friend that there's something else I don't do: try to circumvent the stated application process. There are all sorts of tricks and tips out there on how to get your resume to the top of the pile by doing something sneaky like calling HR to ask if they have your resume, showing up at the office and asking for an appointment, stalking other people who work at the company and asking them for help, etc. In general, my MO has been laziness, mostly because I have been a stalkee in the past and I'm not inclined to give the time of day to people whom I don't know when I'm busy. Plus, I figure if the company is interested in talking to you, they will call you. Kind of passive, but so far the passive approach -- i.e. following the process as stated in the application (if it says no calls, don't call!) -- has worked for me.
Along the same lines, I don't think I've ever followed up after an interview. If a certain amount of time has passed and I haven't heard anything, I don't bother emailing or calling to uncover the status of my application. It's the same attitude I stated above -- if the company is interested, they will call ME. If they are not interested, then me calling to find out if I got the job or not is probably not going to help me in any way.
As I said, I'm a terrible job seeker. I do everything completely backwards and in a rather solitary fashion. Maybe I would find jobs quicker if I followed the advice given by experts, but I do take a peverse delight in that I conduct a job search in all the wrong ways and somehow -- with a lot of patience -- it seems to work out for me. Your mileage may vary.
I'm a terrible job hunter. I don't follow any of the recommended rules, and I'm not necessarily proud of my not following etiquette or procedures. I like procedures and I like etiquette so my willful disobedience startles me greatly. To wit:
* I don't hire resume writers to write my resume. They are incredibly expensive so I do it myself and rely on spell-check and one or two friends to look over. I try to make sure the first word in every bullet point is the same tense and same type of word. I also try to make sure I tie activities to results.
* I don't have an objective on my resume. Many experts on resume writing say you need to have an objective on the top of your resume. If I want to be really blunt, my objective is almost always to "Find a great job with a great salary with an opportunity to grow." So I leave it off because I don't think it helps my resume in any way. After all, who doesn't have "find a great job with a great salary with an opportunity to grow" as an objective?
* I only have one resume. There are recommendations to tailor each resume per job posting, but if you're only applying to jobs you're a) qualified for and/or b) resemble your resume of skills already, then I don't see the point of tailoring a resume for every job you're applying to. I do recommend, however, tailoring the cover letter for every job, though I say this hypocritically (see below).
* I don't write cover letters for jobs I'm half-hearted about.
* I don't network. I should, but I don't. Instead, I rely on job boards and public postings. To date, I've been employed by 5 different companies, three of them with more than 100,000 employees and the other two considerably smaller (less than 2,000 employees). I found these jobs through the local newspaper, hotjobs.com, journalismjobs.com, careerbuilder.com, and jobfox.com. No networking involved. So if anyone tells you that job postings or newspaper ads don't work, remember me; all of my jobs have been found this way.
* I never send thank you notes after the interviews. I should, but I don't. Invariably I forget or I don't have the address. And this is odd because I'm a firm believer in thank you notes and yet... strangely though, it hasn't affected me actually getting the job. I don't think I sent a thank you note for any job I actually got. I should probably do better on this one though.
* Last three job interviews on, I didn't wear hose. This could be a regional okay thing -- hose melts to your legs in this part of the country -- so few women wear them. Still, if I was going to be all proper, I'd wear the hose.
I start my new job on Monday. I'm looking forward to the new experiences, meeting new people, and gaining new skills and expertise. That's always the fun part of a new job. Of course, I'm always stressed about where I should eat lunch, where is the bathroom, and how do you fill out an expense report? And usually, by the time I'm comfortable with the answers to these and other questions, it's about the time to move on.
I'm on vacation this week as I'm between jobs. My last day at the previous job was last Friday and I start the new job this coming Monday. It seems a little surreal to have found a job so quickly -- about 3 months from application to start date -- in this economy when there are so many stories about people who have been looking for months, who have applied to so many different jobs, etc. It's actually demoralizing to read those stories and I stopped about 2 months into the job search. Each of those stories is a data point of just how bad the economy is, but there aren't any stories on people like me -- who found a job fairly quickly considering. So for those of you who are out there looking, there is hope.
Note - I'm aware that some parts of the country are better off than others and I happen to be very lucky and living in a part of the country that while it has a 9%+ unemployment rate, it's not as bad as other places and that could have played some into my job search.
Calling to Follow Up? Hand Me a Fork. I always wonder if I should do this and I never do, just like I don't do the 80 million other things one is supposed to in order to get a job. I feel validated on this one now. YMMV.
I was reading a stat today that about 10 to 30 percent of resumes have lies in them, whether inflating or exaggerating accomplishments to lying about military experience or saying one has a degree from a school that one does not have one from*. I don't understand what's the point. The lie might get you in the door -- for instance, I could say I'm a petroleum engineer with 20 years of experience, but anyone's going to know 3 minutes into my first day on the job that that can't possibly be true.
That's what keeps me honest. I stress over things like getting the month of my graduations right (honestly cannot remember anymore if I graduated in April, May or June of a certain year). I recently took some bullet points off my resume from when I was at Very Big Insurance Company; I'm sure they were true, but it's been nearly a decade and I can't remember what projects those bullet points refer to now. If I can't talk intelligently about the things on my resume, off them come.
It's awfully tempting to put programs like SPSS or Minitab on my resume because I have used them at one point, but gosh darn if I remember how to use it. I know those are programs that are in demand in my field and I know it wouldn't take me long to learn them, but still -- something holds me back, namely conscience. I'd rather 'fess to having used them at some point, the memory has faded, but I'm confident I could re-learn in a short period of time.
It's a tough job market, but there are plenty of examples out there of people representing one thing to get the job but don't last any length of time because they're very quickly found out. Not worth it, in my opinion.
Big missing from the job searching spreadsheet I've been mentioning -- a separate tab for sites, username and password. Every single site -- whether it's a job board, a company career site, a search engine, etc -- requires some kind of login. And some of those passwords are just as secure, if not, more, than what would be needed for a bank account. One site, I can't remember which, doesn't allow you to have a password that resembles anything like the previous 20. All of that is fine if you're only using/logging in to one or two sites total. But when you're up to 30 or 40, it gets confusing, not to mention annoying to keep clicking on the "forgot password" link. So as of today, I've added a new tab to the ever expanding job search spreadsheet -- Passwords. My headers are: Site (URL), Username and Password. I guess security hint might be a good one too, but you don't generally need them if you know your password.
Towards the end of May of 2003, I applied for a job at Very Big Publishing Company. I started work there in August of 2003. So from time of application to interview to acceptance to first day was about 2 months. Total number of jobs applied to: 50. Number of interviews: 2. Both companies I interviewed with called me back for second interviews and one offered me the job. The other one chose someone else but then called me six months later to offer me the job; I had to decline as I'd already moved across the state for Very Big Publishing Company.
In the fall of 2003, I realized that the job at Very Big Publishing Company wasn't a fit. Yes, I was finally an editor, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be and the work environment was debilitating. I got my next job in December of 2004, but I applied to about 30 jobs over that 15 month period. I had two interviews, including one randomly weird and long-winded process; believe it or not, the job I got I only interviewed for about 45 minutes and they called and offered me the job a few weeks later.
I didn't start looking for another job until the spring of 2007. I really liked the job I took in December 2004, and I especially liked the people I worked with. But I also realized I had reached the limit of what I could do there and it was time for a new challenge. My job search was so new in the spring of 2007 that I don't even have a record of what I looked for or how many jobs I applied for. I got an interview within a couple of days of posting my resume on Careerbuilder.com and then I got that job a couple months later.
So far, I've applied to 35 jobs during the month of July and month-to-date August. I've had 5 "rejections" so far, one call-back for an interview, and the rest have been no response. Given that the conditions now are about the same as they were in the spring of 2003, I'm thinking I have another 20 or so applications to fill out to get at least one more interview.
It's mentally and emotionally exhausting. My stomach hurts more often than not these days, headaches are a constant companion, and sometimes I'm so anxious, I can't sleep. I'm trying to be upbeat and positive, but it's really not easy. Even though I've been working through the Impending Doom/punch-in-the-gut, as the saying goes, there's always something to remind me and it starts all over again. I'm just hoping that when all is said and done, I end up in a much better place.
Wow. Just. Wow. Here's a job tip NOT to follow. I am curious to know how successful this candidate is in looking for a job, i.e. does he/she get called back for a second interview or receive a job offer after pulling something like this? Just. Wow.
Worst. Idea. For. A. Show. Ever. Apparently, a new show from Fox revolves around firing people on-air. Seriously. Real life people in real life jobs and their co-workers decide who goes, who stays. I just can't even fathom how something like this would work. Not to mention, who on earth would want to participate? I can't possibly see the value of Impending Doom being broadcast across the nation. And I know there are people who'd want to watch this train wreck of a show, but don't we see enough as we watch our friends and family members lose their jobs? Ugh. Terrible idea. As much as I enjoy reality shows, I'll pass on this one.
Remember that book from the late 90s, "Who Moved My Cheese?" These days, it seems like lots of people are moving le fromage everywhere. "I didn't see it coming," one friend lamented to me a couple of days ago. Another friend said to me that she has survived two rounds of Impending Doom(tm) but now can't sleep or eat, she's so stressed because another round is sure to come.
I think waiting is the hard part. Anticipating kind of sucks too. I think the thing to recognize is that the cheese is going to move, whether you want it to or not. You need to always be thinking which way is which, and hopefully stay in front of the cheese.
My point is, what's the plan? In situations of Impending Doom, it's rare that you as an individual have any control over what's happening or any influence whatsoever. So the only thing to do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And keep a stiff upper lip.
In my case, I made a plan which I hopefully will not have to implement. The plan, in broad strokes, goes something like this:
1) How will I handle myself? What questions do I need to ask? 2) What is my exit strategy? 3) What is next? How will I cope with extra time?
In the first case, I wrote out Things I Need to Know(tm). That way I don't miss anything important. This is the category for things like severance, insurance coverage, confidentiality agreements, non-compete clauses, etc. YMMV, but these are just some of the things to think about.
Second, how did you exit? I visualized what my vision of a dignified departure in the face of bad news would look like. I decided I wanted to be gracious and that I wanted to be sincere in my efforts. I wanted to feel like if I did indeed fall prey to Impending Doom (tm) that I had done everything I could to make myself and my company successful. I didn't ever want to look back and say, "I wish I had done that," or "If only I had done that." So I think about every day, "what can I do to be successful today? What can I do to make the company money today?" That way I don't have to be regretful about anything.
In the third case, I needed a plan for the extra time I might have on my hands. I can't possibly sit around and play word games on Facebook all day long. So I thought about what would I want to do? Do I want to write? Do I want to get back into web design? What about going back to school and acquiring additional skills? Honestly, all of those things sound like fun and I'm at a loss at focusing on just one of them.
Underlying all of this is the budgetary plan. This is the hardest part, and it's scary when you sit down and try to figure out how much your lifestyle costs on a monthly basis. Then you have to think that it could be 6 to 9 months before you find another job. I have friends who were out of work for a couple of years before finding something. YMMV. The point is, you take that Scary Monthly Lifestyle Cost and multiply it by 9. That's what you need to keep going.
Impending Doom, unfortunately, is broadening its reach. People who were safe through the first several rounds of layoffs aren't safe anymore. People talk about how to make yourself invaluable, etc., during this time -- how to keep the job you have. But at the end of the day, that decision isn't really yours, is it? I mean, to an extent you can make an effort, but roles and requirements change in a tight economy. So the idea is to have a plan of some kind so whatever happens, you can deal with it.
And honestly, it's better to plan now and not wait. There's a sense of security in knowing you know what's going to happen if the worst ever happens. Plus, if you've prepared and know how you want to deal with the situation, then you at least have the chance of being dignified and gracious. And remember -- the cheese is being moved because it's a business decision; it's not personal. The crummy part is, I think we understand the business decision part; it's the latter that's just so hard to accept and understand.
"Impending Doom" has taken an interesting twist. I can't figure out what to make of it. If my deliberate vagueness confuses you, it's because I'm being purposeful. The Internets have eyes, y'know. Just not sure what to do, but am keeping the guard up and the focus on moving forward. Because even if "Impending Doom" has been averted, I still have to look at the situation with a) mixture of relief but also that b) I learned something I didn't need/want to know and c) that makes me uneasy and unwanted. The ego is still recovering from its sucker punch and I've come too far in the last 30 days to relax now. Onward ho!
The interesting thing about job hunting during a recession is that it really highlights just how important it is to keep up and upgrade one's skills. Until recently, the MBA earned in 2003 opened doors for me. But now I look at what jobs are available to someone who works in marketing like me and I realize that the skills required are beyond what I can do today. I have strong data analysis skills, which one employer required but they also wanted someone who could understand ink and paper selection for collateral development; I don't have those skills, clearly (always left that piece to the printer, actually). I have every confidence that I could learn how to select the right ink for the right paper fairly easily but if there's someone out there who already has that skill, why hire me when you can get that person instead?*
I look at this positively. Until now, I didn't really consider what else I might want to do or what other courses/certifications I could get. Now I'm looking at some of the requirements and thinking, "Well that seems interesting," or "That doesn't fit what I want to do long-term." I run the gamut from thinking I could take a course or two at Sweat Sock Community College to learn certain software applications that could enhance my resume and make me potentially more valuable to an employer, or making an investment in another degree. This could be the chance to go in an entirely new direction -- a new field maybe or perhaps a new industry? -- and that is exciting.
In this example, I had about 95 percent of what they were looking for, but the initial assessment fell short over the ink/paper question. Now, it could have been a case of them not liking my skills enough to let the ink/paper go, or it could be that that one thing is so important to them that they need to have a person who understands on day one what's required. I do wonder about how much a vacancy would cost per day versus the time required to learn this skill, but these days, it's an employers' market and they are making what they consider the best decision for their company.
Unemployment in Sweat Sock City has reached 8 percent according to this morning's news report. Big change from just a year ago when unemployment was really, really low and it was hard to find qualified candidates. How things change. The boom is over (for now). I'm optimistic that it will come around again.
Everyone has advice on how to find a job in this economy. I've got advice too, but more along the lines of "this has worked for me in the past." Your mileage may vary. I should note that the current job hunt has attracted many job offers in the form of "work from home" and "start your own business working part-time." It's mildly discouraging, but necessary evil. I try to keep my spirits up by reminding myself that the last time the economy was bad -- 2003 -- it took me about 3 months from the day I graduated to the day I started my new job. And I'm lucky, comparatively, as I live in a part of the country that isn't hurting as badly. But still, it's not easy.
That being said, here's how I'm doing it:
1. I use job boards. I know people frown on them, but my last three jobs were found through journalismjobs.com, hotjobs.com, and careerbuilder.com, respectively. Prior to that, I applied for my job at Very Big Insurance Company through a newspaper ad. I also use monster.com (have gotten interviews in the past through monster.com, but no job) and jobfox.com as well. There's also a search engine, indeed.com, that can help round up the jobs available on a variety of other niche boards. LinkedIn.com also has job boards, but I've no experience on whether that site is any better than any other.
2. I write cover letters. Each cover letter is specific to the job I'm applying for. I tell the person where I found the job and why I think I'm a good fit, citing experiences that fit with the job description. It used to take a longer time to write these, but now I have a lot of general cover letters written and I just tweak each one accordingly.
3. Spell check!
4. I only use one resume. I know they say you're supposed to have different resumes for different jobs, but at this point, my experience and skills are aimed at such a niche area of the job market that I only use one. I may reconsider this one in about a month if I don't get anywhere.
5. I keep a spreadsheet of every job I apply to. I started this spreadsheet back in the summer of 2003 and it has basically every job I've ever applied to since then. It's kind of sad, really. But it keeps me sane, in a way, and makes me feel like I'm doing something since I really haven't gotten any responses except 3 (1 headhunter who forwarded my resume, and two outright rejections). The spreadsheet acts as a measure of activity. I keep track of when I applied for the job, the company, the location, where I found the job online, and what the results were. It also keeps me straight on whether I've applied somewhere or not before.
6. The old me used to apply for any job whether I was qualified for it or not. I figure quantity over quality. The end result was I'd have to apply for 50 jobs before I got one interview. Now, I only apply for jobs that I'm actually qualified for. If it asks for an engineering degree or Ruby on Rails, I don't apply, even if I can do everything else listed on the description. Applications take forever to fill out and I don't want to waste my time or the hiring company's time when it's obvious I don't meet key criteria.
7. I still follow my loose adage that it takes 50 applications to get one interview. That's another sanity check, because it's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you're going to get an interview right away and keep checking email on hourly basis thinking someone is going to respond. I haven't reached the 50 application market yet, so I'm not discouraged yet.
It is hard slogging. But as my 2-year old niece once said, "But then it will be better."