Breaking News…I Have a Job!

This came up so quickly, my head is still spinning.  I was interviewed on Thursday, offered the job on Friday, and started Monday.  It’s been a whirlwind on both the work and home fronts here at the end of day three, but it’s a good problem to have.   It’s a four-month contract position replacing someone who is out sick, for a time-sensitive program, thus the urgency in getting me in ASAP.   As far as I know, the person is planning to return, however, another of my new colleagues is looking suspiciously pregnant, so perhaps there is hope for work after December!

I’ll try to blog more about the details, but one of the lessons learned is that it pays to be persistent and follow organizations you are interested in.  I had originally applied for a position here in January, but was not selected for an interview.  I managed to network my way to one of my colleagues via LinkedIn.  I did not know her, but she graciously agreed to meet me for coffee to tell me about her job.

Then, when another position opened up in June I applied and was interviewed, and was apparently their second choice.  I thought then that was it, but then they called me with the offer for the replacement position.

More details to come!

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Redneck Summer

Appalachian_Trail_Heading_to_Double_Springs_Gap_From_Clingman's_Dome

My job hunt continues, and it’s a tedious slog  — another application to submit, another interview to prepare for, another rejection email.   For inspiration I’ve been reading blogs written by people thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, which can also be a tedious slog, contending with bad weather, equipment issues, and sore feet.  It’s still amazing to me that it’s possible to blog without electricity and while transporting all of your belongings by foot.

This talk of the outdoors leads me to the silver lining of not having a job: I don’t have a job!  As in IT’S SUMMER!  The kids are at the perfect age – old enough to be able to do things, and young enough that they still want to hang out with mom.    We’re doing a mid-week camping trip to the beach next week (before it gets too stinkin’ hot to sleep in a tent around here), and have more trips planned.

I even ordered some inner tubes so we can spend some time floating down local streams, many of which are at least partially navigable for most of the summer.  The husband said something to the effect of “how redneck are you planning to get, anyway?”   Maybe I should get a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon for good measure.  What I really want are kayaks, but that’s another project entirely.

tubing

It promises to be a fun summer, as we have plenty of places to go and things to see within an easy drive.   Easy on the pocketbook, too, since we don’t mind sleeping in a tent.

And yes, I am still looking for a job.  Really, I am!

L is for Long-Term View

ImageI find that my job search focus has shifted somewhat.   After an enthusiastic start, which led to some good leads and promising interviews that all came to naught, and a recent lull that left the pipeline empty, I’m gearing up for the long-term.  As we get closer to summer, it would be easy to slack off, and say, hey, who wants to start working in June anyway when the kids will be home all summer, but I can’t afford to lose the momentum.  

I’m trying not to stress about every week that goes by without a job offer, as I should focus on the long-term.  After all, I’ll probably be working for at least 15-20 more years, so even if my first full-time job in my “new” career is a step or two lower on the ladder, or takes me a few months to find, I’m OK with that.  With that in mind, although I’m still looking for and applying for jobs, I’m also doing some self-study on project management and may do some software refresher classes, too.  I just hope companies will be open to hiring someone who is a bit older than the rest of the crew. 

I also know that I’m not the only one facing a challenging transition.  Among my circle of acquaintances is a professional soccer player who is nearing the end of his playing career.  His wife hasn’t been working, since they have three young children and have lived in four different cities in the past five years.  So their next few years are uncertain, too, as his next career might not pay as well as his current job.

I’m certainly motivated, and like to think that I’ll bring some extra life experience to the table without acting like a know-it-all.   I try not to read too many of the horror stories about people never being able to find another job, and I hope I’m not considered too old to learn on the job.  Unlike my friend, I’m not in a career path that is usually over by the time you are in your early 30s.

I’m hoping to be one who bucks the odds, and finds a corporate job after some time away.  For me, I don’t think pie in the sky ideas about doing what you love and finding that the money will follow are particularly helpful.   I can’t think how any of my interests translate to anything paying more than about $10 an hour (if that), and my training plans do not going back to get a college degree in a completely new field.   Even if they did, that would be assuming that a college degree would get me a job, which seems a heroic assumption in this economy anyway. 

So I’m slogging away, and hoping for some good luck, or inspiration.

A Not So Great Week, Or Was It?

In terms of the raw statistics, it would appear that my job search is not going swimmingly after this past week.  That’s two “NO’s”, a likely “NO”, and a big question mark.  Although I’d be lying if I said there were no moments of self-doubt, I’m not feeling defeated.  Here’s why:

  1. The No (for now): screened out via a phone interview for a contract project manager position.  I received specific feedback why, which was a concern that I wasn’t deemed a sufficient power user of MS Project.  The role seemed to be less strategy, and more just providing the documentation.  Although I’m comfortable with MS Project, I can’t say that spending most of my day recording milestones is my idea of the ideal job.   The company deemed my communications and problem-solving skills to be very high, so they’d be willing to consider me for other roles, and the staffing agency is already looking.  The company is a large bank with many positions, so there is still hope here.  They pay well, and I’m quite flexible on the role to just get in the door.  
  2. The No (and I’m glad):  a somewhat disastrous interview for a non-profit position.  This was the “hidden” job market opportunity I mentioned in an earlier post. I knew little about the position in advance of the interview.   While it’s a worthy cause, this is a coalition management position, reporting to a steering committee comprised of members of different organizations.  Funding for the position will be eliminated in about six months, so a key element of the job is development.  Yes: a new role, with many responsibilities, including finding funding within six months, under the direction of a group of people with conflicting agendas. Is it just me, or does that sound like a recipe for disaster? Oh, and the position is currently funded to be a poorly paid 20 hours a week.  I probably wasn’t deemed qualified due to my lack of experience in grant writing, but I don’t think it is sour grapes to say this is probably not the right role for me anyway.  Instead, I think I should say a prayer for the poor soul who does take this on.
  3. The Probably No (darn it!): Had the grueling interview I mentioned in an earlier post for another financial services firm which included a logic question, seriously prepared peer interviewers, and a hiring manager with wonderful technical and people skills.  I want this job.  I liked the people, the company, and the role, but sense that I might not be their leading contender after their in-person interviews  (which was the third interview in the process).   I’m hoping I’ll get closure on this next week, although it may take longer than that.
  4. The Question Mark:  Had what was supposed to be a second interview with an HR person for yet another company.  We were on the phone all of ten minutes. I still don’t have much sense of what the actual job will require, or if it is a good fit for me.  I suspect that the interviewer didn’t know, either.  She set up an in-person interview with the actual hiring manager for a later date, so it appears that in this company, the hiring managers are tasked with doing their own candidate screening through interviews.  This doesn’t seem very effective to me. Not sure if this bodes well for the company.

In summary, I’m getting interviews, lots of interview practice, and some constructive feedback about what has not gone well, so I’m still optimistic about my chances of landing somewhere reasonably soon.  

I wish my fellow job seekers good luck , too. Unless of course, you’re one of the candidates for the job I want!

Where Do Career Coaches Come From?

From time to time, I troll LinkedIn discussion groups or blogs seeking the voices of other job seekers. Misery does love company, after all.  I seem to find more content from career coaches than job seekers.  I have a theory that a certain percentage of job seekers give up finding regular employment and become career coaches instead.   “As in, if you can’t do, teach?” 

I have seen some useful information posted online, mind you, and I’d never argue against getting an independent opinion regarding one’s resume or job search techniques.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  Just make sure the advice you act upon reflects who you are, and how you approach the world.

Among those who are blogging about their own job search, there seems to be an oversupply of freshly minted graduates, many of whom do a lot of whining about their plight.  I’m not unsympathetic.  A blog can be a great place to vent and being unemployed or underemployed is not fun.  Doubly true for those with few other resources to draw on, and younger people may have a smaller network of people already in good jobs.   Or, are more seasoned job-hunters less likely to share their personal thoughts in a public forum?  I suspect that may be true, too.

It being the Lunar New Year, I wish good fortune to all job seekers in this Year of the Snake, and especially those willing to blog about their experiences. 

Marvelous Layoffs

I’ve heard a fair number of horror stories about people being laid off in demeaning ways .   As in “pack up your things in a box right now while your co-workers are watching and a security guard is standing over you.”  If you’re being fired for threatening the boss with a semi-automatic weapon or for embezzling large sums of money, this makes sense.  But, I’m wondering how many people are actually planning a vengeful attack on their way out the door.   Isn’t it possible to protect company interests without stripping away all sense of dignity?

To counter this, I’d like to offer two layoff experiences of my own that were overwhelmingly positive.  I’ll always hold these two firms in high esteem, even if they did have to lay me off.   Although I suspect there may have been some deviance from standard operating procedures…

The first was from a large engineering firm.   The economics practice area I was in had suffered from a low volume of work for some time, and the higher-ups had been making heroic efforts for months trying to find billable work for their junior staff.   When the day finally came, I was still shocked (in retrospect, I’m not sure why) but I’d swear my supervisor had tears in his eyes, too, when he had to deliver the bad news.  Not only was I allowed to quietly creep away that day and collect my things later, they insisted that I keep the company laptop and access card for awhile, and they encouraged me to come into the office on my own after hours to print things if I wished.  (This was in the early days of the internet, when you still had to mail or hand-deliver resumes.)  Even though my junior employee severance package was just a few weeks of pay, I still feel grateful for being treated like a trustworthy adult.

In a later experience I was part of a bank that was purchased by a larger bank.  The day the merger was announced, we knew our entire division was toast; it was just a matter of when.  The outgoing executive management negotiated very nice severance packages, even for the rank and file, which was classy, even if there were pragmatic reasons behind it.  (Transferring customers and products from one banking system to another is neither quick nor easy.)  For me the timing was especially nice, as it corresponded with a family leave.  Division management was especially accommodating during the merger period, in part because they were on the way out, too.  (I think they spent the year’s party and entertainment budget on us during the first quarter before the merger closed, but that’s another story. The bread and circuses were a nice added touch, though.) Best of all, this experience created a huge diaspora of contacts all over the region within the same industry, a network I’m still drawing on today in my job search.

I challenge HR departments everywhere to treat people with trust and respect on the way out, even if you can’t leave them with the keys to the office.

In retrospect, the Miami office of that engineering firm was an anomaly in several ways – as far as I know, they were the only company location at that time without functioning voicemail, and the only one with a kick-ass expresso machine.  Bot that’s another story, and if you’ve ever spent much time in Miami, you know that the usual rules do not apply there.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Having hoarding tendencies does have its advantages.  No, I don’t live in a trailer filled with newspapers and 83 cats.  Although I’m quite fond of our one remaining elderly cat, and have been known to leave piles of magazines and books laying around…hmm, guess I better watch that…  

I’m happy to note that I’ve been fairly good at hoarding money.  I’ve always maxed out my 401k accounts, and required my husband to do the same as a condition of marriage, after he passed my inspection of his tax records and other finances.  (I did this after a friend found out her husband had a lot of debt after they got married, and would recommend that everyone do the same.)  We’ve been decent at socking away portions of bonuses and the like, too.

I’d strongly recommend to anyone just starting out that you max out your 401k, even if you have a low salary, or at least add to it whenever you get a raise.  Really, you don’t miss the money much if you never see it, and it makes a huge difference later on, with all that compounding.  Plus, you can’t assume you’ll be happily earning top dollar until you are 65.

In any case, since we made some hay while the sun was shining, we’re OK with one job, for the moment.  Although this doesn’t work long-term.  Not unless we want to retire to the double wide next to the woman with the cats.