Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Day In Between the Days...

This is the day in between the days in between the days of Christmas and New Years. Well, not exactly right between but it sure feels that way. A short work week for those who work. A kinda quiet week for those of us who don't work (at anything other than finding work). All is quiet on the job boards.

On the bad news front, I had a final meeting with my outplacement counselor yesterday - she says that 2009 is going to pick up slowly, which I think is her optimistic way of saying that it will get worse before it gets better. Obviously, she knows this from her firm being hired to manage more layoffs. So hold onto your desks, working people, the scythe of layoffs is still swinging. My advice to you in these times:

  1. Be a contributor, not a manager. Managers always seem to be more expendable than those that produce.
  2. Act like a consultant . I've covered this in an earlier post: You, Inc.
  3. Prepare your family. Speaking from personal experience, there's nothing worse than coming home to your family with the unexpected news that you no longer have a job. Sidebar - this has happened to me twice in jobs where I didn't really expect it (although I should have). In the one job where I constantly felt like I would be laid off due to all the uncertainty surrounding a bankruptcy and a buy-out, I never got laid off. After all the dust settled, I left for a better job.
  4. Have a financial plan. One that involves something other than credit cards.
  5. Relax. If it's going to happen to you soon, it's already decided. Nothing you can do in the next few days or weeks will change that. And it's not the worst thing in the world that can happen to you or your family. There are other more important events that are far worse, like death of a loved one or serious illness. Have some perspective. Define yourself by who you are, not what you do.

Sorry to sound so grim. I hope for the best for all the employed people - I really don't need your competition in trying to find a job. I promise my next post will be more uplifting.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Christmas is always a good time of year to appreciate what you have. Although I'm still unemployed and without much in the way of prospects, I'm still going for the "there are others way less fortunate than you" route. I am convinced that a job will come my way. Do the work, find the job. And so to all, a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Search Lite

It's been a little hard getting into the job search this past week. With disruption at the house forcing me to my laptop for a few days (projects, power outages, snow storms, projects) and the need to put snow tires on the cars, donate platelets, Christmas shop and work on those projects, I haven't been able to dedicate any more than 4 hours any of the last several days. Not that there's a lot to search for out there. The listings are looking a bit sparse. I've done some networking and I am spending some time preparing for life after outplacement (services officially end tomorrow but I've got two more meetings to attend). And "people" say things should pick up after the first of the year, so I'm ready for that.

Looking ahead, there won't be much searching the next couple of weeks. Christmas means getting together with family which includes some travel, and we're trying to knock the majority of the projects off by the weekend after new years. So, even though I don't feel productive on the search front, I can feel productive on the project front.

If I don't post again until next week, Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dark Day

One of the things we do in outplacement is to keep track of the time we spend looking for a job. The theory goes that it helps make you more accountable and allows you to figure out if you are spending time on the right things. Based on my numbers, I'm not very accountable and I spend time on the wrong things.

This past Friday will have to be entered as no time spent searching. It's really hard to work your job search when you have no power and are more concerned about staying warm than about getting to the Internet to search job listings and send and receive email. Power was out all day until Friday night. We were the lucky ones as others still don't have power today. Anyway, with the state of the job market right now, there wasn't a lot to miss.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know you've been at outplacement too long when...

When they ask you to run the weekly meeting (called the JSWT = Job Search Work Team). Yep, it happened today. The regular (and I suppose paid) facilitator was unable to attend and my career counselor who runs the office had other meetings, so she asked me to step in. It's really not that hard, and since you get to know the people you have been meeting with, not that threatening. The usual routine is we go through our numbers (hours spent, contacts made), bring up any issues and share stories (today we discussed a couple of members' experiences at recent job fairs). It went pretty well and I came close to filling the two scheduled hours. She's asked me to step in again next week when our regular facilitator is on vacation. I'm thinking I should ask for pay, or at least an extension of my benefits which run out at the end of the month.

In other search related news, the "not no, not yes" from the long commute company turned into a "no" and the "nothing" is still nothing. And I have no more possibles in the pipeline. I have had some good conversations with people in my network - one introduced me to a CEO at a Manchester company and the other had some ideas that may play out, so all hope is not lost. And I continue to fire off resumes to the very few jobs that I see out there. It's a tough market, or so I hear from everyone I talk to.

I did get a great piece of advice from one of the JSWT members today. He advised that if you believe that 9 out of 10 contacts will bear no fruit, then you should treat each of the "no's" you get as getting you closer to that one "yes". Glass 9/10's full or something like that. Since I am not good at dealing with rejection, this is helpful advice.

Tomorrow I'm donating platelets. I need to feel good about something.

Friday, December 05, 2008

No/Not No/Nothing

Yep, that's the sum of the week on jobs for which I'm currently a candidate. No on the perfect job close to home. I never did get past the HR screen. They're say currently checking references on two candidates and I'm not either of them. Not No, Not Yes on the long commute job. I talked to the HR recruiter and she said the status was "no status" whatever that means. She suggested checking back late next week. And Nothing is what I heard on the consultant job. I did hear from the recruiter on Tuesday, but he had no real information on what was up or what the next steps would be.

The advice from outplacement is to keep your pipeline of possibles full even when you think you may be a solid candidate for a position even up to the point where you might be getting an offer. After all, offers do get rescinded and jobs do get cancelled. While I haven't had much other luck firing resumes off into the dark of the Internet, I continue to try to fill the pipeline. A week of No/Not No/Nothing tells you why that's important.

Monday, December 01, 2008


I was involved in interviews for two separate jobs last week, each of which seemed to go well. There was a consulting job that I second interviewed for on Monday and an insurance company job that I interviewed for on Tuesday. Both interviewers indicated that they would get back to me this week. So far, nothing but the sound of crickets...

When you work at home (looking for work) and you set your own priorities, it is easy to forget what a Monday morning after a holiday weekend can bring. I vaguely remember dealing with all kinds of issues - things that went wrong while we were away, things we needed to get done before the end of the year, regular update meetings, project status reports and so on. Probably the last think anyone is thinking about is getting back to the dude who they talked to last week. I get it. It's just real quiet out here...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Round Two, Done

I took a couple of phone interviews for round two of the consulting job yesterday. I think I passed but you never really know. The first guy would be my boss's boss. He's in CA and I'd call him the guy who distributes the vision and is responsible for building the business of this services arm of a very large corporation. He was an interesting interview, going kind of Microsoft on me a couple of times. For example, without the use of your computer, how would you estimate the number of gas stations in the US? I came up with a couple of different approaches which were basically valid. He said his answer was to count the number of stations in his town of 10,000 and then use that to multiply up to the number for the population of the US. He was more interested in the the thought process than the answer. He also asked a couple of behavioral interview questions as in, tell me about a time you successfully dealt with a difficult business partner. Tell me about an unsuccessful time. Having used this method a bunch in my interviewing, I don't find it hard to come up with examples.

The second guy was the first guy's guy. By that I mean, they've worked at a number of places together. He was fairly easy to talk with and I think we established a good rapport. I got him to describe a consulting horror story - he's based in CA and ended up on an assignment in NYC for 6 months. He was given internal people to work with who weren't performing very well and vendors to the project that didn't see him as useful. He described a process where he began to micro manage the employees (no other choice, really) and began reporting to the project sponsor the shortcomings of the vendors. I guess by the end, he had gained the trust of the sponsor and now has a very good referenceable account.

So, a couple days off for Thanksgiving. I do have a phone interview this morning with an insurance company up the road in ME. I don't think I can make the $$ work out while commuting to the office (tolls, miles, time). But you don't get to hear about the job until you tell them you willing to work for the $$ they put on the table, so I told them I was interested and now I've got an interview.

I give thanks for those of you who support me. I give thanks to my family and friends. I give thanks for my good health and generally good spirits even in these trying times. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm From Harvard

Yesterday I had a chance to attend a leadership class at Harvard Business School. My son is in the MBA program there and students are encouraged to invite guests. I attended a Leadership course. First, the setting. HBS is on the banks of the Charles, across the river from Cambridge. The buildings are all beautiful and the inside of the classroom was a semi-circle with several rising rows of tables. There are about 90 students in each section and the sections take classes at the same time. And there are 10 sections per year, so HBS graduates around 900 MBA's per year. The classroom was all done in tasteful dark wood with many nice features, such as the ability for each seat to vote, a self-focusing overhead projector, built in video projector, hooked up to the teacher's PC (we used that to see a film from the schools web site). It's very nice and I guess for $90k/year it should be (includes estimates for room and board along with the $44K tuition).

At the beginning of class, guests are introduced and they are given a standing ovation. I must say, as the only guest that day, it was a bit overwhelming to have 90 of our country's best and brightest clapping for me. I haven't had an ovation directed at me since drama club in high school.

The class was doing a case study on Xerox and Anne Mulcahy. All classes are case studies, whether it's leadership or finance or operations. In the late 1990's, early 2000's, Xerox was going under. They had massive debt and their stock price had cratered. There was an ongoing investigation by the SEC on how their income had been stated in Mexico and the investigation was spreading to the US. Mulcahy was an unlikely choice for CEO, having had no financial background. Nevertheless, she was appointed in 2001 and proceeded to engineer a turnaround.

The professor (first year teaching at Harvard, background with McKinsey group) lead the class in discussion, trying to elicit different points of view. Since class participation is 50% of the grade in Leadership, almost everyone had their hand up at every opportunity throughout the hour and 1/2 that the class lasted. It was interesting to listen to (guests are not allowed to participate). Since Leadership is kind of a touchy-feely course, there wasn't really any right or wrong facts, just people's opinion. Because I had researched the situation before class (I did not get to read the case), I felt like the class did a pretty good job of covering the points. I did notice a couple of areas where some of the class members were weak (i.e. in their knowledge of how Chapter 11 bankruptcy works - I have some knowledge because I went through it with a former employer), and I think they missed a few key points, but they are quite smart. Many of them have some business experience, but none of them appeared to be over 30. Lots of women, lots of foreign students (Europe, Asia, India). It felt good to be in a classroom again - it's been a long time. Of course, there was no pressure on me to learn or pay attention because I wasn't being graded.

After class, I went to lunch in Harvard Square with my son while we discussed the class and other topics. We finished with a cup of "Clover" coffee from Starbucks and I was on my way back home to return to the job hunt. It was a nice diversion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the road?

I've been keeping myself occupied with a combination of work around the home and some job related activities. The work around the home is more physically demanding than hitting the computer and phones to reach out to opportunities. I think sometimes I use the physical work as an excuse not to make that uncomfortable marketing (networking) call I know I should make. It's still hard for me to contact people to tell them about my situation and to ask them for help or advice. I'd better get over this soon as the market is looking more and more barren.

A few recent things:
  • A couple of reach outs to people I used to work with on behalf of folks I've met at my outplacement group. One of them finally returned my call.
  • Research on the education requirements for the PMP exam.
  • A few on-line applications.
  • A conversation about a job for which I wasn't really qualified. And I'm not sad about that since the job was in Springfield MA and I haven't considered relocation, yet.
  • A second phone screen for my "perfect" local job
  • A phone interview (tomorrow) for a consulting job that would have me travel 50 percent of the time.

It's that last item that has me thinking. I have had jobs where I've done some travel, but it was mostly to the home office. At one point, I was actually living away from home each week. This went on for about 9 months and it was at a time when my kids were young. It put enough stress on me and my family that I found myself another home office assignment with less travel. But things are different now. Jobs are scarce. My kids are grown and on their own. My wife has a career. I'm mostly worried about my dog. He's gotten used to having me around.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You, Inc.

I went to a meeting at outplacement yesterday and listened to a speaker give another perspective on the job search. He started by comparing today's world of work with what it had been like in years past. His basic premise is that you should act like a consultant in your job, whether you are an employee or not. This is solid advice for someone like me who tends to become complacent after a year or two in a job. Acting like a consultant means:

  • Having a customer focus (the customer being the company you are at as well as the external customer).
  • Always looking for the next assignment
  • Always trying to demonstrate value
  • Being a problem solver

To set up your consulting firm (You, Inc.), he suggested 6 steps which are roughly similar to the 10 step process that the outplacement firm has taught us:

  • Define your products and services. What are your strengths, and knowledge? Define your Brand (i.e. Tiffany's, MacDonalds). To do this, make a list of 10 to 15 words that define you.
  • Prepare good written material to present "You, Inc." to the customer. Things like a resume, cover letters, value proposition, business card.
  • Develop your marketing plan. Choose your target industries, companies, and positions.
  • Advertise - contact search firms, use the Internet, network.
  • Make sales calls - find out what "pain" the company is experiencing and how you might be the solution to the pain. This is also accomplished using networking.
  • Make the sale - find the job, negotiate your position and price

Good advice. I've accomplished a bunch of these steps already. It's time to incorporate and to do a better job of selling.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Well, it had to happen. And I remember this from my last job search 7 years ago. Eventually, despite the urging of the career counselors to work up to 45 hours a week on your job search, you reach a point where there's just not that much going on. After you hit the job boards, send out some resumes, do some research, send some emails, you run out of productive activities. Especially if you are somewhat introverted like me and don't enjoy making cold calls. It's tough to work a full day without wasting some amount of time.

I have found myself spending too much time reading the on-line news, organizing things on my hard drive, researching new phone options and doing things that generally don't contribute to a job search. It makes me feel guilty, but it burns the day.

With construction completing on our bedroom and new bathroom, it's time to paint and stain so we can then get the carpet installed and move back in. Starting today, I'll be staining and painting for approximately 1/2 of each day, probably in the afternoons. At least I'll feel productive about something.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

OK, maybe I was wrong

For a few weeks I've been saying, "I can't wait for the election to be over so we can get back to the beer and mattress ads on TV". I mean, how many more times do you want to hear Jean Shaheen say, "I'll stand with George Bush"? I ended up with a gag reflex every time that Sununu ad played. I thought it would be great to get back to normal - news stories about something other than the campaigns, beer ads and so forth.

This morning on Good Morning America - a special report on what dog the Obama children should pick. Ooof. Although, I still won't stand with George Bush.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Week gone by

Wow, a whole week without a post. I guess that kind of reflects the gentle pace that the job search has taken. There aren't a lot of new discoveries or "oh my, I should do this" moments. I have a resume, I'm tracking my statistics, I'm applying for jobs, I'm following up. I think the one main thing I need to do more of is networking with people who may know people who may know people. It's a good thing I'm tracking what I've done otherwise I would begin to believe last week was some kind of a waste.

I applied for about 10 jobs. I had conversations with about 5 recruiters (both inside recruiters and independent ones). I attended a job search work team meeting at my outplacement service. I attended an @ss-kicking session with an outplacement counselor (called by me; I needed to get my @ss kicked to do more networking). I set up an activity tracking spreadsheet as recommended by the outplacement people. I have a lot of ideas on companies to reach this week.

Even still, I took some time off on Monday to do outside painting and yard work and took some time off Friday to start the busy weekend early. So, it wasn't my best week of job hunting ever, but this one will be!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Expanding my Horizons

Given the relative lack of progress on jobs in NH (I have my resume out to several NH jobs, but other than the interview a week back, no responses), I have submitted my resume to a couple of jobs at a company way around 495 in MA. Both jobs looked interesting and in the category of something I would like to do. It's just too bad they're not a bit closer.

Next step, see what I can find downtown in Boston so I can commute by train or bus. I'd much rather let someone else drive, even if it means being chained to a schedule or a longer (time wise) commute. With that extra time you can work, sleep, read or whatever you need to do. I commuted by train early in my career into NYC, and though I'm sure I didn't love it at the time, I have good memories. I also remember never finishing the Times crossword puzzle, even when I worked it both going to and coming from work.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chromed out

(Warning - non job search related content to follow)
I tried, I really did.  I thought that switching to Google's Chrome browser would help me complete moving my productivity tools to the "cloud".  When you leave the corporate tether, you fall back to whatever tools you have on your PC.  For a while now, I've been using Google's Gmail for the majority of my email needs.  I started up a Google Calendar for my (few) appointments.  I've begun putting documents out in Google Documents.  I stay in touch with people using Gtalk.  I had set up a home page using iGoogle. So when the Google browser came out (Chrome), I figured it would integrate well with all those other applications.  When yoiu put everything in the "cloud" it's accessible from anywhere - whether you're using your home computer or a computer at outplacement or one at a house you're visiting (or certainly if you have Internet on your phone).  But I got frustrated with Chrome.  Here's what I found out:
  1. bookmarks are a pain as the folders go back and forth across the screen instead of down in a hierarchical (and familiar) fashion
  2. there's really no menu bar
  3. nothing works better that I can see
  4. videos and/or flash wouldn't show
So when iGoogle turned it's tabs to the side instead of the top, it was the last straw.  Microsoft, I'm back.  I'll still use Gmail, some of Google Documents, the Google calendar and Gtalk.  But I"m done with Chrome and iGoogle.  At least for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No Thanks

Well, Friday's interview turned into a "no thanks".  As reported through the agency with whom I am working, the hiring manager related that he enjoyed our conversation but that I'm not the guy he's looking for.  Of course, he has yet to articulate who that person might be to the agency. Anyway, I'm a little disappointed but not crushed.  After all, it was only my first interview.  You do get somewhat invested in the idea of working for company X, what with the research you do, the emotions you feel before and after the interview and the thinking that goes on in your head as you sort out how you would do the job you just heard about.  But as with the job that you just finished, you learn to put that behind you and look forward.

In the last few days I've heard about openings at two companies I have been targeting for which I might be a fit.  I'll be calling some contacts at these companies today.  Looking forward.

Monday, October 20, 2008

So we'll see

Friday's interview seemed to go well, but you never know until you get some follow-up.  We had a good meeting where I covered my background and the hiring manager covered his pain points.  I think I can help them, but he really hadn't defined the job yet.  In short, a CIO of about 40 years retired, the CFO inherited IT, he's had a consultant in to help him set direction for a few months and now he's trying to figure out what he wants in terms of an organization and the talent to staff it. So we'll see.

On the one hand, I feel good that I had an interview, and I think I'd like this job if it becomes available (at the right price and authority).  On the other hand, it's the first interview I've had, and I wonder if it's smart to take the first thing that comes along.  I've had situations where I've taken the first thing and others where I've been able to be more selective.  Both have worked out.  So we'll see.

In other job news, I got a lead that a company similar to the one I just left fired their IT Director. I had already reached out to the CEO at that company, through a mutual acquaintance.  So I sent another note out to reconnect.  So we'll see.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I think I'm ready

I've got my first interview tomorrow and I think I'm as ready as I can be.  I attended an interview skills workshop today at outplacement.  I've reviewed my resume to make sure I can speak to everything on it.  I've researched the company through D&B, the Internet, their website, the SEC site.  My shirt is pressed and my suit is clean.  I know how to get there.  Should be great.  If only I knew what they were looking for I might feel more confident.  It's a "discussion" as much as an interview.  They're trying to figure out what to do with an IT position.  So who konws?  I try to keep my expectations low so they can be wildly exceeded.  

Oh yeah, new business idea.  Business cards with a scratch ticket on the back.  Who wouldn't want one of those?  Who would forget you if you did that?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From under rocks...or is it Monster?

One thing about posting your resume on Monster (or Hotjobs or Dice) is that it brings out the recruiters.  They seem to hit you fast, like you had just turned over a rock and all the bugs got out. Sometimes, it appears that they haven't even looked at your resume.  "Would you like a job programming Java in Arkansas?". Other times, they call or email with some intriguing leads.  I responded to, and talked with, a recruiter for a job in Woburn today.  I'm qualified, maybe over qualified.  It's a temp-to-perm, which means they get to try you for six months before they buy you.  I really don't object to that.  I'll be giving my next job everything that I can, and I don't expect that will end after six months, unless severe disillusionment sets in.  Then it's probably better for both of us that it's temp, because I'll probably be looking again.

I have been spending a bunch of time over the past day or two researching companies with which I have interviews.  I like to be prepared and not have to ask, "Now what exactly is it that you guys do here?".  This is where my business degrees kick in, as I begin to remember financial terms like EBIT and EPS.  Not necessarily the only gauges of your potential employers' success, but important ones.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not my best

I have this ideal self who is constantly firing off resumes, talking on the phone to networking contacts, acting all self-assured and positive about finding a job.  Unfortunately, I rarely see this ideal self. Occasionally, I have days like yesterday where I find any kind of an excuse not to do the things I know I should be doing - the things the ideal self just cranks out.  There's a spot on the rug from last night that needs cleaning.  There's laundry to be done.  What a beautiful fall day - I'll have to knock off early to run some errands on the motorcycle.  Hey, I've been meaning to do that minor project in my shop.  I felt bad about my lack of effort so I finished off the day by eating and drinking more than I wanted to.

Today, I'm trying to make up for it by firing off some resumes and talking to various contacts However, I already know that I'll be knocking off early this afternoon for a trip to see relatives.  I guess I'd better hit the ground hard on Monday. At least that's what that other guy, Mr. Ideal Job Hunter would say.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Job Search Work Team

I went to my first meeting of a job search work team.  Essentially, it's a group of people who get together on a weekly basis to report progress (accountability)  and share ideas (networking).  I really didn't know what to expect and I think my day 1 was not necessarily typical.  I got there early (as is my habit) and met one or two team members before the meeting got started.  The facilitator (a career consultant from the outplacement firm) started the meeting by saying that one of the members was coming in soon with good news. Soon thereafter a team member arrived and told us that he had gotten and accepted an offer.  He also mentioned that he had a couple of others pending that he would stop pursuing.  Most of the session was this individual sharing his excitement with us.  He paid tribute to the outplacement folks and to the process.  According to him (and confirmed later by his work team members), he is the guy who worked the most at finding a job.  He did all the exercises in the process, took lots of on-line courses and took every available teleconference and in-house course.  One interesting note, he worked almost exclusively with agencies in his search.  Everything about his chosen job sounds good - company, location, pay.

I guess this is why we go to these meetings - to experience the taste of success through others.  I'm happy for this guy I just met, but success will taste sweetest when it's mine.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I forgot to write yesterday about a dream I had over the weekend.  I'm calling it the "Vindication Dream".  I received some news about my old project team last week that I'm sure triggered it.  Because of some moves by the consulting firm that's now running the project, the people on the team are none too happy.  In my dream, the project was cratering and my former boss admits that this wouldn't have happened if I was still there.  I think I remember in the dream that he wants to offer me my job back but I turn him down.  Vindication.  Even though it's only a dream, it still tastes sweet.

Monday, October 06, 2008


I spent Friday at the outplacement office in a meeting on the rest of the 10 steps.  I'll go through these in a later post.  When I checked my email later that day, I had one from the headhunter with whom I have been working.  I called him that afternoon and we discussed a position.  He set me up with an interview on October 17.  I'm not sure I 'm a good fit, but I sure could use some interviewing experience.  I also talked to a former co-worker about a company he had previously worked for.  He was very helpful and is making some connections on my behalf.  They do have  job currently posted for which I may be a fit.  

I should probalby write a post about my weekend motorcycle ride.  It was a beautiful, but cool day on Saturday as I joined two friends for a ride into NH puckerbrush.  The colors were spectacular and I travelled a number of roads I haven't been on in a while, including some of my favorites around my old home town, Goffstown.  It's a great way to spend a fall Saturday.

This week, I have several teleconferences and a bunch of research to get to.  I have to develop my marketing plan.  Should keep me pretty busy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Days Flying By

Like the leaves falling from the trees, the pages of the calendar are also falling away.  Yesterday was the three week anniversary of my departure from my former employer.  With the economic events in the US, and the large outpouring of money from our personal coiffers (wedding, finishing construction on the house), I don't often feel good about my situation.  But every once and a while, there's a glimmer of hope like the two emails I got yesterday from the headhunter asking to clarify my experiences in a couple of areas for two firms in the area with whom he's working.  Not that I even have an interview, but to have someone show even the tiniest bit of interest is gratifying.

I also had lunch with a former coworker yesterday, as well as IM'ed with a few others (is it o.k. to use "IM" when it was really gtalk?).  This gives me a sense of connectedness to people I recently left behind.  It is kind of isolating to sit at home during the day without talking or IM'ing with others.  I guess I'm not a good telecommuting candidate, at least not full time.  

Today I've signed up for a couple of teleconference teaching sessions from the outplacement firm.  I HAVE MEETINGS ON MY CALENDAR - another gratifying feeling.  This search process really is a cycle of ups and downs.

Tomorrow I'm meeting former co-workers for our monthly breakfast.  After that, I'll be at outplacement again for most of the day.  Busy guy, it seems like.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Out at Outplacement

I feel like I have been out of the hunt for days, but really, I've been learning how to be more effective in my job search.  As mentioned earlier, outplacement has a process, and I'm trying hard to get into and through the ten steps.  Last Thursday and Friday, I covered steps one and two by myself.  Yesterday, I went to a 9 to 1 session that was an overview of the 10 steps.  Today I was at a resume writing workshop and this Friday, I go back for more in depth coverage of steps 1 - 10.  Add to that, the time I could/should be spending in web exes and phone conferences and on their proprietary website and I'm not sure how I actually have time to look for a job.  Their approach is to be very prepared as you get into the search so you can be more effective as you make contacts.  I can't say if they're right or wrong but I'm following the process because if you do the work, you will get a job.

Step 1 is to survey your market.  I've done a couple of things: 1) I did some searches on trends that were happening in the IT industry (I'm first and foremost an IT professional and not focused on any specific indusstry).  Here's a click from Software Quality News written at the end of last year that holds up pretty well.  I'm sure this year's trend predictions for next year should be interesting in light of the current economic news.  2) I've read a bunch of job ads for positions in which I might be interested to see what they're looking for.  My only regret so far is that I don't have the PMP (no, not pimp - Project Management Professional) designation.  Lots of jobs are looking for that at this point.  It may be something I pursue a little later down the road.

Step 2 is the one I like least - Self asssessment.  What am I good at?  What do I like to do?  What are my interests? What are my career objectives?  Answers: I don't know.  However, the step is important because it helps you position your job search.  Although you don't put a professional objective on a resume any more (seriously, don't do this), you will be better able to target your search if you know what your objective is.  Makes sense, right?  I mean, when I start a project, I always need to know what it's supposed to do.  So, I've done a bunch of the assessment stuff.  Along the way, you describe your accomplishments: What was the situation? What were the obstacles?  What were your actions?  What were the results?  This stuff becomes fodder for your resume.

Step 3, finally.  Work on your resume.  First, though, you need to work on your exit statement.  I mean, why am I out of work.  After many drafts that either were vague, put me in a bad light or were just plain mean or vindictive towards my former employer, I came up with one that's succint.  Now I need to practice saying.  Your resume follows - put together the summary, the accomplishments, the other stuff.  At today's workshop, we got as detailed as favorite fonts and font sizes.  My resume was in pretty good shape, but I did learn a number of things to help improve it.

We also talked about using a "Value Proposition" and your calling card rather than your resume.  The thought is that the resume begins to disqualify you as quickly as it qualifies you.  Therefore, you do a one page fancy looking power point which serves as your marketing tool.  I'm going to write one up and shop it around to people I know to see what kind of reaction I get.  I've never done or used anything like it before - it's a document build by our instructor and incorporated into the outplacement repetoire over the last three years.

Well, today is almost shot for me because I have to head to the airport to pick up the honeymooning couple.  They should be nice and relaxed after a week plus in Curacao.  Man, that sounds nice right about now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Outplacement and other tales

I've had a busy last couple of days.  I spent some time on Tuesday with the headhunter who had called me after he saw my resume on Monster.  He was an individual with whom I had worked at my last employer.  He had worked for a major firm, went quiet for his one year of non-compete and then opened his own shop.  He's very proud of his growing company.  He is associated with two other placement firms - one which does financial placements and another which does administrative and HR placements.  They share the same office space and they're about to open a new one in MA.  Anyway, I was treated to a lunch and discussion of different companies with which he has contacts.  He later sent me some links to those companies.  I did some research and gave him some ideas on how I might fit in at each of them.  Now he'll make contacts on my behalf.  Nice.

I also had my first outplacement meeting with a company in Manch-Vegas.  When I tell you that this job search has its up and down moments, I would never have expected to feel a bit down after my first meeting with this firm.  You figure they would offer encouragement to the job seekers that they are helping.  Not really.  I think their approach may be that they tear you down so they can build you up the "right" way.  Not only did she keep talking about the realities of the job market and how long it will take me to find a job, she also started ripping my resume apart. I think I take criticism pretty well, and I'm all ears when it comes to advice, but I guess I wasn't ready for this on my first meeting.  After I spend some more time with them, I'll write a post about chronological resumes versus accomplishment-based.  They definitely teach the accomplishment-based resume.  Anyway, I walked out of there with a lot of homework: self-paced learning, on-line things to review, road maps.  They have a process, oh yes they do.

Finally, it was time to celebrate with the folks from my former employer.  It was my "Gone Away" party.  We had a good time and it was extremely gratifying to have so many different people show up to wish me well.  As with all my jobs, I'm sure I'll stay in touch with a bunch of them throughout the years, but it's also true that some of them I may never see again.  You hate to admit that, but that's what experience tells me.  Anyway, I'm a bit bleary this morning since I didn't return home until about 2 in the morning.  Who doesn't love the Red Arrow diner?

Back to the hunt.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back on the Horse

After not getting a lot done yesterday (I uploaded a photo to Linkedin, Facebook and polished my LinkedIn profile), it's time to get back at it, including a blog post to keep me honest. A few events from late last week:
  • I got my first rejection letter.
  • I received a phone call from a headhunter I had worked with at my last job. I believe my Monster resume posting must have triggered his call. He was inquiring about the circumstances of my departure and offering to help. He spoke of a couple of opportunities on the phone and I will be meeting with him today.
  • I received two phone calls from two different people from the another head hunter agency after posting my resume on Monster. They will be called back today.
  • I have spent more time setting up agents and reviewing jobs on-line. I'll be firing off resumes this week.

So, it's time to regain the enthusiasm and get busy again. Here I go.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday's Slow Start

It's a little hard getting started today. The end of last week and all weekend were devoted to my daughter's wedding. The day was spectacular and everything went great. As the host of the event, I spent a lot of time being "on" = being outgoing, speaking to people, making sure everyone was having a good time and felt welcome. And now I feel off. So I have to work myself back into the groove and redevelop the enthusiasm I had last week. It shouldn't take too long, as I have a good list of to-do's in front of me. I'll be back with a progress blog later.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Doing what it takes

I'm thinking that at some point (and perhaps it's already happened), these posts will be getting monotonous. There are things you need to do on a daily basis to find a job:
  • Check the emails or rss feeds from any automated job agents you may have set up. This is like panning for gold. You slop through a lot of stone to find the gold nuggets.
  • Review and evaluate position postings. Basically, once you see the gold, you have to figure out if it's fool's gold or real gold. This involves researching companies.
  • Initiate and maintain contacts. A lot of this is emails and the rest of it is phone calls. If you're not initiating these, they you're responding to them.
  • Watering and pruning the resume - every day you can find new ideas on how to improve your resume. The secret is to figure out what advice is useful and what advice is noise.
  • Clicking "send" or "apply for job". Right now this is hard for me. Not that I don't want to apply for jobs, but most of the jobs posted involve some compromise in location, salary or position from your ideal job. I know I will begin to compromise these things, but in the first week or two, you like to believe that you'll find that perfect job next door to your house. The reality is that you won't and every job involves some kind of a compromise.
  • Building and maintaining your self-confidence. All of the job descriptions are looking for the perfect candidate. I am not perfect. There are experiences I don't have. There are certifications I don't have. I haven't worked in every industry under the sun. However, I need to be able to convince prospective employers that I am the right candidate for their job and if I'm to do that, I need to convince myself.

So, other than those daily steps, I made more connections to former co-workers, arranging for a lunch or dinner meeting in one case. I sent my resume out to a couple more contacts. Oh yeah, I contacted the outplacement agency that my former employer signed me up for. I'll meet with them next week. I'm not sure what they can provide in terms of help, especially since I've dealt with this firm at least twice before (that sounds sad). Some of what I know about finding a job comes from them, but it has been 7 years and they may have some new ideas to offer.

Another activity yesterday was emptying out my briefcase. It was filled with stuff I had grabbed from my desk as I left my former employer. I didn't take much, just some pictures and personal items I brought in. i found a box in the basement that contained similar stuff from other jobs and dumped the briefcase contents there.

I also worked on organizing my contacts. I tried to synchronize my Outlook contacts with Google contacts using Plaxo, but the results were not what I wanted. Plaxo holds both contact lists, but they aren't merged. It's probably something I did or didn't do, so I'll take another look at that later.

Today the wedding plans are beginning to creep in. I'll be on-line most of the day, but tomorrow, my hours will probably be about 4 and the none on Friday. So if you don't see a post, don't worry. I'll be having fun!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reaching out

Yesterday began the somewhat uncomfortable process of calling people I know to inform them of my situation. I've never been real good on the phone and there are often debates at my house some nights when the phone rings over who is going to answer it. But an important part of networking is calling people and making the personal connection. I talked to three people yesterday, some closer friends than others. I probably have the same number to do today.

It's not really hard to sound upbeat right now, because I am. I think as time goes by, it might get a little harder. But generally, I have a story to tell why I'm available and each time I repeat it, I get to pare it down to the essential elements so that it sounds more like those infamous "elevator pitches". From Wikipedia: An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds or 100-150 words). This is something I'll need when I go for an interview, so it's good to hone it.

The rest of the day was spent emailing and searching the web. I still have a ways to go before I feel like I'm set up with the job agents I want and I still have a number of web sites to review as resources. So many job sites, so little action.

A surprise happened yesterday when I got a call from a recruiting firm. The woman who called said she had gotten my name from a person who's name I didn't recognize. She had a copy of my resume or at least had seen my LinkedIn profile. When we emailed later in the day, she told me she had gotten my name from her boss at her firm, still a name I didn't recognize. Although I've given my resume out to a number of people, I still like to have some control over where it goes. It's quite possible somebody may have forwarded it. Mostly I'm not concerned, but it is a mystery.

The next few days may see a bit less activity on my part. My daughter's wedding is Saturday, and there are details to deal with this week. Probably no searching on Friday; maybe some on Thursday and tomorrow should be a fairly full day.

The search goes on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Face(booking) the job market

Friday was Facebook day. At the urging of Kreblog and others, I finally opened an account. I still have a bit to learn. Chats started popping, messages started flowing, acceptances were coming in. Lots of happenings. I still need to figure out how to turn this into a job seeking tool for my immediate needs. I also don't want to get totally sucked into the vortex of social networking at the expense of job searching, which I can see myself doing because it's a compelling tool.

I spent a good amount of time on Friday researching acronyms (PMI, ITIL, CMMI) that were on a job posting for which I applied. I found that while I have knowledge in these areas, certifications are a way of proving that knowledge which is why I suppose employers ask for these things. I'm willing to get certifications, but I need to be a bit further down the job search road before I want to invest time in those versus time in searching.

I have to remind myself on occasion not to get "job lock". You know what it is: when you see that job that you'd be perfect for at the perfect company paying good money, you fixate on getting that job and the general search or progress you've made on other jobs takes a back seat. It usually happens when you get the first interest from the employer, but as I researched the certifications, I realized that although I was gaining general knowledge, it may or may not help me for other jobs I might be considering.

Another significant activity on Friday was finding my old cover letter file. What I've done in the past is save paragraphs that I might put into a cover letter so that I can cut and paste some of what I need. For example, if a job posting asks for good communication skills, I have a paragraph that lists a specific example where I've demonstrated good communication skills. Of course each paragraph might need to be tuned for the specific circumstances of the job I'm applying for, but it's nice to have a starting place.

I did take the weekend off from job hunting, but not from worrying. With my daughter's wedding a week away and with the construction on the house going over budget, the amount of months we can survive my unemployment keeps going down. I guess I'd better get back to the hunt.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Working at getting work

Ahh, the enthusiasm of the first few days of unemployment. You are motivated, you are excited by the prospects and you have yet to deal with rejection. I remember these moments well from the last time I was laid off and I also remember the challenges of staying in this frame of mind.

It was a busy day for me yesterday. I spent time reviewing my severance agreement. It all looks good so I'll sign it and get it back to my former employer. I worked on my resume - it was already mostly up to date so with a few tweaks, I was ready to use it. It got sent to a couple of contacts, one of which surfaced when a fellow blogger read my post and indirectly got in touch. Her high tech husband now has a copy. The other contact is a contractor at my former employer who reached out to help.

Which leads me to another topic. I received a wonderful outpouring of support from associates at my former employer. I received many text messages, emails, IM's and phone calls. Most expressed the same shock I felt. All of them expressed their appreciation for my time in their lives and I did the same in return. This separation is tough for me, but it also causes the ones left behind to wonder what happened. It leads to the thought that if it could happen to a guy like me, it could happen to anyone. I've often said that while my former company was a little wacky, the people there are great. That statement has been validated again.

I applied for a job on-line for which I am probably qualified and probably missing an essential certification. I spent some time researching that company and contacted a family member who worked there to see if he could add some juice to the on-line application process. The frustration with the online process is twofold. One, your resume gets uploaded, but then it gets scanned and munged up into tiny boxes. Much of the resume is lost in translation. The second frustration is that there is no capability to add a cover letter. The cover letter is an important part of shaping your experience to their needs. I'm going to try to send one of those through my family member to see if he can get it to the hiring manager.

I spent some time getting my LinkedIn profile up to date. That's in better shape although I think I can still improve it. I also plan on enrolling in Facebook, something my carpool mate Kreblog has been suggesting for months. In a later post I'll probably expound on how electronic networking has changed the job search rules.

Got a lot going on today, too. I received some welcome comments on my resume so I need to work on that a little. Several leads have been sent my way that I need to investigate and respond to. I have yet to subscribe to the job boards (I have an old agent still running on Yahoo that needs review as establishing myself on others). Kreblog sent me some tools to scan the boards and turn the results into RSS feeds:
I'll be trying these out.

Busy life for the first few days. Catch you all on Monday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First Day of the Next Phase

And so begins the first day of the next phase of my life. Yesterday, I was laid off from my job of almost 7 years. With all things like this, in hindsight there were signs, and then again there weren't. I was aware that the company was considering layoffs; my boss had solicited input on a few people in our organization. And I felt like I was being cut out of meetings by the consultants who were brought in to run the project I had been working on. So, maybe I should have known but I don't generally seek out signs of bad news. I never could quite ask my boss, "might I be affected?" I'm pretty sure he would have lied.

Our company is very sales driven and when the economy goes bad and the sales are down, they basically have one response: roll heads. I had seen it twice in my seven years, and I had arrived on the scene a scant six months after a fairly major layoff. I guess one spot of good news is that I'm on the leading edge of this one so I won't have to watch as others are affected. And, given the generally cheap nature of this organization, they gave me an o.k. (not generous) severance to help me make the transition.

On the bad news side, we were at a stage in our lives where the money was flowing out faster than usual. The combination of a construction project at our house and my daughter's impending wedding has caused us to dip into reserves that might normally have helped us make the transition a bit easier. Timing is everything.

Back to good news. I've been through this before so I know what has to be done. My resume has been kept fairly up to date. I have a number of friends and associates who will help me in any way they can, including my now ex-boss.

Over to the bad news. I'm not getting any younger. The economy is not great right now. My skills are not technology specific in a market that seems to increasingly value specific experience. Prices are going up.

Good news. I don't have to drive 45 miles each way any more. I don't have to cross the stream of traffic from the neighboring high school at 7:15.

Bad news. I'll miss the time I spent with the guys in my carpool. I'll miss the daily association with the people at work whom I've grown to respect and to care about.

Good news. When (not if) I find another job, I'll expand my circle of friends. I'll have some time for home projects, although it will be at the expense of taking time away from job hunting.

Enough of that for a while. It's time to review the severance matierials, update my resume, work on a job search plan and begin linking in to networking and job sites. I'll probably be posting to this site as a way of keeping a few people informed of my search and progress. Stay tuned and carpoolguy becomes jobsearchguy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday DBZ

It was fitting that Das Beak Zwei turned 39 (thousand) today, just a scant six miles from the location of the event that brought me to this particular bike. It was almost 7 years ago when I dumped my ST1100 at Exit 2 on Rt 101. That crash has been chronicled (click link), but not the circumstances of the arrival of DBZ.

It wasn’t until the fall after my accident that I began to ride again, and even then, it was just a couple of short jaunts on my “SlightHawk” (a Honda Nighthawk 650, circa 1984). Around springtime of the following year (2002), I began to think about another bike. The insurance company had settled quickly and fairly on the ST11 (thanks Progressive) and the money was sitting in a separate account waiting on my decision. I had lots of help from my buddies who would occasionally find listings on IBMWR and send them along. I began to think seriously about a BMW R11GS – I had ridden one before and enjoyed its tall stature and wide handlebars for easy leverage.

Because of my lack of a capable bike, I did not ride out with my friends that year on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway (known now as the “Blue Lips Tour” – I guess VA/NC can get pretty cold in May when you’re at elevation. However, on the way back, the friend who got most of our group onto BMW’s (lets call him BeemerBoy), stopped off to look at one in VA that he had found on IBMWR. He called me up on the cell phone from right next to the bike, put the seller on, and the deal was struck for DBZ. The bike in 2002 was 6 years old with only 16K miles – pretty low miles for a bike that’s meant to ride in all kinds of road conditions. I struck a deal with the seller, with the understanding that it might be a few weeks until it could be picked up.

A few weekends later, I met up with BeemerBoy in NJ. Arriving on a Friday night, we decided to make the trip down and back to VA on Saturday, spoon on a new set of tires (pre-ordered) and send me on my way Sunday. We got up early, jumped into his Taurus SHO, and pulled his trailer down to VA. After loading the bike, we headed back, listening to the music of our youth and recounting riding tales, especially those of recent Blue Lips Tour.

Sunday dawned warm in NJ. After a morning ride to acclimate myself to my new ride, we worked our way north through western portions of NJ. For those of you who have only experienced the NJ turnpike or parkway, it is probably hard to imagine the variety of riding conditions in NW NJ. After dumping me out on I84, we split off and I headed north. All was going pretty well until the rains came.

It would be an understatement to say that it began to rain. It began to monsoon. At first I thought I could take shelter under an overpass, but the first one I came to was so damn high, that there was little shelter from the wind whipped rain. Eventually I got to an exit and I pulled off the highway searching for refuge. I tried to hide under the overpass from the highway exit I had just left, but it was not wide enough to safely park. I rode on until I got to restaurant. I ended up parking next to a loading dock, climbing up and standing under a short roof that protected me from the worst of the downpour. Imagine the surprise of one of the cooks when he opened the door to the dock for a smoke, and saw a man standing there in a vinyl riding suit wearing a helmet.

After a while, the rain lessened from Monsoon to Steady and I decided to take off again. Unfortunately, I had exited at one of those “you can get off the highway here, but you can’t get back on” exits in CT. After riding around and looking for signs, I was soon back on the highway. Eventually the rain cleared and other than road spray, I began to dry out. Unfortunately, as they often do, the violent rainstorms were harbingers of a cold front coming in. By the time I hit MA, my hands, having sweated up inside rubber gloves, were chilling fast. I pulled into a fast food joint just before the MA pike to have a cup of coffee and to warm up. I felt more like pouring the coffee on my hands than drinking it.

After that respite, I moved on. There was one more stop where I stopped at a rest area in MA to dry out my face shield. Unfortunately, the MA Highway Department decided that they didn’t need to stock paper towels in their men’s rooms. After a long session with a blow dryer, I was on the last leg.

The six years since that day have been good ones with DBZ. She still runs great, helped by occasional maintenance from BeemerBoy. She’s been to all coastal states in the East all the way down to a quick touch into South Carolina. She’s been several states deep. She’s been deep into the woods on roads that her owner had no right to ride. She’s been a capable two up tourer. She had a string of over 3 years of being ridden every month. She waited a year while my back recovered from surgery.

Happy 39K Birthday DBZ and many more.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ice Out 2008

While we suffer through global warming, we just got out of the second snowiest winter in the history of NH. Perhaps it's been too cold to snow until now?! Anyway, if this blog does nothing else for me, it does serve as the journal for when the ice leaves my pond. Here's ice out* for the last three years:

2005 - April 7
2006 - March 27
2007 - April 15

And this year, official ice out is.....(drumroll).......April 10.

*Ice out is defined as the last day I've seen a chunk of ice on the pond. Light skimcoat refreezings need not apply.

Update April 28: No, there's no more ice. I just wanted to post the Lake Winnepesaukee ice out dates (thanks to Kreblog).

2005 April 20
2006 April 3
2007 April 23
2008 April 23

We're not too far off and yes, 2006 was unusually early for both my pond and the big lake.

Direct link to over 100 years of Lake Winnepesaukee ice outs here.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Is there any reason that local news stations need to hype the wind?  I mean, it was practically the same coverage they give a significant snowfall (which is also overhyped).  They have a reporter on location near a flag so you can see the wind.  If they really want to show the effects of the wind, they should send one of those female or male reporters who have hair that is so sprayed that it looks like it is carved out of wood. 

Breaking news Wind (no pun intended).  Story at 11.