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.