Thursday, October 15, 2009

The New Reality

Sorry for the hiatus. Turns out being unemployed is hard work, at least if you’re serious about trying to get your next post and, like me, are made aware of the many things you always knew you should catch up on but now are compelled to address. Career foundation preparation is a lot like going to the doctor, physical conditioning, or preparing your own tax return – you always knew you should have been working on it all along, that it was best done in a smooth, consistent manner, but somehow it was always put on the back burner, until of course you suddenly discovered you need it right now.

Ouch. In my case, the pain comes from networking. I am, as you may suspect, pretty old school in a lot of ways. I don’t twitter, I don’t even IM, in fact I need to start up my cell service again, I stopped using a cell when I realized no plan offered what I really wanted – a simple way to make and receive phone calls about 8-10 times a month. No texting, cameras, no calling everybody I ever met in a single month, just simple means for emergency calls and accessibility when I’m out of the office or home. So now I have to catch up on that. Yes, I know about pre-paid plans, but my general opinion of them is not much better than the kid-centered packages most services offer.

So anyway, I updated my LinkedIn account, started my WorkInTexas searches, updated Monster of course, started service with Jobfox, and started up with SimplyHired. I am also taking courses from an outsourcing company on my resume, interviewing, and naturally I am learning about networking as well. I have also been working on my references. Odd, that. As a manager I know how important references can be, but despite my blogging I am pretty much a private person, so the number of people I know well is limited to family and recent work colleagues. The fun part there, is not just that no potential employer is going to be impressed by a reference from your wife and kids, but the company I spent the last decade working for has a policy against specific references; they will release general data confirming your department, title, and dates of employment. So the people I have known for the last nine years in my work are not allowed to offer a recommendation for me. So that means I am chasing down some folks I know who left the company years ago. Hardly optimal, but better than an empty page on that score.

It’s also hard coming up with a really good resume. What I mean, is that while I can post my skills and what I have been doing, it’s not easy to convey what I have done that sets me apart. I’ve always been a team player, not least because rarely does one person do the whole job in a major project, so I have not spent a lot of effort looking for ways to brag about why my role made a key difference. Resumes, of course, are built on such accomplishments, so I have had to think and write about those places where my efforts and work created real results. There have actually been many situations where I am justifiably proud of my work, through leadership, initiative, or just plain being willing to do what was needed to get the job done. The hard part is explaining that in a way that still respects my team and colleagues. That takes a while and a bunch of rewrites.

So here I am. In case you did not already know, job hunting means a lot of effort for no real apparent return. I’ve sent out about a hundred applications and resumes so far, with almost no response. Part of that is the economy, I am told, but part of it is just the continuing problem that any job seeker finds; there are always a lot of people applying for any job, especially if the company and/or the position appears to offer career potential. You come to feel like a salmon swimming upstream after a while.

And then there are the sharks, the people who offer job-hunting assistance, especially the resume writing companies, who make promises just vague enough to be legal but whose ethics are clearly absent. Also present are companies which try to hire at wages far below industry scale, which seems extremely short-sighted to me in terms of strategy. I had a laugh early on, as I received an email invitation to interview for a sales position at a Saturn dealership. It sounded like an ad to join the crew of the Titanic, you know?

More later, and hopefully something more interesting than my personal career pursuit, but I owed an update to a few friends who had asked. And to those friends, thanks for thinking of me.