First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
The Networking Conundrum
As an adult human with (or searching for) a grown-up job, we often hear about the value of networking--but how does one “network?” And how does one do it in a such a way that we’re meeting people, building relationships and connecting with individuals in a meaningful way? How do we do all of that without being (or feeling like) the slimy person who talks with someone today in order to shamelessly use that person for selfish personal gain later on?
Overall, networking includes meeting people, keeping track of them and nurturing those relationships in a mutually beneficial way. Let's break down each of those key components.
Meet All The People
We meet people all the time whether we’re working on a project, attending a conference or dressed in our least attractive ensemble attempting to sneak in and out of the grocery store. The trick with networking is to figure out how to meet people who share your professional interests. Here are three key places to meet the people that will become part of your network.
Coworkers and Vendors
I’ve worked for 10+ organizations, each of which had some turnover and many new employees. After I met someone initially, or sometimes after I worked with them on a project, I would connect with them on LinkedIn. I also connected with coworkers at other office locations as well as point people working for vendor organizations. Since I have worked directly with all of these people, they have direct experience with me as a coworker, manager or project team member.
In the Twin Cities, I’ve been involved with the Financial Planning Association, Association of Talent Development, Professional Association of Computer Trainers, the League of Longfellow Artists and Fredrickson Roundtable for Learning Leaders. Each time I attend a meeting, I have conversations with people before, during and after each presentation. I make special effort to get their names and connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards by including a brief note on who I am and our conversation. These are people who have seen me in a professional environment and have had at least one personal interaction with me.
Friends, Family and the Community
There are people that we interact with all the time—like the server at my favorite restaurant, my daughter's math teacher, the guy who works from the same coffee shop I visit, the woman who knocked me down last week at roller derby. This also includes friends from high school, classmates from college and the friend of my sister’s that I struck up a conversation with a month ago. After I’ve had a good interaction with people, I try to connect with them since our paths may cross again, and there will definitely be opportunities for us to help one another out. Now, reaching out to them to talk more about a specific topic will be easier since we have had casual contact on one or more occasions.
Some could argue that these people shouldn't be a part of a "professional network" since I don't directly know them from work. I disagree. I'm a firm believer that there is generally zero benefit to being mean to people and only positives from being nice to people. Go forth and be nice to people--if only for the sheer pleasure that being nice to another fellow human being can give you.
Keep Track of Everyone
LinkedIn is the core tool I use to keep track of my professional network. This is a collection of people I have worked with over the course of my career, colleagues from professional organizations and people who are both friends and possible business contacts. I use LinkedIn to post my professional profile, link to my other professional social media accounts and stay current on who of my connections currently work for what organizations. In addition to LinkedIn, I also keep email addresses and phone numbers for people who I worked with more closely, and connect people with who are family or friends as well as professional connections through Facebook.
Interact in a Meaningful Way
The biggest mistake most people make with networking is staying silent until they need something. In order to network effectively, it needs to be a give and take relationship. This includes talking to people in passing when you see them, congratulating them on their successes, asking them how they are doing and offering help when you can. Is someone looking for someone to click through a webpage they are designing? Volunteer to help. Did they just publish a book that you read? Comment on how much you liked the book or share the book with other people who might find it interesting. Did someone just get a promotion at work? Send them a quick note of congratulations.
Even sharing insightful articles on LinkedIn on a regular basis is one easy way to give to, rather than take from, your network. In order to be successful, networking should be about an ongoing relationship that is mutually beneficial—not your list of people that you ask to do you favors.
What Do You Think?
How do you build and nurture your professional network? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Welcome To The Suck
The process of being "in transition" is like no other. Not only do you have no outwardly dictated plans on any given weekday, but you don't really know how long your unstructured time off will last (another week, another month, a few months?) or what your day to day life will look like once the transition is over. There's also the issue of figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not job searching--in addition to feeling guilty because you're not doing more job searching, that is. As an extra added bonus, there are the occasional freak outs about money, nervousness about career prospects and the once in a great while "I will never be employed ever again!" full-on panic.
Suffice it to say that job searching can be full of obstacles that make the process hard to manage. Knowing the possible issues is the first step towards figuring out how to mitigate each challenge and move forward. Here are five unfortunate truths I have discovered about dealing with an unexpected career transition and a few coping strategies for dealing with each.
1. You won't always get an interview for THE PERFECT JOB.
Congratulations! You just found THE PERFECT JOB! You have all of the required and preferred qualifications! It's at the right level, with your dream company, and you even know someone who works there who will say great things about you! Surely your days of job searching are coming to a close because you are the purple squirrel for THE PERFECT JOB!
Enter reality. I'm sorry to say that you may not even manage to get so much as an initial phone screen for this position. Even when you feel like the job was tailor made for you, someone in a decision making position may not agree. Why might that happen?
For one, the position may not actually available. Some organizations post job openings to gauge interest in the position even though they have no plans to hire anytime soon. Conversely, the role may have been open for a while and the selection process may be well under way. There could also be an internal person who will take the job without additional people being considered. In some cases, companies may have a policy that they need to post positions externally for a given length of time even though they already have a candidate in mind. Still other organizations may decide part way through the hiring process to leave a position unfilled, but not remove it from their posted jobs.
Assuming the job is really and for true accepting applicants, there may still be issues. For one, key stakeholders in an organization may have a lack of common agreement on what a job role will do and what constitutes being a well-qualified candidate. Decision makers may also each have their own non-negotiable requirements for the qualifications for the potential hire--which may or may not relate to the person's ability to do the job. Remember that, no matter what the issue is, it seldom has anything to do with you personally. It's just the life of recruiting for and trying to fill positions with the best candidates they can find--sometimes with people who are (unfortunately) not you.
2. People who aren't good at their jobs will make your life harder.
Remember a time at your last job when you had to deal with someone who was not good at what they did for a living? Like the salesperson who was rude, never did their paperwork right and missed deadlines? Or the recruiter who didn't keep good notes and forgot who they had phone screened? During your job search, you'll realize those people exist in other organizations, too, and they sometimes stand between you and the job you want.
It could come in the form of an administrative assistant who is supposed to coordinate your travel for an in-person interview--who didn't make reservations then went on vacation leaving you scrambling to find someone else to help. It may be the recruiter who doesn't realize that a learning management system and a learning content management system are roughly the same thing and wrongly screens you out early on in the process. It may be the hiring manager that is overly concerned with your lack of knowledge of their industry and doesn't believe that anyone could just LEARN what they now know. It might be an insecure possible future coworker who doesn't want to hire someone who might outshine them. Just like in the rest of life, things are not always "fair" and you may not get a job, even if you are a strong candidate. Such is life.
3. Along the way, someone will dislike you.
I don't know about you, but I am friggin' delightful. I'm also able to connect and get along well with most people. However, during the interview process, no matter who I am or am not, it's not going to match what someone else thinks the candidate for the position should be. Whether they thought I should have smiled more, made a different outfit choice or given more detailed examples, someone's negative reaction to who I am may take me out of the running for a job.
People often have their own pet theories about what they'd like in a coworker, manager or direct report. They may be convinced that having the title "account manager" is pivotal for success, that all candidates must have a master's degree, or that people who ride horses are pretentious. You might also have the misfortune of reminding them of the mean girl in high school and BOOM--instant dislike. Again, life isn't necessarily "fair."
4. The interview process may be extensive and/or disorganized.
The job interview process can be anything from one interview to many, many, many interviews depending on the organization and the role. Typically, I expect to have a phone screen with an entry level HR person to confirm that I can speak in sentences, an in-person interview with the manager and potential coworkers and a final interview to either demonstrate skills and/or meet with my potential boss's boss. In addition, a given employer may want to have you do more to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You might be asked to pass written assessments, submit work samples, present to a group or complete a project. They may even have you come into the office for the day and "work" as if you are already in the position for which you are applying.
Interviews could take place over the phone, via web conference, through email, in-person or (more likely) a combination of all of the above. Some companies will have a pre-defined, structured process for the pacing and format of interviews. Other organizations will appear to be making it up as they go along. You may inadvertently skip steps and realize near the end of the process that you missed talking about a basic topic like salary range or work location. You may have interviews one-on-one with many people who you might work with going forward including coworkers, people with whom you'd collaborate with and executives. Sometimes, it may seem that the interview process is never-ending because you have not yet talked with every single person in the organization.
5. Time passes more slowly when you're waiting.
I remember being a child, and how LONG the year seemed. It always took forever to get from my birthday at the end of August to Christmas. Enter adulthood. I find myself consistently marveling that it's already whatever day/month/season it is because it seems that it was just that other day/month/season. In this scenario, your employer is the adult, and you are the child.
Some companies will be motivated to fill a position and move things pretty quickly, while others might have days, weeks or even months between your contacts with them--all because something that wasn't filling that position became a priority.
What about that two days that the employer estimated it would take them to contact you? It may easily turn into a week, or two. Since they're busy addressing customer issues, traveling to client sites and doing their expense reports, they didn't even realize it took that long. Meanwhile, you're stocking your pantry awaiting the unemployment apocalypse because you will never get a job ever, ever again. (Except not really because, well, reality.)
I have also had cases where I've had one or more interviews that went well, and then not heard from the company for a week or two. I'll send a follow up message, which sometimes gets the process going again, but at least makes me feel like I've taken the action I can take to let them know I'm still a potential candidate. Keep in mind that holidays, summer, natural disasters, other company events and a host of other valid reasons may keep people from following up with you.
Or, as any job seeker really doesn't want to hear, you may not be getting the job. Responding to a candidate quickly usually shows that the potential employer is interested. In many cases, taking longer to respond may indicate lagging interest. Such is how the whole process works.
What do you think?
What unfortunate truths about the job search process have you found? Share your thoughts in the comments.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, gluten intolerant & roller derby nerd.