So am I the only one who really detests looking for a job? Well yeah, it’s not like I had much choice about it. Let’s roll back the clock, it’s late 2009 and I get laid off by a local tech company because they want somebody more senior in my marketing role. After working 60+ hour weeks for two years, you could say I was a bit disappointed but homie don’t stay in any company where I’m not wanted. So even though I had an option to find another job within the company, I didn’t think it was a wise move given the potential of being seen as damaged goods. And yeah, my pride.
So I take the severance package, relax and start living my life that was always on hold due to the furious pace at work. The local economy has tanked and it’s right before the holiday season so no need to worry right now. I re-discover my social life, go exploring all around the Triangle and have an immense amount of fun. Six weeks of unemployment becomes six months and eventually… Well, have you heard the term “long-term unemployed”? That’s who I was and after a serious heart to heart with my family, it’s time to go back to work. The economy is slightly better now but not much better. But don’t worry people, there WILL be a happy ending. Just bear with me and you’ll hear the whole story about how you can get back to work and a corporate role after 958 days (yes, you heard that right), 958 days of being unemployed. It’s not easy and I don’t recommend it to anyone but read on if you want to hear about the tough lessons learned.
Ok, those of you who are still with me need to know my background. I’ve been in the corporate world over 20 years and have worked for 10 companies over three different career paths. You could say I’ve been around the block and I’m not scared much about interviewing or the job search process. But THIS job search was a bit different. The job market, the amount of time I had been out of corporate and the fact that I was looking for a marketing gig. A field where I only had about three years of experience so it was going to be an uphill climb. And here’s what I learned…
Know what you want to do and ideally, whom you’d like to do it for. As a professional, the shotgun approach of applying for anything doesn’t work. It makes you look unsure of yourself and that you don’t understand your value. And in my opinion, a target company is a bit more important than the target role. Be willing to flex a bit in your experience and try tangentially similar roles, just don’t be shooting for a finance job if you’re a marketing person. But the goal is to get into your target company and move laterally from there.
Network, network, network. Make sure you let people know you are looking but do so without being desperate. When you network it’s about developing a relationship that will be a two-way street. My primary strategy was to reach out to my alumni network and conduct informational interviews. I targeted marketing people but my goal was to target a company so non-marketing people were fine too. Try multiple networking events and volunteer opportunities. You’ll quickly find out which ones are of value to you and introduce you to potential peers. There’s some trial and error here, others that are in a job search may be able to help out.
Recruiters are a mixed bag, certainly leverage them but they are looking for a neatly wrapped package with a bow on top that they can drop on their client’s doorstep. And they are competing with other recruiters so they need to find candidates even if the fit is off. So certainly work with them but they can be either too narrow or too loose with their expectations. Either they’ll want the perfect candidate or be desperate to get a decent body in front of their client.
Interviewing is not easy for either side and I had plenty of mixed experiences. Went through one set of company interviews which included custom research and a presentation. The first six interviews went well, discussion had moved to compensation and team-members were asking when I could start. It all hit the fan with interview seven, the hiring manager’s manager. She came in guns-a-blazing and was looking to discount my skill set which she was able to do. IMO, she was not politically aligned with the rest of her team and was going to be a tough sell for any of their candidates. Another set of interviews required three months of emails and voicemails before I secured an informational interview over coffee. Roll two months forward and finally a position opens up. I interview, it goes decently and the hiring manager is talking about where to put my desk. A week plus later there’s no response and I’ve been told they’re going in another direction. And the hiring manager won’t even respond to my emails or questions, not very professional IMO after networking with them for six months. A no is fine, just treat me like a professional.
The Marketing role that I did end up with starting with networking and an informational interview in the fall of 2011. There was no specific role open until February of 2012. A connection and friend made the introduction. There were five interviews onsite and I had an old high school friend put in a good word for me. AND I knew somebody internal to the company who gave me the lay of the land. So while the process took a while to kick off, it was only about 2 – 3 weeks from when the first real contact happened before the job offer.
My most important take-away for an extended job search is to stay positive and believe in yourself. And most importantly, believe in your story because you will be asked to tell it MANY times. In the end, interviewers ask three primary types of questions and you’ll need to answer them with aplomb.
* Does the candidate have the skills to do the job?
* Will the candidate be interested and excited to do the job?
* Would I like to work and have the candidate on my team?
That’s it! Pretty much all the questions will revolve around those three areas as outlined by this posting from Forbes. And your goal is to answer those questions with authority, details and your personality to make your candidacy the best one available. And yeah, a lot of luck too. So best of luck to all you long-term job-searchers! Keep your heads up and don’t forget those three questions because if you can’t sell yourself, nobody else can…