This is a continuation of Kosmo’s Job Search Journey.
The Whole Job Search Series:
1. You’re Fired
2. Assessing the Situation
5. The Interview
8. Sink or Swim
9. Search for Stability
10. Job Search Journey: The Interview the Lasted for Seven Months
The timing of this update is particularly helpful as I’ve been extremely sick the last couple of days and all my other responsibilities have been piling up.
Now that I have arrived at the successful conclusion of my job search, it’s time for me to turn my experiences into advice for other job seekers.
Get started immediately
If you’re getting a severance payment, it can be tempting to take a few months off and live off the severance. I know several people from my previous job who did this. I’d caution against doing this. Get started with the job search immediately, because you never know how long it will take you to find a job. If you get an offer, you can always negotiate a start date with the new employer. Most employers won’t mind delaying the start date a week or two if you want to take some time off. I found out that I would be losing my job a full six months before the termination date. Despite having this much notice – and a healthy severance – I started the search immediately. I applied for a job that night.
What did I do with that severance payment? Invested it in an index fund, where I’m not tempted to spend it.
Explore all your options
At first, I was only looking for permanent positions. It hadn’t even occurred to me to consider contract work until a staffing company happened to email my wife, asking if she knew anyone interested in a business analyst position.
I also left no stone unturned when it came to submitting resumes. I submitted resumes for nearly every opening within a 70 mile radius. (Note that I live in Iowa, so 70 miles is roughly a 70 minute drive). I submitted resumes at companies that employed thousands, as well as companies that employed dozens. I submitted resumes to companies hiring teleworkers. I did avoid a handful of companies that had incredibly toxic reputations, but only a few.
Look at all the benefits
Salary is the thing that most people focus on. Let’s compare two hypothetical job offers.
- Employer A offers a salary of $100,000, 2% 401(k) matching, and two weeks of PTO.
- Employer B offers a salary of $95,000, 5% 401(k) matching, defined contribution pension (5% of salary), and four weeks of PTO.
Which of these benefit packages is better? It’s B. The 401(k) matching, pension, and extra PTO easily offset the $5000 difference in salary.
Often, it’s not as clear cut. You might need to choose between a higher salary and a more flexible schedule or choose between a nonprofit and a large multinational corporation. In the end, you need to determine what is important to you.
Focus on your strengths
If you’re like most people, not all of your responsibilities fit nicely into a specific role. In my case, I had begun my career as a business analyst, but had taken programming classes and had done coding work on large projects that deployed enterprise level tools. For much of my career, I had functioned in a hybrid role, doing whichever tasks were needed at the moment. Most companies aren’t looking to hire hybrids, though. They’re looking to fill a specific role.
I had to decide whether to advertise myself as a programmer or a business analyst. In my case, it wasn’t particular difficult. My somewhat limited experience and background as a programmer meant that I was was somewhat weaker on those skills than I was as a business analyst. So I pitched myself as a business analyst who had some bonus technical skills.
If you have the opportunity to partake in mock interviews, do it. I didn’t do this (despite having ample opportunity), and wish I had. Interviewing is a nerve-wracking experience, but it gets easier with repetition. It helps you get prepared for certain types of questions, as well as getting comfortable with the interview process itself.
Remember that the process is just as difficult for the hiring manager as it is for you. They aren’t trying to trip you up; they’re just trying to get a good feel for your skills. I’ve been on a few interview panels at my current job, and it’s very difficult to determine if someone is a good fit based on a short interview. Getting an insight into the person’s thought process is often more important than the specific answer.
Always be positive in an interview. When asked why you’re leaving an employer, put a positive spin on it. In my case, I said that my company was consolidating its IT workforce into four locations, and that I preferred not to move because of my strong roots to the local area.
Enter the interview with a smile, exit it with a smile, and try to keep a positive demeanor during the interview, even if the interview is stressing you out. A key thing to remember is that the interviewer wants you to do well. They want you to be the candidate they hire, so that they can wrap up the expensive and time consuming search process.
The positivity shouldn’t stop when you get the job, especially if it’s a contract position or the job has a probationary challenge. See obstacles as challenges to solve rather than negative aspects of you job. How someone fits into a team is very important. We recently lobbied our boss to have a new team member assigned to a solo project. The team member wasn’t much of a team player and was killing morale and productivity. The boss agreed, moved some people around, and productivity skyrocketed.
So you found a job? Maybe you leveraged some connections to get a leg up. Remember that this is a two way street. If you become aware of former colleagues who are looking for a job, reach out to them. Offer to be a reference, a sound board, a resume reviewer, anything. Not only will this produce good karma, but you never know when you might need help from that person.
Final Personal Thoughts
It’s Lazy Man back for this section.
I think Kosmo hit on many things that were important for my job search journey. There was a big tech layoff in 2001 and the whole department was let go. I got a sizable severance, but I still did everything I could to find a new job. Unfortunately at the time, there were so many programmers and no one was hiring. That’s what happens when there is a technology bubble bust. The supply and demand was simply not on my side.
This experience played directly into me creating Lazy Man and Money with the idea of exploring financial independence and alternative income streams. It wasn’t like I could live at the time on just my dog sitting income, but it definitely extends your emergency fund.
Unfortunately for me, perhaps the advice that hit home the hardest was to focus on strengths. Though I have a background as a software engineer, I get bored doing one thing and got bored doing that. I started the blog and that has been good for awhile. However, I’m midway through year 12 and it’s getting more and more difficult to find interesting topics to write about.
Dog sitting isn’t a skill that’s in high demand. One of my other new gigs is being a blog editor. That’s interesting, because it’s a little different than writing personal all the time. Another gig is customer service for a cloud company. I don’t know too many people who love customer service jobs. However, they are necessary and the one I have is some people I like, which is good.
At the end of the day, my strength is almost like not having one. I am kind of good at blogging, very good in personal finance, below average in programming (I’ve forgotten a lot and technology has changed), good at dog sitting and customer service, and very good at reading legal briefs on defamation. Only a small company is looking for that kind of diverse skill set.
In the short term, I’ll probably just keep juggling the same hodge-podge of stuff. Financially, it’s been working for us and it gives us the flexibility we need with two very young kids and my wife’s demanding military job and college career.