This is part 3 of Kosmo’s job search journey. While this article stands well by itself, it will be even better if you read You’re Fired (Part 1), Assessing the Situation (Part 2), and networking for the full context.
As I write this, I’m about 10 weeks weeks into my job search, and in the middle of the “dead period” of the holidays. Not surprisingly, the hiring process grinds to a halt during the holiday season, as hiring managers (and everyone else) takes some vacation in order to spend time with family.
What am I doing during this time? Kicking back and relaxing? Not exactly. I’m learning – refining my existing skills and building new ones.
Refine existing skills
The first thing I noticed when I started reading job descriptions was that the companies used different verbiage to describe the skills I had. I sampled several relevant job descriptions and used their phrasing to re-work my resume. I spent twenty years with the same company, so the initial draft of my resume contained a lot of company-specific descriptions of my skills. However, it’s important that you describe your skills using the terminology that the hiring companies are using, to ensure that your resume is deemed a match when your resume is searched for a particular term.
I also realized that the business analyst role has certifications that didn’t exist when I started my job. I bought the study guide and painfully slogged through it. It’s about 80% review and 20% new content. When I finished, I had a better feel for how the business analyst role functions in other companies, instead of just knowing how it functions in my current company.
Building new skills
I quickly realize that almost everyone is looking for experience with Agile project methodologies. While I have a small bit of experience with Agile, the vast majority of my experience is with waterfall methodologies. So I jumped back on Amazon and bought a couple of books. I’ve finished an overview of Agile and am beginning a book that takes a deep dive into Scrum, a common Agile methodology.
I also noticed that a lot of people were looking for experience with JIRA, a software package commonly used by Agile projects. At my current company, a JIRA user would be a specialty role, so there’s no way for me to acquire this skill on the job. So I signed up for a cloud account on the vendor’s web site. For $10/month, I can play around with JIRA and get more comfortable with it. Note: you can also self-host JIRA for a fixed cost. However, it isn’t officially supported on OS X, and I didn’t want to spent a lot of time resolving installation issues. If I had the free time, troubleshooting the installation might be valuable experience – but right now, I just want to move forward and learn JIRA.
Learn about the company
It’s also a good idea to learn about the companies that are hiring. I’ve been reading their web sites and even the SEC filings for public companies. I’ve also been reading lots of job descriptions – not just the job that I’m applying for. Reading the descriptions for the other jobs gives me a better feel for how the company operates, and how the roles interact with each other.
About a month ago, I got my first nibble. A recruiter wanted to know if I was interested in a six month assignment at a local company – a company that it high on my list of potential employers. Unfortunately, I can’t forgo my 30 weeks of severance pay to take a six month contract job. I explained the situation to the recruiter, and also let him know that I might be interested in this sort of job in the future. Even though this isn’t a good fit right now, I don’t want to burn any bridges.