Still here

Sure, this looks like yet another abandoned blog, but I mostly just haven’t had a lot of job hunting insights to share. Being employed has, admittedly, reduced the amount of thought I’ve been giving the hunt.

Do Boy Scouts fare better when laid off?

I have no idea whether Boy Scouts cope better with layoffs; the title question is intended only as an indication that the best way to recover from being laid off is to have been prepared in the first place. One of the best specific pieces of advice I’ve seen in that regard was from Jerry Stalick on LinkedIn (the LinkedIn link goes to the question; Jerry’s answer is on the second page (he’s billed as “Jerry S.” if you’re not logged in). LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy to link to a specific answer, but there’s a decent amount of goodness throughout the thread):

Apply for other jobs from time to time (once a year) and go to the interviews, even if you don’t intend to take the job (I may get blasted for this, but if you haven’t been in an interview in 10 years and suddenly you get laid off, this can be a traumatic experience… practice in advance helps a lot!). It may be that the new opportunity you are looking at might be better than your current gig.

Having been on more than my share of interviews in the last three-plus years, I can also recommend being eager but not desperate.

Where’s Alec Baldwin When You Need Him?

I really enjoy this clip:

For context, here is the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross to which it pays homage:

So what does this have to do with the job hunt? Two things: First, Always Be Looking (the best “ABC” I have come up with is “Always Be Comparing”, but that seems like more of a stretch than it’s worth): even if you have a job, maybe you could have a better job; or maybe you just want to see what’s out there (perhaps in case the job you have isn’t as secure as you think it is). One of the best pieces of “how do you handle being laid off?” advice I ever saw was, in effect, “Always Be Looking”: Go on an interview or two every year, whether you think you’re interested in the job or not, just to keep the muscles toned. If you continue to be happy in the job you still have, so much the better, since you won’t be wondering what else is out there. If the worse thing happens, at least you’ll still have recent practice with the process—and if you handled it gracefully, maybe you’ll have some contacts at places you wouldn’t mind working.
The second thing these scenes bring to mind is—with all due respect and sympathy—maybe the problem is not that the leads are weak; maybe the problem is you. A substantial amount of the hunt is within your control: figure out what you want to do; figure out who does it; figure out how far you’re willing to move to get a (better) job; make contacts at your target company or companies; make yourself the best possible candidate for your job of choice (ideally, you will have chosen a field of endeavor for which you are already well suited); put yourself on the market; keep yourself on the market until sold (those last two with apologies to Robert Heinlein).

On Settling

I just renewed this domain name, resolving that I need to post here some more. As could be inferred from the dearth of posting hereabouts (and as was more explicit on Twitter, I found myself employed toward the end of February. Substantial pay cut, and a job not very well suited to my strengths. So why did I take it, and nearly a year on, do I think it was the right thing to do?
Short answers: Desperation; and I don’t know, but I’d do it again.
Longer answers: After more than a year on the market, I was sick unto death of the drill. I had gotten at least to the phone interview stage, and frequently to the in-person interview stage at nearly every place I was remotely interested in working, but had not managed to close the deal. I think in a couple cases, I may have priced myself too high, which certainly contributed to my willingness to compromise for my current job. But why would I take a job that’s neither what I want to do, nor am especially good at (when I say I am not especially good at the job, in this case, I mean relative to my own skill set: it is far from what I’m best at, but I can exceed the job requirements nearly literally in my sleep)? Two primary reasons, that are really the same reason: so I can make the job what I want it, and so that I can look for another job while getting paid.
So how’d that go? Mixed, I’d say: the job stayed the same for ten months, at least nominally, though was able to insert myself into design discussions, with decreasing resistance. And recently, I’ve been elevated nominally to a role with greater responsibility. We’ll see in January what the first round of money increase looks like, and official “promotion” can’t come till some months after that, though it will supposedly have additional money attached.
So, really, that’s worked roughly to plan. And yet. The manager who originally hired me was completely disengaged, which contributed to it taking ten months instead of four or eight to get the job change arranged. There is appalling dysfunction in every area of the company I’ve seen. The best of the management structure are, in my opinion, well-meaning but ineffective. The worst at every level are parochial turf-extenders. It’s not really a place I enjoy working very much.
So why am I still there? Because it’s still preferable to unemployment, and because I haven’t seen anything preferable come along. My interviews in 2008-2009 convinced me that I’m not interested in being a developer for even a medium-sized software shop: for a DBA, I’m an outstanding developer; and for a developer, I’m a decent DBA(/DBE); but if you want a DBA or a developer, you can find many, many other better ones. And most folks who are looking for system architecture are either thinking “system” means “IT system” or think that intimate familiarity with the details of the system matters more than understanding the implications of design choices. And maybe the latter are right, but I prefer to think not.

Unemployment vs. the Job Search

After a few months doing contract work for my most recent real employer, I’m back in search mode, and—unless something extremely unexpected happens—back on unemployment.
Collecting unemployment is, in some ways, incompatible with a good job hunt.  First, you must have three legitimate job contacts per week.  The majority of these contacts will, most likely, take the form of a job application.  Of course, if you’re doing it right, before you apply for a job you’ll do serious research on the company, verify that it’s a place you want to work, maybe even get to know some of the folks who work there, that sort of thing. At one of the training events provided by the good people—and I do mean that sincerely—of Worksource Washington, in fact, I understood the trainer to advocate hanging around the office of a place you might want to work. This would let you know about the environment, and would let them get to know you, so if an opening came up (yes, you should do this even if they have no openings), you would be likely to spring to mind.
Even if you don’t go to quite that extent, there is genuine effort involved in deciding that company X is a place you want to work. I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to put that kind of effort into three companies a week—it is your job, after all—but I will say it strikes me unlikely that there are enough interesting companies to sustain that level of effort through a lengthy search (a rule of thumb I’ve run into a couple times is that you should expect your search to take a month for every $10k of salary you’re looking for).
But let’s say you do it: you use all the available resources to find companies in your industry of expertise, and you find three of them each week that are suitable for you and that are likely enough to have openings that it’s reasonable to give them a résumé (or, better yet, have a personal conversation with a hiring manager). By the time one of them gets back to you, you’ve probably gone through the same process with ten more companies, and if there’s one thing everybody loves to hear, it’s “which one were you again?” I completely blew a phone interview with a company I think I would have genuinely enjoyed working for (let’s call them A), because I had just gotten a phone call from another company (B) I wanted to work for a lot, and was thinking about the upcoming company B phone interview instead of focusing on the phone interview with A that I was actually in the middle of. Then, when the hiring manager from B called, the first thing he said was “Looking at your résumé, I don’t know why the HR recruiter thought you’d be right for this.” It rather put me off my game. But I digress.
I guess whatever point I may have is that it is far too easy to browse Monster, Indeed, TheLadders, or your job board of choice, fill out three online applications a week, and wonder why you don’t get any callbacks. On the other hand, it is physically and emotionally exhausting to make a serious effort at three openings a week (four a week if you’ve exhausted standard and emergency benefits and are on to extended). And you’ll still probably only get a 10-25% callback rate.
Take care of yourselves.

Welcome to the Job Hunt Guy Blog

Greetings, soon-to-be loyal readers, and welcome to the Job Hunt Guy Blog. Over the coming days, I plan to offer advice, pointers to resources, and a certain amount of whining amusing anecdotes to help take my mind off the search.

Unless, of course, I get a job.