Nothing Special, Really

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tips On Finding A Job

First of all, a sincere thank you to all the well-wishers from my last post. 18 comments: I'm completely humbled by it all. Thank you.

I don't think the gravity of all this will hit until I actually go to work on March 10th. The past couple of days have felt like the past couple of months. I'm still broke, I still stay up too late, and I still spend most of my time at home. I haven't even stopped looking at new jobs. It's habit I guess.

I did some proper celebrating of the new occupation on Friday night. Several of my friends joined me for the evening, and I proceeded to get fully drunk that night. I only remember about half of the conversations, and one of the ones I do remember was a bit embarrassing. I also showed off my lonely nipple, and capped off the night by knocking down anything in my path on the walk back and\or putting construction cones on random cars. I still think there's a dumpster or two that's still on its side thanks to me.

Anyways, the celebration was somewhat bittersweet knowing that many of my former coworkers are still looking for jobs, not to mention several friends that are facing layoffs in the near future. Although I've certainly put in the effort to finally find a new job, I can't help but feel that, even after being unemployed for over 9 months, that I was lucky. There were probably several qualified candidates that applied for this job, and I think it's reasonable to assume that some of them were more qualified than me.

It goes without saying that things are scary these days, and even those that aren't facing layoffs currently are still not completely safe from future layoffs. Job security is a thing of the past, and I don't think you can be too prepared to search for a new job at anytime. So, I wanted to share some things that I learned during this process.

1. Build A Network

Without question, I think the biggest factor to finding a new job these days is building a network. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one now. If you do, add me if you haven't already. Keeping in touch with former colleagues, industry connections, and friends was absolutely instrumental in getting the interviews I did initially and, ultimately, my new job. It was the interview that got me my new position, but it was a recommendation from someone I interviewed with in August, someone that didn't even hire me, that got my foot in the door.

I heard on the news the other night that some position for an utilities company in Tacoma received over 1400 applications. I can guarantee you that the recruiter for that position did not look at every single one of those resumes. You can have a beautifully designed resume, a huge amount of relevant experience, and be the first one to apply for the job, and your resume may still not get noticed. However, if you can get your resume in the hands of someone in the company on the suggestion of someone that you mutually know, that will help you more than anything else. It certainly makes the recruiter's job easier; most recruiters or hiring managers will prefer to look over a resume that's recommended from someone they trust over sorting through tens or hundreds of unknown resumes. I would estimate that at least 40% of the interviews I went on were the result of working with someone in my network. To put it another way; I increased the number of interviews I had by 67% because of networking.

LinkedIn is the easiest way to maintain a network. This isn't a paid advertisement, just a strong recommendation. It's like Myspace or Facebook for professional purposes. The majority of my connections are friends or former colleagues, but each time I applied for a job, I would go through my connections to see if anyone I knew also knew someone at the company for which I was applying. If so, I would ask them to either send my resume to their connection and\or introduce me to their connection. In certain circumstances, if I made a good connection with someone I was interviewing, I would add them as a LinkedIn connection after the interview. I can give more suggestions on ways to use LinkedIn, but without a doubt, if you aren't actively using a LinkedIn profile, you are immediately at a disadvantage against anyone who is.

2. Continually Revise Your Resume

I've read and heard from various sources that you should tailor your resume each time you apply for a new job. I suppose that there must be some truth to that if so many people agree, but I believe you only have to do that to an extent. Many of the positions I applied for were very similar, so I didn't have to change it very often, but what I did do was create multiple versions of my resume when certain positions didn't fit.

The most common position I was applying for was an HR Generalist position, but I also applied for other similar positions that didn't share that job title. Both of these resumes were identical with one exception; in my objective, I mentioned that I my goal was a position as an HR Generalist or HR Professional, respectively. Aside from those positions, I also applied for a couple jobs in HRIS, the field of HR I was in with my previous employer. Because these positions required a different set of skills and experience, I revised my resume to highlight those qualities first. Finally, when I was at risk of running out of unemployment, I began applying for various non-HR jobs; that resume highlighted my experience in management or customer service over my HR experience. The point here is that you shouldn't expect your resume to fit each and every position you apply for. If you're applying for positions that have different job titles, you should at least have one resume for each.

More importantly, take the time to constantly reevaluate your resume, especially if you aren't getting a lot of responses from potential employers. I revised my resume no less than 6 times over the past couple of months. When I first started looking for jobs, my resume listed my experiences and accomplishments in terms of where I made the biggest impact. This resume was helpful in securing a couple of interviews for HRIS positions, but I was more interested in Generalist jobs. Once I revised my resume to list my accomplishments in terms of what was more relevant to Generalist positions, interest from potential employers was noticeably different. If you feel that your resume needs improvement, I'll certainly offer to look over any requests, but there are also many businesses, not to mention internet sites, that can also help with this.

3. Stay Positive

At times, this was the hardest part for me; loyal blog readers know how frustrated I've been during this process. I was luckier than others in that my frustration wasn't due to a lack of interest by employers; I know former colleagues who have had a lot less interview than I've had. For me, the frustration was due to coming close on many occasions but not quite making it all the way. It got easier to deal with after each rejection, but it never stopped being frustrating.

Aside from being rejected, there was also the frustration I got just from working out the bugs of finding a job. I was by no means a seasoned job searcher when I got laid off, and I made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way. I did everything from being overaggressive with my follow ups to being under-prepared for the interview to trying to shortcut my cover letter by copying and pasting a previous one yet forgetting to change the name of the company in the letter. It was hard enough trying to find a job; it only made it more frustrating that I was, at times, sabotaging myself.

I wrote a blog post several months back talking about the parallels between dating and finding a job. Even with the job I have now, I think the parallels are there. I didn't get this job because I tried something new; it was just a case of the timing being right, the chemistry being present, and the fact that both parties had something the other wanted. Rejection hurts, whether it's by a girl or by a recruiter (I can't say whether or not the rejection pain doubles if the recruiter is a girl, but I bet it would if they happened to be an ex-girlfriend) but in both situations, you're better off the sooner you stop wallowing in self-pity and get back out on the market. I believe in both situations that it's not the case of finding "the one"; it's about continually putting yourself in positions to find one of the many opportunities that fit for you. The refrain "it's not you, it's me" applies to both situations, and instead of dwelling on the fact that it doesn't work out, it's easier to concentrate on the fact that you're doing the right thing, it's just the wrong opportunity

(disclosure: I hate to get all mushy on you, but another parallel between dating and jobs is that, in both cases, I believe that I have the best of both worlds and have no plans on leaving either.)

There's definitely more to finding a job than those three points, but in my experience, those aspects were the most crucial to getting to the point I'm at today. I wouldn't have got this job if I didn't build and maintain the network that I have, and even though my network helped me get the interview, I don't know if I would have had the same result if I was still circulating my original resume. And I'm certain that if I didn't have the support of my family, my friends, and most importantly, my girlfriend, I don't know if I would have maintained the motivation I needed to keep going.

I'll check back in with an update once I start my new job. Until then, I'm going to enjoy these last few weeks of unemployment.

Trash cans and construction signs: beware.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Last week, during my first interview in three months, I felt that I really hit it off with the HR Director of the company. Of course, this wasn't the first time I felt that way. I've been through several interviews already where I felt very good about the chance, and in some cases, that I had the job locked up. Being through all that, I've become progressively better at making sure I don't get too excited about opportunities until I know for sure. Anyways, during the interview, the HR Director was doing a great job of talking about what my experience would be "if" I got the job, but there was one instance where instead of "if", she used "when". As in "well, you'll see when you get there." Was it an interesting choice of words, or just another example of me reading too much into things? I played it off as the latter and disregarded it. At this point, I knew better.


I met with her again this past Monday, in addition to meeting with the rest of the team. I talked to the HR Manager for about 45 minutes, took a tour of the building, then met with the HR Director for another "chat". She let me do the talking, but at this point, I was fumbling for things to say. I wasn't sure how else I could sell myself to her, but did I need to? We talked about random stuff like communication preferences, our pets, the commute, etc. Then she asked me if I had any other questions. My response was some form of "I just really want this job." She laughed and said "I would hope so."

Then we started talking more details. Possible start dates. Time off. Compensation. I gave the company line about just wanting "fair market value based on the job and the skills I have to offer." She laughed again and said "we're gonna have to work on your negotiation skills."

I didn't want to get too excited, but I couldn't help but notice we were talking pretty casually about something that hadn't happened yet.


I left my job last May. Well, technically, the job left me. I mentioned before that I had an opportunity to stay, making a considerable amount more than I was when I left. I turned it down, thinking that I could find a job that I would enjoy much more for the same money. I never expected that search to last over 9 months.

I've been as close as having my references checked on multiple occasions, only to finish the runner up. So the fact that I was having my references checked this time didn't mean much to me. Been there, done that. I was cautiously optimistic about this chance, but heavy on the "cautiously" part. One of my references called me yesterday, letting me know that he thought it went really well. I got an email from the HR Director letting me know that she was still waiting to hear back from another references. She also mentioned that she wanted to get two reference checks in before getting back to me, not wanting to break the rules especially being in HR. The writing was on the wall, but still, I didn't allow myself to get too excited.


I got a phone call today. I've gotten several of these phone calls before. They've never ended well, but at this point, I was preparing myself for something different.

Over the past 24 hours, I've wondered about how to prepare myself for my first real salary negotiation in the event that I was offered the job. I know that there's usually a chance to counteroffer, but I couldn't help but think that I was missing a lot of leverage:

- I don't have a job right now. Already, I'm in a bad position to be asking for more money
- They have a very robust benefits package. With other companies, I could more easily negotiate a higher salary, but this company was bringing the goods.
- I don't have any other offers to use as leverage, and threatening to stay on unemployment wouldn't be very effective for either party.
- I've never been in this position before; it's essentially a promotional opportunity.
- I knew that, based on the position, any offer was going to be substantially more than what I made in my last job.

Nevertheless, given all that, I didn't want to leave money on the table if possible.

Anyways, it didn't take long for her to confirm what I was cautiously suspecting all along; she offered me the job. And, as irony would have it, it ended up being for the same amount that I turned down 9 months ago.

I'm not much for superstition, but I couldn't help to take it as a sign. I couldn't have accepted the offer fast enough. Negotiation be damned; this is not only the first offer I've had in over 9 months, but it easily blows away any other offer I would have received. Not only that, she's also working with me to help make sure I don't get negatively affected by missing a paycheck from starting so late, and she's also allowing me a bit of time off early on to take a brief vacation. This is everything I've been wanting for the past 9 months; giving her a counteroffer to maybe squeeze a thousand or two out of her seemed inconsequential at that point.


I have a job again. I should be dancing around the apartment, punching the air in excitement, but I'm surprisingly calm. Hell, I just got off the phone with her 40 minutes ago, and I've spent the whole time since then writing this post. I'll let loose tomorrow when I get drinks with my friends, but right now, I just feel relief.

During the interview, I mentioned how there were times I was unsure if I made the right decision turning down the offer with my last company. It was a lot of money, and as times got more desperate over the past couple of months, I fixated on that sole factor. But I told the HR Director that I still thought it was the right decision if it meant that I was available for opportunities like my new job. I made that choice back then because I felt it was the right one. I felt there was a better opportunity for me; I was only wrong on how long it would take to get it.

Of course, hindsight is always 20\20. My former company is doing layoffs again, even more massive than before. If I stayed on, I would have been let go this upcoming May anyways. I have a lot of friends that will be affected by this; I have to imagine that we all know someone at this point who's been laid off. It's a hard journey to go down. I've cried many times the past couple of months; I haven't cried that much since I got my DUI three years ago. But I tried my best, and with the help of many others, I stuck with it. I worked on my resume, I worked on my interviewing, I built up my network, but most importantly, I tried to stay positive. Just once, I only needed to all come together just once.

Finally, after nine months, it did. And I've never been more excited to go back to work in my life.

Thank you everyone who's supported me during this time. I'd hate to think how worse of I would have been without you.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Waiting Patiently

I know some of you are, as am I. I haven't left you any updates about my last interview because the outcome is still unknown. At this point, I'm in the same position I've been in with previous opportunities: optimistic but not certain.

I hope to know more by the end of the week. Suffice it to say I'll follow up with an epic blog post, for better or for worse.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Nine Months, Without Labor

I'd pretty much emotionally recovered from the Super Bowl by the time I woke up today. As emotionally invested as I was in the game, it didn't take me long to recover. Perhaps it's because football isn't my number one sport. I've been bummed out longer because of regular season Suns losses, especially ones against the Spurs. Not lately though; this year's Suns team is a mess. The victory tonight was good, but I wish we could have just won by two, and then retroactively applied those other 46 points to other losses. Why didn't they have this closed door meeting before the Spurs game the other night?

Tuesday marks a special anniversary, my 9th month of unemployment. I certainly never expected it to last this long. I've had my moments over the past couple months where I regretted turning down the offer to stay with my former company, but I'm absolutely positive now it was the right thing to do. They just announced today they're laying off another 7000 employees, including most if not all of the San Francisco office. I feel awful for my former boss, who sold her house and moved down there for her new job around Thanksgiving time. She was happy to move to California, but now, at this expense, I wonder if she still thinks it's worth it. Talked with a former co-worker about it today, no word yet if the rest of the Seattle employees who stuck around are affected, but my former boss's boss seems to think that they will. Talk about a clusterfuck of emotions in the past 12 months!

Anyways, given all that, I definitely made the right move. I've now had 9 months of experience of being on the market. As each day passes, there's potentially more and more competition for the declining number of jobs I'm seeing, many of those possibly more experienced than I am. But unlike them, I've honed in my interviewing and networking skills, and I'll have a chance to put those to the test Tuesday with my first in person interview in almost 3 months.

Talking about how good this opportunity is seems irrelevant; any job at this point is a good opportunity. With that said, this job has everything I had in mind when I was being more selective about my job search over the summer. It's funny to think that when I was first laid off, I limited my job search to jobs downtown so I didn't have to drive again. I've definitely broadened my search since then, and all I can do is hope that being that selective is some miraculous way of being available for a better opening now. Positive thinking, you know?

I actually had more to write about tonight, thought about the economy and this whole sense of the sky falling and what not, but I caught that last sentence I wrote and realized that's where I need to end this. I've got about 45 more minutes in me before I head to bed, and it's time to put that energy toward preparing for my interview. Chances like this are few and far between these days. Hopefully all of you are finding ways to stay positive as well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nothing Bittersweet About Today

In my last post, I mentioned how I wouldn't "wuss out" and find solace in victory at the expense of another teams defeat just because my two favorite teams were in the Super Bowl. I chose to root for AZ over Pittsburgh based on the argument I laid out in my last post. What I realized at the end of this game was that the decision I made was not necessarily a conscious one but truthfully one that was made many years ago; I just did not realize it until today.

From an unbiased perspective, this was about as good as Super Bowls get. Amazing individual plays, a close game throughout, a result mostly untarnished by referee's bad calls, and a fourth quarter that kept anyone watching in suspense until there were 5 seconds left.

From a biased perspective, this game really hurts. For the most part, Pittsburgh outplayed AZ, but not in the way most expected. The Steelers' defense was ranked number one, and they showed on several occasions why that was, but they hardly shut down the Cardinals offense. At times, the Steelers' D was in control, but the Cardinals kept this game close not because of a few fluke offensive plays, but instead due to a determined effort to stick with the game plan, and constant effort that resulted in long scoring drives on two of the three touchdowns. Instead, it was the Steelers offense that had its way with the Cardinals defense that I found unexpected.

The fact that Santonio Holmes one MVP is almost as disgusting as the final result. He easily ranks No. 4, behind Big Ben, James Harrison, and Kurt Warner in a losing effort, in my book at least. James Harrison absolutely should have been the MVP of this game, and not just because of the INT. In fact, that ended up being less of a momentum killer than I feared. Aside from that amazing play, he initiated at least two holding penalties on Mike Gandy that absolutely killed the Cardinals' scoring drives, and overall continually interrupted the Cardinals offense. Big Ben was no slouch either; his footwork and poise in the pocket kept alive at least two of the Steelers' scoring drives. He killed the Cardinals with his feet as much as his arm.

Nevertheless, there is no solace in a valiant effort or a hard game played. The Cardinals were within 1 minute of the unbelievable, but in the end, they lost to the better team. The Cardinals were opportunistic and made plays when they had to, but this game ended up coming down to who made the fewest mistakes, and unquestionably, that was the Steelers.

When I said that I wouldn't gloat in a victory by the Steelers, despite them being a team that I've rooted for longer than any other, I thought that was going to be more lip service than anything else. What caught be by surprise more than anything else was how easily and how passionately I was rooting for the Cardinals.

I watched the game at a friend's place, one of those Super Bowl parties where most of the people there were just around because it was party rather than because of an interest in the actual game. In fact, during the last 3 minutes of the 4th quarter, I'm fairly certain I was the only one actually paying attention to the game. But throughout the night, my loyalty to the Cardinals was obvious. Despite the lack of team attire, I dressed up in as much red clothing as possible, and my cheers easily dominated the room whenever I spoke up. I've never considered myself to be an unabashedly raucous fan, but in juxtaposition to the rest of those in attendance, a stranger would have easily considered me a "meathead" based on my enthusiasm compared to the rest. And it was in this enthusiasm that I made a realization.

The Arizona Cardinals are my favorite NFL team.

It's easy to make that statement in victory, so I hope that such a declaration in defeat only adds credence to it. When the Cardinals were up with less than two minutes to spare, it wasn't just that I was cheering for the, it was the passion with which I was. I made a comment to a friend that she shouldn't be surprised if I shed a couple tears if this lead holds up, and that was the truth. In the bathroom after the game, I took a little bit of time to compose myself because I was more distraught than I expected I would be. Caught up in the emotion, I sent a message to a fellow Cardinals fan declaring I renounced my rights as a Steelers fan. Perhaps that is a little bit shortsighted but the essence of the message is true.

I'll continue to cheer on the Steelers when there is no conflict. Next year, if they reach the Super Bowl and wind up facing the Eagles or the Vikings or by some miracle the Lions, there will be no doubt who I am rooting for. They've always been one of my two favorite teams, but tonight, I realized that they're not my number one team.

Even though I purposefully left the Phoenix area almost for years ago, even though every time I go back feels more foreign than the last visit, I still feel a connection to the place. For better or for worse, no matter how much time passes, it is and will always be home. There's a certain feeling of comfort I feel whenever I go back. And as a Phoenix native, I know just how much this loss stings, because I'm feeling it too.

I always declared the Steelers my number one team despite the overwhelming evidence against that. I have no actual ties to the city of Pittsburgh, I don't stay current with Steelers news as often as I do with the Cardinals, and I don't feel the same emotions during there games as much as I do with AZ. My emotions during the Steelers victory over the Seahawks three years ago, a game which my loyalties were never in question despite living in Seattle and being surrounded by Steelers fans, were never intense as they were during those moments in the 4th quarter where victory for the Cardinals was imminent, and certainly not as intense as the let down when the game was finally over.

It is just a game, and even shortly after the game, I was able to move past my sadness, but to say I'm completely over the game is false. I'm still stewing over it, over what could have been, and the reason for that is because, whether I was willing to admit it or not, I was waiting for this moment for 20 years. I declared myself a Steelers fan out of tradition, out of family heritage, but there's no denying that I have a stronger connection with the Cardinals, for that is my hometown, my tradition.

Perhaps, one day, I might be able to find a little bit of satisfaction in the fact that the Steelers won, rather than the Ravens or the Colts or the Chargers, but tonight, make no mistake: I feel the same deflation that everyone back in Phoenix feels because I am an AZ Cardinals fan just like you, I have been all this time. I just didn't fully realize it until today.

(BTW I wrote this after at least 10, maybe 11 beers. I should drink and write more often.)