CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for September, 2010

Day 20: Being Sick on the Job Hunt Stinks

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

I had a good interview this morning. Perhaps I should say that I did well in my interview this morning.

I woke up sick and with almost no voice to speak with. After spending some time coaxing it back into life, I was able to get to and make it almost all the way through the interview without it failing on me. By the end of the interview I had made myself a viable candidate, but was quite ill by the time I made it home. After a couple of initial follow-ups I pretty much fell apart, being either unconscious or incoherent for the rest of the day.

Much as fate has a nasty way of throwing up these roadblocks, if you can avoid this situation somehow I highly recommend it.

As you can imagine it drove my contacts to distraction pretty quickly. Of course I didn’t discover this until the fever cleared, and it made it difficult to figure out what had occurred during my personal “outage”. I have some explaining to do which will hopefully be understood.

In any case, some recovery is in order and taking it easy is going to be a priority to make sure this doesn’t get worse. It’s better to lose a day than to lose a week.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Days 18-19: Rapid Motion and Negotiation

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

Lots of activity and some added stresses marked days 18 and 19.

Firstly, a couple of opportunities appeared very suddenly and had a lot of pressure behind them. Both had a good head of steam behind them before I came into the picture and some very motivated people were looking to close some deals.

On the one hand this is a good thing. Motivated people who like what you bring to the table are interested in negotiating to make everything work and remove as many roadblocks as they can. There’s great energy involved and for the right role it’s a very easy decision.

On the other hand there’s a lot of pressure to decide and act, often without enough time to fully absorb the implications of the decision or action. When not everything sounds right it can be hard to get answers or to understand what those answers mean.

The hardest part of these particular opportunities is that I really like the consulting companies and people from those companies involved. I’ve had great discussions with them and I think their approach and strategies are solid. They’ve been interested and have pursued me to the point where it’s both flattering and a little overwhelming.

By the end of Tuesday, some change occurred on the client side making one of the discussions moot. However an interview was slated for Wednesday morning (more to come on that in Day 20) and all systems are go.

There is a danger in moving forward and a danger in staying still, but having information makes all the difference in decision making processes.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Days 15 to 17: Up! Down! Up!

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

A wild ride through the last few days has left me a bit tired.

I spent two days largely in wait for some spark in the search. Sadly, much as I put a bunch of effort into follow ups and new leads, I’m not seeing progress that I’d like. Then again, where one door closes I’m looking for the ones that open beyond.

It seems that often, just when an opportunity disappears there are another two to take its place. In the last couple of days two positions that were moving forward have closed. Each time there’s a natural let down, but the pendulum has been pushed up again each time with new options.

I have had a number of positive discussions and there are a number more to come in the next week.

Admittedly I’m not feeling particularly insightful this evening, but there are lots of positive signs.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

What is Working on the Search: A Small Vignette

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

As you can imagine, I’ve been voraciously looking for ideas and guidance to help in the job search. What I’ve been surprised at is how little variation there is in the copious articles, books and videos out there.

Taking my own experience and casting it against the backdrop of all the material I’ve read, this is what has been working and how it compares with common wisdom:

  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who knows you’re looking and interested in your success” – Rather than the adage that “who you know” is the most important, it’s really about connecting with the right person. Knowing someone isn’t enough, you have to actively connect. The thought is summed up nicely by J.T. O’Donnell’s comment that “it’s the physical connecting that gets you hired” in “Is getting a job really about who you know?” by Anthony Balderrama that my wife stumbled across on CNN.com
  • “Polish your interviewing skills” – No matter how good you have been in the past, practice is important. This seems to be a pretty consistent theme in conventional wisdom dissertations.
  • “Every lead is a good lead” – I haven’t found anybody to really agree directly with me on this, but no matter how odd a lead looks there’s always something positive to learn from it or another connection to be made through it. Opportunity usually only knocks once and you never know when something that looks like a blind alley has a golden door at the other end.
  • “Be flexible and be polite” – You’re the one who’s asking for favors. Even if someone’s working to find you a job, it’s your job to make it easier on them. Make yourself available however, wherever and whenever you can to connect on the other person’s schedule.

That simple? Pretty much.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Day 14: Following Up on Leads and Submissions

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Peter Fitzgerald is chronicling his process of navigating from losing his job to a new and brighter tomorrow. To read other posts from the series, see “Job Transition: A CareerSherpas’ Odyssey”.

I had a good phone screen this morning followed by a strange and disjointed “video interview” process with a recruiting company.

I can see how the video interview concept could be very useful. It gives the hiring manager the opportunity to see their candidates and put a “live” face to a resume. On the flip side it feels like you’re coming into a video dating service. Admittedly mine was a bit less organized than it should have been since one set of questions wasn’t available beforehand, but even taking that into account it stands out as one of the stranger pieces I’ve gone in for in this search. I fully admit that it made me more nervous than it probably should have, but it didn’t help that my voice kept cracking in mid sentence.

The phone screen, by comparison, was a relaxing experience. I find it engaging to be able to connect with a person, to really understand where they’re coming from, and to share how I fit into their puzzle. It helps that it seems it went well.

I’m ending the day following up with people who haven’t gotten back to me. Not the most fun of exercises, but definitely important if any of those opportunities are going to go anywhere. Dealing with a lack of communication tends to be a delicate matter.

If you’re dealing with a recruiter, it can mean a lot or it can mean nothing. Given the recruiters I’ve worked with in my career, the initial recruiter responses generally fall into a handful of categories, which says a lot about how you should be able to follow up:

  • “I’m really excited to meet you, but I don’t have a good fit right now.” In this case, following up isn’t too hard, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll call you. This might also come along with the message that you should keep in touch. The good news here is that following up once a week is a great way to be top of mind when a good fit shows up.
  • “I’m thinking this would be a good fit, but it isn’t in your sweet spot.” Often when submitted for these kinds of positions it’s a hit or miss type of arrangement. If you hit, it moves fairly rapidly. If you miss, you may never hear from this recruiter again. No harm in following up, but don’t push too hard.
  • “I’ve got these positions that look like good fits for you, which ones do you think make sense?” Personally, I like this response. It shows that you have someone who thinks they can place you and is looking to see (and even interested in) where you want to be. Not hearing from someone in this case is usually not a bad thing and probably means that the process at the hiring company is moving slowly. Checking in periodically and asking what sort of time frame you’re looking at probably will give a pretty clear idea on what to expect.
  • “I’ll let you know if something comes up that looks like a match.” This would be my least favorite response. In my experience it’s roughly equivalent to saying “I’m putting you on the shelf.” Recruiters take note, this is a real put-off and doesn’t come across as being as nice as you think it does. A better option would be to suggest that the candidate call you after some specified time period to follow up. In any case, checking in no more than once a week is probably wise.

In each case the odds of you actually getting a call back if there isn’t a direct submission in play are pretty much zip, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t touch base periodically. Giving yourself a shot at being top of mind when the right role comes along never hurts.

If you’re dealing with someone you’ve applied directly to it gets a bit trickier. In this case it’s all about who your contact for the position is and being judicious about how you approach them. Gauging how frequently and by what means you should follow up with someone is a very delicate balancing act. You don’t want to over-do it and appear pushy (or desperate), but you do need to know what’s going on.

The most direct and honest approach is usually the best: Just ask.

You’re trying to prevent yourself from being a pest here. So asking up front what kind of time line the company’s process works on and if, when and how you should follow up allows the other person to set the rules that suit them. Particularly if you’re talking to the hiring manager, it doesn’t hurt to show initiative in meeting their needs.

Get in there, follow up, and make every check in a positive experience for you and whoever is on the other end of the line. Whether they’re a recruiter, internal human resources representative or hiring manager it’s worth the effort – so long as you aren’t pestering them!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, looking for a new day job, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.