…now where were we? Oh yeah…1/2 way through my unemployment period…though at the time I thought my ½-way point was my end! Every day I woke up and said “Today I get an interview and the job.” I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.
As I mentioned in Part 1, I learned on February 2nd that my last day would be March 1st. This extended my benefits for an additional month and provided an additional week of severance. My former employer also paid for eight weeks with a “career transition” service company and their resources – which included online training programs. On days when very few new jobs were available to apply for, I was earning my Project Management Professional certification online. But this didn’t make the phone ring.
Why was this taking so long? Was Age-ism at play here? He’s a little Devil that one! No one mentions him when he’s in the room – laws don’t allow it. Laws don’t allow speeding on our highways either, yet people do it every day. HR people get around the law using terms like “experienced,” and “has held several senior positions,” and “challenging fit.” There was no disguising my age on my resume when looking at the school and job history. Was I not getting even initial consideration because of that one factor? I started considering coloring my hair — I guess they call it “low lighting” – when you diminish the appearance of gray for the little bit of natural dark brown that remains. But that just wasn’t who I am.
At eight weeks is when Desperation wanted to stop by to pay me a visit, and maybe take me out to dinner and a movie. I struggled against her willful ways on a daily basis, vile temptress though she was. What I haven’t shared to this point is the certainty that I didn’t want to work in insurance any longer. I don’t think I even uttered those words to my wife, but I know she could sense it from the direction my search was taking me. I was too COMFORTABLE with a capital “C” in insurance, and rarely felt the rush of a challenge. I was no longer learning new things…simply learning new ways to apply existing knowledge to a changing marketplace. At the age 52, with possibly my last job EVER looming on my horizon, I decided I deserved to work WHERE I wanted, WITH whom I wanted, and AS I wanted – and I wanted some FUN! I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead!
As you have read, my wife is my best friend who I use to get a laugh now and again, and I love her dearly. She helped me fight off the wiles of Desperation with her common sense approach, attention to detail, and most of all, her love. She helped me assess my skills and phrase them in terms that most recruiters and HR representatives would understand. She continually challenged me to open my eyes to potential employers and job roles I didn’t personally assess myself qualified for. From this point forward, every position I applied to would have a “targeted” resume that utilized keywords or phrases from the posting, and sold my abilities to that job exclusively. My wife read every resume, made recommendations for improvements, and for three weeks did it from Indianapolis, IN, where she was on a business trip.
By the ninth week of my transition I focused my job search to the following potential employers: Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, Group Health, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Puget Sound Energy, Starbucks, Tommy Bahama, and all of the Puget Sound based insurance companies. Using LinkedIn I found people I knew at most of these companies and began networking. I asked for names and recommendations, willingness on the part of those I knew to take my resume to a hiring manager. The response from friends and acquaintances was overwhelming when they learned I was looking. And I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.
Utilizing these contacts, by week ten I was “in consideration” for 16 different positions with the group of companies listed above. The phone was ringing and first interviews were happening. It was still a much slower process than I was comfortable with; I had only 11 weeks of severance pay in savings. What’s the address again for the Poor House? I needed the second interview. I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.
In week twelve I answered a “blind posting” hosted by a local consulting firm. They posted a process analyst position that I felt I’d read somewhere else before…and it was tailor-made to my skill set. So I registered with them, answered the application questions, and attached a resume not know anything more about the hiring company other than it was in the “greater Puget Sound” area. Five minutes after hitting the SUBMIT button my cell phone started ringing. It was the recruiter for the position I’d just applied. We talked for about ten minutes before she said she wanted to submit my resume to the company who’d hired them (and four other firms) to submit candidates. I said “Yes! Thank you! Would you like to meet in person?” She said time was critical, but she was comfortable enough in speaking to me that the in-person meeting could wait – the company with the opening was taking only five applicants – and it had to be that day.
The silver lining around my cloud began to show a little luster! By one o’clock that afternoon I had full day of interviews scheduled with “the company” and a meeting set for the next morning with “my” recruiter. My smile grew wider, I stood taller, and I started brushing up on my interview techniques.
The short and sweet of it all is that I got the job; I’m having FUN while being challenged to learn a completely new industry; my new co-workers call me “Barney” (you know…the dinosaur!); and I have a new good friend who was formerly my recruiter!
I want to wrap this up with a big Thank You to my wife Carla — without whose support I would have taken Desperation up on her invitation to dinner; all our friends and former co-workers who offered to do “anything” they could to help; and to Kirsten at Wimmer Solutions for her faith in my ability to represent them sight unseen.
And I appreciate that you stayed with me on this 15 week adventure – gazing with me over the lip of the crevasse into the dark depths of unemployment. As a reward for your time investment, here’s a quick list of what I learned on this recently completed swim:
- Unemployment isn’t a TV network sitcom, a simple problem wrapped up in 22 minutes.
It’s more like a season of “Deadliest Catch,” with rough water, lots of competitors on the ocean, and you need to lay out a lot of pots (resumes) to catch a few crabs (phone calls);
- Do not face the challenge of unemployment alone, in a vacuum.
Engage with family, close friends, and peers. You need your support network during this time, and (if you’re a man) this is neither the place nor time for machismo.
- More interview opportunities come from personal contacts than a resume submitted to a mailbox.
- Tailor every resume to the job to which you’re applying.
Yes. It takes more effort, but it shows an interest in the particular position and demonstrates that you read the posting and maybe even researched the company.
- Say “Yes” to every invitation to submit a resume, or take a phone or personal interview.
Even if it isn’t the job you really want, but every interview allows you the chance to practice interviewing skills. That last thing you want is your first interview to be with the one job you’re dying to land!
- Learn how to successfully manage your search on SimplyHired.com, Indeed.com, and LinkedIn.com.
Your profile and keywords are the keys to more posting referrals. Set up “auto-bot” search tools to do the work for you based on your keywords and locations.
- Above all else remember – ATTITUDE is everything – smile, stand tall, and forge ahead!