Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Less Unemployed Worker: THE LONG SIEGE ENDS

HIRED:  What Worked...and What Did NOT

Took about a month's break from posting because life got incredibly busy and complicated by a major job interview, more storm ravages to deal with, a family affair to attend, prepping our house for marketing, chasing down (and still not plugging) an elusive water leak, and just an amazing amount of “other stuff” to deal with.

A New Beginning

The good news from me is that the interview referenced above eventually led to a job offer that I accepted last week. But not before I was confronted at the last moment with the dreaded question: What is the minimum salary that you would accept? It’s a downright insulting question, to be sure. But employers feel very bold about asking it these days. Prepare yourself for it, folks, because you DEFINITELY don’t want to answer it directly. If you give too high a number, you’ve lost the job. If you give too low a number, you either sell yourself short or accept a lower salary than they were prepared to offer. (If you’re completing an online application form that demands an entry, just fill the box with zeros). I was able to successfully avoid quoting a number by saying, “I know that “CompanyName” will be fair, and value the position appropriately. Can you give me a ballpark range to consider?” I was immediately given a range that I felt was acceptable and we agreed to the middle of the range.

The Garden Path

Work starts for me in a few days. Now, the truth is that I wound up in a lower level position than the one from which I was laid off six months ago, with a corresponding lower pay level. So that’s another side of this weird economy. I wonder what the proportion is of people who have ended their unemployment period but who are earning considerably less now than they earned previously. I’m betting that many of the formerly unemployed are in this predicament. I must research that statistic.

That being said, please understand that I am thrilled to have this opportunity, and I believe the company will reward great performance. So all I have to do is BE GREAT! Right?


I guess one lesson to be learned from this experience is: Network, Network, Network! There will be days that you wake up and just cannot face your computer or another day of looking at Linked-In questions or job boards. Your stomach might even turn at the first sight of the WELCOME screen. If that happens, take a break. But don’t give up.  Don't ever give up.

Never Give Up!

Here’s how it all worked for me: But first I'll tell you what did NOT work: I have not counted the number of online applications that I painstakingly submitted over the months. But there were dozens. I may have had one response altogether. Not a very effective use of time, to say the least. There were a few possibilities (from knowing someone who knew someone) that seemed promising for a while, but which fell apart for reasons like: “We hired someone from within,” or “The job requisition was revoked,” or “We thought we would have an opening by now, but it looks like it will be delayed for several months,” and one most infuriating sudden and abrupt and inexplicable cessation of communications around a position that had seemed made for me!  But if you can get introduced to a hiring manager through a mutual associate it is a GREAT way to at least come under consideration. Take full advantage of any such opportunities.  They can definitely bear fruit for you.

What DID work for me:  Right after the layoff, I had been given a listing -- compiled by a Business Development person who I encountered in my previous job -- of Pharma companies in Central New Jersey and Greater Philadelphia, and contact persons that he had known in his earlier career as a recruiter. So, about two months ago, when I had learned my way around Linked-In, I began cold-contacting people at the listed companies in the hope that there might be an unadvertised opening on which I could capitalize. I used Linked-In People Search to find persons at each company who could possibly be hiring managers in my field of expertise.

Many thanks to Olivier Taupin for the following search tip!

In the People Search field enter, “CompanyName” and (“Vice President” or “Director” or “CEO”) and “ProfessionalFieldName,” for example.

Things Began to Come Together

You’ll have to experiment a little but you’ll find that people who are likely to be relevant hiring managers will eventually pop up in your search results. If you can find a public email address for the person, use it, or if you can send a Linked-In message to that person by virtue of being a connection or belong to a common Linked-In Group, do it that way. In my case, I took advantage of a Linked-In introduction through a common connection. This can work very well, because a common connection can be almost like an instant recommendation!

Now…very important: Take time to write as perfect of an introductory letter as possible, and then carefully customize it for each situation in which you use it. It should not look at all like a form letter when you send it to a person with whom you are hoping to connect professionally.  And don't be afraid to follow up a week or so later.   Several of those that I contacted acknowledged  receipt [That your efforts most often will be ignored is a sad side effect of  the job search in this economy. You must force yourself to keep from being overly discouraged.] of my letter, and a few led to very encouraging dialogues with me that might eventually have led to position possibilities.  During your search, anything that feels positive can buoy you through the rough waters and inject new energy to your search.

Rough Waters

One such contact eventually led to the position that begins next week:  I had sent a detailed note to the company’s CEO via a Linked-In introduction by a mutual associate. It took some time for the CEO to respond and initially the response seemed to be the usual somewhat disappointing : “We don’t have anything now, but why don’t you send me your resume in case something  does turn up.”

And three weeks later she called me. "We don't really have a position, but I think we need someone with your skills and experience."  A month later, after an extended dialog in which I worked very hard to convince my potential boss [Not the CEO] that I had something to offer -- I was hired.

So after six long months of many discouraging disappointments, the story ended quite happily.

Happy Ending

To summarize:

First: You must make a huge effort to  learn the ropes if you are not a natural networker! Most of us are not, and feel uncomfortable asking for help.  Even if you have to force yourself, do it.  Soon it will become easier as you discover how gracious your associates will be.

Second: Be prepared for ups, downs, and discouraging experiences. They will happen -- and they WILL also end eventually. 

Third (from previous posts):  Be willing  -- and offer to help others. In my case, I was so touched by the number of people that sincerely wanted to help me, that I vowed to make it part of my business to offer help to as many others as I could. And I intend to stay available even though I now have a new position.

A Mother's Help

Fourth (from previous posts):  Relationships that you have with recruiters may be very different than those that you remember from your working days. If they have a particular search they are running, and if you fit the bill perfectly, they will work to get you hired for that position. If not…you may possibly never hear from them again. And worse -- they may not answer your phone calls or emails. It is a different world these days.

Fifth:  Take advantage of your connections to provide introductions to potential hiring managers. The majority of  jobs do not get posted on job boards. But an astute hiring manager will recognize a good hire when they see one! Once introduced, you still have to do the work to seal the deal. You CAN do it!

Hope, Arkansas

Since this saga of my unemployment has come to an end, I’m going to be shifting the topic of this blog going forward. I’m now into my third month of involvement with a Transformational Coach, and learning things about myself that I never imagined. The goal is to find the “core” of what has always prevented me from traveling down the path to personal happiness. We have begun to “peel the onion” –  a process that is supposed to, in the end, free up the potential that I’ve only touched tangentially up to now. I’m working out an approach to sharing this very personal experience without exposing too much of my “soul.” It’s a fascinating experience and under the guidance of a special coach could open doors to fulfillment I never dared to imagine. Could be an interesting journey if you care to tag along for the ride.  Could maybe even change YOUR life!

   All photography by Michelle Alton