Saturday, September 25, 2010


Almost from the start, this blog has focused on silver linings and the importance of seeking them, even while trying to cope with the grim realities of unemployment during this extended economic downturn.

In the autumn of 2010, my status is once again, “Unemployed.” But I’m determined not to throw myself back into the misery of self-doubt and depression. And guess what I learned so far? -- There are even silver linings in this seemingly unhappy state of affairs!

After the layoff last year, I launched into a concerted six-month effort to become re-employed. For eight to 12 hours every day, I worked assiduously searching job boards, networking, applying online for jobs, reading advice columns, and reworking resumes. As a highly experienced (aka “older”) professional, a typical day was often fraught with disappointment and frequently I found myself skidding into the depths of despair. My self confidence also took an enormous hit.

Erosion to Despair
With unemployment remaining very high, especially within the Pharmaceutical Industry (whence my experience), there were large queues of people lining up for every new job opening, drastically changing all the old rules of job hunting. Hiring managers were receiving up to 500 resumes on the first day of a job posting. There was no time to read and give each proper consideration. So, in most cases, automated keyword scans were used to screen candidates. If your resume did not contain the "right" words, it was passed over before a human eye ever fell on it.

And if you got past the keyword screening, your experience had to exactly match the experience required by the position description. Phrases like “highly experienced” tipped off the resume screener that the candidate was not youthful and someone less experienced could be hired at a lower salary. Resumes had to be customized for each position—to use the exact words that were used in the job description.
As far as I can tell, the new rules are still in effect.

Personal contact is so much more “real” to a hiring manager than words on a resume. That's why learning how to navigate around the enormously powerful Linked-In system, is a great boon to job hunters. Linked-In works following the notion that any two people are connected to each other by no more than “six degrees of separation.” You can learn a lot more about it by searching online for Linked-In tutorials that will provide pointers. I highly recommend one such tutorial by Olivier Taupin ( ). So, through hooking up with a person who knows another person, we can make contact with someone who works inside a company, who can provide a “personal” introduction—a virtual “foot in the door” providing a “leg up” (to extend the metaphor)  on other candidates that appear among the sea of words placed in front of the hiring manager. And the biggest silver lining I found was that PEOPLE WANT TO HELP! They really do.

We are told that only about ten percent of job openings are advertised. If that is true, then searching job boards, where the competition is heavy for every posted position, seems to be a sure route to more disappointment and despair.


The position I was offered and accepted last March was not advertised. Furthermore a defined position did not even exist. But through networking, at least three people who knew me and also had direct connections to people in upper management positions at the new company, provided strong recommendations for me. And so, after a month of discussions about my experience and skills, they decided to offer me a nondescript director-level position in the Center City Philadelphia company. (I hope you’re reading between the lines here, for another lesson learned—the hard way).

But so far, from this post we can conclude that the keys to finding YOUR job are:

  • Learn how to work the Linked-In System

  • Network

  • To avoid depression and loss of confidence, don’t waste lots of time applying on line to posted positions. If you see a job that appeals to you, try to find a way to network to a person inside the company. It’s not that hard once you learn the system.

  • Network

  • Learn how to work the Linked-In System

  • Network

I hope you’re getting that message:  Networking is key to your success and your self esteem on your journey back to full employment.

OK. From the first paragraph of this post, you know that my “nondescript director-level position” only lasted six months. What happened? I’ll explain all that and go more into the Silver Lining that’s allowing me to still feel the Sunshine.


Let the Sun Shine

   All photography by Michelle Alton, 2010