This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Laid Off: Day 7

Posted By Paul

I'm sorry I haven't been posting more, but I've been busy revving up the job hunting machine. Here are some things that I have done so far:

-Updated my resume. This for me was top priority. You never know when you're going to make a contact that has job lead potential and the first step in the job lead process is almost always a resume. I updated mine as soon as possible (not only did it get me thinking towards the future but I was able to update it while my work at my old job was still fresh in my mind), and I had the luxury of having a couple of good friends review it for me for feedback. Updating a resume seems like such a simple task but it can easily take a day or two to get it really polished. Also since you're never sure when you're going to find a job lead I try to carry a few nicely printed copies of my resume in my car. One of my proudest job hunt moments was back in 2001. I was having lunch with a friend and they had brought a friend of theirs along. Turns out this friend of a friend worked for a company that was hiring. I gladly took their business card and was able to reach into my bag and give them a copy of my resume that we were able to talk about right at the table.

-Got references lined up. This was step two. Several people at my old company gave me their contact info and said I could use them as a reference. I made sure to get in touch with them and get their contact info and confirm that they were willing to be a reference. In addition I try to give my references some lead time every time I expect that they will be contacted (essentially every time a potential employer asks for my references). The idea is that a professional reference is someone acting on YOUR behalf as part of YOUR job hunt, so you should give them every opportunity to do it well. I once got a call from a company asking me to be a reference for an old colleague of mine (I'll call him John Doe). I'd worked with John, but it had been a few months and I've never been particularly good with names. When they told me the name it actually took me a few moments to remember who they were talking about. Once I remembered I was able to give the best reference I could, but those few awkward moments where I was struggling to remember who John Doe was probably didn't reflect well on John Doe. Cases like that are not only impolite, but if I am totally surprised by a call from some company asking for a reference for someone, then I simply can't give as good of a reference as I could have if I had been given some warning. Also, I suspect it's annoying for companies to ask for references and be told something like "I can get them to you in a day or two while I line them up". If a company goes to the trouble of checking your references it probably means you have a good chance of getting a job, don't give them any reason to hesitate, have those references ready to go.

-Wrote a "basic" cover letter. Fairly often you are asked to write a cover letter (even with resumes sent via email). I try to include a cover letter whenever possible, but I try to make sure it's a GOOD cover letter. I don't just have one cover letter that I use for every job I apply for. I think that a hiring manager can smell a form-cover letter a mile away, and I think it sort of makes your whole application feel like junk mail. Instead I keep a general outline for a cover letter that I try to personalize for each company I apply for. I think that makes a MUCH better impact to whoever reads it.

-Kept in touch with my colleagues. I really like to keep in touch with the people I worked with. Not only is it nice to have a group of people to encourage each other and share the experience with, but it can often be a great opportunity to share leads. The obvious thought is that these people are competing with me for the same jobs, and that's probably true, but the way I see it, there are enough jobs to go around, and usually the benefit far outweighs the potential risk. For example I came across a job lead where I didn't have all of the skills required, but I knew an ex-coworker who did. It was easy for me to send the job lead to them. Not only do I help them out, but if they end up getting the job, that's one less person looking for jobs in competition with me. Perhaps I find a job that requires relocation that I don't want to do, but maybe one of my colleagues is willing to do that. I can send it to them and help them out and maybe they'll return the favor. Also, let's say I get a job. It's common to still be contacted with job leads for days and maybe even weeks after (simply because a lot of people with your resume think you're still looking), and what a great opportunity to say: "I'm no longer looking, but I have colleagues that would be perfect for this job."

-Claimed unemployment. Not much to say here, it's nice that you can now file your claims online.

-Took a good look at my finances. This is an important step. Thanks to our emergency fund my wife and I can weather this storm for a long time if we have to. Our hope is that between my company severance and unemployment we won't even have to touch our emergency fund, but boy it sure is nice to have it there.

-Made plans for health insurance. As part of my severance my company is covering my health insurance for a couple more months. That's great but I've already started looking into health insurance options. I know people who will let their health insurance lapse as a way to save money while job hunting, but I REALLY think this is a terrible risk to take. If you go without dental or vision for a while to save a few bucks I think that's fine, but to go without basic medical insurance...just don't do it if you can possibly avoid it.

-Made some goals. I try to find and apply for 2-4 new jobs every day. That may not sound like much, but it's actually a pretty good pace. I've found that by trying to find a minimum of two new job opportunities each day (and I mean realistic job opportunities, I'm not trying to apply to be a pharmacist or some other job that I'm totally unqualified for) it forces me to keep hunting around for leads, and it keeps me from burning out on the job hunt.

-Kept a positive attitude. There are lots of jobs out there for someone who is willing to learn and work hard. I believe that keeping a positive attitude not only makes your "forced vacation" more pleasant, but it also keeps you from appearing burned out or desperate when you interview with someone.

-Been patient. I've submitted my resume to several places already but I have to remember that it could easily be a week or two before I am contacted by a company that's interested in me. Though companies are often eager to fill spots, many places only evaluate submitted resumes once or twice a week, so depending on when your submitted your resume it might be a week before someone even looks at it.

Well, that's about all that's going on here. Hopefully soon I'll be able to post some stories that are about preparing for and going on interviews.

Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Good work. You sound as if you're in a good position, considering. Things will work out.

Peace, bro.

ActiveJobseekers said...

Great article. I find it very useful and informative. A service I also find useful is a new online resource called ActiveJobseekers.com. It is a a place where job seekers Actively looking for jobs can create resumes for free and also announce their availability to employers.

Employers can then contact these job seekers knowing fully well that the candidate is actively looking for job.


Great article. I find it very useful and informative.


Leah in Oregon said...

Good luck, Paul!

Great advice about the references. ALWAYS let your references know you'd like to use them, and make sure they give their ok. I've been contacted a few times by companies asking for a reference for someone I thought was a terrible employee. If they'd only asked me first, I would have recommended that they not use me.