I had set the somewhat arbitrary date of August 1st to start looking for a consulting job, but as the date approached I found that my anxiety around the whole process increased. Theoretically the entire exercise should have been something I looked forward to. After all, it was something I was interested in doing for a very long time, and I had gone to a considerable amount of trouble to put myself in a position where finding a job wasn’t an emergency. I have no kids depending on me, low monthly expenses, no debt, and could work and live anywhere in the country where we could handle the winter weather in the RV. Lee was totally on board, my skill set was solid, and after a year of working other jobs I was definitely ready to jump back into the professional world. Even with all of those factors in place though, I was very nervous.
It wasn’t just that I had been out of the market for almost two years, but more that I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in more than 10. I worked for the same two companies for 22 years and occasionally I would look and see what was out there, but I was never willing to take the plunge and make the switch. Plus, we lived so far from a major city, Lee had a job he loved, and we had kids in school, so relocation wasn’t really a good option…at least not for a voluntary job change. Now I can look across the entire country, and have way more choices, which is overwhelming in its own way.
I have been faced with seemingly overwhelming tasks before, and the best way for me to handle them is to break them down in smaller chunks and just start the process. And instead of waiting another week, I woke up on Wednesday (after another restless night) and decided to begin. Most of my work information is on my laptop, which rarely gets used, so the first step was making sure I had a clean platform to work from. That meant checking a separate work email account I had ignored for several months, updating my resume on Linked In and several other sites so it would come up in employer searches, and making sure my information was up to date on professional websites I was associated with. This was no small task itself and took a few hours.
It is important to note here that the process of finding a job takes time, and that time is uncompensated. For those who are working in a white collar environment with a computer, some of that can be done during the regular work day, but for those of us who are working “blue collar” jobs all of that must be done during our time off. And it requires some research on how to use the job search tools out there. Don’t get me wrong, tens of thousands of people do it every day, but just like I had to set up Work Kamper to look for work kamping positions, I need to reacquaint myself with Indeed and other job search sites. I am not starting completely from scratch here though. I have spent time talking to some folks who are in my field and who have looked for positions to hear about what worked for them and once I get into it I am sure it will get easier, but unless I am tremendously lucky I expect to spend hours on finding a job. Since we are already working 35 hours a week, those hours will need to come from our free time. I’ll make sure and keep track of how many hours it takes to find that first job and include that in the final analysis.
And yes, there will be a final analysis. It is my intention to look at consulting just like I have looked at every other job and weigh the pros and cons as it relates to the lifestyle. And maybe that is why I am so nervous about the whole thing. Consulting isn’t a “no-brainer”. Sure, if we look at jobs simply from how much money we can make it would be, but that’s not how we look at jobs anymore. We look at jobs based on a much more complex matrix now. Location, hours required, and stress level are all big factors. Whether a job is omnipresent or whether it can be put away during off time is another one. I am still judging my life by the WOW moments and pretty pictures I take, and if I am tied to a phone 24/7 that will have an impact. It did in our first year on the road and I am in no big hurry to sign up for that level of stress again.
The question is, can I find a consulting job in a great location, for a relatively short stint, that makes me feel like I am making a difference while still allowing me to have a personal life? That is a tall order, and ultimately may be next to impossible to find, but I am committed to trying to find it. And of course I am completely aware I could have worse problems. Unemployment rates are pretty low and having lots of choices to wade through is much better than the alternative. So it’s time to stop thinking about it and start doing it .
I sat down at the computer at about 8:30am and dove right in. First I went to Linked In (which I had ignored for over a year) and was pleased to see I had a couple of private messages from folks I used to work with. I replied and let people know I was getting back into the professional world and then made sure my contact information was up to date. Recruiters have the ability to see when the last time you updated a site and generally skip folks who aren’t active so any kind of update is important at least once a month to keep the connections active. I also downloaded the Linked In app on my new phone so I could keep in contact easier and opened my professional gmail account which I also hadn’t looked at in over a year. This account had 663 emails, but since most were notifications I was able to clean it out in about 20 minutes. After doing that I downloaded the Gmail app for my phone so I could have both the Camper Chronicles email and my consulting company email on that device.
Looking at email led me to Flexjobs.com which was a tool I used to use for the occasional job searches. Thankfully the account was still active and I updated my information on their site as well, including uploading a 2017 version of my resume. I chose to not list my work kamping jobs on my professional resume, but there are no gaps in employment as my consulting company employment will cover this time period. This is a bit disingenuous since I haven’t strictly been consulting, but I am more than happy to discuss that in the interview process. Having a big gap in employment is a bit like having your house on the market for a long time period; it makes people wonder. How I am handling this is akin to taking a house off the market for a month and then relisting it to reset the dates. It’s just how the game is played, and I am past the age where I feel the need to do everything strictly by the book. If this lifestyle has shown me nothing else it is how to color outside the lines and make it work for me.
My answer by the way for what I have been doing the last year is pretty simple. I took advantage of a buyout and took some time off to travel. I’ve done some volunteering, worked the occasional seasonal job, and traveled the country, including spending a summer in Alaska. All of that is completely true, and the specifics of what those various jobs entailed is really not relevant. There is a possibility of course that some employers might be concerned that I took the long break, but with my prior work history showing long-term commitment to two companies I really don’t think it will be much of an issue.
As I was wandering through the various sites and job postings things were a bit haphazard, but in a good way. I didn’t make myself crazy by needing to see every single posting out there before applying, instead anything that looked interesting I submitted a resume to. I know this may lead to a deluge of responses, but I wanted to cast a wide net and see what came back. One of the first recruiters I signed up with was Kelly Services. By submitting my resume to them, and making it clear I could travel, I was showing I would be open to multiple positions. I also set myself up with a profile on their website which put my resume into their database, and hopefully while I was looking for them they would also be looking for me.
This initial “refresh” of my information took about three hours. Just to be clear, that would have taken tens of hours if I didn’t have a resume, Linked In account, and website already in place. That work was done during my last few weeks of my prior job and in the first couple of weeks after my transition. Even though things have just sat I am glad I did the heavy lifting back then, because dusting it off was relatively easy.
My next chunk of time was spent setting up more refined job searches. I wanted to make sure I was getting daily emails on new opportunities, but in order to not miss anything you need to be very careful about how your searches are setup. I played around with different criteria and saw the results and ultimately decided on what worked for me. This process is a bit frustrating as the search criteria didn’t quite match what I was looking for. I found Flexjobs.com to be pretty friendly because they only showed legitimate companies who had “flexible” positions, but I wasn’t 100% confident my search criteria was inclusive enough. Indeed.com was even worse. It is probably the number one site people use, but their search engine choices were not very helpful for me and my results were either really small or many hundreds of jobs. I needed to be honest with myself on how much time I would have to go through job descriptions so a strong search engine was a must. Finally, I reached out to fellow Dreamer Ruth who had recently completed a successful job search, and she recommended Virtual Vocations.com. Even though the cost was somewhat steep at $15.99 per month, I decided to give it a try because she had such a good experience with it.
So on Friday I spent another 3 hours setting up job searches and applying at a few positions, including another large staffing company. Virtual Vocations is a great resource when you are looking for full-time work, but since I am looking for temporary work at this point I prefer Flex Jobs. I tried to spend some time on Indeed, but there is so much out there it was pretty overwhelming. It’s definitely a rabbit hole and you could spend an entire day searching and looking and still have more to look at when you were done. I did set up a couple of job searches there as well, so we will see how that all plays out over time. And the best news of all was I contacted by Kelly Services to submit my application to a company. Unfortunately their recruiters cover specific geographic areas (which makes sense for local employment) but at least I talked to someone. What really excited me was when I did some research on the company it was polar opposite of the very conservative New England company I worked for. Not surprising since it is based in California, but that is exactly why I wanted to try consulting in the first place, to have exposure to different industries and different corporate environments. Don’t worry, I am not going to jump at the first thing I see, but it is a nice start, and I am particularly excited about the fact that the job is a 3 month position. Yes, there is a ton of work out there, but most of the jobs are 6-18 month commitments. If it was virtual I would be more willing to start with a longer time commitment, but for something onsite, short-term is better, at least to start.
So that’s it for now, I will let you know how things progress over the next few weeks. We have our heavy weekend schedule, of course, and then Jim and Diana are coming to visit and we are taking a trip to Mount St. Helens. Lots going on here, hopefully I can keep all the balls in the air!
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