Back in the summer, I decided that I wanted to spend some time seriously trying to get a consulting job. It’s something I have worked on a few times over our four year journey, but travel schedules and timing usually conspired to make job searching difficult if not impossible. This time though I have a plan and spent hours updating resumes and looking for jobs and I thought since it has been such a big part of my life I would talk about the process a bit.
As anyone who has done it knows, looking for a job can be a full time job. Because I had work lined up, I thought I was in the perfect position to search for a new job in a balanced way. I set a goal of one hour every other day to search for positions and tried to send out at least two resumes a session. Initially I was overwhelmed with all the choices which made me feel both hopeful and a bit anxious. Eventually though I started to really think about what I was looking for and started narrowing down the search.
I have had no luck finding short term positions over the last few years, and since talking to Casey (a fellow full timer who works in my field on the road) I thought a long term but mainly virtual position might be the best bet. I am lucky enough to work in a field where virtual work is an option, but I soon learned that there is virtual and there is virtual. What I mean by that is many companies offer virtual positions but they often want you to live in a particular city (or set of cities) and you have to commit to coming into the office one day a week. It’s a nice option for those folks that live in one place, but for my purposes it might as well be a traditional job. A few of these jobs had cities in both the north and the south which made them a possibility, but it would restrict us to a route between two places, which would not be our first choice.
That left me with the truly virtual jobs and in my particular case, they required an amount of time onsite. I actually understand that because as an analyst I do prefer being face-to-face at least initially with people, so then it became how much time was spent onsite. With shorter term projects my plan was to just move to an area and stay there, but looking at longer term projects I knew I could stay in an area for part of the year but the rest of the year I would need to travel. That was our choice of course, but the whole purpose of this lifestyle for us is some traveling and if I had to stay in one area for a year or more I might as well get a traditional job. Some of the jobs were 75% – 100% travel, which would be a nightmare to manage with our schedule and leave me no time for fun. Others were 25% – 50% and although that would be challenging they would be more manageable so those were the ones I focused on.
As I was narrowing down my choices, the open positions became less and I found that my skill set wasn’t necessarily what they were looking for. Many companies wanted experienced Agile users and although I was familiar with that methodology I haven’t used it in a business setting. Other companies wanted at least one years experience in their particular field and since I worked for the same company for 15 years that was a challenge. I sent a few resumes out on those jobs anyways, but when I didn’t hear back (or got a no thanks email) I started to feel a little deflated. What was left was largely working for banks or insurance companies and neither of those industries was interesting to me. I found myself looking for work less and less and ultimately found myself taking a cursory look once a week or so.
One area that was interesting though was the calls I was getting. Many of them were for full time positions, but a few were for consulting companies. In those cases I thought my skill set was a stretch but had several conversations with recruiters to at least see where I stood. Those conversations were quite a learning experience and I found that anytime I talked about anything slightly unusual it was a red flag. I talked myself out of quite a few potential jobs early on simply by being too honest. What I ultimately discovered was that as much as I wanted to work for a company where I could tell them about my lifestyle and what I had been doing for the last three years, that wasn’t practical. I needed to find a way to “package” the experience so it didn’t freak people out and through some trial and error I sort of found ways to do that. I set a hard line for myself that I wasn’t going to lie, but I also didn’t need to volunteer everything about myself either. Since this isn’t that different from what most people do when they are looking for a job, after some time I wasn’t that bothered by it.
I also found myself taking the position of just going with it and seeing what happened. This is not really something I am good at, but that tactic definitely got me much further in the process. Instead of thinking about all the reasons a job wouldn’t work for me, I started thinking why not just try it and see what happens. These jobs pay around $60 an hour so financially it was a win and no one said I couldn’t try something and leave if it wasn’t working for me. I think what really helped me make this leap was the fact that all of my interviews were with Millennials. That generation is changing the way jobs are approached and there is no reason I couldn’t be a part of that.
Why I say that is because I have noticed a real shift in how many of the job postings are worded. Many of them stress non-traditional methods of communicating and I saw several that accepted a video instead of a traditional written resume. The tech field in particular is undergoing a shift and since I have a semi-technical background it looked like that might be a better fit for me than a traditional company. Around this time, I was approached by a head hunter and using my new approach I got pretty far in the process. They were looking for someone in the San Antonio area and seemed willing to be flexible around where a person lived. The project would require 50% travel, but since I was in the area for the winter it seemed like the perfect way to try it out and see what I thought.
That sounds easy enough but it was a big step for me. There were lots of logistical issues with working a professional job and as I wound my way through interviews I started thinking them through.
- We only have one vehicle. Would Lee drop me off at work? Would I uber? Should we rent a car? Would I leave him without a vehicle?
- Where would we stay? Traditional campgrounds in the area have reasonable monthly rates, but they aren’t super close. I wasn’t looking forward to a long commute every day so obviously wanted to stay as close as possible but also in a place Lee wouldn’t hate.
- Would I have enough work clothes? I brought a box full of clothes on the road with me, but recently I purged a bunch of them because I have put on some weight on the road. I might have enough to get started but would definitely need to invest in some new ones pretty quickly and how much would I really want to spend on that for a trial job?
- How would I do in an office environment. It’s been a long time since I have worked in a traditional office and the thought of it was pretty unappealing. This problem though I couldn’t do anything about, because my skill set simply requires some travel. That would have to be part of the test and I would just need to take a deep breath and adjust.
There were other concerns of course, but I recognized them for the fear of the unknown that they were and worked hard to squelch my doubts. I mention all of it though because these interviews required me to juggle all of these concerns and sell myself simultaneously. I think I did mostly OK and as I said I learned a lot, and we were actually pretty close to maybe getting an offer when the position I was applying for went on hold. That happens all the time in the IT world as projects come and go, so I didn’t take it personally, but it was a bit of a bummer. Part of me was relieved, but I was also glad that I was making steps in the right direction. I had learned quite a bit about what I wanted from the exercise and Lee and I had some really good conversations. It would change the way we travel to some extent and since this is his life too, he needed to be part of the decision making process.
I thought it was completely done but then I got a call that the company I had interviewed with had an internal project that they needed some help on and since it was only a two month position would I be interested? Would I be interested…this was perfect!! I had a great interview with the team lead and found out that not only was it short term but it was also 100% remote. Talk about perfect and since I liked the guy I talked to and everything else was perfect I was pretty excited. At this point I am waiting to find out if I got the job, but I feel really great about how things are working out. If it doesn’t happen that’s OK too, but maybe this is the break I have been waiting for. Cross your fingers for me and and send good thoughts.
(And for those of you willing to read all the way to the end of a non-exciting post, here’s a fun little video of Jack with a truly ridiculous rib bone from a steak we recently split. Looks best in HD. – Lee)
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