Anyone who has ever looked for a job knows that done properly, searching for a job is hard work! Several times in the past four years I have taken the time to look for work, but something else got in the way of me really doing it properly. Either we were traveling and I didn’t want to mess with it, or the gap between seasonal positions wasn’t long enough for the search to come to fruition. This time though I am committed to seeing it through. And with that commitment and work I am seeing some results, so I wanted to walk you through what my process has been.
First, I am spending 1-2 hours a day (except Saturday which I take off) searching jobs and applying for positions. I have created a couple of Indeed custom searches for the Charleston area, but I have also subscribed to Flex Jobs and Virtual Vocations. Neither of those are free, but they are wonderful websites if you are looking for remote jobs. I highly recommend them and they are well worth the annual fee.
Thankfully there has been quite a bit in my field, and I am putting in 1-2 applications a day. Each application generally takes 30-45 minutes, depending on the company’s process. The ones where you have to create a user account and basically retype your resume on the company website are the worst from a time perspective, but I keep plugging away. I have also removed restrictions on myself when I apply. If I seem qualified, even as a stretch, I am applying.
I am also taking the time to write a custom cover letter for each position. Some people say this doesn’t matter, but I have not found that to be the case. When I take the time to include specifics from the job posting in the cover letter I have had better results. That being said the “call back” numbers, or return on my time investment is pretty dismal. I am hearing back from less than 10%, and most of those responses are to say “thanks but no thanks”. This is the part that has been pretty discouraging, but thankfully my friend Cori gave me a great piece of advice. She said it’s like fishing; you just have to keep casting and eventually you will get a nibble. This has been a lifesaver as that image has helped depersonalize the mass rejection. I just keep throwing in my line and hoping someone will bite.
Once I get an interview I feel I have done well but that process is VERY slow. It often takes a week between interviews and even when things are going well, I often need to follow up to nudge the process along. Again, it’s important that I depersonalize. I am anxious to find work, but they are taking their time and trying to find the right person. One of the HR people told me it generally takes 30-45 days to hire at this level and that makes sense, although it can be frustrating.
Several times in the past jobs have disappeared during the interview process. It’s more common than you would think, especially in the consulting world. They start the job search and then poof! the job is “put on hold.” Unfortunately in those cases they often keep the interview process going in the hopes the job will reopen again. My point is, putting all your eggs in one basket is a bad thing. It’s also not good to stop applying, which is why even though I am actively interviewing right now I still take at least an hour a day to look at new listings.
Speaking of job searches, creating these can be VERY challenging in a mobile world. Almost all of them force you to pick a home base, so this time I picked Charleston, SC, where my daughter lives. And unlike other searches I am not automatically eliminating jobs without a remote option. I am pretty far down the path with a company located in Charleston with the hopes that if I proved myself I might be able to turn it into a remote job at a later date. Many companies are still not comfortable with remote workers as a concept, but are more open to it once you have been there for awhile. Depends on the nature of the job of course. Site Managers are the least likely to be remote, but in my field of project management/business analyst work it is pretty common.
It takes time to set up those job searches and it’s important that you put some thought into it or run the risk of being completely overwhelmed. I have a search in the Charleston area with Project Manager in the title and a second search with analyst. Recently I added the same two searches in the Charlotte area, which is where my sister lives. Looking in a larger city has it’s own challenges. Yes, there is more opportunity, but generally there are less places for an RVer to stay. Since I really don’t want to deal with an hour long commute, I check the locations of the offices before replying. This adds an extra step, but not driving two hours a day in rush hour matters to me, and there are rarely RV parks near downtown locations.
In addition to checking job search results daily, I also took the step of going through my entire Linked In network. This took me hours of work, but I eliminated people I didn’t really know (left about 500 people) and then cross referenced who they were currently working for with job openings. Three times things lined up, and I actually reached out to the person I knew for a reference, which is not something I have ever done before. In one case the job was filled internally, but in two other cases that reference got me a call back from an HR person. Unfortunately those companies were so large that the division I was interested in was not the same as where my colleagues worked. You would think it would be easy for HR to transfer my file from one segment to another but both times I got “lost” in the transfer. I could have definitely spent more time on followup, but the lesson I learned was knowing someone was very helpful in opening the door, but the rest was up to you.
The one exception to that was when I received a call from a former colleague. They had learned through the grapevine I was looking for work and as a hiring manager they were very interested in what I was doing. This experience was totally different, with that person leading me through the process and advocating on my behalf. It also short cut the time the process usually takes because the interviews were scheduled much closer together.
That has been the hardest part for me, the common week between interviews. In my case, I am currently talking to five different companies and that delay can make it difficult to remember what stage you are at with which company. I am using Google Calendar to keep track of the interview dates and times and really focusing on remembering the specifics of what I talked to people about.
In addition to that, while we were traveling I needed to make sure I was in a place with phone and internet for the interview. I started scheduling all of my interviews between 8am and 10am so I could take them before we had to check out of a campground. I had one interview in the afternoon, that unfortunately I had scheduled before we left Timothy Lake, and that was very difficult. There was no cell coverage very close to the time of the call (super stressful) and we pulled into the campground during the interview. All of that was super distracting and going forward I only schedule them first thing in the morning.
Time zones were also an issue, because as we were traveling my time zone kept changing. I was constantly worried about what time it was, which made it more intense as well. All in all though it was possible (I even did a video interview while we were traveling) but given a choice I wouldn’t recommend it. Things are much easier now that we are sitting in one place where I know I have consistent internet and phone coverage. I am not a huge fan of video interviews but they are becoming much more common. One of the interviews I did was even recorded so other people who work in the company can view it.
One other important thing about video conference is really looking at your surroundings and seeing what will be on camera. I was warned about this by a recruiter and do everything I can to make the surroundings look as neutral as possible. I take down pictures and position myself so the background is a door and a tiny bit of my kitchen counter. I make sure nothing is on the counter and Lee knows that he needs to pick a place and stay in it during the interview. He’s been really great about that. At first he would take the dog outside or go somewhere, but as I have gotten more comfortable he can hang out as long as he doesn’t make a ton of noise. Sharing such a small space is tough for these periods, but thankfully the calls are usually only 30-45 minutes. Now that we are in one place I am scheduling 2-3 a day and the down times in between we can do whatever.
So what has all that work gotten me? At the time of this writing I am doing the following and these are in the order I started the process:
- Third interview with a company that makes robotic systems for warehouses. This job involves cutting edge technology and I find it incredibly interesting. The only downside is it requires travel to or relocation to one of the warehouse locations for several months which would reduce our travel for at least a year. This company is really cool. They are based in the UK and operate world-wide. The on-boarding process would require overseas travel which is a long time dream of mine. Update: Things have gone very well and they are in the process of sending an offer letter.
- Second interview with a software company that is redesigning websites for the government. They are a non profit, a very young company, and I really liked their philosophy. They were the only company who didn’t care where I was located and seemed completely comfortable with remote workers. They stated they had to open up to remote workers to get the best talent, which I found encouraging. I also liked the fact that they were actively seeking older workers. Their team skewed younger because of the technology they were working with, but they were trying to be more diverse. Update: The second interview went well and they sent me “homework.” In this case it was a particular scenario and they wanted answers to several questions on how I would handle it. Testing is becoming more common. So far in my job search I have taken a timed and online proctored mini SAT, a personality quiz, and answered several questionnaires. I am guessing this is because lots of people look good on paper but don’t have the practical experience, but it seems to be the way of the future especially with tech companies. Second Update: After receiving my homework they told me they were going with a candidate who was a better fit. I am guessing I didn’t use whatever buzz words they were looking for in my reply. That’s OK though. It seemed like a nice company but after the interview I did have some reservations about the type of assignment I would be given.
- Second interview with a company based in Charleston. They specialize in software products for non profits which was intriguing, but it is 100% onsite which is the least appealing to me. Update: During the craziness of interviewing I mistakenly called back on an old voice mail from the hiring manager at this company. I immediately realized my mistake and apologized but the damage was done. The next day I received a form letter stating they were going in another direction. Yes the unemployment rate is low but MANY people are underemployed. Employers can choose to be picky when they get 150 resumes and they are. Another reason why I think talking about our travel immediately is a bad idea.
- The weirdest one was I received a call from the company I worked for seasonally this summer. I applied on the company website over a month ago but never heard back. That really bothered me because I was qualified for several of the positions and after three years of working for them thought I at least deserved an interview. Then they downsized us due to budget cuts and I get the call? Update: The two people I interviewed with had no idea I had worked for the parks department for the last three years. That being said I think my skill set is a perfect fit for what they are looking for. This job has no remote option though. If we were still in the Portland area it might have made more sense. They did talk about how other departments were going through headcount reduction initiatives, but they were adding people. For a variety of reasons I am uneasy about joining a company under those circumstances.
- Lastly I received a call from a former colleague. He had heard through the grapevine I was looking for a position and was very interested in hiring me. This process is going very fast and so far everyone I have talked to has been great. They seemed open to me working remotely which would give us a lot of flexibility in our travel. This process has gone very well also and they are in the process of preparing an offer letter.
This is the first time in my life when I have two offers on the table at the same time. I have a been a “serial monogamist” when it comes to jobs. I am really pleased that my skill set is valuable enough that two companies want to hire me, and I am thinking long and hard about which offer to accept. There are pros and cons to both, and yes a list was created! You guys should know me well enough by now to know that. 🙂 I will keep you informed as things progress, and would appreciate any good thoughts you can send my way.
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