First Time Looking for a Consulting Job – The Search Continues

After spending a few days trying to keep up with all of the potential jobs out there, it soon became clear that I needed to narrow down the search criteria a bit.  Between working and just living my life, it’s hard to find time to look through 30+ potential jobs a day and I was concerned that I might actually be missing a really good opportunity.  So on Wednesday I spent a couple hours reviewing my various searches and tweaking them a bit. No single job search seems to have the perfect combination of factors, so I am relying on numerous searches from various sources and hoping I don’t miss anything.  A person really could spend countless hours doing this, and I am trying to strike a balance between effort and payoff.

The main problem I am having is the lack of a concrete job title.  Having a varied skill set is great, but that also means the job titles are varied as well.  Yes, you can search for parts of a title, but that also brings back jobs that aren’t what you are looking for.  My two major keywords are “analyst” and “project”, but using project manager for example (depending on the particular search engine) also brings back anything with manager in the title and that list is obviously very long.  Once the lists come back, I then need to scroll through and look at the locations eliminating any place that will be too cold this winter.  I haven’t found a good way to eliminate the northern climate in my searches, so I’m manually removing them.

I decided that my first choice of location would be in the Carolina’s, and I was able to set up a couple of searches specifically for that area, but if I did something similar for the entire south I would have way too many searches.  For those of you who have never done this, it’s really not that different than making travel plans when you have a destination in mind but only a vague idea of how you want to get there.  In order to start looking for campgrounds, you really need to have some idea of your route planned, but sometimes you plan your route based on campgrounds you want to stay at.  I guess what I am trying to say here is that that much choice can lead to difficulty making any choices at all in the beginning, but the more you narrow things down the clearer the route eventually becomes.  This job search has been very similar to that.  But, just like when you are crossing the country and you think about all the places you might be missing, I feel the same way about the great jobs I might be missing that are just outside of my searches.

Which led me to thinking about letting people find me.  I am lucky enough to work in a field that has some professional recruiters and their full time job is matching people with employment.  In order to get on their radar though, I needed to post my resume out on a few of their websites.  One good way to do that is to apply for jobs that they are “holding.”  Many companies don’t hire directly anymore, but work through staffing agencies, and applying for any of those jobs generally gets you into the staffing companies database. Sometimes these applications can be extremely time consuming as you need to retype you resume into their online forms, but in general technology is much better in this area.  Most have the ability to upload the information directly from your resume or from your Linked In account.  I liked the second option the best, because I am confident in my profile and the formatting, and it was during one of these uploads that I discovered something interesting about my security settings.

At some point I changed Linked In so that my profile would not be available to recruiters.  I was very surprised by this and honestly cannot remember exactly when I did it.  I believe it may have been towards the end of my tenure at my previous company and I think I just forgot to set it back once I left. Or maybe it happened in one of the many software updates and I just didn’t see it, but essentially I was set up so that only friends of friends could see my profile.  Very similar to Facebook, and what that meant was anyone who was looking for someone with my skill set wouldn’t find me.  Over the years I have had recruiters reach out regularly, but it has been a while since that has happened, and since we have been focusing on other types of employment I honestly didn’t think much of it.  Now that I have changed the setting back (and set up some new job searching profile settings) I will be be curious to see what comes of it. One of the best things about the Linked In setting is you can put places you would be interested in working and it allows you to pick numerous cities, or in my case, numerous states.  I’m just glad I stumbled across it, because I have to believe it was limiting my exposure, and like I said, I will be interested in seeing how many of those “I saw your resume on Linked In” emails I will be getting.

And while I am doing all of this work, it is not lost on me that anecdotally at least, most people find a new job through their personal network.  This has always been a bit of a struggle for me because I worked for the same company for such a long time.  A few years before I left I started really paying attention to my network and as people left the company and moved onto other opportunities, I tried to maintain those contacts, at least casually.  I’ll be the first to admit I am pretty lousy at this.  I envy people who have strong networks of people they stay in contact with, and although I love seeing where people end up and like keep track of their various successes I was never very good at reaching out.  That’s one thing that has changed for me with being part of this mobile lifestyle, and I have learned how to maintain friendships, at least,  across long distances. Thankfully some people I used to work with seemed genuinely glad to hear from me and those people I am also Facebook friends with shared how much they have enjoyed reading about our “adventures”.  Plus we have met a couple people on the road who are also working and Kat in particular (who is work based out of the Raleigh area) said she would check around for me and see what’s out there.  From this perspective at least, it’s a shame that most of the people we have met while on the road don’t work, and even those we who do are primarily working in the Work Kamper arena, but that’s the path we have been going down. I know there are lots of mobile workers out there, I just haven’t spent the time getting engaged in those Facebook/RVer groups.

Ultimately that is what this whole job search comes down to…time .  I turned a blind eye to this side of my professional life over the last 15 months and now I am playing catch up.  It’s not the end of the world of course, people re-enter the job force all the time, but if you have ever done it you know it can all be a little daunting. I just keep focusing on doing a little bit every day and being patient with the process.  I also have to keep reminding myself this is not an emergency.  In my past job searches were mainly triggered by an immediate need and consequently had a sense of urgency attached to them.  If anything I probably started this process a little too soon, as most of the jobs seem to have near-term start dates, and I have plenty of time to find something.  Even if I don’t, I have a perfectly good job lined up and we heard back from the Gate Guarding recruiter just yesterday about our upcoming availability.  I don’t need to find a consulting job, I just want to find one, and it’s important that I don’t lose site of that and jump at any opportunity that fits my basic criteria.  Again, not that different from choosing campgrounds on a cross-country trip 🙂

Update: Not too long after I wrote this post one of our long-time readers, Greg,  who is a mobile worker reached out and connected with me on Linked In.  Hopefully over time I can build up my network with RV enthusiasts who are also mobile workers, and with Kat, Greg, and Casey as a starting point I am pretty hopeful about that. So, if you are a fan of the blog and work in an industry that uses project managers or analysts  please feel free to check out my Linked In profile and send me a connection.  I’ll be honest, it’s a little uncomfortable for me to even say that.   By nature, I really am lousy at networking, but if there is one thing I have learned over the last 4 years is how important having a community can be.  I’ve tried in my own small way to provide support to others and asking for help in return is not a bad thing.  Plus you never know.  The perfect gig is probably out there somewhere and I just don’t know about it.  Having extra people keep an eye out simply increases my chances.  We actually got our current job in Oregon because a reader sent me the job description and overall this has been a nice experience for us.  In the meantime I will keep plugging away and as always will keep you updated. 

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One Year with No Corporate Money

If you have been reading from the beginning, you know I had serious doubts about whether this lifestyle was financially viable for us.  Pretty early on I saw lots of examples of people who live full-time on very limited incomes. In fact, I just met a guy last week who lives on $2500 a month and boondocks 90% of the time. I was pretty honest about what our requirements and goals were, and I just wasn’t sure it was viable.  One year ago I received my last corporate check and I am pleased, and a little surprised, to report that we lived on what we made, and actually had $2500 to spare. Not bad.

And that year was full of travel.  We saw amazing things in Canada and Alaska, and our last few weeks have been full of adventures in the Arizona area.  The year was also full of work to keep things going and it was often strenuous work.  We worked 40 days at the Beet Harvest with just a couple of days off.  We worked 6 weeks straight selling Christmas trees with only Thanksgiving and Christmas days off, and 79 days straight gate guarding.  Not only did we work numerous days we also worked long shifts.  Twelve hour days at beets, 10-12 hours at Trees, and 24/7 during gate guarding.  The jobs were often physically demanding, and almost always outside in the weather, but they also had an element of challenge to them, and mostly I was rarely bored.  That’s no small thing. But as you have seen, those jobs were pretty much all encompassing (camp hosting aside) and allowed little time or energy for anything else.  That would be OK if we made enough at the jobs to cover our costs for some free time before and after, but most of our free time was spent primarily getting to the next job.  Not that there weren’t things to see along the way, but there is a big difference between taking your time getting to an area and driving relatively long hours every day because of the schedule.

This five weeks is the longest break we have had in a year, and despite efforts to keep costs down, money is flying out the window.  When you work this much it’s tempting to go a little crazy on your off time, and that time starts to feel more like a traditional vacation, albeit a pretty long one.  So basically the last year has not looked much like our original goal of work a little, play a little.  Not that it has been bad by any means, but there has been much more work and much less play.  It still holds up favorably to our life prior to going on the road though.  There is less financial pressure, generally less work stress, and a certain level of relaxation and freedom that we did not experience before. (My view is that we worked for a year, and got a five week vacation. Most people don’t get five weeks of vacation in a year. – Lee) 

All that being said, the question of whether this is sustainable long term for us is still open.  We have absolutely proven to ourselves that we can earn enough to live on the road indefinitely, but there isn’t enough extra money to cover capital expenses.  If we need a major repair, want to take a vacation, give money to our kids, or take extensive time off, that is coming out of our savings.  And although we are proud of the fact we haven’t dipped into savings as of yet, this week in Vegas, our upcoming Mor-Ryde upgrade, and a trip we are planning for Lee’s birthday will all come from there.  We have $40K in money set aside for both shortfalls in our annual budgets and capital expenditures and at this rate we can make that money last a very long time, but it is incredibly unlikely we can make it stretch for 17 years until I am eligible for social security.

So where does that leave us?  We have two major options.  One is that we can significantly change the way we live to reduce costs even further. Some people purchase property to have a “home base” of sorts to sit in once in a while to keep costs down.  Others have found jobs that work for them and return to the same places year after year.  Still others boondock the majority of the time and live as financially austere a life as they can manage.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those choices, and we have watched with great interest as friends have explored those choices.  It also really makes sense for people who are close to retirement age and just need to bridge a couple of years until their retirement funds are available.  For us, at 48 and 50, I tend to take a longer view.  Since I can’t even imagine transitioning back into a sticks and bricks life at this point, we need to find a way to earn enough income long-term and because the number one thing I like about this lifestyle is the travel, we need to find a way to support that.

Luckily both of us bring pretty varied skill sets to the equation.  We both spent many years becoming educated in our particular fields and those skills don’t just go away.  Yes, there is a concern that allowing too much time to pass without using those skills with cause some atrophy, but hopefully to a certain extent it will be like riding a bike.  The larger concern for both of us is how quickly technology and techniques change.  It’s important to “keep a hand in” and stay up to date on what is happening in our fields, so those options always remain open for us.   I guess my point here is if you are younger and plan on doing this, as tempting as it is to want to completely walk away from your former profession, I wouldn’t recommend it.  You never know when you might need a chunk of cash and workamping jobs are not really a sure fire way to get there.  Part of the problem is many of them are 1099 jobs, so a higher tax burden is called for.  Others have variable seasons and most importantly the overtime (where the real money is) can vary from year to year.

A great example of that is what is happening at Amazon.  Last year the supply of workampers was so high that overtime was significantly reduced from previous seasons.  This year they have eliminated the Texas location altogether, so many folks who relied on that infusion of cash need to find alternative work.  Gate guarding prices dropped from $300 a day a few years ago to $125 a day when oil prices went down and the beet harvest varies every single year based on weather and the amount of crop. (Gate guarding rates are definitely going back up as oil prices rise, however. I see postings for immediate positions every day that pay $200-250 per day. – Lee)   None of these relatively high paying workamper jobs are a sure thing, which works fine if you are simply looking to supplement outside income, but not so great if that makes up a significant portion of your income each year.  There are other choices of course, and we will continue exploring them, but I think it’s fair to say that no workamping job is going to come close to what we can make in our previous professions.

So the question is for everyone, what do you want? And it’s a great question to be able to have some choice in answering.  Most of us in our old lives rarely got to decide what we wanted because our sticks and bricks lifestyle was driven by necessity more than choice. It’s wonderful having so many choices, it really is, and it makes the idea on reentering the professional work force much more palatable.  Because we have proven to ourselves we can live this way, now it is a matter of what do we want.  It’s still complicated of course.  Logistics, timing, Lee’s priorities versus mine, all come into play, but we can take our time and modify how we are living in a way that makes sense for us.  Nothing is an emergency, and that is a really, really good feeling. In a nutshell, this last year has honestly gone better than I ever imagined it would.  I am calmer, more centered, and way more comfortable with our ability to support ourselves in this lifestyle.  Working all these unusual jobs has proven what I am capable of in a completely different way than my career progression did. And it’s a good thing. I don’t regret one single minute of it, not even the Christmas trees, because I learned so much about myself.  With that foundation I am ready to make my next set of choices and I really hope that journey continues to be of interest to everyone.

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