What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days (Favorite Friday)

I love this post I did back in August of 2008: Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days.  Here it is:

When I got laid off I thought I’d land pretty quickly.  I was an experienced professional with strong IT, strategy, business and customer relationship skills, and excited about life and business.

I didn’t know that the job search would kick my butt, and my ego would dwindle as the days/weeks went by.

Even though I had not ever been in a job search, I thought I knew what I was doing.  My strategy looked like this:

  1. Get resume ready, and pass it by trusted friends who would be able to critique it.
  2. Post resume on key job boards, including Monster, Careerbuilder and Dice.
  3. Apply to jobs I found online from various sources (job boards, company sites, etc.).
  4. Send resumes to recruiters, who would surely love me, help me, and bend over backwards to put a paycheck back in my hands (couldn’t let the 3.5 kids starve now, could they?).
  5. Ignore the concept of networking, since it would take too much time, and I would have an offer pretty soon.  Um, yeah.  I was that dumb.
  6. Prepare for interviews by reading articles about how to interview.  After all, I was going to have a lot of interviews coming up soon, and I wanted to be as sharp as a whip.
  7. Figure out how to do salary negotiation. This needed to be a step forward, not a step backwards.
  8. Figure out how to accept a job offering, while turning down at least three others.  How could I let the other three down easily?

I was ready to conquer the world.  Or at least get a great job that I’d love, hopefully as much as I loved my last job.  Well, my job search sucked, and I spent wasted 60 hours each week for months – mostly applying to jobs online.  Want to know where that got me?  Further unemployed.

I have some friends who recently got laid off, and thought “what would I suggest to you?  What do you do in the first 30 days in a job search?”  This is such a critical time.  So here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Get your resume ready. Find a way to scape up a few hundred dollars and get a competent, well-respected resume writer to do it for you.  During the resume-writing process you should learn some new phrases to help you in your interviewing, and networking.  If you can’t get the money (I realize there are some who read my blog with tens of thousands of dollars available to them, and others who don’t have one red cent left, and no family or support group), go to a library (or bookstore) and read through resume books.  Or, for $9.95 buy the resume book I recently reviewed by master resume writer Louise Kursmark.  MY RESUME LOOKED GOOD, BUT IT KEPT ME OUT OF JOB INTERVIEWS! I am confident a resume professional would have been able to help me figure that out BEFORE I applied to dozens and dozens and dozens of postings.
  2. Find someone to be accountable to. I learned about the importance of this from a network group I went to, where they emphasized your “coach” is NOT your spouse (who is too close to the emotional situation).  But you need to find someone to be accountable to on a weekly basis.  This person should be strong enough to lay down the smack if you need it (you probably will).  They should not be nut-cases who don’t understand the job search, especially the importance of networking.  If you can afford it, consider one of my career partners who will not only be accountable, but will guide you based on best-practices and CURRENT job search and career management information.
  3. Understand your finances. One of the first things we did, and it was very scary and humbling to do this, was to talk finances with our parents (both sets) and our local church leader.  We got some temporary help, and we were able to really understand our financial status, what we could/should cut, and how long we could go at the rate we were going.  You HAVE TO do this. Is it scary to talk to those who can help you?  Very.  Heck, I got too much schooling, and had great titles, and made good money… talking to someone about supporting MY family was not easy at all.  But it was very helpful, both financially and for my nerves.
  4. Learn about the relationship you have with recruiters. I thought recruiters would be the silver bullet in my job search.  I was WRONG.  They don’t work for me, they work for the hiring company, and get paid if they make a placement.  If they don’t have something that fits me, they MOVE ON fast.  I put too many eggs in that basket without understanding what I was doing.
  5. Understand the value of job boards. Yes, post your resume there, but don’t overdo it, and don’t spend too much time there.  An eye-opener for me was when I learned that about 10ish % of all jobs were placed through job boards (this stat is widely argued), so WHY spend more than 10ish% of my time on job boards???  I was spending 90+% of my time there, neglecting what I should have been doing.  Consider getting job search agents set up, so you don’t even have to go search for the job openings, and doing “competitive intelligence research” to learn what you can about target companies or industry happenings.
  6. Network, in person. You cannot ignore the power of in-person networking, and should not avoid this.  You should get out every day – find networking events to go to, and invite people to breakfast, lunch or “coffee.”  Read Never Eat Alone to understand the power of networking… this was the book that changed my entire attitude, especially when networking with other job seekers.
  7. Network, online.  Of all the tools you can network on online, I’ll suggest getting on LinkedIn first.  Grow your network with people in your space (profession, industry and geography).  Figure out how to network with them (which is too involved for this post).  Then, look for relevant Yahoo or Google Groups to join, again, in your space.
  8. Get prepared for a potentially long search, and a long time without an income. When I lost my job my dad wisely commented “I’ll expect you to be out of work for at least six months.”  I thought NO WAY.  I was too good to be out of work for that long.  Since then I’ve met professionals and executives who have been out of work for up to two years… at least a handful for more than two years.  As you settle in to this phase in your career, you need to adjust your mindset.  Remain optimistic but realistic or else you’ll find yourself with financial and emotional problems that compound the issues.
  9. Kiss your spouse and kids. This is stressful for you, right?  Humiliating?  Scary?  It is equally as stressful for your family.  A few months into our job search someone asked my wife how I was doing.  She said “I don’t know.  We don’t talk much anymore.”  That really hit me hard… I didn’t realize that our communication all-but-stopped.  She was trying to be strong for me, and I was trying to be strong for her, and we just didn’t have much to say during this time.  What a waste of time – take advantage of this time to communicate about important matters.  And realize your kids are going to wonder what the heck is going on, and perhaps have to fend of rumors from neighborhood friends (like “your dad got fired!”).
  10. JibberJobber. If you showed me JibberJobber at the beginning of my job search I would have said phooey!  I wasn’t going to need it for more than a few weeks, right?  WRONG.  The job search went longer than expected.  More importantly, as you use JibberJobber you enter information that will be critical in your next job search… helping you get a jump start on that next transition (not a pleasant thought, but hey, we’re all adults here – it’s time to be serious about your future transitions).  The amount of information to keep track of, and the potential for missing appointments, opportunities and followup, is just too much… you really need to get a real tool to help manage your job search – this is it. If you are serious, consider the optional upgrade.

I’m sure I’m missing stuff, and this is much more “JOB SEARCH” oriented than “CAREER MANAGEMENT” oriented.  What would you add or suggest?

9 thoughts on “What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days (Favorite Friday)”

  1. Hi, Jason. I love this article. It’s basic but very succinct. And definitely provides good direction. Love the plug for a professionally written resume.

  2. Your blog “What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days (Favorite Friday)”. Nailed it! Almost scary. Especially the section “Kiss your spouse and kids.” My wife appreciates me for my abnormal ability to “missile lock” on to something and disengage human functions till I hit my goal, but we went through the SAME thing. She would see me by the standing desk when she left, and I wouldn’t move for 10 hours when she returned. It was weighing on her because she almost doubted that I was actually doing anything. Her normal reaction would be “There goes Joe off on one of his damn fool idealistic Crusades” (modified Star Wars reference), but it changed when there was money involved. Your blog review helped me there a ton. it was hard for her figure out what I was looking to accomplish with this website or even why I was consumed by making myself more transparent. I being me, was unable to explain it to her. Your review showed her that others are doing this and I might still be weird but not crazy.

    I literally have the mechanics of the job search down to a fine tuned art now, although my soft skills (networking) are lacking. I think a step by step book/something could be made to help newbies maximize the first month. I wasted mine too.

    “Get prepared for a long search” – I’ve had a lot of friends ask me how I have been able to do this. Sweet quote from Robert Redford in “Spy Game”. “When did Noah build the Ark, Gladys?”… “Before the rain”. I’m so lucky to have built my ark. It was a miracle.

    You do good things Jason and people need to read this. This is an awesome article.

  3. Great article. The time right after getting let go can be tough and confusing – the “deer in the headlights”. Having a list of concrete, actionable items to work from is a great idea to help people both feel like they are doing something constructive, as well as laying the “groundwork” for what can be a long and difficult period. Being organized and setting reasonable expectations can help a lot. There’s a lot more to finding a job today then just checking Monster everyday!

  4. Jason:
    Your “kiss the spouse, and kids” point reminded me of a friend who went through a search years back, and he and his wife didn’t tell their daughters he’d lost his job – they wanted to spare them the trauma. Every day he got up and put on his suit and went out like normal. When he landed after 6 months or so, they then told the kids – who were very angry with them. The younger asked if they’d tell them the next time, and the older made a snide remark. What they thought was protecting their kids actually reduced the trust in their relationship!

  5. @John – OUCH. Can you imagine if they would have heard through neighborhood friends? Especially if they heard something like he was fired, which is what one girl (about 10 or 11) told me in the hallway at church? I wasn’t fired, but I wondered what her parents were saying around dinnertime for this 10 year old girl to use that word.

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