Wednesday, September 08, 2010

job search notes: Land ho!

Yes, a strange sound but true enough. Indeed, the lookout in the forward topmast has spotted land at last. I have signed up for a contract position with Modis to work on a security project at Citizens Bank, in their East Providence, RI Operations Center.

How long has it been?
It took me nine months to land my first contract position after the reduction in force at Fidelity Investments occurred in Dec 2008. That contract position last four months and it has taken another eight months to find this position. That is a trend that isn’t very good. And yet it pales in comparison to those who have exhausted their 99 weeks and are still looking.

I think we are into this ‘giganomics’ thing, moving from one gig to another for some time. Prior recoveries were quicker as the large Fortune 500’s were able to expand and hire thousands at a time. That doesn’t seem to be likely this time around. The growth will come from the small and medium businesses and from the entrepreneurs, hence growth and recovery will be slower.

How did I get this position?
I found this opportunity through a recruiter at Modis that I had been working with. We talked frequently about this position or that which he would find. I recall we talked about this one on a Monday, he called back that Thursday to say I had a hiring manager phone screen for that coming Monday. It went well then about a week went by before we got notified of the in-person interview the following Thursday. The in-person interview went well and I got the offer while facilitating the interview question breakout at the Hopkinton Networking Group meeting on Friday morning.

This was the first and only non-Fidelity in person interview I had encountered during my job search. I had always believed that when I got to an in-person interview I would do well, the trouble was getting through everything before that!

What can I share about my experiences on the job search?
I have shared a lot already on my blog, Steve’s 2 Cents and I will continue to share there but to summarize, I would offer the following:

1 - Live your brand
If you don’t have one, figure it out. There are so many exercises one can do to define yourself, your brand, most of those will get you to the same end point. Pick one and go with it. Once it has been defined, live it, and then refine it as you go. It doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate.

I chose to summarize myself with seven words: Learning, sharing, and laughing about life experiences. Especially on the job search,  learning something new each day was important. Sharing something in a way that it matters to whom you share it (get to the ‘what’s in it for them’ point) is also good networking. Laughter, well, in a painful world, laughter is good medicine. and with the proper point of view, the world is a funny place.

2 - Grow your network
When I left Fidelity, I had about 200 LinkedIn connections. 90% of them were Fidelity folks. While they were good connections, realistically getting back into Fidelity wasn’t going to be likely for some time as they were still cutting positions. I needed to focus on expanding my network beyond Fidelity, beyond New England. Exactly how I did this has been covered in my LinkedIn presentations. Today, I have more than 700 connections and the Fidelity percent has been reduced to about half.

3 - Maintain appropriate data capture.
You need to keep track of your applications and contacts to report on when asked by unemployment or as part of your job search work team, or your buddy group. All are good and valid reasons for keeping some metrics on what is going on. The second key though it to periodically look that the numbers and see what they tell you.

Quick story to illustrate this point:
I had spent time redoing my resume. The original had been done years ago, was relatively a chronological listing of how and what I did where and when. It left out my outside activities (my blogging, social media explorations and my unconference organizational efforts). I worked with someone to create more of a holistic view of Steve Sherlock. It felt good. In the course of 10 days, I used my network to get the resume hand delivered via good connections to 6 hiring managers. And then got nothing from it, no follow up calls, no interviews, nothing. What was the problem? The network worked. The resume delivered must have been the problem.

I used Wordle to do some analysis on the resume and found the problem. As a project manager, the two big words that appeared were Boston and Pawtucket. But I wasn’t in real estate! What happened to project manager, or  any of the project related key words? Back to the drawing board and then back to the street. Around this time, I also changed one word in my LinkedIn headline (from “Experienced project manager, customer service advocate, socia media practitioner’ to “Savvy project manager, etc.). All of a sudden, recruiters started calling me. The one word change (from ‘experienced’ to ‘savvy’) made all the difference.

So proper data capture enables tracking, analysis and course corrections as needed  The adage, “If you don’t measure it, how can you manage it?” comes to mind.

4 - Sharpen the saw
Years ago, I became acquainted with Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. He has fallen out of favor recently but the principals he outlined, I still find valid. Especially ‘sharpening the saw’. This I did in two ways, one by maintained my running fitness and normal health routine. And two, by occasionally taking some time off from the job search to do something different. It could be a day trip, or an event in a different subject matter, or time away with family and friends. However you choose to do it, it is absolutely necessary to remain strong enough to maintain positive spirits. You need to express a positive attitude with all you meet. If you are not positive, I don’t believe you will be successful.

What would I do differently?
IT is broad, and cuts across multiple industries,so I had chosen not to select target companies. I wanted to be open to all opportunities. I gradually realized that effectively the project work I felt most comfortable with would only occur in companies of a certain size. I’d just started becoming more focused and was in the process of developing these target companies and I found a spot. Next time (assuming there may be one), I’ll be better out of the gate!
2 - More informational interviews
As much talking and networking as I did, I would do more specific informational interviews. Only good things have come out of the ones I did. I would definitely do more.
I wish you all the best on your job search. If there is any way that I can be of help, please let me know.

If you have specific questions on my job search experiences, please feel free to reach out to me. Contact information can be found on LinkedIn

I will continue to post to my series of “Job Search Notes on my blog:

The Job Search Jam Sessions are scheduled for October 1. You can find out more about the event and register to attend here:

If you would like to obtain a PDF version of this you may do so here: