My new friend Jason Alba, has the blog JibberJobber, is hosting a blog carnival. This is my first one to participate in and it seems like it will be a worthwhile project and should generate many ideas that will be helpful to job seekers. Which is the reason that I agreed to participate, for my readers here.
The task is for all of the participants to answer one question, then post our answers all on the same day. Jason came up with a pretty good question. Hope my answer does it justice.
Yikes! You just lost your job! You’ve been so busy at *work* that you don’t feel your network is as strong as you would like it to be!
That exact thing happened to me in February of 2001. I guess you’ve all heard of the tech bubble burst, right? Well it burst right out from under me. I was involved in a pretty high tech business (Restaurant POS HW/SW) which was leveraged into the web, corporate mainframes, etc. and when VC funds dried up, my partner started to loose enthusiasm. When we came in second in the RFP process for overhauling the automation of McDonald’s newly acquired property of Donato’s Pizza, he pulled the plug. So, suddenly and without me even considering it a possibility I was without a job after basically running the whole show for 10 years. What is even funnier (or perhaps more pathetic) is that I didn’t have a resume, in fact hadn’t had a resume since I graduated the US Naval Academy more than 20 years before.
So if you want someone that can relate, brother I can relate. I didn’t have any idea of what to do… I sat around in a funk for a while, then I tried for about 30 days to buy the remaining assets of the company and reignite it (without my myopic ex-partner)… However, it was not to be. His anger got the better of his rational judgment, and he wasn’t able to make any so… I was REALLY and truly going to have to try to find a job. For someone who has mostly made their own jobs by building companies, that wasn’t a very appetizing prospect.
Well, I figured that the first thing I needed to do was get a resume done. And since I’m no (well wasn’t at the time) expert in matters pertaining to the creation of resumes, I decided to get some professional help. I went about interviewing dozens of resume writing firms. I got quite disgusted with talking to deep voiced women with hacking smoker’s coughs who knew more about writing resumes (according to themselves) than all of the conventional experts that I had been reading. So I cobbled together something by myself and started sending things out and attended quite a few networking events in the DC area. BUT, ya know, there just wasn’t that much demand for a senior IT executive after the bubble burst. And considering how specialized my field was, there weren’t a whole lot of options for me. So I decided that I needed to re-evaluate someone to do a resume and figure out how to get my name in front of some people that might be able to make a hiring decision in my favor. I don’t remember exactly how I came across them, but somehow I came up with WSA Corp as a place to do my resume… and a place that could do an direct mail marketing campaign for me.
Now, before you fall off your chairs laughing, or scratch your head so long it bleeds, let me say that I had spent the last 10 years totally immersed in my company, my business, my projects and other than vendors, I hadn’t networked with anyone for anything…. So WSA Corp seemed like an ideal place to get something started. I will tell you this, they made one very dynamic resume for me. I love it, and with minor additions, I’m still using it today. In fact, I may make an HTML version of it (another one since my first one is lost somewhere deep inside the dice.com jobs site and my lack of having passwords is going to keep it there) and post it on my blog. The resume got a lot of notice and compliments from my close friends, relatives, and business associates so it looked like I was set there. Now the other part of what WSA does, the part where they make their real money, is direct mail marketing. And I bought a 3000 letter package. At about $2.25 per… so you do the math. Now I won’t say that it didn’t work, because one of the companies that I mailed out my cover letter and resume to actually did end up hiring me… it’s just that I could probably have gotten in front of them for a whole lot less money. In fact, I could have gotten my resume in front of them for $0.00, just by emailing it, and it would have been just as effective.
OK, now I’m a recruiter…. and have been going on 6 years now. In fact, once again I own the company where I work (had to leave after learning enough to be dangerous, and getting upset with the split… but that’s story for another time.) So now I know better. Now I am currently engaged in campaign to correct some of the mistakes that I was still making even after having lost my job unexpectedly. What I have learned is that you need to be prepared. I guess I would boil it down to some simple things that you should have, do, or be doing all the time:
Have a current resume – keep your resume up to date, even if you think you will never have to use it. I can promise you, you are wrong, and you will. Heck even if you just need it for the accurate dates of employment, resumes are critical. Make sure that you add awards and list accomplishments AS THEY HAPPEN. It is hell to try to recreate those things in hindsight. Find a resume format that you like keep your current resume in your “my documents” folder. Add to it as you make things happen. List letters of endorsement, major accomplishments, speaking engagements, publications, etc. You will be happy that you followed this rule.
Network, network, network – use some of the great social networking tools to help you stay connected with the great people that you interact with. Once you make a great contact, if you don’t have a permanent way to preserve that connection, you are throwing away possible job offers, partnerships, joint-ventures, heck you might be throwing away a connection to your next spouse (OK, well don’t let that discourage you.) You should be doing this constantly, not AFTER you loose your job, but right now, everyday.
Know places to work – have a list of companies that you would like to work for, places that could use a person with your skill set. Keep in touch with people that do what you do, and find out how they like where they work. Keep up with competitors and even though you compete, keep on a friendly basis with the company. You never know when your knowledge may become really valuable to them.
Have a plan ready to implement – and if you are an entrepreneur, have a business plan ready to go. Maybe not a full fleshed out one, but at least have the major infrastructure elements that will be common to any business plan. Also know how to do one, have the spreadsheets/software to do one. No need to waste time evaluating that stuff when you need to get cash rolling in. If you are a “worker” and not an owner, then at least have a plan about how to get your name out there so that people who may want to hire you know that you are available.
Start creating your brand – create your personal/professional brand now, and start making it worth something. Look into blogging, start studying the phenomenon. Don’t get left in the dark ages. Keep yourself current with how people are marketing themselves and bring value to the workplace. Check out some of these valuable resources JibberJobber, ItzBlog, SixDegreesFromDave, Peter Montoya, The Brand Called You, Web 2.0 and Personal Brand Development Presentation | Bryght>, Build Your Personal Brand and Expand Your Success| MarketingProfs.com
In conclusion, if you lose your job unexpectedly – don’t feel bad, don’t get depressed, get busy. Solve your problem. And if you take my advice and prepare yourself, it should be a very short term problem.