Friday, October 22, 2010

10 Thoughts About Finding A New Job

So, I have a new job lined up which I'll start late next week. But I wanted to reach this milestone before making a few observations about the process of finding a job (and the associated malady of being unemployed), which, in today's market, is not for those with weak constitutions.

  1. Time of year matters. August was dead and September was surprisingly feeble. It wasn't until October (and Q4) rolled around that employers began to get serious about hiring. I imagine that late November and December will be wretched with a nice uptick at the start of the year. I further imagine it'll hum along ticketyboo until June, when it'll die down again during the summer. The good news is that there are jobs out there, more and more as the weeks wear on into winter.
  2. Job search engines are largely worthless, even as search engines. There are one or two out there that are probably worth one (1) month's investment in their premium service, but I found them, in general, to be greedy (refusing to show you an employer's name without paying them) or wrong (linking to jobs that were no longer open). Often both.
  3. There's only one really effective way to get a job - network. The engines can (sometimes) tell you where the job is, but don't rely on it to help you get the job. If you use these, your CV will end up in the pile of unwashed resumes that fit like rented clown suits (i.e., badly to the point of comedy). The most effective solution is to have someone the hiring manager knows put your resume in front of the hiring manager personally and say "This individual has decided to come down from the firmament to work in the Earthly realm. Where he walks, flowers bloom, the ailing are made whole, and profits magically flow. There is no sum of money too great to hire this person". Or something to that effect.
  4. Reputation and relationships matter most. When networking is the best way to get from A to B, your reputation and relationships matter more than your achievements and skill sets (assuming there's a match and that you're not completely incompetent). How hard others will work on your behalf depends on how much they like you and, probably, how hard you've helped them in the past. Something to think about when a friend you haven't heard from lately wants to go to lunch all of a sudden.
  5. Online isn't going away, though. In the past five years, automated resume parsers have become sine qua non for  HR professionals. Even when you know the employer personally, you often must still leap through their agonizing online submission hoops so their parsers can save them a few keystrokes. This can be very informative for you, though -- some online submission portals are quite good while others are abysmal. The choice of technology could tell you something about the company you're thinking of working for. (I'm looking at you Cox Enterprises.)
  6. Recruiters are also still helpful. Of course, it depends on the recruiter and the position and the size of the hiring organization. I got my new job via a recruiter, as it turns out, so I'm disposed to think of them favorably, but they really did provide a useful matchmaking services for both me and my new employer.
  7. The most useful online tool for me was LinkedIn. By far and without question. I could use this to find a hiring manager and make inquiries about positions. They also have a beta job posting site which, when coupled with groups, yields a fairly effective search function. I found my new position via a post on a relevant LinkedIn position (which hooked me up with the recruiter). Furthermore, some employers are relying on specific LinkedIn features to filter, explicitly stating "Resumes with Recommendations Preferred" and "Submissions via Connections Preferred". Net net: Keep your LinkedIn resume up to date and apply some SEO techniques to the terms you use in your profile to ensure that you are "found" as often as possible. Join groups. Get recommendations. Build connections.
  8. Looking for work sucks. Even when it's not a buyer's market, you have to have a pretty thick skin, a steadfast belief in yourself, and very realistic (i.e., low) expectations when looking for a new job. When you don't have a job at the time, it's a hundred times more stressful and it's hard not to let that stink roll off of you as you meet potential employers. I was lucky - I left my previous employer on good terms, with a reasonable package, and with enough cash on hand to take my time to find the right fit for me. But I know that it's hard for a lot of people out there. If you're hiring, be sympathetic. If you're looking, don't lose faith.
  9. Have six months of living expenses available in liquid form. Always. Just in case you need it. It will dramatically reduce the stress levels of looking for work and may actually enable you to find something that's a great fit (rather than taking the first thing that comes along).
  10. Pay attention to your living expenses. I'm not suggesting that you live like monks, but almost all of us (in this country, at least) are spending money every month on things we don't really need. Netflix? Starbucks? Amazon Prime? Scaling back your monthly standard living expenses gives you a) more flexibility when looking for a new job, b) more retirement savings when you do get the job, and c) a timeless reminder that the most important things in life aren't "things" after all.


  1. Congrats on finding a new job! Does it involve visual analytics?

  2. Ostensibly, no. It's a more traditional Product Management job. And it's too early yet -- I'm just now learning how much I have to learn.

    OTOH, it does offer interesting access to one of the more compelling visualization platforms as a side effect of the industry where the job plays and I'm sure I'll want to work its use into my daily PM responsibilities.