By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Surprise! It's Layoff #5!
In 2019, for the fifth time in my career, I found myself unexpectedly in a position where I needed to change jobs. The last time around, my position was suddenly eliminated on the day I returned from vacation. That was about two years before, and I was not expecting to have to do this again quite so soon.
My Job Search Numbers
Things moved a bit more quickly this time than I initially expected. Keep in mind, too, that about half of the jobs I applied for have not responded. In their defense, I was on and off the market pretty quickly. With that, here’s how this job search shaped up:
Differences From Previous Job Searches
My last job search (after layoff #4) lasted 147 days. That's right. It was exactly 100 days longer. So what were the differences between these two job searches? What magic did I use to so quickly land a great new position?
Time of Year
Fortunately (as I look at the bright side), I knew I needed to make a change in late September. I’ve found that being unemployed over the holidays nearly guarantees about an extra month or two of job searching (or, more likely, waiting).
My last two job searches included the holiday season, lasting 180 and 147 days, respectively. My best advice is to take some time off from job searching over the holidays. This time around, when I estimated the possible length of my period of unemployment, I surmised that I would either secure a new position before Thanksgiving or I’d most likely be waiting to start a new role until February or March of next year. Getting a jump start, even by a couple of weeks, made a big difference.
During layoff #1 and layoff #2, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While I love Madison as a city, as someone whose chosen profession is corporate training, I knew that I needed to move to a larger job market or consider doing something else for a living.
In the middle of layoff #2, I started targeting companies in Minneapolis and planning a move. Even with the challenge of relocating (and managing all of the other areas of my life that were in transition right then), finding a new job took under five months. Being in the greater Twin Cities area, even with me being more selective on where to apply, I still had a lot of options. This gave me a better chance of one of the positions I applied for moving me along to the interview stage.
I also learned to manage my job search anxiety by applying for additional positions each time I was concerned about not hearing back from one potential employer.
I started using LinkedIn seriously in 2006. Since then, I’ve connected with coworkers, members of professional development organizations, colleagues with whom I’ve interacted, and pretty much anyone who I encountered and found interesting. I stay active on social media sharing useful content and attend industry meetings on a regular basis. Having this robust professional network and assisting individuals in my network when they are job searching or exploring new fields of interest, has helped me immensely.
When encountering a position that interested me, I immediately looked to my network to see who might be able to put in a good word for me and help me get pulled out of the initial pile of candidates. I have also had more than one “informal interview” with a possible referrer so they feel comfortable recommending me for a position. Since people are putting their reputations on the line, I don’t take their assistance for granted.
I’m at the point in my career where I know what jobs interest me. I have good formal education, recent job titles that are well aligned with roles for which I’m applying, and I’ve stayed current on the industry. While having someone refer me for a position helps, I know I still need to be a well-qualified candidate. Those qualifications are what helps me get from a courtesy phone interview to being considered a viable candidate for an open role.
Pure Dumb Luck
There is a certain amount of planetary alignment that happens whenever something good manages to actually happen. In this case, a company in a field that interests me (software) had an opening for which I was qualified, and I had a former coworker who was willing to refer me for the position. The quotes “The harder I work, the luckier I get” comes to mind as does “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
A Note About The Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff #4 through finding a new role. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself in the months between when my previous role ended and starting a new job.
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please Look At My Resume: Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Job Search Low Points
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Interviewing for a New Role
As a many-time layoff survivor, I have done quite a few job searches and had lots of interviews. Recently, I read an article about a job searcher who opted out of one hiring process. He did this after making it through three rounds of interviews and having the organization ask about arranging the next six (yes, six) rounds of interviews.
I felt compelled to share my story about one seemingly never-ending interview process. Unfortunately, like with many things in life, it took a bad experience to teach me how to make better decisions.
Job Interviewing Boundary Setting is Hard
Let me start by taking a moment to acknowledge that this is not always easy to do. It is hard to set boundaries when you’re hip-deep in a job search, especially when you’re unemployed. The longer the search goes on, the easier it is to tell yourself that you’ll summit Everest if a potential employer asks you to as part of possibly FINALLY getting a paying job.
Consider this your reminder to realize that jumping through more and more hoops doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up with a job at the end of the process. Do your future job-searching self a favor and think through what your boundaries are when it comes to participating in a given company's hiring process. (We'll revisit this a little later.)
The Perfect Job! (or was it...)
During this particular job search, I was laid off at the end of the summer. From previous job searches, I hoped to find a new position before Thanksgiving because otherwise, it might be until February or March before I secured a new role.
I was very excited when I ran across THE PERFECT JOB! It was an opening for a training director position within an easy commuting distance where I even knew someone who had connections within the organization.
Lesson Learned: Don’t fall in love with a job. Even if it seems like “the perfect job,” it is not yet “your job.” Apply, and hope for the best, but keep on applying. Until you have an actual accepted job offer, it is not “your job.
The Inside Scoop
I met with my professional connection, and they filled me in. I learned about the organization, their clientele, their mission, the key players in the hiring process, and helpful background information. My connection even put in a good word with the organization (they had left on good terms.) I also learned that the company had some turnover in this position, so they were trying to make sure they did their due diligence and hired the right person this time around.
Lesson Learned: Gather and synthesize information even when you’re excited because you found THE PERFECT JOB. This company having gone through two people in the role in a relatively short time period and being concerned about making another hiring misstep is something I heard and noted. Still, I didn't really take it to heart. In this case, the company was trying (maybe a little too) hard to hire the right person for the role. It may have also indicated something about the company or the position that caused people not to stay. My future self knows to synthesize information more carefully--and not overemphasize only the good things.
The Phone Interviews
I applied, and my connection put in a good word for me. The company quickly reached out to me for an initial phone screen. Then a phone interview. Then another phone interview. Then yet another phone interview. After four phone calls—each where the new interviewer seemed excited about me as a candidate and talked about who else I needed to talk to—I started to wonder what the game plan was for this whole process (aside from their overwhelming and often stated goal of not to make a hiring mistake).
Lessons Learned: In the initial phone screen or the first interview, ask about the hiring process. This includes their estimate of when this process will be over (a week? a month? 6 months?) and the critical steps in the process. Decide your boundaries and be ready to decide the number of hours you are willing to dedicate to interviewing for this role.
Remember, you are interviewing them, too. Make no assumptions. Don't get so excited that they keep wanting to talk with you that you keep going, not knowing how many hoops there are to jump through.
The Work Samples
In addition to talking to different interviewers on multiple occasions, the company wanted to see instructional design work samples from me. I emailed work samples and reviewed them with a subject matter expert who was well-versed in adult education and instructional design. They complimented me on the trainer guide, videos, and job aids I had created. They told me they were impressed with my work and learned from what I told them. At this point, they told me the next step was for me to meet with the company founder.
Lessons Learned: Have a portfolio online that people can access, or let people know that you are happy to review work samples (and your process) with them in an in-person or Zoom meeting. I keep my work samples online with a note that these are intended to showcase my work and that they are not to be downloaded and distributed.
The Zoom Meetings
I was excited to meet the company founder, who was also a published author. In preparation, I bought and read their most recent book, researched their accomplishments, read their blog articles, and reviewed their body of work. During the interview, we had a great conversation, which included a lot of “when we work together” and “next steps” language.
This meeting was followed by multiple Zoom meetings with different stakeholders (again, one at a time) explaining the next steps in this process—which they called an “in-box experience.” During this phase, I would come into their office and work for a half day. I would have a chance to interact with multiple people I would work with, including consultants and a client. This would require me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, work on a project for an actual client, and present information to a client.
Lessons Learned: No matter how many interviews you have, or how much they seem to like you, remember you do not have the job until they have made you an offer and you have come to an agreement about your compensation. Remember that the goal of this process is that the employer decides if they want to work with you, and you decide if you want to work with them. Looking back, I'm frustrated with myself that I invested SO MUCH TIME with this potential employer without talking about salary expectations.
The In-Box Experience
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, at 8:00 am, I arrived at the company's downtown office location for my in-box experience. I brought my computer and the work I had done so far. (BTW--there was a project and pre-work that I did, which took way too long. Holy time suck.) I was told that I needed to use their computer for my work that day.
During the four hours that I was there working (for free) for them, I had an in-person panel interview with people I had talked with via phone, interviewed via Zoom with a consultant, ran a project meeting, completed work on instructional materials for a client, and got feedback on my performance along the way. I had a final conversation with one of the decision-makers before ending my day. I was told I'd hear back early the following week.
Lessons Learned: Determine ahead of time how much you are willing to do for a role, and when to call it. Remember, you're interviewing them, too. And, for the love of God, don't do a ton of unpaid labor for a business that is not paying you for your work product.
Thanks, But No
In the middle of the following week, I got a call. It was very brief. Thanks for my time, but they had decided not to proceed with me as a candidate. If I like, though, they would be willing to add me to their possible consultant database for future contract work.
Lesson Learned: Never again. In short, I spent about 45 hours total, including about 15 hours of unpaid work that I did for the company, to end up with no job offer. Time to transition all of these lessons learned into new personal guidelines.
My Fancy New Job Search Boundaries
Remember the boundary setting I mentioned before? Here's where we revisit it. After going through this process (and getting mad all over again while writing this article), I am reminded of the outcome of those lessons learned for me.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Network Building in the Beforetimes
Pre-pandemic, "networking" typically meant attending in-person events, shaking a few hands, and having a somewhat meaningful conversation with another human. While in-person opportunities are available again, it's still a good practice to continue to build your network when interacting with people online.
Enter the Webinar
Like many people, I have attended (and delivered) approximately a bijillion online meetings, trainings, and interactive instructor-led sessions. I've been approaching these sessions with a mind towards not just attending, but also making new connections. Although the process differs from in-person interaction with people, I have managed to connect with more people (and often form more meaningful connections) than attending in-person meetings and “working the room.” As someone who runs introverted and communicates effectively in writing, this was an opportunity to turn webinars into a bonus network building exercise.
Your Personal Webinar Branding
When attending a webinar, I make sure that people are able to see who I am, my full name, and a picture if at all possible. I use the same photo I use on LinkedIn so that people associate me with that picture. I also make sure that my first and last name are present so people have a chance of being able to find me after the session--or will recognize my name.
In addition, during the webinar, I interact during the session. This usually involves commenting in the chat when prompted--which is also an opportunity for other attendees to see my full name. During any small group interactions, I'm sure to turn my camera on so people can see my face, hear my voice, and see my name. If the presenter asks people to share out loud, I usually turn on my camera, and share my thoughts. Again, this is another opportunity for people to hear my voice, see my face, and see my name. Each of these "impressions" helps people start to get to know me at least a little bit.
Finding Potential Connections
During the a webinar, I often take a screen shot of the participant list, and a gallery of attendees if people are on camera. Whenever possible, download the chat from the session. This helps me identify who was active in the webinar and gives me additional information on anything they might have shared during the session. I often make notes on notecards during sessions to help me remember who might have said what and key content covered. All of these details can help me when interacting with attendees later on when I send LinkedIn connection requests.
Researching Potential Connections
After attending a webinar, here is my process for adding new LinkedIn connections:
Personalizing a Connection Request
Personalizing connection requests is a great way to start building a relationship with a new professional contact. Here are the key components I include:
Connection Request Examples
Here are a few examples of messages that you can use to invite people to connect. Currently, LinkedIn allows you to include up to 300 characters when personalizing connection requests.
Hi, Jen. I see we both attended today’s White Box Club meeting. I’m also in career transition and seeking a new role in learning and development. Let's connect!
I'm also always up for a 30-minute "virtual coffee" meeting to discuss how we can help one another as we job search.
Hi, Jack. Great to interact with you a bit at this morning's Excellence Share. I love sharing ideas with fellow L&D professionals. Let's connect!
Hi, Javier. I see we both attended today's "Sales Enablement Best Practices" webinar. I definitely enjoy learning from this group.
Since you mentioned that you are job searching, be sure to check out The White Box Club on Meetup to help you as you find your next role.
After The Initial Connection
How do you further nurture that relationship? Here are a few ideas.
Continue to Build The Relationship
After connecting with people initially, be sure to continue to nurture those connections. Posting useful content, and occasionally messaging people is one way to do that. Ideally, you can add value to the relationship before you are in a position where you need to ask those individuals for help.
7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.
Buy The Book!
Were you recently laid off from your job and need a roadmap for what's next? Pick up a copy of my book, Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide!