Random Musings of a Job Hunter

Just a couple thoughts while I sit at Starbucks:

 

Start Right Away

I probably should not have waited a few weeks before getting really hardcore in sending my resume out.   My previous experience was : Upload Resume, Receive Call Next Day, Interview That Week, Sign Offer And Start In 2 Weeks.

This time around there was a major lag between spamming resume and starting to receive calls for interviews.  I had to tweak my resume a few times – the keyword hungry role-matching bots do most of the hunting work for potential employers and recruiters now – so if you don’t keyword whore, you don’t get calls (even on submissions).   There’s a trick where you can Ninja Text (white font on white paper) all the keywords you want, in tiny font.   I haven’t resorted to this quite yet.

 

Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Early on, even before my previous employment was terminated, I was looking around and had 1 interview, through the ever-epic Eddie ‘PimpDaddy’ Rocker from the legendary days of PhalNet.  I thought I was for sure going to get an offer on that role, however, as it was explained to me, hiring was put on hold.   For a while I was a little skeptical of this, but I see the role I applied to constantly reposted and reposted and reposted on the job boards – so it looks like they’re just keeping it warm but not pulling the trigger to bring anyone aboard quite yet.

 

Hiring & Firing is a Quarterly Affair

Job hunters should understand that most companies operate on budget reports and departmental performance quarterly executive updates.  This is often when full-time staffing alteration decisions get made.

Companies like to line up hires for solid budget periods (quarterly) – that’s why contracts are often 3, 6 or 12 months – easy time slices to work with.   So you usually won’t hear much near the end of the quarter – I certainly didn’t.   May 1st though, WOW, out of the woodwork!!  You will hear from recruitment agencies – I have some friends & business associates in the biz that I relied on before to get me people, and they’re just as willing to return the favor and get you in front of companies during the quiet times.

 

Protect Yourself In Your Employment Agreement

Understanding the preceding observation on quarterly timing – any employment agreement should be reviewed to find out if there are some LOW-ASS LIMITS on your severance entitlement.   Consider baking in a minimum of 12 weeks in case you are packaged out at an inopportune time of year – Sometimes it can take a quarter for the right role to come along.   I really despise the thought of going in somewhere unsatisfactory to me just to ride out 3 months until I can find something better…. but it could easily come to that – if I don’t land something this month, there could be another very quiet month and a half ahead until a possible hiring flurry in July.   Sacrificing my ideal role/pay/industry/etc might net me a couple bucks but comes with the huge hassle of trying to juggle work & interviews, then having to bail on a company – just feels wrong.    Folks say there’s no loyalty in corporations, and for the most part, I agree, it’s an entity, the only loyalty they really have is the leaders being loyal to the shareholders and/or board of directors.   The employees are cogs in a profit & productivity machine.

So in summary, if you’re going to be a cog, protect yourself just a bit because no one will do it for you.

 

Leave the Baggage at the Carousel

I reflect on my interviews – it’s important as I find I’m easily caught up in both the excitement of the opportunity and the applicability of my experience to bring benefit to an organization.  Reflecting gives me a chance to replay everything without the rose-tinted glasses and clouded judgment.

You don’t realize until you replay it just how jaded you can sound if you bring any kind of negativity into talking about your previous employer.   In my earlier discussions (thankfully with more understanding recruiters) I tended to dump on them – I’ve definitely dumped on at least 1 manager in company interviews before I caught myself.   It’s a little embarassing, and it’ll easily cost an offer.   Nobody wants people going around giving their organization negative press after the fact, even if they’re not consciously thinking that, it’s there.

In Summary

I actually received my first offer while I was writing this post!  It’s a good salary and a nice location downtown.   I will decide Monday after the remainder of my interviews.

Stay tuned!

Oh yeah, first post in a year and a half

It’s a cold rainy April day, I’m at home, steadily applying to open IT positions in and around the city of Toronto.   I’ve had plenty of ‘chats’, ‘discussions’ and recruiters on the phone, but no in person interviews quite yet.

I’m on my 6th week of resting at home.  Decompressing is a luxury that few are afforded when cut loose from their former employer.   It’s a time to reflect and ready yourself for the next challenge.   I’m writing now because the anxiety is starting to set in, and I find no better outlet than just writing my thoughts down.   I struggle to determine whether the anxiety comes from not working or the prospect of a new role – or both.   Gut feeling tells me I have a DRIVE to get another job – if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have drafted 4 resumes and posted to easily 100 roles so far.   Gut feeling tells me I’m not afraid of the next challenge – I confidently present myself and routinely demonstrate the skills I advertise on those resumes.

I dig further and the next deeper causes of my anxiety feel like they could be fear of failure.   I was, after all, laid off.   Twice now.   I’m second guessing myself more.  I fear the confidence I portray may be seen as some sort of Dunning-Kruger – do I seem overconfident like those who think they are great but actually aren’t?   Especially when my resume is now peppered with 2 layoffs where employers, like myself in the past, can read between the lines?

Now, before it becomes an existential crisis of some sort, I’ve boiled and distilled my thoughts into a simple theory:  I’m not a good servant-leader.    That’s not a bad thing by any stretch – there are plenty of awesome people I’ve met who simply didn’t have the mindset or skill set to rock it in the management & leadership world.   It’s something I struggle with because there are few things I get into that I can’t at least get decent at.   My peers have always provided support, however my superiors now, twice, have not.   My anxiety comes from falling into this trap again.

My last 2 roles started as technical jobs and I moved into management – slowly on the first job, swiftly into the next.   Does that mean I’m becoming a ‘better’ leader?  OR, had I simply fallen into the trap of confidence & self-assuredness in leading people, only to be perceived as (or actually be) bad at it and be fed a sum of money to walk away quietly?

Analyzing this is quite difficult as I have to have enough emotional intelligence to disconnect myself and look at this professionally.   What do I think that guy at those jobs was not good enough at?  What do I think that guy at those jobs didn’t do well that lead to his superiors to push for a layoff.   It’s too easy to hide behind the ‘RESTRUCTURING’ excuse and I don’t find recruiters / potential employers buy it for a second.   Answering my questions – I think that guy overburdened himself and fell into a spiral of promises & failure to deliver.

Wow, that’s a bit of a shot to the ego, but it’s true for me on a personal level.  I’ve been far too agreeable in my management career – too eager to take on things, too happy to make my boss excited – let the good times roll!  But when it comes down to brass tacks, I often ended up with 30 days of crap to get done in 5.   The other destructive element – I hated telling my leaders something was going to be late.  Resetting expectations was worse than delivering late because maybe there was a CHANCE I could pull it off.

Managing for some capacity for 10 years – I still struggle to come to grips with this.  I want to be helpful, friendly, deliver epic stuff.   But I don’t keep my own limits in mind – my mental toughness eventually wearing down until I come into work every day and slump into my chair and start tackling a severely bloated inbox that should never have got there because it could have been avoided with a simple “No.”

Folks, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling like it’s hitting a little too close to home – I’m just thinking of it this way now:

Old Me

Boss:  Man, I think we should get a Porsche.

<cue> Me thinking a) that’s cool, b) if we did X, Y and Z we could totally get a Porsche.

TKJode:  Let’s do it, I can make it happen.

Boss:  Sweet!  Get it done man!

TKJode gets over the excitement and realizes there’s no ACTUAL time to do X, Y and Z, but starts the gears moving anyway.   TKJode tries to split his time between previous tasks A, B and C and now X, Y and Z.

Later… Boss:  TKJode, how’s that Porsche coming along?

TKJode:   Man, it’s a lot of work but things are happening!

<cue> TKJode fails to mention that A, B and C are little behind too because of working on X. 

Boss:  That’s great TKJode, cuz I’m really excited about that Porsche!!

TKJode:  Me too!
<cue> TKJode having a mild panic attack after the boss leaves because we expected X and Y to be done by now but we got stuck with X because there was no time to push things along.

Inevitably – Boss becomes upset because we didn’t get the Porsche in time.   Rinse, wash, repeat.

 

New Me aka. what I should be doing / having in mind at ALL TIMES!

Boss:  Man, I think we should get a Porsche.

<cue> TKJode thinking there’s enough on his plate for the next 8 weeks

TKJode:  Cool, but I’ve got A, B and C to get done – reassign, reschedule or remove those tasks and I could totally have the cycles to get that Porsche.

Boss:  No TKJode, A, B and C are super important, keep working on those, the Porsche can wait.

 

Oh look, isn’t the 2nd better?!   My difficulty, and my anxiety is around falling into the Old Me trap over and over.  I can’t continually get caught up in the hype and be so agreeable, but it feels somewhat against my nature – it goes against the grain of my person, especially when it’s interesting and a hot topic that gets me swept up in the excitement.

So then, I naturally wonder – is my output as a manager lower than acceptable because I fall into these habits?  Is my output as a manager lower than acceptable because I’m just not good enough in personality, leadership skills, organization ,etc to get the job done?  Or, should great managers be able to take all this stuff on and still come out on top?   I think I can answer my own question with simple observation – the number of people I’ve seen around the industry that can just willy-nilly pile up tasks like IHOP pancake plates and still come out sparkly is almost ZERO.   The great leaders are ones who can focus on and deliver what they promise – and they are self-aware enough to not make promises they might break.   The best managers I see are masters of control… over their self AND over their peers and leaders.  They say no.  They know when to put the brakes on.  They’re not afraid to turn something down because it’s better shutting it down up front than wasting bunch of time, money and resources to make it half way only to turn back or fail.

No leader wants to have to take care of a subordinate.   Especially upper-middle management – you get there because you did your time taking care of the employees.  Many directors feel they deserve that break…and maybe they are deserving of it.  Personally I keep seeing how great leaders are the ones who continue to nurture and bring up the next leaders – but that shouldn’t be a crutch or a point of contention that I can lean on and perhaps for some time it was something I expected to continue — that little accountability umbrella that my superior would provide.  Maybe a culture of accountability umbrellas would allow leaders to grow & self-pace but I truly don’t believe the North American corporate space is even close to being that soft.   Competition and cost-cutting demand only the most self-reliant bootstrapping leaders remain.

But wait!  The opposite effect is seen all the time!!!!  Ask anyone in any corporate office; “Who’s the useless manager in your area?”   There’s often many – peers that know that one person who’s been around and gets by simply by being a task master – dutifully spending hours in Excel submitting numbers with colored graphs, having uninterested one-on-one’s with their direct reports but not actually doing any ‘leading’.   They’re OK managers but don’t command much respect.   Yet they survive.  They survive because they at least do the things that upper management needs which is to simply corral the employees and provide numbers that can be easily acted upon using a common management framework.

Do I become one of those managers?   Maybe I have to become that to lead ‘better’.   I know how to do the numbers, I know how to report, I know how to put together a useful management framework and I genuinely care about how my teams are doing.

But I over-commit and act cocky about my abilities.   So that gets me the door and a bag of cash and a ‘thanks but see ya later’.    I’m not mad, I’m only a little anxious that I won’t get out of that pattern any time soon and in this job hunt, maybe that it’s showing a bit on my resume.

Motivation

People are motivated by a lot of different things – fame, fortune, or just the self-satisfaction that comes from actually DOING something.

But there’s something else – some other factor that keeps that dream alive….keeps the drive strong…. and when it’s gone, it just looks like defeat.

I’m looking at a defeated area of the business.  It’s a technology team.  It’s just rife with throwing process and roadblocks in front of people.   These are people that just don’t want to do the right thing.  That hide behind process.  That create roadblocks for others.   They just ‘show up’, but they never really show up.

How did they get so dang busted up like a beaten dog in a shelter?  How did they come to become so defensive over every little thing?  They’ve certainly bubbled themselves into an isolated little world on their own, weary of interlopers and even those trying to genuinely help.

It just breeds hostility.  I don’t like having to escalate, but at this point, it just feels like I’m avoiding a sort-of human toxic sludge pile so I can get the right things done, and I’m really not feeling bad about it anymore.   I escalated 3 branches of management higher than me within the course of 2 hours because I didn’t have the time or patience to try to reason with them.  It’s good for the business, but wouldn’t it be better if I got the point across…. got them to buy in without having to go over a few helmets?

Simultaneously, I wonder how such an area of the business survives with such obvious reactions to simple questions, not limited to diversions, deflections, derision, and indecision.

Anyway, that’s beyond my direct capability to fix… either motivating them, or just tossing the sludge out.   They are people at the end of the day, and I’m sure they have no ill-will or mean to do the ‘wrong’ thing…. I hope someone can light the right kind of fire under them.   But for now, they are a sad, defeated crew.

Refresh

So I decided I didn’t feel like writing any more custom PHP back-end mumbo jumbo to manage posts on my ‘development’ site, and that it was really quite boring, tired, and stuck in 2013 (the copyright literally still said 2013).    And here we are with a new post engine (better than the Mango/Joomla fiasco of the late 2000s).

So wtf is TKJode up to these days?

  • Took a package from old job in October
  • Took a few months off
  • Took another job in March
  • Got Married
  • Moved into a new house

The new job is OK – the folks there need to, as a friend puts it; ‘read up on some books’.   The state of Information Technology there is a bit ancient, though the freedom to mess with stuff, shape process and personnel there is good.

Wife, job, cats, house.  Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse.

Christmas is around the corner… I must go think of things I want!  Until next post.

– tkjode