I started looking for a job in earnest just after the New Year. Nearly four months later I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be joining Dell.
Many people helped me along the way, and I thought I’d pay it forward by sharing my job-hunting methods. I hope it helps someone, or at least provides a few minutes of amusement.
Taking a cue from my friend — and fellow Dell-er — Sarah Vela, I began my job hunt online, with this “Hire Me” post, which I then linked to a gazillion times on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere.
I also changed my Twitter and Facebook avatar, just like Sarah did.
In the “Hire Me” post, I tried to strike a balance between professionalism and Austin-style keepin’-it-weird-ness. The post received a lot of good feedback, which was initially encouraging. But after a few months of no job, I began to worry that it was too weird and not professional enough. It might have been paranoid of me, but I toned down the weirdness and also began to be more conservative in social media. Who knows whether any of this made a difference, one way or another. Maybe some recruiter was about to offer me a million dollars a year to tweet random observations about my elderly cat, but decided to pass because my blog was too boring. This is just one of the pitfalls of job hunting in 2012. You want to be authentic but not eccentric.
My wife also hit up her online network, especially on Facebook. It was gratifying to have husbands-of-friends-of-friends-of-my-wife crawling out of the woodwork to try to help me.
Plain Old Networking
I had a veritable army of support during my job hunt. Probably the most valuable resource were all the moms and dads at my daughter’s school (you know who you are). THANK YOU! I enjoyed many lunches, coffees, email exchanges, and phone calls within this network. I felt like everyone was looking out for me. Whether or not it led closer to a J-O-B, it was always good to explore possibilities and get my morale boosted by good conversation and the fries at Hyde Park Bar & Grill. My parents and in-laws also provided a steady stream of referrals. Any one of these could have led to a dream job. It was only a matter of time.
Most of us ignore LinkedIn except to connect with the occasional past colleague or maybe to post in the “Cat Fancy” group. But when you’re job hunting it is a tremendously valuable resource. First, tons of companies post jobs there — and some only post jobs on LinkedIn. Second, you can set up all kinds of custom searches that filter by multiple criteria: Salary, location, keyword, industry, et al. (Protip: If you include salary in your search criteria, you will miss out on jobs that don’t specify any salary. I learned this the hard way.) I had five or six custom searches and got email alerts every day.
I upgraded my LinkedIn account to “Job Seeker” ($29.95/month) . This upgrade allowed me to send email to people out of my network, become a “featured applicant” when I applied for jobs and, somewhat creepily, see who’s viewed my LinkedIn profile. (I’m going to miss this last one.) If you’re looking for a job, this upgrade is totally worth it. It was easy to downgrade once I landed a gig.
I’m not the world’s most organized person, but I am fond of using spreadsheets to track things. I had two: a frequently updated list of links to companies where I might want to work and a list of all the jobs I’d applied for.
Every few days I’d visit all the links in the first document to see if any new jobs had been posted. (There are many companies who post only on their corporate website — jobs that you will never see on Monster, LinkedIn, or anywhere else.)
The second spreadsheet became useful once I’d applied for a bunch of jobs. As the recruiters started calling, it was useful to be able to quickly reference the position I’d applied for, where I’d seen it posted, and a brief job description. And every time I was turned down, I moved the job off the main spreadsheet into a new tab called “Rejects.” This tab will make for good bedtime reading when I need a dose of despair.
Acts of Desperation
There is a point in a sustained job hunt in which you believe you are doing everything wrong and that it’s time to think outside the box. It was at this point that I awoke one morning determined to create an online “Choose Your Own Adventure” game in which recruiters could play until they made all the right decisions, culminating in hiring me. This might have been a good idea if I were an actual computer programmer and/or had limitless time. Instead I did it totally half-assed. What can I say? I was desperate.
In the end, none of this made a difference…
After applying to more than 60 positions, speaking with dozens of recruiters, interviewing with a handful of hiring managers, and rejecting one offer, I finally received a job offer from Dell. I’d applied on their website on April 10, had a phone interview less than two weeks later, an in-person interview a couple days after the phone interview, and an offer the following day. The entire process, from submitting my application to getting hired, took less than three weeks.
It’s not supposed to work this way!
And in fact, it almost didn’t work at all. I’d very nearly given up applying for positions at Dell, having applied previously for 10 other jobs without hearing anything back. You gotta be persistent.
…but I’m still glad I did it
I think part of the reason I got the job at Dell was because I’d had so much practice leading up to it. I’d had four months to practice my interview skills. Four months to identify what I am really good at and enjoy vs. what direction my career could take, if absolutely necessary. And Dell really impressed me; it was amazing to see such a huge company move so quickly to recruit someone. I start the job in two weeks (I still have client work to wrap up) and I’m thrilled to be starting something new.