Fisher Communications layoff: T + 3.5 months


Looking for a new job is an intriguing experience ITE. Here’s what I’ve been doing.

Where to?

In every search, you’ve first got to understanding what you’re searching for. This can happen automatically, so that you don’t even realize you’ve done it, because you examined your search objectives subconsciously and/or over a few milliseconds. For this job search, I wanted this to be a very deliberate and methodical step, and even stretch it out a bit, so that I left no internal stone unturned.

So, I selected a decent mind-mapping package, and did mind-mapping exercises about what I wanted in my next job slash career. I plotted the mundane (e.g., commute time vs. salary), middling (e.g., responsibility vs. authority), and weighty (e.g., company values). This helped me better understand what I wanted to find, recognize what issues were really important vs. really trivial, and frame my trade-offs. No stellar epiphanies, but a lot of fine-tuning.

Hit the bricks

I then reached out to friends. I’m blessed with a small but hardcore circle of friends, and their support and encouragement has been crucial. I also ramped up my networking. (Which is a constant background activity in my career, but I admit that I do it more intensely when job searching.)

I like to think about connection/networking activities as operating in two modes:

  • Active (searching): trolling job boards, connecting with friends, networking
  • Passive (exposure): blogging, LinkedIn profile updates, Twitter, conferences

For the active mode, my primary tools are e-mail, lunch meetings, and coffee meetings. I doubt the job boards will amount to much for my search level, but they can’t hurt. (By and large, I’m looking for a senior technical management position, a la VP, Director, or group manager.)

A word on passive mode. It’s important! Think of it as establishing your “career brand.” It broadcasts your interests and capabilities in a way that’s easily accessible at others’ convenience. Your LinkedIn profile and personal blog are real-time resumes — they establish you in a way that streams into new directions over time, with links to (and from!) web material that highlight your interests.

You could argue that such brand establishment can wound your chances with some employers. But I’ve concluded that it helps far more than it may hurt. “What if the hiring manager is conservative, and she sees on my blog that I read Daily Kos?” Do you really think a mature hiring manager would be so shortsighted? And if he/she is, you’d want to run away from them anyway. (And as for the extreme corner cases — well, if your blog is truly offensive, then you’ve got deeper problems.) You want to find a new position that matches your interests, so if a hiring manager reads your blog and concludes you’re not their guy/gal, you didn’t want to work there anyway.

Be yourself! You’re the only one who can.

Coffee. Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee.

My home features a fast Internet connection, a loving wife, a loving dog, and cats that allow me to feed them. Although home has many conveniences, I often prefer to spend my day in coffee shops. Free wi-fi is my friend. I gravitate to El Diablo (“I’llhaveadecafcubanoforhere”) and Tully’s. I have more energy when I’m around others, and getting out & about is healthy for the mind and body, even if it’s only walking around town between meetings. Seeing and hearing other people in motion helps put my own mind in motion. Something’s happening over there, and my mind responds with making something happen over here…

Besides which, you never know who you’ll bump into during the day. You sure won’t meet anyone in your study.

Drum roll

The good news is, I’m finding positions that at least partially meet my objectives, at the rate of about one a week.

The bad news is, with two exceptions, they’ve been lacking in at least one significant respect. Only two nearly dead-on job matches in three months of looking isn’t a terribly high hit rate.

I’ve considered suspending my job search for two weeks, and going on a road trip with my wife. And dog. On the plus side: During this period, Pr(my ideal job becomes available && is filled) == ε; it would be fun; it might be mentally therapeutic. The minus side: We’d spend money that we don’t have.

And after some discussion, my wife and I decided to not do the road trip, but to instead do some day trips. I guess we’re both fundamentally frugal.

Mental state

I’ve had a handful of down days. Feeling out-of-sorts, got up on the wrong side of the bed, etc. I’ve found it’s best to just role with it and take the day off. See a movie, take the dog for a ride, stay home and read, have a cigar, whatever. I’ll intermittently think about what’s bugging me, process it a little, then put it away for a couple of hours. Later, I ponder it again. I pick at it like that periodically during the day.

Come the next morning, I’m again good to go.

My predominant optimisim is kind of fascinating, because I can’t report that I have an offer, or the phone’s ringing off the hook! I just innately feel that everything will work out fine in the end. This isn’t “hope,” exactly; hope is a desire for something to happen. I know something better is ahead. A superb start-up opportunity, leadership engineering position, etc. is just around the corner.

Is this a survival skill, delusion, or savvily plugging into the universe? I know it’s the latter.

Other stuff

I’ve been doing some long-overdue reading. Lately it’s been about neural networks and SETI. A spate of second-edition Django books are soon being published, and they will be fun to rip through.

I’ve joined two part-time ventures. The motivation was rational curiosity more than anything else — neither may pay much, but they would be terrific experiences that could stretch my capabilities in as-yet untried directions. They may become real this summer.

What useful strategies, observations, or tips did you learn when you were last unemployed?

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4 comments
  1. > Be yourself! You’re the only one who can.

    I like that! Is it yours?

    It sounds like you’re doing everything right. I’ll wish you good luck, but I believe you’re making plenty of luck on your own.

    • John said:

      Yep, that’s mine. It’s not terribly profound, but it is pithy. 🙂

      Thanks for the good wishes. You’re one of the friends I’ve been relying on, and I hope I can return the favor someday. (But maybe that’s not a good thing to hope for? 😉 )

  2. Selfishly, I’d prefer you never get a chance to pay me back and are forced to pay it forward. But I’d be surprised if I’m never again looking for work.

    (Not that you really owe me much of anything. I’ll continue to look for any way I can help. And don’t hesitate to ask.)

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