Things are looking up.  I have several opportunities in various stages of development.  The interesting thing is that they are all fairly different.  One is a trench HR leadership role, another a recruiting leadership role and a final one a contract recruiter role.  All three appeal to me for different reasons.  All three have their positives and negatives.  It is going to be interesting to see how each play out and the final outcome.

Here is the most interesting thing about these jobs – not one of them is from a job board.  Not one of them is a job I applied too.  Ok, maybe that isn’t surprising to you social media mavens, but it was surprising to me.  Each of these came through a connection on Twitter or Linkedin.  In April of 2010, I joined Twitter just to see what other HR people were talking about and to help me stay connected while being at home.  At the same time I got more active on Linkedin, connecting with people in my field or in my hometown.  Now, nearly a year later, the network that I have built is working for me in ways I could not even imagine.  I am eternally grateful.

If you are reading this and you are not on Twitter or active on Linkedin – start today.  We have all heard it said that it is important to build relationships before you need them and I am living proof of how true that is.  Had I popped up in January for the first time and asked people to help, they probably would not have been so willing.  As it is so many are more than willing to help and for whatever reason, refer me to job openings.  I will never understand it, but I will forever appreciate it.

I interview for a couple of these jobs in the next week or so.  I wonder if my next job search update will be my last?!?  Fingers crossed!  Regardless of whether it is my last, my next job search post will be on my new site.  Launch date is still Monday, February 14th.  Be sure to check it out.  I’ll post the link to the new site here on Monday!

Last week my sweet boy turned one.  This week Chicago experienced the third largest snow storm in its history.  Between a 1st birthday party that could rival something you would see on My Super Sweet 16 (complete with car pictured below) and the snowpocalypse (or Blizzard 2011 as it’s known in the media), I have not been job searching much.  I really do not have much of an update to give.

As I sit to type this though, the thought does occur to me that I am very lucky to be in the position I am.  I am able to engage in a very relaxed job search.  While I want to and am ready to work, I am not in a position where I must have something now.  I can take my time, apply only to jobs that really appeal to me and even take days off from the job search if I want.  I am blessed to be in this position.

So many Americans do not have this luxury.  They are out of work and need something now.  They have bills piling up and unemployment running out.  They spend each day treating their job search as their job.  They have revamped their resume no less than fifteen times.  They desperately check their email and Linkedin accounts every morning hoping for some glimmer of hope.  They have faced more rejection than they ever wanted too in their life, but they keep trudging on as if their life depended on it – because it does. Their job search takes no breaks due to birthday parties or snow, they must find a job at all costs.  They are in a desperate situation and getting more discouraged by the day.

So this is what I’m thinking about tonight.  Yes, I want a job and yes I can spend all of my time helping myself, but what about others? What about those who are in a different situation, who need it more?  What can I do for them?  How can I help? Hmmm…..

So I’ve been a little narcissistic this week.  I’ve been reading great recruiting blogs like Boolean Black Belt and Norton Folgate: The Recruiting Unblog, both of which give amazing advice on how to be found by recruiters.  I have become obsessed with changing my Linkedin profile and my online resumes to see which format and which key words change how I show up in search results.

At first, I just googled myself.  Baker is a pretty common last name, but Sabrina is kind of unique so I had no idea what would come up.  My Linkedin profile and Twitter account was found on pg 2 of my search results.  Not too bad I guess.  I then went to Bing and did the same thing.  My Linkedin profile popped up as the second link – I was so excited.  Then I realized that most employers do not think, “Hmm, I would like to hire someone named Sabrina Baker so I’m going to google that name.” So searching my name meant very little.

Then I dug in a little more.  Doing some very simple boolean search techniques, I searched by words that I would hope to be found by: recruiting, talent acquisition, human resource director, PHR etc.  I was very sad to see that most of my searches did not produce my profiles anywhere on the first several pages.   Then I did the same thing on Linkedin.  Very, very sad with my results.

So, now I’m obsessed with improving how I show up in search results.  I have tweaked my LI profile several times and think I’m getting there, but still have a lot of work to do.  I’m making it more keyword rich, ensuring I have good connections and recommendations and participating as much as possible in my groups.

It’s all a work in progress, but the cool thing is I’m learning so much along the way.  I know more about searching than I ever did and those skills will certainly come in handy with my next role.  Which by the way, nothing affirmative yet, but some strong leads in the pipeline…….

I’ll keep you posted.

It has now been just over two weeks since I officially kicked off my job search and things are heating up.  I have a couple of promising leads but nothing definite.  I’m eternally grateful for all the help and support I continue to received.  You guys are awesome!

I do have a little bone to pick though.  My beef is with a few recruiters – not all, but a few that I have interacted with over the past several months – even before I was really job hunting.

Let me start by saying, again, that I have had some level of recruiting responsibility in every role.  I know what it is like to post a job, get 1,000 resumes within 30 minutes and have to figure out how to sort the good from the bad.  I have no expectation of communication from recruiters when I apply for a job.  I completely understand that they will probably only communicate to me if  they want to interview me or when they send out their blast email rejecting all left in their inbox.  I completely understand it and am fine with it.

That’s when I apply.  When a recruiter initiates contact with me however, that is a different story.  Several times over the last few months, I have had recruiters reach out to me on Linkedin or through my resume posting on Careerbuilder with a job lead.  They send me a job description and ask me if I am interested.  I respond yes and send a copy of my resume and cover letter.  They reply back and say that they will call me the next day to talk more about the position, some of them even set up specific times for us to chat.  AND. THEN. NOTHING.  No call, no email, they go radio silent as if they have dropped off the face of the earth.  Sometimes we will have several days worth of email exchanges before they disappear.  Every time I will send one final email or leave one final voice message that says, “I’m still here, what’s going on” and get no reply.  What gives?  When a recruiter initiates contact, I do have an expectation of follow-up.

There are several legitimate reasons why they may want to end their communication with me.

1.  Maybe they lied and didn’t really have an active opening, but wanted to just get my resume on file.
2.  Maybe their original email was a blast email and they found someone more qualified through that process.
3.  Maybe something in my email/voice communication led them to believe I would not be a good fit personality wise

All of those are perfectly legitimate in my book – well maybe not the lying, but you know what I’m saying.  Here’s the deal though.  I’m a big girl, just tell me.  You are not going to hurt my feelings.  I am not going to hound you for days or weeks after trying to get you to change your mind.  I will drop it as quickly as you do if you are just honest.  Instead of taking the very easy route of silence, just tell me where we are.  If you found me, initiated contact and started to develop a relationship with me, I think I deserve at least that. Closure, it’s that simple.

So here is my compromise.  If I submit to a job you have open and you do not think I am a good fit, you never have to say a word to me in any format.  If you reach out to me first, however, I want closure.  I think that’s fair.

As an introvert I visibly cringe when I hear the words, “step out of your comfort zone.”  My cringe is for various reasons.  The first reason is that the line is way overused and often just an attempt to get someone to do something they do not want to do.  The second reason is that stepping out of your comfort zone means lots of self-examination and then action on the part of the person working from home in their pajamas (that would be me).

I talk to people every day who are miserable in their current role.  When I ask them why they are not doing anything about it, I get one of three responses:

  • I do not have time to job search
  • The devil you know is better than the one you don’t (man do we love our sayings)
  • I know what I am doing here.   A new job means learning a new company, new role and new way of doing things.

What all three of these say to me is that we are often comfortable being uncomfortable.  Doing something about our misery is too much work for us or too scary.  As much as I hate the saying about stepping out of your comfort zone, doing so is often the only thing that brings about positive change.

Here is what I suggest.  Take a step back and think about whether you are truly unhappy where you are – not just your boss made you mad so you want to quit today, but over a period of time you have become increasingly unsatisfied, unchallenged and unproductive. If the answer is yes, start to do something about it.  What would make you satisfied, challenged and productive?  Find that thing and pursue it – make the time to update your resume, connect on Linkedin and go after it with everything you have.

Get uncomfortable with just being comfortable.  The devil you know is still a devil.  Learning new things never hurt anyone and might actually make you happy – get comfortable with that!

I have officially been on the job hunt for just over a week now.  I have so many asking me how it is going on a daily basis that I thought I would do a weekly update until a job is found.  Here is my first update.

First and foremost, I have been overwhelmed by the number of people on Twitter, Linkedin and in my personal life who are willing to help me in any way they can.  Whether it be retweeting my job search info, connecting me with recruiters on LinkedIn or just giving me an encouraging word, the response has been amazing and very much appreciated.  Ben Eubanks even mentioned me in his post today – and I didn’t even pay him to do that! I am very lucky to have so many willing to help.

Second, I did have several contacts last week about potential jobs.  While none of them worked out, I am encouraged by how quickly leads seem to be coming in.  I hope that trend continues.

Third, being on this side of the line has opened my eyes to how it feels to be the job seeker.  I have spent the last 11 years on the other side, the recruiter side, and I have to admit I like that side much better. The uncertainty, waiting for responses and general anticipation you experience everyday is enough to make you crazy.  It will certainly change how I treat job seekers in the future when I am back on the other side of the line.

I am very happy with where things are and where they are going.  I know that the right job will come through at the right time and until then I will be patient, uncompromising in my priorities and open to new opportunities.

Thanks for your support and I will keep you posted!

Yesterday, I talked about my fear of being looked at in a negative manner due to my taking some time off during my son’s first year.  I worry that when I begin my job search, recruiters or hiring managers will be concerned that I may not be as up to date as I should be. It’s something that I will probably worry about until I actually begin interviewing and can actually see people’s reactions, but until then I thought I would share what I’m doing to ensure that I am as up to date as possible on current events in my profession.  If you are out of work, these may be helpful to you as well.

1.  Read, read, read.  These days there are websites, blogs, books and even YouTube videos about every profession out there.  Bookmark a few and read them often.

2.  Conferences, webinars and memberships.  If you have the financial resources and time you should maintain your professional memberships and attend conferences or webinars.  If you have a professional certification that you need to maintain through continuing education, this will help you to stay current.

3.  Former co-workers.  Keeping up with former co-workers who are still working is a great way to ensure you are up to date on all the current events.  Pick their brains about what the hot topics are right now and then do your research to make sure you know all you need to.

4.  Social media.  This one goes without saying.  Social media seems to be the answer to everything these days.  Twitter, Linkedin and maybe even Facebook will provide great information and resources to dig further if necessary.

As you can see from this list, remaining relevant is actually the easy part.  Convincing hiring managers that you have done so may be a little more difficult.  It is discouraging that recruiters and hiring managers prefer the passive candidate and view those who have been unemployed for a while as someone who is not a “preferred” candidate.  The thought process seems to be that those unemployed for a lengthy period of time have done so through some fault of their own.  I’m ashamed to admit I have worked under this assumption in the past.

I doubt I can do anything to change a seemingly universal mindset.  All I can do is ensure that I am as current as if I had been working the entire time and hope that someone will give me the opportunity to prove it.

Remaining Relevant

October 19, 2010

I had a couple of talks last week with different people about remaining relevant when you are out of work.  I have been on this side of the unemployment line for five months now and I worry that when I get serious about looking for work, that time away will be seen as a negative.  While I can not help the reason I’m unemployed, I was laid off, I am somewhat controlling the extra time off.  With the ever-changing world of HR, will a potential employer consider me out of touch?

It’s one of the reasons I started this blog, to show that I still know what I’m talking about even if my days are now filled with baby talk and diapers.  Now that I think about it that’s not that different from my last job, but I digress.  I am keeping up with all the latest changes, trends and news affecting HR.  I may not be practicing my skills daily, but I feel pretty confident that my knowledge is current.  Still, I worry.

I’m usually on the other side of unemployment.  The side that offers jobs, not searches for them.  I know that if I had two candidates, all things the same, but one was currently in a job and one had been out of work for a while, I would chose the one working.  I know in dealing with hiring managers that “taking time off to raise the kids” is sometimes viewed negatively.  As if a woman loses a little credibility.  Absurd, but true.  So because of all this, I worry.

So what do you think?  I would love to get some recruiter perspectives here.  Do you view candidates who have been out of work for legitimate reasons negatively?  Is there a certain time frame associated with that?  Meaning, is three months ok, but once it gets to six or seven you start to question if they are out of touch?  Are you likely to lean towards candidates who are currently working?  Does the economic times we are in impact this at all?

Anyone want to help ease my mind?!?