This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. This is former client & upcoming CreativeLive interviewee, Paula Jenkins. She titled this post “The Dream is Free, The Hustle is Sold Separately” – and you’ll soon read how she landed 4 jobs in the past 4 years!
It was October of 2010 and we’d just had our son the month before. I was out to dinner with some friends after going to a retreat with them. My friend Kevin was talking about his job, at a credit union, and how he’d just gotten promoted to a VP spot.
“Do you need any project managers?” I blurted out, knowing I had no desire to return to the job I’d left. The commute, the hot and cold nature of the three owners, the long hours of advertising. All of it left me feeling empty or angry, depending on the day. I could not face going back there.
“Actually,” Kevin said, “We do have a PM that’s going out on maternity leave in January and we need someone to cover her projects for three or four months. It would be freelance.”
My heart skipped a beat. Yes! And a new adventure! I was totally in.
I loved that job. It was a challenge; so different than my previous experience in advertising, with lots of technical details. And, day after day, I felt good knowing that the products I was working on (their website, and later their business banking products) was directly impacting the “members.” (our word for customers).
Then, oh that recession. It hit us, and my significant other lost his job in the following February. We were stretched thin, financially. After a few months, Sean decided that instead of going back to being a store manager, he wanted to go to school for training as a chef. I was excited for him, and we agreed it was a really great direction for him, and for us.
That June we bought a house (getting a great rate from my employer!), and by December finances were stretched so thin that I knew I had to go find a job that paid more.
Once again, I reached out to friends and former clients and everyone I knew, and found another job. It was a digital marketing position with a major corporation. When the job turned out to be very different than what had been explained to me, I picked up looking for work again. Six months later I landed yet another position, this time at an ad agency, working for a former boss.
Since 2010, I’ve had four jobs, all of my own choosing, and I left each on my own terms. I’ve heard that there is a growing need for project managers, but to be honest, not all of my roles have been traditional PM positions. I chalk my success in being able to find new jobs in part to my laser-like focus on the job hunt itself, and to having some serious motivation to keep looking for something that was a better fit. My desire to have more time with my son, and to be home for dinner with my son and my fiance the chef proved to be a serious motivator.
My advice and reflections on finding a job in this so-called recession:
1. Network, network, network. Each time, with getting a new job, the network of people I know helped me find a new position. I tried to keep conversations light and casual, and got over being sheepish about asking if friends and acquaintances knew of open jobs. Even when a person didn’t know of an opening, they sometimes offered to be a reference to introduce me to someone else they knew! Perfect!
2. Make it easy for your network to promote you. Be specific with them about what you are asking them to do for you. I sent emails or set up calls with people I know to tell people what I was looking for, and I was specific with them about the kind of help I was hoping to get from them. I researched companies on LinkedIn to see who in my own network knew people there, and then I’d make a specific request to be introduced to the recruiters or hiring managers by my contact. Knowing my friends and network contacts are busy, I tried to make promoting me easy for them. I always attached a new resume, gave them a cover letter to cut and paste. And I always, always sent a thank you to my own network, and to anyone I’d been introduced to by someone in my network.
3. Treat everyone you meet at a potential employer as if they alone have the ability to make the decision to hire you. When looking for a new job, I follow up. I send thank you notes to every person I meet. I go out of my way to keep selling myself, in every interaction and with each piece of correspondence. The goal in the interviewing phase is land the job, and so each time I interacted with someone at that potential employer, I was in sell mode. Having hired quite a few people, I know that teams talk about candidates, they often rank candidates. My goal was to give each person a reason to say “I liked her, I connected with her, and I think we should hire her.”
4. Accept the help the individuals in your network are willing to give. Some people are natural connectors. Some people are the types that naturally offer to help. I learned to accept those offers, even when they came from people that I was only acquaintances with. I figured if they were willing to help sell me in to an employer, it was worth giving it a shot.
5. Be yourself in the interviews. As much as I was aware to be hyper-polite, warm, and engaging, in this last round of job hunting, I also made a point to be 100% authentic about who I am. It turns out my current employer loved me for my personality (along with my work history and skills), but having had a rather inflexible project manager in my spot previously, they wanted someone who could laugh, who could cheer a team on, who was fun to work with, and who could back that up with skill. They picked me over someone with a PhD because they liked me.
6. Don’t give up, and KNOW that a good job is waiting for you out there!
Paula Jenkins is a mother to a 4 year old son, a retreat leader on weekends, and by day a project manager at a credit union. She has big plans to begin studying to be a life coach starting in January. You can follow her adventures on her blog at www.welcomingspirit.net.
Wanna hear more from Paula? Then tune in to my CreativeLive class at the 10am Pacific hour on Sept 12th, where I’ll be interviewing her during the Feel The Career Fear – And Do It Anyway segment.