I have been meaning to give a short run-down of my experience in the job market this past few months.
The first couple of months after I got laid off were difficult to say the least. I was not really ready (read: not at all ready) for the new job market and suddenly, there I was, in the middle of the worst economic downturn in a good while, in the fray, trying to fight the good fight. There were no postings for anything in my area in a similar vein. Looking to advance my career wasn’t realistic; it was more about which direction would I end up going. As much as I love doing chemistry in the lab, I had to entertain the idea that I would be doing something else entirely.
Fortunately, even as I was keeping my options open, things seem to beginning to turn around. I got calls from recruiters, but more importantly, I got calls from employers, looking at me more closely. One of the positions was definitely an advance on my career too, so that was encouraging. The other I will talk more about in a moment.
There followed a lull after that flurry of excitement. I looked at some other positions, though each would require some transitioning to a new area for me. Realistically, with the current market, the employers are probably finding plenty of candidates with the profile they are looking for already complete. Transitioning into a new area right now will require some luck and some creative networking.
As it turned out, trying to advance was difficult too. I never got to interview for that position: I lost out to someone with more recent experience in the therapeutic area (I had some, but it was from my graduate school days, so not exactly state of the art). That was disappointing, but not that surprising really.
So then, there was a bit more excitement again. I had THREE separate calls from recruiters, all asking me about the same job. All seemed eager to have me on their team. That was encouraging. More importantly, I made it to a milestone for my job search: scheduling a phone interview with the hiring manager.
That phone call came along. I was, I admit, a little nervous about it. It had been a while since I was in the hot spot. But in a sense, I had been preparing for it for several months now, getting together my values and value, ready to present myself as the dedicated and knowledgeable chemist, eager to get back in the lab and get to work, all while learning something new. And as it happened, the phone call went very well and I was invited to come on-site to RTI to talk in more detail.
It had been drilled into me to be well-prepared for an interview when it came and I was not going to be caught out. I reviewed the difficult question lists, watched YouTube videos on interviewing, looked over my own career history so I would be familiar with the work and that I would have a ready answer for any question.
It turned out that I did not really need such thorough preparation. The interviews I had were all quite pleasant, as much about informing me about the position as it was about finding out about my hidden depths. It felt for the most part like a conversation between colleagues, no set agenda, no long and probing interrogation, just a comfortable chat about life in chemistry. In some ways the lack of structure caught me out a little and I thought later that I had not sold my own strengths as well as I could have done. But the feeling afterwards was mostly positive, no awkward moments or long silences. So I was optimistic, though I was not quite sure. They did not give me any real indication at the end of the day, just that they would let me know in a few days.
I made sure I thanked everyone afterwards. I thought it might be decided quickly so I sent them by email (even though everyone told me hand written notes are key). I thought of sending additional hand written ones, but waffled on it for a while (was it over-kill?) and then got busy with other things. By the end of the week, I hadn’t heard anything, so I got in contact with my HR contact. She told me she expected to hear by the end of the day or Monday. Then, literally 30 minutes later, she calls back and offers me the position! So that was settled – I had found my new job.
Looking back, the key things that got me this position were:
1. The support and advice of my networking group and outplacement consultants. They got me ready to meet the challenge when it came.
2. I found the job posted on CareerBuilder, but I am not at all confident I would have gotten the job if I had just applied and sat back and waited. I found the name and made myself known to the recruiter with a personal connection, letting her know that I had applied and was interested. That put me in her mind as she was assembling her list of candidates. Of course it helped that I met all the requirements of the position, but I am sure I was not the only one.
3. Inevitably, a network contact. You never can be sure who it is going to be. The fellow in this case had worked at RTI but I did not know it. You never know when someone will call up someone you know to ask about you. You want them to say nice things. So be nice to your colleagues and network contacts, offer to help them out, be ready to follow through with that.
I’m going to end this ramble now: lunch time is over, got to get back to work.