It’s been ten weeks now. Two weeks of severance left, then on to the unemployment line.
Here’s the current count:
Resumes sent: 280
Networking conversations: 45
Conversations granted: 10
Interviews received: 4
Still networking. I’ve concluded so far that responding to job listings is a dumb use of time. I’ve scaled down time spent on ‘resumes sent’. The return on investment is simply not there.
I’ve been a bit more focused on networking conversations. This comes with a big twist though. Its not really that productive either. I’ll cover this under the next ‘Lessons Learned’ section.
I have preliminary or later interviews / conversations planned with four funds. Of these conversations, three have come from sell-side talent desks. What this means is that the large sell-side firms have people on staff that act sort of like recruiters. Because these firms speak w/ so many firms everyday, they keep track of who is recruiting and they keep an inventory of job searchers on hand. They spend time “interviewing” you by phone or in-person to get to know who you are and what you are looking for. It helps to have good recommendations from the sell-side analysts and the sales people who covered you. These banks are intermediaries and this is one of their surprising ways of acting as a matchmaker. A lot of people in my spot seem to get interviews through these desks.
The last conversation is for a large long-only value fund. It is a dream job. It came through (1) the recommendation of a PM at a value fund I had spoken to on multiple occasions while employed and (2) my conversations with a couple other value fund managers about different investments. Hopefully this week’s interview with the Director of Research goes well and I can eventually receive an offer.
My goal is to get and keep at least 10 irons in the fire going forward.
WHAT’S NOW GOING ON IN MY HEAD
When I speak to friends who understand what its like to be in this predicament, they always say — the first couple months are like a long weekend. Then reality sets in. This is 100% true. Ya, it felt pretty uncomfortable for the first 4 – 6 weeks, however, it did feel like somewhat of a nice “break” from the job stress. At 10 weeks though, the true shitty feelings of unemployment have now set in.
I think about the movie Life of Pi quite a bit. I think about Pi Patel floating on a raft with the Royal Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, sitting nearby, eager to eat him. This unemployment situation feels like the open ocean around me. Richard Parker is my negative thoughts. The raft keeping me afloat = my past accomplishments.
The days floating on the raft seem to just keep slipping by. The storms of depression tend to get bad and I fear them. I also fear the sharks around the raft. These are the negative events that remind me of my constant quagmire. Its hard to know when things will ever get better. Will the rescue boat ever arrive?
On a more positive note, some beautifully interesting things do occur while I’m floating lost out there. On clear nights, Pi Patel sees beautiful star formations. He also looks down into the sea and sees glamorous neon formations of fish and other ocean life. Similar things happen in unemployment. You begin to notice the beauty in life that would otherwise get lost in the urgent pace of the every day. You capture the simple elegance of life. The confusion temporarily goes away. Its almost a holy feeling that’s difficult to define.
During unemployment, the mind swings like a pendulum. It sways to either “hope” or “gratitude” before heading back to a variety of negative thoughts. Sometimes it pauses on the gratitude part for awhile. You feel thankful for what you have. You hold it tight and appreciate it.
I also think a lot about the Shel Silverstein book ‘The Giving Tree’. It had been many years since I last read this book. For some reason, one of my neighbors had it laying on their stoop – they were giving it away. I grabbed it and brought it home to read. I sat on my back deck in the cool autumn breeze and read it. After finishing it, I cried a little bit. I really identified with the book. It spoke to me. I’m probably at this stage right now in life:
MORE OF WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR DURING MY UNEMPLOYMENT
- YOU MUST STEP BACK AND THINK HONESTLY ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD BUY FROM YOU. Put another way, you need to find the market for your skills. I think a lot of job searchers make many common mistakes, the most acute of which is that they broaden their search too much — they just apply to everything. The problem with this is that a candidate is not focusing on what specifically they have to offer potential employers. Companies are likely not sitting there just waiting for you to come knocking on their door. However, if you come knocking with something they need (or don’t even realize they need), you can get a conversation. The way to do this is to package up your special skills and talents, figure out where demand exceeds supply for those specific things, then reach out to these places in the most unique way possible. Start with an email then write a summary letter and mail it directly to the decision maker. If this does not lead to discussions, you need to figure out your plan B. You may need to re-invent yourself — there is no market for you.
- NETWORKING IS NOT THE BE ALL END ALL SOLUTION. It annoys me how many people think that just networking will get them into some great job. Like if it is a big secret weapon. Yes, networking is important and yes, networking is probably a bit better than most other job searching methods. However, it is not some big magic wand. IT REALLY ONLY WORKS WELL IF (1) SOMEONE CREDIBLE IS VOUCHING FOR YOU AND (2) YOU ARE OFFERING SOMETHING OF IMPORTANCE TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS IT. If you think the solution to receiving a great job is simply reaching out to a bunch of people on LinkedIn and setting up phone conversations, you are mistaken.
- PEOPLE ARE LESS WILLING TO HELP. Another annoyance relating to the point above is that many people think that you should call around and assemble a group of people who will want to help you. As an older career searcher, I’ve unfortunately found very people really willing to help. I’m not sure exactly why this is. They probably just don’t know how to help you out. Your old and washed up. Who would want you? Anecdotally, I had a discussion a few days ago with one of my old employers from my first firm after college. He’s a great guy and was always very complimentary of my career pursuits. Through the years, he would send job leads here and there. I figured I should give him a call and let him know about my predicament. Getting hold of him, after just ten minutes or so, I realized he was glad I called to catch up but really wanted to get off the phone with me. He mentioned that no job is safe nowadays, including at his firm (huge bank). He wished me “good luck” and hung up. This is typical in my networking. You hang up without any leads. I think people just don’t know at some point how to help you out anymore.
- COMMUNICATIONS WITH OTHERS IS MORE DIFFICULT. As I’ve written before, when you are in this position, people treat you differently. First off, you are very sensitive. You beat yourself up constantly. You learn to be defensive. When meeting with people, they seem to act in two general ways. (1) Some avoid the topic of your unemployment. Unemployment = a big nasty dog besides you on a leash. They see it sitting there and it makes them nervous. They don’t want to get bite by it – they just want to get away from you. They’ll come back when you “figure it all out”. (2) Other people are a bit more accommodating to the subject. However, you quickly find the conversation with them is a bit different. Until this point, a normal convo was like a pleasant game of tennis. Someone hit a topic over the net and the other person hit their opinion back. Just normal convo. Now, however, it seems that the other person has no interest in your opinion. They just want to keep hitting the ball at you and have you catch it. When you try hitting back with your opinion, they just stare at you like “why are you hitting it back to me?”. Its as if your opinion on almost everything is meaningless. Its a judgement thing. Its noticeable and it sucks. But, there is nothing much you can do about it.
- YOU CONSTANTLY LOOK FOR ANSWERS BUT THE FEEDBACK ONLY BECOMES CONFUSING. Whenever I speak to anyone who has been through a long painful job search, they seem to always make the same remark. They say something to the extent: “I began to question all my decisions.” I completely understand this remark. The self-inflicted mental beatings lead to a lot of self doubt. You lose confidence in all your decision making abilities. Therefore, you lean on the opinions of others. You search for answers everywhere. You ask people for advice. You troll the internet for articles that could give answers. In the end though, you collect so many different viewpoints that you just get confused. Nobody but you know the answer to this personal puzzle.
- LIQUOR AND UNEMPLOYMENT DON’T MIX. A few beers make me feel really good. I can temporarily escape the shitty reality of my current situation. The problems begin there, however. Its easy to drink a bit too much. Once I do this, emotions seem to take over. I say, do, text dumb things that I would not otherwise say, do, or text. Making matters even worse, the next day, the depression really sets in. I regret the night before. I hate how I feel. I feel awful about everything. Its very uncomfortable. Its better to just stay away from the beer for awhile.