Here’s an email exchange I just had with a guy who lost his job and isn’t sure what to do next. There is a lot of good info here, and you’re going to learn about planning ahead and not making the same career moves everybody else does.
Note that this guy writes emails that are 10x too long (which is probably part of the problem), and my extremely brief replies were sent from my iPhone. I’m including all of it so you see how your emails to others are received, but I bolded the important parts so you didn’t commit suicide with an xacto knife to the eyeball.
“I graduated from XXX of XXX in December of 2005, and in less than 3 years was making 6 figures as a Software contractor in XXX at XXX. When I started at XXX in July of 2008, they told me I’d be there for 2 to 5 years. By October, the buyout of XXX was announced by XXX, and at that time the bottom fell out of the financial sector and subsequently the job market in XXX. (XXX and XXX were the two biggest employers of tech people in the area, and both were positively clobbered by the recession.) I was let go in December, but had managed to bank living expenses for about a year. (Being someone who once had 12.5k in credit card debt, I was thrilled to be in this position.)
In the past 5 months, I’ve kept in touch with as many recruiters as possible (roughly 3 dozen), who I call on a regular basis only to hear “I’ve got nothing.” Also in that time, I’ve had a whopping two interviews—one contract, one perm—and I got neither gig. I’ve found that when the candidates far outnumber the jobs, there will always be someone with a more complete skillset than you, and that person will get the job unless you are willing to make next to nothing.
What I’m trying to say is that the job situation here is dire. Meanwhile, I’ve burned through half of my savings, and this is starting to annoy me. (It wouldn’t, as much, if there was light at the end of the tunnel.) I’ve ruled out the possibility of moving thus far because I genuinely like living here, but I am increasingly resigned to the inevitability that I will have to.
As someone who has been involved in a technology startup, do you have any advice for someone in my situation?
I am single and have a car payment and a rent payment. My expenses are roughly 2 grand a month. At what point should I take a job just to take one, to protect not only my savings, but my future employability? (Granted, this particular gap in my resumé will be a very easy story for me to tell during an interview, but that doesn’t mean it looks good.) Is it worth it, at this point, for me to move across the country? How stable is the job market out there?
Thanks in advance for any advice you have to offer, and simply for taking the time to read this e-mail. And forgive me for rambling.”
“Well, what specifically are you doing to improve your job situation?”
Note that I usually find a one-line answer to long, rambling emails forces people to confront the horrifying realization that their email has drifted off into a pointless, circuitous morass of irrelevance.
Ryan’s response: HOLY SHIT STILL WAY TOO LONG
“I spent much of the last several months expanding my network. The job culture here is very much recruiter-driven, especially on the contract side, but increasingly on the perm side as smaller companies have been swallowed by larger ones. I mentioned in my earlier e-mail that I keep in touch with like 3 dozen recruiters on a regular basis, which is about 30 more than I was keeping in touch with before my last gig. I have pretty good coverage of the XXX-area job market through these resources, at least when it comes to Java gigs, but have come up empty when it comes to actual jobs. The only things I’ve gained from this experience was more minutes on my phone bill.
Even though I preferred to stay a contractor I did not rule out perm jobs knowing how shitty the economy is right now. I had an interview with a company two weeks ago that went great but found out today that I did not get the position. My recruiter asked if there was anything I could’ve done better, and they said no. Ultimately they went with somebody with a wider skillset. Namely, this guy was a pro at UNIX scripting, and I was not.
In a job market where there are 50x more candidates than jobs available, perhaps the best way to get a job is to have every skill-set imaginable. I realize now that I should’ve spent more time over the last several months expanding my skill-set, or perhaps starting a business of my own.
Now, knowing that I could benefit from doing that, I have 6 months before I run out of money, with no guarentee that the jobs in XXX will ever come back. Under normal economic conditions, 6 months is a long time. In the current climate, it’s almost time to become desperate.”
My 2-line response:
“I would go where the jobs are. And stop depending on recruiters. If you act like every other job candidate, you will get treated like them too. Use personal networking and improve your skills.”
All jokes aside, Ryan now realizes some really key lessons:
- Build skills before you need them
- Networking is not a dirty word — make personal relationships before you need them
- If your emails to a random blogger are really, really long, your resume and cover letter are probably equally verbose and almost certainly play a role in recruiters ignoring you
One of the most important differences between rich people and non-rich people: Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens. To Ryan’s HUGE credit, he planned ahead with an enormous buffer of savings that’s allowing him to figure this out. That alone is remarkable. But from a career perspective, think about how to apply this to your life.