Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Job Hunt

Let's get it out of the way: I'm not hunting at the moment. I'm writing about earlier this year (2012). It's just taken me a while to get to it.

My mom and my wife went on vacation together in January over to Hawaii. I stayed home, taking a week off to watch the dogs and catch up on bad movies. I was also doing a little work from home. I sat buried under five little dogs, working on some documentation, when the phone rang. As soon as my boss's name came up on the screen I knew that there was no good news in my future.

I should have seen the writing on the wall that business sucked and that firings were in the future but I had been assured time and again that the people doing my job at the moment, "Technical Analysts," were so fully entrenched and desperately necessary that we would never be fired. We sat in the fabled cat bird seat. My immediate supervisor told us this so many times -- without ever being prompted -- that I had been lulled into a false sense of security. Plus, I was single-handedly managing the project I was on. There used to be a Project Manager on the case but, when he left the company (seeing that wall writing before me), I took over in a dual role of TA/PM.

Kind of like Ice Cube, I got fired on my vacation (although, this was a Thursday).

I don't know why but I didn't get thrown into a panic with this sudden loss of a job. My best guess is that I was in a vacation headspace and this just lengthened my vacation... indefinitely. Before the afternoon ended, I had already jumped onto the State of Michigan website, applied for unemployment benefits, and shot my updated resume to a few local agencies.

I spent a few hours every day after that looking at various job sites and contacted the headhunter who helped land me a job in the past. We met for coffee the next day and he already had a few ideas for me. Great!

We touched base here and there and, per his directions, I stopped sending out my resume completely. Really not a big deal since I hadn't started job hunting in full force.

Within a few weeks the headhunter got me a job interview at one of the two companies he had mentioned over coffee. Alas, almost from the first word at the interview I knew that this wasn't the place for me. They were looking for a JAVA programmer and that's not me. Afterward I gave the headhunter a call and the lowdown on what went on, telling him that the next person he sends should be skilled in JAVA.

Not to worry, he said, he would also be talking to another company for me. One where I really wanted to try but that he had pooh-poohed in an earlier conversation. Suddenly, he could line up a lunch with some hiring mucky-muck and he'd get me the details shortly.

A week passed. I would call once every two days to check in. I wanted to keep myself front of mind while not being a pest. I finally got good news. The meeting would be set within a few more days.

Then everything fell apart.

I had a day of running errands. While I was out I got a call from the headhunter.

"Hey," he asked, "Have you sent your resume over to this company?"

"No, why?"

"No worries. Just one of the peons told me that your resume was already in the system."

"It must have been from the last time I was looking for work," I assured him. "I've not sent out my resume since you told me not to."

A few hours later I got another call. Oddly, it ran almost identically.

"No, I promise, I haven't sent my resume to anyone," I assured him again.

And, again, an hour after that.

"Are you sure you didn't send your resume there?"

Now I started to doubt myself. Why was he being so insistent? Had I sent it?

"I don't remember ever sending my resume over there, but I'm out all day today so I can't look. Can I call you again when I get home?"

Hours later I was home and looking through all of my email records. Nothing there. Then I went into LinkedIn.

Sure enough. That Thursday I got fired I had sent in my resume to the company in question. I got right on the phone and gave my headhunter a call to tell him on my mistake.

If you're not familiar with how headhunters work, they have to be the source for a lead, otherwise he (or she) can be blown off as in, "We were going to look at this candidate anyway so screw you and your commission. We're not paying." That I had sent in my resume on my own suddenly nullified his claim on me, meaning that he had been working for nothing to get me the appointment with the mucky muck.

The headhunter was livid to say the least. He told me that I had to write to the mucky muck and her two assistants (who he had basically been calling liars throughout the day [unbeknownst to me] based on my emails) to apologize and tell them that he had been mislead.

Oh, great. This would be a good way to get a job.

So help me, I did exactly what the headhunter asked, throwing myself on my own sword with an apology where I had to basically admit that I was a dumb ass for forgetting that I had sent my resume to the company where I wanted to work. Doesn't that just scream, "Hire this guy!"?

Apology sent (with a BCC to the Headhunter), I waited a day or two for the dust to settle before calling him again. My next call went straight to voicemail. My subsequent texts a few days later went unanswered. I was going through my Headhunter's neighborhood (where we'd met for coffee beforehand) so I asked if he'd like to grab another cup. No response. After a week without phone, text, or email I finally texted again to say, "Are you mad at me or something?"

That started a torrent of responses. Yes, he was mad at me for being a "fucking liar" and besmirching his professional standing. He unloaded on me with a series of texts telling me how disappointed he was with me. Basically, he was firing me as a client.

Suffice it to say, this put my job hunt off the rails for a while.

Despite this mea culpa, I still pursued a job at this place. I sent reached out again only to be told, "You're not technical enough for this job." Meanwhile, the position for which I was applying sounded tailored to me. I called back a few days later and told the human resources liaison, "You need to look at my resume again. I'm very technical."

Surprisingly, she called me back to say that someone else looked at my resume and that he'd give me a phone interview in a few days. That got cancelled only to be rescheduled as an in-person with that guy along with a few members of his team.

Even after all that, I didn't get the job. Though the human resources person told me that she thought the guy who interviewed me was crazy for not hiring me.

I found that there were few-to-no companies doing actual hiring but there were plenty dealing with contract places. It seems that this is the way things are going at least that was my experience. Contracting seems to avoid sticky and/or expensive things like health benefits, vacation time, and loyalty. A contractor can be terminated in a heartbeat. A contractor doesn't earn vacation time via the company but only via the contract company -- if available. A contractor isn't a drain on the company's health care expenses.

I got involved with several contract companies and, as it was, apart from the two interviews I had previously on (see above), I went over a month without any. The, suddenly, I had several interviews all set for a two week period.

One contract company didn't want to send me on an interview unless I agreed that I'd take the job if it was offered. "I don't want to waste my time or their time if you don't intend on taking this job." It seems that this guy had already had had his time wasted by someone else who had interviewed, got an offer, made a counter offer, got it matched, and then turned down the job regardless. Oddly enough, that person was a former co-worker of mine.

I went ahead and agreed, feeling obligated a bit to make up for my coworker's mistake. Plus, I felt that I could do her job with my eyes closed where we worked (and often did) so why not do it and get paid a lot more than I had been making?

And that brings me to the end of this long-winded story. I ended up taking the job when it was offered and have been here ever since. It's not the job I wanted but it's the job I got and I've learned a lot while I've been here, albeit not necessarily about the position for which I was hired.

I also learned a lot about how people are hired (or not) around Detroit.

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