CONFESSION: I don’t know how to job hunt

As I mentioned in my last post I’m thinking about looking for a new job. There’s just one problem – I don’t really know how.

How am I employed now, you might wonder? I did it by doing all the wrong things. Namely, I posted my resume online and waited for people to call me. Which worked, I’m very lucky to be in a field with high demand and recruiting companies who go out to look for employment candidates. But not every employer hires a recruiting company or calls candidates themselves. I’m willing to bet that many of the best employers don’t have to, they advertise that they’re looking and wait for the applications to come in. By advertise, I mean they put it on their website and maybe post on a job board.

Now, a good recruiter can be great to work with. They can act as a go between so that you can be completely up front and frank with them and they can be more politic with the hiring company. They often know more about the company than what’s printed in the job description and can help find a good fit. If you don’t get the first position most recruiters will hold on to your resume and call you when other opportunities arise. If you’re lazy (like I can be), having the jobs come to you is rather nice.

But there are downsides. Recruiters cost money – the hiring company pays the fees (at least in my field) but that makes you more expensive than a direct hire. As I mentioned, not every company uses outsourced recruiters so by relying solely on them you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. Some recruiters care only about getting you into a position so they can get their commission and will discourage salary negotiation, or even push you into taking a lower wage than you want or lie about the position/company to make it seem more appealing.

In short, if I do job hunt I’ll continue to use job placement agencies but this time I want to take more control and actually look for jobs. But how? I know of a few ways, I just don’t have much practice at them:

  • Networking – ask people you know about open positions. Unfortunately my social skills are lacking and my network is pretty small, but it doesn’t hurt to try anyway.
  • Job Boards – if you’re in the technology field, dice.com is where it’s at. It’s my profile on this site that got me my last few jobs but I haven’t actually searched and applied to the posted jobs in a while. Craigslist is probably worth a look as well. I might take a look at other sites like Monster.com… is Monster even running still?
  • Visit the Sites – Some companies only advertise openings on their website. It’s a bit more time consuming but if there was someplace that I really wanted to work for I can always go to their site and see if they’re hiring for anything I can do.
  • Ask – It’d be nice to get something close to home but as far as I can tell there are no tech companies located up there. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a real estate agency that wants to hire a web developer. I might also be able to find some freelancing clients if I decide to go that route, but that’s another post.

As you can see I have some ideas on how to job hunt, but knowing the theory and actually doing it? Totally different. Especially with my social awkwardness that occasionally blows up to social anxiety. Which is why I like the lazy job hunt method so much. Unfortunately the tech field will change, a new technology will sneak up behind me and become the hot new thing making me not quite obsolete but not nearly as marketable, so I’ll have to learn to job hunt properly eventually anyway. That or find a company that I can stay with for the rest of my life – which would be nice – but I’m not holding my breath.

Since I started writing this post last week I have decided to start looking to see what else is out there. That doesn’t mean I plan to quit my job, but if I do find something better I’m open to jumping ship. I find job hunting while employed to be awkward but I’ll manage it somehow.

ps- In my last post I mentioned having a second interview but hadn’t heard back about it. Just after I hit publish I got a call, they really liked me and were discussing the “next steps”, whatever that means. Then the recruiter called this morning to tell me that they were still trying to get in touch with the manager. So there’s still a chance that this could turn into an offer but there’s also a chance that the process might slam to a halt for whatever reason – they’re too busy to focus on hiring, they decide to transfer from within, they aren’t busy enough to hire someone, they change their mind about me, etc etc. That’s the one good thing about job hunting while working, it’s easier to be patient with drawn out hiring processes. And you can be pickier. Ok, that’s two good things. I still prefer to look for a job when I don’t have one.

My Focus Right Now: Food and Job

When it comes to making changes to lifestyle, habits, or just starting something new, it’s hard to do everything at once. So, although I have several things I want to work on I’m targeting two for the moment – food and job.

Food – I hate cooking. Ok, hate’s probably too strong of a word, but just slightly. I would rather clean the bathroom than cook. Mostly because it takes me five minutes to clean the bathroom and even if I cook something quick there’s still at least five minutes of cleanup to do afterwards.

And so between getting ready to move, then moving, the knee surgery, I let myself get lazy with food prep to focus my energies elsewhere. The bit of “cooking” I have done has been of the pull it from the freezer and reheat it variety. Which is better than going out for every meal, but still not great for the wallet or waistline. Also, I’m a picky eater and will only eat a few different frozen meals. I’ve tried bringing cold cut sandwiches to work but the overly-strong AC in my office makes me crave hot meals.

But the move is done, I’m still limping a bit but don’t need crutches, which means it’s time to try to get back into the habit of actually cooking. I say that like I’ve actually been in the habit, even though my cooking sprees tend to die after a few weeks at most. If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try, keep going, try, you’ll get there eventually, try, try, don’t give up yet, try, try again. And again. You might need to tweak your approach after the first couple of failed tries, but keep working at it.

Which is what I’m doing, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of cooking again. A few things I’ve learned from past attempts:

  • Keep frozen meals on hand in case of cooking failure. Resorting to them is still better than eating out and it alleviates some of the “what if I get it wrong” stress.
  • Start simple. It’s easier to get back into it by using familiar recipes first, then experiment.
  • Don’t stress over saving every dollar possible. It’s okay to not use the absolute cheapest ingredients, or even splurge on some nicer cuts of meat once in a while. Once I have more of a routine and know what ingredients I need to keep on hand it will be easier to shop for bargains.
  • Cook in batches. I’m perfectly fine with eating the same meal for an entire week, unless it didn’t turn out too good.
  • Anything that came out barely edible or worse – and can’t be fixed – needs to be thrown out immediately. It doesn’t happen too often, usually when I’m trying a new recipe or I get distracted while cooking.
  • I need to learn to freeze stuff properly. I’ve seen too many things come out of the freezer frost-bitten or just plain freezer burned, and freezing will allow me to make larger batches and not have the food go bad before I can eat it. I wonder if I could cook some components, like brown rice, in a large batch and freeze in portions to be thawed and used later…
  • I also need to be more realistic and flexible in my meal planning. I always eat lunch but I don’t always eat dinner, so planning to have 10 meals during the week will likely lead to spoiled food. But sometimes I do eat 10 meals. Learning to freeze things properly will help with the above.
  • I need to be more flexible with recipes. Just because something calls for ingredients I don’t like doesn’t mean I should discard it immediately, it’s often very possible to adapt it to something I do like. The same goes for a spice I don’t have, or a specific cooking item…
  • I need to actually look for more recipes. Now, before I need them.

Ok, that was more than a few, and there’s more but I’ll stop here. I guess I have enough to do a whole post just on cooking…

Job – My second focus right now is figuring out what to do about my job. As I mentioned in my last post there are some changes at work that I don’t like and it’s making me think about moving on. In fact, when a headhunter called last week to see if I was looking I said yes and I’ve already had two phone interviews for a new position. Except, the last one was Tuesday and I haven’t heard back about it, so it might not go any further.

Which is just as well because really, what do I want in a job? A flexible schedule is one of the big things I’m missing at this current job. The ability to work from home on occasion is pretty much a need as well. A full-time work-from-home position would be great. My dad’s girlfriend recommended me for a position like that at the company she works at but I’m not really qualified so I don’t expect anything to come from it.

So I know I want a flexible schedule and the ability to work from home, but that alone isn’t a fulfilling job so what else? My current position allows me to design elements of the application from the ground up which I enjoy, but I don’t want (and am not qualified for) a full software architect role. I prefer working in small teams but if I was to ask a potential employer about the role, what should I ask? I’ve been in this field for over three years now, you’d think I’d have a better idea but I don’t.

So that’s why “job” is a focus. It isn’t just about job hunting, but figuring out what it will take to make me leave my current position. Or if I even want to leave, there are still things there that I do like and there are benefits to staying with this company for a while. Maybe I should start looking for alternatives to full time jobs, like freelancing. I’ll need to do a lot of research for that last one, and even start freelancing on the side first before quitting my full time job, but it’s definitely an option…

Obviously, if I didn’t have a job I’d be plowing full steam ahead on the job hunt. But I do have a job, a decent job even, so I have the luxury of time and pickiness. I jut have to actually make a decision instead of just pondering the issue as I’ve done in the past.

Are you making anything your focus right now?

Bad Job, Wrong Job or You?

One of these days I’m going to find the perfect job where there’s absolutely nothing to complain about. Okay, probably not. Even my favorite jobs had something that wasn’t right, like overly blasted AC or a loud chatterbox a couple cubes over. I really did enjoy my previous job, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have gripes about being short staffed and deadlines made unrealistic by that short staffing. Or being called at 4am after a deployment even though there was nothing I could do about the issue, they just wanted someone from my team on the call.

So, no job’s perfect. Even people who say they have the perfect job probably have something less than ideal they have to deal with, it’s just that everything else is so great it’s easy to overlook those issues. Because with a lot of jobs that’s kinda what you have to do, deal with the stuff that isn’t great and enjoy the stuff that is. But odds are you’re spending a good chunk of your life at work, so there’s a limit to how much you might want to “deal with”.

So what to do you’re having a hard time dealing with your job’s downsides?

Bad Job

If you’re miserable at work it’s entirely possible that you have a bad job, a job where there’s abuse, needless safety hazards, and other general unhealthiness. I say needless safety hazards because some jobs, like firefighting, are inherently unsafe but firefighters are provided training and equipment to make it as safe as possible. However, if a fire station was unable to provide helmets that would be a bad job.

If your boss offers you a promotion if you’ll sleep with him, you have a bad job. If your employer wants you to do something illegal, you have a bad job. If you find yourself in a situation like this you must act or you’ll likely end up hurt. You could quit, try to fix the issues internally, report illegal actions, etc.

Wrong Job

A wrong job isn’t necessarily a bad job, it just isn’t the right one for you. A germaphobe wouldn’t be able to handle many of the jobs showcased on the tv show Dirty Jobs, but I see some of them and think, “I’d enjoy that kind of work.” I wouldn’t be happy in sales or other people-facing positions because I prefer to hide out in my cube and deal with a computer most of the time. Some people want a challenge in their job, others just want to clock in and out. My youngest brother needs a solid structure of “this is what you do and this is how you do it” with regular feedback, not something he can get from any manager.

The main trick to figuring out if your job is the wrong fit is in knowing yourself. As I mentioned above, I’m not a people person. That doesn’t mean I would hate a position that required dealing with people more often, but it does mean that the job would wear on me because it would require more effort and energy than my current people-lite job. That kind of energy drain is far worse for me than that ceiling light that’s been annoying me for the past several months. And the hallway on the other side of my cube that people like to use for impromptu conferences? Not nearly as bad either.

So if you find your job hard to tolerate, why? Is there something you can do to change it, or is it time to make a career change? Before you do make that change, be sure you’ve figured out what it is that you’re looking for (or avoiding) first.

You

If you’re miserable, going to work will feel miserable as well. If you resent having to work your way up to the top, no job will appeal. If you have health issues, financial troubles, a broken relationship, it probably isn’t your job’s fault but you might blame it anyway. The point is, you might hate your job but the problem itself actually lies in you.

If you’re truly depressed, well, there’s probably nothing I can type that will help you magically turn it all around so that you feel better. So all I’ll say is please take care of yourself, whether that means improving your health or seeing a professional.

But for most other issues, attitude really does make a difference.

If you resent having to start at the bottom, why? If it’s because you think that you’re just that awesome, prove it. Go in to work and show them just how great you are. No one is going to give you anything just because you say you’re the best. Also, if you feel like you’re asked to do tasks that are beneath you – they aren’t. I don’t care if they’re asking you to empty waste paper baskets when you were hired for something else, unless the situation is abusive just consider it part of the job.

If you’re stressed out because money is tight and you’re underemployed, do something about it. If spending is an issue, get it under control. If you really just aren’t making enough, get a second job, or look for something that pays better. In the meantime (and I actually hate this phrase but sometimes it’s true) be thankful you have a job. Even if it’s working fast food for minimum wage, you have something that’s bringing in some money and some is better than none. Don’t let yourself feel trapped, just because the situation isn’t great now doesn’t mean it won’t get better.

Learn to deal with it. Life ain’t perfect so suck it up and accept that there are things you can’t change. If the problems you’re having at work aren’t related to the two sections above, get tough and cope. If you really want to you can hunt for something different, just realize that it probably won’t make you happy.

In fact, that last statement is worth stating twice – your job might not make you happy. I was joking with one of my coworkers about how I didn’t want to mess up his “pride and joy” and he told me that his pride and joy can’t be found in these four walls. He spends a lot of time volunteering and working with the homeless, I’m sure that’s his pride and joy much more than the work he does here. That doesn’t mean he hates his job, just that he finds more meaning after work. So maybe you have a cause, or hobby, or family that truly makes you happy rather than your job, and you see a job as nothing more as a necessary evil – just because it isn’t the highlight of your day doesn’t mean it has to be terrible. Yes, it might not be as much fun as coloring with your kids, but go ahead and have fun in the office anyway.

 

This is a topic I’ve been considering lately because there have been some changes at work that I don’t like. I also feel like I’ve been lied to, I was told during the interview process that they’re flexible on scheduling yet that isn’t true at all. This doesn’t make the job a bad one, I’m just wondering if it might be the wrong one after all or if I should just suck it up and deal with it.

I’m also tired of listening to people complain about their jobs. A bit of venting is healthy and I have no problem with that, but there comes a point where I just want to tell people to shut up and do something about it. Tips for finding jobs is a whole series of posts itself but seriously, there are jobs out there. Do some networking, maybe get more education. Or decide that there are enough upsides to make the downsides worth it. Don’t stay someplace that makes you miserable, but don’t be miserable because it isn’t perfect.

Big News Post and Breaking the Rules

Lots of stuff has happened since my last post way back when…

The first piece of news, I moved! About a month ago I sold my house, bought a new one and hauled all my garbage up into the mountains. The new place is much quieter, you step outside at night and bam, stars in your face, I see at least a few deer everyday… I do need to be aware of bears, though.

The next piece of news – my student loans are completely paid off. I knew I’d get enough equity from my house to cover the loans at 6.55% (with auto-pay discount), but I got enough to pay them all off. Except, I almost didn’t. I did get rid of those higher interest loans at the beginning of the month but then I started deliberating over what to do with the rest. Pay off the loans? Invest? Save it for home improvement expenses? Well, as I already told you I decided to get rid of those last loans. Outstanding balance? $0! Now I just have to decide what to do with the $350 I used to pay each month. Oh, wait, I have a more expensive mortgage now…

According to Mint I’m getting very close to a net worth of 6 figures. Which doesn’t mean much because most of it is home equity and therefore untouchable. Instead I track my cash worth – cash and investments minus debts – and that’s still far in the negatives because of the mortgage. Still, my net worth just a few years ago was only $20,000 so I must be doing something right.

In other news, I recently found out that I tore my ACL last year, which explains why my knee’s been wonkier than usual. That’s right, I’m done with the good news and just dropped the bad news without warning. I had surgery a week and a half ago and am still getting around with the help of crutches. Yet another argument in favor of emergency funds, once I found out I needed surgery I was able to take the next spot without having to figure out how to save for the copay.

I’ve started talking to headhunters when they call instead of just telling them I’m not in the market. There are some changes at my current job that are going in a direction I don’t like, and really, what can it hurt? I don’t know how active I’ll be in this job hunt, but I am worried that I haven’t even been here a year and I’m already looking to leave. Maybe I should just go back into contracting where it’s expected to stay for just 3-6 months. More job musings in another post.

So how am I breaking the rules?

I bought a more expensive house. In the PF world the rule is to keep your living expenses low since it’s often the biggest item in the budget. Which makes sense, but my philosophy has always been to save where you can so you can splurge where it matters. Well, my home matters to me. It’s my home, my refuge, the place where I can go and find peace. If I was a frequent traveler it would make sense to compromise more but I’m not, I’m a homebody. My mortgage is still within reason and even with utilities is less than 30% of my take home so it’s not like I’m being reckless.

Of course, personal finance is just that, it’s finance for your own personal needs. For me it makes sense to pay more for a house and not travel a lot. Others prefer the opposite. Some won’t travel as much but will instead eat out at fine restaurants, or buy more clothes, or work on cars as a hobby, etc etc. Then there are those who will forgo any extraneous spending in favor of increasing the bank balances at any and all costs, but that’s not me.

Another rule I’m breaking – I still have a few thousand left from the sale of my house and I probably won’t handle it “optimally”. I could put it towards the car loan or new mortgage, which are now my only debts. I could stick it in a non-retirement investment account. I could up my 401k contributions to the max temporarily and live on the remaining proceeds instead. I could replace the non-functioning gas fireplace in the family room with a wood or pellet burning appliance and there’s more than enough left to cover that.

The first few options – paying down the debt or investing – might be the smartest but I’m leaning towards the fireplace option. The house has central heating but it runs off of propane and there aren’t enough vents for the larger rooms. After the initial cost a good insert or stove will be cheaper to run and with the wood stove upstairs I might need the furnace on only the coldest days. Also, it’s a mountain property, you have to have a nice fire to sit by while you sip hot cocoa and watch the snow fall. Even if I didn’t have the extra I’d probably take the money out of savings anyway to do this, I think it would enhance the comfort level of the house that much. And did I mention that it’d be cheaper to run than the furnace?

So that’s what’s been going on. Between the move, working on the new house, my job and knee surgery I really haven’t been paying much attention to the blog. But I’m back now!