Tough Aspects of Job Searching

One thing I can say, I’m tired of writing either formal cover letters, or formal e-mails that serve the purpose of a cover letter. It takes me minutes to bang out most medium length blog posts, because I do little proofreading and refining. Cover letters have to be as close to perfect as possible, and I go over them with a fine tooth comb, then have Bitter go over them with a fine tooth comb.

The one aspect I find very difficult is balancing possible offers. Right now I have no offers on the table, but several leads. One lead I have an interview scheduled for, and am very optimistic about. It’s going to be a pay cut because I’d be moving to an academic environment. The job is a step up in title, however. The other lead, which I developed just this morning, is well within my skills, but it’s a gig with a consulting company. It is also a pay cut, but seems to be coming in about the same level as the academic position, is not a step up in title, but well within my set of skills. The third lead is a long shot, but a dream job with a very well known and well respected company. I had a fourth lead, but found out today, after a phone interview, they didn’t think I had the skills they needed.

The quandary is, do you just try to go as fast as possible to an offer, any offer, or do you hold out for the job you think you really want? This is an easy answer when you already have a job; you hold out for the job you really want. When you’re unemployed, that’s a much harder decision. I’m doing my best to try to synchronize the process as much as possible. I think it comes down to this: I won’t turn down an offer on the table, that I’m mostly satisfied with, for a long shot at an offer I’d be very happy with. But I may turn down an offer I’m only mostly satisfied with for a pretty good chance at an offer I’m happy with.

Salary negotiation for the unemployed is tough, though. I expected any job not with my previous employer was going to be a salary cut. Our company was unstable for several years, and they could not afford to lose me. I was paid a pretty good risk premium for sticking it out. It’s looking increasingly likely I will not be able to make that back in a new job. Everything I’ve been looking at, except the jobs in New York City, are a 20% cut in my previous salary. Jobs in New York City pay better, but it’s about a 20% premium that needs to be added to those jobs to cover commuting and New York State taxes, which are, to put it mildly, insane.

I have little doubt I’ll find something by the end of the summer, it’s just going to be a question of whether I get something I really enjoy, or have to settle. Salary cut is already largely a given, and that’s painful, but I’d hate to get paid less for a job I hate.

UPDATE: Just got word the lead I developed today evaporated just as quickly. It was short term contract work that would not result in full time employment. I’m still turning down contract work right now, but that could change in a few weeks.

27 thoughts on “Tough Aspects of Job Searching”

  1. Having been in a similar position, I would say to take the first acceptable offer (as a sure thing), and then if you get offered the dream job, take it. It may feel like a dirty thing to do, but let’s face it – the concept of employer/employee loyalty has become a significant liability to the employee these days, because it’s rarely reciprocated by the employer, and that kind of relationship doesn’t work as a one-way street.

    I turned down an offer that was, while not my “dream job”, a definite step up (an office supervisor position for a statewide ambulance company), because I had just started a new job (used car sales, yuck) and didn’t want to have my resume look like I had been “job hopping”. Less than a year later I was looking for a job again (it seems that I’m too honest to be a good used car salesman), and only got the one I have now through sheer luck. I like my current job, but I do still regret turning that one down.

  2. Jake called it. Another thing that’ll be shocking is that wages have gone down during the recession–the starting wage you’d have gotten in 2008 is likely to be lower today for the same work, moreso if you count inflation. If you get a reasonable offer, take it. Most companies that’ve shed employees the last couple years through lay-offs and attrition aren’t rehiring; they’re demanding more work–in hours & efficiency–out of fewer employees than they got years ago. In short, take the first job that’ll pay your bills, then network your way to a better position in that company, or in a different one. Staying on the sidelines too long means risking staying there.

  3. About 5 years ago I was let go by the company I was working for under similar circumstances as you. Company filed chapter 7 and was bought out by a competitor that only kept us around long enough to convert all our IT infrastructure over to theirs.

    I resisted contract jobs for several months until I realized that in this industry they have become the norm instead of the exception.

    I now work as a Vendor/Contractor for a large software company in Redmond WA. You’ve probably heard of it!

    My first contract kept getting renewed, and I was there for 3 years. The second only lasted 6 months, and the current one has lasted just over a year. I’ll know in a few months if I need to find another position.

    Every year or so, everyone plays musical chairs and we swap places.

  4. Sometimes those “dream” jobs turn out to be nightmares due to things you didn’t anticipate.

  5. I’ve accepted the reduced pay as necessary at this point. One reason I’m hot on the academic job is because it’s going to be stable. That may be a great place to park, pick up some new skills, do some networking, and move up in the world while the hope and change works itself out.

  6. Oh, another reason to grab the first decent offer – more and more companies are saying “if you’ve been unemployed for more than X weeks, don’t bother applying.”

    Taking that first offer keeps you in consideration for other offers when not taking it would leave you less likely to get any job later.

  7. Jake:

    Yes. I’m concerned about that. I’ve been out only a few weeks at this point, but this goes much longer I’m going to start getting very concerned.

  8. One of the contracts I took I really had to soal search, as it was a HUGE cut in pay. I decided I would rather be working than drawing unemployment, so I took it.

    I hated the job, but it lead to the contract I am at now. I never would have gotten it had I not taken the one I almost turned down.

    Things eventually work out.

  9. I’m getting more eager to find something than I was three weeks ago. So far the academic job is proceeding along well, but they haven’t been in any great rush (probably because they are an academic institution, and it’s the summer).

    I’m finding job searching to be stressful. It’s not like a full time job, but it takes a lot out of you, because the stakes are high, and you have to be very careful in how you deal with people, and how you present yourself.

    Today I told someone my availability was immediate, but after I said that I realized I’m talking like someone who has a job. My availability is in about two weeks, because I want to follow through on the academic job. I mean, for the right price I could be immediate :) But otherwise I’d like to get two offers if I can do that without turning one down. I stressed like crazy that I didn’t make that more clear.

  10. Have you tried the Linked-In type, “it’s not what you know but who” thing? It only works/worked for me after the fact, knowing a guy with a company who needed the stuff I could do.
    As a Professionally Unemployed Person since mid ’03 I don’t find social networking to be any real actual use, mostly I run into a doormat for recruiters, and there’s pitifully reduced balm-effect when communicating with preening ex-colleagues, while nothing substantive is forthcoming.

  11. You could always move to New Jersey and get jobs in New York. Though, you’d also have to move to a smaller home, or one of similar size at greater expense, pay higher taxes, give up your CCW right and hack off the bayo lugs and flash hiders from all your rifles.

    Joooooooooooiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn usssssss!


  12. If I had to relocate to one of the people’s republic’s i was going to move my gun safe to my dad’s basement, and keep the guns that have evil features there. I think the CCW issue is actually going to be fixed fairly soon.

    Assault weapons bans are another story.

  13. Hang in there Sebastian. I was seriously unemployed for 13 months – this was back at the beginning of the recession. Pray and cultivate your relationship with God, Network like crazy, Reduce expenses like crazy, Enjoy family time, pray (already said that).

    Look for work in unexpected places. Start your own LLC and freelance for a while if possible.

    I will keep you in prayer with my family – let’s see what happens.


  14. Thought about part-time work in a gun shop? You seem to know a bit about the subject. Probably wouldn’t pay close to what you want, but getting out of the house even for a part time job can have tremendous benefits in many ways.

  15. your in a different position – but a lawyer I know lost his job at the end of the Bush Administration. Right away, he had 4 different jobs come to him. But they all paid slightly less than he was making as a government employee ($150k a year plus benefits, the outrageousness of which is worthy of an entire blog in and of itself). He couldn’t bring himself to take those, and so he turned them down. He was holding out for something else, and here he is, two years later, still holding out for something else and becoming more and more desperate (which in turn makes him more and more delusional and less and less marketable). Its a sad cycle to witness as he was an impeccable lawyer.

    Which is a long way to say hold out for the better gig as long as possible, but try not to turn any down in the process.

    A bird in hand is worth way more than two in the bush.

  16. Also, if you get the academic position, make sure your contract allows you to do consulting. I know many academics who make small fortunes on the side doing consulting (lots of litigation work, but also real research and engineering work) and by nature of being academics their market price as consultants goes through the rood.

  17. Sad to say, the longer you are out of work, the more likely it is that someone will decide that you are out of work for a reason.

    I don’t know when your health insurance with your last employer expires, but you can’t COBRA if the company ceases to exist, and buying individual health insurance is hideously expensive.

  18. “I need to do some gun blogging, but I’m just really bummed about two leads drying up in the same day.”

    One of the bad things about losing your job is that it causes depression, which makes it harder to do important stuff in the all the spare time you have. When my employer started issuing promises instead of paychecks in 2001, I found myself seriously impaired.

    On the other hand, losing my contract position in 2009 wasn’t a complete loss: I used the time to write the George Mason Law Review article cited in McDonald v. Chicago (2010).

  19. Clayton:

    Not getting to the point I’m depressed yet, but it’s definitely emotionally taxing. I am still in good spirits, and just a few minutes ago, another dream job I thought wasn’t interested just contacted me for a phone interview. So today is looking better.

    No COBRA because we folded. I managed to get a high deductible plan that covers anything over 2500 out of pocket, and anything over 4000 out of network. Normally it would go with an HSA, but it was only 100 bucks a month for someone my age with no pre-existing conditions.

  20. Sebastian,

    I don’t know what your salary range or skill set is, but if you’ve got J2EE web, SOA,, software technical leadship or architecture skills, project management experience (PMP certified is nice) or mobile (iOS or Android) development skills and don’t mind a nice, stable, long lived financial firm, we are hiring right now in Virginia and Florida. Mid-to-senior level positions. If that meets your requirements, send me a private e-mail so I can tell you where to direct you to.

  21. For now, I’d rather not relocate. But the description is not quite a match for my skills. I could probably do those things, but I have no job experience doing them.

  22. I spent a few years working in a medium-large public academic environment, right after graduation. The pay could not match private industry, but there were other benefits. Starting vacation was generous, the health plan options were large (state gov had choices), the environment was pleasant and there were some seriously smart people to learn from. And then there was the new crop of freshman every year.

    I did finally leave, mostly from wanderlust and the expanding opportunities of IT in the 90’s, but it wouldn’t be a bad place to be.

  23. Cover letters are just the first barrier to entry, to crossing over the round-file threshold – so they have to be right, but they don’t mean a thing and it’s exhausting. I mailed out over two-hundred applications during the first round of lay-offs with no results, the second go-around about five years later I upped the ante to over four hundred – and it wasn’t a generic mass-mailing – but still with no results. I found work but it wasn’t through the regular channels – I temped and then picked up a temp-to-perm gig.
    The last time with the economy in a down-spin I folded my non-playable cards and became a house-husband with side-jobs…

  24. “I don’t know when your health insurance with your last employer expires, but you can’t COBRA if the company ceases to exist, and buying individual health insurance is hideously expensive.”

    I’m in the process of shifting my work right now–changing my current full-time job into part-time, while I start working full-time at a different company. Thus, I’ve been filling out forms to change my insurance; I’ll still have to pay COBRA for a month.

    One work model I’ve been toying with is to hunt down start-ups I find interesting, and work for them part-time (so I could spend more time with family and doing math research). I’d have to be debt-free for this to be possible, and it annoys me that decades of government regulation has made buying your own health insurance so expensive!

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