Thursday, June 17, 2010

Job Hunting Conclusion: How I Landed My New Job

This is a follow up post to my previous Job hunting 1 of 2 and Job Hunting 2 of 2 blog posts.

For those who tripped across my 2 part blog post on the trials and tribulations of job hunting I am glad to report that I have accepted a new full time indeterminate position with the Government of Canada. I have been in the new position since early May. All the work I put into my job hunting was well worth the effort as my new job has re-invigorated me in my career. I hope others get the same opportunity.

I explain a bit about my new position at

As Canada's economy is starting to bounce back I still see many professional and personal contacts struggling to either find work or find meaningful and rewarding work.

Sometimes you have to find a job for the sake of a job to pay the bills. I have had few of these throughout my bouncy career(s) but I have had them. They act as jumping off points to new opportunities. Now I feel as though I have a job that fits me, and one that I have the flexibility to evolve with over time.

So what was the secret to landing this job? What was the golden key? The one thing that above all else will work 100% of the time. Good question!

I don't know the one thing but I will share my approach.

What follows is not the perfect recipe, just a documentation of some of the tactics I used.

Face it, job hunting sucks, its no fun, you feel low, it causes depression (if you are not careful) and is hard work. So you need to get psyched, pumped and GIVR hard. For me, when I telemark ski I can stand at the top of a slope and get pumped, this is needed when you are pushing the envelope with floppy heels. I also need to pump myself up sometimes before I teach with the Freeheelers United ski school. Even though I love teaching and I would be missing something without it I still need to prime my motivational pump before being in the limelight.

So GET PUMPED and get ready for a roller coaster ride. And don't stop until you win the lottery (unlikely) or find a job (YOU WILL FIND A JOB).

I pulled out the same approach I have used in the past, I set silly goals and make it a game. That's right, a game.

2. The numbers Game:
Many resources will give two sides of this approach. First, some sources say it is a game of stats, the more you dump your resume, eventually you are bound to find something. The other side says to build a strategy and be selective and focus your energy. Well I used both. You make a massive list of select contacts and leads and start knocking them off. And you build as you go. Each contact you meet should provide at least 2 other contacts.

I set silly limits like:
* 10 cold phone calls a week
* 3 informational interviews a day
* build a Contact List of 100 direct or indirect members of your network
* build a list of 300 potential companies (use the Industry Canada search)

There is no method to this approach, the idea is to pick a number, achive the goal and set a newer and higher number. Since my last job search included distributing 300 resumes, 17 informational interviews, 5 job interviews, 1 test (with close to 200 other people) and 1 job, I knew I had to go big again. And really those numbers were pretty straight forward to hit.

I was blown away how quickly my list grew compared to the last time I did this approach though. What is different? Last time I had more time and built it slowly. This time my network that I built every day on the job paid off in spades. In fact some of the contacts I made 3 years ago I went back to this time around. Having a professional and personal network is key, and you have to build it slowly over time and nurture it like a vegetable garden. When you are unemployed or your contract is nearing the end you harvest the fruits of your labour.

Think of your professional networks as a cash crop. Don;t ignore it or else it will wither and die. Don't over harvest or it gets stressed.

3. Get other people working for you:
This may sound lazy, and it may very well be, but it works. Let people know you are looking for work, get them to help you find leads. Ask them if they know anyone that does what you want to do, ask for 10 minutes of their time. Everyone has 10 minutes to share their story. This sometimes turns into 30 minutes, an hour and in my case it eventually led to a job offer.

4. Go public:
Job hunting sucks, and telling the world may feel like defeat. However, the world wants to help. Have you ever helped a complete stranger cross the street, pick up something they dropped or just volunteer for the fun of it. It felt good maybe? Well let others help you, it makes them feel good, it can help get you a job which then makes you feel good again. Then you can give back or thank those that helped you, and then they feel good again.

Imagine paying someone a dollar to receive two in return. Let people give you the first dollar and they will feel good about themselves twice. People like to help other people. It gives them purpose and fulfillment.

5. Build your web personal web presence:
One approach I used was to seriously build a person web site as a marketing tool. I happened to find my name available as a domain name, and so became my brand. I plan to keep it for many years to come. After you have a job, update it (I took a few extra weeks, ok months to update mine), then leave it and let it continue building your network.

Some may think a web site is a lot of work for little return. It worked for me to have a site. I actually had a request the other week for a position with a GIS firm in Vancouver. They saw I was an avid member the GRASS community of Open Source GIS users and they found my community profile. My profile pointed to my site, they grabbed my contact info and sent me a request for an interview. So that worked. I just happened to have already landed a job, but it did eventually work. Sometimes these things take time.

6. Brush up on some skills:
A note about my site . It still requires some touch up and is not perfect, or flashy. It serves its purpose.

I took the hard route and coded raw HTML. There are many easier routes, but I had a purpose to my approach, I actually took it as a profeesional development excercise to get familiar with the latest version of HTML markup XHTML. In my day to day job we work with applications on the web that produce their own code or are based on content management systems. Otherwise we prototype without much thought to visual design. So I thought I would re-learn the basics.

I also taught myself basic styling of web pages using CSS. When I first learned HTML the styling was included in the code, now it is separate.

Your Internet service provider (ISP) should provide minimal web space. If not then consider joining a community based Internet service provider like National Capital Freenet in Ottawa. They offer all of their members to publish free web pages. Their DSL service is also inexpensive ($30.95 as of July 1, 2010) for a decent speed (5Mb) and ample download limits (200GB/month). They are also one of the last remaining ISP's offering Dialup modem pools.

So take your pending unemployment as a chance to brush up on your skills, develop new ones and build your web presence.

7. Volunteer:
Job hunting is a full time job, but even with a full time job we need a break. Volunteering helped me get out of the house and away from thinking about job hunting, somewhat.

My ongoing side project is starting up a community technology non-profit group called Computers for Communities (C4C). This takes a lot of my time, anywhere from 5-20 hours a week. Every second Sunday I show up to the hands on workshops and interact directly with the volunteers. This was a great way to get away from it all.

From the flip side, or the volunteers perspective at C4C, we get many people looking to volunteer to get their first Canadian work experience. They already know some of the value of volunteering. The fact some of these bright minds can't find work, blows me away. It is not a reflection of their abilities. It just highlights that finding a job is hard. Sometimes harder than the job itself.

Due to their volunteering activities I get to learn more about them as people and what their passions are. Eventually we forge a trust, and next thing you know I am being contacted as a reference for an interview. Acting as a reference has the added benefit of raising your profile and building your network. Although volunteers are not employees, when I am called to act as a character reference others view me in the same light as another employer. This is actualy building my network while helping to forge the network of the volunteer. We both win.

So go out there and volunteer, it will open many doors. If you are in Ottawa check out Volunteer Ottawa for a listing of opportunities. If you want to learn more about computers here is a list of opportunities at Computers for Communities.

8. Set up a Job finding club:
So I double dipped on this one. Computers for Communities attracts many people in the technology sector either between jobs or looking for new work. It also attracts high school students wanting to get the volunteer hours they need to graduate. C4C also has a growing number of fresh university and college graduates looking to build their resume. So every 2 weeks I encouraged people to bring their resumes and share their experience. The ball was picked up by a couple of people and so we kept it rolling.

Even after having landed a job I am still helping to mentor a couple of newcomers to Ottawa and Canada find their dream jobs by teaching them what I have learned through my most recent foray in the job hunting market.

Those silly numbers above that I used? I now pass them on as "assignments" for other job hunters. Some think it is silly and don't follow up, others smile, laugh and bite. They must think I am crazy. But eventually I am convinced it will pay off.

9. Go to the library
Many people are not educated in the art of finding work. They don't offer Job Hunting 101 at school that I know of. You don;t have to spend a lot of money to get an education. Your local library has a free education in job hunting waiting on its shelves.

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) has many books worth getting for job hunting. Go to your library and check it out. The OPL lets you build lists to share with others, check out my Job hunting resource list. I highly recommend reading What Color is Your Parachute, the companion workbook, and Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters

I am not a book worm, but I love the library. Free books, free manuals, free music, free movies, and now I am exploring their digital audio books. I have taught myself film and digital photography, computer programming, the Linux Operating system, computer repair, fund raising and how to start a non-profit all from books at the library. I even watched all the Shakespeare videos I could borrow because I figured high school butchered these plays that were supposed to be viewed, not read.

I am blown away how many people I know do not have a library card. If the Ottawa public Library is not a wide enough selection then what about Government libraries and those at universities and colleges. The Ottawa Public Library Smart Card will get you access to all the industry research, government reports and fascinating journals you can shake a stick at. The Smart Card is your universal library pass to many other libraries in Ottawa.

10. Buy some books
For me, my golden purchase was Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters (GM4JH). Many of the ideas I used came from this book. Some of the others came from a job finding club I belonged to 3 years ago.

There were more ideas than I could possibly use at once. They actually recommended picking a handful of approaches and not trying to do everything. I am comfortable with the web but never used is as a marketing tool, so their suggestions helped me exploit the net as one of many approaches I used. To see what web resources I exploited check out my networks.

Notice how I improvised and used some of the Canadian Governments professional networking tools such as GC Pedia, GC Connex, and GC Forums? These internal networks were great for networking with new government professionals. It also gave me a place to put my professional resume aimed at government opportunities in PDF form. This way I just had to share a link of my resume in e-mails instead of attaching PDF's that may get lost, deleted or forgotten.

The motivation for developing an online brand at came from GM4JH. It also houses many versions of my resume, each with a specific purpose. The idea of starting this Blog came from there. Updating my facebook, creating linked in account, starting a twitter feed and claiming my profiles at zoom info; of which there were four already, were all ideas from this book.

The authors of this book said that once we find a job we are to share our experience. So I am concluding my job hunting saga by following their request and sharing my experience to help others.