TL;DR short version: keep a log of your job search, network, stay on top of your field with training.
Here's some thoughts on my job search and lessons learned:
- Fight the blues by keeping track of what you've done. I started a "Career Diary" that I updated every day with what I did for that day to find a job. On my low days, I could look at that and say "Well, I did all I could" and it was a great resource when I needed to see if I'd applied at a place before.
- Filing for unemployment is easy, and the pay is awful. Unemploymnet paid about half my mortgage, and that's it.
- I was a lousy networker, and that needs to change. If you don't network, start today. Call that old boss and your old co-workers. Start/update your LinkedIn account. When you make a business contact, make sure you connect with them even if the deal falls through. Do things to network.
I started my job search with about 25 contacts on LinkedIn. I've ended six months later with 246, and met some very interesting people along the way. If you haven't already, connect with me on LinkedIn.
- Job searching was a roller coaster of emotions. The high of a successful interview just picks you up to dash you that much farther when you're turned down. Exciting jobs with awesome people make you so hopeful until you learn the bad news - they can't pay even half of your salary requirements, or you don't meet their requirements, or just you're just not the best fit in a competitive market.
- Do a budget. Figure out your absolute minimum salary. Put your salary range in your cover letter to your applications. It will save heartache on your part and time on the recruiter's part. Some will still call asking if you'll take less than your salary range, but it will be a short phone call.
- Apply to jobs. A lot. I applied to more than 100 places since March, at more than 120 jobs. I usually spent 6 to 8 hours on job related emails, applications and searching each day, five days a week. Only a couple hours each day on weekends. It took me about 45 minutes to find and apply to an average job. I updated my 'core' resume and the half-dozen job sites where it was posted more than a dozen times.
- Tailor your resumes and don't print them until you need them. I probably killed half a forest before I learned this last part. I have 25 different versions of my resume - some for management positions, some for programmer positions, some for architect positions, and different formats for each of them. Most sites wouldn't format my Microsoft Word resume properly, so I had a PDF version and a plain text version, too.
- You must manage your expectations:
- You aren't going to get paid what you were making before. You're going to be paid what the market will pay for the new position you receive. In my case, I was looking at a 27% pay cut to stay in town, or a 7% pay cut if I was willing to commute an hour and a half one way to Richmond. I got lucky and got only a 14% pay cut, telecommuting, but only because I networked to get the job, and since I'm a rehire, the employer knows I'm really good at what I do.
- Just because you're good doesn't mean anyone will believe you. You need training or experience. If your company won't pay for it, do it on your own. I had my first offer rescinded because I didn't finish my degree. I would've been excellent at that job, and I would've loved it. But even though I had 18 years of relevant experience, I didn't have the 20-year old irrelevant degree, so I lost the job.
I had lots of interest in my resume based on my sole certification, which is totally irrelevant to any job I've ever done. (The only reason I am certified is because the government required it, even though everything I learned is useless in my day-to-day work.)
So my priority one is finishing my degree using my employer's excellent education benefits. My boss once told us that we should consider taking vacation to get our own training. My happily-employed ego laughed at him, saying that if the company wanted me trained, they should pay for it and give me time to do it. I wish I'd listened, because the company doesn't want me trained, they just want someone trained. My unemployed-ego realizes that company benefits like vacation and education are there for me, not them.
My job sites that I checked daily:
- Stack Overflow Careers 2.0
- Tech Jobs: Design, Programming, Rails, Executive, and more.
- Job Listings — GitHub Jobs
- Jobs in Glen Allen, VA | TechCareers
- architect java technical Jobs at Dice.com
- Jobs - Careers - Employment - Job Search Engine | Simply Hired
- Job Search | one search. all jobs. Indeed.com
- JobServe - Job Seeker Home
- Security Clearance Jobs - ClearanceJobs.com