Editor’s note: David Newman of Nyack is one of six bloggers working with The Journal News and LoHud.com as part of our Jobless Recovery series. The 12-part series examines the job market and the impact unemployment has had on the Lower Hudson Valley. As the region climbs out of the recession, some sectors and businesses are expected to grow. Read more at LoHud.com/joblessrecovery.
I’m writing this latest blog post because I can. That is, my informational interview meeting got canceled at the last minute. This after I spent a number of hours preparing by reading up on the other party’s career and her company, not to mention researching about the governing statutes and requirements that affect their business.
This time around, I’ve got to give the benefit of the doubt. She said that she was feeling ill and would be working from home. She even offered a make-up date (more about this terminology later). On the other hand, she’s yet to respond to my counter offer. Even in the worst case, this situation is a lot less frustrating than others that I’ve faced.
Take one hiring manager as an example. I contacted him last year as a means to gain some networking referrals. Instead, he pleasantly surprised me by asking to speak with me about working at his company, the first of numerous discussions. When we met, I outlined the various ways in which I could be of service and even offered to start out on a part-time basis as a means of mitigating the budgetary constraints that his corporation faced. I soon learned that the company was moving into a hiring freeze. On the other hand, the hiring manager did have budgetary discretion to pay me for projects on a freelance basis.
Soon I was throwing myself into the work that he sent my way, making a good impression on the clients with whom I interfaced and forging strong relationships. One of these clients went so far as to advocate on my behalf, urging the company’s management to bring me on as an employee. But, there was that recession created hiring freeze once again.
The hiring manager and I agreed to periodic status updates and with these I learned that he, too, was happy with my work. During ensuing discussions he told me that the situation was improving and that we were “getting closer” to working out the details of my position at the company. Consequently, he asked me to prepare a job description. Having been in the corporate world, I understood that he needed a description that could be used for HR purposes. I went ahead and drafted a detailed job description. Then he told me that he needed something more, a presentation geared to his management, one that would show ample justification for the creation of my position. I threw myself into it and created a slam-bang Power Point presentation, again to his satisfaction.
Meanwhile, I performed breakthrough work for the company, preparing strategic and tactical advice and analysis geared towards mitigating serious risks. While all previous work by attorneys and consultants had dealt with discrete issues, I provided a sea change with calm waters beckoning ahead. In other words, I provided a holistic vision of a top down solution that was accepted and implemented. Soon, additional matters came and I felt like I was paving the way to join the organization, learning its culture and nuances. E-mail feedback continued to make me feel appreciated.
But soon, the hiring manager became busy with other issues. My e-mails and messages typically went unanswered for weeks. After a while, he asked whether I was interested in a different type of position that he needed to fill more urgently, one for which I lacked extensive experience. Knowing I could do the job, I said, “Sure, let’s give it a go.” Then communications went dead again. Finally, I circled back and got his attention but time-after-time, last-minute meetings preempted my own scheduled appointments with him. Once more I followed up. Yes, he was still interested but new corporate officers had taken the helm and no new hiring would be allowed in positions other than sales. I reinforced my flexibility, reminding him that I’d even begin part-time, so as to become part of his organization. “You would?” he asked. “You know, that might work,” he added. At this point let me just say, !*%$!@ Didn’t I suggest that alternative in the first place?! Did I really have to go through the hours and hours of discussions and checking-in, the eleventh hour cancellations, drafting justifications and job descriptions and all the rest, only some of which I’ve described above?
That’s the problem with this whole situation. There’s the waiting for return calls and e-mails that never come — the deafening silence. There’s the “friends” who suddenly don’t remember your phone number, even though you left it (twice!) on the last voicemail message. There’s the same tired refrain, “I’d like to hire, but we’re in a freeze.” I had one hiring manager tell me that he’s not allowed to create any new position without getting rid of another two positions. There are even those that seem hot-to-trot, energetically inviting you in and talking aloud about how you might be able to help. Then suddenly — nothing! To hearken back to the beginning of this post, it’s as confounding as dating was in my younger days. You know, the woman who was interested and affectionate one moment only to be cold and aloof the next. Then, all of a sudden, she’s on again. That’s job search, a veritable roller coaster ride of come-ons and set backs. Sometimes I feel ridiculous, an earnest suitor turned as absurd as Woody Allen’s character in “Love And Death”: coy yet flamboyant, batting his eyes behind a feathered fan, gyrating his saber suggestively. We all know, in fact, that if he ever unsheathes his sword he’ll slice his thumb half off, the nebbish.
Friends in my job search team convey the same types of frustration. Sometimes it’s worse. And, it’s no wonder. Numerous reports published last year announced that many company recruiters will not even consider candidates who are not currently employed. Imagine, you can’t become un-unemployed unless you’re not unemployed. Get it?
Even those who have landed jobs have gone through a job seeker’s version of trial by fire and ice. One member of our team went through fifteen separate interviews before recently being hired. Another received a tentative city government offer that fell into limbo for over four months.
If madness is what you’re after, find a seemingly safe job at a good old fashioned Fortune Five Hundred company. Work there assiduously for, let’s say, 20 years or so until your gray starts to show. Wait, wait, don’t leave. Not until that next big round of workforce reductions. That’s your time to go. Then have at it. Hunt and sniff out every lead. Scour the job boards. Search out every connection you have to the potential employer. Explore every network. Research, analyze and study every target company or industry. Prepare and memorize for meetings that will never come about. Join the madness.
About the writer
David Newman was former in-house counsel at an international technology company. He specialized in regulatory compliance and public policy, with an emphasis on the international supply chain to the United States. In fact, David was highly involved in the discussions surrounding the development of regulatory rules designed to prevent terrorists from using instruments of the international supply chain to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the country.
After sixteen years with the company, including efforts that saved tens of millions of dollars, David’s business group was eliminated as part of a much larger, recession induced series of cost saving measures.
In this jobless recovery, David’s blog posts are designed to help him and his “in-transition” counterparts recover a spirit of belonging, perspective and sometimes humor.