It’s been a little over a month since I last blogged, and an eventful month it has been. During my absence I rediscovered the joys of searching for a new job, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

The background

It was a Tuesday morning. I had Slacked my manager and team letting them know I would be out due to illness. I was taking a long, hot bath. Man, it was nice to relax. 9:30 am rolled around, and the account manager from my consulting firm was calling. I thought to myself “I’m out sick, so I can’t get coffee or lunch today, bummer…” I declined the call and settled back into my relaxing bath.

10 am rolled around, I climbed out of the tub (I take long baths, I know), and I decided to check the voicemail. “Hey Adam! I need you to call me right away. This is important.”. I thought, he probably can’t get into the building, as per normal. So I called him back, and I got the words I didn’t ever want to hear.,

Hey Adam. I have bad news, the company is restructuring and they’ve decided to cut your contract.

The next day I learned something like 30 people were let go.

That day was a tough day for me, yet a really good day. I had a major freak out within the first few minutes. Shock followed by panic. I called my wife and she coached me on breathing exercises and said to take calming breaths before reaching out to people. She said it would help me make sure I represent myself well.

The search

I don’t like to let the grass grow between my toes - I like to move, move, move! Thus within the first hour of losing my contract, I filed for unemployment and messaged every recruiter I know that has contacted me within the last month.

By the end of day 1, I had 8 leads on my job search. This led me to start thinking about creating a process to finding a job.

Day 2: the spreadsheet

I dropped my wife off at work then I fielded 5 calls just on the drive home. Talk about running my mouth off! Once I got home, I brain dumped all my leads into a spreadsheet with these column headers:

  • Company
  • Recruiter Name
  • Recruiter Phone
  • Recruiter Company
  • Recruiter Email
  • First Contact Date
  • Pay
  • Position
  • FTE or Contract?
  • Location
  • Status
  • Next Steps
  • Company Contact
  • Company Contact Phone Number
  • Company Contact Email

These 14 columns quickly became overwhelming and daunting. I spent the entire day on the phone: calling recruiters back, doing some phone screens, and setting up next day interviews. At 4pm, I decided to call it quits.

Day 3: Interviews and killing the spreadsheet

Being a software engineer, I tend to look for problems then find solutions for them. My problem with all these leads was keeping track of the current state of them. I did the natural thing for someone in my field: kill the spreadsheet and adapt a Kanban Board. I chose Trello as my tool purely because it is free and I already had an account.

My swim lanes:

  1. Recruiter Contact
  2. Phone Screen
  3. Onsite
  4. Assessments / Code Test
  5. No word on next steps
  6. No – They or I declined
  7. Offer Received

Converting my 20+ leads into cards simplified the process. During my phone screens, I used the card commenting feature to take notes. I was able to clearly document where each job state was, how much they where paying and all the other details from day 2 in a much clearer format. Doing this lessened my anxiety around task management and helped me maintain a calmer mindset.

I had two interviews - one with a company I used to work for and another with a recruiter on site. I earned a lot and got reminded of things I need to review, like SQL joins or Javascript Hoisting or JS closures.

Day 4:

Using Trello was really helpful. I had traded a bunch of emails with various companies and recruiters. I had 3 interviews setup. Thus, I decided that today was Friday and I needed to chill out a little bit. I went for a walk and took my first call of the day. This was for a fully remote lead developer role. I really liked the manager and he was direct with me. I felt really good about it.

I went for a walk in Golden, Co. In the downtown area there’s a beautiful nature area for walking. It was very beautiful to take my calls walking this trail system while enjoying beautiful Colorado.

Later in the day, I had phone interviews at 1:30 and 2:30. The interview at 1:30 went really well. 5 minutes after the call, I got a call about Day 3’s onsite interview: they wanted me. They made me an offer, and I told the recruiter I would be deciding next week. He was really understanding about my position and offered me more money if needed.

Then I did my 2:30 call, which went pretty well. Following that call, I got another call. The company from 1:30 also wanted to make me an offer. At this point, I had two offers and I decided that all was well in the world, so I took the weekend off.

Day 5: Monday

I don’t count the weekends in my timeline. On day 5, I got hit with the realization of, “Oh crap, I have nothing to do… I don’t have a job.” It was pretty lousy emotionally to have to deal with the loss. t was also a really awesome day because I got my 3rd and final offer.

I really wanted this particular one: it was a fully remote contract which meant I would get to hang out with my terrier, Dudley, and cat, Penny, all day. I decided to go for it and accepted the offer.

5 days in, it was time for vacation! I declined all other options and decided to take the next week and a half off before I started my new job. It was really nice to have that time off to relax and hangout.

The process of finding a job

Ah, yes. This is the fun part. Now that you’ve heard my story, let’s talk about the process to finding a new job on demand.

It starts with a great resume

There is so much written on this topic and I encourage you to seek out those resources. What has really worked well for me is:

  • List the project, company, dates, and a detailed description of things I achieved.
  • Example: “Used Apache benchmark with gems mentioned above to identify and eliminate 100 N+1 queries on the homepage to 5 queries to load all the homepage data in an average of 1 second under constant load.”
  • Don’t be afraid to break the 1 page rule if you have a lot of experience. I have 3 pages worth of experience and things to say. This is the place to sell yourself.
  • Have an excellent summary that details what you like doing. I love React and Javascript, so those are in my summary.
  • Lead with tech skills. I list every technology I liked working with and would work with again. Don’t mention things you don’t want to ever touch again in this section!

While all of the above is awesome and hopefully helpful, you need this resume ready at a moment’s notice. Always update your resume and Linkedin when you achieve something. It doesn’t matter how small it seems to be, make sure that thing is up to date while you are working. It makes searching for a job way less stressful.

Linkedin

I use Linkedin almost every day, even when I’m gainfully employed. I update it all the time. I ensure my current info, like my resume, is updated. I also seek out friends, coworkers, and other people I know.

I always try to respond to recruiters. Even a quick, “I’m sorry, let’s connect but I’m not looking for a job right now.” I always accept ANY Linkedin connect request, unless it’s a creepy stalker from the internet… :)

What did I do when I lost my job? I posted a message to Linkedin:

“I’m looking for a full time Senior Software Engineer Role in Denver, Golden, Boulder, Broomfield, or Westminster. If you know someone hiring, please send them my way! My contract has ended.”

This, plus the feature of letting recruiters know I was on the market, led to a flood of people hitting my inbox with messages.

Dice and Indeed

Dice and Indeed did generate many great leads but it also led to many spam calls from various companies who clearly didn’t read their clients’ requirements or my resume. I had a recruiter contacting me for a C++ role even though I have NEVER done C++. I don’t recommend posting your main phone number or email on these sites; rather, use a separate email or a filter for emails coming through them.

I do, however, have to say they have a lot of positions to which you can apply. The response rate from companies on applications was a lot higher then Linkedin.

I also submitted to Hired, but they had no Senior roles available. It was really tough to get something through them.

Grooming and style

If you’re a guy, make sure you shave your face and comb your hair. If you’re a woman, well, I can’t help you with style tips. Dress to the 9s. I wore a suit to EVERY interview. It didn’t matter if it was a startup, recruiter, or otherwise. This is the REAL deal. Dress like a pro and you’ll be treated like a pro.

Also, getting a haircut is a good investment. My look before losing my job was really messy. I dropped this immediately and launched into the “Hire Adam” look.

The interview

I’ve been blessed to interview more than 100 people through my tenure in various roles. I’ve also interviewed at many different companies. I tend to know which interviews I like and which interviews I strongly dislike.

Interviews I do well in:

  • Any talking interviews
  • Questioning interviews where they blitz through tech questions like “Describe http to me.”
  • Interviews where I’m asked to draw boxes with lines between them
  • Light coding on the whiteboard

Interviews I don’t prefer:

  • Long take home tests
  • Timed take home tests
  • Heavy coding on the whiteboard
  • Curveball questions: “Oh, no one has never seen this problem before ever, can this new person solve it?”

For you to be ready for the interview, you need to know your craft. Sometimes it can be helpful to go to a few local interviews and just try it out. I try to interview at 2-3 companies a year, even if I’m not looking for a job. It’s helpful to know what people are asking candidates.

Also, consider reading interview questions but most importantly, if you list something on your resume be prepared to talk about it. I like to read things in depth, such as the HTTP spec, so I can draw on that reading and visualizing when I interview to really nail those questions. For you, it might be really knowing React or DevOps.

Takeaways for me

This was a good growth experience for me, and I wouldn’t take the layoff back for any reason. I was already thinking about leaving so I could work remotely and praise God, I was able to do that with no problems.

It’s been a really trying and emotionally difficult time for me. I didn’t turn to drugs or drinking, but to prayer and tears with my wife. It’s been hard but it’s shown me that I can quickly find a new role and I have nothing to be afraid of. My wife is really kind, loving and supportive. Most of all, it has taught me to be grateful for the things I have. I’m so excited for what the future holds with me during this new contract and beyond.