Job search panic
December 13, 2017 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I've been looking for a job since July. My unemployment is going to run out at the end of January, and my savings won't last much longer than that. I am living as frugally as reasonably as I can but I am panicking. With my qualifications, I thought I'd have a job by now. What am I doing wrong?

I have over a decade in professional jobs and a master's degree (albeit unrelated to the field I've been working in). I'm a business analyst with strong SQL skills and some project management experience. There are so many ads that look perfect, and yet...

I've inquired around my network but most of my local friends do not work in business/IT. I've applied to ~80 jobs online. I get calls from people at staffing companies, most of whom have submitted me for jobs that I'm well-suited but I've been rejected. I've had 3 phone interviews and two in person interviews, which I practiced for. I've had lots of people look at my resume and everyone thinks it's great. (I'm happy to send it to anyone by email.)

I have active profiles on LinkedIn, Indeed, Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder. My public Facebook and real-name Twitter are sanitized. I've been to a couple of LGBT networking events (I am gay and trans) but I felt out of place because everyone is already pretty successful and the few leads I got didn't pan out. Speaking of being trans, I am terrified it's hurting me. I'm masculine, but I'm short and my voice is higher than most men. Men definitely react to me differently than women, both on the phone and in person. The all-women interview went much better than the mixed-gender interview.

I'm terrified I'll run out of money and I won't even be able to get a retail job because I'm way overqualified. I'm depressed and either can't sleep or sleep 14-16 hours/day.If it really just does take longer to find a job, what am I supposed to do when I run out of money? I do have a 401k I can cash out but after taxes, it won't buy me that much more time.
posted by AFABulous to Work & Money (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should note I've also tried the LGBT tech Slack channel (which is busy, but no one talks to me) and my local one (which is completely dead).
posted by AFABulous at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2017

Have you talked to the staffing agencies to see whether they have any insights? Recruiters will often coach you and make suggestions since they their income depends on you landing a job.
posted by Karaage at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have you looked into the public sector, or non-profits? They are often looking for people with business experience, but most people want the higher paycheck that the private sector offers, so pickings can be slim. Also, in my experience as a short trans guy, being any kind of minority is much less of an issue there than it is in corporate work (though admittedly I've always lived in a pretty liberal area, so YMMV).

Government jobs take a while to get, but might be worth looking into.,, and the Bridgespan Group may be good places to start, if you haven't considered this route yet.
posted by Urban Winter at 8:06 AM on December 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

I've applied to ~80 jobs online.

You need to be applying to at least 50 jobs a week. That's eight days' work you've described there.

Keep applying.

Also, have you tried looking for any retail jobs? Maybe local stores need extra help over Xmas? I'd go over to the mall right now and put your cards on the table: say to each store manager, look I really need a job, are you hiring over Xmas?
posted by tel3path at 8:17 AM on December 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Not sure what stuff here would work for you, but Outpost is hiring.
I know the Front End Manager job is filled, but they've always got a fair number of openings, and they're very progressive and trans-friendly. I can put in a word for you if it helps.
posted by Slinga at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2017

Oh, wow, I feel vicarious panic on your behalf; that's such a stressful place to be. Your skills do seem like they should be a match for a lot of jobs. I agree with tel3path that you should be applying for more jobs! I had some good connections with companies on angellist last time I was job hunting. Is craigslist active in your area? That can be more personal than some of the other sites. You might see if you can develop a closer relationship with a couple of staffing firms that specialize in your skill areas, too.

Good luck!
posted by spindrifter at 8:29 AM on December 13, 2017

Also time to start looking into service jobs (waiting tables, bartending) until you can find something in your field.
posted by greta simone at 8:31 AM on December 13, 2017

If there's a local university, have a look there, too. My university is on a big data kick (for admissions and student support stuff, rather than anything involving actual scholarship), and my sense is that some of the people doing that stuff come out of a business analytics background.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

A couple of suggestions based on this post and a skim of your previous asks:
  • Don't pre-exclude or pre-disqualify yourself from opportunities. You asked a question recently about whether to take an in-person interview for a position that looked like about a 50% fit. Yes, you definitely should take interviews like that. Since you are not working currently the opportunity cost for doing that is low. Same thing for the LGBT networking events—people might look "pretty successful" already but chances are most of them aren't there just to go "heyyyyyy look at how awesome I am!" I've gone to those events myself for all phases of the employment lifecycle—my own job search, recruiting employees, and just making connections. I absolutely will try to help my fellow gays out if I can.
  • By staffing companies, do you mean commission-based recruiters for full-time positions or companies staffing temporary and W2 contract roles? If the former, I'll be blunt—speaking from both the job-seeker and hiring manager side, most of those folks are incompetent at best and shady at worst. They will spam your resume to any job listing that has the slightest hint of a match, so don't be offended if that doesn't result in good leads. (I've also met a couple of really good recruiters and the experience was very different. Both of those referrals came through my personal network, not a staffing agency.) If you're referring to temp/contractor agencies, are you getting any feedback on why you aren't making it to the interview stage? They may not be getting detailed responses from their clients and won't provide much individual coaching regardless, but they should be able to identify general issues like skills gaps.

posted by 4rtemis at 9:03 AM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've applied to ~80 jobs online.

That jumped out at me too. I tracked my job search a few years ago and I applied for about 150 in 90 days. Obviously, availability of jobs is a driving factor, but in this economy casting as wide a net as possible is something you need to do.

Also, speaking of the economy, I don't think its nearly as healthy as the press and politicians claim. Unemployment is less than 4% where I live, yet both my son and wife have been struggling to find work for months. The structure of the job market has fundamentally changed, and the official tracking mechanisms simply don't account for it. So it may not be anything you are doing wrong, it may just be the market.

That said, for your own peace of mind you need to have a plan B. If you do hit the wall can you go back home to your parent's basement or friend's place short term?
posted by COD at 9:04 AM on December 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

As someone who is queer-masc-trans* and a SQL heavy BA, it's out there, I promise.

PM'd you.
posted by RhysPenbras at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

You need to think about the job search as a process where each step is a stagegate review:

1 - Create resume
2 - Find jobs
3 - Apply
4 - Interview
5 - Negotiate

I've had lots of people look at my resume and everyone thinks it's great.

If you're not getting first interviews, either your resume is bad, or you're applying to the wrong jobs.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you need interim work, I've had a lot of success with temping. It might be worth considering that as a short term backup plan if you still don't have something permanent when your unemployment runs out. There's definitely a market there and your over-qualifications will be an asset vs a dealbreaker.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:39 AM on December 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

I want to enthusiastically second ArbitraryAndCapricious's suggestion that you look for work in a university setting. While I would of course suggest that you search such possible employers very broadly, a niche within the college and university world that you may not immediately think of would be these schools' development or advancement (i.e., fundraising) offices. These offices often have significant big data, project management, and general IT needs, in addition to the more obvious need for those who will ask supporters for donations, and your broad-based skillset and work experience might be appealing.
posted by cheapskatebay at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please look into this book, 2-hour jobsearch, as this is the ONLY book I found that helped me gear my job search to the digital age. I was applying using online engines like Career Builder etc, even the job links withing LinkedIn, but nothing worked till I used the strategies listed in this book.

Get it from the library and read it if you dont want to spend the money buying it. Read the book and photocopy the last chapter, as it gives you the template. but just photocopying the template is not enough. Please read the book and then the template will be of more use.
posted by indianbadger1 at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

In Maine, over-qualified doesn't matter; there's a worker shortage in many areas.

Call temp agencies and placement services; take temp options, esp. temp-to-hire. Go to the State Job office and see if they sponsor any networking groups or classes.

Your thinking that being trans might matter; it might. I would maybe post an specific to dealing with that, and finding discussion boards to deal. It sucks and it's wrong, but it could be an issue. I have no expertise offer here.
posted by theora55 at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2017

Contract staffing (aka "temp") agencies should be getting a big chunk of your time and effort. Your comments seem to indicate that you're not having much success selling yourself based on experience. The alternative is to sell yourself based on potential. Contract staffing work is one of the best ways to demonstrate potential.
posted by John Borrowman at 12:45 PM on December 13, 2017

I definitely recommend temping while continuing to apply to opportunities that look promising. It can potentially open doors to a more permanent position, and at the very least will get you income while you're searching.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:36 PM on December 13, 2017

I feel you mate, I've been there. Are you applying for jobs outside your comfort zone, or that you might consider to be somewhat "basic"?

Temp agencies can be good for a couple of days of admin work here, a couple of days of shelf-stacking there, a couple of days in a call centre, whatever.

You'll build on your portfolio of skills and contacts and the agencies will see that you are reliable and diligent. If you genuinely are afraid of being "overqualified" for certain types of job, then you need to have three, four, five different resumes on the go at any given time, each targeted to a certain sector or work type.

I took the liberty of checking your location, and a Google shows an alleged 1,500 call centre jobs in the area (I don't know how legit that site is, but a lot of the listing employers are certainly legit). Yeah it's not fun work, and the money and hours are likely going to be shit, and just because a job exists doesn't mean somebody will hire you for it, but I would certainly hammer each and every one of those listings and take the first thing you're offered. You'll feel better and after you settle in will start to think clearer, which will enable you to start forward planning with a better state of mind.

Best of luck!
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2017

I've had lots of people look at my resume and everyone thinks it's great.

Did some of these people have experience hiring for the types of positions you were particularly interested in or felt well-suited for?

I read your recent job search-related AskMe's and it left me wondering if there is something about your resume that is leading to rejections for jobs for which you feel you are well suited, but is getting you interviews for jobs you don't feel are as good a fit.

Have you tried comparing your resume to LinkedIn profiles of people in your local area holding the types of jobs you'd like to have?
posted by needled at 6:27 PM on December 13, 2017

Try It has a variety of jobs listed. I am going to use it myself after I leave the country and I have not had personal experience with it yet. But it makes sense that anything that might work against you in person will probably not be a problem in a remote job. That, at least, it is my hope as a 60-something woman many employers do not want to hire because I am too old according to them. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

If your resume looks great, how are your cover letters? You're customizing them for each position, yes? Best of luck. I'd also get anything for the short term (restaurant, retail, temp), as that'll help your finances and quell the panic.
posted by slidell at 9:21 PM on December 13, 2017

A couple of ideas for IT job boards which aren't as commonly used (and may hence give you better results):
- Stack Overflow Jobs
- GitHub Jobs
- "Who is Hiring" threads on Hacker News -- this is the latest (Dec 2017) one.
- Who is Hiring, the site. Aggregates jobs from Hacker News threads, and presumably other sources.
- AngelList Jobs
- We Work Remotely (mentioned by Bella Donna above)
- Remote OK
- Idealist (primarily nonprofit, but has IT opportunities as well)

Best of luck!
posted by vert canard at 4:24 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the immediate crisis: I would start temping or apply to seasonal retail today. Pay a few bills, take a few deep breaths.
posted by latkes at 8:04 AM on December 14, 2017

I've been laid off twice in 2 years in a very competitive job market (tech in Austin, TX).

Figure out where your gap is -- are you not getting phone interviews -- it is your resume or your skills.
Not getting in person interviews? Work on your phone interview
Not getting second interviews/offers? Work on your interview.

Also look for places to set yourself apart. I used to jazz up my resume so it would be more eye catching. Are you personalizing everything to the job you are going for (from the resume/cover, the stories you tell, to how you dress at the interview).

The first time I was laid off it too me 4 months to find something new. This time I was able to find something in 2 months because I worked a little smarter at it.

Also, I'd look into Indeed -- I think they are the best job search out there.
posted by hrj at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bona fides: I've been unemployed since the end of July, and only today got a job offer after a former coworker referred me to his boss last month.

I've inquired around my network but most of my local friends do not work in business/IT. I've applied to ~80 jobs online. I get calls from people at staffing companies, most of whom have submitted me for jobs that I'm well-suited but I've been rejected. I've had 3 phone interviews and two in person interviews, which I practiced for.

I have a gigantic spreadsheet with the following tabs: Target Companies, Leads, Applications, Callbacks, Tech Screens, Onsites, and Offers. Helps me keep things straight on what's been happening lately, who dropped the ball, etc., as well as do a pipeline analysis. In your case:

Applications: 80
Recruiter calls: ???
Phone screens: 3
Onsite interviews: 2

In general, each stage of the interview process only rules people out. And there's only so much you can do at any stage as a candidate; some of the noise in the hiring signal is the employer's fault after all. Looking at this data, it seems like your applications getting screened out early at an above average rate. Most hiring managers I've spoken with figure resume screening cuts out about 50 percent, yet you're getting culled more like 90 percent. So the good news is that none of your LBGT traits are being screened out during interviews.

The bad news is that the thing you think is fine--your resume and cover letter--are implicated here as underperforming. You should be crafting cover letters and resumes tailored to the job description. IMO, 50 applications a week is far too many to thoughtfully construct. Personally, I'm up to 40 total since August, plus a dozen or so direct recruiter contacts. And once your callback rate increases, you'll have less time spend on that portion of the hiring process, but that means you should be more selective in applications rather than cutting quality. So you absolutely need to look at your resume more critically. The way the average person reviews a resume is different than recruiters, who are also different than hiring managers. Unless the people who review your resume are all recruiters and hiring managers, their opinion is contradicted by the data you've presented us.

The other remote possibility is that your source of leads sucks. I've found that companies advertising jobs on their homepage only aren't nearly as interested in hiring as those paying for ads on job search sites. So my strategy of automating a daily check of target companies' HR pages was not performing well, and I can only surmise that a number of H1-B applications were tempoarily stymied.

If it really just does take longer to find a job, what am I supposed to do when I run out of money?

In Oregon you can earn like 10x minimum wage weekly without losing benefits. You tailor your resume and application to the jobs you know you can land and work them part time. That master's degree comes right off, as well as pages 2-*. Temp agencies have been useful for me in the past, as well as community colleges looking for 'how to use a computer' aides. Places with high turnover are generally less concerned about overqualification, so I wouldn't rule them out of hand if the alternative is homelessness.

As for running out of money, sadly, the following is not advice you can take immediately, but my lesson from my 2008 funemployment episode was to hoard cash and deploy weapons grade budgeting skills. I have my entire financial state and history in a double entry accounting system since pre-2008 crash tracking literally every penny. My advice is, during the good times, build up an emergency savings fund, and an emergency plan -- stuff you will sell, services you will cancel, things you will do in a financial emergency. I've sold off a number of video games I'd been holding onto, and set up a Netflix style queue with the library's DVD collection by placing holds on stuff I'd like to watch.
posted by pwnguin at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

My personal feeling right now is that there are a lot of people, maybe even a surplus (regionally, anyway—this varies vastly by region), of people in semi-technical roles like business analyst, entry level project management, etc. The barrier to entry for those positions just isn't high enough to keep them out of the fresh-from-college cesspool, which makes it desperately hard if you are not a fresh-from-college candidate. The more technical skills you have, though, in combination with the business/PM stuff, the stronger a candidate you become.

In baseball, there's a particularly brutal metric called "wins above replacement". When looking at your own resume, you need to consider a hypothetical metric called "wins above undergrad", i.e. what do you offer above a hypothetical bright young thing right out of college. I'm not suggesting you don't have it, but that maybe your resume and cover letter aren't showing it, for some reason. That's what I'd focus towards. What do you have that some rando college kid doesn't?

Also, the name of the game right now, in my experience, is tech skills—at least in the early rounds of interviews. People figure they can sort out "soft skills" in an in-person interview, if a candidate makes it that far, but technology is an easy way to deep-six a lot of resumes early on. So if you aren't getting a lot of callbacks for phone interviews, or a lot of in-person interviews out of those, I would tend to suspect that it's a resume / hard-skills problem and not a soft-skills one. (Conversely, if you were making it all the way through the process and to in-person interviews over and over, and then getting a bunch of polite-yet-firm "don't call us we'll call you"'s, then I'd guess the problem was more of a soft-skills one.) So I would work to create quantitative, visible measures of your technical skills. If you have any side projects, it might be worth spending a day or two and creating a Github page for them. If you don't have any side projects, well, maybe now's the time?

I'd also think about what your strengths are in terms of interacting with people. The route you're currently on (lots of cold applications) will likely lead to a lot of phone or maybe video interviews, questionnaire-filling, etc. For some people, that's exactly the ticket, because they'll do better there than in person. But if you think you're likely to do better in a person-to-person situation, where you can meet someone and make an impression, maybe you should be looking at going to job fairs and the like on a very regular basis to meet recruiters and drop off resumes? I'm not sure what the situation is in Milwaukee, but maybe it's worth going to Chicago?

I have personally had much better (i.e. non-zero) luck from job fairs than I ever had from sending in resumes to job postings cold. (When I was looking for jobs, I came to cynically believe website job postings were just a trap for the unwary, a way to waste your time that nobody would actually read... although now, as someone who does hiring, I do actually read every resume that someone sends in from our website job-posting form. ~95% of them are barely-written-in-English spam, and that's giving them the benefit of the doubt that the applicant even exists and isn't just a fake persona for an "outsourcing company".)

Generally speaking, the best job fairs are the most specific, the worst are the most general. Don't judge them by the number of companies that will be there; I'd rather go to a job fair with 30 companies that are in an industry you have some connection to, no matter how tenuous, rather than one with 300 random companies (and presumably also 10x as many competing applicants). Going to smaller job fairs may also let you spent more time with companies' recruiters, and even if they don't lead to an interview or offer, they may give you useful feedback on your resume or overall presentation. (I once got some good feedback from a recruiter on my resume, letting me know that my received-wisdom idea that I had to keep things to a single page was probably killing me vs. other candidates with similar levels of experience, who all had resumes spilling at least onto the back side of the page. YMMV, but it was good info to know.) I would also not pass on attending job fairs simply because you are slightly out of the target area; i.e. if a job fair is for PMP-certified project managers, and you're a PM but don't have a certification, go anyway (if they'll let you); some employers might not give a damn. Similarly, I'd go to college or grad school job fairs even if you didn't go to that school, if they're open to the public. In some cases being slightly different from the crowd might help you.

But in general, one of the best things you can do is try to build a personal network that's in the industry you want to work in. Finding friends-of-friends who work in IT or project management, and getting a few minutes of their time (e.g. phone call, or maybe lunch or even a drink after work if you feel comfortable doing so), would probably be the most productive investment of your time. The majority of my jobs—and more tellingly the majority of people that I have hired—have been via personal recommendations of existing employees. I think this is largely endemic in the tech industry, somewhat incestuous as it may be. Lots of companies have recruiting-bonus structures such that people will be all too happy to shop your resume around once they realize you're a reasonable candidate.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older What is your album of the year and why? (Song of...   |   Please help me identify a plant. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.