Am I Job Searching The Right Way? (Unemployment Anxiety)
February 14, 2019 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any feedback on my plan to find a job? I was pretty confident about my plan, but it's been a few months now and I'm getting a little nervous.


I'm looking to work locally in Southwest Michigan, so that limits my options pretty dramatically. I have 5 years experience in sales & marketing with a strong work history. My position was eliminated in November, and I've been trying the following steps since then. It's just coming up on the 3 month mark. I'm really anxious - 3 months feels like a long time to go unemployed!

current plan

1. Make a list of all companies in the area that you would work for. For me, that list is about 30 employers long.
2. Visit each employer's job page once a week. For any relevant job posting, print the posting and highlight keywords.
3. Tailor my resume to those keywords/phrases. Write a cover letter.
4. Apply for the job.

In my past, this strategy hasn't failed me, but now it's been 3 months. I know that Christmas really interrupted my first month, and the government shutdown may have slowed hiring in January, but I would have thought I'd have gotten a response by now. I've had my resume peer-reviewed by old professors and colleagues. I've contacted recruiters in the area but mostly they point to Chicago or Detroit (2.5 hour commute). I've reached out to my social network for "ins" with hiring managers, but I haven't found much. I've applied for about 30 positions now, about 15 that I would think I'd be a top applicant for, and I haven't had as much as a phone interview.

previous employers

There are two specific employers in the area, that I have worked for in the past. Both experiences were relatively negative, but they are in the past now. I feel like applying for the jobs there are A: probably pointless and B: "giving up". One I got a bad review on leaving by my manager (who I was transferred to and we didn't get along) and the other was in a division that was particularly under-funded. I don't know if I want to apply with them, but they have had a few postings that I'd be qualified for. What would you do?

some questions I have

Am I missing a key networking/follow up/recruiter step?
Should I be posting statuses on linkedIn or facebook every day or something?
How long did it take you when you were laid off with 5 years experience?
We just bought a house, dog, wife has a happy job, is opening up geographically necessary for me to find another job at this stage in my career?
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts for me?

Thanks so much!
posted by bbqturtle to Work & Money (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are there work related Meeetups and conferences in your area? A ton of networking goes on at them and they often have a way for people looking for employment and employees to connect with each other.

I don't know if I want to apply with them, but they have had a few postings that I'd be qualified for. What would you do?

If you have nothing but time in your hands, you should. The worst that will happen is that they so no, right? If the company with the bad manager is big enough that there's others groups you could work for, there's no reason to rule them out entirely. And the other one may have better funding now.
posted by Candleman at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Are you checking any job aggregators like Indeed or LinkedIn? I know it's a small area but I highly doubt you are aware of literally every company that exists in your region, and you may find opportunities you weren't aware of.

(Suggestion though - don't apply through those websites: use them to find postings and then go to the company's actual website and apply. It's just a search engine.)

Also - you're not going to lose anything by applying to the companies you have bad feelings about, especially if they're larger. If they don't want to call you in, they won't, and if things have changed or it would be a separate enough department from where you were before - and applying is not interviewing is not accepting, but might as well start with step 1.
posted by brainmouse at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

You can set up a Google alert by simply googling the type of jobs you would like to land and your locale, and Google will send you email alerts when new jobs are posted matching your search(es).

I'd strongly recommend doing the above, as well as regularly browsing LinkedIn and Indeed, and make sure that you are getting your TAILORED applications in as soon as positions are posted as possible. My advisor has told me not to bother with any postings more than a week old, really even more than 3-4 days.

Instead of manually trying to match your CV to the JDs, I'd also strongly recommend you find a placement firm that licenses software for reverse-engineering Application Tracking Systems that nearly all employers use to screen CVs for keyword matches to the Job Descriptions these days. I use FirstSourceTeam, but there are plenty of other options out there. Basically you pull down the JD (copy/paste it into a MSWord file) then upload it with your CV and it spits out a % match. You tweak your CV to get that % as close to 90 as possible and then apply with that ASAP.

If you can tweak your approach with that hack, and get a pipeline of at least 2-3 applications a week going, it shouldn't be long before you start getting some calls. You should also get some coaching from a professional on your LinkedIn CV and best approach for that if you can.

Good luck. Looking for work is the hardest work there is.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:51 AM on February 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

On preview: STRONGLY nthing brainmouse's guidance to APPLY DIRECTLY ON THE EMPLOYERS SITE. Also if you can find someone in your extended network on LinkedIn who works there - reach out to them to see if they could make time for a coffee with you so you can get to know what working there is like and maybe get an internal referral from them.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Two Hour Job Search book. The short version:

Take that list of potential employers. Find every connection you have within every place. Reach out to those connections.

Many places don’t list all positions. Many places are thinking about hiring but making do because the process of creating, posting, and following up on job listings is resource intensive. One of these places may have a job for you that you can only find out about through your network.

Use your network. This might be people who went to school with you, people you share a former employer with. NOT necessarily people you have ever met.

Reach out to people. But first, read the book and follow the instructions exactly. Do not combine or skip steps.
posted by bilabial at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2019

Instead of being reactive and responding to job ads, why not just cold-call companies you'd like to work for?

FWIW, as a rule of thumb, for every $10K of salary you would like to earn, it will take one month of job searching (in a strategic way -- responding to job ads is not a strategic approach). YMMV.
posted by JamesBay at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2019

I strongly disagree with the advice not to apply via job ads. Keep applying to them. Yes, it is how most positions are filled (the stat about "90% of jobs aren't listed" or somesuch was meant to refer to executive searches). I cannot stress enough how strongly I disagree with the advice to cold-call companies. It's more likely to get you blacklisted than to get you a job.

Use your social network not to "get an in with hiring managers" (at a lot of workplaces this is actually terrible advice and will create conflicts for you), but to learn of job postings as early as possible and possibly get a peer referral.

If you're not getting interviews, your problem is your resume. Well, it's the overcrowded job market, but the factor in control is your resume. Or your cover letter. Another way to use your network is to get resume feedback. (You said you talked to old professors and colleagues but what you're looking for is feedback on what Company X wants, from someone who works at Company X.)

No, don't apply for jobs where you'd be miserable.
posted by capricorn at 12:07 PM on February 14, 2019 [16 favorites]

(And no, facebook/linkedin statuses won't make a difference so don't worry about them. Employers are reading 1) your resume and 2) your cover letter.)
posted by capricorn at 12:09 PM on February 14, 2019

Remote work opportunities would be a good way to expand your list of potential employers, because I do think your geography might be limiting you. Also, there are likely employers in Ann Arbor or Lansing where you could negotiate limited time in the office without having to expand all the way to Detroit or Chicago. I'm in Ann Arbor and have a colleague who commutes in from a bit west of Battle Creek one day a week.

I would 2nd the recommendation to use your LinkedIn network to learn from your connections about job openings and get referrals. This may be a good way to learn about companies with remote opportunities or the potential for negotiating for remote work.
posted by thatquietgirl at 12:33 PM on February 14, 2019

When I was unemployed in 2015, it took nearly 10 months to get a job. 9 just to get an interview that finally did lead to my current job. I think I applied to over 200 postings.

I'm in the market again (not unemployed) and I just had an interview on Tuesday with a place I applied to in November.

It just takes a really long time.
posted by cooker girl at 1:20 PM on February 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

My advisor has told me not to bother with any postings more than a week old, really even more than 3-4 days.

This is silly advice. For my most recent (mid-career-type) job hunt, the job had been up for something like 5 months before I applied. For the job I applied to most recently, the eventual hire applied about 6 weeks after the job went up (and I had read every single of the hundreds of resumes that had come in in that time period. Had half a dozen phone interviews and 1 in person interview for people we didn't offer the position to before we found our person). It may depend on the field, but if the job is still posted, then apply for it. After all, the downside to ignoring it is much higher than the upside.
posted by brainmouse at 2:07 PM on February 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

I am in SWMI. Are you talking GR or Kzoo?

What type of work are you looking for? I am also looking for work (in Kzoo) and the market here is incredibly tough outside of a couple of very specific fields.

I have a coworker who commutes every day from GR to Kzoo and back. It's not particularly awful, but he lives toward the south side of GR.

Have you looked at the universities and colleges in the area? I look at WMU's jobs page all the time, and there are a couple on there now that might apply to "marketing."

Stryker, Pfizer, Zoetis. If you're in GR, Battle Creek might be further than you want to go, but that pops up on searches for me all the time (it's farther than I want to go).

edit: Kzoo is tough and crowded because of WMU; makes it harder for us olds with all the new grads still in town.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Misanthropicsarah, nice to know there's people around. WMU, Stryker, Pfizer, and zoetis are all on my list, along with companies in GR and Battle Creek. Thanks KS for the tips!

I'm looking for non-entry level sales or marketing anything. I have the most experience with B2C sales/marketing but I would be willing to learn B2B as well.
posted by bbqturtle at 4:59 PM on February 14, 2019

Please look into the book 2-hour Jobsearch by Steve Dalton. It really, really helped me.

What is actionable is the last 6 pages. Photocopy those. But that only makes sense after reading the book. So get the book from the Library, read it, photocopy the last 6 pages.

This book changed the way I was applying for jobs. Unlike you I was trying to do a career shift, after being fired, in my 40's. All really red marks. This book gave me a template to get going.
posted by indianbadger1 at 9:18 AM on February 15, 2019

Strongly nthing capricorn's advice, and also came to recommend the blog. You could peruse the archives (especially for resume/cover letter advice), read her free e-book on preparing for an interview, and I also found it useful to hang out in the open threads when I was job searching, as people there are happy to give advice/commiserate/make suggestions/etc. It's one of those rare comment sections not full of garbage/hate, and pretty well-moderated. This is a good starting post: If you're not getting interviews, here's how to fix your resume and cover letter
posted by jouir at 10:04 AM on February 15, 2019

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