The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Landed a Permanent Job

When I left my last permanent job last May, I had contract jobs through the summer, until in August, I landed a contract-to-permanent opportunity at a startup. I was supposed to contract for three months, and then get converted to permanent status. Unfortunately, in November, the company was not in a financial position to hire me permanently, so they renewed my contract for another three months. In January of this year, they went out of business.

I got a week's heads-up that my contract was ending. I updated my resumes on LinkedIn, Dice and Career Builder. I took down and deleted by account on because the laziest, sloppiest recruiters troll there. Four business days after the company I worked for went out of business, I had three permanent offers and a contract-to-permanent offer from the company that bought the intellectual property of the company that went out of business.

One company that made me a permanent offer was willing to pay me the same as I earned last time I had a permanent job, but I wasn't very interested in what they were doing, or the technologies they were using. One company was offering me more than a third more than my previous salary, but I was worried that I would have to travel too much, since I am working on getting another dog, and as as the Worshipful Master of a lodge, I need to stay in the area at least when my lodge opens. The third company seemed like they were hiring in a panic. They were annoyed by my insistence on low travel, and finally, the CEO of the company called me personally, and kept jacking up the salary until it was nearly double my last permanent salary. That much panic is unattractive, and so I turned them down and went with the contract-to-permanent offer, in the hope that once I was in the door, I could possibly jockey my way back to my old project.

I was working on health insurance software, a new product that they were launching. The product was very popular, and they did not have enough internal resources to handle implementations of all the new sales. So they hired an army of contractors, gave us minimal training and sent all of us out in the field after a few weeks on the job. I was on a client site after ten business days on the job. The following week, they flew me out to the West Coast to a client site. I was supposed to lead discussions about the technology behind their product, but I did not feel prepared, and was criticized by a supervisor for not knowing enough about the product. A recruiter called me that week, and I realized that I wanted out. I called her back during a lunch break.

On the following Monday, when I got back to the office, the head of the project criticized by performance and threatened to fire me if I didn't do a better job on a different client site that week, where again I was supposed to be the tech lead on implementation discussions. I went back to my desk, turned my Dice and Career Builder profiles back on, called every recruiter I had worked with previously, and called one of the companies that had made a previous offer in January.

Last Tuesday, I had an offer letter for a permanent job as an implementation engineer with a local software company, making a physician's point-of-entry system, with zero travel. I think this might be the first time that I was hired out of an unsuitable job by a better job. It feels pretty good. I offered the old company two weeks notice, and their response was to have someone meet me at my cubicle, take my pass, and escort me off the premises. So be it. I found out later in the week that the company fired people on my project right after I left, so I most likely dodged a bullet. I start my new job this coming Wednesday.

I learned something about my tastes as well. I love working on the hospital/clinic/lab side, because I get to feel like I'm helping to heal people. I don't really like working on the insurance company side, because too often I feel like I'm denying people the care they need. Also, the medical systems are the same all over the world, but insurance systems in the USA are unique to us because our insurance systems are more complicated and stupid than those of the rest of the world. Being an expert in medical insurance in the USA pretty much kills any chance of foreign travel.

A few notes about how to land a job quickly: time is not on your side. If you haven't worked in three months, you become less attractive to employers and recruiters. This is unfair but definitely the case. If you haven't worked in six months, you drop out of consideration. Unfair, but true.

Use LinkedIn. Keep your profile up to date, and fiddle with it weekly so that it stays new. On any job, if you are willing to have a drink with a co-worker outside of work, they should be a LinkedIn contact. If you know you are leaving a company, request to contact every person there that you respect. Do not request via LinkedIn. Do it in person, over the telephone, or by email. LinkedIn punishes you if your request is denied. Know in advance that your request will be approved.

Dice and Career Builder are good resources for recruiters to locate you. Create resumes that are loaded with keywords the recruiters are searching for, and edit them weekly. For example, I work with HL7, X12, XML, a few different integration engines, and I am comfortable with Ubuntu Linux, bash scripting, Perl, Ruby, and JavaScript (which is used as a glue language in integration engines). I list every technology I have used at work, with a few exceptions. I don't list SQL even though I know basic SQL queries. If you list SQL, they expect that you are a competent database architect, which I am not. I also list every major project I have worked on, and how my work on that project added value. I list everything I've been the lead on.

There are call centers in India filled with employees who Google every term that an employer is looking for in a job description, and call everyone who matches their search. So you will get a lot of calls from people with Indian accents who have either Indian or Muslim names who will call at all hours and launch a memorized sales pitch. If you interrupt them, they lose their place and you can weed them out. Their jobs are almost never a match. If a company wants someone to move to Lansing, MI for a three-month contract position, they will get an Indian call center to scatter-shot their search across the USA. It doesn't matter if you don't want to move to Lansing for three months. It doesn't matter if your profile says maximum 25% travel, or no relocation. The best thing to do is to interrupt them, demand your requirements, and if they cannot deliver, hang up.

It is a serious mistake to reject anyone with an Indian or Pakistani name, since it is bigoted and because IT in the USA has a large representation of people from the Indian Subcontinent. But the call center people tip their hand pretty quickly, and should be weeded out.

That being said, I get cold calls all the time that match my skill set and are viable options. Right now, in IT, and especially healthcare IT, there is a shortage of skilled professionals, and there are a lot of opportunities out there. If you are in IT but not in healthcare IT, it might be worth checking out the field.

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