by Mark Cummuta

Week 19: Reflection on What Has Worked and What to Fix in My Job Search

Jan 11, 20085 mins

Most firms restart their recruiting efforts in full force in January, with the promise of a new budget year and everyone refreshed from the holidays. So now is the time for those of us engaged in job searches to review what has worked, realistically note what hasn’t, adjust our plans, and in the immortal words of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “make it so.”

For new readers, here’s a quick summary of my search for a new CIO job: In August 2007 I helped sell the same division of a Chicago-area financial services company that I had helped create in 2006. When I started writing this blog, I proposed that we job seekers should apply to our own job searches the very project management and resource planning skills that have made us successful IT leaders. I created my own detailed job search project plan and have been tracking my efforts and results using this plan. I have also written on specific job search topics, such as networking, finding and evaluating leads, preparing for and surviving interviews, and even how to handle your internal chaos, slow periods, and holidays during your job search.

A job search takes time, so set your expectations appropriately. CIOs take an average of 56 days to hire a new full-time IT staff person and 87 days to fill manager-level positions, according to a survey by Robert Half Technologies. CEOs and COOs take even longer to hire CIOs and CTOs, and the increasingly weak economy in the US indicates that hiring might slow down even more. While IT budgets for 2008 seem to be up slightly, Senior Online Editor Meridith Levinson noted that economists are forecasting a recession for the US economy, which would potentially reduce the number of CIO and CTO jobs and thereby increasethe competition for them in 2008.

Therefore, like any project plan, I had established timelines and key milestones for my job search. Specifically, I had set November 30th as the start date for my next new job. If I hadn’t found a new job by then, I planned to find an interim consulting position by December 31, 2007.

Throughout October and November, I progressed through nine interviews for a director-level position with a major strategic management consulting firm, had made similar progress with two other organizations, and had proposed a large consulting project for a defense contractor. I was so confident that I would start a new job by Thanksgiving that I stopped applying for new positions. When all four opportunities were postponed or fell through, I hit a trough that many job seekers experience occasionally , so I took several days to regroup and recalibrate my sights to new targets.

My first step was to evaluate what was and was not working in my job search. I sought feedback from the recruiters and hiring managers I had been working with. They told me that I present myself very well in interviews. And that my interviewing preparation and communication skills allowed me to quickly highlight relevant experience that met each firm’s critical needs as well as their desired skills. Several people also positively commented on my networking and leads evaluation ability, including sharing appropriate leads with networking contacts.

My resume, however, needed more work. Nearly all of the interviews I landed resulted from my own direct contacts and networking. I received only two to three qualified leads from electronic sources each week. That, along with feedback from recruiters and hiring managers, told me I had to strengthen my resume. Several experts I worked with told me specifically that my resume did not sell me well, was too detailed, and buried bottom-line accomplishments with myriad tasks (see my LinkedIn profile, which as of January 11, 2008 is still using my old resume details). Though I had been using my cover letter to match my career highlights to each position, I learned that I also needed to customize the two resumes I had been using to specifically point to key elements for each position, too.

Based on my results, the feedback I received, my lessons learned and insights on the changing job market, I adjusted my project plan’s tasks and timelines.

I first focused on the longest timeline deliverable threatening my critical path, rewriting my resumes, which also gave me a solid task to accomplish as a means to help me regain control. I also began applying for new opportunities, reconnected with all my networking contacts and implemented my holiday job search tactics. Further, as my project plan neared my December 31st milestone, I let my network know that I am considering consulting projects, as well.

My re-invigorated efforts over the holidays have led to several promising opportunities and just as many interesting consulting projects to choose from. Further, my networking efforts have presented some new opportunities for public speaking engagements, which is something I really enjoy.

Finally, even as I am interviewing for new jobs and projects, I am diligently keeping my pipeline full by researching and applying for several additional positions each week, contacting new and old acquaintances, helping my network contacts with leads and introductions to help them attain their goals, and even meeting with several of the prior firms that had postponed their open jobs to see if they are ready to move forward again. I still need to update my resume with the executive search firms and job sites I am working with.

2008 will bring new opportunities and prosperity, especially to those that plan, take action and manage their own job search.

As a final note, to all job seekers living in the Chicago area, I will be speaking on the topic of “Applying Your Project Management Skills to Your Job Search” on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 (click here for details) and would love to meet you!

Thank you again for all of your comments and ideas!