Saturday, June 8, 2013

My journey from Sequestration to Capital Caring

I'm writing this to not just tell my story, but to hopefully help others who have experienced or who have known someone that was laid off.  Believe it or not, getting laid off sometimes can be for the best, as it can lead you to different, more exciting opportunities. At least it did for me.

My story begins around 10 am April 11th.  I was called into my boss's office for a meeting where I was told that my position was being eliminated due to sequestration.  I had been looking for other opportunities and all of us had known sequestration was going to hit at some point, but it didn't prepare me for the moment. The biggest thing was the finality of it all.

I always had this idea in my head that I'd say goodbye to all my Alumni candidates I had worked with for so many years. That I would say goodbye to all my coworkers. But instead, I packed things up and left. Just like that, over 5 years at CACI over in an instant.

My feelings were mixed. A part of me was hurt, a part sad, a part happy, a part angry. But mostly I was just kind of in a shocked daze.  CACI was part of my identity for so long and now it was my past.  I was lucky enough to pick up a consultant gig right away through a friend. but it was part time and short term. I was determined to treat my job search like it was a full time job(which it is). Here are some tips for those looking for work. This is what I did and it helped me land a great job at Capital Caring.

1) Never stop making contacts
I know and hang out with a ton of different groups and people. If I ever get married the wedding is going to be a cluster F. It's not only because I enjoy people, but also because I know the bigger your network the better chance you have to land a job. I got my job through Capital Caring through a referral. Applying online is worthless if you don't know someone that has a say in the hiring process. 15 minutes networking and making contacts is more useful than a day of applying online. In fact, I spent whole days just reaching out to people and didn't apply to one job.

2) Update your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is one of the best ways to get noticed by recruiters. Keep it up to date. Join groups in your skill areas. For example, Health Care Recruitment, or Financial Professionals in Northern Virginia. Once you are in groups you can reach out directly to people that work for companies and connect with them directly. This is such a great resource, but so many don't know how to utilize it to its full potential.

3) Join groups/associations/organizations

It's not enough to work 9-5, go home and watch TV and expect to be successful anymore. Your job is never safe. I thought I'd never get laid off and I did. Stay active in outside groups to really put yourself out there. Also, in job interviews it looks great that you showed initiative and did things outside of normal working hours.

I always get comments about my role on the NOVA SHRM Board. These groups often are the ways you hear about jobs. I got my job through an email from a NOVA SHRM Board member and I think it was the deciding factor to bring me on. If I had applied online without any contact chances are I would've been rejected because I lacked the healthcare recruiting experience.

You need to be proactive and take ownership of your CAREER. Don't look at things as jobs, look at it as another stepping stone in your career. Sure life is busy, but everyone needs to make time to follow their passion whatever that may be.

4) Message all of your contacts that you are looking for work
Obviously this applies to those that are not currently working, but its of vital importance. The first thing I did when I got laid off was message all my contacts my resume and career summary. You never know who may know of an opportunity available. Don't keep it a secret. If people don't know they can't help you.

5) Send thank you emails after interviews and to people who referred you
This is a lost art but extremely important. These messages don't have to be elaborate. Just a simple, "thank you for taking the time to meet with me this morning. I look forward to hearing from you soon" would suffice. Showing appreciation goes a long way.

6) Develop a career summary and update your resume with IMPACT words

A huge mistake people make is just sending their resume to people with nothing else in the message. In the body of the email you should send your career summary and skill matrix. Talk about your experience( 5 years of Recruiting, program management, etc) education , certifications, and anything else that describes your background. Talk about what you are looking for(be specific), your availability, whether you can relocate, and mention salary is negotiable(this will be a question answered when you talk to someone individually).

For your resume don't talk about just your daily tasks, talk about how they impacted the organization's bottom line. For example instead of saying "recruited Alumni back to CACI" instead say " Increased rehires by 50% over a 3 year span accounting for over 10% of company hires."

7. Follow up and track applications

The first thing I did when I got laid off was create an Excel spreadsheet documenting when I applied, what position I applied for, the POC if I had one, and mst importantly when I last followed up. Don't be afraid to follow up every week. Recruiters are busy and we can sometimes be forgetful. It helps both you and the recruiter.

8. Enjoy your time off

I was lucky enough to get about a month of severance pay, but even with out it I really enjoyed my time away from the daily grind of a full time job. It's nice to be able to go to the river on a random Tuesday afternoon. Life is busy and will only get busier as you get older and are given more responsibilities. Embrace the time off.

Last and most importantly, stay positive. It's tough out there, but it's not impossible. Being sad and resentful gets you nowhere. Pick up odd jobs or volunteer. Stay active. Don't hole yourself up in your house or apartment. Look at it as the companies loss, not yours. CACI was good to me for the most part, but the company I ended with is more suited to who I am. In every job you learn something you can take forward with to the next.

I'm as happy as I've ever been right now and given that I'm basically always happy that is saying something. I'm excited for this next chapter of my life. I'm excited for the challenge and the impact I can have on the organization. Remember, although change is scary sometimes it can make life better.

Feel free to pass this along others or email me directly with questions. Value yourself and what you can bring to to the table, both at work and in life.

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