it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. Although I love my current job/supervisors/coworkers, I’ve hit the salary cap at my current organization. Despite my reservations about changing organizations during this pandemic, I applied for and got a new job! It’s a higher-level version of what I’m doing now, with a position title upgrade, and an immediate $10k raise (and another $20k raise in a year). This is huge for me because I’m an only child of aging immigrant parents, and I can finally help them with retirement.

2. After 11 years at a large company where I was a high performer but always passed over for promotions to management, I found an amazing opportunity that offered a $45k increase that even paid for me to move to the LA area (beaches! sunshine!). A few months after starting, my director left due to the culture. I ended up getting promoted to running the whole function for the site and was finally feeling like my career was on track. The job was insanely stressful and demanded about 17 hours a day of my time and even weekend 7 am meetings. I was waiting until I had been there 2 years to avoid paying back my moving expenses to be able to look for other opportunities. That 2 years would have been up at the beginning of 2021. I was truly wondering if I was physically going to make it until then.

My industry was hit hard by COVID, and over 50% of the workforce was laid off at my company. This included me. Well, the director I worked for when I first started this job happened to have fired someone in a senior position a week before I got laid off. I loved working for him and I always joked when I drove by his new company that that’s where I would be working one day. And now I do, thought we aren’t quite back in the office yet. I took a pay cut, but I basically got back to where I was when I first moved here and picked my apartment based on rent I could afford, etc. It’s a much better environment.

I was devastated when I first was laid off, having put so much of my heart and soul and time into a job, finally feeling like my career was where I wanted it to be, then being let go so unceremoniously. But being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. The whole experience I am grateful for – moving to the LA area, getting a huge increase in pay, and the upward trajectory I wanted. I am so glad I took the plunge and moved. I was at an old school company, the sort your grandfather worked at for 40 years (in fact, my grandfather did) and no one could imagine why a person would leave. I got a lot of “you’ll be back.” But my inability to move up sometimes started to have me questioning my abilities. And to be honest, when I moved on, I killed it. I am really good at what I do and my confidence in that was renewed. And then of all of the things, my old director was hiring for a position in his very small department for the first time in forever. He hired me immediately because he knew what I could do. Also, I want work life balance, and that’s something I have been finding here and which I hope to continue to maintain. No one seems to have insane expectations here. I can live with a pay cut for this. There is life after COVID! It sucks. It’s hard. But sometimes things work out just as they should.

3. I’ve been working for a year in a role that changed dramatically a month after I arrived with the departure of our department head and a massive reshuffle in terms of priorities. I also dealt with a depressive episode for several months this summer, and tried working through it, but found out that was much easier said than done.

I got told in September that my contract wouldn’t be renewed come November, and in the current job market, I was really worried I wouldn’t find anything. Luckily, with help from my therapist I got my depression to a manageable level, and was able to use your advice on cover letters and video meetings to bag two offers from two great companies, for roles I really like. I was able to choose the one with significantly higher pay and great benefits, and I feel great about starting next month!

When I heard I was losing my job, I almost couldn’t think through the doom and gloom, but reading the AAM good news stories and comments from readers gave me such a boost!

4. After 18 years in a variety of increasingly challenging roles (though few title changes) with the same company, I was laid off at the end of July. Fortunately I received a fairly generous severance package – since I quickly discovered, to my dismay, that my skills were well behind what the rest of the market was looking for. As a middle-aged woman with a vanilla bachelors in “Business and Applied Science,” being thrown out into today’s job market was a pretty daunting prospect.

I’ve spent the time since then combing the job boards daily and upgrading my skills through inexpensive online courses. I tried to put in an average of at least one application and two hours of course work per day, aside from time spent tweaking my resume, writing cover letters, and reading advice (like AAM!).

It finally paid off: today I received and accepted an offer with a well-known, much more solid company than the one I left, in a different industry but a somewhat similar role. The benefits package is comparable but the salary is a significant improvement — more, even, than I was originally asking!

LESSONS LEARNED:

• Be able to explain the business case (if one exists) that backs up your reason for leaving/wanting to leave/move. In my case, I could talk about how COVID-related closures affected OldJob’s revenues to the point of causing layoffs. This shows that you’re aware of more than just your little corner of the office.

• Look up the STAR method of interviewing and prepare actual examples from your work history that have a relationship to the job for which you’re applying. Even if you don’t get asked one of those specific questions, you’ll have at least something in the back of your mind to talk about rather than being caught flat-footed.

• I reached out to over a dozen friends and former coworkers, asking them to tell me honestly what they perceived to be my strengths and weaknesses. While I wasn’t asked directly about those qualities in any of my interviews, having that understanding “in my pocket” helped me describe what I brought to the table as a potential employee.

• If you wind up in multiple tiers of interviews, write down the names of all your interviewers and have them handy. I did get asked with whom I’d previously spoken, and was happy that I had the interview schedule in front of me so I could answer. (And yes, each of them got a personalized follow-up/thank-you email a day or two later. With copies to the HR person who set them up.)

• Quantify, quantify, quantify! One interviewer said that they appreciated seeing “in support of a $200MM portfolio” and “tasking for 3 directors and 2 managers” because it gave them an idea of the scale of business with which I was used to dealing. Obviously you have to be careful not to give the kind of figures that could be considered proprietary data.

I thought this was really interesting: The HR person with the company I’m joining said that, in her experience, most women who are job-hunting after a number of years with one company tend to ask for at least $5K-$10K less than they should. We underestimate the value of our experience.

Thank you, Alison, for all the great advice, as well as a good deal of entertainment. And thank you, commenters, for your thoughts and support. I’m looking forward to getting back to work!

{ 19 comments… read them below }

    1. OP2*

      I did not! It was a large company with a very good reputation in the same industry I had been in for a long time. The director who hired me (who I now work for again) was amazing. Also I LOVED my job for the first year, but when I ended up having to run things I had to work with an entirely different leadership group out of a larger location and they were the ones that were so toxic.

  1. BadWolf*

    If you wind up in multiple tiers of interviews, write down the names of all your interviewers and have them handy.

    This is a great tip — I’m terrible at names. And I can totally see how it would be a plus when you could say “Oh yes, I spoke with Anna this morning.” Or “Yes, you’re supposed to bring me back to George for a lunch meeting” Rather than “Uh, I interviewed with someone…this morning. She had glasses?”

  2. ErinWV*

    OP4, I bet you are good at what you do. You just compiled some awesome data for the rest of us! Thanks, and congratulations!

  3. TimeTravlR*

    Yes, quantify your experience where you can! And talk about your accomplishments related to your position (and the position you want)!

  4. Bookworm*

    As always, thanks again to the letter writers for sharing their good news! It’s Friday the 13th so it was nice to end it on a happy not. :P

    Thanks especially to LW 4 for sharing the lessons learned! That was interesting and helpful!

  5. Tiredofgoingtothesaltmine*

    These Friday good news posts are actually quite depressing for me as I have been looking for a new job for years and have been a finalist so many times just to end up not getting the job. I hate my current job but can’t get another. It’s not my cover letter and/or resume — I am getting interviews. It’s not my interviewing — I have made it to finalist a LOT through several layers of interviews and am often complimented on the quality of my questions. After rejection when I ask if there is something(s) I can improve/experience I can get that would make me a good fit for this (or another) role in the future, I get that I am great!!! but their choice was just a better fit. I have talked to my boss about why I hate my current job, but nothing changes and frankly at this point even if it did, I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate it. I have considered quitting my job, but if I can’t get a job WITH a job I can’t think my chances of getting one while unemployed will be easier. Anyway I just needed to vent, thanks.

    1. PriyaManager*

      I can understand your frustration. Please hang in there. Take a break ( even a staycation ) before you resume your job search. Use the break to think through what you can do differently in your job search. It may help, or maybe you are already doing all the right things.
      Couple of suggestions: Have you tried exploring other roles in your current org ? If it is something you like better, it might be worth even taking up a more junior role with lesser pay.
      Also try to build contacts with recruiters and leverage connections from ex- colleagues and managers, friends and family, in your job search.

    2. Amanita*

      I feel your pain. I’ve been stuck in a toxic workplace (tried all the suggestions to improve the environment, but the problems are 80% caused by one specific C-level employee who isn’t likely to be terminated) for 5 years and have been actively trying to get out for a year now, but nothing ever seems to pan out. My one suggestion is to use any PTO or sick time you have to recharge.

    3. Abby*

      Of course it’s difficult to say what’s going wrong but I’ll offer some unsolicited advice.

      I would go over the past interviews again and see where it went wrong. If it’s one or two, of course it can happen that someone was just that much better, but if you’ve had a long time where you’re rejected at the interview stage then it IS the interview. Sorry to say, but obviously that’s the stage you’re getting rejected at so it is something that is making them pass on you. The faster you figure out what it was, the faster you can start working on fixing it and get out of your current job.

      I know that it might not seem to be going badly, but “average” is often just not going to get hired if there’s a lot of candidates to choose from. Either your skills somehow don’t line up, or you’re over/under qualified for a specific thing, or it’s that ever elusive “fit”. Regardless of what it is, I would try to look for patterns. What kind of follow up questions were you asked during the interviews where you felt you did pretty well?

      eg. The structure:

      Interviewer: Tell us about X?
      You: blah blah blah XYZ
      Interviwer: You mentioned Y, could you elaborate. <– What are they asking you here?

      (If they don't linger over anything, that means your qualifications don't match what they want and you won't get the job.)

      Whatever they were curious about enough to ask more than one question is where I'd try to understand how your skills match up with their position.

      Another thing I would consider is lateral moves. If you're really feeling negative about your current job that can start to infect your interview style (i.e. when they ask you what you enjoy doing in your current position, you can't answer honestly). You may be able to get a job that's not an upgrade but in a place you're not actively depressed by. But I do agree you're correct that quitting and looking for a job while unemployed will be harder.

      Sorry for your difficulties and I hope luck turns around for you.

  6. Yet Another MLIS Holder*

    Congrats to all! And thank you OP 4, for sharing your learnings in such detail. Great food for thought!

  7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP 4 = I worked my entire career in IS/IT. During an out-of-work period – my ONLY one in a 47-year career – I realized two things that needed to be done –

    1) Keep up to date with changes in your line of work – EVEN if your current situation is one where you’re working on things that are “behind the times”. The internet now affords you the opportunity to learn new things, to keep abreast of changes, to learn new concepts, and know who’s doing what, and what’s happening “out there”.

    2) Networking, networking, networking, and networking. That’s the way jobs and candidates are – FOR THE MOST PART – matched up today.

    I’m reminded of the plight (and failure) of a friend who worked for a small engineering firm. When his job was in peril, I advised him to jump ship. He wouldn’t.

    He was unemployed for a year. I looked at his LinkedIn entry and his contacts were all other unemployed people. His resume looked like it was boilerplate authored by someone at the unemployment office (it was). He had a marketable computer skill set but never joined any professional organizations, and never attended local user groups. His career is over.

    Conversely, I’m TRYING to retire and probably will (for good) in January. But networking got me my current gig, as well as my last one that lasted 23 years (which I voluntarily left, intending to retire).

    Join any professional groups – know your peers – and – never stop learning what’s new.

    1. Amanita*

      This is something I’m reluctantly coming to terms with as a social anxiety sufferer. You do what you gotta do.

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