Living Small: Job Search 2010 pt. II
Your job search is a job in itself - this phrase is often offered as a passing nugget of advice from someone who doesn’t have or want to give the time to really help you out. Its a phrase that isn’t all that helpful and isn’t entirely true. The focus required during a job search is certainly on par with a full-time job, but during job search you are immersed in a much more unforgiving environment without the support structure or compensation that comes with working full-time. When fully employed you work for a pay check, you work to learn, advance, and innovate, you (hopefully) have insurance as well as peers, mentors, and teammates. As an unemployed searcher, you work for another meeting or introduction, with little support structure and no comp. As an employed person, you have personal goals, short-term and long-term, you have the services and growth of the company to consider and further. As a job searcher, you have one goal that is the sum-total of your day - getting employed.
There is so much advice to be offered on job search, you’d think someone would write a clear, thoughtfully presented book on the subject. Oh wait, Marc Cenedella already has with You’re Better Than Your Job Search, an advice book that tells you what its title states and much more . TheLadders.com founder and CEO gives it to you straight in this Bible of Job Search, covering everything from networking and interviewing, to the resume. There’s a welcome positivity maintained throughout the book that you’d be hard-pressed to find during the ‘pound the pavement’ moments of your actual search. So if you’re searching now, give this book a read, at the very least it will give you something to hold near and dear as you face the challenge of landing a job.
Before I move on, I wanted to offer two more areas of focus from my own search that I consider extremely important when looking back on it now.
1). Love Your Alums: When you step off of your college campus and start looking for a job, there are probably a handful of people willing to go to bat for you. These people may be relatives or godparents or friends of friends. Outside of this group, the individuals you should immediately consider in expanding your contact list are your fellow alums, including both university and high school. Get the notion of it being awkward to email a stranger from your school out of your head right away because your fellow alums are the closest thing you have to a support system as you move through job search. Being an alum creates an immediate comfort level with someone who otherwise would be a complete stranger. Before meeting you, an alum will a sense of who you are because you went through similar experiences at a same place. What begins with easy things to talk about - how 'bout that new student center - can flourish into a mentor-mentee or even employer-employee relationship. People are much more willing to go out of their way to help out a fellow alum, whether that’s opening an email, forwarding a resume to a colleague, or grabbing a coffee with you. In a game that’s all about getting in front of people and hoping that they like you, your alumni base should be the first place you look. So love your Career Resource Center if you are still on campus and don’t be afraid to contact the people there if you’ve graduated. They are unfailingly helpful and will always find time for you. From my small campus in Middletown, Connecticut, I can point to 5 or 6 people who helped me get to where I am, including Mike Sciola, the Director of Wesleyan’s CRC, and John Borthwick and Andy Weissman, fellow Wes alums who I work with now at Betaworks. Without the alumni network, I wouldn’t have known where to start my search or have had the wealth of contacts to return to whenever things looked bleak.
2). Live Small: I have to shout out Greg Battle for this title and concept, that we talked about after my first post on job search a few weeks ago. In that post, I stressed the importance of moving to the city you want to work in. Living small is learning how to exist and thrive in a new city on very little when you don’t have job or financial security. This a probably a valuable real-world lesson to learn early on that you can think of as a challenge really. How small of a footprint can make before you are able to support yourself? Here are a few guidelines:
- Couch = Bed: Do the best you can to find a friend or relative who will let you stay on their couch. When I was searching, I helped a buddy move out of his apartment and in return he let me sleep on an air mattress in the apartment he’d just moved out of until the lease was up. For a few hours of work, I bought myself a month in NYC. Offer to do dishes or housework, watch kids or walk a dog, most people will be accommodating as long as you don't disrupt their routine.
- Don’t Go Out: It might be tempting to grab drinks to blow off some steam, but this can tear your wallet to pieces. If you need a drink, stick to PBRs and don’t go opening tabs at night. Too much booze is your fastest ticket out of town.
- Cook Pasta: If you can find somewhere to crash, utilize the kitchen if possible. A large box of pasta and some sauce cost only a few dollars and can last weeks if stored correctly. Any city (new york in particular) costs a lot to eat in, so save yourself the bill and cook cheap, non-perishables that will last you the week.
- Laundry Only When Necessary: This sounds grimy, but its the last major expense that you’ll run into when you first move. Outside of going to networking events or having coffee with contacts, you’re going to be inside, so you can get away with wearing the same pair of sweatpants or shorts. Spare the fresh cleaning for the clothes you wear to meetings and worry about your other clothes only when you can’t stand it anymore.
If you can manage to cut back on the four items above, you’ll be essentially living without any financial footprint from your day-to-day life. This a feat achieved by few throughout their lives. It's a practice that will allow extend your job search and show you how little you can live on and still keep moving forward.