January 16, 2009, 7:30 am
Keeping Your Job Search Alive
Posted by Spencer Cutter
Mr. Cutter was a senior vice president at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., working in the leveraged finance group. After nine years with the firm, He was laid off in the spring of 2008. He holds an M.B.A. from UCLA and lives in New York with his wife and 20-month-old son.
Spencer CutterI have learned that, like many other processes, the job search has a life cycle of its own. There was the Introductory Phase, when I initiated my job search by preparing my resume, doing research, and making some initial contacts. Then there was the Growth Phase, where I perfected my resume and elevator pitch and targeted specific companies to begin aggressively marketing myself. I was busy making phone calls, submitting applications, following up on job leads, and going on as many interviews as possible.
The Growth Phase seems to then be followed by the Mature Phase. Since I have been out of work since the spring of 2008, I reached the Mature Phase of my job search sometime last fall. At some point, the activity level slowed down and leads ran out. The evolution of my life cycle was accelerated by the collapse of my former employer, Lehman Brothers, and the fallout that followed.
In August, people interviewing me were defensive. By October, they were locked-down in their bomb shelters and were not going to answer the door for anyone. For example, I was extremely close to landing a job with a large, international bank here in New York last September. However, in early October, after watching the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge by 700 points every other day, they decided to put everything on hold. We agreed to keep in touch and I followed up just a few weeks ago. Their business has fallen off a cliff and now, rather than considering hiring, they are hoping to be able to avoid layoffs.
The next natural step of the life cycle is decline. Since I have not yet bought the winning lottery ticket, I cannot afford to allow my job search to enter the Decline Phase. Things naturally slowed down over the holidays and I took the time to regroup, both literally and emotionally, and made the decision to kick off the New Year with a new effort.
I don’t have many leads or ideas that are genuinely new, but I do have a lot of contacts that I allowed to go somewhat dormant since they didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I am starting the year by reaching out to everyone that I can think of. I am turning over rocks that I may have turned over before in hopes of finding out that something new has developed there in the last five months.
I am encouraged by the fact that the volatility in the financial markets seems to have subsided somewhat and a new year means a new P&L for many places. However, this is likely to be a long fought war of attrition and the key to success is going to be fighting to avoid the Decline Phase.
Readers, how do stay optimistic during a prolonged job search? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.