The Other Side of the Fence

Monday March 27. It was my wedding anniversary (34 happy years) and the day I interviewed with Grok. Today, Wednesday March 29 is they day I received a call telling me that I had a job offer from Grok and, by extension was no longer unemployed. I’ve been unemployed since February 3rd as my previous employer decided to shed employees in a change of direction. February 3rd was a strange day in my house. Within about 10 minutes I found out that I was being retrenched and that my Son was being awarded his PhD. Talk about the ups and downs of life. I loved working at LIFELENZ, the people and the product were awesome. It will always be a memory of good times but, to be honest, being lured away from employment, visions of growth and new responsibilities, only to become excess baggage less than 12 months later, it pissed me off significantly. To be honest it took a few weeks to actually process what had happened and really get my mindset back into the positive. This blog is a reflection on my period of unemployment. If you are in, or in the future find yourself in, the made redundant/gotta find a job category, perhaps the following might help, in some way. If you are currently unemployed, and wanting to work (due to redundancy or other) then my thoughts are with you. It’s a tough situation. I’ve been through it twice, it doesn’t get any easier in my opinion.

Let me explain how the unemployment gig unfolded. An all hands meeting was called for early on a Friday morning. LIFELENZ regularly have these catch ups so I was anticipating the usual catch up around what was happening, work to come down the pipeline, opportunities being chased, etc. It took maybe 2 minutes for me to realise this wasn’t the “regular” meeting. As soon as I realised where the meeting was going, I knew, at a visceral level, I was about to lose a job I loved. It was about 2 or so hours later that I attended a video meeting where it was confirmed I was on my way out. What did I do after that? Not sure. I know I passed on the news to a few people but other than that it’s pretty much murky. I guess this is where the grieving and rebuilding process started. There was a lot to process emotionally and financially and I guess, at some level, I was churning through that and some back of the mind planning for “next steps”. I think I next sat at my computer on the following Tuesday and started working on my CV update and related job hunting requirements.

If I put aside the financial aspect of redundancy (which is not large when you only have 12 months at the company) it can sometimes come with other benefits. In my case that was 3 sessions with Tricia McBride from Directioneering. Tricia worked with me to understand what skills and attributes I would bring to my next employer. How I could represent those in my CV and we went through a number of conversations that were really interview practice in disguise. The saddest aspect of these sessions was that they were limited to 3. These sessions were more than just useful for working toward the next opportunity, they were spirit lifting. Talking with an adult, about work, being asked interesting questions and forming responses, being coached a little in those responses. Getting personalised, positive feedback is important and valuable. It helped fill a gap that work normally fills. I went through a similar service after my first redundancy, and that was really useful as well. If you can access this sort of service, I’d recommend you give it a try.

One of the things I discussed with Tricia was the idea of taking a week off from job hunting. It had dawned on me that I hadn’t given myself enough time or space to really process what had happened. With my wife agreeing it would also be a good idea I ended up taking a full week away from job hunting. I spent some time fishing, reading, catching up on shows and a little gardening (where I injured my thumb, thus removing gardening from the list of distractions). That injection of space was more important than I realised. When I came back to job hunting I was mentally better (not super awesome just yet, but better). I had better focus than a week before and I wanted to do stuff. I really recommend creating some distance from the unemployment event if you can. Whatever time you can afford, use it to process and wind down a little.

Now, let’s talk about the job market. Good grief, it is really an experience. After my first redundancy I found that there were some great recruiters and some that, well, might not be in the right job. To Matt Smith from Discovered People (who I’m indebted to for helping me find my new role), Mark Cappellari from PRA, Logan Murphy from OPUS RS and Lisa Pfitzner from Preacta Recruitment, a big thanks for taking the time to talk with me about what I was looking for. These conversations are really important when you are trying to find your next gig. It’s comforting to know there are people interested in finding you the right job rather than just any job. If you’re currently in Australia and looking for a job, reach out to these people.

Then there is what I call the “big black hole” where you send off job applications and hear nothing in return. No receipt acknowledgement, no “sorry you haven’t been successful” response, just nothing. Several companies who advertised they belonged to the “circle back” program – supposedly guaranteeing a response – didn’t respond. To these companies, stop it. Pick up your game and at the very least provide some feedback to people that apply to your company. While I am at it. To those (and there were only a couple) who publicly reached out offering help and the disappeared when I messaged them, stop the virtue signalling. It’s not helpful. I could also do without recruiters messaging me and advising I’m perfect for a job they are trying to fill based on my LinkedIn profile. Then when I look at the job description (which always needs to be requested – it seems to never be sent “up front”) it’s an horrendously bad fit and has very little alignment with my LinkedIn profile.

However, while going from employed to unemployed is not pleasant, when it happens you need to navigate through it. Some people say that job hunting is a job in itself. I think that is true when you are unemployed. Initially you need to get your CV in shape, update online profiles, start scanning for jobs of interest and contacting people who might be able to assist you find your next role. Job hunting, however, is emotionally and mentally draining and you need to take account of that (to the degree it impacts you). My tactic was to spend no more (on average) than half a day applying for jobs or job hunting related activities. The other half a day was spent on refreshing and deepening skills such as API and SQL testing, diving into some contract testing, building some new stuff in Excel (refreshing what little VB knowledge I have from years ago) and anything else that came along that was interesting as a distraction. I’ve just started playing around with Python to see how far I can go with it. I considered my “learning time” as the highlight of each day and I ended up making each Wednesday my dedicated learning day. No job hunting, just learning. It was awesome to have this as a break in the middle of each week (to be clear, this was on top of my half day study time on other days).

It might help you to remember that while you are job hunting, you are the boss. You work out your start and end times each day. You work out what you want to do, what order you want to do it in and how much you want to do of anything. You can (and should) give yourself permission for late starts, early finishes and days off from your job search routine. Find the time of day you are most alert and energetic and focus your job hunting within that time frame. One thing I learned not to do was look at job adds Friday afternoon. It left me with a clear head for the weekend and, guess what, those jobs are still there on Monday.

I’m not going to deny that I’ve been lucky enough to have a brilliant support network. I have family, friends and colleagues that all pitched in and provided various levels of support. Lee Hawkins is a never ending source of positive affirmation and support. Michael Bolton surprised me with a brilliant endorsement in LinkedIn, Millan Kaur for helping me secure an interview (didn’t get that one over the line but the generosity of Millan is really appreciated) and a new acquaintance SimplyGed (@simply_ged) who reached out, asked for my CV and then acted as a go-between with HR. To those who “cfbr” (commenting for better reach) my LinkedIn post or just checked in to see how I was going, thank you. It all made a difference.

If you’re searching for employment, I’m going to pass on to you my Dad’s advice to me – “relax and enjoy the break”. That sounds counter intuitive, and at times, like wishful thinking, but it is something you need to do. I rephrased that advice to “focus on what you can control” and it helped me relax a lot. You can’t control how people view your application, you can’t control how interviewers might react in an interview but you can control how prepared you are, you can control the quality of your application for a job, you can control how much or how little time you invest in revising old skills or adding new ones. That puts the things you can control back in your hands and contributes to a sense of accomplishment. It also boosts self belief. If you control the things you can control, at some point, the right opportunity will present and you’ll be ready for the challenge.


2 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Fence

  1. Hi Paul,
        Liked this article and I am very happy to know you are now employed
    and ready to surge ahead.
    Don’t forget these feeling you had while in the doldrums but use them to
    help mould your future.


  2. Thanks for this Paul. Being unemployed for me was so stressful and if I had had this back then, maybe I would have handled it a lot better. BTW, congrats on the new position. 😊


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