Louis G.: All the Right Moves

Note: We will follow Louis G.’s progress at least once a month until that happy day when he lands a new good job.

June 2011

celebrate imageJust as we had fervently hoped, that happy day has arrived: Louis G. did receive and accept an offer from the manufacturing firm and starts his new job in early July.

Score one for Everyman; zero for the Great Recession!

He had to make some concessions: He’ll be away from home for most of the first two months, traveling to four different cities including one in Canada for training. Then he’ll be spending most weekdays at his office 150 miles away, seeing his family only on weekends.

But he also made some gains: He’ll have a similar benefits package as his “layoff” position – and his salary will be 20 percent higher.

“Everyone told me to be prepared to take a cut in salary,” Louis says. “but I decided to try for an increase.” In fact, he nearly didn’t accept this offer because it was below the company’s initial verbal offer. “I applied for two more positions that day.”

Louis’s efforts didn’t let up during the salary negotiations either, and out of yet another interview came a second job offer, from a local health-care firm. He had to weigh the pros and cons of both jobs: the second came with a lower salary, but had no commute, a company car, and much better benefits.

In the end, though, the firm offer from the manufacturer won over the tentative offer from the health-care firm. When he gave the latter his decision, Louis says, “the hiring manager said to let him know if I ever decided to leave [the manufacturer], even if it was a year from now.”

Why did Louis work so hard right from the start? “I looked at my brother, who has been on unemployment for almost two years now,” he says, “and I decided I didn’t want to go on unemployment. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”

An excellent strategist, Louis did something interesting at the end of each interview. “I would ask, ‘Now that you know something about me, is there anything I should do that would make me a better fit for this position?’ ”

Each time, the answer to this question not only gave him an idea of where he stood, it also told him why  – if the answer was less than “You’re perfect” – which would guide him in adjusting his strategies.

Louis G. has indeed made all the right moves, and we wish him the best of luck in his new position.

May 2011

Louis G. is a newbie, a statistic, and a role model. In April 2011, he lost his technical training job at a major consumer electronics company in a fresh round of downsizing. At 51, married with two college-age children, he finds himself in the job market for the first time in 16 years, a market radically changed from the days when scouring newspaper want ads was the primary job-search strategy. Sixteen years ago, he got his next job within two weeks; this time, he quickly learned to lower his expectations.

cat's eye imageBut Louis G. (a pseudonym) remains undaunted. Like a cat with nine lives, nothing gets him down for long. Most people might be in shock for a month or more after a layoff, watching cable TV and licking their wounds, but Louis did so for a mere two days before shaking off the malaise and jumping into his job search feet first.

Since then, he has responded to each reality check not with depression and defeat but with fresh ideas and new energy, drawing on every available resource and following every lead and every piece of advice with a focused intensity.

In short, Louis G. is doing everything right.

There is another important aspect to Louis’s story. Modest and quietly self-confident – the quintessential nice guy – Louis naturally elicits empathy. We are drawn to him; we want to help. Perhaps to us he is Everyman, and we don’t want to see the Great Recession reduce our Everyman to Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. We want our Everyman to succeed – and, if he must, we want him to succeed against any and all odds.

LinkedIn logoAlthough Louis didn’t ask for this “role model” role – no doubt he is completely unaware and would decline it if he could – he seems more than up to the task. When a friend explained how LinkedIn works, he got right on it; six weeks later, he has 195 connections and 16 recommendations. “When I got back in touch with my professional contacts – people I’ve worked with, people I’ve met along the way – a lot of them gave me recommendations within a couple of days,” Louis says, and most did so spontaneously, without being asked.

Career Change Ahead image“But my whole job search is not just one thing,” Louis emphasizes. “I first got into LinkedIn, and then my next resource was my outsourcing placement agency [hired by his former employer as part of the severance package]. I have a counselor who helps me out on researching companies, making my resume, making cover letters, making stories [of accomplishments] and how to present them on an interview, which was very helpful. And it’s an ongoing thing, so I do talk to him every other week, giving updates on my job search, what I’ve done and what mistakes I’ve made. He’s really been a cheerleader.”

Louis has also taken seriously two other resources often emphasized by career counselors: joining a professional network, and the job-seeker services at his local CareerOneStop.

CareerOneStop logoLouis’s encounter with CareerOneStop, he admits, wasn’t planned. “I gave someone a ride there and ended up getting into the [interview] class too.” Although he had heard most of the instructor’s advice before, one handout was unique: a list of 100 common interview questions to answer – and to practice. “I spoke to the counselor, and he said if I practice the answers I will be more natural in an interview. So that helped me a lot.”

Sacramento Professional Network (SPN), he says, “really helped my psyche, plus the resources helped me out. I was thinking I would hit the ground running and would get another job in a couple of weeks. So it brought me down to reality, hearing all the stories there. I paid attention to everything that was said in the meetings.

Sacramento Professional Network logo“The most helpful activity I did at SPN was the mock panel interview, because that was my biggest fear, facing a panel. And when I did the mock interview, it didn’t feel so bad. So when I did my interview in Kansas City – there were six people on the panel – I wasn’t intimidated.”

The Kansas City, Missouri, interview is the result of luck – and Louis’s persistent following up on leads.

“I got a lead on LinkedIn and applied for a technical trainer position in Sacramento at a solar company. She told me their technology was too advanced for me,” Louis says. But he didn’t stop there. After the job interview, “I did an informational interview with her, and at the end I asked if she knew of any similar jobs at other companies. She told me about the same kind of position for a manufacturing company, but in Morgan Hill” – some 150 miles away. She also gave him a contact name and permission to say she had referred him.

LinkedIn gave him another big boost. “The manufacturing company has HR people on LinkedIn that I sent my resume to using InMail, and they responded right away.

“That got the ball rolling,” Louis says. “The first interview was a two-hour phone interview with the HR person. The second interview was also a phone interview, with the hiring manager; it lasted about an hour.

job interview cartoon“The third step was the six-hour interview in Kansas City. I did a 15-minute presentation, and 15-minute Q&A on the presentation, another hour of panel interview, and then several interviews after that. It was pretty grueling, especially after a long trip the day before” – a trip paid for by the company. Louis spent most of the week on this one interview, with three days of preparation, two days of travel, and the daylong interview itself. And the grueling schedule won’t end if he gets the job: He’ll rent a room in Morgan Hill, where he’ll stay during the workweek, and spend the weekends in Sacramento at home with his family.

LinkedIn, the outsourcing counselor, the professional network, the CareerOneStop center: “Those were the main resources,” Louis says, “and none of them is more important than the others. All four resources put me where I am now.”

We are rooting for you, Louis. Stay tuned, everyone.

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