From pandemic layoff to Director of Technology, a Talener candidate recounts his journey.
The Search Begins
As a result of the pandemic, and for the first time in my career, I was out of work and looking for a job. I know that I am respected in my industry and I’ve developed many wonderful relationships. I was confident that I would find something soon. Little did I know…
I started educating myself in job hunting, 2020 edition. Long gone are the days of the NY Times classifieds. Armed with 1500+ curated LinkedIn connections, I tweaked my profile to alert the market that I was available. I hit the major job-hunting sites: LinkedIn, Dice & Indeed. I also hit some of the lesser known (and likely sketchy) ones too.
I was bombarded with daily emails, of which 95% of the roles from my keyword searches were irrelevant. I will never understand how my career as a technology leader could generate a match for an Amazon delivery driver. I doubled down on malware and anti-virus protection for my PC.
I’ll be honest, after initially reaching out to many peers, it became slow going. My initial contacts were all saying, “of course we’ll keep an eye open, but the world is changing, and everyone is adjusting to the new paradigm.” Every day, I would scour the sites for jobs; look at LinkedIn for relevant announcements from my contacts – anything that would allow me to start another conversation.
I applied online to a very wide net. I hid tags in my resume that were specific to each role and this allowed the ATS (applicant tracking systems) to pick me up. I got pretty good at this over time, and I highly recommend it. I kept at it. I told myself that it only takes on interview to get me a job, and today might be the day that something happens.
During the search, there were flashes of hope. A connection would reach back out or I’d be scheduled for an interview. I’d prepare by learning what I could about the job and the company – which isn’t always easy. I’d feel that I had aced it. And then the news: “they’re looking for someone else” or “you’re overqualified.” Or worse, I would get ghosted.
As the months passed, I became more and more frustrated dealing with recruiters. I have worked with recruiters on the hiring side for decades. I have my favorites, but over the years I have met some with questionable skills and worse yet, questionable ethics. My biggest gripe was that they didn’t effectively market the position to me, and more importantly, didn’t market me to the prospective employer.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I saw an ad come in from a recruiting firm I was unaware of called Talener. As I read it, it became evident that the role was extremely well suited for me – in my industry, and in a similar environment in which I had worked previously. My bike ride would have to wait, I needed to apply. Within an hour, I received a response back. I assumed it was an acknowledgement of my application from an automated system. But it was actually a personal email from Henry Boulos. His email told me more about the job and asked some additional questions. I took the time to answer the questions individually and tie them back to my resume. We both got excited. Henry could see that I was a highly viable candidate for a role that I was confident that I would be well-suited for. He arranged for a Microsoft Teams interview with the firm, along with other candidates.
More importantly, Henry spent time preparing me. It wasn’t just about the role, the skills I should emphasize or the people I’d be meeting. More importantly, he prepared my by giving me some frank pointers that he had picked up on my presentation, which I wasn’t used to. I studied the notes I had taken with Henry, reviewed the company website in detail, and set up Google Alerts for current news about the company and its principals.
I felt the first Teams interview went well with the COO. I listened to his questions. I sent a thank you note. And in the hopes of continuing the conversation, the timing worked out that I was able to attend a virtual user conference for the company’s ERP system. Henry updated me on the process moving forward. I had made the first cut. Another Teams interview was scheduled with a larger audience. I put together some notes gleaned from the conference.
Henry and I reviewed in detail what I should further be prepared to discuss. I think we get very focused on telling our story during an interview, and Henry reminded me the importance of listening. I came away again feeling good, that I had “strutted my stuff” well. I also asked about pain points in the role and challenges that leadership saw. I again followed up with a thank you note, including discussing some proposed solutions to the issues discussed during the interview. I made it to a third interview, this one would be on-site. Henry ensured that I was fully prepared, and the meeting went well. Another thank you note sent. The next morning, Henry followed up with the wonderful news that I had gotten the job, and I began the onboarding process. It was less than three weeks from first contact to a signed offer.
Again, I cannot say enough about the professionalism that Henry exhibited throughout the process. I plan to use Henry again and refer him and his firm to my peers.
Yes, there’s a pandemic. But I got a senior-level job. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
Don’t give up. No matter how discouraged you get, you are one person who needs only one job. This can happen at any time.
LinkedIn and your resume are a significant part of your personal brand. It’s the first thing people see. Think of it from that perspective.
Network, network, network. The time to start networking is NOT when you need a job. Do it throughout your career.
Prepare. Look in detail at the company’s website. Look for current news about the company and its principals. Make sure you check Glassdoor. Find out what products they use and learn about them. Bring it up on the interview when appropriate. Everyone always likes to hear about themselves.
Listen. I realized that providing answers to a prospective employers’ challenges are more important than talking about an extensive skillset or describing a list of successful projects.
Always send a thank you note. My wife taught me that.
Layoffs from the pandemic caught many career employees off-guard. We could see the immediate impact in industries like travel or restaurants. However, many employees across industries faced layoffs for the first time in their careers. Even with years of experience, being at the top of your field, and having excellent connections – it’s jarring and overwhelming to pivot quickly.
If it has been years (or decades!) since you’ve written a resume, have had to call up connections, or apply for a job— it can be daunting to start over again. Let the Talener team help you out or provide you with guidance on where to get started.
Attracting talent is a competition. Over the past decade, some companies have ‘reinvented’ their employees’ workday. From nap pods to game rooms, spa treatments to an in-house chef, companies pushed the boundaries of traditional benefits and perks. These became the gold standard for coaxing talent (especially in technology) to join the ranks of unlimited vacation and free healthcare programs.
But for most of the working population, these types of benefits are a pipe dream. Most SMEs can’t provide elaborate benefits – I’m looking at you Microsoft Treehouses. For the rest of us, gym membership reimbursements & in-office snacks are a great addition to health and retirement benefits.
In March, when many office workers were sent home, many of these ancillary benefits were left behind. Employees didn’t quit their jobs en masse without their company-provided extra hot triple foam latte.
Gyms closed, restaurants shuttered, and our commutes started and ended in a hallway. Concern for the safety, health, and financial stability of family and friends became front-of-mind.
What does this mean for 2021? Many companies have shifted their benefit offerings; taking a step back to address what has become important to employees.
Health Insurance – Employees are seeking quality affordable coverage that is comprehensive and inclusive. Attractive plans have lower premiums, reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and provide inclusive coverage for things like reproductive healthcare (i.e. IVF) or gender re-assignment surgery.
Increased Mental Health & Wellness Programs – The demand for mental health services has risen sharply over the past year.Whether employees have access through their health insurance or an EAP, companies are ramping up programs for employee mental health and wellness.
Paid Family Leave – Several states are implementing some form of paid family leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or care of a sick family member. Companies that provide paid leave will be more attractive to new talent and help to retain current employees.
PTO: Mental Health & Recharge – In additional to better access to mental health programs, 2021 may bring more time-off options for mental health and recharge days. The fatigue from the pandemic has left many people in need of time off after daycares have closed, schools have gone virtual, or partners have lost their jobs.
Personalized Benefits Packages – Tailored benefits packages are on the rise. Benefits and perks have relative importance based on the life stage of the employee. Offering tuition reimbursement may not resonate with employees who are closer to retirement than college. Companies have an opportunity to offer optional equivalent perks that make sense to the individual.
Even as we (hopefully) move towards a vaccine and the end of the pandemic, many things have changed over this past year. Some may continue to work from home permanently, while others will be back in the office sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely that a communal room of nap pods and in-office buffet lunches are coming back any time soon. HR is re-reinventing benefits packages that are in-line with the changing employee needs. If you are looking for a new job and want to better understand how benefits will affect you (and what they’re worth!), please reach out to the Talener Team today.
There are advantages to applying for and accepting a job at the end of the year. Hiring managers are moving quickly to fill positions and use up their budgets. Most companies have shored up their benefit plans for the upcoming year – ensuring uninterrupted service for you for at least the next twelve months.
It is easy to quantify and dissect salary, bonus, or commissions. We can assign a value that corresponds to paying a mortgage, buying groceries, or saving for a vacation. But benefits like health coverage or retirement contribution matching are often overlooked as it is what it is; without assessing true monetary value.
When moving from one job to another, we can see the 401k percentage match or the cost of our monthly health insurance premium. But often, we’re programmed to accept these as inflexible parts of our new employment.
It is not unusual to receive a detailed benefits summary from HR after you’ve accepted a job. From monthly premiums to deductibles, waiting periods to paid time off – these benefits all have value. Accepting a higher paying position is ideal, but not if your monthly health insurance premium negates your raise.
If you are looking for a new job without the help of a staffing agency, you must advocate for yourself. There is a song and dance around compensation during the interview process. When is it appropriate to ask about benefits, salary, or time off? Is it the first interview, the third, in person? No matter the time, it is imperative to understand their value.
Health insurance premiums are some of the largest expenditures for American households. The average American will pay close to $6,000 per year in premiums on an employer-based plan. But beyond premiums, it is important to understand the plans that are offered by your future employer. If something catastrophic were to occur, what do you have to pay out of pocket? It’s critical to evaluate things like coverage, co-insurance, in-network vs. out-of-network costs, or lifetime maximums.
What you are able to contribute to a 401k or other retirement account is likely fixed. But the contribution your new employer makes (or doesn’t make) can have far reaching consequences down the road.
Paid Time Off
Holidays, PTO, vacation, sick leave – however you say it; paid time off has value. Examine how much time you have taken off in the past and compare it to your new plan. While you may be able to sacrifice a few vacation days, it’s important to know how you will be paid for your time off.
Paid Family Leave
Many states are adopting paid leave policies to help new parents or those caring for a loved one. But companies are also creating these internal policies. Paid family leave has monetary value and encourages employee retention. If you might eventually benefit from paid family leave like the birth of a child, this should be a consideration in your job hunt.
Examine life insurance benefits, long term and short-term disability, workers compensation, pet insurance, and more. Every organization will have a unique combination of insurance benefits that you can compare to your current situation.
Lunch is provided every day. You receive a monthly work-from-home stipend for supplies and internet service. Your gym membership is reimbursed, and your commuting costs are covered. If you aren’t currently using a gym – great! It’s a wash. But if your commuting costs are about to double and there is no plan to help defray these costs, then you could be looking at increased expenses beyond your increased salary.
In 2020, some of these benefits are expanding even further than what is considered the standard package. From prepaid legal plans to IT help desks for your kids, telehealth platform access to identity management plans; companies are getting creative with their offerings during the pandemic.
If you are working with a staffing agency to find your next position, you should expect them to advocate on your behalf – knowing the benefits and negotiating for you if these benefits fall short of your needs. Just because you can’t change your future employer’s health insurance offering, doesn’t mean that you can’t negotiate a higher base salary to make up for the shortcomings between your current and future job.
Technology and IT based positions continue to be highly competitive. Hiring managers are motivated to fill their positions with the best talent by the end of the year. Use your staffing agency as a resource to help you compare and contrast benefits as much as you would compare salary, commission, and bonus.
Ultimately, staffing agencies like Talener are here to support and advocate for you. For more information about negotiating and understanding how benefits affect your offer, speak with Henry Boulos today.