Truth be told, I didn’t think it would be January before I was able to write this post. Like everything else we’ve experienced since our adventure together began, the job search has been a journey. Yes, I have a job! Thus closes the symbolic loop since we cut ourselves loose from a stable income and reliable lifestyle 18 months ago. I start work as Director of Marketing Communications for a local university this month.
Voluntarily leaving a solid career as the sole breadwinner at age 40 with 3 kids was scary. However, fear of failing to land a job upon our return was terrifying. Our adventure would not be complete or considered a successful experiment until I managed to land a legitimate, prosperous job. Doing so was the final piece of the puzzle for us. As such, a summary of the job search process and conclusion seems appropriate as our blog comes to a close. One of our goals for keeping a blog was to inspire other families to break loose and create their own adventures, however brief. After our own experience returning from a sabbatical and conducting a lengthy job search, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of planning, preparation, realism, perseverance and a strong network.
Before we left for Argentina, Erica and I made a deal that I would wait until April to even begin thinking about the job search and what comes afterwards. Our trip became reality as a result of my planning gene, but my wise wife recognized I might begin planning our return the moment we arrived in Córdoba. As it turned out, our life down south was a whirlwind and we all became absorbed in our new lives, making it easy to forget about impending reality for a time. However, once we passed our self-imposed moratorium I threw myself into the process of preparing and searching for a job. Having spent over 12 years with my previous employer, I found the experience fascinating, frustrating and a valuable learning experience. Returning to the workforce following a sabbatical can make for a unique search and challenge, so here’s what I’ve learned:
Steps to take while still abroad:
- Preparation: Use this time wisely. I found it difficult to make much meaningful progress when I was still in Argentina given time and distance. Therefore I immersed myself in job search and interview preparation. Find a resource or expert that works for you (Mine was www.manager-tools.com), beef up your LinkedIn profile, rebuild your resume, and get job boards set up. This is also the time to research a new career path or focus.
- Study: While it certainly signaled the impending end of our time in Córdoba, I spent the final few months writing and studying. I developed answers for behavioral interview questions and worked out key accomplishment answers. I spent hours memorizing answers to these as well as my “elevator pitch” before we returned.
- Warm up the network: Like any relationship, your network takes work. Don’t wait to ask for help or a job until you’re back in the States. Keep in touch rather than going completely dark.
What I wish I knew earlier:
- Be focused and specific: In hindsight I approached the search too broadly. I found myself interested in a number of different roles and industries that made it difficult at times to concisely pinpoint my target to recruiters or companies. While I’m thankful for the experience and happy with the result, my task would have been easier if I’d had the ability to identify the exact job and sector I was interested in pursuing.
- Career accomplishment documentation: Keep a consistent record of accomplishments for each job WHEN YOU HAVE THAT JOB. Building a great resume off memory is hard! Consider buying this product too.
- Career Tools Interview Series: A premium product from the guys at Manager-Tools. I found this series of podcasts to be enormously helpful in interview preparation.
- The power of a network: As a career salesperson, I was conscientious of the value of a strong network, but only now do I really appreciate it. I wrote a post on LinkedIn about how grateful and humbled I’ve been by the time and energy given by so many. Build it, nurture it and repay it.
- Use your time wisely while still abroad
- A job search is a job and that job is sales: I found myself leaning on my sales experience to keep grinding away. Read my post about this on LinkedIn.
- Be intentional: Develop your network now with thoughts to the future.
- Be ready to pay it forward: I can only hope someday to offer others my time and energy as others have done so with me. Start by asking each person how you can help them someday and thanking them.
- Stay balanced: There are a lot of highs and lows in a job search. Erica did an amazing job of supporting and counseling me throughout. As in sales, it can be hard to keep grinding away and be “on” day after day.
- Perceptions: I encountered a variety of reactions during my job search to our story, many very positive. Our experience was actually a plus for some hiring managers who recognized it as accomplishment. Goal setting, planning, organization, execution, and perseverance all were obvious skill sets I could point to as a result of our trip. I was able to build a significant key accomplishment out of our experience abroad. However, a sabbatical can also put you at a disadvantage in some cases. As one recruiter pointed out, technology and the workplace changes rapidly, and a year + out of the game can give hiring managers pause. Additionally, stepping out of the workforce mid-career is not a concept that most people can easily relate to.
- Budget: We budgeted for 1 year abroad and 6 months searching for a job back in the States. It’s going to cost more than you thought so pad the budget!
- Taking a step backwards: A distinct possibility we considered when we jumped into this was that I would have to take a step back in career and pay when we returned. This would be a natural sacrifice for our experience that we accepted should it occur. I feel very fortunate that in the end I was able to transfer my skills and experience into a marketing communications role with a great organization and avoid a career hiccup. However, consider the possible ramifications and be realistic.
The search will always take longer than expected. Each major step in the hiring process seemed to take a month in my case. Opportunities appeared and faded. It’s a roller coaster. I couldn’t help but become vested in a company during the pursuit. My search for the right fit and role took 6 months. It was a fascinating education in its own right as I learned a tremendous amount about numerous companies, the hiring process, interview preparation, and significantly expanded my professional network in the process. While we did budget for a 6 month search, we didn’t expect it to take the full-time period and we budgeted too conservatively. Despite considerable expense and stress, we have zero regrets. We could never put a price on our experiences together.
Tamara Murray: Author of a number of relevant posts on LinkedIn well worth the read and perspective.
Job Boards: I found these to be more targeted and useful than the big boys like Monster or CareerBuilder
- Zip Recruiter
- Simply Hired