Did you say that you are looking for a job? It is a common occurrence these days, there isn’t a single person I know who isn’t either looking for a job themselves, or who has a close friend and/or colleague that is looking for a job. At ABI, we work primarily with the technical work force, and although fewer of the Engineers and Computer Scientists have been laid off, there are still many. I remember the time during the internet bust of 2000 and 2001 when I had left my previous position at PMC-Sierra, taken six months off, and started looking for work just as 911 happened. It was a challenging time. I learned many things during that time period that served me well then and today. Some of my lessons learned are:
Use your network – I met with and talked to many people that I had known over the 20 years that I worked in Silicon Valley. I reached out to people that I hadn’t talked to in years, and they were always willing to meet with me, even when there wasn’t an obvious fit. My first consulting job came from a Venture Capitalist who I knew from 15 years prior when he was the head of a local research lab, and had tried to hire me. He had several chip companies in his portfolio that needed the expertise that I had developed. In addition, I met with a number of people that I went to graduate school with. Everyone I reached out to was generous with their time, their advice and their candor. Most meetings did not result in anything other than a lunch or coffee, but I learned from each and every encounter. If I was to do it again today, I have the luxury of my LinkedIn network that provides contact information for people I have not seen for many years, but who I am now linked to.
Clearly articulate your value – I was positioning myself as a management consultant, with emphasis on engineering management. For each person I met with, they wanted to understand what I could do for them. To be honest, I was a little vague myself, and the first few times, my value proposition was a little mumbled. What I learned was that the more clearly I could articulate what I could do for potential clients, the better the results of the conversation. Some of the interviews were for permanent positions, but the interviews went much better when the person hiring could clearly see what my experience could do for them.
Refresh your skill set and knowledge base – At the time I had just finished a two year run as VP of Engineering of a Voice over IP Processor Company, and then taken six months off. Before I met with anyone, I went back and refreshed my knowledge about the technical development of the processor, as well as the methods we used to manage the project delivery of the chip, software, and application. Each and every person I talked to wanted to understand the technical aspects of what I could provide for their organization, and my approach to the VoIP processor development.
Appear confidence – for women, this can be the hardest part of a job interview. What employers look for is the ability to deliver, and first and foremost you need to believe that you can deliver (or appear to believe). Often I had to act as if I believed in myself, because inside, I was not fully confident, I was breaking new ground in my career, and learning from every discussion. But I was able to appear confident which provided the opportunity to agree on a next step, and finally to agree on a contract.
Job hunting can be a scary time, but it is sometimes the first step towards a new and better future. If you are looking for a job, think of it as an opportunity – to hone your skills, to find a better position, and ultimately to believe in yourself.
Be sure to check out the Anita Borg Institute’s Savvy Geek Chix, www.savvygeekchix.org, to learn more about opportunities to improve your job hunting skills.