The Redundancy Game and the Great Job Hunt

Posted: 13th July 2009 by admin in General

Just over 2 weeks ago, I was made redundant for the third time in my career in IT.

The previous two times had very different affects on me, the first time in 2000, I found a job straight away, my pay off and return of share save money brought me an E reg Mini and a brand new kayak, the first of which got wrote off when it did a 180 degree spin and it became 6 inches narrower than before the accident. The second I still own today, with some battle scars. It was a positive thing.
The second time about 7 years ago co-incided with a very dark period in my life, I was having massive personal problems, and losing my job was the straw that broke the camels back. The job market wasn’t brilliant, and it took me 4 months to get a new job. In the meantime I worked as a “test script monkey” on systems I was coding and designing just 12 months earlier for minimum wage via an agency. All of this combined to put me in a deep malaise, borderline depression. I would have mood swings that would make a junkie look stable. But I came out of it eventually with a decent job where I made friends who I still have today. Also I discovered my love of hill walking and climbing, via various trips I took with my mate Randolph up to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.

This time, all the signs were there, but I was blind to see them. When I was told my job was at risk, I didn’t react well, I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back, thinking why the hell did I put in those 20 hours days when something was needed. Now I look back and can fully understand why my job had to go, but its hard to see the light, when they have just been metaphorically punched out. The consolidation of offices to the midlands, and having to balance the manpower to the work available made me the natural choice, although it would have been someone else if I had wished to move to the midlands, as I was the 2nd most experienced developer in the company at the time.

This time has also taught me two other important things, read your income protection policy carefully, finding out that you are not covered for redundancy is a kick in the balls when you have been paying in for the last year. Also I could quite easily live on half my pay if I needed to after all non essentials were taken out of the equation, and I am not a high flyer by any means, merely on a fairly average salary for an IT developer.

Finding a job is hard work, and requires dedication and organisation, it means constantly monitoring the likes of CW Jobs and Jobserve, applying for roles, chasing up agents for feedback, and fine tuning your CV. You have your very good days and very bad days. Give me regular work anyday. After a few days I got this down to an art.

Most jobs sites allow you to do job searches as an RSS feed, just pick your favourite reader, and the jobs come to you instead. You still need to do some searches, but this cuts this down 75%. My CV was fine tuned every other day, with small tweaks, added information about my side projects, and shuffling of skills. This did help get some interest as I went into week 2, from the PHP roles. If you have personal projects / websites / systems out there, make them work for you, let them sell your skills, I have no doubt this helped me get 1 or 2 interviews.

My friend Ian Nelson (www.ianfnelson.com), emailed me a load of advice on getting a new job, something he has to do more than often than most as a contractor. Two bits of advice I will pass on here, one, put a short personal statement at the top of your CV, make yourself stand out. If you want to see my CV, look on my home page (www.seanliquorish.co.uk). Second, chase the agents, its not rude, and it will make you be noticed more than others who don’t, remember they will make at least £5000 out of getting you a job, make them work for it, and don’t be pushed into something you don’t want by them if you are offered a job, make sure you are totally happy with a package and where you will work.

By the start of week 2, I had 4 interviews lined up, that was from about 30-40 applications. I found that the companies I was getting first and second interviews for 2 years ago when I took my current role, I didn’t even get my foot in the door. This was a disappointment at the time, and disheartened me. However all the hard work was worth it when the first interview came in, and then the subsequent ones just gave me more confidence day by day. The market was slower than 2 years ago, but I seemed to be doing OK in it.

My first interview was in Leeds, doing PHP and .NET, I disappointed myself here, I didn’t sell myself well enough, something I made damn sure I corrected in the second interview in Sheffield, where I put Donald Trump to shame in the selling stakes, and the interview lasted nearly 2 hours. In fact I thought afterwards that I had gone over the top in selling myself and come across pushy! The Sheffield role was a green field development to build internal systems for a national retail chain, with good resourcing and generous benefits. It was a System Architect role by any other name. In my current role, these were the projects I enjoyed most. The success of this interview boded well for the next 2.

The next day I was interviewing at a legal firm in Manchester, this one went OK, however, the style of interview dictated a different approach to answering questions, a more controlled sell of my skills. One of the skills I last used 2 years ago, came in as a trump card to get my interview here. Thats another lesson I have learnt, never mind how niche you think a skill is, put it down, as there is always a niche to fill. The second lesson from this day is to have some change on you when driving into Manchester, if you don’t, expect to get robbed by NCP. This was my first technical test, and it went well apart from the MS Word 2007 section, as I have trouble find anything in the Teletubbie interface that is Office 2007.

After this interview, I received a phone call from the agent for the Sheffield role, I was the preferred candidate, that was good news, the package and benefits were to my liking as was the role, however I had a couple of nagging doubts in my mind, which I couldn’t quite place. With this in mind, I told the agent he would have an answer after the interview at the business services supplier in Manchester the following day. The nagging doubts hit the surface at 2.30am, and didn’t leave until 6am, wiping out half a night’s sleep, not the best preparation for an interview the following morning. The nagging doubts were despatched to the agent at about 3.30am, and it took me 3 episodes of Mythbusters to get my mind relaxed enough to go back to bed.

Thankfully my lovely wife got up with my daughter, despite her own illness, and let me get another hour in bed before I got up. This time I had some change and parked at Boddingtons old site, for less than half the price of National CarPark Pirates. This interview also had a technical test, half of which I didn’t get done due to a slow virtual machine and crashing Visual Studio. The ones I didn’t get round to I answered verbally, and made up for the lack of typed evidence. The tiredness showed in the technical questions however, when simple SQL server questions I should have known just wouldn’t come to the surface. However I trumped myself with the answer to the lateral thinking question at the end which was “If you were to rebuild Manchester to its current plans and relocate the population there, how many petrol stations would you build”. The role looked good, and jumped to number 2 in my list of preferred jobs.

This was all trivial however as the doubts had been fed and satisfied by the Sheffield role and I agreed to accept it starting on 29th July, 9 days before my redundancy period finishes.

A great end to a rollercoaster 2 weeks, I’m leaving my current employers on good terms and have got a hell of a challenge to come. Remember to be patient and believe in yourself and you will get out what you put in!

  1. jambojim says:

    The bit about not spending what you earn I can configure that one. Mentally it shows that you have self responsibility and control when needing to live just after the job has gone, the only thing that provided the previous living expenses. I got it wrong first time in Sheffland and was bounced about then chose to get out. Very lonely second time and careful not to have a social life so as to obscur the reality of my low earnings.
    So if I don’t put in a social life I don’t get one out but I felt like prey last time when it went wrong so am being content with my possible not so bad slow developments.
    Answered from ukc and can only scratch my head at what crag you expect to find whilst actually in.. rush….. or/… not …h.o…u.r

  2. sean says:

    My very bad grammar, what I meant was “how long would it take to get to the main peak crags (burbage etc in the valley) from meadowhall when leaving at 5-5.30 at night.”