New Job, to start May 16, 2011

OK, I have landed a new job, to start May 16. This is a job as a biostatistician at a Rockville-based contracting/consulting company named GLOTECH. I gather that the bulk of GLOTECH’s business is providing IT support to the federal government. But one of their contracts is to provide statistical consulting for the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research Branch (DESPR) in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, and it is under this contract that I’ll be working.

So, I will be a statistical consultant! One of the last courses that I took in my Master’s was on statistical consulting. It occurred to me during that course that I might find statistical consulting very enjoyable. This is my chance to test that hypothesis.

Here’s a short account of my job search. I don’t claim to be particularly good at searching for jobs, but this is how it unfolded.

For about one to one-and-a-half years before I was laid off, I already had an inkling that things weren’t going well in my division of the company. Sales were down, we were missing deadlines, and our major client was grumbling. I was expecting something Big and Bad to happen — perhaps layoffs, a wholesale shutting down of my division, or the loss of our big contract. During this time I was constantly worrying: suppose I was laid off tomorrow? Would I have enough cash socked away in my savings account to tide me over for 3-6 months while I conducted a job search? Would I then have enough money left over to move to another part of the country, if my new employer didn’t provide support for moving? How badly would the current recession affect my job search? I started saving up money in my bank account preparing for the Big Bad Event.

On November 17, 2010, a research scientist that I know from my NIH days, B.G., emailed me out of the blue. B.G. is now working at a research hospital in D.C., and was asking me whether I’d be interested in working at the hospital as an MRI Scientist. I was still employed at the time, so I declined pursuing the job opening, but I kept it in mind.

Then the Big Bad Event occurred on February 3. It manifested as layoffs of about 25% of the people in my division, and I was one of the people who were cut. I immediately started my job search. I decided to first restrict my search to the D.C. area, and if that failed then I would expand my search to the rest of the country.

The first thing I did was to contact B.G. regarding the MRI Scientist position at the D.C. hospital. It was still open! After some time, I landed an interview there. As part of this interview, I gave a scientific talk via slide presentation, which is the usual custom with academic/research type positions. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer.

I also contacted my thesis advisor, G.L., and asked him whether he knew of any job opportunities. Almost immediately, he put me in contact with a Bethesda-based consulting company that specializes in health economics, and after some time I landed an interview there. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer, either.

I also aggressively searched several job boards and job board aggregators, including Indeed.com, LinkUp.com, SimplyHired.com, and Monster.com. I also tried three job boards specific to quantitative analysis, AnalyticRecruiting.com, JobsInData.com, and icrunchdata.com. Using these various sources, I forwarded my résumé (actually, it’s more like an academic/research C.V.) to about twenty places, mostly in the D.C. area.

Now unemployed, I had no income, a stash of cash in the bank, and lots of free time — sort of like being retired. I took advantage of the free time to travel. I visited my parents in Florida for three weeks, from February 21 through March 14, and during the second week (February 27 – March 5) we were in Orlando, visiting Disney World. On March 4, I had a telephone screening interview with GLOTECH, one of the companies which I had applied to via online job listings (Monster.com, via the aggregator Indeed.com). After I returned home from Florida, I proceeded to two in-person interviews, on March 16 and March 24; the first was with GLOTECH staff, and the second was with our NICHD clients. I received the formal job offer via email on April 8.

Then I was in Hawaii from April 9 through April 24, attending a lucid dreaming workshop hosted by The Lucidity Institute, held at a wonderful retreat named Kalani Oceanside Retreat Village . (I will have to devote a whole other post to this important experience). I faxed my acceptance of the job offer to GLOTECH while in Kalani, on Tax Day, April 15. I start the new job on May 16; I am looking forward to it very much.

Since I had saved up a lot of money in my bank account in preparation for the Big Bad Event, I didn’t feel particularly rushed or pressured in this job search. Certainly there was a sense of urgency, but not panic. Actually, I mostly had a feeling of exhilaration, potentialities, optimism, and expansiveness, reminiscent of the feeling of driving that Chevy Impala.

As part of my severance package, my former employer included three-months use of a career counselling service, Lee Hecht Harrison. Because of my trip to Florida, I decided to delay the start of this career counselling service, and didn’t actually start it until I was well into my job search. But I was pleased with the services that Lee Hecht Harrison provided, however briefly. If I ever find myself in job search mode once more, I would certainly consider using Lee Hecht Harrison’s services again.

Here are some things that I learned from this job search:

  1. There’s a difference between résumés and C.V.s.
  2. In academia/research, a multi-page C.V. is expected. In most of the rest of the world, a one- to two-page résumé is standard, but this may be changing.
  3. In your résumé, it might be advisable to avoid dating yourself, because some industries (I think infotech, especially) practice age discrimination, sometimes not so subtly. For example, maybe you shouldn’t list the dates of your education. And instead of saying something like “nineteen years experience” like I did, say instead “fifteen years plus of experience”. Apparently, fifteen years is the maximum you should own up to; it’s sizable enough to be impressive without being so large that you look like a dinosaur.
  4. In academia/research, a job talk is expected, but in most of the rest of the world it’s not. I learned from one of my colleagues at Lee Hecht Harrison that sometimes they give job talks in advertising and marketing.
  5. Currently, about 75% of all job interviews are landed via personal contacts. The remaining 25% were through job listings. (Lee Hecht Harrison statistic.) I myself landed two job interviews through personal contacts and one through job listings.
  6. Despite the statistic in #5 above, it is still very worthwhile to pursue job listings, as my own experience attests — my job offer actually came via the job interview I landed via job listings. So, it’s probably best to expend a large chunk of one’s time in pursuing jobs through personal contacts, but also spend some effort pursuing jobs through listings. My analogy is with diversifying a stock portfolio — typically it’s advised to place some funds in stocks and some in bonds.
  7. One of the most valuable components of the Lee Hecht Harrison program is the weekly Job Search Work Team meeting.
  8. LinkedIn (not to be confused with LinkUp.com) has become an important tool for conducting a job search. Here are some things about LinkedIn that I learned.
    • It’s a good idea to post your photo in your profile, although some disadvantaged groups (women, minorities, older people) are sometimes reluctant to do so for fear of discrimination. I felt comfortable posting my own photo.
    • It’s also a good idea to bring your profile to 100% complete. This includes getting at least three recommendations.
    • One should expend some effort building one’s professional network on LinkedIn.
    • One should join relevant professional groups on LinkedIn.
  9. On March 28, I attended a 2.5-hour class on how to be an independent consultant, via First Class, Inc. The class was taught by an independent consultant and small business owner named Steve Veltkamp. In this class, I learned of three websites for freelance work: Elance.com, Freelancer.com, and Guru.com.
  10. I actually didn’t fare too badly in this job search. From layoff on February 3 to job offer on April 8 was two months and five days, and I had constrained my job search mostly to the rather restricted region of the D.C. metropolitan area. I thought I was doing only a mediocre job with my job search, but one of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues said that converting twenty job applications to three job interviews and one job offer was actually pretty good. I must consider myself very fortunate; some of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues have been conducting their job search for a much longer period of time.