The Biggest Thing I Learned When Looking for Work: In a Tough Economy, I Couldn’t Just Look for My Old Job at a New Company

I spent months looking for a job like my old job - just at a different company. I networked. I contacted recruiters. I applied to jobs that I was clearly qualified for. I had no trouble meeting or exceeding the stated qualifications, and I could provide specific accomplishments from my past job that were relevant. Doing customized cover letters was really pretty easy – and they seemed to be right on target.

I answered more than 400 ads and job postings, and customized my cover letters to highlight relevant accomplishments. I mailed more than 150 customized Direct Mail letters to executives at companies like my old one.

But I wasn’t getting interviews.

I knew that aspects of my background might knock me out of consideration with some percentage of employers (they didn’t like my location, I had too few jobs or too many, my resume was too short or it was too long, etc.). But even accounting for that, the market wasn’t responding with interviews. “We’ve put that on hold”, “Management has withdrawn that opening”, “Right now we’re only hiring much more junior staff.”

It gradually dawned on me: my layoff – the elimination of my old job – was actually part of something much bigger than me, and bigger than my old company. My job was eliminated along with many others as my company faced a daunting financial crisis at the end of 2007. As 2008 unfolded, broader economic forces were hammering my former company’s competitors. They too were weakened, and they became cautious about hiring.

I was good at something companies weren’t hiring for. My old company was going to operate with fewer positions like mine, and so were other, similar companies. Looking for my old job at a new company was a losing proposition: I was swimming against an outgoing tide.

So if you’re looking for work you might consider my learning. If you’re not getting a lot of interviews, consider that the problem might not be you, and might not be your resume. You may be looking for a job that no longer exists, or you may be looking for work in an industry that’s dealing with the economic downturn by not hiring people to do what you did.

ashdenver's picture

What a wonderful thing to learn. Not that it's been a wonderful struggle to locate new employment but wonderful to recognize that it was a much larger issue than you personally, your resume or your qualifications.

When my all-time-favorite job was eliminated back in early 2002, I traveled a similar path as you and got sorely frustrated at the beginning. Once I shifted my focus from "same job at a similar company" and set my sights on "a source of income that I was competent to do" instead, I made a good go of my own business for a couple of years before the market loosened up a little and I was able to locate & secure a more 'appropriate' position.

Out of curiosity, have you been successful in your search yet?

jhack's picture

Great insight.

Marketing as a field is changing rapidly. Google is an advertising company. Newspapers, as an industry, are in a death spiral. My son doesn't watch TV much anymore - internet video is the thing.

Many industries were being disrupted before the credit crisis hit. So too were job classifications (ad buyers, journalists, desktop operating system developers, and many more).

We've all got to look at our skills more deeply - the ability to get the most out of people, to handle tough customer conversations with tact, etc. And we have to find the new opportunities that leverage those skills.

Good luck to everyone.