Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting "Surplussed" and Yet Staying with the Same Company

As I said, I got a strong hint two weeks ahead of time. The actual surplus notification was provided on the last Monday in February. My off-payroll date was the last day in April. Alternatively, I could choose to take the severance offered (less than a year's pay, and taxable, of course), and leave active payroll within three weeks.

This 74-day period was one of the most intense in my life. Getting the updated resume done did take some time - maybe a week or ten days, with the help of friends reviewing it. I'd had so many responsibilities in the "Head Research Librarian" position, that could be applied in so many different ways, that crafting the resume, especially so that it could make sense within the restricted structure of the company's online candidate profile system, was quite a challenge.

One thing I decided to do, in applying for positions, was not pay much attention to the location. If the position fit my skills, or even some of my skills, I would apply. The job post platform the company used (Taleo) had a feature/bug where it added all of the locations on a given posting to your 'selected locations' profile anyway. That is: if you applied for a position that was posted as available in multiple cities/states in the country, all of those cities/states would get added to your profile. And removing them was laborious.

I tried doing manual searches of the job postings; but because over time the system was finding me such a high number of positions to review, I started relying on the list that the system presented to me.

Initially when I uploaded the resume, the system found me about 100 matches. I applied to maybe about 20. But as time went on, and the system kept on trying to give me suggestions based on my resume and my prior applications, on average it would present me with 600 new postings every couple of days. I made a point of getting through all of them, being sure to apply to anything that was going to be expiring, first. I would catch up on weekends, but I was applying to multiple positions every day. I was also working my internal network in the company, having informational interviews and getting my friends to send my resume around and get it in front of the hiring managers' eyeballs (the job postings were anonymous.)

In the end, I had applied for 508 positions within my company. About three weeks after the formal surplus notice, I started applying to external job postings too, and also working my external network of contacts. The estimate is I applied for about 200 external postings.

An interesting thing happened with the internal positions I had applied to: I got my first interview, after I had applied to about 100 positions. The interview came via my internal networking, combined with applying for internally-posted positions. Unfortunately, it was the first interview I had been on, in about 15 years. Despite a lot of preparation, I did not do very well.

But, this trend continued: about 200 positions applied to, I got another interview.

About 15 days after the surplus notice, a group of my internal clients presented me with reference letter, that they all signed (about 12 people).. Some of those who signed are world-famous engineers in their fields. I was very appreciative. I think that the person who spearheaded that effort expected me to apply for academic library positions. Instead, I attached that reference letter to any application for a position within the company that involved customer service.

The one-interview-per-hundred applications ratio continued, until I got past 400 internal applications. That seemed to be some kind of tipping point. By then, March was over, and I was staring at the off-payroll date, on the last friday in April.

I was in my office, working. It was a tuesday, in early April. I was preparing detailed instructions for someone, who was one of the five people I was in the midst of training, how to take on a responsibility I had, as the Head Research Librarian. I happened to have the company's Instant Messenger system running on my laptop.

Out of the blue, someone that I had never heard from before, started chatting with me. He said he wanted to interview me over the phone for a position I had applied for, Lead IT Client Consultant. I had absolutely no recollection of having applied for this position! I certainly did not want to admit to him that I did not recall it, and that was because I had already applied to more than 400 positions! :-) Because the company's job post platform is very cumbersome to search, I had no way to go grab the job description and start skimming it while he was chatting on the instant messenger! And, ironically, this was *not* one of the about 20 positions that I had figured out who the hiring manager was, via my personal network, and sent my resume directly to that person.

I somehow showed interest, while not being very sure which position it was. I scheduled the interview for later that afternoon, and we spoke on the phone then. In between, I had found the job post, read it, and done some research regarding the division in the company associated with it. This hiring manager was located in another state, and there was no expectation for an in-person interview.

The conversation stimulated my thoughts so much that I used the instant messenger system to continue chatting with him about it, and made some additional good points, I thought.

The next day, I received a phone call at the office from someone who was a member of his team. It was a follow-up "peer" interview. We talked for a while -- it turned out we had personal things in common-- and then we actually scheduled the "peer" interview for the following day. So, it was three conversations/interviews, but in my overall stats, I count it as "one."

I felt like my chances were good, for this position. The discussions with the manager and the peer had certainly convinced me that I could perform well in the position. And, he had no issues with it being performed as a telecommuter.

But, the following Monday, he contacted me and said he had selected someone else, who had prior experience in exactly the same role. It was really dissapointing. I did feel, at that point, that being tagged as a librarian was going to be unfortunate baggage.

Yet, he also said that his manager, a VP, had said he might open a headcount for a different sort of position, that the VP was interested in considering me for. He said the VP would contact me in about a week, after he had gotten the postion posted, so I could apply for it.

He did not give me his manager's name; but of course, looking it up in the company directory, by looking at the name of the person he reported to, was an easy thing to think of doing, for a librarian. :-)

The following week, I started gently prodding the VP for a status on the position he was supposed to be posting, via the instant messenger platform. He was very cordial to me; but, had no news. And in the end he did not get the position posted as quickly as first indicated (it was later filled in July.)

I continued applying for more positions, both internal and external. By this time, inteview offers were coming, too. And, I was continuing to train the five other people, and create guides on how to take on the work I had performed, over almost 14 years. The person who was going to get reference questions, going forward, was my former manager, the engineer. I tried to prepare him.

For the internal positions, the system did not lend itself well to customizing the online resume. You could select from a limited number of attachments, that could be stored online. So, I had to go for volume over precision. Instead, I got the process of applying down to the fewest clicks possible, and continued applying for any position, no matter the location, that I considered of interest.

When it was all over, I had applied to 508 internal positions, and received invitations for 9 interviews, that were held. Also, during the first few weeks of May I received three or four more interview invitations (that were not held because I had started the new position.) The stats were most interesting; not until 400 applications had been submitted, did the volume of interview requests increase. Other than the first one, the remaining eight interviews were held over the phone.

About ten days before my off-payroll date at the end of April, a group of people, including my former manager, held a celebration in my honor, in the evening in the building cafeteria. It was similar to a retirement party. Hundreds of people came; and, I appreciated it very much. Unfortunately I had no "good news" to announce.

The next day, I was in the Library, holding a meeting with a committee of people who would be taking on maintaining an internal database platform that I had managed. The phone at my desk, which was within earshot, started ringing. I did not get up to answer it. There was no message. Immediately after that meeting, There was a quarterely Lab-wide meeting in the auditorium. I attended it, especially as some of the 'strings' I was trying to 'pull' would have involved applying my data curation skills in a new position in the Lab. (Thought it seemed like a pipe-dream; but I had to be optimistic...)

After I came back from lunch, at least three hours after the mysterious phone call had come in, I somehow remembered the call had occured; and, I looked at my deskphone's call log. I did not recognize the number, but I called it back. It was my new manager's cellphone number.

He had actually sent me an email saying, "call me, I have something important to discuss," but I had not seen the email yet. He explained that the other person he had wanted to hire had decided not to change positions after all. So, he was offering the position to me, even with a small raise. I was happily flabberghasted.

This was on the 66th day. If I hadn't gotten the 'strong hint' two weeks in advance, I would not have made the "get hired before off-payroll date" deadline.

The formal name for the position is Lead IT Client Consultant. (Turn on your librarian search skills and parse that, for search terms! :-) )  Informally in the organization, and to my clients, I am known as their Client Executive. That may sound like a sales position, but it is not on commissioned salary. The position is heavy on customer service, is technical in nature, and the clients are external customers of the company (other corporations and government agencies.)

Future posts will analyze how Information Science can be applied, in so many job categories.

No comments:

Post a Comment