JRock3x8's Life Musings

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Job Search has Ended

DSC02444.jpg picture by JRock3x8

Picture : Celebration Dinner

For those of you who did not know, the company that I work for - LaSalle Bank Corp - had recently been acquired by Bank of America. Combine that with a "Strategic Business Review" that started last December and we've been fearing for our jobs for almost a year now. Living in fear or uncertainty is no way to go about your life and is certainly not the recipe for a productive corporate workplace.

In April of 2007 it was announced that LaSalle was being sold to Bank of America for $21B, and right from the outset, things didn't look good. Ken Lewis, CEO of BAC made some rather interesting comments in a local newspaper, basically saying that Central Admin, HR and Finance would be the first groups to ge the ax. I knew I had to get busy with my job search despite my boss' reassurances that BAC would do a thorough talent evaluation and would try to retain me. As flattered as I was by his comments, BAC's offices are in Charlotte, and I just came home to Chicago in 2005. I have no desire to leave.

I have only worked for two companies in my adult life, Kohl's and LaSalle Bank. And both of those were fairly brief courtships, if you will. I've never had to interview more than say three or four times to secure a job. This time would be different, and it really tested me. I interviewed with ArcelorMittal Steel for two different positions in May/June through a reference at church but was passed up for more industry-experienced candidates in both cases. I interviewed with BNP Paribas in what would have been a pretty big career change as a credit analyst in July. I made lists and submitted resumes to every company that I wanted to work for downtown. Things were going extremely slowly and I was becoming depressed.

Then in mid-July, I met up with the recruiter who would finally get me my job. Our first meeting did not go well. I was extremely impatient and unhappy as I met with five or six other recruiters before her and had not gotten a single interview out of any of them. She told me right then "I'm going to get you a job." I laughed at her and said "I hope yer right" but not believing it for one second.

But she did produce interviews, and quickly. She had me sit down with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago almost immediately after that. I interviewed with Hyatt Select and both companies said they really liked me. I started to feel better. And then a week went by, and then another, and finally the word came that they had moved on with other candidates. That hurt.

Weeks went by with no viable opportunities and no feedback from previous interviews. I redoubled my efforts, reaching back out to a few companies that I had interviewed with, looking for new opportunities. I set up a spreadsheet to track my own activity so that I would know when the last time was that I had worked on my job search, who I had spoken to and what we had spoken about. I was determined not to let this slide.

Then things started to pick up again. I got a call from General Growth Properties, one of my top choices of where to work. The interviewed me and I thought it went very well, but they are still conducting first round interviews they say and my interview was two months ago. Wow. A couple weeks later I got news from my recruiter that Pepsi finally had an opening they were willing to interview me for. Pepsi (Quaker Tropicana Gatorade (or QTG) division) was another one of my top choices for job placement. It was a series of six interviews, back to back, and it was honestly fairly grueling but I felt as good about those interviews as I had about any that I had so far.

The verdict from Pepsi came back - "overqualified". I was crushed. I told my recruiter I was a victim of circumstances - it wasn't my fault that I was right on the cusp of a manager-level position and yet not really there yet. It was like a straight jacket I couldn't get out of. I felt helpless - that was pretty much a low point. I was pretty sure I was going to have to open my job search to relocation to the NW Suburbs where the rest of the big corporate headquarters were, which would mean trading down considerably in my quality of house.

Then it happened. Pepsi called back and said they had another higher level position available. One interview for one hour, pass or fail, either you get it or you don't. Once again, the occasion did not pass without drama. The interview was a really big hit. I hit it off extremely well with the manager and you could tell that it was going to work extremely well. Then I almost screwed up the entire thing. Almost casually, we started talking after the interview about how things were at LaSalle and how painful things were due to the imminent layoff. Somehow, the conversation of severance and bonus came up and it ended up being interpreted that I wanted to stay at LaSalle to collect my severance. Again, I felt helpless. I didn't mean that - I didn't say I wanted to stay - I didn't even know when our end date was! In an act of desparation and at the request of my recruiter, I sent the head boss an email telling her that I felt this was all a misunderstanding and that my number one priority was to start work for them.

It worked. More importantly, I have a job to launch my career forward again at a company I am very excited about.

Looking back on the whole thing, I'm a little bit ashamed at how distressed I became along the journey. I feel like I should have been stronger in faith - to be able to continue living my life without constant headaches or the pain of rejection. I also wish that I wouldn't have been so inwardly focused - bad things tend to happen when we think only of ourselves all the time instead of focusing on serving others. But I never stopped praying, never stopped trying, never gave up and in the end He had a plan for me and got me there in time. Oh sure, it would have been great to collect the bonus and severance and then leave but that's just being greedy and I think the reward of peace of mind is well worth it.

Thanks to all my friends and family for the amazing support through all of this - I am privileged to have great people around me like all of you.