This past Sunday night, I sent out a tweet that you may have seen in Will’s Panic Room blog Monday morning:
That’s me, rocking some joggers and watching Wedding Crashers attempting to combat new job Scaries. I was on the road in a hotel, about to meet with a client DAY ONE of my new job. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. How the hell did I end up there?
In late July-ish, I had (probably drunkenly) asked my college girlfriend, Mia, if she wanted to come to Pearl Jam at Fenway with me in early August. Pearl Jam was kind of our thing, and using each other to fill some kind of emotional void is also kind of our thing. Putting me and her in front of Eddie Vedder, all sauced up on wine, would be enough fodder to put a therapist’s kids through private school. But it’s also the kind of situation that gets my juices flowing. As it happens, Mia called me just as I was telling Crazy Upstairs Neighbor where I was planning on moving. The conversation went something like this:
“Max, I’m definitely coming in for Pearl Jam.”
“Amazing! You’re cool staying with me?”
“Yeah, of course. Hey listen, I heard through people that you’re moving?!” Mia already knew that I wanted to move, I just don’t think she thought I was actually going to do it. “Have you decided where yet?!”
“Yep! Chicago!” Mia lives in Chicago.
“Wait, Max, really?”
“Mhm, moving to be with you,” I like making Mia uncomfortable.
“Max you know that you can’t just –“
I cut her off. “I’m kidding, Mia. I’m not sure yet; there are only so many places that have my niche kind of consulting. Maybe New York, or DC, or maybe London. Or I could just switch up industries altogether. I could go be a show-runner in LA or a millennial blogger in Austin. It’s not the quarry but the chase, not the trophy but the race; I’ll ride the wave where it takes me.”
Probably not the answer Mia was looking for.
But it’s true. I was working in a certain type of pharma consulting that is pretty niche, and not something I could just find in any city. I also entertained switching industries; however, I decided to start my search at places that at least vaguely resembled something I’d have a resume that looked good for. I figured, why throw away three plus years of experience in one industry just to start on the ground floor in another. If I was going to hot route away from consulting, it’d have to be a pretty sweet deal (think full-time blogger or recurring guest on an above-average sitcom).
I dragged my feet until maybe mid-September and then finally sent out a few job apps, and by mid-October, I was having initial phone screens with the majority of the consulting companies I’d applied to. Going through the job hunt process was a valuable reminder of some key lessons for a dude trying to do business.
Like I said, it took a handful of weeks for companies to even reach out after I sent in my applications for jobs I was very qualified to do. There’s so much shit on everyone’s plate that even Steve Jobs’ resume might have gotten lost in some two-bit tech company’s pile of job apps. If you’re thinking of getting a new job, you should have fired out some applications yesterday.
Make Connections Wherever You Can
I got an email from a former colleague, Steve, right when I was beginning to hear back from the companies I had applied to. Steve used to be a top dog in one of my company’s west coast offices before he left to pursue another opportunity, and I first met him more than two years ago at my office’s summer outing. He was inquiring if I was interested in pursuing any new opportunities. Pretty snazzy timing, huh?
The thing is, Steve barely knew me or my work capabilities. But what he did know about me might be the shit that matters the most: how I interact with people. When he came into Boston for the company summer outing, we were assigned to the same scavenger hunt team, hit it off, and closed the night down at a bar crushing shots and talking about life. He gave me his business card (score!) and he became an instant connection. A top dog at the company said directly to me that he liked me energy and my passion for life and that it’d take me places. And now here he was reaching out to see where I was at in my career.
Just Take The Call
When Steve emailed me to set up a call, of course, the first thing I did was go read up on his new company. I was kind of disappointed; it did not look like something I was looking for, or even a place where I’d be able to contribute. My skills did not align with their needs. I could have just as easily said thanks but no thanks and went on pursuing the jobs I had already applied to. But I said “fuck it, what’s a 20-minute call?”
We chatted about our lives, just a couple acquaintances catching up, and then he went into a little more about the company, what they do, where they’re going, and where I could fit in. Turns out, there may have been a role for me all along; my skills converting nicely to a new kind of pharma consulting service. Still, though, I was skeptical. It’s a small world I was working in, and I’d never heard of these guys before. Maybe they’re floundering? Maybe, like any smart NFL player, they needed a fall guy?
Steve wanted to know if I could schedule another call with someone who’d be in charge of the team I would be joining. “Fuck it, what’s another 20-minute call?”
Have An Open Mind
Steve’s new company – while not exactly the consulting I had experience doing – was still in the pharma realm, so I wouldn’t be completely starting from scratch. The company culture seemed like it was more of that kind of start-up west coast vibe, so I decided to speak with some more people at the company. One big reservation: they were based on the west coast, and I really hadn’t entertained the idea of a major move across the country. “Just see where it goes,” a buddy suggested.
I also wasn’t exactly sure what they were looking for, but it didn’t seem like I’d be providing much value for their company needs. I was really experienced in one area, and they were heavily involved in another. I began to dismiss the idea of making the transition away from the consulting that I had been doing.
I expressed my concern to a friend. He said, “you know a ton specifically about what you do day to day, but through your consulting experience you’ve also built a set of transferable skills you can use in other jobs. Could you apply those same skills to the role being described to you?”
“Potentially,” I thought.
Keep The Dialogue Open
I continued to talk to a handful of the people at this company who I would possibly be working with, all while pursuing the opportunities at the jobs I had actually applied to. All the while, a few of those were gaining some steam, moving closer to an actual in-person interview. And while Steve’s company was definitely interesting, after I’d spoken with a few people to get a sense of the company, the culture, how I might be able to apply my skills to their needs, we kind of lost touch. For several weeks actually.
I had an interview planned at a company I was decently interested in, for a role I knew I could excel at, in a city I wanted to move to (and no, it’s not Cincinnati, Scherbatsky). I had pretty much forgotten about Steve’s company at this point.
And then I got a call from Steve’s company in mid-November mere days before my final interview at this other place. I figured they may have wanted to fly me out west for a formal interview soon. I didn’t know what I’d say, considering I’d already had an interview on the books for a job I thought I would get in the city I wanted.
I almost considered not going through with the next call with the guy from Steve’s company – I thought, “maybe I’ll email them and say thanks but no thanks.” But then I thought, “fuck it, what’s a 20-minute call, better hash it out over the phone, anyway.” I picked up the phone, and before I knew it, I was getting a job offer. A pretty fucking good one. “Welp, guess I’m moving to the west coast,” I thought. “Or maybe I could use this offer and leverage the company I have that interview with.” The wheels were spinning, and I was trying to scheme like Pinky and the Brain.
But as the call wore on, it dawned on me: they were going to have me work REMOTE! Every city on my list was back in play. And that got me jazzed up: a chance to work remote and alongside Steve, maybe fly out to the west coast once and a while, and flex my business muscles in a slightly different way, building new skills and making new connections. It was decided: I’d be joining Steve’s company.
So what the hell was I going to do about the interview I’d already lined up at the other consulting company?
Take The Meeting
I still went, even though I verbally committed to Steve’s company. I schlepped to another city to take an interview for a job I didn’t think I would take. Why? Well, I thought, why not continue to meet people in the industry and make connections? They didn’t “wow’ me with their office and culture, so I’m glad I had Steve’s company’s offer. But I still have no regrets on taking that interview.
This past Monday, after fighting the new job Sunday Scaries, I met up with my new team at a client site. Afterward, I went back to Boston. As I write this, it’s Thursday night and I just finished up a day of working from home (parents’ house). Now I’m sitting here taking a break from looking for a place to live in the city I plan on moving to soon..