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Just Laid Off, Beginning First Ever Job Hunt and Looking for Advice


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Hey guys,

Just found out at the end of the day yesterday that my company is doing some organizational realignment and my position is being eliminated.  We had been going through several changes over the past few years but it was still a bit of a gut punch.  I just hit 20 years last year and this was my first job out of college.  It actually started with an internship and I received the offer before I graduated so I guess you could say even before I was out of college.  I never really had to engage in a full scale job hunt before.  I have questions both general and specific and just looking for some advice.

I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer and have been working at an industrial gas company that supplies nitrogen, oxygen, argon, etc to different types of companies.  Most recently I was an "Applications Engineer" that helped our existing customers improve their process or new prospects implement new  processes (with the help of our products and expertise).  Basically a problem solver / solutions provider.  Generically I would say it could be called something like Technical Sales.

My company offers outsourcing assistance through Right Management but looking at some reviews it looks like I shouldn't expect much help there.  I contacted them anyway and I'm awaiting a response and I'll hope for the best.

I've built up a LinkedIn profile with almost 800 contacts, I'm aware that recruiters use this but I'm not sure the best way to actively engage.  I changed my status to "actively applying" so not sure if I'll start showing up in searches or will get more notice / requests.  Any advice in moving from passive networking to active job seeking on LinkedIn?

Are there other resources I should be investigating for conducting my own search?

I don't know much about headhunters, recruiters, etc.  Would appreciate any advice on the best way to engage or suggestions for firms I should contact.

Although I enjoyed my job for the most part, it wasn't what I loved to do.  I don't know if I should take this as an opportunity to reevaluate my career and future plans.  I just turned 43 so I guess about the midpoint of what I planned for a career.  My kids are just 13 and 11 and won't be long before we're discussing college and how to pay for it.  But at least this didn't happen in the middle of paying those bills. 

We've kept a safety nest egg and also have some additional savings from planning on some home projects but they will be on hold until I know where I end up.  So if I'm ever going to make a career change or try something new, this is the time.  But hoping not to take too much of a hit to affect kids' college or retirement too much.  But maybe if I find something I love, I won't be looking forward to retirement as much and can put it off.

Sorry I'm all over the place, I guess I'm thinking through this as I'm typing too.  I'm a pretty positive guy so I'm trying to look at this as an opportunity but I also veer back to feeling some low self worth at times since my company was fine moving on from me.  Timing isn't too bad since we're getting into Spring and I have projects around the house that I'd like to do.  Was looking into hiring people but may give them a shot myself now since I'm going to have some time on my hands. 

I was worried about my wife but she's been very supportive and also looking on the bright side of this as an opportunity since she knows I wasn't completely happy in my job.  It also helps that she has a good job (a little better than mine) which takes some immediate pressure off.  Plus we all have our health so what more can you ask for?  We'll, I guess some advice, please let me know what you think.  TIA!

Edited by Lehigh98
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Don’t stress too much. Look at this as an opportunity. I was in your situation 10 years ago. Laid off and wasn’t really happy. Switched carriers to medical component sales and love it. MAke more money and way less stress. In this field engineers are always sought after. 

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Don't stress too much. After I got laid off 2 years ago I was freaking out a bit. But you'll find out that for a highly qualified person in your field, there's always work. Probably at better pay than what you were getting and with better conditions. 

Recruiters are both good and bad. Their job is to get you interviews and get you hired. So they will get you opportunities. They may not always be the best opportunities for you though. Just the most convenient for them. Just do your due diligence on a place and run it by another knowledgeable person to see if it matches what you're thinking before diving in. 

Good luck. It's going to be alright GB.

Edited by Insein
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That sucks, GB.  I got that Right Management when I was laid off 2 years ago and I'd say take advantage of it.  Not because it's good, but use everything at your disposal.  My personal opinion was they were crap.  But when you're looking for a job, a good rule of thumb is follow every lead.

I went on the job boards every day and sent out resumes to a lot of jobs, casting a wide net.  Don't look for the perfect job.  Apply to a lot.  You might not recognize the perfect job until you've worked there.

Also, network.  Now is the time to cash in favors and bug friends and family to see if anyone knows anyone who is hiring.  Good luck, GB.  I know it sucks.  Keep your head up.

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Getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I didn't realize it at the time and was very depressed/ stressed during the 6 months I was unemployed. I ended up at my dream job and shifting careers and been here 9 years so far. Can't imagine leaving. 

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3 minutes ago, Jobber said:

Almost everyone I’ve talked to is happier at their new post-layoff job. 

Yup.  It's like a break up.  You just have to get through that initial shock of being laid off and the irrational fear of never finding another job.  

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17 minutes ago, Lehigh98 said:

Although I enjoyed my job for the most part, it wasn't what I loved to do.  I don't know if I should take this as an opportunity to reevaluate my career and future plans.  I just turned 43 so I guess about the midpoint of what I planned for a career.  My kids are just 13 and 11 and won't be long before we're discussing college and how to pay for it.  But at least this didn't happen in the middle of paying those bills. 

You'd pretty much have to stay in engineering to make the money you were making, right?  

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8 minutes ago, shadyridr said:

Getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I didn't realize it at the time and was very depressed/ stressed during the 6 months I was unemployed. I ended up at my dream job and shifting careers and been here 9 years so far. Can't imagine leaving. 

This was me minus the depressed part. I too am doing what I love and if I ran into the gal who laid me off I’d thank her. 

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14 minutes ago, Juxtatarot said:

You'd pretty much have to stay in engineering to make the money you were making, right?  

That's the thing, I haven't really looked for a job since 1997, just getting started and not sure what I'm going to find out there.

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Get whatever interview experience & practice you can.

The last couple of times I found myself out of work, I would make it a point to apply for at least two positions each day.  One I was very interested in, and the other less so.  Sort of a numbers game.  Usually I was fortunate enough to start to get some phone interviews relatively quickly.  If they came from the positions I was less interested in, I would consider them practice for if I got interviews for some of the positions I was more interested in.  Since I had been out of the market for a while, this helped me quickly sharpen my interview skills.

Have searched with and without recruiters/headhunters.  Either way, helps to hone your interview skills especially if you have been out of the market for a while.

Good luck.

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31 minutes ago, TheIronSheik said:

Also, network.  Now is the time to cash in favors and bug friends and family to see if anyone knows anyone who is hiring.  Good luck, GB.  I know it sucks.  Keep your head up.

:goodposting:this is the best advice. Your chances of getting a job through a referral are much better than cold calling. Hit up all your family/friend/acquaintances, you'll find that the majority of people are more than happy to help.  

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What area are you in?

 LinkedIn is a good start, I’d imagine you will start getting contacts on there and I’d also look for jobs on there and start applying.  A lot of postings will be via recruiters so even if it’s not the right fit it will get you talking to them.  A lot of recruiters network too, so they may know other firms looking for a candid with your background 

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I'm sorry to hear that.

I've also been laid off twice in the last 10 years and I can echo what others have said - networking is the key.

You can certainly supplement networking with applying to jobs online and/or using headhunters, but there is a huge "hidden job market" that often isn't covered by online jobs and headhunters. The more you take the time to network, the greater the likelihood that one of those opportunities will present itself. 

Edited by zamboni
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You will be fine. The market for engineers is still hot, especially if you are willing to relocate.  May have to consider changing industries. 

When we had our layoffs last year, one guy took his time and really worked the networking - taking friends out to lunch and asking for insight in all of the local companies.  It seemed to work out, but it took 6 months or so to land a director-level job so...

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You'll be fine, unemployment is so low now company's are lowering their degree requirements (where possible) and increasing salaries just to keep up.

Use multiple headhunters and yes you'll get them contacting you now that your status is updated in Linkedin.  Pick the job that you believe is good fit not just one where the job is available.  It doesn't sound like you're working check to check so find a good fit.

When you interview, make sure you know exactly to who you would be reporting.  If you're not interviewing with that person, ask why.  You need that opportunity to "interview" their personality.  Ask yourself if this is someone you could work for.  A good question to gauge a manager's style is "How do you monitor progress for (the position), is it via weekly meetings, status reports, daily office interactions?".  Try to get an idea of what they think being productive.

Working 20 years at one company isn't a plus in the eyes of most employers.  You've got to sound like a change agent; meaning even though you worked at one company, you have to speak to your experience with organizational changes or even mergers/acquisitions if applicable.  Maybe you worked multiple big projects over the years or integrated new software to manage whatever.  Speak about the teams you've managed. They'll need to hear this - it can't sounds like you warmed a desk for 20 years.

And lastly, make your deals coming in. Don't accept the "at this position you'll be making (X< expected offer) but in (time frame) you'll be right where you want to be" -pitch.  Recruiters are paid to save the company money through negotiating down.  Don't take hiring bonuses designed to match your annual salary. e.g. you want 100k but they offer 90k with a 10k signing bonus.  A prospective company isn't going to know your current/former salary unless you tell them. Start asking 10% more than what you make now.

Ask me anything, I've been in this business of placing people for 20+ years.

Edited by Arizona Ron
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Also, go on the PA unemployment site and sign up now.  It's super easy and every two weeks you just have to log back in and click 3 or 4 boxes.  I was actually surprised with how easy PA's unemployment process was.  It's not much, but every little bit will help.

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1 minute ago, TheIronSheik said:

Also, go on the PA unemployment site and sign up now.  It's super easy and every two weeks you just have to log back in and click 3 or 4 boxes.  I was actually surprised with how easy PA's unemployment process was.  It's not much, but every little bit will help.

seconded!

My advice-  i was laid off 9 years ago..  took me 7 months, but landed a gig paying nearly double! (through networking).   Be patient..   Also- this is very important-  don't let the search consume you.  Send out a couple apps a day, maybe make a few phone calls, and then try to enjoy the free time you have been given.  I took my opportunity to hike just about every trail in my county.  Nature had a very calming stress reducing effect and, as a bonus, I got in shape.  Also got to catch up on reading some books that I never seemed to have time to read.   Good luck!

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Based on my own experiences as well as others I know, you should also manage your expectations during your job search - especially if it lingers a bit.

You'll probably get a lot of "you'll be fine" platitudes. People mean well and think that helps, but just don't know what else to say or do. 

Also, you may find that those who you expect to be of big help will fall short. By contrast, some people whom you barely know may turn out to be the key to the castle. 

You just never know - which is why managing expectations and staying positive will help immensely.

Edited by zamboni
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3 minutes ago, zamboni said:

Based on my own experiences as well as others I know, you should also manage your expectations during your job search - especially if it lingers a bit.

You'll probably get a lot of "you'll be fine" platitudes. People mean well and think that helps, but just don't know what else to say or do. 

Also, you may find that those who you expect to be of big help will fall short. By contrast, some people whom you barely know may turn out out to be the key to the castle. 

You just never know - which is why managing expectations and staying positive will help immensely.

Can't like this enough.  It's spot on.  

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Going to share my approach, which is a bit unconventional, but has worked well.  That said, I don't want to be responsible for ruining your life if it doesn't work, so do what others are saying too.  The only thing I'd add to their comments on more traditional job search techniques is that recruiters/headhunters who specialize in your industry will be WAY more useful than those who work across numerous industries.

I'm also going to say that since you don't seem to know what you'd enjoy more than what you've been doing, keep doing something that's an incremental change rather than starting over. 

Basically, my strategy has been:

Don't worry if a company is currently looking for someone with your qualifications.  If they are, it just means you're going to have more competition.

Avoid HR people at all costs.

Identify companies that could use your specific expertise.  I'm guessing that those will fall into a few buckets for you: companies doing something similar to what your old employer did, companies similar to your old employer's clients and start-ups in the same general industry.  [Note: Sort of obvious, but actual clients you worked with in the past should be at the top of your list]. 

Identify the role at each of those companies that you'd likely be reporting to.  That'll probably be some kind of department head.  Never reach out to anyone below that level, but don't be shy about reaching out to people above that level...especially at smaller companies.

Invite anyone who fits the bill to connect on LinkedIn.  I'm usually a bit lazy about it and don't customize the message included with the invite, but still get around 50% acceptances in my industry. 

Once someone accepts my invitation, I send them a private message on LinkedIn...First paragraph I thank them for accepting my invitation and sometimes will mention a connection or someone we know in common (but usually not).  Second paragraph is 5-6 sentences explaining the parts of my background that they should care about.  Third paragraph is generally something very specific to show that I'm worth talking to - could be a question about their plans/business that shows insight into what they do, could be something unusual that we have in common, etc.  Last paragraph I let them know that I'd love to talk if they have time, to learn more about their business, to share anything useful I know from my experience in the industry and to explore whether there's anything I might be able to help them with in the future.

The key to the message (and the conversation) is that I'm doing this with businesses where my knowledge and opinions are valuable - they're going to get as much out of the conversation as I am.  When we talk, I ask good questions, I don't hold back on giving them useful insight and I don't have an agenda for the conversation.  In the back of my mind, my goal is usually to generate interest in part-time/temporary consulting work, but I usually don't bring that up unless they ask. 

 

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Good luck, GB.

One piece of advice to offer is don't "settle", neither on the job nor the salary.  Play hardball if need be and get yourself every penny you can.  This may be the last time you negotiate your salary.  Don't be "nice". 

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5 minutes ago, zoobird said:

Going to share my approach, which is a bit unconventional, but has worked well.  That said, I don't want to be responsible for ruining your life if it doesn't work, so do what others are saying too.  The only thing I'd add to their comments on more traditional job search techniques is that recruiters/headhunters who specialize in your industry will be WAY more useful than those who work across numerous industries.

I'm also going to say that since you don't seem to know what you'd enjoy more than what you've been doing, keep doing something that's an incremental change rather than starting over. 

Basically, my strategy has been:

Don't worry if a company is currently looking for someone with your qualifications.  If they are, it just means you're going to have more competition.

Avoid HR people at all costs.

Identify companies that could use your specific expertise.  I'm guessing that those will fall into a few buckets for you: companies doing something similar to what your old employer did, companies similar to your old employer's clients and start-ups in the same general industry.  [Note: Sort of obvious, but actual clients you worked with in the past should be at the top of your list]. 

Identify the role at each of those companies that you'd likely be reporting to.  That'll probably be some kind of department head.  Never reach out to anyone below that level, but don't be shy about reaching out to people above that level...especially at smaller companies.

Invite anyone who fits the bill to connect on LinkedIn.  I'm usually a bit lazy about it and don't customize the message included with the invite, but still get around 50% acceptances in my industry. 

Once someone accepts my invitation, I send them a private message on LinkedIn...First paragraph I thank them for accepting my invitation and sometimes will mention a connection or someone we know in common (but usually not).  Second paragraph is 5-6 sentences explaining the parts of my background that they should care about.  Third paragraph is generally something very specific to show that I'm worth talking to - could be a question about their plans/business that shows insight into what they do, could be something unusual that we have in common, etc.  Last paragraph I let them know that I'd love to talk if they have time, to learn more about their business, to share anything useful I know from my experience in the industry and to explore whether there's anything I might be able to help them with in the future.

The key to the message (and the conversation) is that I'm doing this with businesses where my knowledge and opinions are valuable - they're going to get as much out of the conversation as I am.  When we talk, I ask good questions, I don't hold back on giving them useful insight and I don't have an agenda for the conversation.  In the back of my mind, my goal is usually to generate interest in part-time/temporary consulting work, but I usually don't bring that up unless they ask. 

 

Horrible advice and a colossal waste of time. 

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3 minutes ago, Arizona Ron said:

Horrible advice and a colossal waste of time. 

Why is that?  The idea of the approach is that (especially for someone with strong experience, but a background that doesn't fit neatly into typical job descriptions) it gets you into situations where you're not competing with anyone for a job.  If the person you speak with likes you, they simply hire you when they need help in the areas you excel in.  Success certainly may vary depending on industry, experience and other personal characteristics, but it's worked well for me...my current full-time job was from someone I contacted this way and it's led to 10-12 consulting clients either as side jobs or to fill in the time between full-time roles.

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Good Luck. Plenty of good advice in this thread. Two things - I'll add

- get somebody in your field to look at your resume.  Look at the job postings and make sure your resume contains enough keywords to be picked up by search engine for a certain job. Sometimes you can forget to list a tool or soft skill that you have used.

-Remember that HR moves at glacial speed. When they say they're in a hurry to fill a position that means they'll speed up to a crawl.

 

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3 minutes ago, JaxBill said:

Good Luck. Plenty of good advice in this thread. Two things - I'll add

- get somebody in your field to look at your resume.  Look at the job postings and make sure your resume contains enough keywords to be picked up by search engine for a certain job. Sometimes you can forget to list a tool or soft skill that you have used.

-Remember that HR moves at glacial speed. When they say they're in a hurry to fill a position that means they'll speed up to a crawl.

 

I got a call in mid August last year about a position that they were looking to fill ASAP.  They had me do a phone interview the day I submitted my resume.  A week later, I emailed them back and they said they were still trying to get everything together.  I ended up getting a call from a different company and took that job.  Completely forgot about the other one and then end of January I got an email from them saying they were about ready to start the face to face interviewing process.  :lol:

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Good stuff in here already.  The only thing I would add for someone like you that hasn't gone through this before is to just try and get some interviews early on.  You haven't used that skill in a long time (ever?), so you'll need to sharpen it.  A recruiter contacts you for something below your pay grade?  Take the interview.  Something slightly outside your area of expertise?  Take the interview.  Just burn through several with the expectation that you'll make some mistakes but more importantly get better at it.  That way when you do get to the point that you're talking to the right person about the right job, you're ready.

Only other thing I'd add is that if you've been in the same place for that long, you're probably being underpaid relative to the "open market". 

Good luck, and focus on this as a great opportunity.

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headhunters use specific words on LinkedIn to search for candidates.  If there are key technologies you are an expert at include those in your LinkedIn summary.

Also, of all the job websites, Indeed is the best on the West Coast for technical professional jobs.

References - ideally you want your references to be whom you were reporting to and up

 

The way the market is for technology professionals, I'd suspect you'll have zero problems finding a very good paying job.   Particularly at your age, you are a very sought after demographic.  40 means mature and professional to many hiring managers.

Sounds like you may not be open to relocation, but markets like San Francisco and Seattle are begging for persons with your skillset and they are relatively open to remote workers/working from home.   Don't narrow your search to just your city.

 

Edited by TripItUp
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Where are you located?  I know we are looking for structural/civil but could dig and find out about the mechanical side.

We are mostly in the southeast but have a philly office.

Eta: link to mechanical openings

https://careers-hargrove-epc.icims.com/jobs/search?ss=1&searchCategory=25721

More than willing to give my name (not much pull though) and we could come up with something other than "internet guy" as a ref.

Edited by SpurrierisisGod
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How is the job market for mechanical engineers in your area?  In a two income family it is almost impossible to relocate.

sign up for unemployment asap.  You won't be eligible for benefits until you run out of your severance, but you need to get in the system to begin your "waiting week".

Just a heads up, almost every employer will have you create an account to put your resume online.  You will likely do this to jobs you feel you fit perfectly, and hear nothing back.  Huge waste of time and discouraging.

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8 hours ago, SpurrierisisGod said:

Where are you located?  I know we are looking for structural/civil but could dig and find out about the mechanical side.

We are mostly in the southeast but have a philly office.

Eta: link to mechanical openings

https://careers-hargrove-epc.icims.com/jobs/search?ss=1&searchCategory=25721

More than willing to give my name (not much pull though) and we could come up with something other than "internet guy" as a ref.

I tried to send OP a PM about pretty much the same as the guy above.  Op inbox is full, pm me and I will send you company info.  

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One other thing, if the job search starts to take longer than you had hoped, it can start to get to you.  It's very easy to get depressed in this situation.  But don't let it overcome you.  As others have said, you will get through this.  Maybe not as quickly as you hope, but you will.  And everything will work out in the end.  Just remember it's normal to feel that depression.  And it's not always easy to explain to other people why you're feeling that depression.  So if you need someone to vent to or to help you remember that everything will be alright, shoot me a PM.  I've been laid off 6 times in my life.  So I know how it feels.  And I know that sometimes you just need someone to talk to.  Even if it's just to take your mind off the job hunting for a while.  

Good luck, GB.  We're here for you if you need us. :thumbup:

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2 minutes ago, Brony said:

In my state, you qualified for unemployment right away, not when severance ends. 

So when I got laid off, I thought I wouldn't get Unemployment Benefits until my severance was gone.  I waited a couple weeks and then when I read the site closer, I'm pretty sure (and this is in PA, where Lehigh is) it said I didn't have to wait.  I ended up applying and I got my first check while I still was under the severance time frame.  Now, maybe I just cheated the system, but I think I was allowed to apply right away.  The wording was very strange, though.  Don't remember exactly what it said, but I would read it and think, "No, I can apply."  Then read it again and think, "Wait.  No I can't."  Even my wife flip flopped a couple times on what she thought.  

In the end, I went with the thought it was allowed.  So, I'm 89.86% sure you can apply right away.

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Thanks for all the replies and advice so far!  The personal experiences of ending up in a better job have me feeling a little more optimistic. I also just did some housekeeping and deleted some PM's for anyone who was trying to send me a message.

Answers to a couple of questions:

I'm located near Allentown, PA about an hour or so north of Philly.  My wife has a good job at the same company for the same length of time and all of our medical coverage, etc is on her plan.  (We had the option to put in my or her name and its in hers)  Fortunately no impact to me for coverage when I'm done.  But between this and some parents going through some medical issues, relocation probably doesn't make sense for us at this point.

I was given 30 day notice on Tuesday so my last day will be 5/14.  I'm finishing up some things and transitioning some projects (I don't want to leave my customers and coworkers hanging) but they generally also view this time as a courtesy to get your personal stuff settled and start lining up your next job.  So I'm starting to look but going to keep working and collecting that paycheck until next month.

Even though I worked at one company for 20 years, its a big company so I was able to experience some different areas / markets / positions.  My time was split between a couple of different production areas and I had roles from design engineering, plant quality management, sales, applications / technical sales based on what I learned about the business and my interests.  I almost left the company early when I was stuck at a desk all day in a design role.  I started to get out and work with customers and enjoyed it and have stayed in customer facing roles since.  I'm told I'm much more of a people person than what you'd expect from a typical engineer.  "I deal with the ### #### customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?" 

My initial thought if I stay in the same general type of role is to try to continue that with a different company / product.  Maybe technical sales with an equipment company, possibly in a field related to those I've worked with lately (chemicals, rubber and plastics, pharma, hemp / CBD is growing like crazy, etc), or possibly in something different (medical component sales?) if a company is willing to take someone with experience but little to no initial knowledge about their product. 

I'd like to update and polish my resume and LinkedIn page before I start contacting people or submitting my info for jobs.  I haven''t heard back from Right Management yet.  I think my alma mater offered some alumni career support but looks like some videos / webinars and then they refer you to a paid career coach type.  Any suggestions for a person or service that you'd recommend for this type of help?

Again, thanks so much for all your help and support guys!

Edited by Lehigh98
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19 hours ago, zamboni said:

Also, you may find that those who you expect to be of big help will fall short. By contrast, some people whom you barely know may turn out to be the key to the castle.

A thousand times this.

During my last job search, just over a year ago, I cast a wide net on Linked In. Lots of ex-colleagues on there, so I sent out loads of invites. Even to people I didn't know very well ... even some I just met once or twice.

Anyway. The lynchpin leads turned out to be:

1) A woman I had seen around my old office for years, but only worked with for about two months shortly before she moved on, and

2) A guy who was friends with a few of my coworkers. He had stopped by once (I shared an office) and needed some help with something in Excel. It was a quick fix for me, and something easy to forget. The kind of thing 'Excel jockeys' do all the time. :D

Well, the lady in #1 suggested that I apply to a company with whom she had dealt with in the past. While they weren't looking for anyone formally ... they had someone who had put in their two weeks. They hired me on, and I'm still here today -- made a year last week.

Meanwhile, the guy in #2 accepted my Linked In invitation and offered to write me a recommendation. Turns out my old work buddies had talked me up a good bit, and the guy said he had a positive impression of my work.

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