Thursday, June 4, 2009

Job Market Update - My Life and Finances Held Hostage Day 112

On the 13th of June I will have been out of work for 125 days (four months). Not for a lack of trying to find work, but due to the panic setting in during the first quarter of 2009. I have 23 recruiters "working for me". I go to networking meetings. I have helped staff people for friends with consulting companies but nothing back to me yet. I've paid it forward. I've paid it backwards. My resume is posted on Dice, Careerbuilder, Monster, Indeed, Biospace, Resume Reserve and several other places. I respond to about 130 RPFs a day for program management talent worldwide. Most days, I work 21 hours at trying to find more work. My intention of this blog entry is to give you fully employed an idea of my experience.

Why the layoff?
Good question. I was told by HR and the VP I reported to that WellPoint (parent company of Blue Cross and others) did a 10% cut of all employees regardless of benefit to the organization. That was the first mistake. As a Director at WellPoint, I can tell you that they need me more than ever in trying to balance their project, program and portfolio management lack of experience and talent. Furthermore, the talent acquisition team at WLP is understaffed as well. Many companies still don't understand the direct corrolation of project and portfolio management to their bottom line. General Motors (also known as Government Motors) is a great example. It took GM seven years to bring new models to the market, even while using the same frame and manufacturing process. Compare that to Kawasaki who brought new concepts to the market in seven MONTHS. Huh, wonder why GM had so many problems? WellPoint is a great example of what is wrong with American companies. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and many in "power" are politicians versus what they did to get those positions.

Lost in the GM bankruptcy coverage, the press release from Ford Motor Company that they will INCREASE production by 10% immediately. Somebody is thinking over there.

The layoff really could have been solved with better leadership. I really see that now. American corporate culture is suffering for a lack of leadership, innovation and ethical management. I encourage you to read Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell and America's Corporate Brain Drain by Babs Ryan.

News - Down and out on cable television
Everything on TV is negative. The good that is out there isn't being reported. Unfortunately, this media coverage is killing the positive vibe that is living "on the street". Radio news seems to be slightly better but the lessons I learned in Journalism class at Missouri are not being applied.

Politics -
I am not a politician. I'm a project manager who completes projects and perhaps I'm a bit of a boy scout. I believe in working together and team work. I believe in hiring the right person regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, height, weight and most importantly - hair line. You can either do the job or you cannot. In my opinion, a better solution for WellPoint would have been to not pay out bonuses and freeze or reduce pay in 2009 by 5 -15%. Then you wouldn't have to cut people loose in a poor economy. I'm a boy scout I guess. A boy scout who should have turned down the opportunity at WLP and stayed in "hell" which is daily life at Allstate.

Competition - A buyers market for talent
The competition in the job market right now is tougher than any World Championship triathlon I've ever been in. EVERY person out of work seems to have an MBA, PMP, PgMP and great experience. Thankfully, I have an ITIL certification and teach the prep for the PMP. I really should just go pass the exam, but I don't like the way PMPs are just handed out. I may have to do it anyway. In one interview a week ago my competition was similar to my experience and undergraduate degrees in the room: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Texas (great IT program), Princeton and yours truly (Missouri). Motorola dumped too many people in the Chicago job market and did so quickly. I've waited in line to speak to recruiters for four hours at job fairs only to get two minutes with the recruiter. Every other person there seemed to be a former Motorola employee.

Timelines -
For the first six weeks I received no contact or communication from anyone - recruiters, companies. It was a very scary time. March perked up significantly. I started getting calls from out of state. Namely Disney and Apple, very cool start. I lost out on the roles I was interviewing for but there are CLEARLY companies out there "looking to steal talent that were RIF'd for no good reason other than fear". Great companies are looking to grow. GREAT companies look at hard times as the opportunity to leap forward and make sweeping changes. Regretibly, these are not the majority of companies.

It is becoming apparent that American companies are now in a panic as they fall behind their 2009 plans and revised plans. They RIF'd too many people, or worse, they kept the wrong people and projects aren't getting completed. The problems at Disney are in the organization's view of tackling projects. It is downright scary what they could do if they made some simple changes, but I wasn't the "right guy" for the VP who was more concerned about maintenance versus growth. Even our government doesn't want to wait for 5 to 21 days for me to get top secret clearance (not a problem by the way) though I am clearly the right guy for several projects.

Money -
We're OK, but not great. I got a severance package and my aforementioned bonus. Those plus unemployment and Lorrie and I are still eating. We are also eating into our savings. We are still about three months from me working as a greeter at your local WalMart, but we aren't going to movies, casinos, out to eat, and most importantly - racing until I get work. I just cannot justify $125 for a race fee and then "other" stuff a race would require - hotel, etc. So my racing is on terminal hold until I get work.

Things we were ready to buy in March and April have been deferred until I get work. We need a new TV. We need to do some home improvements. I need new cycling shoes and several other items for racing. All on hold.

Where do we go from here?
a) From here, we continue to talk to anyone. Fog a mirror complex. If you can fog a mirror I will send you my resume.

b) Start my own work. I have two projects started 1) a book about Kona which has been in the works for a few years. I am working with the State of Hawaii on getting me there for free to work on it 2) my coaching business. The website is under development and my athletes remain my best advertisement.

Better times are close at hand. Henry Ford's quotes,

"Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward."

"I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done."


  1. Better times have to be around the corner. Stay positive!

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  3. Actually, I was just talking to the DoD and someone on the "inside". The current wait time for TS clearance is between 4 and 17 days as "nobody is applying because a lot of work is on hold". I'm not sure where you are getting your information but it seems dated.

    I'm not "slamming" former employers, only discussing openly what I've seen. These were the same discussions we had when I was there and I said these things to their face when we did 180 feedback and peer review. Unlike you Anonymous, I have the guts to tell someone my opinion to their face. Those people appreciate the honest feedback and give me feedback as well in the same open and blunt manner. Contrary to what you think I wrote, I am quite close with my former bosses. After all, we are all human and everyone has something to work on.

    Regarding the PMP, when PMI verifies the experience of all applicants is when I will sit for the exam. One of the guys who reported to me (not a project manager and had NO PM experience) falsified his credentials, took and passed the exam. He is a PMP now and thus watering down the value of an experienced project manager.

  4. Dear Anon.,

    Did you actually read the blog? I'm not seeing where you are getting your info. Reading and listening are skills - I think you are confusing me with others.