Another job-seeking advice thread...

This is an off-shoot to this thread, which has some good advice in it but my situation is different enough that maybe someone can give me more specific advice: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=545330

Here is my situation:

I graduated with my undergraduate in Mathematics in December 2004, moved back to my hometown of Southeast Missouri, and then did a couple temporary jobs until I got my current job in June of 2005. Since my company pays 75% for taking college courses, I have also been taking courses to get my MBA while I’ve been there. However, as of a couple months ago, the company is moving to Paducah, KY, and combining their two offices. This means that they won’t be needing everyone, so they are laying off some of us, including me.

This came as a surprise to me, since I’ve never had any complaints about my work or anything, so I can only assume it is actually just the fact that there aren’t enough positions available and not because I am bad at my job or anything. Anyway, they tell me that I will be laid off sometime from the end of January to the beginning of March, but nothing specific (and that this date could change, depending). When I am laid off, I will be getting a severance, plus I’ll get the extra 25% for my classes, so I’m not really complaining that much (also, since I am graduating in May, they will have paid for my entire Master’s degree).

However, I have been searching for a job ever since I’ve heard the news, and I’ve applied for a lot of positions, and I have not gotten so much as a call for an interview, only “we are looking in a different direction” e-mails. This MIGHT have something to do with the fact that I have been putting my availability as May 2010, since I don’t know when I’ll actually be laid off and it seemed like a good date (since I’ll be done with school then), but I can’t even be sure if that is the case. I can’t say immediately because I HAVE to stay at my current job until my severance kicks in (another of my co-workers got a different job and quit, and they wouldn’t give him his severance).

My current position is Crew Dispatcher for a River Company (basically entails working with the 2 other crew dispatchers to ensure our 25 boats are entirely crewed up, make sure those people get to the boats safely and on time, along with all the paperwork that goes along with that, etc.). One of the other crew dispatchers, a woman who is 15 years older than me and has had a lot of different types of jobs throughout the country tells me that this job is one of the toughest I will ever have and definitely prepares me for any job in the future, because of how busy it is (we have to deal with almost 500 boat employees). I have never taken any unplanned time off (sick days or whatever), only took vacation days above what I could roll over into next year, and I think I have some pretty good references (my immediate supervisor, my co-workers, plus pretty much all of the captains and other boat employees, who I have good relationships with). The company is also the River Division of a major company (AEP), so it’s not like it’s just some small outfit that no one has ever heard of – I actually have experience in a major company.

One main thing I can foresee is that this area is not too great for jobs. I have been looking for jobs on indeed.com, and have focused on the St. Louis area, but I have recently added the Nashville area to this. (I am single so I can move easily, and I am actually excited at the prospect of moving somewhere else). I’m certainly not only looking at River Industry positions (though I am not against that at all), and I’m actually looking at any job possibilities, including management trainee positions, and I’m not above entry-level stuff, as long as I would be able to afford the area I would want to move to. Perhaps one problem is that there are too many possibilities in mind, and I need to concentrate on something more specific?

Also, some interests (who knows, this may give some people some ideas for me): I know a lot (more than the average person) about movies and music. I like medieval history (I would actually like to someday try to get a upper-level degree in history or art history, but that doesn’t seem to be an option right now). I am proficient in certain aspects of computers (above general office-environment stuff, since I was a Computer Science major before I switched to Math and so have a basic understanding of programming and stuff). I also have minors in English and Physics, and I like to think of myself as a decent writer (not creative writing, but since my MBA classes involve analysis and writing, I think I can get by in a lot of situations).

So: any ideas for someone like me? Does anyone know of any other ways of searching for jobs, possible areas to move to (I am currently liking the possibility of moving to Nashville, but I don’t think I would move anywhere without having a job first), or job opportunities that are currently available for someone like me? Please ask me any questions that may help to focus the advice. Thank you in advance.

Focus on marketing your MBA degree. Your best bet by far is to get someone to hire you for that, possibly in conjunction with your experience. Talk to your school’s career placement folks in depth about what your options are, what they can do for you, etc. MBA programs market themselves on how well they place their graduates. They can help you a lot. As a single person able to relocate getting an MBA, you are in about as good a situation as the job search gets. The more open you are to relocation, the better your prospects are. Heck, non-US jobs (international assignments) may even be an option. Tons of places have rivers.

Pick up a copy of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” to help you focus in on options. This book is a classic on picking careers. Everyone should read it at least once. It’s alright to have an open mind, but by about March you should have a clear idea of what type of job you are looking for. Make deciding that your project.

Ideally, figure out a way to meet your living expenses from the time you get laid off to perhaps June when companies would typically start bringing their spring hires on board. Talk with your school about part-time employment, internships, etc.

Dream big and good luck!

Since I had assumed I would be staying with AEP in some shape or form after graduating, I had never taken advantage of any career services yet. Would they frown on me doing so only during my last semester?

Also: as far as living expenses from being laid off until June. Depending on when I actually get laid off, I am hoping my severance would cover that, and worst-case scenario my parents have told me I could move back in with them while looking (that is not the ideal situation, but I could live with it). But yes, I have thought about that and have been trying to save as much as I can since I’ve heard the news.

An international option would be great as well. I guess I always knew I should try to concentrate my focus on something specific, but I just don’t want to let something slip by me while looking in the wrong direction. I’ll try the book, which I heard a lot about while an undergraduate (and possibly did something with then in some class) but haven’t heard anything since then.

Also: so you recommend not worrying about looking for a full-time job until after I graduate?

No, your reasons for not working with them earlier make perfect sense. Just don’t put it off any longer. Seriously, call Monday :). Even if you were just a normal procrastinator, their job is to help graduates find jobs. As long as you take it seriously now, I expect they’ll be glad to help you.

It’s fine, even desirable, to go into the job search with an open mind, but by the time you go on interviews, you should have enough clarity to explain why you think a particular job is good for you. Do you want to manage people? Is international really an option for you–have you weighed the pros and cons? Would you really be comfortable in, say a NYC finance business after working in a very different environment? Is heavy travel–away from home all week every week–something you can live with? These are the kind of things you should reflect on and have clear answers about.

Also, once you have a sense of what you want to do, do serious research on what companies hire people to do that type of thing. Network with fellow MBA students who have worked/ currently work for those companies.

Also, I forgot another piece of advice I usually give. Take your current company. Make a list of their customers, vendors, competitors, and regulators. That’s a great starting point of potential future employers.

Network, network, network. I truly believe this is the most effective way to get an interview and ultimately a job. You can have a great resume, but without an in to the company you are interested in, it can be tough to even get a foot in the door these days.

Talk to your manager–see if he/she has suggestions for other employers in your area, or contacts at other companies that they would be willing to contact on your behalf.

Use whatever career services your school offers–that’s what they are there for.

Think about what your skills are how they are transferable to another industry. For example, could you transfer your skills to working for a trucking company or railroad or an outfit like Fedex or UPS?

Good luck.

You should start looking now, but realize that your best shot at new, professional jobs will probably be in May/ June. Companies make offers in the Spring semester for hires after it ends.