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12/09/2004: "a whole new path"

Somebody please stop the world, I'd like to get off for a while.

A week ago I was fully prepared to leave engineering behind me and pursue a career in auto sales full-time. Then my wife brought up some fears that if I did that, re-entering the engineering field would become extremely difficult. My first thought was, "Why would I re-enter the field?" Of course, the idea isn't preposterous - it's certainly less so than going into auto sales from engineering. So I decided to appease her and ask a few people their opinions.

Well, seems like the balance has fallen on her side. I simply figured that anyone looking at my resume a couple years down the line would see an engineer with a couple years of direct sales (and self-management) experience on top of my years of engineering experience, see an extremely well-rounded and determined individual, and think nothing of my departure from engineering. What seems to be the reality is that the more time I spend away from a field, the harder it will be to get back in. I think it's a load of horse hockey - the skills I have aren't going to be outdated by technological advances in the next 2, 5, or even 10 years. However, that's the reigning opinion, so I have to flow with that.

This means that I've been putting a lot more emphasis on my engineering job search than I was planning on last week. Of course, I haven't let off my drive to find employment in auto sales, either. I guess I'm playing a game of career chicken: which side is going to get me first? So far it's anyone's game.

As if that's not enough to think about, I had an appointment with an alumni career advisor at my alma mater yesterday. I originally got the appointment to ask the question my wife had raised, and that's it. As it turned out, that was only a very small subsection of the entire appointment.

First off, the counsellor agreed that if I abandoned engineering for any amount of time, it would be hard to get back in. However, if I maintained my contacts and kept current (through reading industry magazines and such) it could be much simpler to transition back.

After that, the session took on a life of its own. The next thing we did was go over my resume. I've had good things said about my resume before, so I wasn't overly worried, and in general she thought it pretty good. She gave me some additional pointers, and I think I now have a pretty solid resume - for engineering, that is. For automotive sales, I had pretty much nothing. She stepped me through a "modified chronological" resume, where you highlight specific skills pertinent to the position you're applying to, as opposed to simply listing work experience in reverse chronological order. I took a stab at it, and now have a resume I'm using to apply to dealerships. Hopefully I'll get some feedback on it, and be able to further improve it later.

The big thing we discussed was how to job search. I'm still wrapping my head around this one. Some brief stats: Workopolis is only 1% effective in finding people jobs. Recruiters are only 4% effective. Networking, on the other hand, is 86% effective. So now I have to start really networking.

Essentially, networking is getting people to meet you. For example, I could target a company I'd like to work at, and try and meet a person or people that could be in a position to hire me. Alternatively, I could simply ask for an "informational interview" to get meetings, as well as to gain insights into certain sub-fields that I could potentially direct my career towards. The whole key to this is to NOT ask for a job, and to avoid talking to Human Resources at all costs. HR doesn't know what I do, and they probably don't even know what the engineers they have actually do. Managers and engineers do, however. So now I have to start targeting companies - and engineers and engineering managers within those companies - and worming my way into their minds. Will someone hire me? Maybe not - but they'll likely know someone that could.

It's a very different, and very effort-intensive method. But hey, if it's 86 times more effective than submitting my resume to Workopolis, I'd say it's entirely worth it.

It doesn't help that I'm starting this just before Christmas. I somehow think I'm not going to be employed this holiday season. If I'm not, then hopefully the new year will be ripe with opportunity. I'm certainly going to work to make it so.

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