Three steps to follow when job hunting

further steps that will help you handle what lies ahead to bridge the gap between being unemployed and finding your next job

If you're a project manager, but not managing any jobs, you should ask yourself if this could be because your company doesn't have any new jobs in the field or for the near term, and if your company's demise could be on the near horizon along with the end of your job.

These current times in the construction industry and most all other industries are times that almost none of us under the age of 80 have seen before. If you still have a job, if your company is somehow surviving and managing to cover your check, if your base salary has been cut only once by now, then consider yourself lucky.

That said, you need to change your mindset from one of cautious optimism to one of pessimistic realism for what we are facing in the near future. Even if your lifeboat is a full-time job at the moment, don't assume that it won't sink in the near future, and if you are able grab a life preserver when your boat sinks, consider yourself lucky.

Whatever your job situation is, you need to create a plan to find your next job. In my column last month, I gave some commonsense perspective and advice on what you might want to do when you find yourself unemployed. Now, I'm suggesting further steps that will help you handle what lies ahead to bridge the gap between being unemployed and finding your next job.

Follow the money

With the current flow of stimulus money some months in the pipeline, things are beginning to slowly work their way into the system. Yes, I know most of the money has gone for infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges and such, but bits and pieces have been shaved off for projects that involve green energy retrofitted buildings. Within your local market, you need to locate where the federal stimulus money has actually gone, which is where you might find a temporary project management, estimating, accounting or even a superintendent's position. Some people might not want to take a temporary job, but, right now, work is work.

There is a nice bubble of estimating and project management jobs for major infrastructure projects, and, yes, I know, as you do, that you're hired for jobs based on your track record. It's unlikely, if not silly, to think that as an HVAC or plumbing project manager you'd even be considered for a lateral position in the heavy general contracting construction fields, but who knows, they might need someone like yourself as an MEP consultant or such.

Right now, there is a handful of regular mechanical project management and estimating jobs, but most of them are located far away from where you live, involving relocation, which may or may not be paid. I see these type of jobs listed on job boards every day. Even if you never considered relocating before, maybe it's time to do some serious soul searching and consider what the thousands did during The Great Depression. Packing up and heading to a different area for a job may be better than having no job at all. Plus, relocating may turn out to be the best thing you ever did.

Your resume and pitch

To have a chance at scoring a job interview, you'll need to consider reworking your resume to make it stand out among the hundreds of resumes that are received for available positions.

First of all, within logical boundaries, stuff your resume with every possible relevant key word you can think of. Find out what keywords to use by looking at the similar resumes of others who are competing against you. You can view resumes of your competitors who have posted their resumes online for all to see. Always be honest, don't fib or exaggerate, and list every piece of project management, estimating, scheduling and similar software you've ever work with on your resume.

It is also important not to age identify yourself by listing all past employers — do not go back 30 or more years and list your first apprentice job or the first job you had as a teenager. The hard truth is that overt and covert age discrimination is real. The fact that you're over 40- or 50-years-old will unfortunately get your resume tossed many times without further consideration even if you are a perfect fit for the job. Generally, a resume should list the past 10 to 15 years of your career experiences in chronological order.

Next, develop what I call your 15 second elevator pitch. This is when you use 25 to 30 or so carefully chosen words to tell the interviewer who you are, what you do and what makes you different from the other candidates. This should be your opening spiel for most interviews, and you should always have it ready just in case you strike up a casual conversation with someone, say in an elevator, for whom it would be appropriate to make this pitch to.

From this elevator pitch, create a slightly longer pitch that gives a succinct synopsis of your background, using those relevant keywords that will get an employer's attention, followed by the highlights of your career and your education, professional credentials, certifications and memberships. Make sure to end the interview with a simple closing statement that includes your future career goals.

You also need to be realistic, regarding how long it may take to find a job. Remember there are thousands of people, like you, looking for work.

Also, expect to spend at least one month unemployed, before your next peer-level job comes along, for every $10,000 of you previous base salary. For example, if you made $80,000 a year before being laid off, expect to spend, no matter how hard you work at finding your next position, eight months treading water before your next job comes along.

Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may contact him via e-mail at [email protected].