You Always Think It Only Happens to Others (Until It Happens To You)

If I haven’t blogged in awhile, that’s because I’ve been primarily focusing my energy on my job search.

But three months into my job search, I’m absolutely nowhere. I didn’t expect I’d find a new job within three months – though it would have been nice – but I did expect that I’d be getting somewhere by now. And the fact is, I’m not.

In the last three months I’ve reached out to almost everyone in my network in Hong Kong, and some people have been exceptionally helpful. I’ve had coffee with 15 or 20 headhunters, who always tell me the same thing – “Wow, your background is incredible. I’m sure you’ll find a great job. But I don’t have anything for you right now. Let’s stay in touch.”

That CEO I mentioned in a previous post who wondered why I wasn’t snatched up in ten seconds? If the recruiter is to be believed, 3 weeks after the interview he still hasn’t provided any feedback. (I assume it means he found someone younger and cheaper.)

Another recruiter approached me with a job description that was almost a perfect fit for me. I sent the recruiter back a point by point breakdown of why I was the only person for this job. Two weeks later the recruiter came back and said, “Oh, they decided now they want a Manager instead of a Director, someone more junior who will grow into the role.” I didn’t stop there. I found out via LinkedIn who the CIO of the company was and who the hiring manager was. I wrote directly to both of them. Neither one of them answered.

I’ve been very active on LinkedIn. I’ve added at least 200 new contacts. A couple of my posts in the newsfeed had 8,000 views each, decent engagement in terms of likes and comments, leading to almost triple the number of views of my profile.

I received a lot of very substantial feedback on both my CV and LinkedIn profile and made a lot of adjustments to both. Still one or two more bits to go, and a friend in marketing is helping me there.

Keep in mind that I’m still holding down a full time job while doing this search. The amount of time per day (or rather, per night and weekends) that I can devote to this isn’t quite as much as I’d like. And most people tell me that I’m doing everything right.

Let’s face it. From the time I started my IT career (at the ripe age of 36) up until about 8 years ago, I never had a problem getting a job. Even in 2010, when I was 56 years old, it took me just three months to find a job. But in 2012, it took me nine months. I can’t go through that again.

Even with so many listed job ads in Hong Kong stating that fluent Cantonese and Mandarin are critical requirements, there usually hasn’t been a shortage of jobs for monolingual people such as myself.

It’s my age. I’d like to work another 7 or 10 years but I don’t even get the opportunity to tell that to people. I always thought that my track record – working for great companies, bringing in complex regional projects on time and on budget, successfully managing projects and support and staff and business relationships in basically every country in the region – would more than balance out against the age factor.

I have recommendations on my profile that are so strong, from people so senior, and it seems to mean nothing. Three examples:

First, from the recently departed CEO of my current company:

…. a thorough, thoughtful IT executive who takes charge and follows through. He knows how to manage both projects and people and he is not afraid of challenges. His broad experience gives him a perspective on what’s practical, both from the technology and commercial angles, and he knows how to make things work. He’s also a pleasure to work with.

Second, from the co-inventor of the DVD:

I will not spend time to talk about his knowledge and experience in filmed entertainment, people management in Asia regions and MIS. More essentially, he is a very balanced executive, and his output is trustworthy. In particular, it was important for … to have someone who knows both the U.S. way and Asian traditional way of doing business. He could bridge the two worlds.

Here’s one from a current EVP of a well known global bank:

He can be counted on to deliver value with the business interest at the heart of any decision. He is collaborative, thoughtful, and conscientious about costs and quality. He delivers.

And there are others, from very senior people at well known companies. Yet all of that seems to count for nothing against my age.

I’m heading back to Hong Kong again on Saturday (August 5th). I do have a couple of potential meetings lined up so far, but the purpose of this trip is to spend time with my wife as much as it is for anything else.

I am not defeated. I’m not letting this push me down. I’m feeling incredibly frustrated but I am not giving up. I will find a new job – and I will make the company that hires me feel grateful that they made that decision. I know that.

I have two more months before I start on “Plan B.” The few people I’ve discussed it with have told me they think it’s a good plan. There are days when I want to start on it that day. And other days when I am hoping that it never comes to that. I’ll divulge more about that if and when the time comes.