Apr 16

Alphabet soup

It’s not over yet. I got two calls from recruiters on Tuesday, both related to IBM contracts. One was a follow-up from the agency trying to fill Manager G’s opening; they’re submitting my resume. The other call, from a different agency, was to arrange an interview with Manager H, another one I’ve never heard of before. I’ll be meeting with him tomorrow.
UPDATE: Make that “meeting with her.” I was mixed up about exactly who Manager H was.

Apr 12


I did not get the contract job that I interviewed for at IBM; Manager D picked someone else for it. I am still in the running for the two positions that he hopes to hire new employees for, but we won’t know about those until after Easter weekend.
I also got a call from a recruiter yesterday about yet another possible IBM contract, for a manager I’ve never heard of (G, I suppose).

Apr 10

Make it stop!

The job inquiries continue to pour in at such a rate that I can’t keep track of them. Most of them relate to jobs I already know about, but not all. On Tuesday the 8th, I was notified of another new IBM job, for Manager E. I also got a call about another job for Manager B; she’s apparently trying to fill at least two of them now. And another call about a technical writing contract for a completely different company.
On Wednesday the 9th, I went to IBM for my interview with Manager D. It went extremely well. He’s actually trying to fill several jobs — a contract position and at least two IBM employee positions — but the paperwork hasn’t been completed for all of them. I’m pretty sure he intends to offer me one of them. He promised to let me know by Friday.
In the course of the interview, Manager D told me about IBM Manager F, who will be trying to fill two positions for technical writers in the near future. At this rate, I’ll run out of letters of the alphabet by the end of May.
Wednesday was Marie’s day off, so she was actually at home for part of the day. When I got home from work, she handed me a stack of six telephone message slips, all of which were calls from recruiters for contract agencies. And there are still messages on the answering machine that are left over from Tuesday. Aargghh! Why couldn’t all this happen back when I was unemployed and could spend all day on the phone if I needed to? It’s bad enough that my cell phone keeps ringing while I’m at work. If I also try to return all these calls during the day, I won’t get anything done!
I had intended to spend Wednesday evening trying to deal with some of this backlog, and also bringing this blog up to date. Instead, I let Ruth talk me into going to see a play at Raleigh Little Theatre. I stopped volunteering at RLT when I began work at Perigee, because I was working on the night shift and theatre activities take place mostly in the evening. When Perigee switched me to the day shift, I could theoretically have jumped back into RLT activities, but I realized that evenings and weekends were now the only times I could concentrate on my job search. So I resolved not to get involved at RLT again until I found a job (or until my Perigee job ended on May 31). But Marie and Ruth are still active; both of them are working on the current show, a comedy called I Hate Hamlet. In fact, Marie is the dressing crew chief.
Wednesday night’s show was a preview performance: a dress rehearsal essentially identical to a real performance, but with a non-paying audience. (Tickets are given to the cast and crew, who hand them out to family and friends.) Marie was working backstage, but Ruth (who is on the props crew) wasn’t scheduled to work at this performance, so she was planning to watch. I decided to go with her. It was a fun show, and we had a great time. But it also felt odd to just sit in the house and watch. I kept thinking that I should be up in the sound or light booth, pushing buttons. Ruth had the same reaction; she felt like she ought to be backstage. I guess we’ve been doing tech theatre for long enough that we’ve forgotten how to be audience members.
Ruth drove us to the theatre. She’s had her Limited Learner Permit for some time (the picture is already out of date, showing her with much longer hair than she currently has), but this is the first time she’s ever driven me anywhere. We both did well; she drove better than I could have at her age, and I remained calm the entire trip. I may as well get used to this experience. Ruth will be seventeen next month, and a high school senior two months after that. And Ben will be a freshman. It doesn’t seem possible, but this is what happens while you’re preoccupied with things like theatre and job searches: your children just keep right on growing up.

Apr 08

Lightning strikes twice

I don’t know what the heck is going on at IBM, but it certainly seems to be working in my favor. It must also be making my cellular phone service provider very happy.
Another contract position at IBM for a technical writer was announced today, and my cellphone started ringing again. Apparently the word didn’t get out until late in the day, because the calls only started after lunch. But I still heard from three recruiters about it. By now one of them has submitted my resume to Manager B, who will be making the hiring decision. Yes, it’s the same Manager B that I talked to on the phone a couple of months ago. I also met her in person last year, when I was a lame-duck IBM employee trying to find a new job within the company. So I know for a fact that she’s seen my resume at least twice before. Perhaps the third time is the charm.
Why all the activity at IBM in recent days? I can only speculate, but it has been clear to me over the past year (both from my own knowledge and from what IBM insiders, such as Bob, tell me) that the status quo was not sustainable. IBM trimmed expenses substantially by laying off people, but the result was to leave many projects critically understaffed. I have no doubt that IBM managers have been screaming at their bosses for months that it was impossible for them to meet their deadlines if they were not allowed to hire anyone. Eventually one of two things had to happen: either permission would be granted to begin staffing up again, or product releases would have to be officially delayed or canceled.
I think the former has finally occurred. Somewhere within the IBM hierarchy, the word has been giving to end the hiring freeze. And so it begins: contract agencies are notified of new openings, recruiters at those agencies scan their databases for resumes that match the required experience, my phone starts ringing off the hook, and Alltel smiles at the prospect of all the extra minutes I’m going to use this month.
Meanwhile, my temporary employer is inviting me and my fellow schedulers to put in as many extra hours as we feel motivated to. It sure is nice to be in demand.

Apr 04

Off the dole

I got calls from four more recruiters today about the IBM job, bringing the total to fifteen. Even if the job itself doesn’t work out, I’ll still have a bunch of new recruiter contacts to add to my networking address book.
In all the excitement, I forgot to report another milestone that occurred yesterday: I got kicked off unemployment. I received a phone call from a gentleman at the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, who explained that now that I’m working full-time, I should stop filing weekly certifications for unemployment insurance. I had wondered exactly when I was supposed to do that, but it wasn’t clear to me whether it was based on hours, earnings, or something else. Anyway, I told him I would comply.
Before landing my temporary job, I had been dreading the expiration of my unemployment benefits for months. Now they are gone, and it doesn’t matter. The paycheck from my temporary job has basically replaced the unemployment checks, so this doesn’t change our financial situation. And if I still haven’t found another job by the time my temporary one ends on May 31, I can reopen my unemployment claim.
But it’s nice to know that, for now at least, I’m officially no longer unemployed. Underemployed, yes. That’s still a step up, isn’t it?

Apr 03


I try to pursue any job opening for a technical writer in the Raleigh/Durham area, but I pay the most attention to openings at IBM. This is partly because my experience qualifies me particularly well to work there, and partly because it happens to be my favorite place to work. (I don’t hold any grudges against the company for laying me off. These things happen.) I have contacts within the company who watch the internal job posting database and inform me of new listings for “information developers” (the IBMese term for tech writers) that are open to candidates from outside the company. (Some listings are internal-only, meaning that only people who are already IBM employees can apply.)
If the position seems appropriate, I make sure the hiring manager has a copy of my resume and touch base with him or her periodically to find out the status of the job. However, in many cases these listings appear before the hiring manager is really ready to begin interviewing applicants, and sometimes before the manager has approval or funding to hire anyone (which is why they’re only posted internally, and not announced to the outside world). These “phantom positions” often disappear.
For example, I actually interviewed with one manager (whom I’ll call Manager A) last November for a contract position that I thought I was particularly well qualified for, and both she and her team seemed to think so too. However, she never got permission to hire contractors, and the last I heard, she was only interviewing internally and still had not filled the position. In February, I learned of another suitable position posted by Manager B, but when I talked to her on the phone, she explained that she created that opening specifically for a person who was already working for her as a co-op. (She had to post it internally, but it was never really open to other applicants. Fair enough.) In early March, I found out about two positions posted by Manager C (whom I actually know from when I was an IBM employee), and one posted by Manager D (whom I don’t know). I tried several times to contact Manager C by e-mail and phone during March, but I didn’t actually talk to her until this week, at which point she admitted that both of her positions had ceased to exist due to a reorganization.
As for Manager D, I didn’t try to contact him at all. This was because Bob had already made sure he had a copy of my resume and was aware of my interest. For several weeks nothing happened, apparently because Manager D was still putting through the necessary paperwork. In response to pestering from me, Bob assured me that not only did D have my resume, it was his impression that my resume was the only one he had. I half expected the position to evaporate like the others, but I followed Bob’s advice and didn’t bug the manager.
This morning my mobile phone rang. When I answered, I found myself talking to a recruiter who was trying to fill a new job opening at IBM, and had found my resume to be a particularly good match for it. I asked him for details, and it quickly became clear that this was Manager D’s position. Apparently he had finally gotten the approvals he needed and had announced the opening to the outside world. Minutes after I finished talking to that recruiter, I got a call from another one about the same job. And then another recruiter. And more, throughout the day. When I got home, there were messages from recruiters on my answering machine and in my e-mail. In all, I was contacted by eleven recruiters today about this job. Some of them work for agencies I haven’t even heard of before.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and I was initially at a loss to explain it. However, one of the recruiters I talked to on the phone offered a plausible theory. Looking at the job description that was announced today, he said that it looked like Manager D created it by copying text from my resume. If that’s the case, I can certainly see why the recruiters’ keyword-matching software would find a remarkably good match between the two documents.
Whatever the reason, this sort of interest is very encouraging. I have an interview with Manager D scheduled for next Wednesday. Assuming, that is, that I don’t wake up before then and discover that I dreamed all this.

Mar 31

A piece of paper

Some things you just can’t appreciate until you’ve had to do without them for a while. That’s a cliche, but it’s also the truth. Take my word for it.
I got a paycheck today.
Probably the smallest one I’ve received since Ruth was a baby, but it was still a beautiful sight. My first earned income in nine months. Tangible, solid proof that someone is willing to give me money in exchange for my labors. Personal validation! I wanted to frame it and hang it on my wall — but of course I took it to the credit union and deposited it. I still have the stub, though, and I think I’ll hang onto that for a long time. In 1977, when I got my very first paycheck for my very first summer job, it never occurred to me to keep the stub as a memento. This time I won’t forget.
It’s just a piece of paper. Then again, so is the Bill of Rights. Or a marriage license. Or a birth certificate.

Mar 26

Jet lag

On March 10, I started a new part-time temporary job at a Raleigh healthcare company. Initially, I was working second shift, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. The job itself was good news; the pay isn’t any better than unemployment insurance, but my unemployment benefits were getting close to being exhausted, and this will help stretch them out. It created some other difficulties, though. I had recently increased the amount of time I was spending on my job search and related activities (such as going to networking meetings) during the day, and when the job took over my evenings, I found that I had no time at all for anything else. (Now you know why I’ve been blogging so little recently.) I realized in the last couple of days that my schedule was not sustainable, and was trying to figure out a new strategy for managing my time.
Now things are changing again. Beginning March 26 (that’s today, since it’s past midnight), I’m on first shift, working 8:30 to 5:30. This is going to be a disorienting transition — I got off work at 10:30 p.m., and I have to be back at work at 8:30 a.m. I have to transform from a night owl to a morning person in ten and a half hours. (I’m guessing that large quantities of coffee will be involved.) But once I adjust, I will at least have my evenings back. It will be nice to see my family again. I’m going to have to figure out how to keep my job hunt going while working full-time, though. I’ll have to drop out of most of the networking events I’ve been going to, but of course there are evening meetings that I can now attend. And working full-time means I can earn more, stretching out the unemployment benefits even further. This is definitely a mixed blessing, but it is a blessing.
But this job is still temporary. At the stroke of midnight on the last day of May, it turns into a pumpkin. Well, I’ll just have to find a more permanent job by then. In the meantime, I had better get some sleep.