Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LaidOffCamp keeping me busy

Since I have been laid off, I have actually been anything BUT bored. I spend a considerable amount of time daily networking with people, looking for my next employer, and spending quality time with friends and family (I write this from NY where I am visiting my brothers and their families, whom I don't get to see very often).

Additionally, I have decided to help out by joining the planning committee for LaidOffCamp - who is hosting a San Francisco Event on 3/3/09. It's a pretty loosely defined group, where the membership requirement is only that you have something positive to contribute. I went to a planning meeting the other night and found the planning committee memebers to be young, tech-savvy, educated, ambitious, determined, positive, and fun. I need to surround myself with MORE people like that! :)

So, it seemed to me that LaidOffCamp needed help contacting potential sponsors, so I took up helping out with that. We collaboratively created a template email to send out, and targeted specific companies who we thought might be interested in attracting the attention of "enterprising and resilient...young entrepreneurs". (Also, the fact that everything for LaidOffCamp is on a wiki is brilliant. Anyone can contribute or refine, and everything we do becomes part of a "knowledge base" which can be referred to in the future)

So far the response to sponsorship requests have been pretty good! Other people have been bringing in sponsors as well, not just me but I've been talking with a few different companies interested in sponsorship, and the first to agree to sponsor the event due to my efforts was oDesk. Josh, Director of Marketing, was very generous and I am looking forward to meeting him at the event. He plans on setting up a demo of his product, which is exciting and I am looking forward to seeing it!

For me personally, it is nice exposure to be able to meet/talk to Directors and CEO's of companies. Granted, I am in touch with them as a volunteer looking for sponsorship - but you never know how that connection could turn into a job for me in the future! It's exposure I would not be getting otherwise, so LaidOffCamp has already helped me as far as I'm concerned.

It felt great to help make a difference for this event. I have high hopes for a successful event, and plan on doing what I can to help with logistics. I hope LaidOffCamp helps a lot of people connect, potentially find leads for new work, and also serve as a support group (Its not easy finding work right now!)
2/25/09 Update:
LaidOffCamp Press Release
2/26/09 Update
Thanks now to Duncan at Workstir and Kathy, John, & Hendrick at Plaxo for being LaidOffCamp SF sponsors!
2/27/09 Update
Thanks to Vikki at Apex Systems for sponsorsing LaidOffCamp SF! (Psst! They're hiring!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thanks Twitter, but maybe no response would've been better?

Over a month ago, I applied for a position with Twitter as a "Business Product Manager". Well, I just got a response back saying the usual rejection stuff - we found another applicant, we'll keep your resume on file for 6 months, thanks for your interest, etc etc etc blah blah blah...

How nice to get a response, right? Usually blindly sending a resume for a job posted on a company's website falls upon deaf ears. How nice indeed, but it needs to be done correctly!

The poor HR gal from Twitter copied all 186 applicants in the CC: line of the nicely crafted rejection email, for all of the other would-be applicants to see! Oops!!! I think you meant to use BCC!?!?

A nice save-face response from Evan Williams though (below). Evan, don't fire the poor girl. She made a mistake and I'm sure she'll never make this mistake again. In fact, I appreciated the effort of a response!


It has just been brought to my attention that we just sent this note about this job with everyone's address exposed in the cc line.

This is obviously a big mistake, and I sincerely apologize on behalf of Krissy, myself, and Twitter, Inc. We really appreciate you expressing interest in Twitter, and I can only imagine that this type of move adds insult to injury.

To be clear: Not everyone on this list even applied for this job. Some were recommended to us and entered into our applicant tracking system by employees here.

Whatever the case, I regret this mistake. Please help us reduce the impact of this error by respecting each other's privacy.

If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know.


--- Update:
Thanks TechCrunch for the shout-out. Lesson learned: Working for a communication website that caters to highly connected people means making sure you don't make mistakes in your communications - or everyone finds out about it (case in point - especially when these people are unemployed with nothing better to do). Now, everyone move on...
ValleyWag posts a story about it now too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Extra Green for Being Green?

Ok, it's soap box time. Why do some businesses charge a "green fee" for being environmentally friendly? It is such a bogus fee. They are passing on the cost of doing business the way they SHOULD be doing business to the consumer. I know there are some music festivals, in particular, that you could add a fee to the already over taxed ticket price to "green up" your experience. So if I don't pay the fee, then they will not be green about running the event?

My experience at the Sundance Kabuki movie theater on Fillmore/Geary in San Francisco last night got me started. They charged me a $3 per ticket "amenities fee" (and on top of that they have a complicated pricing structure for the fee depending on when you are there - ??? - as if time of day makes a difference?).

When inquired about it, and also posted on their website, the fee is because they used recycled materials in building the theaters, and because they use real butter on their popcorn, and because they use compostable materials at their concessions, among others. That's all great, but that is what they SHOULD be doing. Why do I have to pay an extra fee for it? They say it is because they are providing me with a "superior experience", but they should be doing that without the extra fee. So without the fee I would be getting an "unsuperior experience"? (Read the "Our Amenities" section on their website for their reasoning)

Do it like any other business and work your costs into the price of your product. If you truly have a superior product, people will continue to come back. Don't do the right thing, and then charge an extra and added fee for it!

I sent them an email expressing my displeasure about it. If I get a response, I will post it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Competitors Want To Talk

Some people from my old work who were also laid off (or are about to be laid off) are feeling bad about talking to the competition. They think it is shady, or unethical in some way. I am here to say that it's just business.I hold no animosity toward my old employer, even though they handled the layoffs poorly. However, the FIRST thing I thought of doing was continuing my work and contacting the competition, and guess what - they are interested! I may not be able to share confidential information with the competition but that does not exclude me from coming up with "creative solutions".

Here is an email sent out by my former boss and former company's CEO, David Mosher to some people who were feeling "shady" about talking to the competition:

Note that given (the former company's) bankruptcy filing, it is not unusual or inappropriate for competitors to hire laid off workers. If you think about it, they are going to pickup clients that (the former company) is no longer able to service so they are going to need more staff. You have valuable experience that they would like to capitalize on.

Most companies when they lay off this many people arrange for local companies or recruiting firms to come in and help people find a new job. You owe no allegiance to people that treated you this poorly. Your old exec staff has taken on this responsibility of setting this up for you. Note in California non compete agreements are not enforceable. So long as you don't take anything in paper or electronically you can use what you have learned at a competitor.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Contract or FTE?

It's been about a 1.5 months since I started my job search, with the last 2 weeks being the most intense as I was unemployed during that time (I had seen it coming). We all read the 'doom & gloom' reports about the economy everyday. Whether it's the actual economy or just the fear of a bad economy, companies are generally not hiring full time. If they are, they are probably inundated with applicants. There are too many applicants and not enough full time employee jobs - and I am finding it hard to get noticed, even when I network my way in.

There are organizations out there that still need to hire people even though they are in a hiring freeze. They hire employees on CONTRACT then, because technically that does not count as a new hire. I am finding that in this economy, it may be easier to get a contract position than an FTE position - and maybe that is a good way to keep working and ride out this horrible situation.

I've always snubbed contract work. Everyone knows you don't get benefits, its short term, and they can let you go at any time. You just don't get all the perks that regular FTE's get. When I was an FTE, I'd always feel bad for the contractors. But you know, I am starting to take a look at the upside of contracting.
  • You get paid by the hour, which means you qualify for OVERTIME. OT? OMG! As an FTE I was always putting in OT, but of course you don't get paid extra for that.
  • You get paid MORE by the hour than FTE's. I am looking at about a 20-25% mark up in my hourly contract wage versus my hourly FTE wage.
  • The reason you get paid more is because you have to buy your own healthcare and other benefits, but I still believe you can come out on top (especially if they have you work OT).
  • You don't accrue vacation time or get paid for holidays, but you may still be able to accrue sick time (by law in some places).
Typically, a company will work with an outsource agency. You work for the agency, and the company pays the agency for your work (and the agency then pays you). That agency may offer you benefits (like health or 401k) after 3-6 months. Types of contract work:
  • W2 contractor: Taxes are withheld and payroll taxes are paid for you (good for full time).
  • 1099 contractor: No taxes withheld generally (good for part time)
  • Corp to Corp: You form an LLC and then bill the company for your time (meh, thinking 1099 is just as good but with LLC you at least get liability protection)
Before you head into contract work, make sure you have good agency representing you. One that offers you some benefits after 3-6 months is pretty good. Also make sure the contract length is worth-while. For example, I am looking at a 6 month contract now with the option to stay on longer (up to a year or more). I like that it is for at LEAST 6 months and I could possibly continue if things are working out. This could be just the time I need to let the economy recover, find FTE employment, and earn a living in the process.

If anyone who has done contract work in the past has words of advice, please comment...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fighting Cholesterol

I went to the doctor recently for a cholesterol test, only to have him verify what I already knew - I have high cholesterol (total in the 200's) and am a risk candidate for heart disease one day if my life course remains unchanged. It wasn't a surprise for me b/c I have a family history of heart disease. In fact, I was getting this test rather early (mid 30's) in anticipation of what the results may be - in hopes of being able to turn it around while I am still semi-young.

Given my family history and the likelihood of having a high result, my physician recommended I get my blood test through the Berkeley Heart Lab. I am definitely impressed with the results - which consisted of a 4 page analysis complete with color codes and charts (I'm a sucker for stats!). I had a "regular" cholesterol test in the past and just got the numbers everyone has come to expect, but the heart lab results take it a step further by also analyzing the proteins in your blood - genetic proteins which are known to contribute to heart disease. The heart lab test also includes optional meetings with a nutritionist and a fitness program you can join. (I am planning to participate but have not initiated that yet. Will update when I do.)

Before immediately considering (life long) prescription medication to control my cholesterol, my physician and I discussed trying first to control it with diet and exercise. For exercise, you now what you need to do and you don't need me to tell you - but I did want to share some things I did with my diet that I hope help.

First, I stopped eating eggs for breakfast and I replaced it with oatmeal everyday. I think eggs are ok, but if you have high cholesterol you should probably consider cutting back on them. The fiber in oatmeal is very good for helping control cholesterol apparently. I also added some spices, herbs, and vitamin supplements to my daily diet. Here's a break down of my daily breakfast routine:
  1. Oatmeal
  2. Add cinnamon to oatmeal
  3. Add flax seed to oatmeal
  4. Multi-vitamin
  5. Fish Oil pill
  6. Vitamin E pill
  7. Folic Acid pill
  8. Aspirin pill (81mg)
  9. Sm. Orange Juice (or other juice)
  10. Coffee (not helpful, but have only ONE cup a day)
I've read that green tea, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and flax seed can help lower cholesterol - but that's not really proven. I am a believer in homeopathic approaches, and adding these things to one's diet is hardly harmful so I am incorporating them where I can. Anything "antioxidant" is probably helpful too (ie: pomegranate juice) Granted, also, the only things my physician actually recommended was the oatmeal, the aspirin, and the fish oil - but I don't think the other things I added can hurt. I'm going for a re-test in 3 months, and we'll see how this routine (in addition to more exercise and other diet changes) changes my cholesterol.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, so don't take my advice unless you talk to your physician.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I search, I apply, and I wait

It's tough not to expect immediate results when searching for a job. As I've said, looking for a job is a job in itself and when I spend all day looking for a job - I expect some results from all my hard work. However I have to remember that these things take time, and I am facing an unprecedented economy where there are probably more job seekers than there are jobs. I imagine HR departments across the country are trying to find a way to sift through the deluge of applicants coming in for their open positions.

Aside from researching and sending "blindly", I have been networking with people I know - but honestly that is just a small fraction of the amount of time I spend on a daily basis searching for a job. What really eats up the time is researching, getting cover letters ready, and applying for jobs outside of my network. Is it worth it to continue spending that time and effort when I am probably not going to find a job that way? I'm not sure, but I am going to continue doing it. I have yet to get a response from my efforts, but I believe (and hope) one will be coming shortly.

UPDATE: 2/13/09
I have yet to get a response from my "blind" efforts of sending out resumes to companies who are posting jobs or companies I have targeted. I am however, having some interest from recruiters and for contract positions. I am also meeting with competitors of my former employer, along with some of my former co-workers who were also laid off. I am thinking that sending blind resumes is fruitless, but as I have time - I will continue to do it - b/c you never know where that opportunity is going to come from. In a tight economy, the "blind resume market" may dry up some.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Layoff Resources

I got laid off, so I started this blog

I've been meaning for some time now to start a blog, but have just not found the time. I often think of random topics to write about that I would like to record for my own reference, and for the reference of others via the Internet. Well, I still never found the time but the time has found me.

I was laid off 3 days ago. It is the first time my professional career that I am experiencing a lapse in employment. Given the current state of the economy (100,000 laid off this week alone nationwide), and the fact that I went through 1 round of layoffs a month earlier already - it was not a total surprise but there was still that initial shock. It is important, if this happens to you, to let that initial shock subside quickly. Mourn over your loss for an evening or a day, and then get moving - because there's a lot of WORK to do!

Keeping in touch with your recent colleagues is important. They serve as additions to your network, and also as a support group. I remember in the past leaving jobs, and scrambling around for people's personal phone numbers and email addresses. Over the past 2 years though, may people (me included) have become more involved in social networks. With almost everyone in my (past) company on either Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter (follow me: cgiven) - I did not need to worry about losing touch with anyone. In fact, we used these websites as a way to communicate in mass immediately following the layoff. What was a novelty one day, turned out to be crucial to my ability to communicate the next.

Linked In is a good professional contact website. There are just some people who want to keep it strictly professional. Facebook can serve as both professional and personal. My Space is too low-brow, I don't recommend it. Twitter, for me, tied it all together. There are some people in life you want to keep in touch with (ie: former work colleague) but who you do not talk to everyday. One day you may want to contact them, and if it has been months or years - it could be awkward. Why are you calling them, only because you want something? If you have been following this person on Twitter and they following you, it breaks down that barrier. If you are not using social networks, consider this as an argument in favor of starting to.

One of my co-workers posted helpful hints that we collected as a group, via email and via social networks, on her blog (Craisin's Blog) - to preserve it for future reference. In summary, these are the important things to consider:
  1. Apply for unemployment immediately (it takes time to process)
  2. Find health insurance immediately (a lapse in coverage is not good)
  3. If you've been offered a severance package, read it carefully. Signing it means giving up many rights (thus you should be compensated nicely). By law you have 21 days to consider it before signing, and 7 days to re-consider after signing.
  4. Change your spending (cut out the unnecessary and/or cut back)
  5. Communicate with people. Chances are you will find a job via networking vs sending out resumes blindly.
  6. Make a plan for your days, everyday. Include time to search for jobs. Finding a job, is a job in itself.
  7. Consider volunteer work in your community until you find another job. It's good for society, good for your state of mind, and good for your resume.
If you find yourself in this situation good luck - and don't panic! I hope these resources help.