Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Advice for Single Father Job Seekers

So, after I became a partnerless parent in 2005, I spent most of the next decade away from the career for which I had the majority of my training and experience: professional management. Just like a good peddler knows he can sell anything from potato chips to computer chips or pharma to farm equipment, I believe the skills that a professional manager possesses, from the ability to build a motivated and skillful team to creating satisfied customers to managing profit/loss statement are not industry-specific. As I continued to be a father to my three children, I’ve slogged in such diverse trades as content creation and writing, energy, transportation, property management, and publishing.

When my eldest daughter started her junior year in high school and college tuition was less a light at the end of the tunnel than a freight train bearing down on me, I began to network with friends and colleagues in an attempt to return to my chosen career. A few months later, my effort yielded a leadership role with a respected national school bus contractor. However, a couple of years later, I encountered what millions of Corporate America ladder-climbers have experienced, a corporate realignment and reduction-in-force (RIF).

As a person who'd voluntarily take time away from the traditional job market and now as a part of a statistic, the U.S. Unemployment Rate, I can provide some direction to both my professional peers and my single father brothers for whom I continue to create content. If you've been a victim of termination, RIF, lay-off, or if you've voluntarily taken time away from the rat race for personal reasons, then I have a few suggestions for you.

Single dad and previously unemployed Chris Gardner whose story was told in Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.

  1. Catch Your Breath – Chances are the work you did required a degree of skill, dedication, and focus. By association, the work was probably stressful, as well. Take a little time to catch your breath and do some of the things that make your heart happy. Finish some home or personal projects. Get organized. Have a little fun. When I worked, a friend had taken care my kids in the morning and got them off the bus in the afternoon. With the additional time, I was once again able make breakfast for my two children still at home, drive them to school, help with homework, and, frankly, enjoy them.
  2. Set the Table – If you intend to return to the workforce in a position similar to the one you’d previously held, reach out informally to your circle of professional allies and friends and tell them about your situation. Those people who know you the best and know your capabilities will keep their ears and eyes open and pass along your name when they hear about opportunities.
  3. Sharpen Your Saw – In The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, I’ve recommended that newly-minted single dads should take some time to “Be the best you that you can be.” My advice for new job seekers is similar. Take some time to hone your skills. If you haven’t completed a college degree, enroll and get started. If you can test for the CPA, CFP, SHRM, or any other acronym, schedule the certification test, study, and get credentialed. By doing so, you’ll become a more valuable asset in the employment marketplace both as a result of the qualification and the fact you’ve demonstrated a willingness to continue your education. Speaking from experience, hiring managers dig that stuff. In my case, I’m finishing a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program, but there are almost as many ways to improve a skill set as there are job seekers.
  4. Get Out There – Finding a job has become a lot like on-line dating or, just dating in general. There are all kinds of algorithms that recruiters use to source the best candidates that “match” the opportunity. You need to find the job that will meet your preferences just as the hiring manager needs to find the candidate who meet’s the employer’s needs. While getting out there today does include working with online recruiters like Ladders, Indeed, LinkedIn, and even Monster, getting out there also includes getting involved in your community and in your industry. Volunteer. Attend local business, service, and political events. Write a blog. Get involved and get noticed.
  5. Consider Your Options – You’ve been around the block a few times, right? You’ve done and seen a lot of stuff in your professional career and you’re more than a little competent dealing with customers, vendors, employees, government agencies, and just about anything and anyone else you can imagine. As you consider your professional career path, consider your tangible and intangible assets. Do you have a skill or unique knowledge of an industry or a group of people that may be valuable to a large group of businesses? If so, you may want to consult for fees. Do you own an asset, like real estate that could be re-zoned and converted into a business or a more valuable asset? Do you know an underserved market that can benefit from a product or service you can provide? Think creatively and bust a few paradigms as you consider your next step. 
  6. Choose Wisely – It’s cliché, but we really do spend a great deal of our lives in
    Father Like a Tree (2005)
    our chosen profession. Considering life is short, why not make the most of the time we have by choosing a career from which we don’t need a vacation? Why not choose to do work that is personally and professionally fulfilling? Build something that will create a legacy and will pay figurative and literal dividends for you and your children, and, perhaps, your children’s children? That work may not be working for a salary. When I was managing the division for the national school bus contractor, I took pride in the fact that I was able to support a team that transported tens of thousands of students to and from school each day safely, on-time, and ready to learn. When I published a book and someone would write or tell me how much he or she enjoyed it, I was gratified to know my words and ideas inspired someone else.

Bottom line? Manage your job search the same way you manage your life. Be confident. Be patient. Be smart. Yeah, we all know the adage that effective decision-makers, whether a single father, an executive manager responsible for a multi-million dollar profit/loss statement, or both, are “right” with a decision about 55% of the time, while ineffective managers go the right way only 45% of the time. It’s a fine line. In either case and in almost every circumstance, we have the ability to make another decision if the first one doesn’t work. Doing so, you just may find that right match in a job and in an employer and, perhaps, live happily ever after.