My friend Hugh was recently let go from his job supporting IBM Java, WebSphere and DB2 technology. He’s looking at this as an opportunity to reorient his career, and turned to me to help him get familiar with the latest social media trends. It occurred to me that others may be interested in heading in that direction; so here’s what I told him.
(This post has been in draft mode for a long time. Since then, a bunch more friends have found themselves in similar situations. As have I. Some say this is the nature of the business we’re in; others say it’s the nature of all business today. Whatever the case: faced with this reality, I’ve found these techniques helpful and productive. I hope they help you too.)
Day 1: Laying the Social Media Foundation
Get on the social networking sites. LinkedIn first, because it’s business oriented; but Facebook as well, because you can connect with all kinds of people there. Develop those networks. Look up friends and family, as well as colleagues from past lives. Make sure your profiles are up to date. Put a picture up, don’t leave the default avatar. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. It just has to look like you. On LinkedIn ask people you’ve worked with to recommend you.
Get on Twitter, too, and start tweeting about your job search. Others are going through the same ordeal; let them know what’s working for you, and what isn’t. Follow others going through the same process as you. Follow people in your field. Read their feeds, follow their links; you’ll be amazed by all the valuable material you’ll find. Retweet the good stuff you come across. Before you know it people will be following you.
Put your various ID’s on your resume. This will show you are connected; you’re in touch with the latest technologies and trends.
Day 2: Resumes Are Still Relevant
Update your resume, and post it to job sites: Workopolis, Monster, Dice. Subscribe to their job alert email services. Search for jobs using keywords from your field of interest. See what’s happening out there. What are the salaries like? Are they hiring contractors or full time? Are there other technologies which interest you? Check those out too. It may be time to start retraining. (See Day 5)
Check out the job postings on craigslist. Specifically, Internet Engineering, Web / Info Design, and Computer Gigs. This will give you a good idea of what technologies are being sought out by the non-enterprise crowd.
Update 2012-12-02: My friend Wendy Scott Galloway added a comment below with some excellent suggestions. I encourage you to read her entire comment; but I’ll snag a couple of the links, as they’re relevant to this section.
Day 3: Your Domain Is Your Online Hub of Everything
Get yourself a domain name. You can try Domains At Cost or GoDaddy, or any of a number of registrars.
Find a host for your domain. I use 1 and 1, and I’m very happy with them. Set up your email address with your own domain. Put it on your resume. Forward emails from your old email address to the new one. Start using it for everything. Send out a change of address notice. This is the first step in building a new brand.
Here’s the second step: install WordPress on your website and start blogging. Blog about the loss of your job and how you feel about it. Then blog about your specialty. As you read content from the Twitter feeds you’ve subscribed to, blog about that stuff. Be sure to link liberally to appropriate sites and blogs. It’ll help your Google juice. Blog about all the new technology you’re encountering with blogs and social networks and social media.
Day 4: Networking, It’s Not Just for Computers
Print up 200 business cards at Vistaprint. Make sure to put your new email address on there, as well as your blog URL and your Twitter account.
Now head over to MeetUp and find some groups relevant to your areas of interest or expertise. Go meet some people, and hand out those terrific business cards you had printed up. Get a few business cards in exchange as well. Send out resumes.
Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. While you’re working away in your basement, you can be productive, but your connection with the outside world is restricted to the phone line and your various online presences. When you step out the door, and attend events, you’re immersing yourself in contact. You’ll meet all kinds of interesting people, and engage in their social networks. This provides a powerful leverage to your job search.
Be sure to find room in your schedule for 2-3 outings a week; and insure you meet at least one new person at each one. Reach out to them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as appropriate. Get out there and build that network.
Day 5: The Learning Continuum
OK, so you’ve got your social media accounts setup (Day 1), you’ve posted your resume and checked out the job postings (Day 2), so you know what’s in demand; and you’ve purchased your domain and installed your blog (Day 3), and gotten your business cards printed and started scoping out likely Meetups and user groups (Day 4).
Today, you look at training for your new career. And, in fact, it’s not just for your career: it’s for life. You should always have one or two topics you’re investigating. They may be work related, or not. Continuous education is a sign that you’re in constant evolution, and not stagnating. We’ll concentrate on webmastery type skills here; but you can season to taste.
There are boatloads of online courses out there for learning Interweb related technologies. I’ll list a few here, both gratis and paid; but feel free to add resources you feel are relevant in the comments.
This one is near and dear to my heart because it was one of the first sites I used to learn my webmaster skills. They have terrific articles, extremely active forums, and a great bunch of books. Highly recommended.
This one is mind-blowingly great! FREE university level courses, presented by experts in their fields. They seem to run about 7 weeks; but they’re not always available. You have to sign up and go through them with a cohort. The teaching platform is really terrific: 2-3 minute videos, then a quick quiz. Then they tell you what the right answer was. You can go back and change your answer, and I got the impression you were encouraged to do it. There’s a homework assignment at the end of each week. Be prepared to work hard, and learn loads. Highly recommended.
- Building Dynamic Websites
This one’s pretty terrific as well. It’s a series of videos from Harvard’s Extension School, covering a lot of ground, from HTTP, through PHP, to security and scalability. Seriously, you’ll wonder how you can get all this quality content for free. In fact, this is part of an initiative called OpenCourseware involving hundreds of universities and schools around the world. Truly, this is the democratization of higher education. Don’t miss out on this.
This one isn’t free, but it’s good quality, and kept up to date. It costs $25/month for all the video you can consume. It used to be mostly oriented to graphics topics, but they’ve diversified considerably in the last few years.
I didn’t much like the original W3Schools website because their layout was very narrow, and it made me feel claustrophobic. They’ve since expanded the width of their site, and I can breathe again as I browse their impressive list of free courses. Highly recommended.
Although a relative newcomer to the scene, TreeHouse offers a very slick teaching platform, utilizing the touchstone of gamification, badges, to great advantage. It’s not free: $25/month, but you get to download the videos, if you like. Their big hook: once you get all the badges for a course, they’ve partnered with companies who may be interested in hiring you.
- Nand 2 Tetris Course
My former Tucows colleague Chad pointed me to this one. It looks awesome: You start by designing your own computer with a hardware emulator, then program your own operating system, and finally program some games. This gives you a solid, end-to-end understanding of computer systems. (Oh yeah, and it’s free.)
Now that you know where to find the content, let’s quickly discuss what topics you need to cover.
First off you’ll want to know how to put together an HTML page and style it; so HTML and CSS are good.
After that you’ll want to store form data in a database and make dynamic websites. You’re looking at PHP and MySQL.
Beyond that you may want to design pages, or slice someone else’s designs; so you’ll need to understand the care and feeding of Photoshop.
Depending on what you want to end up doing, some of these things either may not be necessary for you, or you may want to switch the order around some.
Day 6: Fresh Air and Exercise
- This isn’t just a Day 6 thing.
- My wife will tell you this is more of a “Do as I say; not as I do.” sort of thing. (Bless her heart.)
With that out of the way, let’s proceed.
Being a knowledge worker is a decidedly sedentary activity. Over time this will catch up with you, and you’ll start going pear-shaped. (…depending on your body-type.) It’s to your (our) advantage to start the day with a brisk walk. Or even a run. No need to push it right from the start. And being on forced vacation you don’t have that commute to deal with every day. So use that commute time to get some fresh air and exercise.
Here are a couple of links to resources I think you’ll find useful:
The Canadian activity program that’s been going since the 70’s. The link I’ve provided takes you right to the page which explains how much weekly activity you need for your age group.
- Running Room
The Running Room offers training courses for every level of running experience, from beginners to marathoners. They have a well designed training system, with support from classmates and trainers. Highly recommended.
Day 7: Friends and Family
Finally, a little advice about friends and family. It’s all too easy to slip into a depression when your days are unstructured and you’re not getting any responses to your resume. This is the time to turn to your friends and family. They love you and want to see you succeed. They want to help. Lean on them. Talk to them. Seek their advice. They’re there for you.
And if they’re not, seek out positive support groups, and make new friends. Start with MeetUp from Day 4.
So, that’s all I have to offer for now. Please feel free to comment below if you have anything to add, or if these techniques have worked for you. Best of luck.
UPDATE, 2012-10-27: Added the Nand 2 Tetris course in Day 6.