Job Quest: The Final Chapter

If you've read this blog before (a statistical improbability), you might remember a somewhat pessimistic post a couple weeks ago:

Job Quest

As I write this, it's been a little over four months since I started spending significant amounts of time looking for a new job. For a while there, I felt pretty hopeless. I had applied to jobs in at least 40 of the 50 states and a handful of overseas jobs. I applied to companies ranging from 5-man start-ups to global industry leaders who nearly every person in a technologically developed nation has heard of. I even low-balled my starting salaries with a few companies hoping to, at least, get a call back rather than absolutely no follow-up contact. Even getting rejection letters would have been better feedback with which to refine my process than feeling like my application disappeared into a black hole.

So here I am, thankfully, on the other side of the job application process. Here's a seriously odd chain of events, that I think is noteworthy. If nothing else, I'd like to remember this time of my life as one of those defining moments in a person's existence...

After not hearing back from any job application in months, my best friend since elementary school, who makes a nice living as a technician working with automated HVAC systems, tells me there's a job opening up at his company. I'm a pretty handy guy around the house, and if something is electrical or computerized, I'm pretty much going to know exactly how to fix it... eventually.

The interesting twist here is that I had already applied to a few jobs with this company. They employ a good number of engineers, and I had applied to a handful of jobs at their corporate headquarters. So, I figure I'll talk to their recruiters concerning the local job, and just drop a lot of hints about really wanting one of the engineering positions.

I blow through the interview process and receive a rather attractive offer to do automation controls service work--in my home town, even. It was a good-sized raise over my current salary with better benefits. But, it was pretty obvious that the management in this part of the company doesn't have any pull (or necessarily interact) with the engineering managers. My chance of eventually landing an engineering position felt pretty slim.

Early in that application/interview process, I received a call out of the clear blue sky from a recruiter in Minneapolis. Let me start by saying this guy isn't just any recruiter. He's like a Jedi Master of IT recruiting. [David, if you--for whatever reason--happen to be reading this approve of my message, let me know, and I'll post your contact information and refer you to anyone who could possibly need your services now and in the future.]

The recruiter talked up a very cool-sounding web developer job on the other side of a 5-hour drive. The company was growing, and they didn't like to outsource development when they could help it. But, it was a web development job. And, I wasn't crazy about where the job was (the flat, crappy part of my home state).

I went to an interview and met some really cool guys there. The facility is amazing. I really like their attitude, and I'm confident their business is going to grow like crazy with some of the new things they're developing. I couldn't believe how much I wanted to work for this company after I left.

While I was driving home, the recruiter called me to say that he heard the interview went well, and that they all realized I wasn't really being put to good use as a full-time web developer. They went ahead and combined two smaller jobs into one, and made me an offer that I wasn't expecting to get in South Dakota. It was an exciting offer, and wasn't just web development. They wanted to use my talents in lower-level environments as well as higher-level areas. I am glad I had a little restraint and didn't say "yes" right on the spot.

The week before my interview with this company, I received an actual email response to some applications I sent to a somewhat well-known company called Garmin. At first, I assumed it was a fill-in-the-blanks rejection letter, but I was just excited to hear back (hoping to find out why they didn't want me). But, it wasn't a rejection letter! It even had the word "interview" in the subject! Later that day, I had a phone interview scheduled with Garmin International, Inc. The same company that makes some of the coolest electronic gadgets for climbers, hikers, and cyclists (classifications I use to label myself).

I have to admit, I held out a little at first because I know that Garmin's headquarters is in Kansas. And, if there's one state in this entire nation that rhymes with "torture" to the ear of a mountaineer, it's "Kansas." But, I'm just happy to have someone responding to emails and phone calls at this point. At first, we talk about my position being in Salem, Oregon (holy crap, The Cascades!). That idea didn't last long, and I'm shifted to talking primarily to the Olathe, Kansas people. But, I figured if my next best offer is in eastern South Dakota, eastern Kansas is pretty much the same junk with more people and more stuff to do. Plus, it's been my experience that no job lasts forever, and even if I get a foot in the door here, there are more options within the company later in my career.

So, the phone interviews are pretty casual (nothing like you hear about on the employment message boards). The technical phone interview didn't seem very challenging at all. At the end of the call, the interviewer tells me I should hear back later that week, or--at worst--early the next week. So far so good, and I'm still waiting to hear back about an offer from the eastern SD job. The timing seems to be great.

Well, I received an offer to work in eastern SD pretty much right after my technical phone interview with Garmin. So, I let them know I'm interested, but I'm still in the interview process with Garmin. But, there's a little bit of a delay in setting my next set of interviews with Garmin, all while I'm trying to delay saying "no" to my first offer. The time just crawls as I'm pretty much waiting by the phone and checking my email with unprecedented frequency.

The eastern SD job was on a bit of deadline. So, I knew that each day I couldn't give them an answer was really hurting their progress (if I couldn't accept the position with them). It was excruciating having to tell the amazingly patient recruiter that I just wanted to find out of Garmin had turned me down so I could start this other job without any feelings of missed opportunities.

The other part of the eastern SD job was that they wanted me soon... almost too soon. I had a house to fix up for sale, a garage sale, packing, and my little brother's wedding. It was going to be nearly impossible to pull it off without leaving a tremendous amount of work to my pregnant wife who's trying to keep up with a two-year-old that is analogous to keeping lightning in a bottle.

So, what does any normal person do when he has a family to wholly support and a mortgage? He quits his job. Well, I mostly quit. It's like being mostly dead. It's close enough that it counts as being unemployed.

Imagine the new ulcerous tissue I managed to develop waiting to hear back from Garmin while my "backup" offer could just pull the plug at any time (I even told them to look for someone else) leaving me completely unemployed until something else came along. It's like committing to that crux move on a rock climb you've never done before. You feel like you're going to pop off the rock the entire time you're pulling the move. But, you know you can't go back down. Going back now would certainly lead to a fall. You're past the point of "no return." Up is the only way to get through it. And, up I went.

I've accepted an engineering job at Garmin in Olathe, Kansas. It's not geographically where I want to be, but it's everything else I could possibly hope for in a new career. I have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead of myself, and, someday, I know I'll be back in the mountains; breathing the thin air and pushing my body beyond pain.

It's certainly one of those bittersweet transitions in life. Leaving family and friends, and all the support that has helped us raise a happy and healthy son so far isn't easy. In fact, almost nothing about this change is easy.

The fact that it's going to be difficult is enough to make me want it more. The fact that it took 13 years from the time when I checked one of the "engineering" boxes on the form that asked me to declare a major to the point when I could honestly call myself a working engineer will make me a more loyal and dedicated employee than most of my peers. The fact that it took over four months to find a job I'm going to love will help me appreciate how precious this opportunity is. The fact that I'm securing a future for my children finally makes me a person I'm completely proud to be.

I know I will be great at this job. Next to being a father, I don't feel like I've ever been so determined to be the best at something. I realize no college job could prepare me for the rigors I'm about to experience. I know I have a stout climb ahead of me. I will give it everything I can give without hurting my family. My biggest fear is that I will pour more of my heart and soul into my new profession than I can afford.

And so, this story ends. It ends with the sadness of endings, and the excitement of beginnings. I will return to the mountains.