Getting Back on the Horse: The Job Search Begins

Guest Author: Donna Moulico-Hall

When The Other Shoe Drops: Part One

Every Journey Starts with a Single Step

Are you going to lie there or are you going to get back on the horseEnjoying the peace and quiet of Maine was healing for me. But I could not escape reality forever. Our bills did not end just because my paycheck did. While I was considered retired from my former employer, I could not stay “retired.”

Yet the job search process was far different from my previous experiences as a graduating college student. My head was spinning with all the myriad activities that I needed to do. It was mind boggling. Where should I start?

Every journey starts with a single step, and I just needed to get going.


While I was seeking a new job opportunity, I could explore what I actually wanted to do in the next chapter of my career. So, the first step in my journey was self-evaluation. While this has been a very challenging time for my family and me; it was also a gift to find what truly satisfies me.

Self evaluationThe use of an outplacement service was included as part of my separation package. Time to saddle up, use that service and join with others on a similar journey. The outplacement service has tools and resources to guide me through the job seeking process including this self-evaluation. Some questions include:

  • What do I like to do?
  • What are my skills?
  • What are my interests?
  • What type of work environment do I seek?

Exploring the possibilities of where I wanted to work and what type of work was more empowering and satisfying than just being overwhelmed with the job openings emails pouring into my email from job search engines. I was more focused in the search for my next destination; not necessarily successful but more focused.

Me, Inc. and the Job Search

After I identifying what type of work I want to do and the type of company I want to join, I had to decide how to market myself.  A resume is a marketing tool that documents how a candidate can help an organization with its needs. But the challenge is how to build an effective resume that is concise, complete, and compelling. I wanted to balance the experiences and skills I possess with brevity, knowing that a resume is either reviewed by a machine for keywords or glanced at by a recruiter.

Me Inc. Name Tag, self evaluationOne of the most useful trainings I attended taught me how to build SOAR stories. SOAR stories help build the bulleted items in the resume. They also serve as excellent ways to demonstrate strengths and accomplishments during the interview process. SOAR stories consist of four pieces:

  • Situation
  • Obstacles faced
  • Actions taken
  • Results

As Rome was not built in a day, this activity took me several days because of its criticality and challenge to be understandable and compelling. Poring over old performance reviews, I was able to produce about three to five a day for a total of 20 SOAR stories.

Tools in Your Toolbox

Besides having an updated resume, stories demonstrating experiences, and a sense of where you want to go, many other tools help in the job search. While I had the benefit of an outplacement service, I also used the local Career Center sponsored by my state. I was like a sponge and was open to learning new skills and techniques from whatever resources were available at my fingertips.

tool box, tools in your tool boxThe resources and tools did not come to me. I had to seek them out using online searches and going into the career center offices and the outplacement services offices and partnering with the staff. I learned about how to evaluate employers at a job fair and how to structure my interview questions both on the phone and in person to name a couple.

I was amazed to learn about the vastness of the resources available including help with practice interviews or code development. I was busier attending activities and events than when I was actually working.

Numbers Don’t Tell the ‘Whole’ Truth

While the published unemployment rates seem at historical lows, this number may not reflect the actual unemployment or underemployment rate. During my job search journey, I encountered talented individuals who had been unable to land a steady position in years.

number cloud, statisticsA rule of thumb states that it takes nine to 10 months on average to regain employment after a job loss. Even then a job may only last two to three years. It may include a cut in salary and benefits. I found this discouraging. But what choice did I have but to continue onward?

Be Open to Guidance from Unexpected Places

In my job search, I have met some amazing and talented individuals from all walks of life. I have been humbled by their talent, their generosity, and their expertise. I am truly grateful for their gifts and their willingness to help others on this path. This has been one of the most profound gifts I have received in the last year. Part of the purpose of these blog posts is to share what I have learned with others and especially to help others know that they are not alone.

Advice, Help, Tips, Support, Assistance, Guidance, one of life's most wonderful surprisesOne of the participants in the weekly meeting at the outplacement service emphasized to the audience that if you follow your heart and your passion, the right role will be found. It may not be found on the timetable that you want, so another lesson learned is patience and grace. The good news was this individual was successful and landed a software engineering position. We have hope.

A manufacturing engineer seeking a new position developed and shared presentations about job search and personal value evaluation. Using this, I evaluated my findings to see where I will fit. I have truly been inspired by others, gained better perspective, and grown as a professional even as I remain unemployed.

Stay tuned for Part 3:
You’re On!  & The Highs and the Lows