During stable economic times (common wisdom dictates), people change jobs to get more responsibility, more money or a better work environment. During bad economic times, they don't change at all unless their situation becomes unmanageable or they're laid off.
Only rarely, especially in a down economy, will a job seeker admit to having left one job simply to go to a new city where no job is waiting but a happier life may be. That is, you don't hear it often from anyone who has outgrown their 20s, let alone their 30s or 40s.
Jill Greene, 52, did just that, and ended up in a new environment and a new job she loves.
"My husband and I lived in the Midwest our whole lives, and we'd reached a point where we were both disenchanted with our jobs," said Greene, who worked as a marketing manager in Des Moines, Iowa, for a series of advertising agencies and veterinary pharmaceutical companies. "We decided that if we were both going to look for new jobs, why do it in Des Moines? We just said, 'We're done with the cold and the snow' and moved to Texas."
Greene and her husband Ricky, a CPA, packed up the car in 2008 and drove south, ending up between San Antonio and Austin, where they looked around to see if they liked the place, decided they did, rented a house, then drove back north to pick up the rest of their stuff.
"We have no kids; all our family is back in Indiana, so we had nothing holding us back," Greene said. "We did a lot of planning financially, so we knew how long we could last. If neither of us had another job by July, we would re-evaluate; if neither of us had anything by October, we'd move back to Iowa, where we still had a house."
It didn't take that long, although the insecurity of not having a job and shock of having to find one in a place where she was completely unknown made Greene's three months of unemployment more stressful than she'd expected.
She hadn't had to look for a job among strangers since getting into the marketing business after college. "For 20-something years, my job moves were due to somebody recruiting me based on my experience; they knew me or my work," she said. "For that first interview [in Texas], I was very ill-prepared. I thought it would be just like before -- it would be fine. They didn't know who I was and could have cared less. Looking back on my resume and performance, they must have thought I was some kind of idiot."
Greene spent days researching best-practices articles on how to do a job interview, how to write a resume and how to search for jobs online. She realized she had spent years helping companies market products but never thought about how to market herself.
A resume evaluation from TheLadders helped turn that corner.
"The woman who evaluated my resume implied it was a wonder I got any calls back because my resume was in such bad shape," Greene said.
Greene's resume listed her jobs and education but didn't put the highlights of her career up front or emphasize her most visible strengths and accomplishments. It also didn't create a recognizable person or set of skills that would catch the eye of a recruiter or hiring manager faced with dozens or hundreds of resumes.
"I sat down and really rewrote it and took a really hard, honest look at myself," Greene said. "I had to dig back and look at my accomplishments over time. A lot of things I had done I hadn't thought that much about at the time, so I hadn't written anything down. I had to go back and remember all that and describe it and why it was important. It was a real shock."
Her resume consultant identified specific accomplishments to highlight – not just that Greene had helped launch a product, but that it was a USDA-regulated product the company was able to ship in an unusually quick 18 months, and that after X number of months on the market the product garnered Y amount of sales.
’If I Can Sell a Toothbrush for a Cat … ‘
"It was all about specific ways you helped a company move forward," Greene said. "And in the interview, too, you have to walk in and tell them exactly what you can do for them and tell about a time in the past that you did that for someone else. I told them once I had worked for a company that among other things made toothpaste and toothbrushes for dogs and cats. I said, ‘If I can sell a toothbrush for a cat, I can sell anything.’"
As it turned out, being able to sell things for animals – if not dogs and cats – was the key to landing a new job in marketing at Applied Biosystems, which makes products designed to sequence and analyze DNA and RNA samples, often for companies diagnosing sick animals or making drugs or other health-related products for them.
"Applied Biosystems posted this job that said they needed someone with an animal-science degree who had done marketing with animal products," Greene said. "I pulled it off and said, 'This is who I am.' "
Greene graduated from Purdue University with a degree in animal science, which covers most of the health and biochemistry issues that affect agribusiness: diseases and medicines for cattle and chickens, animal biochemistry and other topics critical to those running commercial farms and ranches.
She spent her career in Iowa working mostly for companies marketing products and pharmaceuticals to animals – usually farm animals rather than dogs and cats. So when Applied Biosciences needed marketing help for a small division in Austin selling products designed for veterinary diagnostic labs trying to identify avian flu or salmonella in farm animals, the match seemed perfect.
"The recruiter told me, and this is the first time I ever heard this, that they weren't even talking to any other candidates, because they didn't expect to find me," Greene said.
She got the job with little drama during the interview process and has been in love with it ever since.
Much of the reason it went so smoothly, though, is that she prepared for it using the advice she'd gotten from TheLadders and other sites.
"You want to be humble, but in this situation, you just can't. You have to dig hard and find the one or two things you can do for them," she said. "I asked them to give me a specific challenge they had, the hardest thing they're facing. Based on that, I could say 'Here's something I did in the past to solve a similar problem and what I would do to solve this one.' It's almost like consulting advice; you run the risk of being way off-base, but even if you are, they like that you have opinions."
The company must have liked what she said; she's currently working on the marketing plan for the product her hiring manager brought up in the interview. (It has not yet been announced.)
What she didn't encounter was any hint that her new company was uncomfortable with her age or that any other companies she interviewed with were, either.
"I did have one friend recommend that I just take all the dates off my resume, which drives some people crazy, and put one thing in there like mentioning I had run a half-marathon last year, that shows you're really healthy and energetic and no one will even think about the fact that you're over 50," she said.
Another trick that worked well was to remember the kinds of books on the shelf of the hiring managers she interviewed. At Applied Biosystems, one manager had a marketing-theory book called Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.
"I didn't have it, but I went out and bought a copy and skimmed it," she said. "So in my follow-up note I was able to say I thought they needed to pursue a Blue Ocean strategy to differentiate themselves and what that meant and make some suggestions on how to do it."
It worked. So did Texas. Greene's husband has put off finding full-time work to act as general contractor on a house the two are building.
On the day she spoke to a reporter from TheLadders, it was 38 and partly cloudy in Des Moines; 75 degrees and sunny in Austin. "I have yet to put on a jacket this year," Greene said. "I just love it."