Tuesday, March 8, 2011

3-8-11: Making a Career Move

Last week I gave notice to my current employer that I am leaving the company to take a position at another company in the Boston area. The new company is GE Aviation, based in lovely Lynn, Massachusetts. My current employer, Sikorsky Aircraft, is based in Stratford, CT. I spent a bit more than half of my childhood growing up in the Stratford area (in Easton, to be specific), so it’s not easy for me to leave the area. My parents moved to the South two years ago, though, so I’m the only one left. In fact, most of my family lives in Massachusetts, so I’m moving closer to family. My last day at Sikorsky is March 25th.

The job hunting experience was taxing. I spent a considerable amount of my free time searching for positions, not to mention the multitude of phone screens and a few on-site interviews. It is, however, exhilarating. The prospects of a new job, even in the same industry, bring a new sense of purpose. You begin to examine where you are in your career and life, and some decisions are difficult but necessary to make. I like my job at Sikorsky. I like my group. I like my co-workers. The program I work for is moving from the design to the testing phase, so my favorite thing to do, design, is quickly fading out of my current role. Not to say I don’t like testing what I have designed, but it did come into play. My decision was primarily based on wanting to get an MBA, and UTC’s changes to its Employee Scholar Program won’t allow me to get the MBA on the company dime. Other factors included location and salary considerations. Let me just state that I do think UTC is a fine employer.

Applying for jobs is very, very easy in this day and age. There are tons of great sites out there. I ended up sticking primarily with Indeed and LinkedIn. Believe it or not, Craigslist isn’t too bad, either. Monster and CareerBuilder, however, were a bit of a let-down since they don’t attract smaller employers due to their exorbitant fees. Getting a job, though, is tough, since many companies receive many, many applications for each posting.

Here’s some advice to job seekers: AVOID RECRUITERS. I went through a couple recruiters at some points in the months-long search, and regretted it in both cases. If they insist on you filling out an application on their website, don’t do it. They’ll insist that it’s “just part of the application process” and that it “will help them identify employers” but it’s just a ploy for them to get your personal information so they can spam you. I got two phone calls on consecutive days from one recruiter asking why I hadn’t filled out their application yet (I was genuinely busy), but once I took the time to complete the online application (took almost two hours), I heard absolutely nothing from them for months. When I e-mailed the associate, I was told “Things are slow with this employer.” Very frustrating.

That was a direct application through a recruiter. The other instance where recruiters came into play was when I unwisely put my résumé on public display on Monster. BIG mistake. I got a phone call from a head-hunter (I won’t even call them a recruiter in this case) based on the west coast. He said he had some positions in the Seattle area (probably Boeing) and was wondering if I was interested. I said I was interested in the Boston area, to which he replied: “Oh, are there aerospace companies near Boston?” Let’s see: GE, UTC, Boeing, MITRE, Raytheon, MIT Lincoln Labs, BAE, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Ametek… Not to mention other smaller companies like The MathWorks and Charles River Analytics who service the larger companies. Such blatant ignorance of the job market led me to remove my résumé from public view that day.

I learned a lot from the experience. I got in some great practice doing interviews. I am very good at behavioral interviews. Companies generally ask the same questions (I got this one several times: “Can you think of a time where you had a conflict with a co-worker or project partner? How did you resolve the conflict?”), so it’s good to have canned responses. The toughest interview I had, by far, was with The MathWorks. I applied for an opening as an Application Support Engineer, which I thought I’d be great at since I use their products (MATLAB, Simulink, and Stateflow) in my current position. Boy oh boy, it was a TECHNICAL interview. I got a call from the interviewer and was told “No reference materials allowed.” The questions themselves weren’t hard, but they were geared towards people who were full-time graduate students. I was familiar with all of the concepts, but they wanted me to give abstract definitions. It was awful. Didn’t get that job.

Another thing I learned is that small companies seem to be a lot more fun than big companies. There are more risks involved as far as job security, but I was very excited after interviewing at Charles River Analytics. Unfortunately, the job description and my experience didn’t quite match up. They wanted someone with more experience in Java, which I had studied during my Master’s, but I’ve never used it professionally. The position was in the Cognitive Systems group, but I was more intrigued by the work being done by another group within the company (the Sensor Systems group). I don’t know where my career will take me, but I’d recommend any one looking for something different than the big company environment to look at small companies and startups.

Now it’s down to the logistics of making the move. I’m in contact with about a dozen people from three different companies regarding the move (which is being paid for by GE): Cartus, Electric Insurance, and Castine Moving & Storage. The lady and I found an apartment in Medford through a broker (Apartment Rental Experts; great people). Our current landlords aren’t too happy about us moving four months early, but we get reimbursed for some of the rent, so it’s not a big deal. We’ll see how it goes…

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