“How’s your job search going?”

I cringe at the message. I know my friend is just asking how I am and making conversation using something she knows about me, but I still recoil at what the question implies – that I am actively looking for a job (like the other XX million unemployed).

Was I searching for a job? Not really.

Since unemployment and creating the concept of this blog, I re-framed this time as a productive pause from the usual grind to refocus my attention on other things. I made a schedule for myself with online classes, trying new recipes, free streaming performances, and video chats with loved ones. I was transitioning to a new way of living.

I know I am in a privileged position to have savings and no debt. My finances cover my living expenses (shelter, utilities, food, insurance) for a few months and I know the unemployment insurance benefits (once they kick in) will cover my living expenses for months after. That financial security lends itself to less stress and my ability to enjoy – yes actually enjoy – this time.

But it would be untrue to say that I wasn’t looking for paid employment, just that I didn’t have to be stressed about it. I had connected with my network and recruiters letting them know I was open to opportunities, and even better, what kind of opportunities would be a good fit for me.

I have three realistic opportunities, roles that are a fit in responsibility, experience, and compensation – all through recruiters. My second job was through a professional recruiter (a third party service used to help companies fill roles – these professionals technically work for the hiring manager, but they’re incentivized to fill the role quickly with the best candidate and for the highest compensation package since the recruiter is paid a percentage of that salary).

Knowing how recruiters are incentivized lets me be proactive about my “job search”. Recruiters spend their time looking for good candidates for roles. A good recruiter knows that his or her job is to save the hiring manager time by narrowing down the candidate pool to 2-3 real candidates for consideration. Here’s the real secret – nobody likes to do recruitment unless you are a recruiter and you get compensated for good hires. Hiring people is logistically cumbersome, requires a lot of time, and extremely risky with the chance of hiring the wrong person for the role. Most hiring managers would like to outsource this work to professionals. Hence, enter the professional recruiter.

“A good recruiter knows that his or her job is to save the hiring manager time by narrowing down the candidate pool.”

Once I realized this (having been responsible for the whole recruitment process for a business line, and working with recruiters both on the hiring end and the candidate side), I used this knowledge to my advantage.

I identify roles I am a good candidate for and actively reach out to the recruiter to have them “put me up for consideration”. Recruiters love this. They welcome it because it makes their job easier – great, qualified, no bullshit candidates walking into their inbox; and because the recruiter is making the introduction (aka. I am completely new to the company’s talent pool/hiring system and the company would have never stumbled upon me otherwise), the recruiter gets their percentage if I am hired. Think of this as the professional super-charged, referral bonus. Most recruiters make at minimum 10% of the candidate’s salary, and because of the target base salary I go for – I am a juicy candidate.

I like to think recruiters have kept me in their network because I am easy to work with and I am collaborative. Even though their real boss is the hiring manager who will pay them, I approach recruiters with the attitude of how can we both get paid?

I go for the win-win scenario.

“How can we both get paid?”

What’s helped me in the job search is that I know a job is like a pair of shoes. Most of us have more than one pair of shoes. But I know that I only have one pair of feet and thus I can only wear one pair of shoes at a time anyway. I only really need one pair of shoes. Same with the job search – I just need one good offer.

I don’t believe in throwing my resume from the tallest building and hoping it lands far and wide. I don’t believe in putting my name on the circulating, unemployed covid-19 google spreadsheets for any employers that are hiring to comb through. So random. So not productive.

This is my life, these are my hours.

I am not writing this blog for people who are cash strapped and need that next pay check to make their life work. I am not writing this for the people who live their lives like a house of cards. I won’t lie and say I am not judging – because I am judging. I am seeing how others are spending their time right now – posting LinkedIn messages and announcements, making the digital asks for help – and I am deciding that is not how I want to operate during this time.

A hiring manager asked me what my timeline was, if I was close to accepting another offer. I wasn’t, but I wanted to start something new by the beginning of next month. I told him that was the expectation I was sharing across the board. He accepted and in response said he would try to move quickly.

I would be perfectly okay if I didn’t start a new opportunity next month, but that would mean I was going to continue taking ownership and structure my time for me.

The hiring manager told the recruiter that they liked me and were likely going to make an offer next week. The recruiter asked me what my absolute minimal salary would be, if I would be willing to take a 15% cut from my number if there was a good future compensation structure. I told him not at this time.

Mathematically, the base salary he threw out would be XXX times better than even the most generous unemployment check, but I know what it feels like to settle and to undervalue myself.

I know that no, is just saying no to one opportunity. Saying yes, is saying no to every opportunity that comes afterwards. If I was going to say yes to the next opportunity, I would have to be okay with the fact that I was saying no to any opportunity that would come after, and the included any potential better paying role. I would have to be okay with the opportunity costs.

“I know that no, is just saying no to one opportunity. Saying yes, is saying no to every opportunity that comes afterwards.”

This has been the most amazing of times for me. I have learned and enjoyed so much more (anatomy! cooking! exercise! culture!) in this month than I have in the years that I worked a well paying job.

When I was working a job and my time was crunched, it was hard not to look at the world through the lens of optimization. Everything must be optimized because you’ve sold your time, and for a high cost. You forget and start to charge yourself for using your own time. A one hour commute? You tap impatiently when the train stalls for a few minutes between stations. A learning and development course? You try to avoid it because it adds time to your current assignments and you want to get as much done for as little amount of time as possible for the least amount of effort.

But when your time is your own (as mine is now), time is abundant. I can do a 45-minute yoga class following an online video in the middle of the morning. I can take an hour to make myself a beautiful lunch, to sit and actually savor it’s taste, and then do the dishes. I can hit play on the audiobook and not worry about where the time goes, knowing I can hit pause whenever I feel like it. There is freedom in this time. You can have it even as we are quarantined in our homes.

I know I don’t need many new job opportunities – I just need one.

What are some areas in your life that are burdened by having too many choices? What is something that you just need one of?