The Gap Quarter

When I resigned I had no job to go to, and my successor-to-be was about to take a month off to get married. I didn’t want to leave him nor my team in the lurch, which is why I ended up giving 9 weeks notice (for my American readers, the Australian standard is 4 weeks). I thought that in that 9 weeks I would have plenty of time to find a job. I turned out to be harder than I thought.

I always knew that I would be at a disadvantage; looking for work in a foreign country where at the time I had no legal authority to work there (no Visa). Why would an employer risk time and effort for you when there are plenty of competent people within the US to hire? Luckily it wasn’t quite that bad – I got several interviews in at several large startups within the Bay Area, but after 2 or 3 interviews I would be told a fairly consistent message: “We like you, and we think you’d fit in and have a lot of potential, but you’re just not quite what we’re looking for.” It was time to execute Plan B: about a month before I left Deutsche Bank I booked my flights to the US, planning to be there from late April to as long as the beginning of June. That June timeframe was the limit in my head of how long I was prepared to invest in this lofty dream.

In those final few weeks before I left Deutsche Bank I was calm, which was a strange feeling. I imagine it’s akin to the moment before you bungee jump or skydive; amidst the chaos comes a peace right before the moment you jump off. There was no turning back now; it was unlikely I could ask for my resignation to be withdrawn, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t want to turn back. Like deciding to do something painful or scary, it’s best to just accept it after you’ve made the decision and move on.

I remember being one of those people who would criticise those who were with the same employer for 10, 15, 20 years. “They will become so ingrained into this culture, they will never survive when they leave,” I would say. But I ended up being one of those people, or perhaps got close to it. I was at Deutsche Bank for 8 years, 4 months, 11 days. The prospect of leaving was both exhilarating and terrifying. The majority of my adult life had been spent at Deutsche Bank. The weight of that was hard to analyse, especially in that last week.

The last week was mostly dealing with cleaning up my desk and taking personal belongings home (I managed to accumulate a lot of crap), forwarding important emails to my successor, spending time writing farewell letters to colleagues and vendors, and a few cheeky vendor lunches. This was after all meant to be a celebration of success and aspiration, rather than commiserating failure or defeat.

After I that last day I had a week at home to continue interviews and the job search and to spend a little bit of time relaxing, before the hard work really began.

Here we go.
I posted this on my Facebook on April 28 2013 with the caption, “Off to pursue the dream.” QF11 SYD -> LAX

The first two weeks in the US were truly horrible. The calm of the last few weeks of employment were replaced with stress and anxiety of unemployment. I was applying to any job I could find, utilising all of my contacts, and wasn’t getting anywhere. I also picked up a cold on the way over, so I was also battling illness while trying to find a job. It also seems that being an IT Recruiter outside of a company that actually hires them is really tough going, as I got nothing back from them despite several of them saying that I was a strong candidate.

I’ve never been unemployed by choice before, so in this situation the only person you have to blame is yourself. But by this stage it was too late to ask questions and revisit it; after the peace came the chaos, so you just have to accept it and live with it.

Luckily, at the end of the second week things got better. A meeting I had lined up since before I left Deutsche Bank with a vendor they use went very positively (Company A), as well as a phone interview for another company I had never heard of (Company B). Company A seemed very intent of giving me a job offer. Things were looking up! But I also wanted to talk to Company B as they were doing some really interesting things around big data.

Thursday, week 3. Today is when I’m meeting with both Company A and B. Company A wants to meet at 6pm. Company B asked me to arrive at 10am and to block out the whole day. I woke up around 6am, having had broken sleep with stress dreams on and off around interviewing. I ran out of time to get breakfast because I have a 2 hour drive ahead of me. I leave Alameda at 7:40am, and I arrive at Palo Alto at 9:45am, having wolfed down a small packet of peanuts for breakfast in the car on the way down.

Company B takes me through several interviews. I understand that with each interview that passes, I move up a the ladder a little more. Also having done my research on this company, I know that you can be let go any time during the day if they feel that you are not the right fit, and this plays on my mind a little. After lunch I meet up with a bunch of other interviewees (who are here for other roles) for a product demo. Afterwards several of them are told that their interviews are done for the day. I sit in a waiting area for a while, not sure what will happen next. Eventually I get taken to another interview. Then another. Then another. At about 5:45pm I’m told that I’m going to meet one of the founders of the company for a final interview. Keeping in mind that I was meant to meet with Company A at 6pm, I text that person before my last interview here and tell him I will probably be an hour or so late, and I totally understand if he wishes to postpone. To my surprise he says that he is happy to wait because he would be working late anyway. The final interview with the founder is at around 6:30pm.

I finish at around 6:45pm. That’s 8 and 3/4 hours of interviews. I’m now running on adrenalin – I am really exhausted. But I can’t stop now because there’s another interview to go, with the patient person at Company A. I race over to Santa Clara to meet them. We talk for about 45 minutes before he hands me an offer. I’m so tired and wrung out I’m not sure what to say or do. I was of course excited, but it wasn’t sinking in just yet. It was a long drive back to Alameda. I fall into bed just after 9pm.

A few days later, Company B also presents me with an offer. It was the best kind of problem to have, to decide between two great companies. Ultimately I chose Company B for a number of reasons, however it was a very hard decision to make. I change my flights and fly back to Sydney several days later.

After I returned back to Sydney, it took about 6 weeks to get my various affairs in order (including marriage!). It was a longer hiatus than I initially was planning, but it gave me some time to relax a little knowing I had a new opportunity to move into. In the end, it was 13 weeks between jobs. A long vacation, or funemployment, that I don’t intend to do again for a very long time.

A very important point to make is that both of those offers came initially through referrals: Company A through a chance meeting with the APAC Head of Sales, Company B through someone who worked at HR at Deutsche Bank who knew a someone in recruiting at Company B. While you could argue that there was no point travelling to the US to do search in person, it was actually a very important part of both company’s decisions to give me an offer: they saw how dedicated I was to pursuing this dream and thought that that passion and drive made me a strong candidate.  I still keep in touch with Company A.

I share this story not out of warning or advice, but to share a story about how a usually risk-adverse person did some crazy things in search of a better career path.

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