March 4, 2021

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Reflections and Confessions of a Scrum Master | by Michael Abugow | Serious Scrum | Aug, 2020


How I re-imagined my job search with Scrum

Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

This is a cautionary tale of true-life happenings of a Scrum Master and his search for a new job. You may have guessed already that this is my tale of the last five or so months. It started in March with companies here in the US closing up shop as COVID-19 started spreading and we went into social distancing. I was supporting teams that for all intents and purposes were distributed anyway.

I worked with people local to me here in Texas, some people in Massachusetts and the bulk of the team distributed throughout India. We were working pretty well, we had just started “firing on all cylinders” when we got word that the company I was helping would be working fully remote with the exception of “key” employees.

I thought to myself: this is something that as a Scrum Master I’ve been saying is a perfectly good way to work for knowledge workers for years. I’ve seen more often than not that teams working distributed, with the right types of technology and team working agreements can function perfectly well. And, this time was no exception.

What I hadn’t bargained for though was the economic impact of social distancing. As more and more places like bars, restaurants, and sporting arenas closed affecting the revenue of companies, so too did this affect the company I was supporting. Thus, several of my co-workers, myself included, were laid-off in mid-April.

I was among the lucky few that were given two weeks’ notice that the layoff was coming. As soon as I was told this, I got to work looking for a new position. Within that first two weeks, I must have applied to over 70 job postings in the hopes that I would have little if any downtime. During this time, companies started shrinking across the board, I started seeing more and more friends getting laid off as companies became impacted by upstream and downstream fiscal constraints.

Epiphany — Inspecting the Process

Confession time, during those first two weeks that I was still employed, the only planning I was doing for my next job was looking for postings on LinkedIn and multiple other job posting sites. I was happy, I got an interview pretty quickly during this time.

Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out, this would not be the last time this happened. For the first four weeks or so of unemployment, not much changed in my approach. The only thing that happened was I started tracking multiple data points of my job search. Things like company name, career website URL, position title, and other metadata.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Personal Review

As the weeks started to pass by and I was treading water as far as getting even one interview per week, out of 20–40 job applications per week, I knew I had to do something different.

  1. I started having self-retrospectives after each interview. It did not matter if it was a phone interview or a video interview. I started making changes. Perhaps, the most significant change I made was switching from trying to show everything I knew about how to be a great Scrum Master to how I can help the company I was applying to.
  2. Instead of one resume to cover all possible jobs, I started tailoring resumes to the jobs I was applying to.
  3. I went from not using cover letters, to including them on all of my submissions.
  4. I truly customized thank you notes after interviews, I even sent a few video thank yous out that I recorded.
  5. I updated and revamped my LinkedIn profile.
  6. I started really interacting with my social network on LinkedIn. I commented on posts, I crafted posts. I also did something that had been in my backlog for several years to start doing, blogging.
  7. I kept to a daily and weekly cadence of applying to jobs, attending online support groups, talking with friends, and quality family time.
  8. I started Retrospecting every week on each of the items above and made changes as necessary.

Adaptation

As I started making small changes to my approach for my job search and kept track of what worked, and what didn’t work, I started seeing promising results. I was talking with more and more recruiters, and as a result, I was talking with more hiring managers.

As I changed my focus during these first-round interviews to how I could help these organizations based on my experience, I started getting invited to second-round interviews. And after four months, and over three hundred job applications (of which I’m sure many were duplicates, just posted by different agencies), I was offered and accepted a new position!

If you are looking for a job during this time, this is a different job market. We have to truly live the values of Scrum and change how we conduct our job search. If you need help, please reach out, and I’m happy to help. I don’t know everything but am happy to share my experience in greater detail. There are always things for us to learn and share. I hope some of my personal discoveries can help you. I look forward to reading about them in the comments section.

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