400 applications in 3 months – How I made a career change in 2022

A snarky sign at Pug on a Pontoon in Granbury Square #essays

I started 2022 with a major career change. It was easy—all it took was applying to nearly 400 jobs in just under 3 months.

Disclaimer: What follows is the story of the job search leading to my career change. This post is not a how-to. I do not claim to have all the answers. Instead, I hope that sharing my experience and perspective can help someone else looking for a similar change.

On with the post

Admitting it's time for a change

Before starting my job search, I first had to accept it was time for a change. I had talked about getting out of oil and gas for years, but I hadn't found the motivation to act until the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world.

Seeing oil go negative for the first time in its history on April 20, 2020, was enough to make me start moving on my exit strategy.

A snippet from Bloomberg Energy on April 20, 2020, when oil prices went negative for the first time in history

Screenshot of commodity prices from Bloomberg Energy on April 20, 2020

In case I needed further motivation, I was notified in late October 2021 that my job would be eliminated sometime in the next 90 days. I didn't know at the time that the end would actually come in early December.

The foundation was set: I was ready for a change, but where would I go?

Figuring out what I wanted to do next

A career change wasn't going to be easy. So I needed to make sure that I put my energy into something worth the struggle.

After seeing oil prices go negative, I gave myself a thought exercise: I told myself I had just lost my job and that I would not be able to find another job in oil and gas. I convinced myself that I had no choice but to find a job in a different industry. This wasn't true—and of course I knew that—but such framing set the foundation for my transition.

So I had found some motivation but still didn't have any sense of direction. What could I do about that?

I did some soul searching.

As a kid, I dreamt about being a novelist. But I had given up on that dream by college when I stepped onto campus as a journalism major.

Even my journalistic ambitions didn't last, and after a quick stay at the college of engineering via attempting a computer science degree, I finally graduated with a BS in marketing.

I had enjoyed blogging off and on after college, but I had problems maintaining the habit because my blog persona didn't mesh with a career oil and gas professional. The conflict created an identify crisis and bit of imposter syndrome, which usually led to my deleting my blogs in the name of going all in on a career I stuck with only due to the comfort that accompanies predictability.

When I was honest with myself, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to write for a living. But I didn't know exactly how I wanted to do it. How could I make writing for a living a viable reality as opposed to another daydream?

My soul searching led to Google searching, which led me to technical writing.

If you don't know what technical writing is, I'll save you a Google search: In a nutshell, technical writing is the art of explaining complex topics in a way that non-experts can understand.

I took an online technical writing course in summer 2020 and then enrolled in a certificate program in summer 2021, which will conclude at the end of January 2022. So soon I'll be able to call myself a certified technical writer. Oooooo

Getting help where I could

I was uneasy looking for a job in this new and exciting field, which required speaking lingo I hadn't learned after nearly 14 years in the oil and gas industry. I needed help talking pretty for recruiters and the dreaded application tracking systems (ATSs), so I reached out to a resume writer.

The resume writer said the same things I had been saying about my career and accomplishments, but she said them more effectively. Instead of saying I had created mineral ownership reports—Who outside of oil and gas knows what those are?—she said I created technical documentation and explained complex topics for non-technical audiences.

These statements were true. The only difference was that they were now presented in a manner more familiar to my target audiences.

Starting to frame my past in a way that lined up with my ideal future helped get me moving in the right direction.

I made a few changes to my new resume as I progressed in my search. At one point, I completely changed the format but transferred the meat of the resume writer's content.

Even though I did not stick with the original resume provided, I do not regret hiring the resume writer. I do believe that hiring her was a crucial part of the process.

Creating a job search strategy

Search for the secrets to the perfect job search strategy, and you'll find advice to invest hours into adapting your resume to the job you're applying for. Oh! And be sure to write the perfect cover letter. And don't address your cover letter to the “hiring manager”—be sure to find out who exactly will be reading your credentials.

That strategy may be good to follow if you're targeting one company for your dream job. But let's be real: The best tool for finding a new job is effective networking.

I didn't have the personal or professional network to help with my career ambitions, so I was going to have to find a job without any help.

The odds were not in my favor since I didn't have previous technical writing experience, but I found encouragement in a piece of advice I had seen repeated on the technical writing subreddit, which went something like this:

There is such need for technical writers. Keep applying. Someone will take a chance on you.

I interpreted this advice as meaning I was looking for a needle in a haystack. I was looking for someone to give me my dream shot at Top Gun.

I was playing a numbers game, meaning I couldn't afford to spend two hours on a single application, especially when employers know in only a few seconds if they're interested in you.

Instead, I implemented a strategy that went against everything the top job search resources advocated: I was going to spray and pray.

Searching and applying for jobs

For the most part, I relied on LinkedIn for my job search. I did this for a couple of reasons:

  1. I already have a full-fledged profile on LinkedIn, so there's no need to worry about creating a new profile or maintaining a profile on a different site.
  2. LinkedIn's Easy Apply feature means I can apply for jobs without ever leaving LinkedIn.

Some notes about LinkedIn's Easy Apply feature:

My second favorite site for job searching was Ziprecruiter. I mostly duplicated my LinkedIn strategy by focusing on Ziprecruiter's 1-Click Apply option.

This was my first time using Ziprecruiter, but the experience was good and I would try the site again, especially since I found my job through a posting from Ziprecruiter.

Still, when I have to look for jobs in the future, I will prioritize LinkedIn. I've gotten at least one job through LinkedIn in the past, and my point about already having a full-fledged profile that I keep updated even when I'm not job-hunting remains.

Some numbers and a summary

Let me throw some numbers at you, which I will then expand upon:

I applied for 295 jobs via LinkedIn's Easy Apply feature, and 61 jobs on Ziprecruiter. I also applied for a handful of jobs via Indeed, and I applied for some jobs on other sites.

So I have no problem stating that I applied for nearly 400 jobs in 3 months (I got my job offer in early January 2022).

I likely had fewer than 10 pre-interview screenings. The screenings are difficult to gauge because I know I didn't have many phone screenings, but it's hard to know how many email interactions to count when accounting for fly-by-night recruiters.

And I believe I had only one interview beyond preliminary screening, being the interview for the job I got.

I won't count the one interview I had that lasted only five minutes before the manager told me he wasn't sure why the recruiter thought I was qualified for the position and I agreed and told him I figured I'd take my shot. He understood and wished me luck on my search before we parted. He really seemed like a sweet man who would be a pleasure to work with. But oh well, I'll never know.

On to new adventures

Though the vast majority of jobs I applied for were for technical writer positions, the position I landed was a digital marketing position for a local IT service provider. I'm already working on a website redesign, and soon I'll be diving into content writing and social media management. Oddly enough, my pursuit of technical writing assured my boss that I would be a great fit for this job, because he felt that I would understand how to communicate the technical aspects of our offerings to less-technical decision makers.

And I agree with him—that's why I'm so stoked for the work that lies ahead.

Time will tell if we're both right.

This post first appeared on Jake LaCaze's blog.

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