Originally aired on April 22, 2021 @ 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT
Join us for an interview with Erin Hughes, Solutions Architect, AWS, about his experience being laid off in a RIF, the challenges he faced, and how it led him to write a book called 45 Days to Hired so that he can share his learnings and playbook to help others in their job search.
Well, welcome to another episode of Cloudflare's Recruiting Corner. I am your host, Todd Ciampa, one of Cloudflare's lead recruiters based down in Austin, Texas. And the Recruiting Corner is a segment that we strive to put out at least two sessions of content every month to talk about anything and everything related to the recruiting world. And today I'm really excited to introduce an old friend and colleague, Erin Hughes. Erin is somebody that I've been keeping up with on LinkedIn and haven't talked to as much as I wish I had been. But one of the reasons why I've asked Erin to be our first external guest is he wrote a book called 45 Days to Hired. And I felt that his experience regarding this book really fits into the Recruiting Corner. And so I'm really excited to welcome Erin and learn a little bit more about the inspiration that spawned the writing of 45 Days to Hired. So Erin, tell us a little bit about yourself. First and foremost, good morning from Houston. But tell us about yourself. Good morning, Todd. Hey, thanks for having me here. A little bit about me is I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, a little town outside of Buffalo. I joined the Marines at 19. And then when I got out of the Marines, I went back to Rochester, New York, and I stayed there for a couple of years. After a few years there, I moved to Tokyo, Japan. And then after that, finally, we moved back to Houston. And then throughout my professional career, I started off as a Windows administrator at Linux, then did some Linux administration. Then now I just pretty much do any kind of system administration. And then I'm also a manager and consultant for the business practices that I do. That's awesome. That's great. That's great. So Erin and I first met 10 years ago. And gosh, I can't believe it's been a while. But do you remember how we met, Erin? Well, in person or on the phone, because you recruited me to the position that I took. And and then maybe two or three months later, I'm always kind of skeptical when when I see people hanging out in the break room. And I'm like, and this is kind of before we had badges and stuff. And I'm like, Hey, how's it going? Who are you? And you're like, Oh, Erin, it's Todd. And I'm like, Oh, hey, Todd. So I was super stoked to get to meet you in person. You guys came down and cooked us some barbecue. It's great time. Yeah, yeah. And just a little bit more color on that. I work for a recruitment process outsourcing company that partnered with fast growing startups. And so Erin was one of the first hires I made at this company, and then became one of the hiring managers I worked with, where we had a lot of people and really built a great team and just a little bit more context there to this is a Internet security company. So security is paramount. So if unfamiliar face was walking around the halls, that that was a red flag for a lot of people. So it was an interesting way to meet one of the first people I hired. So let's go ahead and kind of dive right in. You know, Erin, so I saw you post when when you first launched the book 45 days to hire. And that's what made us kind of rekindle our conversations. Tell me a little bit about your experience with drove you to write this book. Well, about six, six, seven years ago, I suffered a pretty catastrophic job loss. And, you know, when I look back at it now, hindsight in 2020, it was, you know, really the right time. And it was mostly my doing to myself. So I started writing the book and it started out as this like two page letter that was met other people in the organization who had left the organization after I left. And it talked about some of the tools I used and some of the things that I had done to help me bounce back rather quickly. And when I when I did that, a couple of people came back and they were like, hey, this is really great advice. I've used it and I was able to, you know, back on my feet really quickly, too. And from there, I just kind of started expanding it more and more and more and more. And I had the first two sessions or sections of the book completely laid out. The problem was, is it had been so long since the execution phase of it that I'd forgotten some of the details on how I did it. Fortunately for me, COVID came along and there was another round of layoffs and I was in the same position again, except I had all the tools. All I needed to do is go through and write down how I did the execution. And from there, I mean, everything just kind of fell into place. Really, it wouldn't have happened without the events that happened last year. And one of the key reasons that I put it together and did it is I saw that there's like 20 million people out there that are still out of work. And I wanted to give them a set of tools that they could use to hopefully come back and bounce back more quickly. Gotcha. Gotcha. I want to kind of go a layer deeper, right? Because, you know, not everybody, and I've actually been in the situation you mentioned before, but talk to me a little about the fears that you had during that time of losing a job. I mean, the first time around, I was definitely not in the strongest financial position that I could be. Credit card debt, car payments, house mortgage, utilities, all of that. All of that can quickly outstrip, you know, even a fairly robust savings account these days. And, you know, I was born and raised in Buffalo. It's kind of my mental position that it is your job to provide for others as a father and as a husband. So the pressure in my in my chest thinking about how things could actually go wrong if I didn't follow through and if I didn't fix the problems that I had created. So I mean, obviously, there was a financial motivator there, for sure. But also, you know, part of my and one of the mistakes that I made during that last position was that a lot of my identity was wrapped up in the fact that I was a manager for a hot startup company in Houston, Texas, doing cybersecurity in the cloud. And I was like, you know, look at me. And then all of a sudden to have that taken away was kind of deflating. And it really, it was tough. So I sat down and I went in and really did some work on myself to kind of figure out, you know, how to avoid those situations in the future. Yeah, no, it's, um, your mindset's an important thing. And I think that was one of the things that I really loved about the book is the focus on mindset. And one of the things that I really one of my mentors used to talk about clarity of focus, right? And, and, and I kind of look at those being one in the same. Tell me why from your perspective, that's such an important aspect in the beginning of stage of the beginning of stages when you're looking to kind of pick yourself back up and go out and find the next job. Why is that mindset an important thing? Well, to me, I used to have this feeling that that when you when you took on a project or endeavor, you would get to a finish line, and then it was done. But as I learned more about software development, and and business processes, never, never ever is actually make it to the finish line, and it's done. There are projects that happens in but really, just like life. It's a continuous set of challenges that you have to be comfortable with. And you have to keep rising to the top of every time. And if your mindset is focused on that guy did something to me or these people don't like me or something like that, then yeah, it's it's really hard to get out from under yourself and take ownership and take responsibility. Nothing's ever really truly done. There's always a next step. There's especially in life, there's always a next step. And you may hit a setback today. But what that setback might set you up for is a bigger win tomorrow. So if you're if you keep that mindset in mind that that all right, there's a problem, but I'm here, I'm the person who's going to solve it. It helps you move forward. And it helps you quicker and more focused type of way than if you just stand there going, well, it's not my fault. You're not getting anywhere in life if you if you're still blaming others. It's kind of my personal mantra. There you go. There you go. All right. So so sound like the first step was getting your your mind and in a place of getting that focus. And you referred to this earlier on to kind of mentioned a playbook. Talk to me about the challenges of organizing this playbook and maybe a little bit more about what that is. So if you go to 45 days to hire.com and you go to the references or the resources section, there's pictures of the playbooks that I put in place. And there's three different playbooks because there's three different types of job searches in my mind. One, there's a contact space search. So I know that Todd might have some open positions. I call up Todd and say, hey, Todd, how's it going? Do you have anything open that you might be able to help me with? Todd knows me. I know Todd. Todd puts me in front of, you know, takes my resume directly from me and puts it in front of a hiring manager or somebody who can somebody who can make a call about Aaron, whether whether he wants to bring him in or not. That's that's the shortcut. And that's my favorite one is is a contact based search. And in the diagram there, there's a workflow that says, you know, you have a contact. This is how you go about contacting them. These are the questions you ask them. And then here's the pipeline when you get into what HR is. And all of the pipelines are fairly generalized because as you may know, sir, not in every single job search, are you going to hit every single one of the markers on there? You may skip over a hiring manager and instead go right to his boss because he's busy or whatever the case may be. So. The playbooks are there to help you kind of understand where you are and give you a roadmap on how to move forward. They're also in the book, but in the printed version of the book, they're not as clear. So I put them on the website so that you can go and download them and have a look at them for yourself. There is zero cost. You do have to go through a shopping cart, but there's no there's no cost to that. The other two other two types that I like to talk about are position searches and company searches and company searches are very similar to the contact search where you look at a company that you might like to work for and find out who your contacts are in there. And if you can't find any contacts in there, you go out and find some new ones. And, you know, you look at who, especially in LinkedIn, who is your second or third level contact in that organization? And then you reach out to your first level contact who knows the second level contact, you have them introduce you. And then after that, you kind of work through the same process with a position type of search. You're just applying. You don't know anybody in the company. And I put that at the lowest level if we were to rank them, because for me, getting a new position quickly has always come through a contact. It's always come through somebody that I knew who knew me or had worked with me and recognized my skills and my abilities, and then was able to help me make contact with somebody who could give me a position, not give me, but who could help me out with a position. Yeah, and I love that, right? And as a recruiter, you know, I look at myself as being a consultant in a lot of ways, right? Not only helping the companies that I work for hire people, but also helping people to find those right opportunities. And one of the things that really resonated with me was the reliance that many candidates have on applying for jobs and hoping for the best, right? Just to give you a little bit of context, we get so many applicants at a company like Cloudflare that literally less than half percent of the people that apply get a job here. And so the things that Aaron's talking about really go along with the consulting that good recruiters would tell you, too. It's a contact sport, and you have to be very, very proactive, right? And you have to find people that you know or create relationships with people so that you can get to know them, or find ways for those people that you know, how are they going to introduce you to other people as well? And so, you know, the biggest thing for me, too, whenever you're looking for that new job, you want to look at every single channel as possible. I'm not telling you not to apply for jobs, but even when you do apply for jobs, think about the things that Aaron's kind of hitting on in his book here, finding those contacts to open those doors for you as well, because I'll tell you it happens all the time as somebody on the inside of, you know, people say, hey, I didn't refer this person, but they let me know that they applied because they contacted me on LinkedIn or on Twitter or what have you. And it helps you to kind of rise up to the stack, because on a lot of these positions, we get hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. So you got to be proactive. So the master list, right? This is kind of the core of the book. You know, what is it and why is it so crucial to success, Aaron? So the master list is again, if you go to 45daystohire.com and you hit the reference or excuse me, the resources section, you can download the master list. The master list is an Excel spreadsheet. And that Excel spreadsheet has some macros inside of it. So you have to enable those. But those macros allow you to put all your contacts on the first sheet. Everybody that you know, everybody that you think can help you out. And then it also gives you a way to score and rate those. So you can take each one of those. And, you know, maybe this person knows you really well, really thinks the world of you, but might not have the influence to help you get a new job. So it gives you an overall score for each person. And it's up to you. You have to fill all this stuff in yourself. And after you fill that stuff in, you can go ahead and move over to the companies and the positions. Now, when you're filling in the companies, you're just going off of things that you're kind of you would like, right? I would like to work for a company that does X. So you look up those kind of companies, you start putting them in there. As you do that, as you fill in the companies tab and in the positions tab, if you go and just send a resume out for a position, say on LinkedIn or something, you can put all that information in there. And then when you do, if you have a person who works at that company that you are applying for, and you maybe didn't realize it, that name pops up on the companies tab and the name pops up on the positions tab as well. And there's also sections to make notes. When did I apply? How long did it take for them to respond? Have I gotten a response yet? And then kind of the workflow around that is just filling in your contacts, getting your companies in there and getting your positions in there, and then figuring out who knows who in that. And then it helps you make those contacts. It helps you reach out and figure out, am I the right fit for this job? Yeah. And I love this and I want to kind of talk a little bit more about this from a recruiter's perspective as well. Because a couple of things that really resonate with me is you have to be organized when you are looking for a new opportunity. And you would be amazed at the amount of times that I do talk to candidates who don't even remember applying for jobs at companies. And while you might be qualified, there is a part of the process where people want to understand why the company, why did you apply for us? What was it about it? Why are you interested? People want to work with people that are like-minded, that share the passions of the mission statement of the company you work for, right? You know, Cloudflare. Helping to build a better Internet for all, right? That's that we hold sacred at this organization. So I love the fact that you've found a way to using the skills that you have as an engineer to kind of automate this process to help people keep organized. And not only keep organized, but to leverage that to find those contacts at companies that you might not even know as opposed to doing it in a manual way. So I just love seeing that. And, you know, when I talk to people who have utilized the book, there's been a couple of people who have said to me, well, I use the book, but it didn't, you know, I'm like, okay. And then I look at the position they applied for. And then I look at if they're a contact of mine, then I look at the people at the company. And I see right in there, plain as day that somebody's old boss now works at that company. And that resume came across the desk and said, yes, I would love to hire that person again. It's really who you know. And if you can organize yourself around that philosophy, you can easily, easily make headway a lot quicker than you would if you just started going out and applying for jobs. Totally. Totally. All right. So here's where I'm going to kind of challenge you and have a little bit of fun. So, you know, one of the aspects of the book that made me chuckle a little bit is no recruiters. So let's talk a little bit about what your experience has been with recruiters, because, you know, it's different for everybody. Yeah. And if there is one line in the entire book that I get more emails about and more kind of, what do you mean no recruiters? Todd, how many different types of recruiters are there? So you have like your standard in -house recruiter, and then you have somebody who might be working outside as a partner. Both of those, good to go. But then you have like your headhunters and people who are sending you out information for positions in, you know, we're living in Houston and Austin here, but for positions in like Hackensack, New Jersey, for a three month to hire contract based on something you did 20 years ago. Those are the guys that I'm mainly referring to that you got to kind of ignore or steer away from. The other thing that's really important about recruiters is, you know, our timeline is 45 days. We want to start here and we want to end here with a new position. Todd, I'm sure it's never happened, but has there ever been a customer that said, well, I need to hire somebody today. And then two weeks later, they're like, oh, we can't hire anybody today because blah, right? That timeline can sometimes be a little bit of a mismatch and that's nothing against the recruiting field, but we want fast as possible. And then the second thing or the third thing on that is I used to have this very big misconception that recruiters were also career counselors, which they are not. You know, you can help us in the process, but the reality is a recruiter is not a career coach. He's not somebody out there or she's not somebody out there helping you or excuse me, giving you life advice on how to do the thing to get the job. They're looking for a product that they can sell to their customer. And that's really that third type of recruiter, the headhunter. They're looking for a product that they can sell to somebody else and you are the product. And if you don't fit, you don't fit. The other thing about the recruiting cycle is that when somebody gets a call from a recruiter, many times they just abandon their job search and wait for that next call back. And you need to keep moving forward. You need to keep trying new things or newer positions. Yeah. And so this is where, you know, as Aaron and I were talking about this segment, we had a little bit of a disagreement and I kind of educated him on my thoughts and I think I've gotten him to a good place. And the way I look at it, right, I think just like working with any kind of person that provides a service, you have to be discerning, right? And just like anything, there's the good ones and there's the bad ones. And I think the thing that I picked up the most out of what you talked about there is be selective, right? Be sure that if you are talking to recruiters, you're talking to the right ones that have an expertise and can bring value to you as well in addition to bringing value to their customer. But don't be so reliant on thinking that the recruiter is going to be the saving grace that's going to get you that next job. Once again, kind of rolling back to the playbook, you have to use a multi-pronged approach that is using all of the channels at your disposal to get you to that job within 45 days of losing a job or deciding to make that move. You know, what are the key takeaways that you feel that really helped you to find that next job in 45 days if you were to kind of summarize that? So if I was to summarize it, number one, contacts. You need to always be working on your contacts. I only have about a thousand contacts in LinkedIn, but I know that those contacts are real quality people for the most part that I can reach out to in a pinch. And whether I'm looking to hire somebody or I'm looking for a position myself, they will have intel that will be able to help me. Contacts is number one. Number two, organization. And number three, execution. You know, it's great to have all these plans and understand them. And then after that, you have to execute. And then finally, understand your strengths and market to those. Yeah, no, I agree. And I think another really important part about the marketplace of the contacts, it's important for your participation on the flip side, right? And so one of the things that I learned from a great recruiter many years ago, every time he always asked permission to connect with people. And every time he's like, please let me know how I can ever help you in the future, either through a direct contact or a contact of a contact. And if you give, you will receive. And I think if you think about that every single time, you're always thinking about how I can help people within my network. When the time comes, those people will be there and they'll remember that and they'll be very interested in helping you when you're in that time of need. Exactly. And just going back to those contacts and, and, and keeping them in the loop on where you are in the process is a really good first steps to keeping that door and that channel open all the time. And, and even if, you know, you get into the process, and then somebody along the line says, you know, we don't, we don't want this person, that contact that you have there can tell you why maybe, and maybe he or she can also tell you about some things you did right. And some things you could have done better. And using that things you could have done better, taking notes, and making sure that you're, you're acting on that. It's all like, it's, it's a big continuous loop of, of reaching out, building, building your contacts up, and then being where you can improve, where can you improve, who can you improve with, so. And always being open to understanding that we're not perfect, right? And we all have areas that we can continuously improve on and being humble, taking feedback, and, and looking to improve and iterate on that, I think are important things and always be thankful, right? Whether, whether that door opens that provides an end to those means or not, always thanking people for those opportunities will once again, bring that back in more full. So, so, so Aaron, you wrote this book, you know, any, any success stories from, from people that have implemented the playbook? You know, way too many to count. I will say, there was a time in, in January where I said for the first two weeks of the year, I'm going to put out a video with content in it every, every other day or something like that. And I was posting these videos, and they're only getting like five or six likes. And I was kind of down on my luck. And then out of nowhere, I got a gentleman named Rob. And Rob said to me, Hey, look, if you're the Aaron Hughes who wrote 45 days to hired, I would really like to thank you. I'm using this right now. And I'm getting so much traction. I'm getting so much done. I'll have a new position. All right. And then my co authors is a great example in his field. He was in oil and gas and around here in Houston. Towards the end of the year last year, everybody work was drying up everywhere. So and, and he's the one who helped me write the piece about Hunter IO in the book. Hunter IO allows you to research companies, find contacts inside the companies with their emails. And then from there, go ahead and reach out and contact them. He looked at his contact list, and then realize that you need to find a different type of company to work for as a project manager. And he reached out and 33 days a position. But just like that, former co worker, she was satisfied, she was kind of dissatisfied with the current position, read the book from the day she got the book, 43 days to new position. And then my favorite of all, an individual went seven months without a new position, picked up the book. 26 days later, they're in a new job. I love it. I love it. Well, our last minute here, Aaron, I'm sure you never thought that you were going to be a be an author. What did you learn from from your experience writing this book? Um, it was a really interesting experience. And it drew upon all of my technical skills, which were project management, things of that nature, where I had to figure out what the project was, put the different steps in, and then make sure that I got them in order. Because sometimes if you don't get things in order, like having your cover created, before you know how many pages are in it, you have to go back and have your cover created again. So yeah, it was an excellent learning experience. And and honestly, it's it's a marketing is the key there. And my goal is to help 10,000 people find a new position. That's awesome. Well, we're out of time. I think we're done with our segment. Thanks so much. It was great chatting with you. Hey, thanks, Todd. I really appreciate your time. You have a great one. And I'll be in contact soon.