Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Milissa Hayes enjoyed a successful and varied career in retail, technology and private consulting, including stints in web development, design and production, research and data analysis at Macromedia, Adobe and Google, while simultaneously raising her daughter.
When she decided to go back to full-time work after consulting for several years, Milissa wanted to be thoughtful about where she landed next. An alumna of The Swing Shift’s Fall 2018 Career Catalyst, Milissa talks about her road back and role shift, and how she recently landed a senior program manager role.
Looking for a job can be discouraging on a good day. You had a lot of moving parts, as you negotiated a new social situation, as well as wanting to focus on a new role outside of SEM and analytics. How did you manage this process? Did you experience any setbacks?
I was overwhelmed by how much there was to do, where to start, and I had a lot of personal stuff going on at the same time. My brain felt overloaded. People tell me I am helpful with career advice, but when it came to giving it to myself, I did not fare well. So I knew right out of the gate that I would need some help. The first step in managing it was to let someone else take the lead (for once!)
I searched for career advice, coaching, tips and tricks on the web, thinking I would hire a single person to hold my hand through the process. I came across The Swing Shift and it was a total godsend. (This sounds like a plug, but it’s truly not…. I was paid zero dollars to say this. ) The Swing Shift gave me the structure I needed over 6 weeks, with homework, accountability and support. Having someone tell you, “here’s what you do now, here’s what’s next”... it was invaluable.
I had multiple meetings/interviews that I thought went great, but I never heard from the person again, even after follow up. And of course, there were computer problems, and issues with tracking down dates in my work history. In hindsight these setbacks served as guard rails. The little failures and corrections kept me pointed towards the job that would be the best fit.
How did you land your most recent role?
I reached out to a former co-worker friend in San Francisco to ask about a role I had seen posted in the Seattle branch of his company. While that job was a dead-end, several months later the same friend pinged me about a role on a different team. That got the ball rolling, and from there it was just a good fit for everyone.
Every meeting and conversation I had was planting a seed. I might not see anything growing, but there are sprouts under the dirt that are potentially about to pop up.
You have an enviable and varied background in analytics, content development and web design. How did you talk about all those skills as you interviewed?
I had to find the common thread. For me it was that these companies all had viable, profitable products, but they were nascent in their growth and trying to scale their businesses quickly. In each case, I added value by not just doing what I was hired to do, but by finding ways to improve processes, save money, do a thing quicker or more thoughtfully to avoid waste. This lead to me being promoted quickly into leadership/project management roles.
Knowing this about myself and my history, it helped me target companies and teams that were in a similar growth space, so I could sell myself into those scenarios with this common thread.
What did The Swing Shift team provide you as you leaned back into the workforce?
The structure of how to tackle the process was really helpful for me. But maybe just as important was community. I felt a lot of empathy from the other attendees and The Swing Shift team.
You are immersed in this group of really smart, interesting, powerful women. Everyone is grappling with discernment about what to do next, how to do it, and/or confidence about her abilities. It was incredibly reassuring and supportive for me to see this up close. These women, who are so capable and smart, are also struggle with the process just like me. And then we start to figure it out.
Talk about the role of informational interviews as you looked for your next job.
My mantra was “Go on as many as can!” It was a way to stay busy and hone interview skills, while the stakes were a bit lower. Plus, again, planting seeds with every meeting.
The informational interviews I attended were very casual. Often we’d spend the time talking about how we were connected, or we would both share our work histories, or even talk about our kids or the neighborhood where we lived. All were held somewhere besides the business I was considering.
Several of my informational interviews were one directional, and revealed just a small slice of the company, roles, and culture. To counterbalance this feeling I would remind myself - “This is a crucial first step to get in the door.” This said, these informal meetings were extremely useful solidifying my story about what I wanted to do and why I would be useful for any team. So even if the informational meeting would not reveal enough for me to decide if this company or team was a good fit for me, I would still get a LOT out of it.
Did you find they were different than traditional interviews?
Traditional interviews were so different, and SO much harder. I could feel how much further down the process I was. I needed more specific prep in both my answers and my questions. And I had to remind myself “I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me.”
Anything else you want to tell folks as they look to get back to work and change roles?
In this age of “everything-is-so-easy-just-watch-this-20-second-video-on-how-to-get
-a-job-and-you-too-can-have-one-today”, this process is not easy. It takes introspection & effort. But truly, I believe the process works. The steps are tried and true: Discern what you are good at, how you add value, and what drives you to work, and then share it with a LOT of people face-to-face. Good things will happen as a result. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding a support system to help you through it.
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