Working with a Professional: Aaron Kier’s Job Search Success Story

Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire and empower others who are on their own unique path. We love to hear how our readers have found rewarding careers in Portland, and we want to share these stories with you to inspire you in your job search and to help us all better understand the local job market! In this job search success story, Aaron Kier, Director of Employee Experience & Inclusion at Act-On Software, shares how he worked with a professional to create a strong and polished resume.

What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

An elevator pitch for what I do is tough — essentially, if it touches the everyday experience people have working in the company and the culture that surrounds them, my hands should be on it in some way. I’m an advisor, a strategist, a change agent, and an advocate. Depending on the size of the team and the scope of the initiatives I’m working on, I can also be the project lead, communications manager, procurement specialist, sales rep, and so on.

Getting to this place in my career has been an interesting journey. I started in agency recruiting and account management and was eventually promoted into a position managing learning and development. When I moved to an in-house talent role, I got to take on diversity and inclusion strategies, an onboarding program, a performance review structure, and an equity-first professional development initiative. Connecting the dots and creating a cohesive through-line for this range of people programs was the work that became the foundation for my holistic approach to employee lifecycle strategy.

I currently work as Director of Employee Experience & Inclusion at Act-On Software. The role and the initiative are new, so I’m constructing whole cloth and from the ground up. It’s exciting, overwhelming at times, and fulfilling to see the fruits of my labor and make a real impact in such a short span of time.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I suppose the answer is either almost five years, a little over four months, or just two weeks. I knew I was ready for a fresh challenge, but it was a different market, and that initial search was rough. As a result, I took contract gigs and quickly recognized the exponential professional growth it created, so I became quite intentional about each new project I pursued.

Upon ending a contract assignment that wasn’t the right focus for me, I decided I was ready for a broader scope of responsibility and the ability to make a longer-term impact. I doubled my search efforts for a full-time role, and about four months later, I ran across the posting for my current position. Whether it was kismet or just a really astute recruiter, I got a call within about two hours. Two weeks later, I accepted an offer.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

Career coaches are going to be angry with me for saying this, but (especially pre-COVID) I networked like it was my religion and never found the “hidden job market” or any other magic bullet. I made some truly wonderful connections, but those didn’t result in jobs or even real leads.

My novel approach? I searched job boards, set up daily notifications, and applied quickly to everything that fit and sparked my interest. That’s it.

I also worked with someone I trusted and respected to create several versions of my resume, which focused on different roles. With each application I submitted, I customized keywords and rearranged strengths, projects, and duties to align with the posted description. I can’t honestly say whether it made a difference, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

I never stopped applying. Or networking. Or revamping my resume. Over those four years, I submitted more applications than I want to admit. I’d been saying for some time that recruitment and hiring were broken, but I really hadn’t understood the depths of how true that was. It was brutal and incredibly demoralizing to be doing big work as a valued consultant driving broad initiatives where I was coaching C-suite execs, yet I couldn’t find an interview for a full-time role. 

I don’t really think I overcame it — it hurt most every time. The best I could do was to remind myself of all I’d accomplished and that I was damned good at my job, then put it away and start fresh tomorrow.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Work with someone reliable to create a strong and polished resume — someone who’s a good writer but also understands hiring. Pay a professional if you can afford to. Have someone give you feedback and pointers on your interview skills. Once you know those are solid, recognize that job hunting is a crap shoot, and don’t let what happens from then on out shake your confidence. It isn’t you.

In those four months of nearly full-time job hunting, I applied to at least 15 roles that I consider comparable to the one I’m in now. Several rejected me almost immediately; most just never responded. Looking at the exact same experience and qualifications, one person out of 15 understood what I was bringing to the table. Enough so that the extended offer was for a higher level role and above the budgeted salary range.

It only takes one.

Why do you love your job?

I do what I do because I genuinely care about people. My “why” is making people’s lives better. The line about how much of our lives we spend at work is a little worn but true. Our jobs may take up less space in 2022 than they once did, but it’s still a huge time investment. So, how we feel — whether we’re supported and safe and seen, and whether that experience is empowering or toxic — has an enormous impact on people’s success, well-being, and lives away from their desks.

I get to shape that experience by removing roadblocks, improving equity and access, ensuring people have resources and tools for their success, and building leadership approaches that support empowerment and autonomy. When it works, it’s incredible; when it doesn’t, you keep pushing because it’s important. What’s not to love about that?