Q + A with Katie Fontaine: Making Your Job Search Work


In this post, our resident career guru, Jenn Walker Wall, interviews one of her clients about what the process of job searching is really like…and how to get through it!

JENN: I first met Katie at one of my workshops last summer. After that, I continued to see her and connect with online and in person, at our Ladies Lounge programs. When we met, Katie had been looking for a new role after a lay off but was struggling to get some traction. After some resume revisions, renewed motivation and more than a little persistence, I was thrilled to hear that she landed a job last fall.

I was even more thrilled to hear that she was willing and eager to share her story here!

Katie will be joining me for a Q + A webinar on February 6th. If you’re feeling stuck, you can join us for advice on getting your search moving in the right direction.

Tell us a little bit about you and you career before your lay off. What was your first reaction to being laid off?

I have unfortunately been laid off/let go twice during my career. My first experience was when I was 24 and the second when I was 26 - both design positions. I never thought it would happen once, nevermind two times in such a short period. When I was first laid off I didn’t see it coming and naturally I freaked out. I didn’t know where to begin or what to do. I was young, but I was fortunate to have the support from my family who helped me through the process the first time.  

When I was laid off for the second time I was in shock, but I was in a different mindset than I was before. I knew what to do and had a better understanding of what I wanted and was determined to find a company that I would utilize my skills and experience, and grow with. I also received a severance which helped financially, and lessen the stress of needing to find a job right away.

What was your expectation at the beginning? How long did you expect your job search to last?

I gave myself a goal of 3 months to find something, while also taking advantage of the time that I had and starting a routine but also giving time to myself. The first 3 months were nice, but then 3 months then turned into 6 months, which I wasn’t expecting. Keeping to my routine started to become harder as my confidence went down and I started to think my work wasn’t good enough. I had friends and family to turn to for support but I knew this was something I had find on my own.

Thankfully after the 6 month mark, I was presented with an opportunity for a contract design position. I was hesitant at first, because I wanted to be readily available for interviews, but I decided to take it to have in the meantime. I knew this wasn’t permanent so my theory was to work and gain more experience, while also searching for the next best opportunity.

What were some of the first steps you took in your job search?

First thing I did was update my portfolio and resume and then reach out to my network. I also updated my Linkedin profile and made sure that I was presenting myself well to employers or recruiters, for jobs that I was interested in.

After 3 months of searching I decided to give my resume a facelift, and paid a professional to freshen up the content. I also was constantly reading articles, learning more about the hiring process and learning more about how I could enhance my chances of being picked or stand out. Also, while being unemployed I took advantage of the classes that were mandatory but were really insightful to support my search.

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When did you first start to feel like, “This might be harder than I thought?”

Honestly, I don’t think I ever thought it would be easy, given I have already been down this road. But for the second time around I think it really hit me after the 6 months mark. The need for designers wasn’t really in high demand at the time, and was and still is very competitive industry. Even while I was at my contract job, I felt like I was getting so many phone interviews but not presenting well enough to ever be picked for in-person interviews.

You were super active - you attended my workshop and lots of Ladies Lounge events. What role did these events play in your job search process?

When I first stumbled on your workshop, and I am so happy I did, I was at a point with my search where I was frustrated and I felt like I hit a wall and needed a little push and the workshop was exactly what I needed. Not only did I have fun meeting new people and learning some tips with job searching, I realized I wanted to actively participate more in networking, and put myself out there.

I’ve heard of networking events being really stale, always seeing the same people over and over, not really getting anything out of them. However, Work Wonders and Ladies Lounge are the exact opposite - there are  always different topics, and coaches and experts who are there to help.

I also found myself enjoying sharing my experiences with others and have them benefit from my experiences.

What were some major turning points for you?

Some major turning points happened later to the end of my search. Recruiters and talent acquisition people were contacting me to fill open positions. They were usually working for a third party but it felt good I was getting noticed. I tried to update my Linkedin as I saw fit to help myself get more engagement. I also felt that the demand for designers were higher than I ever experienced so that really helped in the long run too.

What is your advice to job seekers who feel like they are struggling right now?

It is not a race! I know not having a job sucks, but don’t feel as though you need to accept the first one that provides you with an offer. When you are just starting your career, circumstances may be a little different, with the urge to get your foot in the door. But for people who are well into their careers and depending on what you want it is okay to be picky.

Also - take advantage of free classes that are out there (trust me they are out there). For instance, I took a salary negotiation course through my unemployment and it was extremely eye opening for me. Come to find out I was worth more than I thought, and it provided me some great tips to help me negotiate. I believe this same course is offered through General Assembly, and yes it is free!! But even if it does cost money, and you feel that it could be valuable to your search, it could be worth it.

Another point I would want to stress is as much as your looking for the right job, looking for the right company should also be a part of your process. With every interview I had I made sure to ask about their company culture. Asking that question either raised red flags which changed my opinion of the job, or made me want the job even more.  

Finally...how is your new job going?!

My new job is going great! I feel like I have a voice here, I am being challenged, and the people on my team and the company are all so great! The funny thing is out of the countless cover letters and resumes I have submitted this company found me through Linkedin and reached out to me directly, which is a good feeling. After my first in person interview I knew that I could picture myself here for a long time. I have only been here for 3 months so far and I am excited to see what that future holds!

Click here to register for our February 6th webinar. You can view our full Winter Webinar Series here.

Jenn Walker Wall writes a monthly career advice column called #AskJUGs for JustUsGalsBos.com and is the founder of Work Wonders Coaching + Consulting. You can follow her on Twitter: @JennWalkerWall