New Employer. New Outlook.

It was 7 months to the day (Oct 17) that my interest was piqued about the possibility of getting hired by BART. At the time I was introduce to Paula, who is a manager at BART, there were no open positions for Train Controller. These days it seems its not what you know, but who you know that could play into your favor. This time as luck would have it, it played into my hands and was given a great opportunity and possibly a new career. The position for Train Controller was posted on May 12 and my journey began.

Over these last few months, it has not been easy to be patient and play the waiting game. Prior to that I will consider myself lucky I even got an interview, as it seems my resume was conveniently, “lost” when I was informed to call and check on it. I followed this advice and it seems as quickly as it was lost, it was found. See, if you have been following this little soap opera, I had taken two copies of my resume and cover letter with me when I submitted my resume for the job. The HR rep I time/date stamped both copies, giving me back one (a duplicate), just in case something went wrong. As luck would have it, something did go wrong, but in the end my resume was pulled and put into a stack that would allow me the chance to take “the test.”

While not the best student through my schooling years, I was not a bit worried about the test I had to go through as part of the employment selection. I would guess there were some 150 applicants (or more) to take the test. There was nothing really difficult about it, maybe with the exception of the time constraint for the third part, 45 minutes to answer 100 questions. I felt very good as I pushed back and walked out of the testing center, one of only two individuals with less than 5 minutes remaining who finished.

From June 7 until yesterday it was a maddening game of being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but knew that a train could hit you at any minute, derailing you from exiting the other side. The test was the second step in the process, after having my resume pulled in order to take the test. It was just over two weeks later I received a letter from BART in the mail and like Willy Wonka slowing opening that Wonka Bar in search of the ‘Golden Ticket’ I felt the same anticipation. As if opening the envelope or unfolding the letter slower would somehow change the outcome. I was rewarded with a congratulations on passing the examine and being eligible for the next step in the process. But that next step could last up to 12 months, depending on when they would hire new candidates for the job.

As luck would have it, I only had to wait about 3 weeks to receive another envelope with the BART logo on it. While I hesitated to open it, holding it up to the light, I tore it open to see that I had been scheduled for an interview. While I have gone through only three interviews in the past 3 years I am a bit rusty at selling myself and my accomplishments. My resume sold my skills, education and experience, but it would be the verbal interaction with others that would make me or break me an in the past I had been broken. As focused as I was, I felt more prepared for this interview than previous. Not really sure why, maybe I was going in with a confidence that the job was mine to loose, knowing I had a powerful person on my side.

Unlike the previous three months, I received confirmation within a week that I had successfully passed the interview and was placed on a very short list of eligible candidates for open Train Controller positions. This was a great achievement in my eyes, considering the preparation I had gone through, from creating a new, updated resume, tapping my personal resources, including current BART employees and my mentor, Ken. It also helped that I spent time observing the OCC [Operations Control Center] with Paula, reading up on BART procedures, rules and the Train Operators handbook, as well as riding in the cab with my buddy, Jim. I do believe these activities pushed me over the hump, so to speak, and helped me achieve this step.

Things got very quiet for the next few months and while I did not fall out of communication with Paula, I did not want to bother her everyday. One of her e-mails said, “to be patient” and things would work themselves out. The hard part was over, starting May 12 with the posting of the job and ending July 26, receiving a congratulatory e-mail on being a success interview candidate. If that were case, why was this period of waiting so difficult?

I began to think that if it did not happen “soon” it would not happen this year and it would be pushed to 2007. On somewhat of a whim, I sent Paula an e-mail, just to keep in touch and see how things were going and to see if I could come observe in the OCC. What happened the following day, BART came calling looking to verify my references and work history. After playing phone tag and sending e-mails back and forth with the HR rep, my references and work history were verified and I received the job offer, conditional on passing the medical (alcohol/drug screening), fingerprinting and background check. All of which I have to go through to work at the airport, so this is just another small step in the entire process.

While I do not have any further information I am looking forward to a new career, with a new employer and a fresh, new outlook on life. Sure, a 56% pay increase will help, but is more than the money. It is the chance to actually use my experience and skills and make a difference, something that is rarely seen at my current employer. It’s a chance to receive wage increases and potentially move up in a solid organization, unlike where I am now, which sees my position as stagnant, and me on the outside looking it with little chance for advancement. This means I will be a happier person, knowing I have left a bad situation for better on all accounts. That is not to say there will not be bumps along the way that will have me wondering, “was all this worth it?”

I can tell you know, I will not look back and regret the decision I made when I accepted the conditional terms of being hired by BART. My career in aviation has been great for 11 years (more on that in an upcoming post), but it is not the industry it once was, when my father was flying airplanes (now only 7 years removed). Maybe if I were involved in a different facet of work with the airlines things would be different. Although, I still see many individuals unhappy and discouraged at work and the only person who can change that is YOU!

I will consider myself fortunate that I have been successful in achieving what I set out to accomplish on December 31, 2005 when I set my New Year’s resolution of finding a new employer. As I told my wife yesterday, I am on cloud nine and so excited at the prospect of a new job and overall a better way of life.

BART Timeline – How it all happened:

BART Comes Calling

It’s been since September 01 since I mentioned BART and potential employment there. I received a phone call yesterday, while I was sleeping, from the human resource department at BART wanting my authority to contact my current employer for a reference check. Oddly enough, the night before I had e-mailed my contact at BART and we corresponded back and forth a few times, so, as she said “my ears must have been burning.”

After I hung up the phone, I e-mailed the HR rep the information she needed for her checks and then contacted my supervisor and told him he would be receiving a phone call for a reference check. I am hoping this is all a formality. I don’t want to get overly excited quite yet, but all signals seem to be “GO!” when it comes to achieving my 2006 New Year’s Resolution of finding new employment. With any luck we could see a job offer tended before this weekend, which would be outstanding, since my wife and I celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary. What a better present to give (or is that get) then a new position, with a new employer.

More just as soon as I find out…

Test Day!

I was going to make sure I was not late to the BART testing today that began at 9:30 AM. I had slept well, after talking to Paula late last night regarding the test. While I did not expect much in terms of details, she did wish me luck. I did know that not many people finished the entire exam, or so I was told. While that was not my main goal, I did make it a point to finish all 100 questions. More on that in a minute.

I arrived about an hour early to the test site in downtown Oakland after taking the train there. I spent most of my time reading the current edition of Fate Magazine and not worrying about the test. At this point, all the candidates are equal [I think], since no one really knew what to expect. As the time rolls to the bottom of the hour, the BART Human Resource folks come to the lobby area and collect the people who are sitting, some patiently.

I was second in line and Ana, whom I spoke to on the phone and met last week when I picked up my test letter recognized me and said, “Good morning, Stephen.” Not that I get extra points for that, but I thought it was a nice gesture. The letter said dress “comfortable” so instead of coming in jeans and a t-shirt, I felt is appropriate to dress in slacks and a button down shirt. You know what they say about first impressions. I did not know if we should read into the “dress comfortable.” We were testing for 2.5 hours, but still, I did not think it appropriate to dress in anything less, but others did.

If we were judged on a scale of dressiness, I was on the extreme end of dressed up, while the opposite end was a guy in long basketball sweat shorts, t-shirt, a sports team jacket and a ball cap. You saw everything in between those two extremes. I felt comfortable for the situation and as they say, “dressed for success.”

The test itself consisted of two parts. The first portion was a 45 minute reading exercise from a 15 page handout that held facts, figured and information about BART, but the information was not realistic in a sense. If that were the case, then candidates at BART would have an advantage, so going in as I did, knowing relatively nothing was a good thing, as I had no preconcieved notions about the company. I had read enough to understand the company, but was not torn between what was real BART info and what was made up. Basically anyone could read these same 15 pages and take a 30 question exam, which was the start of step two.

The reading was simple and I read over the material about 10 times to varying degrees, concentrating on numbers, names and information that could be considered test worthy, as cited in the examples. I believe my style of studying paid off when we were handed the test booklet and were given the word to start. We had 45 minutes to do a three part written exam.

Part one consisted of 30 questions relating to what we had just read. I termed it read and recall, it was straightforward and not difficult at all. I felt I scored 28 of 30, maybe 29 correct answers. I quickly moved through this section of the test.

Part two of the test consisted of 25 questions and was deductive reasoning. You were asked to ready 25 different passages, some a bit more involved than others, such as the timing of events, which came first, second, third, etc. Again, easy stuff if you take the time to write it out so you can visualize what was happening. It really felt like I was back taking the SAT Test, but the questions were nowhere near as challenging. If any section was a challenge for me, it was this section and I probably scored my worst on it. Again, like in the first I wrote down questions that I wanted to check and went back after I was done and double checked them. If I were give you an approximate score, I would say18-20 out of 25. Still a worthy score, but could have been better.

Finally, the third section was called reactive reasoning and consisted of 50 questions, broken up into two groups of 25. Each question was essentially a shape or group of shapes, squares and circles, shaded and unshaded. There was also a set of 5 [and 6 in the second 25 questions] rules you had to follow. For example, “Rule 1: If the shape is a square, shaded or unshaded, mark B.” There were also “however rules” that would have you refer back the previous shape and if you did not read correctly, then its possible you would miss the correct answer. This was a strong part of the test for me. I do believe I aced this section a perfect 25 of 25.

I finished with about 10 minutes remaining out of my 45. I was eyeing the woman next to me taking her exam and when I got up to walk out, she was only on question 40. Out of a room of 35-40 candidates, I was one of the few who finished all the questions. I know I was the second person to walk out of the room and I spoke to a guy on the way to the train who also finsihed after I did. Again, not sure if finishing counts for much, but if the woman next to me was any indication, then not many could have finished.

Once at home, I contacted my friend at BART and told her how I felt I did. She responded via e-mail there is an upcoming new hire class that starts on June 19. That means this the moons align and in her words, “the universe has been on our side,” I should be receiving an interview invitation quickly. At least that is what I am hoping for. That puts in me a predicament at my job, do I tell them I might be gone inside of two weeks? What if its more than two weeks? I think I will make mention the guy who does the scheduling and might consider a chat with the lesser of three evils when it comes to my managers.

Anyways, I am still on a high after today, things went outstanding and I feel very confident about the test and look forward to the next step. And actually look forward to an interview. More as soon I know…

It Figures: Part 2

So after leaving a voice mail message with a person at BART Human Resources, I received a call about 90 minutes later. I quickly explained my reason for calling again, as I did in the message. And the HR person, said, “we did not loose your resume, I have it in front of me.” Hmmm. Guess that means that I was not officially “qualified” for the position of Train Controller. After spending 3 months observing, riding the train in the control booth and reading their procedures, rules and regulations, I am not qualified. See, just goes to show that HR people can miss a qualified candidate.

Now, I did not ask her why I was not originally chosen and sent a letter. I’m curious, because the outside pool of applicants was not filled and they went inside the company to solicit for more applicants. But I thought better of it and did not ask her why. I am going to assume that Paula or her boss put a call in for HR for my resume to be pulled and me, given a chance to take the test.

Regardless of the intricate details, I have the letter and test date. Step one is now passed. Step two, pass the test and hopefully receive an interview date. The test is scheduled for June 7 at 9:30 and will last for about 2.5 hours.