Photo: “The community was great as a whole, they were very supportive and people want to help each other”: Jim MacMillan on his employment journey.

When Jim MacMillan left BlackBerry in late August, it wasn’t the first time he had lost a job in the often-unpredictable tech sector.

He had been laid off from two companies in Toronto, and was unemployed for more than 20 months the last time it happened.

However, this time around it was different, not only because of his severance package from BlackBerry, but support from the community, including Communitech’s Tech Jobs Connex and Right Management.

“The main difference is that the last two times I was living in Toronto, and there certainly wasn’t the support I had this time,” MacMillan says. “Right Management, Communitech and Tech Jobs Connex were fantastic in supporting the journey.”

That journey started the day after MacMillan returned from vacation at the end of August and found out he would be losing his job after nine years at BlackBerry. It has since led him to his new role as a business systems consultant at Sun Life Financial.

While MacMillan’s severance package “took the pressure off having to immediately find something,” he shifted right into job-search mode after taking a few days to notify his close friends and family.

Motivated by his previous experience with layoffs and the announcement of another 4,500 cuts at BlackBerry, MacMillan reached out to Tech Jobs Connex on the Monday after he was let go, to see what services were available.

At the same time, he started working on his resume and personal brand with Right Management, a professional career management firm supplied by BlackBerry.However, MacMillan quickly realized that he had to rethink his skills and what roles he would seek based on the local employment market.

“Unfortunately what I found out in the job search is that my role at BlackBerry was highly specialized, and even though this is a great community, there isn’t a lot of equivalent jobs to the ones at BlackBerry,” he says.

Undeterred by his specialized role as a software requirements manager, he readjusted his plans, and continued to work on his resume and interview skills.

“If I couldn’t find an equivalent [role] then I was looking at what else I could do,” he says. “I was thinking that I could work for a smaller company doing a hybrid of things.”

Ideally, MacMillan wanted to stay in a requirements role and looked at mid-sized firms. This whole process of knowing what he was looking for and adjusting his resume accordingly took more than a month and at times was overwhelming.

Making a list and conquering daily tasks was how he combated that feeling of being overwhelmed, explaining the key was “keeping that focus and not thinking too far ahead, or what day my severance was going to run out.”

People in MacMillan’s network mentioned that Sun Life was hiring and he applied to one role related to his skill set.

He also attended a Sun Life career fair for former BlackBerry employees hosted by Tech Job Connex.

It was there that MacMillan connected with a recruiter from Sun Life to whom he had previously sent his resume, and met someone from another department looking to fill similar roles.

By the end of the event, he was offered interviews with both departments.

Over the interview process at Sun Life he kept in close contact with the Tech Jobs Connex team, who he had created a good rapport with after working closely with Su Low, one of the program’s coordinators.

Last Monday, he started his new role at Sun Life and was rather excited about his new position even thought it’s a change from BlackBerry.

“I’m just very thankful that the Sun Life job came up. It is a different type of software and quite a different environment, but it’s similar to the work I did,” he says.

Although thankful for his time at BlackBerry, he is looking forward to advancing in his career.

“I think my career can grow more in some ways because they [Sun Life] really put a lot of emphasis on this type of role,” MacMillan says. “There are professional development opportunities and then there is just being around the people who do the same work as you, and I’m really excited about it.”

He attributes his speed of finding a new role this time around to the community’s willingness to help.

“It comes down to genuine support; there’s a professional network that you connect with and you ask people for leads and for job tips.”

MacMillan has some advice for fellow BlackBerry employees facing the same transition: “You need to have some flexibility and an open mind. You never know where that opportunity might come from; it doesn’t have to be from a job board, it can come from networking, and sometimes that’s hard and you have to leave your comfort zone.”