Learned from a Long Searched
One executive offers success strategies gleaned from a 13-month job hunt
By Gerald L Belfiglio
I've just completed a
13-month job search. You may wonder why it took me so long, since I have the
right credentials for my profession, including an advanced degree, past
leadership positions and a great track record of increasing responsibilities
and significant accomplishments. Yet, according to outplacement industry
surveys, the average search length at my salary level (mid-$80K) and age (46)
is about nine months. But average is just that - average. For every short
search, there's one longer than average, and I had a long one.
I followed every word
of advice I could find and tried every trick: one-page resumes; two-page
resumes; cover letters with enclosed resumes; cover letters alone; market
letters highlighting each company's requirements and my qualifications
customized resumes, etc. The rules kept changing, but nobody would tell me
the game being played that day, let alone what the rules were.
In the end, a
combination of luck, lots of networking (personal chemistry was critical), a
key referral from a friend and my willingness to relocate to the other side
of the state ended my search. Even considering the considerable strain on my
ego, finances, spouse, and family, Eve learned a lot about "the
job-search game" and human nature.
I was told early on
that such tips as "prepare yourself mentally and financially for an
eight-to 12 month search", and "work every lead and every
opportunity at the same time", would be crucial to my having a
successful search. With this advice in hand, it still took me months to
develop a working strategy. What I want to share is what worked (and what
didn't) during my prolonged job hunt. Hopefully, these ideas will help you
survive a challenging, emotional transition.
If possible, begin
actively looking for a new job at least six months before you're let go. Many
of us can read our environment well enough to make this happen, especially if
we don't ignore the obvious.
Build a contingency
fund of at least six months net income to provide some flexibility during
your search. Without a reserve the potential loss of a home, car or lifestyle
may force you into a less-than-optimal employment decision. Also, prepare and
stick to a strict budget as soon as you learn of your separation. If you can
reduce expenses early, you'll have more options later.
Realize that losing
your job is emotionally tough. The pain will last for quite some time, but
it's okay to talk to everyone you can about your feelings and what happened.
Take solace in the fact that eventually, you'll begin to heal.
Negotiate while you can
for a better severance package, including outplacement counseling, a longer
salary continuance and the use of a portable PC or office. All of these
benefits are possible if you negotiate professionally, not emotionally.
stationery with matching envelopes as quickly as possible. Without these
supplies, your resumes and letters will be viewed as unprofessional.
Be aware that,
unfortunately, being out of work places a "red mark" on your
candidacy for many positions. This stigma usually can be removed with proper
preparation and explanation, but it might preclude your candidacy for some
Keep your spouse And
family involved in your daily progress (or lack thereof). The stress on them
could be much greater than on you due to their lack of control over your
search activities. Also, communicate aggressively with friends and past
acquaintances for leads and support.
Work every angle in
every industry simultaneously for all possible opportunities. Your search can
be likened to having lots of pots on a hot stove, with you waiting for one or
more to come to a boil.
Stay Away From...
If you're still
employed, don't fall prey to a false sense of security. The economic need at
most companies to reduce costs has never been greater, which means that no
job - including the CEO's - is safe. To be sure, you should remain loyal, but
don't delude yourself into believing that in tough times, your loyalty will
keep you on the payroll.
After a layoff, try to
avoid the "I'll sue" syndrome. Although litigation may be possible
due to a breach of contract or discrimination, most separations aren't
actionable. Forget the fair, just, "human" argument. It's generally
a loser and will extend your period of grieving, as well as your search.
Don't let the emotions
of being involuntarily separated color your phone calls, correspondence or
personal communications with your network and prospective employers. They
often know when a candidate's self-confidence is suffering. Never let
self-doubt enter your search. You had value prior to being released, and
you'll be contributing again soon.
Don't ever purge your
old Rolodex or business card directory. Instead, turn these sources into
networking contacts that you can ask for help through out your search. Keep
track of your contacts, phone calls, deadlines, etc., using appropriate
software, such as ACT or Key Network Tracker. You should ultimately talk to
hundreds of people as you search and follow up. Keeping track of each lead
and who provided it, as well as generating mass mailing lists, is almost
impossible without computer technology.
Don't forget to
reassess your strengths and weaknesses. It may help to identify what got you
on the "short list" with your former employer. A personality test,
such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, will identify your interpersonal
style, cultures in which you prosper and strengths you can bring to a new
Expect to see the worst
in human relations. Those experiences will range from inaccurate or
nonexistent feedback to "non-reasons" for your separation, to
headhunters and prospective employers who don't return phone calls (ever) or
miss decision deadlines by weeks or months.
What Works Best?
Answer all appropriate
ads, but don't expect to land a job via this medium. Ads represent less than
20% of all available jobs, yet receive the attention of 80% of all job
seekers. The competition here is fierce. If possible, broaden your horizons
regarding the cities or industries where you'd work. Your flexibility will
make for an easier, quicker search.
Don't overestimate the
value of executive search firms. Generally less than 10% of all white-collar
positions are filled by headhunters, and they're deluged with unsolicited
resumes. Although some recruiters may be extremely supportive during your
search don't misinterpret who pays their bills (the - employer).
Never use an age-old
resume. The rules have changed, and accomplishments that show what you can
offer a new employer must be highlighted. Your resume should be a one-minute
infomercial on who you are, what you've accomplished and how you can benefit
Don't cancel your
subscription to industry magazines or general business newspapers. It's
important to show prospective employers that you're in touch with your
profession, find daily business news, even during a long search. Also, don t
stop participating in professional association activities. The contacts you
make through these groups could provide you with the lead you need to a
Prepare for each
interview by researching the company, its locations, its products and the
executives you'll be meeting. Since the interview is a buy-sell opportunity,
you should also have a variety of questions ready to ask each interviewer.
While you're there, try to meet with current or past subordinates of your
prospective boss to determine your compatibility with that person's style.
Don't slow down after a
"good" interview or assume that hiring managers know the
characteristics, skills and personality of the candidate they want or need.
In &et, don't assume all interviews veal result At someone - bag hired.
Some are mere formalities to justify prior decisions to leave the positions open.
When weighing an offer,
never settle for a position that shows signs of becoming a future disaster.
Be conscious of your fit with the company and your boss. This includes
reviewing carefully the required skills (both stated and hidden), as well as
your ability to be effective within the culture and when communicating with
Once you're successful,
remember those who helped you in your time of need. Send everyone a note
describing your success and offering your assistance in the future. Remember
the inhumanity of the process, and never say no or delay help to others who
cart use your guidance.
If you ever have to
fire employees, don't do to them what was done to you. During their
separations, treat them as you wish you'd been treated. Only then will
terminated employees receive the respect they deserve.
RETURN TO: Articles and
Invitation to Keep in Touch!
Proactive Career Management - Prospective Client Information
About Harvard Aimes Group - Articles and Links
Essentials - Mistakes - Rules 101
Harvard Aimes Group
6 Holcomb Street
P.O. Box 16006
West Haven, CT 06516
TEL: (203) 933-1976
FAX: (203) 933-0281
(c)1999, 2004 Harvard Aimes Group, All