The Financial Executives Networking Group
The Power of Networking. The Power of Friendships.

Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

Are we a support or resource group?

Like the classic fable of the 6 blind men standing around the elephant, The FENG means a lot of different things to individual members.

In part it is dependent on where they are in their career, whether they are active in a search, or if they are currently employed. It can also vary on any given day.

Of course we provide support for one another. But, I like to think that the support we provide isn’t the “do it for you” kind, but rather it is our unique ability to be a resource for one another that makes the difference.

The FENG comes fully equipped with extraordinary resources for our members. And, other members provide them all. It is sort of like taking in each other’s laundry on turbo.

Let’s start with networking. Everyone has a few friends that could be useful to other members. Unlike Don Corelone in The Godfather, no one is asking to share your friends for bad purposes. Networking works best when all parties benefit. The FENG is one of those places where this can easily happen.

The Resume Review Committee is another place where it is hard to tell who is giving and who is getting. If you accept my theory that doing final editing on your own resume is akin to taking out your own appendix, then there is great value here. It is so hard to edit your own resume and so easy to see the flaws in someone else’s. The process of helping someone edit their resume can only improve your own writing skills. The additional plus here is that both parties get to make a new friend. (How can you not be a friend to someone whose background you have just learned?)

Our Chapter and SIG meetings present another opportunity to be a resource to others. In the past week I have had the chance to reach out to another member with a good networking source, only because another member had called me about him and I knew he knew his name.

Have you identified a specific company into which you would like to network? Duck soup! Out on our website we have a list of 40,000+ members. What do you think are the odds that there isn’t at least one, and most likely a “dirty dozen” who have worked there? Friends, it is near certainty! What a resource. And what do you think are the odds that those you contact will get back to you? Again, near certainty!

All dressed up with no place to go? We have a place on our website where you can check and see if there are any meetings you can get to. If it is too far to go by yourself, call a few other members and “con” them into going with you.

The support we provide one another is real. And, the resources we provide one another are also real. Please use them. That’s why they’re there.

(I know some of you are bashful, but you are just going to have to get over it!)

Regards, Matt

When the answer is no

Over the course of our careers, as financial people, we become hard wired to never take no for an answer. When a customer claims they won’t pay an invoice, we can come up with “offers they can’t refuse.” When engaged in a debate at work about the appropriate accounting treatment of some expense, we know our facts and argue persuasively, sometimes to the “death.”

So, when we are competing for a job we believe we are well qualified for, it is in our nature to get a bit argumentative with the “hiring authority.” Why was it we didn’t carry the day? How is it even possible that we weren’t the most qualified person for the job? What was it in our background that caused us to be eliminated or not selected? Did we somehow muff the interview?

Sadly, NONE of these questions are ones you should ask. What’s worse is that even if you ask them politely, you aren’t going to get any “true” answers. Consider the fact that most of the answers you might get could be taken out of context and set up the firm in question for a lawsuit. At least, that is the thought that is always in their minds when asked any of the not unreasonable questions above. So, basically, everything after the word no is not going to provide you with any useful information anyway.

The strategy I would suggest to you is to be gracious. If you should be so lucky as to actually get someone to return your phone call to tell you that you didn’t get the job, make it your top priority to “let them off the hook.”

Most folks don’t like delivering bad news. Put yourself on the other side of the phone and imagine the reality that they are braced for an argument and/or unpleasant discussion with you that they would greatly prefer not to have.

What if instead of getting into a debate with them you immediately thank them for calling? And, then what if you move to letting them know that you are a little disappointed, but understand that there are a lot of qualified candidates out there and that you’re sure they made a fine choice?

The result you will achieve is that this person will always take your calls. Furthermore, since you have struck such a positive note, you are now in a position to ask if they have any introductions they might make for you. After all, you presumably just missed getting hired by them. You must be pretty good.

What’s even better is the possibility that the idiot they just hired (Am I running down the competition or what?) may not show up for work and they will be back to you. Or, in the world of “you can’t make this stuff up,” the person may not work out. Again, who do you think they will call, the person who was gracious or the person who “beat them up?”

So there you have it. How to make lemonade out of lemons. A charm offensive always wins out over trying to win an argument you have already lost.

Regards, Matt

A fine line

The difference between being viewed as possessing dogged persistence and being an outright pest is hard to define. Like beauty or obscenity, I guess we know it when we see it.

I have had many jobs over the course of my career, some paid, some volunteer that have involved collection work.

When I was Treasurer of my congregation for 4 years, one of my jobs was to collect outstanding dues owed by members. It was delicate work. In the urban legend in this world, those who didn’t pay on time or not at all were suspected of trying to get away with something. The truth was enough to break your heart some nights when I made phone calls.

Very few people owe money to religious organizations when they have it to spend. (Of course, there are a few of these folks, but far fewer than urban legend would suggest.) I learned during this tour of duty to ask politely, and in fact by being “politely doggedly persistent” I was able to generate more funding than previous Treasurers. I guess I was so good at it that after I was no longer Treasurer, 2 members I had been talking to the entire time suddenly became flush with cash and paid off all they owed. They made a point of asking that I be informed.

As Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency in the 1980’s, I was again challenged to collect money, but this time for my firm. In this case it was from clients. Clients represent long term relationships and I would not have been able to keep my job if I didn’t collect from them or if they fired our firm because I pushed them too hard or inappropriately.

Similar rules apply in job search.

If you don’t follow up with a potential employer at all, they will assume disinterest. If you follow up hourly, they are going to assume you have a screw loose.

One question you have to ask yourself is if you are just trying to confirm the obvious, or if in fact you are a serious candidate. If you blew the interview, I wouldn’t push too hard. On the other hand, if you blew them away, not following up might cause you to lose an otherwise viable opportunity.

The way you follow up, as indicated above, is the key to your success. If you are in the initial stages, representing to the person on the other end of the phone that you are a “perfect fit” is a sure way to kill your candidacy. When the search professional has 300 resumes in response to a posting, what are the odds that there aren’t more than a few “perfect fits?” Also, trying to have a discussion with someone before they call you is also often a non-starter.

At this point in the discussion, we have to distinguish between jobs posted by members of the search community and those posted by the human resource department. Let me be clear that members of The FENG never run around recruiters. What I am going to suggest is only for jobs posted by companies.

Always follow the rules first. If you are asked to submit a resume to a P.O. Box, do it. If you know the name of the company, your next step is to try to network in. How? I believe you all have a resource tool called The FENG membership directory. It is there for your use. USE IT!

The hardest decisions to make about the appropriate level of follow up is when you have interviewed with several people at the firm and they never get back to you. Alas, time seems to slip away at corporations these days. Folks are over worked and under paid, or so it would seem.

The excuses I have heard are all very amusing, but all fill me with dismay, as I am sure they do you. Common courtesy, where has it gone? Well, the truth is that it probably never was, except in our imaginations.

Before your beat too hard on someone’s door, give it your very own smell test. Most importantly, don’t let yourself do something out of anger, as justified as it may be. The story goes that someone who should have called me back didn’t. For days! I was ticked! Why didn’t he call? The reason: His son was in the hospital. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

Remember, there could be a good reason. You have nothing to lose by assuming there is.

Regards, Matt

Reads and follows directions

One of the most important skills you bring to the party as a financial person is your ability to read and follow directions. If you accept this as being true, I can only wonder why so many members fail to carefully read the information so clearly presented in the postings that appear in our newsletter.

As I am sure all of you know, I post a lot of opportunities for clients of The FECG in our newsletter. I have come up with a few simple rules that I feel not only work for our types of assignments, but I hope are logical steps someone responding to ANY lead from any source should follow as well.

It is not reasonable for me or anyone else to expect you as a candidate to create a totally original response to one of my postings, and I don’t have that expectation. That said, it would be nice if everyone took the time to read all postings in our newsletter in which they had interest and confirmed before clicking send that they have tried their best, in the context of their available time, to answer the queries that have been posed and the requests that have been made.

A few examples. First let me suggest a file naming convention: LastNameFirstNameMI.doc, as in BudMatthewR.doc. The reason this is important, and I hope you will do this for every posting you answer, is that it prevents your resume from getting lost or over written when you send it in. Let’s assume that they actually want to save your resume for future reference. If it is resume.doc, guess what? That is the name more people use than you can imagine. There is also the ever popular Resume-Rev.57.doc. (Wow, he really worked on that one!)

A second request I make is to only attach one file. Every file someone has to open takes time. If you send a cover letter as an attached file and your resume, I may not know which one is which. And, the people I have seen do it don’t seem to have a good sense of how to establish their file naming conventions. As a general rule, your email is your cover note.

Have I ever mentioned outgoing signatures? (Surely not more than once a week.) How the heck am I supposed to get in touch with you? You would be surprised how many people do not provide ALL of their possible phone numbers on their resume. When I want to talk to you, I want to talk to you. I will call ALL of your phone numbers until I track you down. Why? Because at the moment I am calling you, I have all the information I need to communicate to you in front of me. If you call me back later, I may actually be working on something else. (I have been known to try to keep busy during the day. An old habit I learned when I worked for the “great corporation.”)

Did the posting ask for your compensation? Look, if you don’t want to give away any military secrets, that’s fine. At least provide a range. I will work for food is also a good response. (Just kidding.) Don’t make the range too broad, but money is important to you and to those doing the hiring. If you don’t want to put down your past compensation, put down the range you would consider. I always ask how much you want. I feel what you previously earned is your business.

How exactly do you fit this job anyway? Look, no one expects you to rewrite your resume for every posting. It would be nice if you did, especially if the fit is good and your resume has been generalized, but a cover note can make the link. If you are applying for a job out of town and there is no relocation, be sure to explain that “elephant sitting in the room” even though they don’t directly ask.

And finally, my favorite: Dear Sir or Madam. In the context of reading, did the person ask for you to write to them and provide you with their name? How rude and thoughtless you look to not have taken a few seconds to check the name of the “hiring authority.” Aren’t you annoyed when they write back: Dear Applicant?

Put those “dotting the I’s and crossing T’s” skills to work and let your reader know that you are well versed in “Reading and Following Directions.”

Regards, Matt

Rain or shine – you can’t do much about it

I don’t know what the weather has been by you lately, but here in Connecticut we have had a very cold and damp spring.

One thing you learn if you are a sailor is that there really isn’t much you can do about the weather. The wind is from whatever direction it is coming from and at whatever speed it chooses. All you can do is manage your vessel to take best advantage and, if need be, change your plans.

A few days ago I got a note from one of our members seeking to raise the issue of “Is a CPA needed to be a CFO?” Or, at the very least, the question was, is it being required more frequently? Well, the truth is that although we have discussed this before, the real point is that for most of us, there isn’t much we are going to be able to do about it. We either currently hold a CPA certificate or we don’t. If the world thinks we need to, and we don’t, it is our job to convince them otherwise. There are some firms who don’t want a CFO with a CPA because they view the training as an inhibition to strategic thinking. (Of course, not true.)

As I think we have all learned in our lives, you can’t make everybody happy at the same time. (And, sometimes it seems like you can’t make anybody happy at any time.)

On the job hunting front, it is important that you understand that what you are selling has to come from your wagon. You can only sell what is already in YOUR wagon. (Yes we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!) If you have been performing a senior financial role successfully with (or without) said certification, it is just possible that there are products in your personal wagon that are worth buying by a potential employer.

In sailing terms, you may need to change your tack. Ask yourself, what are the skills that made my earlier success possible? To diminish the need for CPA certification in someone’s mind plays into a negative justification of your reasons for not acquiring this credential.

Existing in the world of sailing requires accommodating to changing conditions. You can shorten sail, increase sail, change course, or stay home. As captain of your ship, it is your choice to make. One choice you can’t make is to change the weather.

So, take your “weather forecast” into account when making your sailing plans for your career.

If your vessel is sound, play to her strengths and you will find your voyage will be much more pleasant. You may even reach your destination sooner, even if it is an alternative one.

Regards, Matt

Networking is easy

Perhaps this is a bit of an overstatement, but I am primarily talking about networking within The FENG.

As you all know, we have a Member Directory Search feature out on our website for your information and use. If you become aware of a job at a specific company, the odds of someone in The FENG having worked there at SOME point is a near certainty.

With this aside, I thought I would share with all of you a few thoughts about why networking with your fellow members is so easy if you make any effort to do it right.

If you think long and hard about your background and the kinds of fellow members who are most likely to have something in common with you, you are already well on your way to an easy conversation. Stop me if I am wrong, but us advertising types do enjoy sharing stories about the crazy people who populate our rather small industry.

In much the same way, pick your topic, if you are at all selective in contacting other members, you can’t lose. Retailers, Internal Auditors, Manufacturing types all have stories to share about their niche within the financial arena. Those from our various chapters who have taken the time to attend a meeting or two have found that stories about your commuting or the companies in the area are all easy ways to get a conversation going.

These are all normal course of business kinds of things. You could start up a conversation with someone from your SIG or your chapter in much the same way as you would if you met someone on the street and happened to find out about this coincidence.

The thing that is unique about The FENG is that we have another common bond in our newsletter. My editorials, Good News Announcements, Requests for Assistance are all information we share. The values and knowledge about our many folkways not only provide food for thought, they also provide you with an easy “tool” to start a conversation with your fellow members. We have a LOT of shared experiences.

As they say, if you have some dry kindling all you need is a match to start a fire.

While you will find it easy enough to start a conversation and develop a friendship with those members you actually speak to or exchange emails with, I hope you won’t hold me and The FENG in general to a “100%” standard.

There are those you write to or call who will never get back to you. Why is that you might ask? Well, I don’t know. Perhaps they thought your message was spam. Perhaps they were out of town. Perhaps they didn’t think you had anything in common. Perhaps they thought they couldn’t help. Whatever their lame excuse to themselves, we will never know unless we reach them. In most cases it will just have to remain a mystery.

I hope you will never let that stop you from reaching out to other members. Your success rate will be high. Just don’t ever think it will be perfect. But, it doesn’t matter.

If you make the effort, you will still end up with more networking contacts by starting within The FENG than any other way known to mankind. It is one of those promises I make about which you will never be able to prove me wrong.

I like those kinds of promises.

Regards, Matt

Networking-A lifetime activity

I was fortunate to speak with two of our more experienced chapter chairs recently who each in their own way in our wide ranging conversations reminded me of the importance of networking as a lifetime activity.

I suppose to a degree, networking doesn’t come naturally to us financial types. We are by our nature “nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel” kinds of people who prefer “real” work to making phone calls and appearing to ask for favors. (What would we need a favor for anyway?)

Over the course of my career, I was always a pretty social person. On a regular basis, I tried to meet the friends I made at my various jobs for lunch, and/or I would take a day at the office when things were slow and go through my phone book and call people up.

There was never any evil intent involved such as looking for a job. Up until the time I was 46, I never had so much a day of unemployment. While I may have been looking from time to time, I was working and earning a good living.

As many of our members know, life in middle age has a way of playing tricks on you. The jobs that came so easily when I was “in my youth” were slow in coming when I was in my late 40’s and early 50’s.

In our grand age of the Internet, networking is easy and all of you should take advantage, or should I say, enjoy the benefit of this great technology. While I would never recommend that you send out anything so crass as mass mail, much of the news about what you have been doing the past 6 months or so should be circulated to those you know and in that message in some personalized manner and you should encourage those you contact to let you know what they are up to. Why? Because it is a good thing to do. Again, no evil intent. Just friends contacting friends and keeping in touch. Who knows, you might even schedule a lunch or two. (I’m sure you get hungry from time to time, and skipping lunch is never a good idea.)

Until the Great Recession, we were publishing more and more job leads in our evening newsletter. The size of The FENG and our reputation are providing all members with a great benefit. While you can engage in a passive job search if that is your preference, a proactive approach works best. Spending time on building your network when you have the luxury of time is just plain smart.

Ask yourself if you have made any effort to find NEW friends from within The FENG in the past 6 months. Have you called any new members? (They’ll talk to anyone!) Have you used our Member Directory Search feature? It is so easy to use, you won’t believe it. Look for old friends you haven’t contacted in a while. Look for people who have worked at companies you have worked for in past lives and give them a call. While you don’t know them, they may know of you. (I’m sure you are a legend in your own mind! Just kidding.) The truth is that the rascals you left behind are still rascals and the people you call will know them. As fellow members of The FENG, you now have two connections.

Networking in The FENG is not just when you are looking for a job. It is the “gift that keeps on giving.”

Take it from the official poster child.

Regards, Matt

Proper uses of boilerplate

One from column A and one from column B. Sure makes it easy, doesn’t it?

Much as our electronic world makes life simple, it also makes it more complicated in certain ways due to the opportunity to be lazy or inattentive to details.

Just as there are only a few themes for good writing (man against man, man against nature, etc.), there are also lots of routine things we say in the letters we write during a job search. It would be unwise (that’s the same as silly or stupid) to reinvent the wheel each and every time.

In much the same way that plays are tried off Broadway first, some of the phrases and their sequence in your cover letters need to be considered and evaluated. Practice does make perfect, and there is nothing wrong, per se, with reusing old words and sentences. If you take the time to recombine them in interesting and creative ways they can serve to INCREASE the amount of time that you can spend on writing the more interesting and purposeful parts of your missives.

As you react to any situation and think through the ideas you would like to communicate, it is often helpful to start with something you have already written.

It is sort of like those very helpful “old spreadsheets” from last year’s budget. Used properly they can provide a checklist and a framework upon which you can build your latest message.

Avoid writing anything important directly in email. I don’t know about you, but I developed a habit a long time ago of compulsively hitting save. Funny thing is that when absorbed in writing an email, I sometimes accidentally have hit send. To avoid this when I am “on a roll” writing email directly, I will save filling in the recipient’s address until I am satisfied with my message.

Keep in mind that most of the folks to whom you are writing receive lots of messages and they can tell a strictly boilerplate letter a mile away. (Okay, their eyes probably aren’t that good.) But that said, they can easily tell when you are being non-responsive to points they have asked you to address.

I am still surprised at times how malleable words and sentences can be. A little tweak here or there can change meaning and tone more easily than one first imagines. And, the effort is well worth it.

Again, the purpose of having a treasure trove of your best writing in the proper sequence is to give you MORE time to write a thoughtful message, not to save you time.

The easiest way to make a good impression is to at least change the greeting to a person’s name if at all possible. I still have to smile when I see “dear sir or madam” on a note sent in response to something I have posted. If you don’t know who I am at this point, you truly are lost.

Just remember when you write to me, I like to feel special. Don’t send me any “used” words, sentences or paragraphs. It might hurt my feelings. (And, you know what a sensitive guy I am.)

Regards, Matt

Beginnings, middles and ends

I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes the job search process so maddening and one of the many conclusions I have come to is its lack of structure. (Someone should really redesign it!)

Unlike all of the other projects we may have in our career as financial folks, this one may have a beginning and it may have an end, but it is the middle that makes us crazy. Hard to know at any point in time where exactly you are on the continuum. You know you have started when you begin your job search either because you have been terminated or know you will be soon. And, you know when you have ended, because you have a job offer in hand. But that middle part is sure problematic.

Okay, you have rewritten your resume. And, rewritten it again. You have called everyone you know, chatted with them and gotten additional networking contacts which you have in turn chatted with and in turn have gotten even more networking contacts.

You have even identified the types of job leads to answer and have been diligently doing that.

But, are you at the halfway point yet? No one knows, not even you.

Job search doesn’t have a timeline, but it does have a process. And although your progress along the timeline may not be clear, your knowledge and experiences in the process ARE reasonably clear.

What you need to do is think of a job search as acquiring a body of knowledge that you will be using the rest of your career. To think of it as a one time activity is a mistake. As any long standing member of The FENG will tell you, ALL JOBS ARE TEMPORARY. Just look at your own resume. What is perhaps a disheartening aspect of job search today is the assurance that you will have to do it again, and probably not too far in the future.

Okay, we’re tough (and getting tougher) and we can handle ideas that most folks would prefer not to consider. Like accounting or any other science/art form, there are a whole series of skills you need to acquire and hone if you are going to be successful over the balance of your career.

It therefore almost (except for our need for money) doesn’t really matter where you are on the “time/space continuum” of your search.

It is important to understand that this thing we call job search has no visible timeline. Perhaps then we can “get on with it” without the feelings of defeat we visit upon ourselves.

Measuring your progress only in terms of the end result of finding a job is too high a standard. Measure your activities: calls made, letters written, etc.

It may not be as impressive as being able to brag about a huge job offer, but it will have to do.

Regards, Matt

A short play

I don’t know how many of you participated in school plays during your early years, but there is a lot to be said about thinking about the interviewing process as a series of scenes in a play. Of course, the only problem with this visualization is the degree to which the audience is in charge of how the play progresses.

Still, if you remember your lines and deliver them well, you can control much of the flow. All you need to do is work out the components and have them ready.

Introducing the characters in the play and presenting their backgrounds as part of a story is a difficult thing to write. For those of you who have seen Patton you may remember that the movie began with George C. Scott delivering a monologue. The purpose was to tell you a lot about his character so the scriptwriter didn’t have to take up a lot of time in the movie to give you that same mental image. In our context this is your 90-second announcement. (Sorry, George did get more time, but then he already had the job!)

There is an old saw that goes “you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” I like that saying and I use it a lot. We will all assume that you have had your wardrobe department hard at work finding matching socks, an appropriate tie, and that you have found someone to shine your shoes. (Remember how shiny Patton’s helmet was?) If like most of us financial types you tend to carry several writing instruments with you, take a look at your pocket with the Bic pens and think what kind of an impression you are going to be presenting. Perhaps it is also time to replace your Swatch with something a little more serious. If you don’t look serious, no one will believe you are.

All of the items you carry with you deliver a message about who you are. They are an important part of presenting your character to the outside world. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror with your briefcase and decide if you like what you see. Financial folks should be seen as precise. That’s what we do. If you are not attentive to the details as you are going about your interviewing, how can I as an interviewer (audience) assume you will be precise and attentive to details when you show up for work?

How have you set up your briefcase for your interview? Have you checked that you will have easy access to your resume, business cards or other papers you have brought for this meeting? If you are going to take papers out of your brief case, are the file folders neatly labeled? They don’t have to be typed, but you want to present the image of someone who is very organized. That is part of the product you are selling, so don’t miss any of these details. (You want to make sure that the prop department has placed the appropriate items in the right place.)

Give some serious thought to the script for this 30-45 minute play. It really is much more predictable than you think it is.

In the opening scene you have the “get to know you” part where you talk about the weather or traffic on the roads or the train. It is silly banter really, but it is an essential part of the interview if it is to begin in an upbeat manner. The real issue being discussed is a quick decision as to whether or not you are my kind of people. Since you know what the game is, relax a little and look around the office of the person interviewing you. Decide what kind of person they are so you can cater to their personality as much as possible. Are there pictures of children, pets or boats? Any one or all may give you a clue and an opening for making this scene work well.

In the next scene you want to present your background. Begin with your 90-second elevator speech and use “the pregnant pause” to get some feedback on what direction the audience wants you to take.

Continuing to blather is called in selling terms “throwing up on the customer,” and you don’t want to do that. Which scene do they want you to go to next? Be attentive and the interviewer will tell you. Be sure a basis has been set so they will understand the next scene, but be willing to shorten any of your stories if they don’t seem to fit, or if they don’t appear to be needed.

This is probably the biggest mistake I make in conversations. I frequently give more information than is needed, and I have real trouble stopping myself. (I need someone off stage to “give me the hook” when I get too elaborate with my story.)

How are you going to end your play? This really needs to be an important part of your planning.

How are you going to stage asking what the next steps are? What words are you going to use? Can you ask for something that they will be willing to do for you? A follow up call, or permission for you to call, are all appropriate at this moment. Just keep in mind that the last scene of the play is very important. In restaurant terms it is the coffee. The reason restaurants spend so much money on coffee is that it is the last part of the meal and often what is most remembered, especially if it is bad. So, keep that in mind. Don’t over stay your welcome. That will certainly be remembered.

Think about that and plan carefully. Remember, a nice round of applause at the end will get other audiences to attend your short play!

Regards, Matt

All things to all people

It sure is difficult to be focused. As each of us over the age of 40 looks at our career prospects for the rest of our working lives, it is all very easy to believe that we need to expand the market for our services to ensure that we can find another job. (After all how many buggy whips are made anymore?)

However, after 20 some odd years in the work force, the likelihood is that you have acquired some very specific skills. Even with 30 more years of work to go, the odds of finding employment that is radically different than what you have been doing is not high. Although it is possible to do so, the most probable solution is that you will find a different career that has some strong link to what you were doing.

In the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” Marisa Tomei says to Joe Pesci when he comments on her style of dress: “Yeah, and you blend.” When it comes to job search, I would suggest to you that this is no time to blend.

The 90-second announcements I hear that begin with things about how you are just like everyone else in the room are really a waste of time. You are different AND you need to be different.

I think you will agree that the world is filled with a lot of problems. My guess is that you have learned how to solve some limited number of them. If you are a manufacturing type, trust me, you have skills that I could learn, but never have. My area of expertise is professional services firms. I was Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency for a near decade, and the unique individuals who populate these kinds of organizations can be difficult to manage and motivate, especially if all of them think they are YOUR boss.

This is what I do. What do you do? What are all the skills you bring to the party that make you unique. You may diminish your many skills if you like in your typical “awe shucks” manner, but being modest when you are trying to market your talents is honestly not a good idea.

Being all things to all people is the same as being nothing to anyone.

Rather than trying to find common bonds with those around you, why don’t you give some considerable thought to what you do that is different. Some of the ideas you come up with can be marketed effectively to those potentially needing your services. And, they may not even be from your industry.

We are fortunate that our skills as financial folks are inherently transferable. But the approach to marketing them in other venues is to highlight their strength in the one in which they were created. You can in a very real sense allow others to draw their own conclusions about how what you know can be effective in solving their problems.

If you give a clear enough explanation, the people on the “other side” will ask you if their problem, which they will take the time to illuminate, can be solved with your “tools.”

Be something specific and you will find that others will find you more interesting.

Regards, Matt

Is anyone holding out?

I hate to ask if anyone is holding out, but is anyone holding out?

One of the core values of The FENG is that we try very hard to share our job leads. Trust me, individual job leads aren’t as valuable as you think they are. And, if you share them, not only will you be viewed as a Fanatic FENG’er, but you just might make a few new friends.

When the published job market is slow as it is now, it is important that we fill our evening newsletter with every possible opportunity that is floating out in the marketplace. If you are expecting others to share what they know, and you know about stuff, ask yourself why you aren’t sending it in for publication in our newsletter? (By the way, they should be sent to Leads@TheFENG.org. Sending them to me just slows things down.)

The only job leads that have value are the ones that are newly out in the market. If you are waiting to no longer be under consideration before you “let the cat out of the bag,” you are only kidding yourself that you are doing anyone a favor.

If you cannot honestly announce a lead in our national newsletter, at the very least, please call or email everyone in your inner circle of friends who should be considered and get them into the mix. You will be amazed how sharing your “white elephants” makes you well thought of and well respected. In addition, like a chain letter, it will cause you to be flooded with job leads from others. (A testimonial dinner may even be held in your honor.)

Sharing job leads is yet another way to build your network on a national scale. While our newsletter editor usually removes the email address of those submitting leads so you won’t send your credentials to the wrong place, the name and chapter of the sender is always there. With our website functionality, it will take you about a nanosecond to find the contact information for any member posting in our newsletter. If someone has posted a job lead of interest to you, consider that the two of you may have a background connection. Why don’t you contact the poster and request a resume exchange? (Hey, they started it by posting a job lead.)

Just as we all know from studying Murphy’s Law, that no good deed goes unpunished, it is also true that being good doesn’t have to be its own reward.

If you are actively being considered for an opportunity, you want others who are just like you to also be in the candidate pool. If you’re the only “well experienced” candidate, that is nowhere as effective as there being several of you. You can’t ensure that you will win the job by keeping it a secret. But, you can flood the candidate slate with your friends if you share. (And boy will they owe you BIG time.)

Two heads are better than one. (The only exception to this rule is if the two heads are on the same body, but I digress.) If you have a few friends competing with you for the same job, you have the unique opportunity to “double team” the “opposition.”

The FENG is a society of friends. Everyone in The FENG was sponsored by another member. So, you should consider everyone in The FENG as a friend of a friend.

Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, friends don’t let friends job search alone.

Regards, Matt

Being nice to everyone

Whether you are active in your job search or just trying to get your job done for “the great corporation,” it pays to be nice to everyone.

One of my best friends is a real charmer and I always enjoy going out to dinner with him because we always get great service. He just has a way of engaging the waiter that lets this individual, male or female, know that he considers them to be a real person. I have seen others engage waiters as servants who “damn well better” get them their drink, dinner or extra of some kind, and I can tell you that it is my observation that Bob’s approach works better. (As evidence, I have never had anything thrown at me by a waiter while out to dinner with him. Perhaps that doesn’t prove anything, but I thought I would mention it.)

In much the same way, it is all too easy to in some way “diminish” the hard working individuals who serve the “big ones” that we are all too eager to get to know. Whether we are talking about an Administrative Assistant, or a “First Lieutenant” who reports to the boss, a few kind words appropriately given can work wonders.

I am not in any way suggesting you be disingenuous. Praise where praise is not due is a big mistake. But mentioning to the boss that his Administrative Assistant was helpful in some way is almost certain to get you a more welcoming hello when you next call.

When you speak harshly to anyone, they tend to brace up. You can almost see the “heat shield” being put up. What many people miss in their interpersonal relationships with the “little people” of this world is their ability to do you favors that are theirs to grant. It might be something as simple as putting your phone message at the top of the pile, but it can be powerful indeed.

We all like to think that we run the world in some way, and perhaps in some sense it is true. But, the reality is that there are whole bunches of folks in lesser roles who are responsible for the heavy lifting that goes on out in the world. Many of these “salt of the earth” types don’t even know how important they are, but treating them as human beings can go a long way toward your success.

The story goes that I once had an accounting clerk working for me who I had given responsibility to clear an invoice for payment through a purchasing manager at our firm. It was important to our client at the time that I pay their bills. It was a small matter, but the purchasing manager kept putting poor Nelson off day after day. What I did was walk down to his office with Nelson and suggest to him in a “quiet and assuring way” that when I sent Nelson down to “visit” with him, he should treat him as if I myself had come to speak with him. I left the two of them to deal with the matter at hand and within an hour it was solved. Need I tell you that many future matters were solved as well? Nelson felt good about himself and I didn’t beat too hard on the purchasing manager either. All of us ended up in good shape.

Treating everyone with respect doesn’t cost anything and yet it pays big dividends. Go figure.

Regards, Matt

Making introductions

Everyone knows a few important people who they believe will at some point be helpful to us in our search for that perfect job. The problem how to keep your name in front of them so when that perfect job comes to their attention you will be top of mind.

You certainly don’t want to waste their time and you certainly don’t want to be annoying. A frequent question asked is how often you should float your resume in front of specific recruiters. The most common answer I have heard is about every 3 months.

As a benchmark, 3 months is probably about right for those you know, although depending on who it is and how well you really know them, 2 months might be okay too.

As you think about these particular individuals you need to consider their needs and how you can best be seen as a source of help and not as a constant reminder that you still haven’t found a job.

Although I have heard suggestions of sending such things as interesting articles, my belief system suggests a slightly different approach.

I am a people person and I believe that people enjoy meeting interesting people who might be able to solve some problem they have. Now, where can you find such folks? I’ll give you one guess – The FENG.

Although there are other places to look, there is no more readily available source of highly talented individuals than our little circle of friends. Think about your friends with whom you wish to stay connected and think about the valuable talent pool you have at your fingertips.

Sure, it is one of those “taking in each other’s laundry” types of approaches, but it serves your purposes as well. Consider this, if you give me a name to contact, right there in the first paragraph it is going to say “Matt Bud” (if I was the source) suggested contacting you.

There it is, your name right there at the top. Imagine, a gift with your name on it. Honestly, life doesn’t get much better.

So, here is the suggested approach. Make a list of your most important friends and their needs. Now, as you are out and about meeting people at our networking meetings or by telephone or by email, keep your friends in mind. Hey, you want them to keep you in mind, so a little turnabout is fair play.

The truth is that if you don’t “use” your friends in this way, they really aren’t thinking about you. They can’t be. They have too much to do day in and day out to always be thinking of you.

A little reminder of your existence now and then can’t hurt.

Regards, Matt

The cup is at 50%

There is nothing more important to an effective job search than a positive attitude.

Sure, building an effective resume, a pithy 90-second announcement and a library of cover letters is always a good idea, the fact remains that positively focused dogged determination tends to win the day more often than all of these same factors coupled with being down in the dumps.

If you allow yourself to think that the world is raining on your parade or that you have been singled out for punishment by the gods, you are going to be in worse shape than if you do nothing at all.

Think about the fact that all communications come from your brain. (Duh, where else could they come from?) As the energy moves from your brain through your body to your fingertips or your voice, what comes out is often a reflection of how you are feeling on any particular day.

Now I have to ask you how any member of The FENG could EVER be having a bad day when each and every one of you has 40,000+ friends? (I can see that smile already forming on your lips, and I haven’t even said anything really funny yet.)

Just as you can work yourself into a frenzy over some ridiculous slight like a recruiter or a networking contact not calling you back, the opposite is also true.

It is also very easy to work yourself into a GOOD mood. There are many techniques you can try if you like. My personal favorite is to call a few friends. (I hope this is one you will try.)

You can also do a little blessing counting. Hey, you’re a financial person. Counting things should come easy. Just set up a “T” account and have at it.

Anyone who has any “mood altering” suggestions should send them in. Those with tongue planted firmly in cheek would be preferred. (I will even publish them without attribution if you potential Henny Youngman’s are modest.)

Glasses as we know can be perceived as half full or half empty. Do us both a favor and take that glass over to the nearest faucet and fill it to the top. Do this even if you aren’t thirsty at the moment, because, you never know when you will be.

Regards, Matt

The elephant sitting in the room

If you went to an interview with a broken arm, I’m pretty sure you would feel the need to explain.

Honestly, sitting there with your arm in a cast, it is hard to imagine a productive discussion taking place until you tell your interviewer how it happened. Was it a skiing accident? Did you trip and fall? Inquiring minds want to know.

On a smaller scale, all of us from time to time don’t seem to see that elephant sitting in the room. The truth is that even if you are only engaging in an email exchange, there can still be that huge creature waiting for some remark by you to explain its existence and reason for being there.

For example, if you live in New York City and apply for a job in California with no relocation, the elephant is why you would consider such an opportunity. Without some simple explanation, your candidacy begs the question as to why you should be considered.

Another situation with a slippery slope is when we apply for jobs for which we are “well qualified.” (Notice, I didn’t say overqualified.) There is obviously an elephant sitting in the room, but an answer to this question is one you must answer with great care. Things like: “I don’t want to work as hard.” probably won’t enhance your candidacy. An explanation is needed, but you want to take the time to come up with something that rings true and also makes you a viable candidate.

The most important part of the “elephant sitting in the room” syndrome is that YOU need to be sensitive and be thinking in advance as to what those issues might be in a given situation.

People tend to be polite. (Okay, not all of them.) They will often times sit there appearing to listen attentively when they are actually looking for an opening to ask their difficult question and not hearing anything you say.

Another very obvious question is why you left your last job. Here the advantage goes to the side which brings it up first. Let’s hope that is you and that you have a 30 second explanation that is true and which solves their problem. The lawyers rule is “question asked, question answered.” Once you have provided a reasonable explanation, they are going to be hard pressed to bring it up again.

Another area for which you should be prepared is if you have been “between jobs” for a significant length of time. Those who have not been unemployed in middle age or later have almost no understanding of how hard it is to find a senior level job and how hard you have to work at it. They don’t seem to have any comprehension and you need to know and understand that, because if you don’t there is the very real possibility they will in some way offend you.

Elephants take up a lot of space and eat a lot of food. Getting them out of the room and out of the way is the only way to prevent them from sitting on YOU.

Regards, Matt

Running around recruiters

Several years ago I received a phone call from a long standing Friend of The FENG.

This particular search firm posted with us on a regular basis. In this case, the posting included the name of their client. You see, they felt that the relationship they had with The FENG was so strong and their confidence in us so high that they could provide this information and not get hurt. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

Several of our members decided that they knew best and submitted their credentials directly to this search firm’s client. Not smart. Not only had they most likely eliminated any chance of their being considered for this relatively high paying job, but they had also embarrassed the search firm and burned a long standing relationship of trust that our organization has had with them.

Let us all understand that the world is built on a series of personal relationships. Members of The FENG use their political capital on a regular basis convincing members of the search community to post with us. You may humor yourself into thinking that we are doing them a favor, but it is truly the reverse. Because of the generally good behavior of our membership, we often times get “first bite of the apple” on many plum assignments. And, being in there first is our most important benefit.

Under our rules of engagement, if you see a posting in our newsletter from a Friend of The FENG, you are expected to refrain from contacting their client, whether they spell out who it is or not. Even if you are good at guessing, I would ask you not to do so. You may think you are very smart if you can figure out who it is, but you are only kidding yourself that applying directly will provide you and The FENG with some long term advantage.

You shoot yourself in the foot if you run around a member of the search community. The only reason they have gotten the assignment to post is that someone at the client trusts them. If you make them look foolish, why do you think this will help your case? Once a search firm has been engaged, most likely all the resumes sent directly to the client will get routed to the search firm for review. This is sometimes the case even when it appears the search firm is working on a contingency basis. The client may want them to do the screening anyway. If you have endeared yourself to the search firm by running around them, what do you think your chances will be? Not high, I can assure you.

Since 1997 when we first started publishing job leads in newsletter format, we have had this approach as our policy.

In the beginning of time, most search firms were reluctant to post with us. We were viewed as a small band of unemployed very old senior financial executives. This is no longer true.

While we are still a very senior level organization, we are now also the largest organization of senior financial executives in the entire world. We are well known and well respected.

Let’s try to keep it that way.

Regards, Matt

Your most recent 10 years

While from time to time I silently wish to myself that many of our members would take the time to read a good book about how to write a resume, I find that other members have read a book or an article, but they have either read the wrong book or have misunderstood what the author was trying to communicate.

It is certainly true that the primary focus in your resume should be your most recent 10 years of experience. It is not true that there is NO interest in what you were doing before 2008, or for that matter during the last century. (Makes you sound a lot older, doesn’t it?)

I see resumes all the time now where the work history is encapsulated in a sentence that reads “and I also worked for the following firms: …..” This sentence typically doesn’t indicate the years that the person worked there, nor does it indicate the titles that were held. What it tends to tell the reader is that the person in question must be VERY old if they feel the need to hide their early work history. What is amazing to me is that often times the people who are using this device are in their early 40’s. (Oh, to be a youngster again!)

An alternative presentation I have seen is to list all of the firms where you have worked, but leave off the dates entirely for those entries early in your career. Again, I would suggest that people will believe the worst and assume you are VERY old.

While it is true that your resume is a marketing document, it is also true that those reading your opus need to get a snapshot of the total person. The companies where you have worked and the industries they represent are all very important to creating a quick mental picture of who you are and how likely you might be an appropriate candidate for the position in question. In order to get into the “keepers” pile, your background needs to make sense. If you have left out or unduly abbreviated your early work history in sentence form, it is not possible to do that.

Out on our website are several model resumes. In keeping with the idea that there is no right answer, I would suggest to you that individually they are not necessarily perfect. Still, by and large they reflect an overview of each person’s FULL work history. The names of companies, the years they were there, and a short definition of what the company does or did is there.

Whether you feel your resume would explode to 4 or 5 pages if you put it all in there, I would suggest you give it a try. In our electronic world, doing a little experimenting doesn’t cost a whole lot.

Take your overly long resume and starting at the very end, do a lot of pruning. All you need is the bare minimum as I have suggested above: companies, years, and titles. They really don’t take up much room. (By the way, don’t go to a smaller type font to make up for your reluctance to edit.)

Now, with your focus on the most recent 10 years, make the most of it. Go over in your mind what you have been doing and you will generally find that the assignments you have had recently repeat what you were doing earlier in your career anyway, only now you have done them at a more senior level.

Think back to those halcyon days when you were doing the hiring and read your resume in that light as well. Be brutally honest with yourself and you will find that some of the approaches suggested by the individuals you have been reading simply don’t pass the smell test.

Trust me, before they hire you they are going to find out your age anyway. If you have been doing something of interest to their business, your being “as old as the hills” isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference as long as you can sit up without assistance.

Regards, Matt

Keeping hope alive

Whether you are currently working and hate your job or are currently in active search mode, the most important job you have every day is maintaining an optimistic view of the future.

The stresses and strains of a job that is winding down may at times seem beyond bearable. Back in 1991 during the last several months before the advertising agency where I was CFO lost our largest account, the back biting and back stabbing among the “leadership group” reached incredible proportions.

So too, job search itself is filled with highs and lows. The highs are always diminished by the possibility that the job offer you fully expect to get never comes. The lows when you have no interviews scheduled and you think you have called just about everyone you know in the past two weeks, are feelings we generally don’t want to share with “the family.”

I would suggest to you that no situation is totally hopeless. We have our proverbial “the darkest hour is just before dawn” that we can fall back upon if need be, but the best solution to keeping your spirits up is knowing that you have done it before (held a “proper job”) and that you can and will have one again. It may not be right away, but something will come along at some point for you to do that you will find interesting and that will provide you with a source of income. It may not be what you originally envisioned, but so what?

As one of my friends once said: “No one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.”

Just to prove to you that the forces of good are on your side, I would point out to you that you have 40,000+ friends that you can always call upon if you think you need help or more networking contacts. I try to believe everything that people tell me, but if you try to convince me that you have called everyone possible, I am not going to find that credible. We have a membership directory available for searching that if printed would be larger than the telephone directory for many large cities.

Have you honestly looked for all your old friends recently? If they were finance types, they are probably members. Perhaps you missed the notice of their joining us. Did you ever go to any industry meetings? Is it possible there are a few members from one of your competitors that you have failed to contact? (By the way, the answer to this question is yes.)

Just as there is always one more typo in any document, there is always one more person you can contact in The FENG. And, since we typically add 40+ members every week, you can never actually run out of people to call.

But, to repeat the original thought behind tonight’s editorial, you need to work very hard to keep your hope alive. If you come off as discouraged, no one who is having a good day will want to talk to you. If you sound “alive,” I’ll be happy to take your call and see if I can bring you to the next level. Making happy people even happier is a lot more fun than trying to bring a real downer back to “normal.”

In conclusion, as a member of The FENG, you have every reason to have great hopes for the future. Now that you are feeling pumped up, I hope you will reach out to a few other members and “share the love.”

Regards, Matt

Fixing a bad attitude

How often have you heard it said “He has a bad attitude?”

We spend a lot of time addressing the bad attitudes of others. For example, discussions about age discrimination fall into this category. The world has a “bad attitude” toward those of us who are well experienced. (Over qualified.)

Whether it is the world at large, or even ourselves, a lot of time is wasted trying to address “bad attitudes.” The truth is that attitudes (good or bad) are difficult to change.

Early in my career I was part of a management group that worked with a psychologist on a regular basis. The approach he suggested was to stop trying to change the attitudes of others and instead change their behaviors.

I would, for example, never try to dissuade members of the search community about their desire to hire “young Turks” for their clients. I only ask them to send me position descriptions for your reading pleasure. I don’t tell them nor do I discuss with them that the majority of responses will be from those who have “been there, and done that,” not from those early in their career. If I brought it up, I would have to sell them on my logic that all of you represent a veritable gold mine. (And, what would be the odds that they would believe me?)

Instead, all I have done is get them to perform a behavior. They send in a posting, 25-50 or so qualified members send them responses and no one is the wiser. After a while, the response I get back is “What a wonderful group you have. So many qualified individuals.”

You see we never discussed their bad attitude. I only focused on trying to change their behaviors with regard to where they search for qualified candidates.

When it comes to our own personal attitudes, it is also difficult to change. I once again would ask you to focus on behaviors.

The cry I hear so often is how difficult it is to make phone calls. Well, I am not going to try to tell you that making phone calls is easy. What I am going to tell you is that if you make 20 calls a day to members of The FENG or any other networking contacts you drum up on your own, you will eventually find a job.

The reason is simple. The math is on my side.

You may still believe that you find making phone calls difficult. Attitudes are hard to change. But, the truth will probably be quite different based on anyone’s independent evaluation of your performance. After making 20 calls a day, say for a month or more, you will in fact get very good at it, and you may in fact find you enjoy it.

All I have to do is encourage you to perform the behavior and bit by bit your attitude will change. You will shortly come to the realization that, doggone it, you aren’t half bad at this networking thing. (Where is that phone so I can make more calls?)

So visit our website and give our Member Directory Search tool a real workout.

If you have to, do it if for no other reason than to prove I am wrong.

Regards, Matt

Bashfulness is not my strong suit

Hard to believe, but bashfulness is apparently a quite prevalent condition among our membership.

Yes, these same individuals who in prior lives as bankers were cutting off lines of credit or foreclosing on hapless widows have a near terminal fear of picking up the phone and calling other members of The FENG.

Some other members in our circle of friends were known to have cut off customers from needed supplies because their credit didn’t pass muster. Others have been known to ruthlessly cut budgets despite desperate pleas by deserving managers. Yet these folks have the same condition as many others in our august body of “Near Terminal Bashfulness.”

I have done a lot of research on this subject and have determined that the only cure for this is testimonials by successful practitioners of networking.

So in the spirit of sharing our knowledge I am issuing a clarion call for those of you who have “taken the cure” to step forward and write a cheery article describing your success.

As you know, we have a very powerful Member Directory Search feature out on our website. Those of you who have made use of it and have a story you can share are asked to write in.

The only rule I have is: no sad stories. If you wrote to 15 members and only 14 wrote back with decent referrals, well, I guess we could count that as a success. (Perhaps #15 was sick or on vacation, or out of town on an interview. I’m sure he/she will get to you.)

It is my belief that the ticket to finding another job is networking, networking, and more networking. I am hoping that by having our Member Directory Search feature that we have simplified your process.

So, let’s have at it and put pen to electronic paper for the benefit of your fellow members of The FENG.

We are the best networking group in the entire world. (We sure are getting a swelled head.) Let’s show each other that we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk as well.

Think of it as our very own revival meeting under a big tent, only we will all be at home or office and we won’t have to put up with the dust and noise.

Be sure to be clear whether or not you want your name published with your opus. (There we go again being bashful!) Please send them to Leads@TheFENG.org, and not to me.

I look forward to hearing from many of you.

Regards, Matt

Having the wind taken out of your sails

Conducting a job search, whether working or not currently employed, can be a difficult time. You tend to go through phases. (I don’t know if I like the phrase “in transition,” but it seems to continue to be well accepted.)

At first it can be kind of exciting to be away from the daily grind of a job. If your last job was anything like the ones I was fired from, it was actually a relief of sorts not to be there anymore.

And, there are new things to learn and skills to polish. Who ever thought that any of us would strive to be great writers of resumes, and who ever thought that we would get to enjoy making phone calls all day. (Okay, some parts of job search aren’t as much fun as others.)

I think you will find that your job search will run in cycles. The hard part is actually to accept that not only will there be highs and lows, but from time to time you will find that the file folder with your active opportunities will fill and thin almost unexpectedly. (I don’t know why that is, but I suppose it is an effect similar to business cycles, which we also thought had disappeared.)

Now that I am more in sales, doing business development for The FECG, I have come to accept to a degree that there are busy days and slow days. Sometimes I wish there were more slow days so I could get caught up, but truth be told, I sort of dread them. I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie.

The key to being successful at sales is not to allow disappointments to take the wind out of your sales.

When those seemingly perfect opportunities come your way, and just when you think you have them in your grasp, they disappear. Friends, it happens. Perhaps they weren’t as real as you thought. And, keep in mind that the reality of what they might have been might not have been true either. Since you are no longer in consideration for those positions, you will never know.

There are two techniques I will share with you tonight that you might consider applying to your job search to prevent having the wind taken out of your sails. These can in turn leave you dead in the water. (I hope you enjoy my sailing analogies because I enjoy writing them.)

Whenever you find yourself higher than a kite because you feel like you have so much in your active opportunities folder, MAKE 10-20 PHONE CALLS. I know it sounds silly since you probably have a job in the bag, but think of how you are feeling and let me assure you it will come across in your voice. If you make the 10-20 phone calls, they can’t help but generate more activity for you. This way if something falls through, you will have several more to pick you up again. (And fill those sails!)

The second technique I learned from my boss in the advertising business. We had a very active new business function in our shop. And, like in a job search, once in a while we thought we had a tiger by the tail. A new client was going to be ours! And then, boom, we lost the account to another agency. Bob’s reaction was interesting. He would come in the next day and he was clearly past it. Everyone else was going through their hand wringing thing, and could have beens and should have beens, but not Bob. He was on to his next thing. He really wasn’t even interested in what might have happened. He lost the account and there was nothing more he could do about it. So, no sense spending any more time on it.

An interesting reaction, I thought, and one I apply in my daily life. You win some and you lose some. No sense letting your losses take the wind out of your sails. Just move on.

I hope you will find this approach beneficial in your life too.

Regards, Matt

Everyone wants to help

I know that some of you who have been at job search for a period of time may find this hard to believe, but everyone wants to help, it is just that they don’t always know how.

I see it all the time at chapter meetings. Each person does their 90-second elevator speech, but rarely do they make clear how I can help them. Sure they might make a request, but it is not always something I can wrap my mind around.

Many years ago I had lunch with Ted Stone, one of our members of long standing. It was a networking lunch of the first order, because Ted came prepared. He had with him one of the most powerful tools for job search – a target company list.

I know this technique is taught at most outplacement firms, but I think we tend to take the lesson a little too literally. In my parlance, a target company list is a SUGGESTION of the kinds of companies where you might consider working. It is a way of getting the juices going and the mind of your networking contact cranking.

Whether the networking is done in person or over the phone, you need to be aware that you are faced with what I call the “death in the family” or “the cancer thing” PLUS a lack of knowledge. Those you are calling are aware of your situation and want to help, but they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. In addition, if they themselves have not been “in the hunt” recently, they don’t know the rules of engagement.

You are in the tough situation of putting their fears to rest about hurting your feelings somehow (as if not returning your phone calls won’t hurt your feelings) while at the same time having to teach them about job search. Not an easy task even for an expert.

With a target company list I get something I can hang on to, literally. (Paper is comforting, don’t you think?) Ted even had the names of specific individuals he wanted to meet. (We have all heard about 6 degrees of separation, so it really wasn’t far fetched.)

If you have Real Estate firms listed like Olympia & York, I might be able to come up with Frank Mercede & Sons (a local Connecticut firm). It may not be in your best interest to work at any of the easily known firms, but this process will put you in touch with those who HAVE worked there. It may even be folks that they only know casually, but it doesn’t matter. What you are trying to do is get your background in front of those for whom it will make sense.

Word association games are a lot of fun. (Seriously) And, the added advantage is that they will get your networking contact to RELAX. It is only when they are relaxed (Oh boy, I really will be able to help!) that they can come up with lots of names for you.

The bonus here is that the more names they can come up with the better they will feel about THEMSELVES.

It really is a kick to be able to offer real help. (Take it from one who knows.)

Regards, Matt

When is enough, enough?

The story goes that if a frog is thrown into a pot of boiling water he will have the good sense to jump out. On the other hand, if you put a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, he will boil to death. (Please don’t try this at home. I like frogs. I am sure you can verify the veracity of this proposition on the Internet somewhere.)

There are similar effects in the world for things like allergies. You can tolerate many things to which you are theoretically allergic, however, once you hit some predetermined level, you begin sneezing and your tolerance for the whatever you are allergic to is temporarily greatly lowered and you will begin sneezing almost immediately when it is introduced. (This is known as your hay fever season.)

The effect I would like to discuss tonight is stress in the work place because it has a lot of elements in common with the above two effects.

When you start a new job, or when you are in a job that is “winding down” or somehow reaching its logical conclusion, your stress level can kind of sneak up on you.

Most of our members tend to move from large companies to smaller ones. The reason is that it is hard to “parachute” in at the top of a larger company because that closes off career tracks. Large companies pride themselves on growing their own.

In the move to a smaller firm several things happen. First, there generally is no senior level staff. You are it. Secondly, the reason a seasoned professional, like a member of The FENG gets hired at a smaller firm is that they have decided to grow up. This means that you have to be available for partnering. They hired you not only to clean up whatever hellacious mess exists, but also because they want to talk to you.

This means in turn that you are often hard pressed to “get anything done” with all the constant interruptions. If you are constantly nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, you aren’t really available for partnering. So, you try to work long hours, just like you used to be able to.

Well friends, none of us are as young as we used to be. And, the long hours can take their toll and increase your stress level. You feel like you are falling farther and farther behind. At some point your fatigue and can make you a little grumpier. Not a good thing to happen when you are supposed to be partnering.

The solution to maintaining your stress level at some tolerable level is to ask for help. During the “honeymoon” period of your new employment, or if you are in a job that is winding down, asking for help will seldom bring you anything but the assistance you require.

Yes, I know it isn’t macho, but it is smart.

Help is actually everywhere. If you need senior level assistance, i.e. projects completed that are on your personal “to do” list, I hope you will call on me and The FECG. (As always, operators are standing by to take your call.)

If it involves less senior level projects, firms like Robert Half can provide quality help to “get the job done.”

And that really is the secret in this world. Typically the boss expects you to get the work done in your areas of responsibility. He probably never said you had to do it all yourself. If you can remove some of the projects from your to do list, it can go a long way to relieving some of the stress you are feeling. You will now be someone with whom everyone wants to partner, and that is more likely to be why you were hired.

The detailed projects in which you have somehow gotten yourself involved certainly have to get done. It is just that you don’t have to do them personally.

Stress can take its toll.

And, of course, we want you to be a good mood and have the time to network with our members who are “in the hunt.”

Regards, Matt

Arrested but not convicted

One subject that comes up all the time is the importance of having an explanation as to why you are looking for another job.

I have always felt that it was a waste of your valuable time to provide an explanation in your 90 second announcement, and I still feel that way. Unless you were arrested and convicted of a crime, or fired for cause, I probably will not find any useful information in your explanation. And, if that was why you are now looking for another job, you probably won’t tell me.

What I really need to know is the nature of your credentials and how I might be able to help you.

So, I have always felt that it didn’t make any sense to bring it up. Besides, it is bound to bring up unpleasant and negative thoughts at a time in the conversation when I am still trying to get to know you. (In addition, I prefer not to be with negative people, or those who are feeling sorry for themselves.)

So, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you on “how to get the job done.”

Although it is not our style to be brief, you need to be. I know that “primarily due to, partially offset by” is closer to how we think about things. However, a simple explanation is all that is required.

In my case back in 1991, the advertising agency for which I worked was in the process of losing its largest account. My boss quit and over the next few months they hired a replacement who was charged with saving this account. He, of course, wanted his own financial guy.

As you can see, already too long a story. I now just tell folks that the agency lost its largest account and closed its doors in 3 months. I leave out all of the details about the venomous personal relationships, the back stabbing and also about how unfair it all was. Well, I guess you had to be there to understand it. (And, you wouldn’t have wanted to be.)

In any case, you get about 10 seconds and/or two sentences to get the story out. You don’t need to prove anything and you don’t want to be in the “maiden doth protest too much” situation either.

“The company hired a new president and he wanted his own team.” is more than sufficient. Story done. On to happier topics like how I can help you make your business more profitable.

“The company was acquired and all of the functions in my areas of responsibility were moved to …” (I’ll let you fill in the city so I don’t get into any trouble.) I have a lot of family in the area and chose not to move. (See, two sentences and well under the 10 second requirement.)

Sure, the truth is that it is somehow incomplete to provide a brief explanation, and I know you will feel somewhat uncomfortable the first time you provide one, but I think you will find that this is all that people really want to hear.

They need some explanation, but not much.

Regards, Matt

You talkin to me?

Yes, I am talking to you.

The purpose of my evening editorial is to make all of you better at managing your careers, and in particular to educate you on what I believe are the key issues in appearing more professional and technology savvy in the digital world we all live in.

Let me start as I always do with outgoing signatures. The purpose of an outgoing signature is primarily to enable others to reach back out to you with a minimum of effort. This means that your phone numbers should appear in the order you would like them called. And, if you have more than one, list it. (Three might be a little over the top.) If you believe everyone knows how to reach you, think again.

If you aren’t sleeping in a car, may I suggest you include a physical address? Sure, very few people are going to come to visit you, (or send you gifts) but many folks would like to know what time zone you live in, and with portable phone numbers these days, area codes aren’t as helpful as they once were. If you think leaving off your city/state will make you more likely to be considered for positions where you are not a local candidate, think again. Local candidates always (or almost always) provide a local address. If you leave it off, you probably aren’t local.

If you are using Outlook or some other email program with appropriate capabilities, you might want to make sure your name in the “From” box is properly displayed. Names all in lower case look silly. The same thing is true if you don’t include your first and last name. It also looks silly if you are sharing an email address with your spouse. (Let me appeal to your inner accountant: Email addresses are generally speaking free.) You might also want to create one that is your name and doesn’t have any numbers in it. Bill123@aol.com in Arial is error prone especially if your last name begins with an L. Could it be 3 L’s in a row? auh2o@aol.com my all time favorite. The name is Goldwater. (I’ll let you think about that one.)

If you are at all into being a member of The FENG, you know we have a field called “Greeting to use.” Go ahead, make me guess. Is it Robert, Rob or Bob? Is it Richard, Dick or Rich? (I could go on and on, but I think you see what I mean.) Unless you want to start our conversation by correcting me on your proper name, let me know what you like to be called. And please don’t tell me I can call you Michael or Mike. It’s YOUR name. What do you prefer?

Have you called your home, office or cell recently? May I suggest you do? “Generic system greetings” make you look silly AND don’t provide me with assurance that I dialed your number correctly. (I’m an old man, and I make mistakes. As you know, the phone pad is the reverse of the 10 key pad.) If you have a personalized greeting, do you announce your name? Again, I would like to know I actually reached you.

For your office number, is an extension required to reach you? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have searched a company’s telephone directory. Some want you to enter the person’s first name. Some want you to enter the person’s last name. And, at the end of running the high hurdles, only a small number of these system directories provide you with the extension number so you don’t have to do it again the next time you call. Go figure.

Let me assume your success in reaching folks on the first try is about the same as mine. (Close to zero.) If you would actually like someone to call you back, you might try leaving a cheery message. (Hi, this is Matt. I’m having a really bad day. I’m down in the dumps. Could you call me back so I can ruin your day?) What do you think the odds are I will call you back? Hint. It’s the same as reaching someone on the first try.

One of the things I have learned is that people with common names are unaware of it. If you have one, no offense, but you might want to be clear which John Smith you are. I have also learned that people with names that are difficult to pronounce or hard to spell are also unaware of it. When leaving a message, you might want to make it easy for me to look you up by spelling your name.

If I am to have any hope of figuring out who you are and why you have called me, you might want to consider lighting the way. (Actually, my database allows me to search on phone numbers. This is the only reason I sound intelligent from time to time when returning calls.)

The next subject is resumes and cover letters.

I could write an entire editorial on either, and I have, so I will just hit the high points. Again, leaving off your home address isn’t going to fool anyone. If it is a privacy issue, try typing your name into Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Switchboard.com, or anyone of several other places and you will find out everyone knows where you live. (And yet, no one is sending you any gifts. Go figure.)

With respect to email cover letters, have I mentioned outgoing signatures? Be sure your email address is part of it.

Leaving off dates on your resume is a bad idea. Companies that don’t hire old people, don’t hire old people. Should I also mention that only people who are old leave off their dates? Duh!

Very few people are so good at hiding their age that someone who reads resumes for a living can’t figure it out in less than 1 second. What are the odds you were Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer right out of college? That whole “Previous positions” section with a list of companies longer than your arm frequently has me doubled over in laughter on the floor.

I’m older than dirt, and I wouldn’t be able to list as many companies. Are you in your 80’s or 90’s? Go ahead. Let my imagination run wild. Will you need an oxygen tent at work? A full time nurse? (Submitting your resume on parchment or on stone tablets, by the way, is a dead giveaway that you are old.)

Should I mention 6 point type? Call me Mr. Magoo. I don’t see so good. (No, it’s not actually your fault.) Consider that a resume gets at best 5-10 seconds. Is it a smudge or a paragraph filled with essential facts about your credentials? If you ACTUALLY want me to read it, you might want to consider putting it in 12 point type.

So, am I talkin to you? You might want to consider the possibility that I am.

Regards, Matt

What are your sizzle points?

Very few among us are professional sales folks. It is for this reason that some of the more subtle elements of interviewing can easily go by us. When you decide to make a purchase you often have to justify it to others. When you do, you will find yourself repeating things the salesperson told you about the product.

Much as you may cringe at the thought that you need to have a slogan or theme song, you almost do. The question I would have for you is how can you make yourself memorable? How can you communicate what we could call your sizzle points?

In all of the interviewing that you do, except your interview with the final and ultimate decision maker, you need to be passed along up the line. In order for that to happen those at the bottom of the chain have the need to be able to simply describe you.

One story I heard told many years ago was about a guy who brought a glossy brochure from his last employer with a picture of a helicopter on it. He was referred to as the “helicopter” guy. Not the best title I suppose, but it was a way of uniquely identifying him as he was passed up the line.

One of our alumni members here in Connecticut many years ago referred to himself at our meeting as a “Confidence Man.” His area of expertise is Internal Audit, and he went on to explain that his point of difference was that in his approach to those he was auditing, he was easily able to gain their confidence. It was an easy title to remember AND something interesting and amusing to repeat as he was passed up the line.

One of the points to keep in mind is the need to communicate simple messages. These are your sizzle points. In presenting your paperwork to the next person up the line, have you provided the interviewer with a sufficient number of simple messages that easily explain the essence of who you are? This is the requirement.

It is easy to get into detailed explanations about your background, who you are, and how you go about the magic you do. However, detailed explanations need to be preceded and followed with simple messages. It think I have heard it said: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”

If I had to put a handle on you, what would it be?

I have often made the claim that I am compulsively well organized. (I know this comes a shock to all of you.) It is the kind of interesting statement that is easy to remember and has the appropriate impact (I hope) when it is repeated up the line.

Think about your 90-second announcement. What are the words you use to describe yourself to others? Do you provide easy to remember ideas?

I know you think that you are just an ordinary person, but I know that you have your very own unique sizzle points. I just need for you to tell me.

Who knows to whom I will repeat them?

Regards, Matt

It is always better to be working

Even though the job market seems to be improving, I thought I would repeat a thought I mention to those who ask. Plain and simple, it is always better to be working.

The strategy you take early in your career has to be one of growth. Each job you take has to move you up the ladder of success. However, once you have been a Chief Financial Officer or Controller of a significant firm, and especially if you have reached the advanced age of mid-forties like most of our members, I would suggest to you that it is simply better to be working.

My own observation has been that most of our members move from large firms to smaller ones. The reason for this is pretty straight forward — parachuting in at the top of a large company closes off career tracks. That’s why large firms don’t generally hire senior executives.

Those of us who have enjoyed long careers with one firm have to accept the fact that part of our compensation was the result of our intense knowledge of our firm. We knew the people, and we knew what they would do before they did. We could protect them from themselves, so to speak.

That was why we earned the “big bucks.”

If we now move to another company, we are in a sense pushed back to the value of our technical and people skills. Sure, we may click with the interviewer, but the truth is that there are lots of folks who have the technical and people skills to do any job. It is a market, and we may not have the same value to a new employer as we did to one we had been with for many years.

Sad, but true.

As we set about on our quest to have a slightly larger office with more potted plants and a few more side chairs (and, of course, a slightly larger paycheck), I would suggest that you not lose sight of the fact that you need to be careful not to stay out of the game any longer than absolutely necessary.

If you are not employed for an extended period of time, even those who know you and like you may start to believe that there is something wrong. There may not be, but perception is everything.

What I am suggesting is that if you happen to stumble across a less than perfect job that is in fact offered to you, you might want to view it through the lens of your current age and real requirements.

If you take a job for less than you used to earn, no one will actually know other than you. Since you are a member of The FENG, you are actually keeping your job search active, and if something better comes along, you can take it. (Yes, I know all about ethics in business, but as far as I know in today’s world it isn’t illegal to quit a job for one paying more money.)

You will, however, have been working, and you will be perceived for this new opportunity as more valuable than if you had waited it out.

This is, of course, just one man’s opinion. I would welcome the thoughts of others, so please send them in. The proper place is Leads@TheFENG.org for our Notes from Members column.

Regards, Matt

The problem with falling overboard

As the sailing season begins here in Connecticut my thoughts more and more turn to sailing stories and how they might apply to job search and the management of your career. (Of course, I think about and read sailing stories all the time, but I digress.)

One of the great perils of sailing is falling overboard. I have 3 rules when sailing:

1. Don’t fall overboard
2. Don’t fall overboard
3. Don’t fall overboard

To ensure that this doesn’t happens, especially when sailing at night, I always wear a lifejacket when underway and at night I always clip on. I also clip on when the wind pipes up. No exceptions. These are also the rules for the crew at night. During the day, I don’t make anyone except the grandchildren wear lifejackets AND I have tethers for them that I insist they use. (They are also easier to keep track of that way. They can’t be more than 6 feet from where they are clipped on.)

The problem with falling in the water is that you are hard to retrieve. Yes, it can be done, but assuming you are injured when you fall overboard, you aren’t going to be all that much help to the rescue party. The worst part is that “Mighty Mouse” isn’t necessarily coming to save you. If you are not prepared to participate in your own survival, there isn’t a whole lot of hope.

Much the same is true having to abandon ship. The sailor’s rule is that you step up into a lifeboat. (I’ll let you think about that for a moment.) If your ship isn’t about to disappear under the waves, you are at all times best advised to stay with it. It is larger than you are and therefore easier to spot. Many ships of all sizes have been found floating months after someone panicked and demanded to be taken off by the Coast Guard. (In those cases, “Mighty Mouse” DID come to their rescue, but I wouldn’t count on it.)

If you have been out of work a long time, it is very easy to mentally give up. When your lifeboat has been adrift for a long time, it is easy to come to believe you will never be rescued. Even with unemployment so low now, I’m not going to tell you tonight that the job market is booming, but I will tell you that things ARE starting to pick up. Your ship might even be on the horizon.

What you need to do is shake off your fear of not surviving, pick yourself up and get yourself energized. It is vitally important that you look and feel like a winner. When jobs are again available in reasonable numbers, those who appear beaten won’t get them.

When survivors of shipwrecks are picked up, the rescuers can only have a small appreciation for what those wretched souls have been through. It is probably not worth your telling anyone about your experiences. You don’t want sympathy. You want a job.

Just as the darkest hour is just before dawn, storms end and job droughts end. Hopefully this job drought is now on its last legs. (And, hopefully you will remember to file your taxes on Monday.)

Regards, Matt

Chip firmly in place

Over the years I have had more than a few “interesting” discussions with new member applicants. I guess I can talk about them with all of you because they weren’t sponsored or accepted.

Although I am in a position where I have to say no now and then, I try to visualize my role as that of “the welcoming committee” and not “the gate keeper.”

However, as one of my Army buddies used to say: “There are some folks who wouldn’t be happy if they were hanged with a new rope.”

Sad to say, but when the answer is no, and it is you, it is hard to take. What are the reasons why? And, as logical financial folks, I know we next move to “how can I reason my way through this and make the decision yes?” Well, unfortunately, when the answer is no, there often aren’t good reasons.

It is easy to get angry. As hard driving financial types, we have been trained to never take no for an answer. The problem is, however, that you never “win” these kinds of arguments. As distasteful as it might be sometimes, a conciliatory approach might actually work more successfully for you.

In the case of one new member applicant several years ago, he called me on a Saturday when I was trying to take a nap. He then proceeded to harangue me for the better part of 15 minutes about why, even though he only had 5 years of work experience, I really should allow him to join The FENG. I know, you are probably thinking why did I even listen to him? Well, I try to be polite to all those who contact us. Besides, I remembered his background and felt he was clearly a bright young man.

Had he calmed down a bit and approached me with a smile on his face, I was actually prepared to help him by providing him with some appropriate contacts within our fine organization as sort of an investment in a future member. But, he was so abrasive, I was more focused on just ending the conversation without him filing a lawsuit against us.

As the old expression goes “you can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a gallon of vinegar.” (I hope I got that right.)

Chip removal surgery isn’t expensive. All you have to do is keep you greater goals in mind.

Even with firms that have turned you down, a little sugar can go a long way. Sometimes that person who “apparently” was better than you doesn’t work out. I have heard it more than once. If you are number two or even three, they could be right back to you. (And this time, you can play hard to get.)

Regards, Matt

The dreaded telephone interview

With everyone so busy these days, the dreaded telephone interview is being used more and more.

In my opinion, the only purpose for a telephone interview is to do a quick screening of possible candidates before bringing them in for a face to face interview. It is not a good vehicle for totally qualifying candidates, but used effectively it can prevent a colossal waste of time on the part of both parties. Many folks look good on paper, but with a short conversation filled with probing questions, those lacking critical elements can be eliminated. If candidates need to be brought in from great distances it just makes sense to speak with them first.

I hope I am being redundant when I tell you to NEVER use your cell phone for a telephone interview unless you are sure you have a strong signal. “Can you hear me now?” may make a good advertising campaign, but it is one of the great lies. The answer is usually NO. (My guess is the actor was standing under a cell tower.) If the only way you can be reached initially is by cell, insist on calling back on a land line if at all possible.

Given that you have proper notice about a telephone interview, be sure to prepare. Not only should you read the position description several times, you should reread your own resume. Remember, this may be the only document they have and they may start asking questions from it. It is also a good idea to have both documents out in front of you.

A remote phone is also a good idea. I have a hands free phone that allows me to walk around my office when I am on the phone. Being able to gesture will make you come across as more forceful than if you are sitting in your high backed leather chair with your feet up on the desk.

While a telephone interview is a preliminary step in your process of getting a face to face interview, the preparation you need to do about the company is the same as if you were going there. You only get so many preliminary “lottery tickets,” so don’t be casual. As I used to tell my accounting staff: I expect you to do your work as if your job depended on it, because it does! The same goes here. Don’t let the collection of any relevant information go undone. You only get one chance, and making a good impression over the phone is harder than in person because both parties are missing all those visual cues. Besides, you may have a very nice “interview outfit” and dressed to the “9’s,” you may look very impressive. Here you will have to depend solely on your wits, and you best keep them about you.

Keep in mind that your goal is to sound smart. You will need to speak more slowly and more clearly than when you are in person. Believe it. Most people do a little lip reading, and that won’t be possible over the phone.

Your other goal is to keep the call as brief as possible. At an appropriate time in the conversation, do a “trial close,” by which I mean, ask for the appointment. You are a product that can’t actually be sold over the phone. You need to get in front of your customer. Answer all the questions you are asked as completely as is necessary, but don’t get carried away. Be sure to pause periodically when you are speaking. Digital phone technology today makes it impossible to interrupt you. Try to supply short answers. 90 seconds IS about the limit, so put a clock on it.

The phone can be your friend or your enemy. Make sure it isn’t the latter.

Regards, Matt

Defining who you are

Probably one of the hardest things to do in life is to define who you are. Are you really your resume?

Because we tend to be at companies longer than the members of other discipline areas, the reality of what it is we REALLY do best is not always obvious to us.

Some time ago when one of my friends, Bob Graham, came to speak at our meeting in Connecticut, he shared with us a great interview question: What’s the biggest misperception about you? Believing that others have a misperception about you actually implies that there is something about yourself that you don’t accept. Unfortunately, most of us are often the last to know or at least the last to accept truths about who we really are.

I am sure that this is not one of those “financial executive” defining issues. I am sure everyone is faced with this issue. But, since we tend to change jobs less frequently we have to ask it less often about ourselves. I am not sure if constant self-assessment is a good or bad thing. But, during a time when you are changing jobs it is a good thing to ask and discover about yourself.

As many of you know, I spent nearly a decade in the advertising business. One of the things you never want to do is make “an over promise.” It is also not necessary or desirable to err too far on the other side. (We do have a tendency as financial folks to be modest. I hear it in 90-second announcements all the time.) You really need to be as correct as possible about the “person” you are projecting.

The question is how to go about the discovery process. I would first suggest rereading your resume and then thinking about the stories you like to tell in interviews. What are the things about which you are most proud? These are the things you like to do and I would suggest that these are the things at which you will most likely be the most successful in your next endeavor. The key is to repeat them to someone who really knows you for a reaction. Is this the real you, or is it just someone you made up to get another job?

I will never know, but your friends hopefully will tell you. (Personally, I sometimes wish my friends weren’t so honest!)

Regards, Matt

Are you ready to retire?

I don’t know about you, but at the age of 71, I still have more than a few miles left on my odometer. The thought of retirement is still something far off into the future. I imagine I will get to that point in my thinking someday, but it isn’t now.

When members call me for advice, I always ask them how old they are. Lucky thing I’m not working for a corporation or I would probably get sued. That said, the reason I ask someone’s age is not to discriminate against them, but rather to give them better strategies.

When I was in my youth in the 1960’s I suppose we thought the “old folks” didn’t know much about anything. There were so many of us baby boomers back then that the market was flooded with well educated individuals. Back then, many folks went to college just to avoid the draft. So, America got spoiled.

Now all of us baby boomers are not only well educated, we are also well experienced. (Notice I didn’t use the words “over qualified.”) We bring a lot to the party. No learning on the job for us. All of those things that only happen once a year, we have done 30-40 times. That is indeed a wealth of knowledge.

Part of the perceptual problem is on our side and part on the side of the “outside” world. Our vision of ourselves can hold us back from considering opportunities that are perfectly viable. Perhaps you were an Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer in your last life, but wouldn’t it be better to be a Controller of a small company than unemployed? It is difficult to accept this change in who you are, I suppose, but that is YOUR problem. I would suggest to you that it is always better to be working.

The “outside” world is very much hung up on moving people up through the ranks and this model of how careers are supposed to work prevents them from engaging individuals who are “taking a step back” but who can easily do the job. They are very concerned that you will be bored. They assume that you will bolt at the first opportunity for advancement, as if the younger folks they might hire wouldn’t do the same thing. The more likely situation is that you would stay a lot longer than someone “on the make” in their career.

The real quest I would suggest to my fellow members of The FENG who are “older” as we count years, but still of a mind to use their mental capabilities in some useful fashion is to identify your core saleable skills and find a willing customer. It may not even be a traditional W-2 job, but rather a series of consulting assignments. Are they easy to find? Well, neither is a “proper” job.

The truth is that there may not always be jobs, but there is always work that needs to be done.

In The FECG, we rarely have a two week consulting assignment that doesn’t go 2-6 months. People who actually know how to get things done are hard to find and our clients tend to find more and more work for our consultants to do once they engage them. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Everyone has a core skill set which produces actual work. If you are looking for consulting that allows you to sit in a high backed leather chair and pontificate on this that and the other thing, you WILL be looking for a long time. If on the other hand, you are willing to roll up your sleeves and practice your many talents, you just might make a FORCED retirement disappear as a concern.

Regards, Matt

The original conversation killer

My wife is a speech pathologist by education and early work experience. One of the things that drives her crazy is one word answers. Her approach in teaching speech has always been to ask questions that create a conversation. The only way to get the kids she was working with to improve their speech was to get them to talk. You can see how one word answers wouldn’t further that goal.

In the context of networking, asking someone if they know about any open jobs is a one way ticket to a very brief conversation. Have I heard about any open jobs? Sure, but it was two weeks ago. I don’t remember very many of the details, but I’m sure you would have been a perfect fit for it. (Those you ask this particular question honestly don’t realize they are torturing you.)

On the other hand, explaining your background in a concise and understandable manner, perhaps preceded by your sending a resume for quick reading, can easily generate a long ranging and beneficial communication.

The question you need to ask is: Can you think of individuals who are known to you who would understand what I do and who might be willing to have a conversation with me? I realize the possibility of their having an open job at their firm that would be a fit for me is remote, and, it is not necessary. I just want to get introductions to people who have some connection to what it is I do. They in turn will know the right folks for further introductions.

This process is called networking at its best. Sooner or later, you will meet someone who has a problem that you have solved many times. Sometimes, this problem will just come flowing out during your meeting. The problem when you sat down didn’t have a job associated with it. Now let’s see. I just realized I have a problem. I further realize that the person sitting across from me has solved this problem. Am I really going to keep looking for someone to solve it when the answer is sitting across from me? No, the job is now yours to lose.

Networking is actually a lot easier than most people think. Connecting the dots, following the yellow brick road, leading others down the primrose path, it’s all duck soup to those who know how to do it and who are not so blinded by their panic to find another job that they ask the wrong questions.

I am always surprised when members ask me to keep them in mind when I hear about jobs. Honest, everything I hear about I publish in our newsletter.

Sure, there are others who hear about open jobs and on a given day may not be so self-absorbed that they think of calling you, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Most jobs aren’t even jobs when you first learn about them. They are problems that need to be solved.

So, before you ask someone if they know about any jobs, know that this is the original conversation killer. Ask an open ended question that will get that networking contact started. For example, do they have any search professionals to recommend that you may contact? (Everyone has a few favorite recruiters.)

Once you get them talking, you may find you won’t be able to get them to stop. And in this way, you won’t even have to hold them down until they give you 3 names. They will babble on until you only hope they will stop.

Regards, Matt

Asking for help

Asking for help is hard for many people. I don’t know why that is, but I am sure it is just part of human nature.

I guess we have been brought up to “do it ourselves.” It is sort of a mark of our independence when we become real adults. I have been told that this is the reason that guys used to refuse to stop at the gas station to ask for directions. (Thank goodness I have GPS and no longer need to ask.)

The key is to know when your wheel spinning has reached the point that you would be best advised to ask for help.

The reason I bring this up is that there are so many different kinds of help available in our networking group if only those who need it would ask. Some of it is subtle; some of it is more direct. And, I can’t really tell you where the following ideas fall.

Let’s say you are trying to learn how to better use that new computer you bought when you started your job search. You can sit and struggle with it. It is a valid approach. In the alternate you can reach out to family members or friends to take a few hours out of their evening to come over and show you a few tricks. (Perhaps someone from your local chapter of The FENG would be willing to come over if you ask!) You are right in thinking that you need to primarily struggle with it if you are really going to learn it, but it is also true that having someone show you a few trap doors to fall through is a big help and will shorten your learning curve.

Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is another fertile area. I know I struggle with it (and frankly I haven’t fully decided), but reaching out to other professionals with backgrounds related to yours can surely help. (These folks are also members of The FENG and are perhaps also attending your local chapter meetings.) Even if you are committed to doing more of the same old thing, talking that through with others whose backgrounds or circumstances are close to yours will provide you with either a framework for thinking about the problem or perhaps will validate your own thinking. Either way you win!

Resume review is pretty obvious. I know when I was out of work in 1991 I read my resume so many times I really didn’t know what it said anymore. It really needed a fresh pair of eyes. So, I had a friend go over it, and bingo, several very obvious changes became apparent.

I am sure that with these few examples you all get the idea. What is important is to always be thinking about whether it is time to get some help.

It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of intelligence.

Regards, Matt

Hi, it’s me the pest

Probably one of the most difficult issues to resolve when competing for an appropriate job opportunity is how much follow up to do.

It is a fine line indeed between ensuring that those making the decision know you have real interest and making a real pest of yourself and changing their decision from yes to no.

Decisions seem to take longer and longer today. Add to this the natural reluctance of folks to deliver bad news, and you have the “horns of the dilemma” that we all face.

One of the little recognized dangers in doing too much follow up is when you think the interview went well and they don’t seem to be getting back to you. The short story may be that you are number two and they have made an offer to number one and are waiting to hear back. If they call you on a timely basis to deliver this news, you might disappear on them. So, trying to consider THEIR best interests, they sort of string you along.

In this case, more than any other, you can do yourself real damage by being too aggressive in your follow-up.

Asking permission to follow-up at the end of the interview is the best thing you can do. Ask for a sense of their timing and with whom and when to follow-up. Hey, they said it was okay.

Typically the reason no one gets back to you is that the answer is no. In this case, all you are doing is satisfying your own curiosity as to the status of particular items on your pending list.

There are many valid reasons why they don’t want to talk to you. For one, us financial types look for detailed answers to why we weren’t selected. That can get into a lengthy discussion with the party on the other end of the phone needing to dance around obvious issues that could lead to lawsuits. Often times there really isn’t a valid reason other than there were better people who applied.

Asking for a side by side comparison won’t help you or them. In fact, when the answer is no, there usually isn’t much useful information that changes hands. But, by being polite if you do reach them, you stay on their list and folks have been known not to show up for that first day of work. (I have also known folks who quit on their first day.)

If you do choose to leave many phone messages, be sure not to make them increasing strident. The simple facts of “name, rank and serial number” are usually sufficient. If you do more, you run the risk of relieving their guilt at not having returned your calls.

Keep them guilty. When they do return your call they will usually begin with an apology that will go a long way toward them trying to be helpful in some way, perhaps by even providing another networking contact for you if the answer is no.

Hopefully this will help you in rethinking your follow up efforts. Having been a master of credit and collection work, I can tell you that being a pest pays.

Regards, Matt

First impressions

We have all heard the old saw: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” There is also this amendment: “Don’t make your first impression your last.”

I only wish everyone would be so kind as to repeat these sayings to themselves in all the things they do with regard to their job search and networking.

For example, you are certainly welcome to come to meetings of our networking group in business casual. But, keep in mind that some of those attending will be coming from interviews and will be “dressed to the 9’s.” And, you need to consider what you are going to be asking for at those meetings. Typically it is nothing short of a referral to someone’s valued business associates.

I was never a big fan of business casual, at least not in business situations. Not being high on the imagination scale, I believe it is difficult to visualize how important you might be if you don’t APPEAR to be.

The same thing is true of ALL the correspondence you send out. What is your email address, and does it say your name at the top as it should? The “Bud Family” at the top, or perhaps your spouse’s name will leave the impression, and perhaps rightly so, that you aren’t very technologically proficient. (And, I guess you aren’t, but you might want to try to fool everyone.)

A Human Resource person I know told me once that she reads cover letters first. The reason is that folks get a lot of help with their resume, but often write their cover letters themselves. If you can’t put a coherent sentence together, you just might not be the person who she would hire for that senior level financial officer position at her firm.

Telephone calls are another opportunity to ruin my visualization of you. I am amazed how many folks haven’t set up their voice mail or are using their standard “we’re not home right now,” or you have reached 203-227-8965. I generally know what number I dialed. What I don’t know is if I reached the right person.

A proper message and/or a cheery greeting make a first impression for you. Good, bad or ugly, you are off and running. It is your call whether you are going to have to do a repair job, or be able to coast based on those first few seconds.

Those who make a lot of phone calls or who do a lot of writing learn to make judgments quickly. Face to face meetings are no different.

If you believe you are as smart as I think you are then make a believer out of me in those first few seconds of our meeting, whether that is in person, in writing, or over the phone.

You just might not get a chance to change my mind.

Regards, Matt

Explaining the magic

I am often asked by our members to give them a “formula” for constructing their very own 90-second announcement. If only that were practical.

The problem with 90-second announcements is very much related to the very limited time you are allowed. Having been in the advertising business for nearly a decade, I can tell you why advertising creative people make so much money. It is just plain difficult to hone a message to 90-seconds, let alone 30-seconds as they normally have to do.

Your own message needs to be tailored to you, unlike your resume which for the most part should conform to accepted formatting standards. Other than telling others your name, most of what you say is up to you.

I do suggest “staking out your territory.” By this I mean, I tell people that my background is primarily advertising and publishing. By starting out in this way, I give people a context to absorb the information that comes next. Everything should sort of hang off your opening statement.

Like the summary at the top of your resume, it is in the nature of an advertising promise, and you need to deliver on it. If you are a manufacturing expert, a retailing expert, or a mergers & acquisition expert, staking out your territory allows us to know what we are listening to and what we should be listening for.

Everyone is different. The strengths and weaknesses we bring to the party are part and parcel of who we are and what we do. Your goal is to make that clear in “25 words or less.” Not an easy task.

More importantly, and at the risk of sounding too specialized, you need to explain your industry and the work you did in that industry that made you special. Not only do you perform magic at the office, but you are a special person when you get to work your charm.

When I tell an audience that “most of the people I worked with on a daily basis were under psychiatric care for good and valid reasons.” I mention this because managing the diverse and strong personalities that make up a successful advertising agency and getting them to work together to make tons of money is a unique skill, and not one well understood outside of our industry. Although law firms are similar, my belief is that at least lawyers tend to be logical thinkers. As you can see, even in a related industry, the magic to make it all happen is different and unique.

What made your industry difficult and what did you do to manage within it? How did you apply the many skills you have acquired over the years to those unique circumstances? What words will convey that difficulty in the most memorable terms?

While we are all accountants by nature, we are also magicians. Those who exist outside of our unique skill sets are often in awe of what we do. I know we are “awe shucks” modest most of the time, but your 90-second announcement is no time to blend.

Promote the magic. Say something important about yourself and you will be well on your way to being awarded that cone shaped hat with the stars on it. (No not a dunce cap.)

(If you go to our website: Member Area, Member Downloads, Other Useful Documents, you will find a document titled “90-Second Announcements” written by Peggy Bud. My wife is a Speech Pathologist by education and an expert in communication strategies. I think it will help you create a more effective 90-Second Announcement. Fan mail should be sent to Peggy@PeggyBud.com.)

Regards, Matt

Organizations have character

One of the more amazing things I find myself discussing from time to time is that organizations seem to take on a life of their own. Even when I “drop in” many years later I find very little has changed.

As I “drop in” to chapters of The FENG around the country, one of my goals is to find out how our “character” is developing. It is hard to believe that our organization has so many common elements around the country, but it does.

In the beginning, I signed my 3-4 page newsletter to my friends in the original chapter “Regards, Matt.” Hey, they really were my friends, and I knew many of them quite well. Old habits die hard, and I never stopped. I find that most members sign messages to the group and to each other in exactly the same way. I hope this never stops. I don’t know why it should since we are now much more than a small gathering of friends around a conference room table at the Westport Library and this is one of our many folkways.

I have continued to do this because I don’t want members to think of The FENG as an “organization,” but rather as a circle of friends. Better yet, as a circle of THEIR friends. As you know, a stranger is only a friend you haven’t met.

I like to think that a good portion of the “character” of The FENG comes from the fact that we are an army of volunteers. Members who take leadership positions do so because the “want to” and not for the dollar compensation. The rewards are significant, but they are of a different form.

As each of us prepares to “hang on” through this period of our lives called middle age, I would ask you to “do what you can do” to help your fellow members.

Sure, all of them are “characters,” but that is what The FENG is all about.

It is first and foremost a collection of characters. I believe that all of them worthy of your support and assistance. As with most things in life, you will get out of it only what you put in.

Remember, every day and in every way, it all begins with you.

Regards, Matt

A few left over parts

When I was growing up, my father was a plumbing contractor and I had the great experience of working with him weekends and summers from my early teens until I graduated from college.

The test we used to determine whether or not we had correctly completed a complicated installation was whether or not we had any left over parts. (We usually read the instructions as we were driving away from the job.) Please know that a lot of mechanics use the same technique when they work on your car. Left over parts are a type of profit if you can use them for something else. (Hopefully, none of them are critical to the functioning of whatever they were left over from.)

To those of us who are a little long in the tooth with respect to the number of years in our career, we experience much the same syndrome when we redo our resumes for our latest job. If we accept the fact that there is greatest interest in that which we have done in the last ten years or so, what exactly are we to do with those “left over” accomplishments from our earlier jobs that we need to eliminate to keep it down to 2-3 pages?

Furthermore, as we try to put our resume into English, or perhaps more properly into “layman’s terms” and strip out the jargon common to our industry, what should we do with that left over information?

Well friends, we live in an electronic world. Not only can you have several different versions of your resume, you can also have a “storage cabinet” filled with all of your left over parts. As an accountant, it is hard for me to throw anything away. I am always afraid that when I do, I will need it at some point. How wonderful it is that storing these extra parts doesn’t take up any noticeable room these days, because I’m sure if they did my wife would get after me to “clean up my room.”

Of course, some of these very useful left over parts can also come as a result of your writing your resume. That initial burst of energy that you had at the beginning of your process may have yielded a treasure trove of valuable accomplishments that you felt were not as important as others in your final opus. (Gosh, I hope you didn’t throw them away.)

These stray factoids about what you have done can be extremely useful for job postings that call for them. The trick is to have them in exactly the same format as your primary resume so that when you paste them in and/or swap them out there will be no noticeable change in either the format from a typographical standpoint or from a language one.

In the “bad old days” you had to have your resume printed professionally and you know the reluctance of this old accountant to throw out paper produced at great expense. Strictly “first in, first out” in my book. In today’s world with everything electronic, there is no cost and I hope you always keep your printed inventories low. Only printing enough for the day is what I recommend. In the case of your electronic opus, there is no need to make multiple copies of these files. (But, I’m sure you know that.)

So, take out 5 or more pages of electronic paper and write to your heart’s content. Cover any aspect of your working life and work and rework each accomplishment until it sings on key and is in tune with the rest of the choir.

You will then find that modifying your resume for a specific job becomes duck soup. And as you know, duck soup is delicious.

Regards, Matt

Watching your back

It would be great if we could all see behind us while at the same time looking forward, but it just isn’t possible. And, sometimes just looking forward is hard enough.

We have all heard about the “buddy system” that swimmers use. And, of course, having someone “watch your back” is a concept we are all quite familiar with.

One of the problems The FENG has always tried to educate our members about is the mistaken belief that job search is a zero sum game. While it is certainly true that only one candidate is going to get the job, the goal is to ensure that one of our members is that person. I hope that it is you, but if it can’t be you, your second goal is to have it be a friend.

As I mention from time to time, Bob Walker, Co-Chair of our Dallas Chapter, tells members at each meeting to “find their mirror.” It is sort of one of those “friends to share and friends to care” kind of things. (Gosh, did I just make up a slogan?)

Anyway, there is more to any of the individual things we do than meets the eye. That is why The FENG is such a remarkable organization.

Ever want to have a guardian angel? Well, you can have lots of them. Of course, it requires being a friend to have a friend. Have you paired up with a sufficient number of other members so that you now have the equivalent of “eyes in the back of your head?” If not, perhaps you should.

One of the ideas that we promote in The FECG to make sure we get everyone who should apply for one of our assignments to apply is to ask you to forward the notices we send out to other members if you are aware of their backgrounds and interest in what we are working on at the moment. Sometimes your friends are asleep at the switch.

If you haven’t paired up with other members, you will find you just can’t be everywhere at once like you need to be. Early in my membership in The FENG I had a guardian angel by the name of Ken Hall. Ken used to call me up and say “I found a lead you should know about.” At first I was suspicious. What was he up to? I guess, just trying to be a good friend, which he remains to this day.

Bill Thurber, one of the Co-Chairs of the Atlanta Chapter at the time, said to me during my visit many years ago: “Some members get it and some don’t.”

Make sure you are one of the ones who “gets it.”

If you see a posting that fits a friend, send it to him or her. You will find that it is a gift that keeps on giving, sometimes for the rest of your life.

Regards, Matt

The Energizer Bunny

Probably one of the hardest things to do during a job search is keeping yourself energized. If you are conducting your job search from home, it can be even more difficult.

The thing to recognize is that conducting a job search is in some respects painful for us financial types. We don’t get to do spreadsheets (which we adore), and all we get to do is write letters and make phone calls. Sure, making phone calls to collect past due invoices is a lot of fun. But, making networking phone calls, now that’s painful.

So, faced with not needing to sharpen our #2 pencils, it can be difficult to get going in the morning. After all, what is there to look forward to?

I, of course, operate on batteries, so whenever I feel like I am moving in slow motion, I just pop in a couple fresh “D” batteries, and I am off to the races! You on the other hand will have to find more normal approaches to getting your day started.

Of course there is always a newsletter waiting for you, but you need to do your review of the job leads as quickly as possible. Do a quick scan and cut and paste all items of interest to a new document, or if you prefer, block and print your selection. This way you will have a document to work from to speed your writing a reply.

(You are permitted to study the editorial, however. I do work very hard on them!)

Each and every day you need to have a plan of some kind. Plans can change, but if you give some thought over the weekend to what you would like to accomplish over the next week, you will find that it will provide a focus for your energy.

Don’t feel bad about scheduling some energy creating activities like an exercise program or meeting an old friend for breakfast or lunch. Gyms open pretty early and you can probably wait to read the evening newsletter until you get back. There is nothing like 30 minutes on the treadmill to get your heart beating at a proper pace, and to get some adrenalin in your blood stream! Meeting old friends doesn’t hurt either. Even though these may not be folks important to your job search, they do care about you, and knowing you have a fan club out there rooting for you can really help.

If you are faced with a day of phone calls, be sure to start with a few easy ones first. Being rejected early in the day can ruin a good 8 hour run. If need be, start with a few other members of The FENG. They tend to be a cheerful lot and always eager to help. Your chances of having someone hang up on you, or someone be rude to you is much lower with other members of our circle of friends.

Although we don’t get to do many spreadsheets during a job search, we do generally get to play with computers, so there is some fun to look forward to. If you didn’t get to do much “hands on” stuff when you were out in the world of work, use free time during the day to learn the basic programs of Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Access. They really are pretty easy to learn, and you will need these hands on skills in most smaller firms. (Not many secretaries or staff around these days.)

The most important thing to do is find ways to keep yourself fired up. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is down in the dumps or lethargic.

Like the Energizer bunny, if you find yourself getting a little run down, go out and get some fresh batteries. They are available everywhere. You just have to find the ones that are right for you.

Regards, Matt

Two peas in a pod

One of the great mysteries in this world is why any two people would network. Yes, I know this sounds like heresy coming from someone who has built his entire life on networking, but it is actually a very good question, and one that members who have not been exposed to “the truth” often ask.

I don’t know if it is still true, but at Dallas chapter meetings members are encouraged to find their “mirrors.” I guess if you are standing side by side, you won’t look exactly alike, but face to face you appear to each other to be spitting images. Of course, Bob Walker, Co-Chair of the Dallas chapter isn’t talking about someone who LOOKS like you, but rather someone who has shared characteristics from a career standpoint.

In The FENG, we share job leads because it is just plain smart. The more job leads you share, the more others share with you. Job leads are the baseball cards of our world. You always have more than you need. And, most cards aren’t popular for very long. Giving them away and/or trading them as quickly as possible is the approach that works best.

Networking with those who are just like you is one of the most powerful job search approaches. You have to ask yourself who is most likely to hear about jobs in which you would have the most interest? Well, certainly it is going to be the folks with the most links to your background. If you are a manufacturing type that would be your fellow manufacturing types. If you are a HIGH TECHNOLOGY manufacturing type, it will be those knowledgeable about high technology manufacturing. The shades of meaning are endless in this world.

There really isn’t any way you can get hurt sharing networking contacts as freely as you do job leads as long as you make some effort to be selective. The “damage” that can be done by introducing someone you know well to someone else you don’t really know well is limited if you take a few minutes to really understand the person you are proposing to introduce. A quick look at their resume, a few good questions, all can assure you that you aren’t introducing someone who will ruin your hard won relationship.

Of course, the purpose of networking is to find work opportunities. So, what are the odds that the person you are introducing is going to stumble into a job YOU actually want and get hired instead of you? Well, like the lottery, the odds are a lot lower than most people believe. I am not putting down the value of networking when I say this. I am only commenting on the odds that the job that goes to someone else is one you would have wanted AND one you would have gotten hired for. Those are very different odds.

Which brings us to the “two peas in a pod” syndrome. In the case of senior executives, there isn’t such a thing.

All of us are as different as our fingerprints. Some of us are more affable than others. Some of us are more technically competent than others. Some of us are higher or lower paid than others. Some of us are in different parts of the country than others or are more willing or less willing to drive a distance every day or move. As alike as we may be, we are every bit as different.

One of those math facts that defy comprehension, don’t you think?

Regards, Matt

Time is of the essence

For those of you who have had the honor of dealing with legal matters, you know that the phrase “Time is of the essence” is frequently used in contracts. The idea is that if you want to get the deal done, you better move quickly. (In other words, you will need to get off your duff.)

The world today moves at a furious pace. No longer, for example, can we blame the postal service for not delivering that analysis that was due, or even blame the fact that we missed the Federal Express pickup. Most things today move at the speed of the Internet, and that is a fearsome and frightening standard by which we have to live our lives.

If it wasn’t bad enough that you can’t get away from the phone anymore (and I do wish they would stop building those cell towers everywhere so we always have coverage), since you probably have an iPhone or one of the many other smart phone devices, you can’t even get away from email.

I’m not sure where in the world life moves at a slower pace these days. I’m sure there are some places of refuge. One arena where there isn’t such a place of refuge is anything related to job search.

As a first example, the job leads in our newsletter have a shorter shelf life than a bottle of milk left out on the counter on a hot day. Our “evil plan” in The FENG is to publish the job leads we receive within 24 hours. Still, if you think about it, someone else also had them for a day or so. So, before you even put electronic pen to electronic paper, you are often times 3 days behind the 8 ball. (Yes, I know you thought I would come up with a sailing analogy, but heck, when you are sailing you’re lucky if you are moving at 5 knots.) To get the maximum benefit out of the 40,000+ relationships each of our members has with members of the search community, I wouldn’t leave our newsletter laying around in the sun. Give it a quick scan. Pick off the ones you like after making sure you are a good fit. Then, make haste in getting your response in the “mail.”

Networking is, of course, the key to success for us older types. The job leads are sort of a tune up game if you will. If you are lucky enough to hit it off with one of your network contacts and they actually suggest a few names or really knock your socks off and make a few calls or send some emails on your behalf, how long do you think you should wait before following up? (This is not a trick question.) The “New York minute” is the time frame that comes to my mind.

Friends, it is like pulling teeth to get anyone to help. When you finally get a generous soul to extend his hand in friendship, how long do you think it will be hanging out there for you to shake? Waste no time in grasping it firmly. Put the ball firmly in his/her court at your earliest opportunity. When receiving a valid networking contact from someone, it is not impolite if they ask you to wait until they reach them to “demand” a timeline when you can be in touch.

People lose interest very quickly. I have often been told by someone I have called that they will call me right back. I have been foolish at times to even stay off the phone for as long as 3 minutes. (That is about my limit.) To my surprise, I often don’t hear back from these folks for hours. I guess their sense of time and mine are totally different.

If you are the giver of networking leads, don’t allow yourself to be put in an embarrassing position. Make clear to the person you are awarding a connection to someone known to you the timeframe in which they should be in touch. Streets run both ways. They may be too bashful to ask. Don’t be too bashful to let them know. After all, these are your business connections and you want them to be available to you and to others you might send their way.

As they say, “Time is of the essence.”

Regards, Matt

The importance of realistic expectations

It is an unfortunate fact of life that no one can find you another job except for you. While it is POSSIBLE that others can help you in some way, they can’t actually do it for you.

What we do in The FENG is provide you with the tools for an effective job search. These tools run the gamut from advice about networking, to chapter meetings, to access to our membership directory using our Member Directory Search feature.

As it has been said, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. The resources for an effective job search are staring you in the face, but it is up to you to use them in the best possible way to be successful in your quest.

What I suggest is that you drink deeply.

Given that the great recession is now long over, attendance at our chapter meetings is currently not as strong as I would like. It has been noticed that some folks show up for one meeting, but don’t keep coming back. Since they don’t come back, it is hard for me to ask them why they don’t. My suspicion is that they were somehow expecting me to hand them a job on a silver platter. That just doesn’t happen.

We work the attendees of our Westport chapter very hard, especially on their elevator speeches. Is it possible that this is too stressful? Well, it doesn’t matter if it is or it isn’t. Success comes when preparation meets opportunity. I want to know that you are presenting your credentials in the best possible light and in a memorable fashion. Practice, practice and more practice is the only way a tool as useful to you as this is going to sound natural.

We don’t discuss job leads at our meetings. I would think that there are more than enough of them in our daily newsletter. And, in any case, most folks find their jobs from networking. We devote the valuable time in these face to face meetings to learning about each other’s skills and backgrounds. It is not actually necessary that you meet a “mirror” at any particular meeting. What is important is that you learn the art of meeting and making friends with strangers (who are only friends you haven’t met).

Again, the goal is tools, not a specific result.

If you set a goal of learning something new every day, you will shortly become a much smarter individual. It is this cumulative effect that inevitably causes you to find another job, or as I call them a “work opportunity.”

I always hate to disappoint. What I am suggesting is that you set realistic expectations for your participation in The FENG and the result it will bring you. While we are a remarkable organization, we can’t create miracles.

I’ll leave the miracle creation process in your very capable hands.

Regards, Matt

Effectively using the non-answer

As you mature and become over qualified for just about everything, it is inevitable that you will be interviewed for a job (of limited income or responsibility) that you would like to have, but fear that you will be deemed too old or having previously earned too much money to be “happy” in. (If they were so concerned with you happiness, you would think they would understand how difficult it is to be unemployed.)

Age it has been said is in the mind. I know I don’t feel old, and perhaps I don’t look old. Still, I am old, or at least older than others might think. Even if the number is fairly obvious since I graduated in 1968 from college and would include that information on my resume, there are still those who in an interviewing situation might ask.

It is, of course, an illegal question. How a perfectly logical question got to be illegal is a story for another time and I don’t know anyway. That said, inquiring minds want to know. I would suggest telling them. If you feel self conscious about your age, you will make others think it is an issue. “I’m 97 and only need my oxygen tent to sleep” is one of many non-answers you can give. As I often say: Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. If you handle the question well, it won’t become an issue. Some of the wrong things to do include turning bright red in anger or flushing in embarrassment. That will only lead them to think it is a problem. Mention the fact that you sky dive with reluctance. Even if you were younger, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

The salary issue is the best one for a non-answer. When asked about your past compensation, keep telling them what your salary requirements are. To many people it sounds like the answer to their question, and if they accept it, let it go. If they keep beating you up to get it, instead of answering their question, ask them what the salary range is for the job. Once they tell you, let them know that you are comfortable at the higher end of that range. Again, that might end the discussion.

If it doesn’t, do the smart thing and just tell them, but keep it simple. If you had a compensation package with a lot of components, tell them your most recent base salary and the value of your bonus and other perks in a relevant year. Unlike a position where there is money to burn, don’t indicate the maximum you have ever earned. Saying that in some years it was only $10,000 and stopping is perfectly acceptable. Question asked. Question answered. You don’t have to give them your ENTIRE salary history from day one. (At your age, it would take too many pieces of paper anyway. And besides, who can remember? What I had for breakfast is hard enough to remember.)

Before you get yourself into a situation where you are being asked a question you would prefer not to answer, think what they might be. For every person there are different “elephants sitting in the room.” Know what they are before hand and practice an appropriate answer or non-answer.

If you allow yourself to get caught off guard, all hope is lost. Hopefully, this is a good non-answer to the question asked.

Regards, Matt

Actors on a stage

In certain respects you have to envy actors. Every time they get up on stage they get to assume the role of some new personality or character. Sometimes I wish I could do that.

I have often thought about my 90-second announcement and wondered what it would be like to assume the role of someone else for the evening. On the other hand, it is hard enough just being me.

But, who am I anyway? Do the words in my 90-second announcement really describe who I am and what I can do? I know I have been going to meetings of The FENG for over 20 years, but I still wonder if I have gotten any better at describing myself to those listening. I hope I have.

During our meetings I listen for 90-second announcements that really tell me about the individual behind the announcement. More often than not, however, they are long histories that begin at the beginning and don’t tell me the essence of the man behind the curtain.

In our unending efforts not to close off any possibilities, we frequently describe ourselves too broadly and tend to leave off a lot of interesting information that would be useful to the audience in understanding the character we are playing. And, that is exactly how you should see your 90-second announcement.

You are really in the position of an actor on the stage. Your audience is before you. Your assigned task is to communicate the essence of the character you are playing that evening. What words should you use? Unfortunately, you need to write the script. And, you need to think of it as a script.

How are you going to hold the attention of the audience? Will everyone be nodding off, or will they sit up straight in their chairs when you speak?

Your 90-second announcement is useful not only for meetings of The FENG, but also for interviews. When they ask “Tell me about yourself,” this is what you should use. Don’t go on and on. Use your 90-second announcement and then stop. Wait to see what other information they are looking for.

Remember we are all but actors on a stage.

Regards, Matt

90% of life is just showing up

While I am sure the correct answer is “about” 90% (90% is a little too precise), there is no denying the fact that showing up is important.

If you have an interview and you don’t show up, you can’t possibly get the job. If you expect to get paid, you have to show up for work. And, the list goes on.

If you would like to consider yourself a master networker, showing up is also important. The groups that you belong to such as your local chapter of The FENG, your local Chamber of Commerce, your religious organization, these are all places where you should show up on a regular basis. If you don’t show up, the people who are hoping you will be there so they can share an important introduction or idea won’t be able to do it.

Bruce Lynn and I belong to our local chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth (www.ACG.org). Although other obligations do on rare occasions cause us to miss a meeting, we try not to. ACG has proved to be a valuable source of business for our firm, The FECG, LLC (www.TheFECG.com). And, in a sense, even if that were not the case, truth be told we enjoy seeing our many friends. After all, we have been going to these meetings for many years and lots of people who attend these meetings know who we are. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.

I know all of you have heard me say from time to time that the 3 most important things you can do to further your career are: networking, networking and more networking. Just as Eskimos can identify and have words for different kinds of snow, so it is true that there is more than one kind of networking.

I have identified 3 kinds of networking. The first kind of networking is saying hello to old friends. (By the way, old friends don’t have to be chronologically old, although many of mine are.) Whether in person, by phone or email, it is vitally important to always be saying hello to your old friends. By keeping in touch, they will know you love them and are not just trying to track them down when you need them. Besides, it’s fun to keep in touch. (That’s one of the dirty secrets of networking.)

The second kind of networking is making new friends. Hanging out with your old friends is a lot of fun, as noted above, but don’t forget that it is just as important to make new friends constantly. In The FENG we have our new member directory which should get you in the habit. But, just about any approach will do. No one ever has enough friends. Make it a habit in your life to try to make at least one new friend every week. (You don’t have to settle for just one, but 50-100 each week may be over doing it.)

The third kind of networking is probably the most important. This element of being a master networker is introducing people you know to other people you know. In common parlance this is called being a connector. Just as you expect others to “absorb” the essence of who you are, so you too are obligated to absorb the essence of your networking contacts, and when the light goes off that you have a match, take the time to make an introduction.

I’m not sure if all of you appreciate it, but our local chapter chairs in The FENG make a huge effort on your behalf to create a friendly environment where you can just “show up.” Everyone will know your name at these meetings if you are smart enough to register early and wear your official FENG name badge. If you only show up at these meetings when you are looking for a job, I would suggest you are missing out big time.

One of our members who was a regular when he was out of work said to me once that if he stayed home, he could be assured nothing would happen. If he came to a chapter meeting there was the possibility that SOMETHING could happen. He typically gave more than he got, but unless YOU feel you are giving more than you get, you probably aren’t giving enough.

As the unemployment rate continues to drop, don’t dismiss the value of our local chapter meetings to your career. There are going to be jobs, even for those over 40. If you are working, try to duck out early a few times a year and go. If you aren’t working, I don’t know what your excuse might be. Perhaps you HAVE practiced your 90-second announcement so much that you don’t need any more performances, but I tend to doubt it. You can never present your credentials enough.

Besides, if you don’t show up, I’m 90% sure you won’t be having as much fun as all the folks who do.

Regards, Matt

When in doubt, throw it out

I don’t know if your incoming snail mail is anything like ours, but we sure get a ton of unsolicited mail. The procedure we follow in our house is to pile the mail up and pull over a large garbage pail. The rule is, “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Hard to believe how much junk mail we get over the course of a week. Returning from a vacation is a mind blowing experience as you excitedly bring the bushel basket of mail into the house to discover that there are only 10-20 pieces of “real” mail in there.

The same thing is of course true about email. I have 4 addresses that I query several times a day, and that means that I get 4 times the junk mail as most people. If I have been away from my computer any length of time, I have to move through it pretty quickly to delete the “bad” stuff so I can get to the “real” messages from all of you, or perhaps from one of my clients.

However, all of the junk mail I have to deal with doesn’t come from spammers. Some of it comes from individuals applying for membership, members in need of information or help, or from existing members applying for one of our consulting assignments.

In these cases, the messages aren’t really junk mail or spam. It is hard for me to ignore these messages, and I don’t.

Unfortunately for all of us, most of the world doesn’t operate this way. My junk mail procedure of “when in doubt, throw it out” or in this case, delete it, is probably closer to the truth of what you are facing “out in the cold cruel world.”

Since we were talking about resumes recently, I will use the case of new member applicants as my jumping off point and discuss the incredible the lengths to which individuals go to hide their true identity. Go ahead and create a mystery, or the ever popular “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” and I will have to mark your application declined.

I can only spend 3-4 minutes on these odd ball applications as I do this in my spare time on the weekends. Are you a financial person? Believe it or not, one often can’t tell. For fear of being IDENTIFIED as who they are (perhaps an Information Technology expert), it doesn’t say anywhere what they do for a living. If any applicant is expecting me to CALL them, or for anyone else with whom they are communicating to call them, they can’t really be serious.

If you hide your titles, companies you have worked for (or what those companies do), your age, where you live, and a few other most important issues, you are going to cause me to move on to the next document. You aren’t going to cause me to call you or write to you or invite you in for an interview so I can find out.

As Clint Eastwood would say: Go ahead, make my day. I have more than enough email and snail mail to deal with each and every day. Give me a reason to hit the delete key or to tear up your message.

On the other hand, if you want me to consider your communication as important to my life, help me out by writing clearly. Provide a subject for your email that tells me why you have written. Write some meaningful sentences that allow me to absorb your message in short order. Please don’t rattle on at length. Anything over 3 paragraphs I put aside for reading when I have time, and unfortunately, I never do.

And last but not least, please, please, PLEASE add a COMPLETE outgoing signature to EACH and EVERY message you send. I have over 60,000 individuals in my personal address book. Some of them have the same first name as you do. Some of them also have the same last name as you do. And, some of them even have the same middle initial as you do. I need all the data points I can get so I don’t change the wrong directory listing.

You will find that the rest of the world that you are trying to reach operates in much the same manner and has to deal with many of the same problems.

So, spend a minute and take an honest look at your resume and cover letters. If there is any place on these documents where you can erase a doubt or answer a question, DO IT.

Otherwise, you just may find yourself hit “upside the head” by that ghost you never see who follows the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule. And, we wouldn’t want that to happen.

My outgoing signature used on replies AND forwards is:

Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
Chairman
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883

MattBud@TheFENG.org
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell

Believing everything you hear

It is a great talent of us financial types that we do a lot of data gathering before we make decisions.

In any conversation we have we are looking for the reasons why and why not, and keeping a tally count so that we can construct a graph of some kind, I suppose.

This isn’t a criticism. I find myself doing it too, and I should know better. It sort of goes under the heading of “ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.”

Much of what I know about the world, I learned from other people. I listen to what they have to say and my “take away” is ultimately knowledge.

Many years ago I was selling cable TV door to door. (It was a VERY long time ago. I was in college.) Anyway, for part of the time I was on commission, and part of the time I was on an hourly rate. I had these long lists of addresses and as I went door to door I would write down what the people said about why they didn’t want cable. “Not interested” and “can’t afford it” were the top choices.

My point here is that it was totally and completely useless information. When the answer is no, the information you receive after you get that answer is rarely of ANY value.

Yet, I believe many members find themselves absorbing the information they receive as statistically relevant somehow. It isn’t.

What is worse is that keeping track of information of this nature will cause you to lower your energy level and reduce your search activities.

If you want to BELIEVE that the job market is slow, or not hiring folks with your background, and if you in turn ACT on this information, you will tend to do less. Friends, that is a big mistake.

If times for you are slow that REQUIRES you to INCREASE your activities. More importantly, it REQUIRES you to FOCUS your activities into areas where your likelihood of success is greatest.

The publicly KNOWN job market is the one place that rarely works in the favor of senior executives. Listen to the good news announcements from those you know and keep a tally count on that information. Not the totals, but the between the lines details of “How to succeed in business” and you will find it is NETWORKING, NETWORKING, and more NETWORKING that is the most successful for our members.

Although you may feel as if you have been productive by answering 100’s of job postings every week from various sources, the truth is you have most likely accomplished less than if you had been selective and done more networking. An entire day spent trying to network your way into a PARTICULAR company that you know needs your skill sets is most likely time well spent.

Yet another one of those amazing paradoxes that is out there in the world.

Believe the doom and gloom out in the world if you want, but it doesn’t help getting you to where you need to be. People are getting jobs, and that means you can get one too.

Have at it and keep at it. After all, it’s not like you have a choice. (However, like hanging in the morning, it does tend to focus the mind.)

Regards, Matt

Corporate thinking – a gentle version

It continues to be my observation of our members that for the most part we tend to move from large companies to small. Part of the reason is that we have no choice. Large companies generally speaking don’t hire senior executives from the outside. They try to grow their own.

In any case, that leaves many of us from large corporations carrying the “burden” of perhaps several decades of experience in the ways of large corporations. I say burden because we only know what we know. Although the many tools we have learned in large corporations have their applicability, it is often difficult to know how to apply them in a smaller environment.

A 5-year strategic plan, for example, simply has no place in a company with 50 employees that is struggling to make payroll next week. As the Chief Financial Officer of a firm like this, learning to adapt your thinking to the new world in which you exist can take a little time. More importantly, there is the risk of offending the very people who brought you in to clean up their mess. Sure, they SAY they want to be more like the large corporation you came from, and that IS why they hired you, but moving “from here to there” needs to be done carefully and over a long period of time. (Although, in a small company, a month may indeed be a long period of time.)

This is of course assuming you get the job, and perhaps that is a big assumption.

Your challenge coming from a lengthy experience with a highly structured and well disciplined financial organization is to explain the tools you have acquired in a manner that is devoid of the “corporate speak” with which you have become so comfortable.

Six Sigma is a powerful tool. So is a PERT diagram. I am not really familiar with Six Sigma, except to say that I think I know what it is. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. I don’t know if they still use it in large corporations, and I never actually applied it, but I did learn it in college, and the structured thinking it represents I DID apply and continue to apply to everything I do. The search for the critical path, and the identification of constraining activities provides a useful framework for appropriate projects.

That said, I probably would never think of telling anyone that this was what I was doing for fear of scaring them.

I might tell them that my corporate experience has provided me with tools that I can apply to their problems, and then might provide some color by putting in context a problem that we had discussed. But, again, without telling them the NAME of the tool.

As financial folks coming from what is in effect an extension of our college education, we have skills that are needed and skills that are easily transferable. All we have to do is avoid scaring our customers off.

Those who would like to share their experiences dealing with this issue are encouraged to write in. Sharing our knowledge is what The FENG is all about. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please send your thoughts to Leads@TheFENG.org. Label them “Avoiding Corporate Speak” and be sure to begin with “From Your Full Name, Your Chapter, Your First Name writes:”

Leslie will put them under our “Notes from Members” section.

Regards, Matt

An inner circle of friends

If there is any topic I discuss more than any other in phone conversations and in face to face meetings with new members and old members alike, it is the process of creating your very own inner circle of friends.

All you have to do is talk to friends of yours who have found jobs to see how high networking ranks as compared to all other forms of job search and to understand how important it is to create this exclusive and perhaps elusive kind of group for yourself. (And if you do have one, it is never big enough, so read on.)

The first step is to figure out how to use our Member Directory Search feature. It really isn’t all that difficult if you set your mind to it, and if you haven’t addressed yourself to the computer skills related to doing it, now is the time. I’ll appeal to your inner accountant: This tool is free and you can run as many searches as you like at no extra charge. Yes, it is possible to allocate a cost for electricity, but let’s assume your computer is on anyway.

Go to our website: www.TheFENG.org and sign in using the email address to which we are sending your newsletter. In the upper left hand corner you will find Members Area. The second item down is Member Search.

I recommend some simple ways to build your very own inner circle of friends. Basically we are talking about searching for those who have worked for firms you have worked for. And perhaps for good measure, those who live VERY nearby (enter your phone number and exchange and see who comes up). Feel free to try just about any other searchable idea.

This is the easy part. Now comes the hard part.

You need to have a target company list and/or a list of all the firms you worked for or competed with. Why? Because starting with those with whom you have had some kind of shared experiences is just plain smart. An industry link is very important in understanding your background. Those outside of your experiences may not understand the importance of what you have done because they have no context for what you are telling them.

If you are an internal audit, manufacturing or banking person, the Special Interest Groups of The FENG can also be helpful in generating your inner circle of friends.

Even if you would never consider working in your industry again, starting there is also appropriate. The answers you are looking for are hidden among your peers who are also considering their careers. Where are they thinking they can apply their skills? If your industries are in decline, what new industries are they considering?

Another very powerful approach is to use the newsletter is to connect with those who are posting jobs in which you have interest, even if the job is not geographically where you want to be.

How did those folks find out about those jobs? Simple, they have a background link with you and they may be good candidates for your inner circle of friends. You may also be good candidates for theirs as well. Reach out to them. You will be surprised how much you may have in common.

For those who hesitate to call others presumably asking for favors, I would ask you how you felt the last time someone called you for help. Chances are it made you feel pretty good.

Now how can you deny that good feeling to all those members of The FENG you are going to call tomorrow?

By the way, be sure to tell them I said hello!

Regards, Matt

Taking a punch

One of the lesser rated but most important traits of a senior financial executive is his/her ability to take a punch. I say lesser rated because many of our members who I have talked to over the years feel that having had a punch thrown at them and not having the good sense to duck is something they should somehow be embarrassed about.

Let me be clear that everyone has punches thrown at them and inevitably you are going to be looking the other way and get hit by one of them. You can’t be alive for any significant length of time and not be caught off guard from time to time. That doesn’t make it your fault.

Being hit from time to time is something that happens. Life throws you a curve or pitches a ball at you that is SO big that no one could reasonably be expected to get out of the way in time.

Getting hit is one thing. Not getting up is another. That IS unforgivable and is something I would suggest you not mention.

Perhaps you have been right sized, down sized or just plain fired. Friends, these things happen. Perhaps you have suffered a major illness, the death of a spouse, fallen from a ladder (which you probably shouldn’t have been climbing anyway), needed to take care of an aging parent (Is this list long enough yet?), or some other NORMAL thing that happens during what we jokingly refer to as our lives.

The important thing is that you have gotten up and kept on fighting. Frankly, I am not a big fan of giving up, nor am I familiar with why someone would.

So, if you have had a few setbacks over the past several decades that have “thrown you off your game” for a period of time that somehow has to be accounted for on your resume, find a way to be up front about it to those you meet in that position we call the “hiring authority.”

As long as you don’t make it into a two hankie tale of woe, you will more often than not find a great deal of understanding and admiration coming from across the table.

To take a direct hit to your ego, your income, your sense of well-being and to pick yourself up, keep your sense of humor and drive on is a quality that any employer I am aware of would be more than happy to have on their staff.

As was said about a wrist watch in a commercial from 100 years ago: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Regards, Matt

Managing our growth

By a significant margin, we are now the largest networking group of senior financial executives in the entire world. Not only that, but by any measure, we are more connected with each other on a national basis than any other organization as well. And, our reputation is well known. We no longer are a “secret society.”

Over the “next piece of time” our goal as an organization is to manage our growth and strengthen the ties that bind all of us together and to our many audiences.

The first step each of you can take on a daily or weekly basis is to be in touch with your fellow members. I hope that you will take seriously my request that you try to call at least one new member every week. If that is not possible, try to make it at least once a month. Anything you do with respect to reaching out to our new members impresses them with the importance with which we treat our mutual networking efforts.

If you don’t want to call new members, call old members. Reaching out to old members also works for me. Do some research using our Member Directory Search feature and make it a goal of yours to speak with at least one member you don’t already know every week. That would mean at the end of a year you will have 50 new friends. (I’m allowing you two weeks for a brief vacation.) Not a bad goal! You should also allot time to reaching out to old friends. Those who helped you in your job search should not be ignored now that you are working. If you keep your nose to the grindstone and your shoulder to the wheel ALL the time, you will be doing yourself a disservice. The world of The FENG is about networking for the rest of your career.

Although like riding a bicycle, I doubt that you will forget how to network, you need to always be practicing.

Networking is a lifetime activity. At one time the attitude of most folks was, let me see if I can find a job that will take me through to retirement. That pipedream is long gone. Managing your own career growth goes hand in hand with managing the growth of The FENG.

Our relationships with the search community are also a key to our success. For those who have not visited our website recently, I would encourage you to do so and reread the part about sharing job leads with each other and only responding when qualified. While we have made friends with many small search firms, both retained and contingency, we still need to improve what we do and how we do it so that the very top tier search firms are comfortable with our environment.

I market The FENG to all of the search professionals who call me and I hope you will lobby them as well to do the smart thing and provide us with the city location and compensation range when posting with us. I also encourage them to sign their postings with their FULL business card information. Everything about The FENG is about REAL people. If they want to just be an email address, I suggest they take their requirements elsewhere. For the most part I refuse to take email address only postings.

If we treat each other with great respect and treat the members of the search community with great respect, we can’t lose.

Regards, Matt

Square pegs for round holes

As someone who always suggested to his children that a pair of scissors would be a good tool for putting together jigsaw puzzles, perhaps I am not the right person to be constantly preaching about “qualified members only.”

Still, having the SPECIFIC experience for a particular job posting is, generally speaking, the best situation for any job applicant. The reason is that you can’t easily talk to a job posting.

When reviewing resumes against a position description, about 50% goes to location, 25% goes to industry background, and the remaining amount is a subjective judgment of your technical skills.

So, what’s a person to do if they are the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit anywhere? Well, I would suggest you take out a pair of scissors and a few magic markers and get started on rethinking your background.

If you aren’t one of the pieces in the box, it is time for a little out of the box thinking.

Step one is to assemble anywhere from 25 to 50 position descriptions which interest YOU. Comb through the requirements for these jobs and try to assemble a condensed list that represents all of the things THEY seem to want and which YOU think you can do.

Now is the time to take all of the earlier versions of your resume and the accomplishments over which you have labored so diligently and try to paste them in under the right heading.

Here is what you will find. First, you are probably not using the right language. Yes, speaking the language of the POSTING is important. You know that funny song, you call it potato I call it potato. (Funny, it doesn’t sound right typed out. Oh well, I guess you had to be there.) Anyway, you get the point. Pick up on the current terms for what it is you know how to do. It may require you to describe things more generically. Perhaps you are using terms that are really only known to you, your old firm, or your old industry. Get with the program and say it THEIR way.

Secondly, you will most likely need to EXPAND what are really minor things you have done. But hey, if they are in demand, who are you to argue. Buggy whip manufacturing skills aren’t in demand like they used to be, but my guess is that the skills required for buggy whip manufacturing have some relationship to things that are required now.

The point is that you need to transmogrify who you see yourself to be based on your past into the person you need to be to appear qualified for jobs that are posted.

The added bonus is that by going through this process of rethinking who you are, what you can do and how you can do it, you will be better prepared for those networking calls where you are talking to those who are so thick that they can’t understand how to apply your very considerable skills.

Most of us are over qualified for just about EVERYTHING. That doesn’t mean we can’t bring great value to a situation. It just means we have to do a little more explaining.

As financial folks, we have universally applicable skills. All that is needed is to for us to learn to communicate our value in the language of our “customers.” It is never easy, but let’s face it, they will never take the time to figure it out on their own.

Regards, Matt

Brutally direct advice

The FENG is a society based on helping others. (Not that they actually need our help, of course.)

I realize that, at times, members are in a sensitive state and I try to act accordingly. But, I don’t really know if providing brutally direct advice is better than soft peddling what they absolutely have to do.

As Butch Cassidy said in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”: “Don’t sugarcoat it Sundance, tell it to her straight.”

The question is which is better?

At our meeting in Connecticut I am frequently listening to at least a few pretty bad 90-second announcements over the course of a two-hour meeting. Even though I try to model a good announcement by going first, I understand that this may be a first attempt by those attending to put their written thoughts to voice, so I try to be positive in my critique and make suggestions that build on their successes.

My feeling has always been that embarrassing someone isn’t going to have the desired effect of encouraging them to come to another meeting and try again. Improvements may need to be drastic, but harsh criticism I have found doesn’t work.

Still, it is a delicate balance. Out of fear that they will hurt your feelings at a sensitive time, many folks you know will spare your feelings and tell you that everything you are doing is great. They in effect prevent you from learning and growing. The truth is that they may not know what is wrong, or they may not have been through the process and know what is needed. All they know is that something is missing, but they don’t know what.

Friends, it is always your call on both sides of the equation.

As a dispenser or receiver of advice that is free, you always know you are getting what you paid for. (I don’t know. Do you think I should charge?)

The “consider the source” strategy of evaluating advice can help here. The goal is not to be defensive about what you are doing. Pride of authorship may cause you to ignore valuable advice. The truth is that many coaches can’t play, and the same truth applies here.

If, for example, you are participating in our peer resume review process, trade resumes and make judgments of your own.

You are the one who has to lay it on the line each and every day in your job search. I can dispense valid advice, but if I don’t communicate it in a way and with a tone that will cause you to accept what I have to say, I may as well be talking to a brick wall. Or, as they say, spitting into the wind. (I had to get a sailing expression into this editorial somewhere.)

Be as direct as you can while being sensitive to those you wish to accept your advice.

If that isn’t the horns of a dilemma, I don’t know what is.

Regards, Matt

Hurry up and wait

The mindset that is most appropriate for a job search is very much like my Army experience where we used to lament what we referred to as “hurry up and wait.”

As raw recruits, we were expected to arrive at points at the previously appointed minute, whether or not others were ready for us. We would “double time” to ensure we weren’t late and then be kept waiting for what seem like hours and often was. As we used to say: “That’s the Army for you.” (Other words were used as well, but this is a G rated newsletter and I cannot repeat them here or in mixed company.)

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because no one seems to be getting back to you that you have the luxury of time. You don’t.

The speed of communications today makes delay your enemy. I hear anecdotally that candidate slates for searches close in just a few hours. There are a lot of qualified folks out there and many of them are sitting at their computers on broadband hitting “send, receive” all day long.

As soon as a posting comes in, out it goes if it is even close.

On the receiving end, once they have a sufficient number of apparently qualified candidates, the late arrivals are either deleted or just placed in a folder in case more are needed, which usually means they are never reviewed. Some people are borderline insomniacs and check their email in the middle of the night — so much for waiting until the dawn of a new day.

You may be the best on the planet, but if they don’t get to your paperwork, no one will ever know.

I would remind members of this august body that restricting yourself to “the process” is not necessary. The job market is more like a knife fight, and you are fortunate to have a gun in The FENG’s membership directory. You also have tools like LinkedIn and Google at your disposal.

If you find out about any firm that is hiring, use these remarkable tools to network your way to the hiring manager.

I know everyone enjoys a fair fight, but a fair fight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Hurry up and pull out all your stops. And then sit back and see if you get into the crosshairs of the hiring manager. That’s what I call hurry up and wait on turbo.

Regards, Matt

The 400 pound phone

Just as an experiment, I unplugged my phone from my desk today and took it upstairs and put it on our bathroom scale. (My office is in my house.)

I am sure the scale is wrong because I couldn’t get the scale to even register the weight of the phone. But then, the scale is generally used to calculate my weight, and I guess the phone doesn’t weigh as much as I do.

If a phone did weigh as much as most folks seem to think it does, it would probably crush my desk or break my toe if I accidentally dropped it. I don’t know, perhaps the part you put up to your ear is heavy. Or, is it just the fear of dialing numbers that makes the phone only APPEAR to be heavy?

Like any phobia, to those who experience the fear, it is indeed real. I accept this. And like any phobia, if you are going to be successful in some aspect of your life that this phobia is affecting, you just have to find ways to get over it.

The first thing I would tell you is that most folks actually enjoy getting phone calls from people asking for favors. It’s a Godfather thing. The mental test I would ask you to take is to think back to networking calls you have had over the years and think how you felt. Most likely, if you were at all able to help the person on the other end of the phone, it felt pretty good. It would be a shame if you denied this good feeling to others. So, don’t do it. For goodness sake, give them a chance to lend you their wisdom and to share their friends and business associates with you.

The only thing to keep in mind is that you want to call folks who have some reasonable chance of being helpful. This means you have to do your homework before you start dialing so you are contacting the right individuals. And, you might want to follow our protocol of sending a short note first so they know why you are calling.

The second step is to find ways to practice. Any behaviors that you practice you are bound to get good at. If you want to find a source of “victims,” may I suggest our new members? Okay, so they aren’t really victims, but there are usually about 40 of them each week and surely you can find something you have in common with at least ONE of them every week.

Not only will you have the opportunity to practice cold calling on a friendly audience, but you will have the double benefit of spreading the knowledge and practice of our many unusual folkways. Like democracy itself, we may not be perfect, but we have just about the best thing there is in networking going for us.

What to talk about? Well, the truth is that “small talk” isn’t as easy as it first appears. But, the weather isn’t a bad place to start. Everyone has some of that to talk about. It gets you past those first few minutes and lets you and the person on the other end of the phone relax.

The second truth about cold calling is that any excuse will suffice. I would just ask that you not start on the defensive.

I much prefer “Is this a good time?” to “Is this a bad time?” (No, but if you call back at 3PM, now that will be a bad time.) Be positive. To be defensive or to bring up negative thoughts implies that you are not worthy of speaking with the party on the other end of the phone, and we all know that isn’t true.

The other thing to be sure you are doing is to SOUND upbeat. If the thought flashes through my mind that you are going to ruin my whole day, chances are I may not want to talk to you.

Cold calling initially requires setting up a crane and 8-12 part pulley to get that phone receiver to the right height so you can speak into it, and then a cold chisel and sledge hammer so you can hit the right keys and dial the number. But, after a little practice you will find a feather will lift the receiver and you will just have to “think” the numbers for the phone to dial.

The transformation is amazing. But then, so are you.

Regards, Matt

Don’t act desperate

The volume of your responses to job leads posted in our evening newsletter is always a concern of mine.

With the strengthening job market for senior financial officers, one of the many things we have going for us AT THE MOMENT is our fine relationship with the search community.

(Be sure to have recruiters register at our website if they are not already Friends of The FENG. There is a new “Recruiter Toolbox” available to them once they do which allows them to explore our demographics. I can assure you they will find this toolbox to be of great interest.)

While it may be true that the viability of the major posting boards as a resource for recruiters is limited for senior level jobs, that in no way relieves each of us individually of the responsibility to respond to jobs posted in THIS newsletter ONLY if we are reasonably qualified. (If you wouldn’t hire you, don’t respond.)

In our niche of senior financial officers, our goal is to be the best resource for search professionals, whether they are with corporations or with recognized search firms. Every day, those who are trying to find qualified executives for their financial assignments make a choice whether to send in a posting to our organization or whether to try to quietly network their way to the right candidate. With all the folks out in the market, an over response pushes them in the direction of not posting.

Throwing paper against the wall on the off chance that someone won’t notice that you are in no way a fit doesn’t benefit you and harms The FENG. I don’t in any way want to sit in judgment as to who should and who shouldn’t respond to our postings. I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. After all, you know your background better than I do.

I would only ask each of you to consider the possibility that we live in a finite world. By this I mean there are a limited number of search professionals. And, those who work for search firms tend to specialize. If they identify you as wasting their time, they are liable to just hit the delete key for that one opportunity where you actually are a good fit.

To send your resume by “clicking and shooting,” with no cover letter and no explanation as to why you are applying, gives off a clear signal that you are not taking your application seriously. It has been my experience that when you receive a resume from someone who is a fit, they will have taken the time to make their submission customized in some manner. By their taking the time to demonstrate their fit, they are assuring the reader that they aren’t wasting his/her time.

If you want to be perceived as someone who is desperate, that is your decision, but it won’t help your case. The court of appeals for job search doesn’t require anyone to show you more courtesy than you have shown them.

If you see an opportunity of interest, please apply. If it isn’t local and they want only local candidates, be sure to include information on why this location makes sense to you and your family. If you don’t have direct industry experience and they have asked for it, take the time to draw an analogy between where you have worked and the opportunity in question.

The FENG is the goose that lays golden eggs. Let’s keep our organization in good health by showing respect to those who post with us.

Acting obviously desperate isn’t going to get you where you need to be.

Regards, Matt

The sploosh syndrome

Life onboard a boat, whether sail or power, is in many respects different than life on dry land.

I was watching Ax Men on the History Channel a few years ago and the crew dropped a bolt on the ground from one of their pieces of equipment for which they didn’t have a replacement. Despite the “needle in the haystack” nature of this problem, they actually found it in the pile of logs and dirt.

Not so out on the water. When something goes “over the side,” it makes a brief sploosh sound and then it is GONE. I suppose if it were large enough and expensive enough you could call a diver, but that is generally not the nature of the things you drop.

In much the same way, the emails we write make a brief sploosh sound when you hit send, and just like the things I have lost over the side in my 35+ years of sailing, they are gone. For those of us who are “new” to computers, as in we started our careers when you actually had to send written correspondence, it is a frightening thing that we cannot mull over the missives we create, or retrieve them from the outgoing mailbox if we change our minds or decide to add or amend to our message.

There is also a lot of pressure today to deal with your email quickly because there is so much of it. I personally get over 100 messages a day that I actually have to do something with.

What I am going to suggest to everyone is that you need to THINK before you hit send. Put yourself in the shoes of the person on the receiving end. First, let me ask you if that person is actually going to recognize who you are by your email address of tom337@gmail.com. If they aren’t likely to recognize your email address, may I suggest you ALWAYS use an outgoing signature? And yes, I’m going to suggest that you use an outgoing signature EVEN on replies. (I am fully aware that this is not the default setting in most emails systems, but then I have always been known as a maverick.)

Let me also mention to those of you who appear to be new to email, that when responding to someone that you should always include the previous message. I always enjoy the mystery of the messages I get that have no outgoing signature AND just say “thanks!” Now I have a problem. Do I search my sent mail and see what I wrote, or do I write back and ask what I am being thanked for? Let me also suggest that it is bad practice to use an old message from someone to write them a new one. Is it so difficult or “expensive” to take out a clean piece of electronic paper?

Please know that at all times, the burden of communication is on the sender. If you are expecting others to “read between the lines,” think again. As a courtesy to my many friends, I do try to perform this service, but I must tell you it is often a difficult and thankless task. To write me and say that there was “a Controller job in a newsletter a few days ago, and do I know anything about it?” is so ridiculous a request as to not even warrant a response. Which newsletter? Could you help me out here and provide me a few details so I can find it in a particular newsletter. Could you do better and paste the whole thing into your email, or would that be too much trouble?

And for those of you with “smart phones,” or some other email capable device, may I humbly suggest that the boilerplate at the end of your message that says “Sent from a mobile device” doesn’t excuse you from any of the normal requirements of appropriate communication. If you choose to write messages from a device that requires you to type with your thumbs that is YOUR decision. Don’t burden others with that decision. And, you may be shocked to learn that you CAN actually put an outgoing signature on your messages. I realize you may have to read the instruction manual, but you might want to make this supreme effort.

The alternative is that on my end, I have a key on my computer that you call the delete key, but I call the “sploosh button.”

Regards, Matt

Explaining the magic

One of the great challenges we face as financial folks is explaining to non-financial types what we do for a living. And, some of us financial types do things that are so esoteric that we need to work hard to even explain what we do to fellow financial types.

At one time, I was Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency. To be quite honest, the accounting aspects of the job were not all that difficult. For example, we had no international operations and we were initially privately held. That said, what WAS difficult was getting all of those individuals with egos as big as all outdoors to work together to make a profit and preventing them from “burning the place down.” As I like to joke, everyone I worked with on a daily basis was under psychiatric care. And, those who weren’t still needed it, and unfortunately they were in charge.

Those members who put together complicated deals using credit default swaps, derivatives, convertible bonds, preferred stock and who knows what else, also bear a tremendous burden to make comprehensible the incomprehensible. Did I mention that all of this needs to be accomplished in 90 seconds?

The argument is often made that when you get in front of those who are what we call hiring executives, it is all so much easier. They actually do understand and you can have meaningful conversations with THEM. The problem is getting into that chair.

Most of the world is uniformed about the great difficulty required on your part to perform the tasks that you so effortlessly executed. As immersed as we all are in what we do for a living, and we tend to do it for so long, that being able to step back and discuss it intelligently is not all that simple.

The “gatekeepers” in this situation are often people who honestly would like to help. They are friends and associates who know us and like us. Across parts of their lives they have met the very individuals you would like to meet. But, to get them to realize that they know the right people requires you to put into plain English that which you do so well.

Each of us is an individual blessed with many important skills. We are all different. And yet we all have this need to communicate in clear sentences what we do and how we do it so others can repeat it on our behalf and make those invaluable introductions for us.

So, how do you begin? Building an effective 90-second announcement requires a live audience. This is why we have so many chapters around the country. Take advantage of these “off Broadway” play opportunities and give it a go. Practicing in front of a mirror is simply not the same thing.

Until all around you can gain a proper mental image of your capabilities, the “Magic” will remain just that.

Regards, Matt

Keeping busy and productive

One of our members wrote me a while back and asked me about how to keep a proper attitude when your job search stretches into what seems like an eternity. The reason he addressed this question to me is that he noted that I have mentioned on several occasions that beginning in March of 1991 I was unemployed for almost 2 years. (It was only 1 year and 9 months, but who’s counting?)

This is not an easy question to answer from many perspectives. Time has dimmed my memory to a certain extent. (And, not only about my job search. Those senior moments happen more frequently lately, but I digress.)

When I left my job in 1991 as Chief Financial Officer of an advertising agency, it was the first time I had been unemployed since I started working in 1971 after getting out of the Army. As I recall, the first several months were very busy. I had lots of appointments and I was sure that my job search would be brief.

I set about doing what I do best: organizing my work activities. From having been treasurer of my religious organization, I knew the value of keeping track of all of my contacts on index cards so that I could treat everyone personally.

During that first 6 month period, the process itself was both interesting and absorbing.

However, as the time wore on, I must admit that it became more and more difficult to keep busy. I am so efficient in my work activities that I clearly had too much time on my hands. It was at this point that I met Ed Devlin, the previous Chairman of The FENG, at an Exec-U-Net meeting.

Ed and I became good friends and he suggested I go with him to a Connecticut Venture Group meeting. I already had business cards, and although I hadn’t registered for the meeting, I was able to meet several folks at the meeting and I actually picked up a client. My plan was to try to introduce this client to my friends in the publishing business. It was an opportunity to perhaps make a little money, but just as importantly, it was a way of approaching old friends on a basis other than “It’s Matt Bud looking for a job.”

In short, I found a way to keep busy and use my talents. Although I never closed any deals or made any serious money from these consulting activities (and I did have other clients), it didn’t matter because I had a good story to tell.

The very fact that I had things to do energized me. In the end, however, although consulting had its attractions to me, I got a job offer that I accepted. As luck would have it, I had two job offers that day. It is my belief that to a great extent working a few consulting assignments, even if I didn’t earn any money from them, helped keep my spirits high.

Other members to whom I have talked over the years have done other things to keep their minds active. Some take correspondence courses. Some take up new hobbies or expand ones they have ignored for years.

The important thing is to keep yourself busy with activities that you find satisfying and that somehow build who you are. If you are despondent or engaging in self-doubt it can’t help but come out in your interviewing.

Friends, when you are looking for another job you have no choice but to keep at it. Don’t second guess yourself.

Remember, you wouldn’t have gotten sponsored as a member of The FENG if someone didn’t believe in you!

This is an important topic on which I would welcome ideas from our membership. Even new members should feel welcome to participate. This is one of the many ways we help each other. If you don’t want your name used for some reason, just let us know.

Editorial contributions should be sent to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will put them in our Notes From Members section.

Regards, Matt

The challenge of redefining yourself

I have had several at length conversations with members from financial services organizations over the years. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, I have no experience working at a bank, insurance company, capital markets firm, or asset management organization. As a result, I have been somewhat hard pressed to help in the challenge of creating an appropriate focus for their job search activities.

The best thing that can happen to anyone looking for a job is to find an identical job with another firm. As in my case, if you were Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency, become a Chief Financial Officer at another Advertising Agency. That is clearly your highest and best value added. The business is identical and your acclimation to it is limited to learning a new list of clients and employees. Duck soup.

Most of us are not so fortunate. The whole reason most of us change jobs is that the industry we have so enjoyed is going through violent change. If those of you in financial services think you are being singled out for special punishment, please keep in mind that many of our members were thrown out of work when the Internet bubble burst. These kinds of things happen to new industries and to old line industries without prejudice.

For those members with long careers at one firm, the problem is even more severe. When you are constantly experiencing a satisfactory work environment, there honestly isn’t much incentive to even think about what it is you do every day and why it is you get paid the big bucks. Why bother when there is so much work to do and so many career opportunities at your current firm that they keep recruiting you for?

Then, suddenly and without warning, you are downsized, laid off, or any of the many other terms used in polite society to identify the reason why you are now out of work.

Now you have time to think.

There is a saying in common usage that “two heads are better than one.” Fortunately for members of The FENG, you can usually find a lot more than two heads without too much difficulty and I suggest you start there. (Hint: Visit our website and use our Member Directory Search feature.)

The process of redefining who you are and how you could bring value to a new employer can best start by talking to folks who actually understand what you do. Some of them may already have been giving it some thought. Why give yourself an Excedrin headache? If you were a Mortgage Banker, let’s face it, there still isn’t a lot of demand out in the market right now. And, even where there is demand, there is a lot of supply.

None of this changes the fact that you have to find gainful employment. You will find that if you focus on all of the things you have done and think broadly about the experiences you have had over your long career that there actually was a reason why they were sending you a payroll check. And, you will find that more than a few of the valuable experiences you have had are applicable in other industries.

While the challenge of coming up with answers can be facilitated by speaking with others, please know that the final decision, if there actually is such a thing, rests with you.

Only you know where you would be willing to move (if that becomes necessary), how far you would be willing to commute, what kinds of people you would be willing to work with, and what kind of work you are willing to do.

These are not decisions anyone else can make for you. The task of redefining yourself is a difficult one, and just like the classic “deciding what you want to be when you grow up,” it is a process about which you can change your mind constantly. And, I suggest you do.

There is no right answer, and there is no final answer. Often, there are more questions than answers. But, hey, if life were so simple, it wouldn’t be so interesting.

Regards, Matt

Asking for the world’s smallest favor

Although most of us have acquired enough manners over the course of our lives that we know enough not to ask a stranger to give us his/her seat on a bus or train, when it comes to networking, I find that many folks don’t know when they have overstepped their bounds.

The approach I would suggest to you is what I call “asking for the world’s smallest favor.”

The silence is palpable when you are face to face with a networking contact and you ask for something you shouldn’t. It is much harder to see this same “stormy silence” through email when often times it is a non-response.

The first “smell test” on a favor you are about to ask for is: If you were on the receiving end of your request, would you do it? (Now no cheating here. You have to assume that you don’t know what a wonderful, honest and hard working individual you are, and how deserving you are of this other person’s help.)

For example, asking someone you don’t know to let you borrow his/her entire Rolodex just isn’t going to happen. Even a good friend isn’t going to let you do that. So, the question you want to ask yourself is how many names can I ask for? If you ask for too few, sure you may not get as many as you want, but on the other hand, by giving the other person an opportunity to be “generous,” you may end up getting more. And, at a later date, even more.

Just like the granting of favors, asking for favors is an art form not a science.

There are many factors that need to go into the calculus of determining how far to push. How well do you know the individual you are contacting? What is his/her REAL ability to connect you to people you wish to reach? Are you asking your networking contact to put his business relationships at risk for you? What is the nature of the favor you are asking for?

I have often said that attorneys and lawyers appear to be in a position to help in the networking process, but, unless they know you VERY well, they are more likely to only PRETEND to help. The reason is that their clients who you want to meet are their livelihood. If you blow it, they get fired and lose their source of income. (As you know, money is somewhat important to most people.)

If you take my approach of asking for “the world’s smallest favor,” you suggest the absolute minimum in any first conversation. In selling terms, it can be thought of as a “trial close.” As you build your RELATIONSHIP, you can then move on to bigger and better things.

Like a frozen lake, it is always smart to step out ever so carefully. Asking for the whole enchilada the first time out is going to leave you with salsa on your shirt a high percentage of the time. (And, this is not a time you can afford cleaning bills.)

Regards, Matt

Listening & throwing up

One of the many skills we always need to be polishing as financial professionals is our listening skills.

The problem begins with the fact that as financial professionals we are more comfortable receiving our information in written form. Put us in a “selling” situation, especially over the telephone, and our listening skills may not be serving us very well.

As we all get into personal selling, and that is what networking is all about, we fall into a syndrome called “throwing up on the customer.” Briefly what happens is that we are so into our sales pitch about ourselves that we forget to listen.

An additional element to be considered is the normal human reluctance to “do business” with strangers. In this case, doing business with strangers is asking those who really don’t know us all that well to make introductions for us.

There are many industries that are hard to break into because they tend to only do business with people who are known to them. Private Equity Groups and Venture Capital Firms are perfect examples. Why is this? The reason is that the risks of doing business with strangers is very high. And, big money is at stake.

In the context of networking we are asking folks who don’t really know us to introduce us to their friends and business associates. If you think about this, you are asking for someone to do something that can have high risks. What if you don’t impress their friend or business contact? (Yes, I know the odds of that are low given the high quality of our august body.)

When you first make contact you may actually be presented with a test and not quite realize it if you don’t listen carefully. Sure, this first contact alone may be a valid use of your time, however, if you do well, there may be even more introductions down the line.

I strongly recommend reporting back to your networking contacts. Although it may sound like bothering folks who already may have been very kind, this is not actually the case. The truth is that not only will they have been thinking about you, they will also be awaiting a report on the results of the meeting they have set up for you.

The “test” of you as a qualified person and capable person may also include the opportunity to be of service to your networking contact. Just as you don’t want to feel like you are asking for a huge favor, neither do they. Here is where your listening skills are really needed. Is your networking contact asking you to do something for them? The something may actually be a “test” and if you pass, it may lead to even more introductions.

Avoid “throwing up” on your networking contacts. (It makes too much of a mess anyway!) Turn your hearing aid way up and turn on your listening skills. You may come away with more than you ever imagined was possible.

Regards, Matt

What have you accomplished?

I hope that over the past few days everyone has gotten a few ideas for the framework of their resume. In order to “get into the game,” you need to have a clean looking resume with the major points discussed in the past few days “looking good.”

Now that your resume has been selected for further examination, what you write in your accomplishments or bullet points can make the difference between your being picked or discarded in this final round.

The issues you develop for this section can take a lot of forms, and I don’t have a strong preference. All I can say for sure is that they all need to be well written with no typographical errors. While they should be in some kind of order of importance, moving from most important to least important, they also should be of interest to your reader and effective in “selling you” into the jobs you find of interest.

The FENG is about networking, networking and more networking. Still, the job leads you find in our newsletter and elsewhere can be helpful to you in creating a more effective document.

Go through a week or two of newsletters and print out opportunities of interest, ignoring geography. I assume you can do these jobs. And, based on what YOU know about your background, you feel these are a good fit. Now, the question is whether or not your resume is selling to the key “must haves” outlined in these position descriptions.

Underline the key words in each position description and try to find these same key words in your resume. If you can’t do it, reread your resume to determine if you have left out experiences that you felt where not as important as others or if you are just using the wrong language to describe what you have done. Words are important.

Go at this idea over and over again, especially when you are applying for specific jobs. Sometimes the unique language of an industry should be used, and other times a more general wording is more appropriate. In these cases, having resumes for different purposes is a good idea. If you feel you must know what resume you sent for a particular job, save your letter and the resume you sent on your hard drive. These days, storage is cheap.

Read your accomplishments to someone else and find out if they understand each one. If you find them restating what you just said, consider changing the language to make it read better. In resumes, less is always more. And, simple is best.

I had a discussion with one of our members recently about the job title of a position he was considering. The idea was that the title was a little less than he wanted it to be. I suggested to him that what he might accomplish in this new job would be of greater interest to a potential employer when he next changed jobs than his title. And so it is.

You get paid for what you finish. Measure your deeds and make them easy to repeat by those who might present your credentials. If you do, you will have accomplished a lot.

Regards, Matt

The 80/20 rule

I have always been a keen observer of managers. One of my favorites was a gentleman who worked at the Thomson Corporation in a senior financial role.

He was one of those tall wiry types who always seemed to be in motion even when he was standing still. Sort of like your favorite basketball coach. (He also talked loud most of the time like he was trying to be heard over a crowd. But, I digress.)

Anyway, one of my favorite discussions he held was at a meeting shortly after I met him when he discoursed at length on the good old 80/20 rule. (He also talked about giving him a 20,000 foot review of your areas of responsibility, but with a high powered telescope. But, we will save that analogy for another night.)

The 80/20 rule is a good one to apply to aspects of your job search. As you look at your resume and practice your 90-second announcement, you should give thought to what are the most important parts and make sure you get them right.

I was discussing resumes recently with one of our members, and I mentioned to him that it seemed to me that the first cut in sorting out candidates for assignments didn’t seem to require a focus on those achievements that everyone seems to slave over, but rather on location 50% of the time and 25% on industry.

The point is that before anyone studies your detailed accomplishments, they are most of the way there with just location and industry. If you don’t “fit” those two, they usually stop reading.

We are all aware of the “local candidates preferred” thing. It is only to be expected in any market. Why relocate someone when you don’t have to?

The industry one is stickier to assess because often times it isn’t obvious. If you download the model resumes on our website, especially the one created by Rich Wieland, you will see that for each firm Rich has written a line or two about what they do. Sure makes it easy. (Perhaps too easy!)

So the goal I suggest for everyone is to consider this very important 80/20 rule.

What do you think is the equivalent issue in a 90-second announcement? My general thinking is that it is your areas of expertise and claims to fame. If you tell me you are an advertising guy (my background), I am going to be sure to say hello and “talk advertising” with you when the networking part of the meeting starts. In addition, some outrageous claims to fame could very well shake me out of my fear of public speaking as I am waiting for my turn to come and actually get me to listen to you.

So there you have it. Simplicity itself. While everyone else is trying to get the spreadsheet of their lives to tie out to the nearest penny, you are rounding to thousands and better off for it.

(Maybe accounting is a metaphor for life after all.)

Regards, Matt

The tried and true

You would think that with all the books and materials written about how to write a resume, that each and every one that came across my desk would be close to perfect. Well, you would be wrong if you thought so.

Under the heading of “explaining the meaning and purpose of life,” I thought I would write about the how’s and why’s of resume writing to perhaps explain the unexplainable to those who have, through no fault of their own, “strayed from the path.”

Let me start with a few simple ideas. Although a resume appears to be a reverse chronological recital of your work history, it is actually a selling document. One point of particular importance is that it is a selling document that most readers only give a 15 second scan. This being the case, it is vital that your opus have a clean and easy to read format. (8 point type ANYWHERE on it is a BAD idea.)

Let me also make the point that it should be in a conventional format. Just as you would object to your morning newspaper appearing in a different sequence each and every day, so too, resume readers cringe when they have to search for the obvious road signs in your resume.

To start at the beginning, it is always a good idea to have your name and address at the top of your resume and your name and the page number on each subsequent page. The reason is that if someone drops a stack of paper, they will be able to match your second page to the first in short order. Although it appears that some experts believe you should have your name in capital letters, I would suggest that if your name contains any upper casing and lower casing that it will look silly and not to do that. I may be wrong, but I think McCarthy looks better than MCCARTHY.

The next section is the summary section. A powerful statement, much like a well spoken 90-second announcement is what is needed here. Forget what you have heard about “lists” in this section. I don’t like them and I don’t think they read well. In most cases, I have found significant redundancies in all lists. If you can’t weave the specific points found in your lists into your summary, keep trying. The purpose of the summary is so the reader will know what flavor of senior financial executive you are and what to look for in the body of your resume. In effect, these are promises you have to keep later in the document.

The reverse chronological approach is the only one I recommend. If you think about what you have heard about functional resumes, they are to be used by those with some problem in their work history such as frequent job changes. If they are only used by those with problems in their work history, then consider that every resume reader knows that if you send a functional resume you have a problem, as in, I don’t need to read further. If you are a potentially valuable employee, I will never know because I have been trained to stop reading.

All of the companies in your work history need to be shown. I don’t care how old you are or how many pages it takes. If you have worked somewhere, it needs to be listed. The rumor is that only the most recent 10 years is of interest. While true, this doesn’t mean you can delete your earlier work history entirely. What you want to do is provide less and less detail for jobs earlier in your career. Just providing the years you worked at a particular company and the titles you held is sufficient for your oldest jobs. Use whole years, not months. The purpose is to, at a glance, provide information about your career growth, not to account for every minute. I may be an accountant by trade, but I still don’t do well adding and subtracting months to see how long you worked somewhere and I don’t have time to apply my HP 12C to the task.

All of the companies in your work history need a short definition. While I wasn’t born yesterday, (and I have the birth certificate to prove it), many of the individuals reading resumes were. They won’t have a clue what the company where you worked did, or have any sense of its scale of operations, all of differing importance depending on the job for which you are applying.

And last, but not least is your education. Please SPELL IT OUT and provide your dates of graduation. I know there is a diversity of opinion on the dates of graduation, but I have yet to hear ANY argument that carried the day with me or anyone I know. You may be able to “cheat” a few years by not showing it, but if you provided your first employer I will assume it was before that and DUH, you are over 35. (If you weren’t, you most likely wouldn’t have been accepted as a member of The FENG.) To further the spelling out idea, I know that UCLA is a fine school, but as far as I know, it should be shown as the University of California at Los Angeles. Nick names for your schools, like “Thunderbird” or “MIT”, while easily understood and probably well known, are simply not appropriate in the context of a formal document like a resume.

Model resumes are out on our website if you wish to download them. You will find them after signing in under: Member Area, Member Downloads, Other Useful Documents.

Regards, Matt

Maintaining your self-esteem

Maintaining your self-esteem during a job search can be difficult at times, especially if your search has been going on for any length of time.

So much of who we perceive ourselves to be comes from the reflection of our personalities upon those with whom we are engaged on a daily basis. Cut off from an office environment where folks were bringing us checks to sign, we tend to lose sight of the fact that we haven’t changed. All that has changed is that we don’t see as many folks every day to give us that kind of reinforcement.

There is a great importance to visualizing success. In brief, it takes just as much energy to think negatively as it does to think positively.

What happens in the job search process is that many of the contacts in your day tend to negatively impact your feelings of self-esteem. They don’t mean to. But, it is obviously necessary for recruiters and human resource executives to say no to you more frequently than they say yes, and in saying no they have to come up with a reason.

Usually they say things like “If only you had a CPA.” Or, “I see you have done an IPO, but not for a company, only at a CPA firm.”

What is really happening here is that they have to come up with a reason why you have been rejected that will not get them sued. They may as well be telling you that you are too tall or too short for the job. It is of that much importance to you as a person.

I call it “the explanation that you can’t cure.”

Don’t fall into the trap of repeating to yourself or to others these stupid comments. It is just the kind of stuff that will continue to impact your level of self-esteem for days after your interview or phone call. And, I will repeat again, they are comments of no importance.

For whatever reason, you were not a fit in their small minds for the job in question. And, rather than make a helpful comment like “next time wear matching socks,” they have instead chosen to make a comment that makes you feel unqualified.

Keep in mind that you must be qualified for something. Otherwise, you would never have been invited to join the august body known as The Financial Executives Networking Group.

And, keep your chin up! (That way it is easier to hit!)

Regards, Matt

Call me Mr. Know-it-all

One of the most endearing qualities of us financial folks is that we almost always have a firm opinion about everything. And, if we don’t have an opinion about something, we figure we can reason one out. (Hey, just take the facts and multiply by two!)

It is sort of part and parcel of who we are. Nothing wrong with it, per se, but it does get in the way of getting advice from others, which is an essential part of the networking process.

Believe it or not, APPEARING to be open to new ideas is a lot harder than it sounds. (Or, I’m not as stupid as I look.)

For example, members will often announce at meetings that they won’t move to another part of the country as part of their 90-second pitch. I hold up my hand and say: “Okay, I have a job that pays a $1,000,000 base salary in Tampa. Will you move there?” Well, of course they will. (Did I mention that there are no measureable responsibilities for your 50% bonus and a company car?)

So, perhaps this closely held belief in what is true and certain about you isn’t so true after all. And, perhaps there are other things about your career, past, present and future, that aren’t true either.

One of the normal conditions of a job search is the need to change industries or to build on only one aspect of our long and sterling career. So, off we go on our networking way, only to “cop an attitude” when presented with ideas and suggestions.

Brainstorming sessions, so common in marketing and advertising, are not so well respected in financial circles. No, we come to our ideas and perceptions about how the world works through cold hard analytical thinking.

Funny thing is that in my recent life, I have more often than not learned to let others play out their ideas and watched from the sidelines to see if they worked. And I have learned to ask for suggestions and restrain all negative expression from my face as I listen to ideas that I just know won’t be any better than what I have already figured out. Only, funny thing, it doesn’t usually work out that way.

More often than not, I hear new perspectives on old situations and find myself saying “I wish I had thought of that.” I don’t know, perhaps it is old age and I am not as bright as I used to be, or, could it be that I have just learned to ask good questions and to be smart enough to wait for the answers?

It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak. Pretty sage advice, don’t you think?

If you are seeking out others for their advice, and this is why we network, then have the common sense to hear people out. Let them play out their thinking, and pretend to take notes.

Who knows, you just might learn something that will change your whole life.

Regards, Matt

Life changing events

There are many things that can happen to you in your life that change your perspective. Losing your job and/or having to find another one, easily falls into this category.

As you all know, The FENG is a networking group, it is not a job listing service. Sure, we publish lots and lots of job leads, but that is more than a little misleading with regard to our real purpose.

Perhaps at this point in the state of the world, even the word networking has become a little shop worn. Still, absent a better word, we will have to live with it.

About 90% of our members are men. And, men have their own peculiarities about how they see the world. You may not know this, but most men, especially older men, tend not to have a lot of friends. The pressures of earning a living and their natural tendency to “be a man,” and to go it alone, prevent men from acquiring and nurturing lasting friendships.

Add to this the nature of financial people. We are admittedly not the most gregarious of folks.

Into this challenging environment we are thrust as unwilling participants to go forth and network our way to another job. And, truth be told, there is no more effective approach. Our ability to compete when responding to job boards or to search firms has far less impact than networking at its best.

If you understand networking as the building of personal relationships for the rest of your life, you will begin to understand better what we are trying to do with this modest enterprise we alternately call The FENG or a circle of friends.

Each day you have the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to others. Some of those you speak with and exchange emails with, will need more from you than you will receive in return, but that is the nature of how long lasting friendships are created.

A long time ago my station car died. I had another car on order, but it wasn’t due in for several weeks. A new friend of mine had just gotten delivery of a new car and had not sold his station car. Upon hearing of my “requirements” he called and made the kind offer of his old car. I couldn’t believe it. The loan of a car was a pretty big “favor” and I was reluctant to accept. I was scheduled to see him at a community event that night and he brought the keys with him. The car was still at his house, but it was a gesture of friendship. How could I say no?

Gestures large and small are what the building of friendships requires. Sponsoring a new member may seem at the time like a small thing, that is, until a new member experiences all that The FENG is all about. Then, the enormity of the gesture is hard to believe.

What I hope others will learn if they haven’t already is that this process of extending the hand of friendship or requesting the hand of friendship from others changes you. Perhaps it is even possible that it will somehow make you a better person.

The point is to let it happen. Helping others through their job search can appear to take time away from your own search. But, the truth is that done properly, you are building toward a good personal future and not to achieve some evil plan.

Your primary goal is, of course, to be once again “between searches.” Your secondary goal is to get there with as many new friends as possible. And your third goal is to continue to keep in touch with those new friends as you move down the road of life.

What I have gotten out of my involvement in The FENG is the great personal wealth of many new friends. I wish the same for each of you.

Regards, Matt

Sharing job leads

The sharing of job leads has been an integral part of The FENG for so long that I have come to believe that everyone in the entire world understands the reasons why we do it. Alas, it isn’t true.

A few years ago, I had an exchange with a member of the search community who was upset that one of our members had posted a job lead sent to him in our newsletter, apparently without permission.

Putting this part of the problem aside for the moment, the recruiter’s additional comment was: I have NEVER in my life understood why someone looking for a job, or someone outplaced would share a job specification with one million possible competitors for the job???!!!!

I wrote back: It is a tradition in The FENG that we share job leads with one another. Our philosophy is that if we don’t get the job, we would like it to go to one of our many friends. We have a proud history and I would enjoy sharing it with you if you would like to chat.

During our early years as we rolled into new cities across the United States, those we encountered did usually find it strange initially that members were EXPECTED to invite competition from their fellow members. In fact, members are EXPECTED to forward job postings to their fellow members if they think they are a good fit for the opportunity in question.

Why does this work? If you were in the venture capital or private equity business, it would be called “deal flow.” The more opportunities we can individually look at and examine in detail, the more likely that we can match up our unique skill sets to appropriate jobs.

Someone is going to get that job. It serves your best interests to see to it that it is either you or one of your friends. (Strangers from The FENG are only friends you haven’t met yet.) By seeking out folks we think should see specific opportunities, we expand our own individual networks. When posting a job that IS a good fit for you, ask others to contact you for more information and/or to network. If it is a fit for you and it is a fit for other members around the country, all of you should know each other. This is how you build your very own inner circle of friends. Bob Walker, Co-Chair of our Dallas Chapter calls it seeking out your mirror.

Sharing job leads isn’t stupid or silly. It is just plain smart.

I hope all of you will join in the fun of sharing job leads as often as you can. It does drive recruiters crazy at times. And you may be crazy when you do it, but I would argue that you are crazy like a fox.

Regards, Matt

Is it business or personal?

In the closing scene of the first Godfather movie the individual who betrayed Don Corleone is being led away. Just before he gets into the car to his certain death, he turns to consigliere Tom Hagan and says that he hopes he understands that it was all about business and that it was nothing personal.

Well, it didn’t change things for him. His fate was unchanged.

Too many things in this world are strictly about business. I’m glad that The FENG isn’t one of them.

Everything about our circle of friends is INTENDED to be personal. I hope you have noticed that I sign the newsletter “Regards, Matt” and that all of our job leads are “From” someone.

The tone and structure are intentional. I expect members to treat each other with respect. (Those Godfather themes are great, aren’t they?) It doesn’t cost anything and it pays big dividends for all involved. I am always pleased when I see members sign notes to each other “Regards.”

One of the elements of a job search that everyone finds disconcerting is the lack of respect you suddenly and without warning appear to be receiving from total strangers. Unlike those halcyon days when you had the “checkbook,” you are now just another job seeker. The change can really throw you off your game.

None of us is directly or specifically assigned to find work for another member. What we are asked to do is facilitate their process. It is all about being personal and very little about business in the sense that we don’t directly gain from anything we do.

The gain we receive is also personal and comes from the satisfaction we get by giving another human being a small contribution towards achieving their life goals, for the most part, under their own head of steam. I call it the “Dumbo feather effect.”

Most members don’t need a tremendous amount of help, but they do need some. You can provide a little advice. You can provide an introduction to the right person. Or, you can provide a push in the right direction at the right time.

All of these things cost nothing while at the same time providing a substantial benefit to your fellow members.

I frequently ask members to share their experiences. You see many of them in our evening newsletter. Their purpose is not to provide you with the polished prose of a published manuscript, but rather the actual thoughts and feelings of other members, which because they are so real, provide others with the spark or support they need on a particular day.

Life doesn’t have to be “about doing business.” The truth of my life is that in the process of helping others I have improved my life more than I ever expected.

I would encourage all of you will give it a try as well. Let me share this thought with you: Life is about making new friends, helping old friends and feeling needed. Are any other explanations required?

Regards, Matt

Helping out the competition

Over the years that I have been writing editorials, I have devoted a lot of time to discussing the basics of job search. Why? Because I often can’t believe what folks send us for assignments being handled by The FECG.

In a world of more candidates than there are jobs, people who screen resumes often develop arbitrary rules to eliminate candidates. By arbitrary, I mean to imply that they often don’t take the time to look beyond embarrassing errors in spelling, grammar and resume formats or fonts that make your opus hard to read to seek out your “true value.”

As I have said many times, the burden of communication is on you.

Let me be clear. Your sloppiness or lack of discipline and precision in your submissions helps out the competition. Do you want to be considered for the job or not? If it is one worth competing for, I would suggest to you that the responses from others will be significant. A great job may cause 200 others to write in, or more.

If you were faced with a pile of resumes that high, what would you do? Well, let’s see. If there are any obvious spelling errors – out it goes. If it is not very readable – out it goes. I asked for a brief cover letter – no cover letter or brief explanation – out it goes.

Gosh, that’s much better. Now instead of 200 resumes I only have 50. I might actually be able to get through them.

If you are one of those folks who doesn’t really care about what it looks like on the other end, take a moment to walk in the other person’s shoes. When faced with an insurmountable task, what would you do?

Is this approach fair? Perhaps not. But then life is not often fair. You get the breaks you deserve, but only sometimes.

Go ahead and help out your competition for these golden opportunities by being sloppy in any element of the presentation of your credentials. After all, those others can use all the help they can get. And, they probably really want the job, so why not let them have it?

Regards, Matt

A few observations

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to ramble a bit tonight about some very important job search issues.

The most important issue I am going to cover is outgoing signatures. If you don’t know what one is, you are already in a lot of trouble. I am considering hitting the delete key on any message I receive from a member of The FENG that doesn’t have an outgoing signature. It would cut my required correspondence to 20%. Yes, about 80% of the messages I get don’t have one.

If you do have an outgoing signature, let me make the point that one should appear even on replies. I realize that Microsoft in their wisdom believes this is unnecessary, but I am going to suggest to you that it is essential. Please unclick the box. Sure I know who I wrote to, but I would like to confirm your contact information. Oops, I have revealed my “evil plan.” There are two reasons I would like you to use an outgoing signature: 1. If you say something important, I would like to call you. 2. I would like to ensure that you are shown correctly in our membership directory.

This is my outgoing signature:

++

Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
Chairman
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883

MattBud@TheFENG.org
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax

++

Let me reveal its salient features. 1. You will notice I am providing my “greeting to use.” You don’t have to guess if I go by Matthew or Mr. Bud. 2. I am providing you with my email address. Sure, if you want to copy and paste the “From” box, you can figure it out, but I prefer to make it easy for you. 3. My phone numbers are listed in the order I would like you to dial them. And, yes, I am giving you ALL the numbers where I can be reached because I would actually like you to call me. Duh. 4. You will note that the phone numbers, properly formatted, are on the left, and the label is on the right. This is so the numbers line up. Forgive me for being an accountant about this, but I like numbers to line up. 5. I am providing you with my physical address. No, this is not so you can send me a gift, although you can do that if you like. It is rather so you will know what time zone I am in. With cell phones these days, you don’t know where folks are.

If you write to me, please put in a meaningful subject, trying to avoid those that will identify your message as spam, like Hi. I would also ask that you take a moment before you hit send and check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. While I won’t be sending you a grade, you will make it possible for me to actually understand what it is I can do to help you. If you are prone to using abbreviations, please know that I HATE all abbreviations. I find it rude that anyone would write Rgds instead of Regards for example. If I’m not worth the time to write in complete sentences, why should I feel that you are entitled to my time? You might want to consider this issue with respect to EVERYONE with whom you engage in correspondence.

To finish up on email, the From box should show your name, and your email address should actually be your name, just like it is when you work for a company. And, in this day and age, sharing an email address with your significant other just isn’t done anymore. Please, get with the program. If your address has numbers and letters, you look plain silly, and this isn’t a time to look silly. For those of you with L’s and 1’s in your email address, you might consider the fact that in lowercase Arial, they look alike. If you have O’s and 0’s, I would suggest they are also hard to tell apart. A few years ago one of our members by the name of Goldwater was using AUH2O, or in lowercase, auh2o. Now is that last thing a zero or a letter? A great conversation piece and a touch of humor, but totally out of place in the world of serious business communication.

And now on to resumes. Every resume needs a summary at the top, period. The summary is not unlike your 90-second announcement. It stakes out your territory and enables the reader to better understand what follows. By the way, I HATE the lists that many people use after their summary. I rarely see one that doesn’t contain significant redundancies such as budgeting and then another entry for planning. They are a waste of space. If it is important, put it in words in your summary. By the way, your summary should be brief.

Every resume needs a physical address and your email address. Hard to believe, but there is a growing trend of resumes without a physical address. May I ask, are you sleeping in a car? If you are, put in where you keep it parked. And back to email addresses, they should be your name and you should uppercase and lowercase them for readability, as in MattBud@TheFENG.org.

Resumes should be either 2 or 3 pages, NEVER 1 1/2 or 2 1/2. If you are a member of The FENG and have 20 years of experience, your experience CAN’T properly fit on one page. And by the way, you know that 8pt font thing that many of you use? DON’T. Perhaps your eyes are getting better, but mine aren’t. NO ONE can or actually does read a resume in 8pt type. Use 12pt type and do a little editing. I know you may think that everything you want to say about yourself is important, but you will find that if you focus, you will be able to remove the unimportant and the result will be better. As an added plus, someone might actually read it. Don’t make a final page that just has your education. I find this approach silly, but I’m sure it is recommended somewhere because I see it all the time.

All of your work experience needs to be on your resume. While the last 10 years are the most important, leaving off your earlier work experience or the dates you were there makes you look old. Yes, I know if you put it down they will know you are old, but don’t you think they will find out sooner or later? And, if you are successful in fooling someone, don’t you think they will feel duped when they meet you? How exactly are you planning to recover from making them feel stupid? If you provide dates, including your dates of graduation from college, most people breeze right past the fact that you are likely older than time itself. Missing information on the other hand screams OLD. I see people leaving off dates that I think are young (now that I am 71). (Oh, to be in my 40’s again.) Dates should be year ranges, not months. Months are like subtracting Roman numerals, and I missed that day in 3rd grade.

Every company needs a one line definition, even companies you think everyone knows. Most jobs fall to industry, and the folks who do initial screening are often not as knowledgeable as you are. (That’s why they’re stuck reviewing resumes.) What industry and what size was the firm and/or your division? Help the reader know if you are a fit. Make their life easy.

If you don’t actually know how to type, have someone go over your formatting. Page breaks need to be forced. What looks right on your computer may split differently on mine. Bolding in a consistent manner will aid in readability. Also, your name needs to be on every page.

Since you are for the most part emailing your resume, your file name should be something like BudMatthewR.doc. (Use YOUR name, of course, or people will get confused.) I have been recommending this approach for quite a few years, and I find it hard to believe that hardly anyone can get it right. They send us files like budmatthew.doc or bud.doc. It really isn’t that hard to get it right. You’re an accountant. I would think you could follow a pattern.

Item last is our membership requirements. I know this will come as a shock to everyone, but we are a very senior level group. Please don’t encourage those early in their careers to fill out an application form. I normally look for at least 15-20 years of work experience. I also look for senior level titles held for a significant period of time. One of the most painful things for me is to disappoint one of your friends. I would also remind you that we are known as The Financial Executives Networking Group. The financial in our name isn’t financial services. Yes, I know that just about anyone could benefit from getting to know our members, but our membership is not open to sales executives, human resource professionals, lawyers, or information technology types. I love them dearly and they are all very nice people, but I will not be adding them to our membership. PLEASE, take a moment and actually read the resume of anyone you are sending to our website to ensure they qualify. It will save me time and it will save you from being embarrassed when I decline them membership.

That’s about it for tonight. I hope I didn’t rant too much.

Regards, Matt

Homogeneous groups and pitfalls

Is there a possible pitfall in sticking with a homogeneous group of unemployed people?

First of all, I would never suggest to anyone that they should solely and exclusively network within The FENG. What I have suggested and do strongly suggest is that you START with our networking group and use it to springboard your way to presidents and general managers who might need a “been there, done that” senior financial officer.

Just as every great journey starts with a single step, so too does success at networking start with a few successes. Us shy financial types need to experience a positive result to keep on coming back for the inevitable beatings that will come our way as we network outside of those who understand what we do and who have a personal interest in seeing us succeed (even if that interest is only because they are fellow members of our august body).

It is always difficult to find good places to network. And, mixed groups are often just that. They can frequently represent a wide range of levels, from those early in their careers to those nearing retirement, and range from those well educated to those not so well educated. Your time is valuable, and you need to pick and choose carefully.

Industry meetings such as local Venture Capital groups or national organizations such as the Association for Corporate Growth, present good opportunities for networking and you should seek them out by checking local newspapers.

Networking, networking, networking is always the path to go. It may appear to be a mysterious sequence of events that gets you introduced to “Santa Claus,” but it is actually part of the design and why it works. (Santa Claus is the person who actually offers you a job.)

Gatherings of all kinds can be important. You need to get out of the house and present your credentials to others. As with anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

So, don’t just stick with the good old FENG. Spread your wings and fly. But, use our meetings for practice. As you know, practice makes perfect.

Regards, Matt

I never met a job I didn’t like

Will Rogers is remembered as saying: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I only wish everyone reviewing job possibilities would keep in mind the job search equivalent as stated above.

Most jobs, upon initial examination, are bound to have more than a few flaws. Let’s face it, if it was an easy job, they wouldn’t need a well experienced financial officer like you to solve the huge mess they have gotten themselves into.

Let me point out that it is the height of stupidity to say “no” to a job that hasn’t even been offered to you. Perhaps the commute is too far, or the money is too low or the job responsibilities aren’t broad enough. However, it is hard to believe that all this analysis was likely done from the “sidewalk” outside the potential employer’s place of business or more likely from the sidewalk outside your own home. (Is it an “approach/avoidance” problem?)

You have gotten a phone call and based on very little information jump to a conclusion that may or may not be warranted by the actual facts in the case. Let’s assume here that you saw a posting and got called in for an interview. Friends, this is no time to say no. Your resume has been pulled from a cast of thousands. Sure, the job as described may not be your dream job. (Trust me there aren’t many of those these days.)

Your goal is to PLAY OUT ALL YOUR CARDS. The approach that is taken on their side of the table is “we love you, we love you, we love you, oops, we changed our minds.” Get with the program here and play things out the same way. You love them, you love them, you love them, oops, you changed your mind.

Look, I know this goes against the grain, but the game of job search isn’t touch football. It is more like war, with live ammunition. You are actually allowed and expected to break the rules now and then. Don’t get carried away and accept a job and then not show up for work, but anything up until the moment you say yes is fair game. If you need help coming up with an explanation at the 11th hour as to why you changed your mind, please call me. Hey, I was in the advertising business. I am used to making up things that sound good.

Now for the Will Rogers part. The truth is that I never met a job I didn’t like, and you may find this to be true as well. As you meet the people and find out more about the real job FROM THE HIRING MANAGER, you may find out that the unique skills you bring to the party will allow him/her to expand and/or dramatically change the job specifications.

See, if you said no at the beginning you never would have found that out. (And, surprise, they decided to move it closer to you home! Does life get any better?)

Regards, Matt

Dropping in a little artillery

The truth is that even friends sometimes don’t get back to you when you call. Ever wonder why?

So, if friends have trouble returning calls, is it possible that strangers might be even more reluctant to return phone calls?

I guess the real question is not why folks don’t return phone calls, but what steps can we take as master networkers to improve our results? What factors do you suspect are at work?

Let’s be generous and accept the fact that the world of work is a busy place and the individuals we are trying to reach are those folks who control what I like to call work opportunities. Let us also accept the fact that speech is the slowest form of communication. (Smoke signals may in fact be slower, but most of us don’t use them.)

Anyway, if you are sitting on the other side of the desk faced with a pile of phone messages, which ones are you going to make a priority and which ones are you going to decide to let wait? (Some, I suppose, will wait forever.)

My general rule is that I return ALL my phone calls. Still, some days I have to pick and choose. If I am left a clear message as to the nature of the call and the result that is expected, I can make a pretty good estimate of the time it will take to respond. So many seconds are allocated to pleasantries such as the weather, more seconds for perhaps some aspect of our personal relationship, if any, and finally more seconds to the meat of the conversation and the reason that you have called. On average a phone call is 15 minutes. (Give or take 3 nanoseconds.)

When the phone call is from a “job seeker” or “work opportunity seeker” and you are the one holding the cards, you know it is going to be a long and perhaps unpleasant conversation. You may love the person on the other end of the phone, but you may not have anything to offer up.

So, again, if you have to choose, many of those calls don’t get returned.

But, let’s get back to the question at hand. How can you improve your batting average for returned calls? Step one is not to make totally cold calls. By dropping in a little artillery, I am suggesting you write a “letter of introduction” that explains why you will be calling and what you hope to discuss.

If we are talking about networking contacts you don’t know and who don’t know of you, dropping in an email with details of how you connected with them and how they might be able to help you, as well as sending them a copy of your resume, can save an absolute ton of talk time when you dial their number and actually connect. Even if they have printed off your resume and cover note and lost it on their desk, they can search their electronic mailbox and find it while you are on the phone. (Are computers great or what?) A little hint is to have the email address from which you sent it ready to give them. (This is what I do. My desk can be a little bit of a mess.)

If it is friends we are talking about, giving them a brief on your search, and letting them know why you are calling will either get them to call you or at least prepare them for your call. They will have a better sense of how you are feeling from the tone of your note (be sure to keep it upbeat), and know whether this is going to be a hand holding session requiring a pep talk, or a real work session because you now know a way they can help.

Dropping in a little artillery softens up the beaches of their minds and allows your troops to hit the beach with less opposition. Let those you are trying to reach know what you want and how they can help. Who knows, when you reach them they may even be prepared. (Yes, I know it is a wish and a hope, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?)

Regards, Matt

Interrogate or dummy up?

Speaking with strangers is never fun. And, if these strangers are deciding whether or not to hire you, it can be a little stressful, especially if you want the job.

There are so many ways to offend and so few ways to ingratiate yourself without appearing overly solicitous.

In the classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” the asking of questions during an interview can be very tricky indeed.

For those of you who watch a lot of lawyer shows, I hope you know the lawyers’ rule: Never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. It is a good rule and one that is applicable here.

Questions during an interview need to be upbeat and if at all possible give you an opportunity to “strut your stuff.” If you KNOW they are in the middle of an SAP implementation and this is what you do, ask a few probing questions. If you already know it is a train wreck, you will appear to be magically zeroing in on the problems they need you to solve. Even better if you are speaking with those to whom you may be reporting. This is the opportunity to get THEM talking.

With an inexperienced interviewer, the more talking THEY do, the smarter they seem to think YOU are. Hard to believe, but true. The absence of questions about you is frequently because they ASSUME you know how to do things. Opening up your mouth when it isn’t really required is at times an opportunity to lose a job that could have been yours.

Always do your research on a company before your interview. Check their website, and just about everyone has one these days, and look for bios on people you may be meeting. You will be surprised how much stuff and what stuff is out there. Because folks in the company don’t visit their own website, they often are unaware how you seem to know what you know. Not a bad place to be.

Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Again, your goal is to get your interviewer talking. The more they talk, the more you have opportunities to wrap your MOST important achievements around what they are telling you. As it has been said: “First liar never stands a chance.”

And, if you really want to get the inside poop on a company, check The FENG membership directory and see who has worked there. They don’t need to be working there right now to give you some very real sense of how the place works, what the burning issues were and may continue to be, and who are the “evil doers” at the company. Who knows, it might even be the individual interviewing you. You may get some great tips on how best to handle him or her. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

Regards, Matt

At a glance

There is a rumor out in the world that the attention span of your “average American” is getting shorter. Sad to say, but most likely very true. We see it all around us. So many things are screaming for our attention on a given day.

Before the advent of computers it was quite a bit harder to respond to job postings. The gold standard was a personally written letter, and how many could a person crank out in a single day? I type 90 words a minute, and when I was in the Army I was fortunate to be in a clerical position where I had my very own typewriter. Still, I couldn’t write very many letters in a single day for that first job campaign of mine. In 1991 with a personal computer and a mail merge program I could plug and chug. Now in 2018 it is even easier. Heck, I communicate with 40,000+ folks every day!

Even our newsletter is a perfect example of how the world has changed. We publish about 600 pages of job leads each month. Even 20 years ago it would not even have been possible for a networking group such as ours to exist. The cost of physically distributing the newsletter would have been prohibitive. Not only would it have required a huge professional staff to retype and reformat each lead, but copying and collating would have been pretty expensive as well. And, we still haven’t talked about the postage cost. In our context, the job would have to be well written to get OUR attention.

One can’t truly appreciate what it takes to stand out in today’s world until you have seen it for yourself, so I have designed a little test that I would like all of you to try.

The subject of this test is your resume. Take one copy of your resume and examine it in detail. Absorb its format and the information it contains. Now, I want you to try to collect 200-300 resumes. Go to networking meetings and get one from everyone you meet. Write to other members of The FENG and ask for copies of theirs. If you are using the services of an outplacement service, walk around the office and collect one from everyone. Do this over the course of as many weeks as it takes to at least reach 200. Don’t throw any of them away. Keep collecting.

Now I want you to take your resume and put it somewhere in the pile. It probably would be best if it was somewhere near the bottom, but since you should do this a few times to really appreciate what I am trying to communicate, it doesn’t matter.

Okay, you have 1 hour to go through all of the resumes in the pile and find only 10 that stand out. (Good luck Mr. Phelps.)

The point is that this is what recruiters do every day, day in and day out. The same thing is true for all of those human resource departments. The unsolicited and solicited resumes come in by the HUNDREDS. So, does your resume stand out in that huge pile?

This little experiment should give you some sense of why your dear friend Mr. Magoo (that’s me) recommends 1 inch margins and 12 point type. My guess is that you won’t pick even one densely written resume. Unless some effort has been made to make company names and titles clear, you won’t pick those either.

I realize that you may feel the many details you are providing are very important, but this is the context into which you are throwing your opus. If the information you want to communicate cannot be absorbed at a glance, you stand no chance of being called for an interview. More importantly you have no chance of anyone reading further to learn more about you. The formatting of the “headlines” of your credentials is what brings the page flipping to a stop.

You have about 5 seconds to get your intended reader’s attention. And, remember, this is the job they have to do every day. They have no responsibility to ensure that you are considered. They have no requirement to read and reread to ensure that they haven’t missed someone important.

No my friends, the burden is on you. Take the “at a glance test” and see if you pass.

I know you are important and the perfect solution to any problem. Let’s make sure they know.

Regards, Matt

A gap or a cover-up?

Time goes by fast when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? And what greater fun is there than conducting a job search?

Okay, it may not be as much fun as it appears to be to those looking in from the outside. But still, you can’t beat those lunches and phone calls with old friends, not to mention all the strangers who are strangers no longer.

Unfortunately as the weeks and months go by that old standby on your resume of “2010 to present” rings less and less true, and “2010 to 2016” looks even worse.

There are many issues to consider in solving this time problem on your resume.

The first is that financial folks generally speaking have great difficulty lying. When cornered like a rat, you are going to tell the truth. Sorry, but it just goes with the territory. And, if you have “2010 to present” and you are no longer actually there you have in effect and in reality been caught in an untruth. (An untruth is a lie by another name, and unlike a rose, smells bad.)

Okay, so you decide to go with the truth, and you put down “2010 to 2016.” Well, it is now 2018. Sure looks like you have been out of work a while, and you may have been. The solution for many folks is to make up a phony consulting practice and put that at the top of their resume. This is a fine approach, but unfortunately everyone is on to it.

If you have in fact been doing consulting, you are unfortunately tarred with the same brush. There is the suspicion that it is simply not true. If it is true that you have been doing consulting, you need to make it real by listing some achievements under this category. If you haven’t been doing consulting, I would suggest not doing anything to “fill the gap.” Again, the reason is simple. When cornered, you will tend to tell the truth, and being caught in a lie is not a good thing for a financial officer.

Those of us who have been dedicated to our job search will find the reaction of those on the other side of the table to be hard to take. They would like to know what you have been doing to fill the time, as if a job search doesn’t require your full time and attention in this market. Yes, it is unfair, but the question will be asked and you need to have an appropriate and non-defensive answer handy. If you walked into a job interview with a cast on your arm, you wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to offer up an explanation. The reason is that no communication will take place until you do because the interviewer will be trying to find a polite way to ask what happened and won’t be listening to anything you say. The same thing is true of a significant gap in employment.

It is in part a serious question, but it is also a silly question. Obviously if you had been offered an appropriate job, you would have taken it. So, the suspicion is that there might be something wrong with you that isn’t obvious. In this job market you can’t afford to have that hanging over your head.

However, this is one of those times when you need to provide a complete explanation that is brief. Yes, I know there is that good old “primarily due to, partially offset by” that we fall into, but 60 seconds is about the maximum amount of time that you can allot to explaining the unexplainable – why you haven’t found a job. (It is sort of “The maiden doth protest too much, methinks” syndrome.)

Much of what you need to say can come back to haunt you later, so be careful what you say. If for example you made a decision not to move, this job you applied for may require a move. Then again, it may not. There frankly are few good choices for your explanation and lots of bad ones.

Certainly don’t tell anyone that you took a six month vacation, even if it is true.

If the consulting thing is true, you will be surprised to learn that most interviewers will be satisfied if you rattle off a small number of engagements. It is not necessary to account for every week. It is also not necessary to explain that you didn’t earn your desired rate, or didn’t make any money at all. They typically won’t ask.

Instead, talk to the learning experiences you have had since your last full time job. In addition to consulting assignments, you can add courses you may have taken, and all this while you were making a significant investment in your search. It makes you sound pretty hard working, which is the real message you want to get across.

I haven’t asked in a while, but if any of you have ideas that you feel will build on this topic, please send them in to Leads@TheFENG.org for publication under our Notes from Members. Just be sure to indicate if you want your name used. I am sensitive to the fact that some of your experiences may be too personal to share under your name, but still may be extremely valuable to others, so take a risk and send them in.

Regards, Matt

Selling life jackets to those drowning

Since a significant percentage of our members are in the job market, I thought I would make you aware that almost all of the job search related websites are in the business of selling life jackets to people who are drowning. And, the life jackets they sell don’t actually work.

An alternate way of saying it is they are trying to pick your pocket.

Job leads, in and of themselves, are almost totally and completely worthless. Heresy perhaps. Yes, someone does win the lottery every day. Yes, you should leave no stone unturned. Still, the perceived value of a job lead, especially on an Internet website, is a LOT less than you think it is. And, be aware that many of the websites have sneaky ways of nickel and diming you to death.

While I believe our job leads have more value than most, I don’t sell them to you for this very reason. We live on voluntary contributions. If you can afford to make a donation, fine. If you can’t, that’s okay too.

For those of you who are spending time surfing these websites, may I suggest you stop? I have almost never heard of anyone getting a job from them. But then, I have only been Chairing our august body since 1996. If you are a member of long standing, tell me how many Good News Announcements have said they found their job lead on a website? There are few enough who cite our very own newsletter.

(It would help if more of you who find jobs sent in a Good News Announcement. I would then have better data.)

What you have to question is how these jobs sites get their leads and how selective they are. In our own case, almost all of the postings in our newsletter come from recruiters who are registered with us. A few slip through now and then, but for the most part anyone posting has registered as a Friend of The FENG. While it may not have any force of law, the personalized tracking and communication we do lets them know we know who they are. (And, we know where they live. Okay, at least where they work.) The others come from members who have relationships with search professionals who have not yet registered with us.

The world is built on a series of personal relationships, and we try to enforce this theme by requiring those posting with us to provide their FULL business card information. I also try to get firms posting with us to provide a city location and a salary range. Again, this doesn’t work perfectly. The critical element is time, and I don’t want to slow up the process by any back and forth with a search firm. I would also point out that job leads only appear once in our newsletter.

The “currency” in public websites is the number of jobs they have posted. Long after they are beyond dead, they will still be there. Visible volume is the key.

Job leads are the bait that gets you to visit a website. The real money for them is in the “value added” services they provide. Go ahead, take them up on their free resume review. You will soon find out that your resume is terrible and that for a small price they can fix it.

While we can’t offer this service to the outside world, have you tried our very own Resume Review Committee headed up by Jim Saylor? (ResumeReview@TheFENG.org) Although it would be nice if you made a donation in honor of the individual who helped you, it is not a requirement. We provide our service out of friendship.

Money to live on is very important. So is having a job. The false promise made by these organizations is that they can help you find another job in short order. May I suggest you save your money? No one can find you a job other than you. And, the primary solution set is networking, networking and more networking.

If you are truly having problems getting yourself focused and/or organized, may I suggest you contact one of your fellow members and ask for help? This is what we do for each other and the only price is your friendship. Find a neighbor and “buddy up.”

If you would like to contribute money to fund the clerical and out of pocket expenses of our network you may do so as follows:

Please make your check payable to: The Financial Executives Networking Group (The FENG)

And send it to:

Laurie Fan
Donations Coordinator
The Financial Executives Networking Group
25 Old Kings Highway N, Suite 13 #163
Darien, CT 06820-4608

Any amount you would like to contribute will be most appreciated. If you would like to donate by credit card, please go to our website and use our “Donate” button. (Upper right hand corner of your welcome page when you sign in.)

At least you know the money you send us won’t be going to waste. All of our area chairs including yours truly, Bruce Lynn and Marty Latman are volunteers. We donate our time to help one and all.

If each of you in your own way helps a few other members, at least the world of The FENG will be a better place. Remember, friends don’t let friends waste their money on job search websites of dubious value for services we can provide for each other.

Regards, Matt

Geese and golden eggs

I am sure that I don’t need to repeat the fable of the goose that laid golden eggs, so I will move right into the analogy.

The goose is The FENG (also a living organism) and the golden eggs are the ability to network with other members. (If networking isn’t true gold, I don’t know what is.)

In order to keep our goose laying golden eggs, all we have to do is treat it well. And, that is why I always recommend being VERY selective in developing your mailing lists of your fellow members of our august body.

We need to exercise due care because what might appear to save you time can easily diminish the value of our circle of friends to other members.

Let me explain. For those of you familiar with the use of mailing lists, you know that the quickest way to burn out a list is to use it too frequently. The same is true of our membership directory. Our Member Directory Search feature is certainly there for your use. In fact, I encourage it. And, it is hard for me to judge if you are using it to excess or not enough.

Many members are not using this feature at all, and that concerns me more than those who might at times inadvertently abuse the access our membership directory provides them.

Sometimes you have to get a little sneaky about it, but with very little effort, you can usually find all of the old friends and new friends you need to do a proper job search using this tool.

But, let’s get back to our “parable for modern times.” If you think about it, the gift we give each other so freely in The FENG is our accessibility. Published in the directory for the use of other members is our work history and contact information. I hope that all of you expect and welcome communications from other members. Our connectivity is what NETWORKING is all about.

I would also suggest that invariably you benefit when contacted by another member. They may be the ones asking for a favor, but the granting of favors is kind of fun. In addition, it more often than not gives you a needed reason to contact an old friend.

The trick here, like most things in life, is to strike a proper balance. I know that with 40,000+ members it is hard to THINK about The FENG remaining as friendly as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but part of this great experiment in networking is all of us being committed to TRYING to keep it that way.

Although all of us are financial types, the truth is that networking with everybody doesn’t work anyway. We need to focus on those others within our circle of friends who are just like us. As Bob Walker, Co-Chair of our Dallas chapter would say: “Look for your mirror.” Okay, very few members are going to be as handsome as you are, but we are talking here about skill sets.

Our individual backgrounds are complex. Seeking out those with comparable life experiences just makes perfect sense. These are the folks who can really understand you. And, because they do, they are more likely to make introductions for you that will make the best use of your time.

Most members of The FENG will try to be helpful. Even if you flail around and strike off in all directions at once, many of the dedicated members who make up this organization will TAKE THE TIME to try and understand how they can help.

But, to the degree that you haven’t taken the time to be selective, you are in a very real sense BURNING OUT OUR LIST. Not only will you be wasting the time of those you contact, but they will be wasting your time as well by sending yourself off in inappropriate directions. (Not intentionally of course.)

The reason mailing lists are so expensive is that they are hard to compile. The investment you make in combing through our directory will pay big dividends for you, and if done properly will actually ENHANCE the value of our membership list to others. Hard to believe, but true. If you contact the right folks they will welcome more calls from others. If you prepare for those contacts by being selective and clear in your communications, everybody wins.

Directories are everywhere these days. I have had several discussions with members about services who claim they have the ability to mass mail your resume and cover letter to thousands of potential employers. On the face of it, you should all know and understand that this can’t possibly work.

If you are specialized or localized, there are directories out there, often at low cost. You can then take these lists and compare them painstakingly to our membership directories to see if one of our members has worked at a company of interest. With our membership, the odds are VERY high that you will get a hit almost every time.

So have at it. Networking, networking and more networking IS what we do. Just remember that keeping the goose healthy is our number one priority. After all, I wouldn’t want our goose to be cooked. But, I digress.

Regards, Matt

I’m a complicated guy

I always try to tell people who ask that I am just a simple financial guy. But I guess the truth is that all of us financial types are complicated in one way or another.

Unlike lawyers and doctors who (thanks to Hollywood) everyone THINKS they know what they do every day, our profession (other than our role in stealing investor’s money) is not very well known. Let’s face it, a TV show about us would probably put everyone to sleep. (Hey, I’m feeling groggy just writing about us.)

When asked to do a 90 second announcement about our career, we are hard pressed to find the right words. And how could it be otherwise? What we do IS complicated and technical. That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

Still, we are obligated by a law recently passed by Congress to explain ourselves in layman’s terms to the “outside world.” (I know you don’t believe the Republicans and Democrats were able to reach agreement on anything, but I understand this decision was easy.)

I have a less than technical accounting background, having gained my Chief Financial Officer spurs in the Advertising industry. (Or is it I earned my scars?) Anyway, I have had the pleasure of listening in on those who do “structured finance,” “credit risk management,” and any number of other esoteric areas of expertise, do their 90 second pitch and rarely am made to truly understand what they do and how they bring value to their employers.

The golden opportunity to “present your credentials” represented by our meetings is one that I know some of you have not enjoyed the benefit of, and in part, that is what tonight’s editorial is all about. Chapter meetings are the world’s best off-Broadway play.

A room filled with as friendly an audience determined to find a way to help you help yourself, is hard to find indeed.

Although I know our Chapter Chairs these days are hard pressed to find enough space to handle those who wish to attend, I believe that if more folks show up, they will find a way to accommodate you. That is just the nature of the individuals who chair our chapters. (Their names and contact information adorn our website. When you sign in, the chapter(s) you are registered for appear on your home page.

Pay them a visit electronically or in person and “let them entertain you” at the next chapter meeting near you.

No chapter meeting in your neighborhood? A simple solution is available! Start a chapter of your own by sending me the appropriate area codes. In short order, you too can be the official “go to person” in your area.

I look forward to hearing from you and, of course, seeing you at chapter meetings!

And, let’s try to make your story more understandable and exciting! Keep in mind, I’m a simple guy.

Regards, Matt

Removing mental obstacles

A very long time ago, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of our Hartford/Springfield chapter. I was one of two guest speakers.

The other speaker was a gentleman from Robert Half who spoke about the local market. What was of particular interest to me was his perception of people who lived in the area and how those who lived in Massachusetts wouldn’t consider jobs just over the border in Connecticut and those who lived on one side of the river wouldn’t consider jobs on the other side, even though all of these possibilities were within 30 miles of their homes and traffic really wasn’t any worse in the various directions.

It got me to thinking about how easy it is to create our own mental blocks to success. It is sort of like that old legal principle of “negotiating with yourself” as explained to me by one of my learned colleagues.

Being open to all the possibilities is not easy for anyone to do, least of all us financial types. We come to the world with very fixed ideas about what will work and what won’t work. In part this comes from our unique ability to analyze just about anything, to in effect break any idea or topic into its component parts and divide and conquer as it were.

In a sense it is easy to see why some things can’t work, but much harder to suspend your disbelief in an idea or even your own abilities and imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist for you.

I suppose that another part of it is more often than not, people in the world of work come to us for OUR suggestions. To put the shoe on the other foot isn’t easy. We feel we need to have an opinion, right or wrong.

Based on our experience, we develop strong opinions on lots of things. It can be very hard to let go. The paradox is, of course, that most financial people believe as I do in our highly transferable skills. We can span industries. We might even be able to span geography.

Personally, I am not a big fan of picking up the family and moving for a job. Family tends to be permanent and jobs as we all know are temporary. Still, from time to time, you might want to examine “the possibility.”

When I was trying to find another job in the mid-90’s, as much as I didn’t want to move, I got the opportunity to interview for a job in Tampa. I went for the interview. Hey, they do have an ocean nearby, and everybody does retire to Florida, don’t they? As it turned out I wasn’t offered the job and thank goodness I wasn’t because the company was sold within months to a firm in Atlanta. Guess what? There is no ocean there, so it would have been goodbye to sailing if I had taken the job.

By the way, I never said I would take the job. I was only considering the possibility. I even went house hunting.

As you move down the road of life in your quest for meaningful employment, open your mind to opportunities that come your way and be a little less quick to dismiss potentially desirable work situations out of hand. You may in fact want to return to that industry you thought you hated, that town you thought was too small (or too big), or that company with the culture you thought was terrible.

You don’t have to take the job. You just should consider it with a more open mind.

Regards, Matt

Making networking benefit YOU

I am always trying to explain networking to users. Tonight I am going to try to explain networking to givers.

The common misperception is that networking is a give and take. You give to others and they take. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Networking as I suggest it be practiced in The FENG is a process that should benefit YOU as much as those to whom you give networking contacts. How so? Let me explain.

If you are contacted by someone who has a background connection to you, your goal is to present them to someone you know will be delighted to hear from them. Not always easy to figure out, but if the person contacting you is somehow related to you, introducing them to someone related to you in the same way they are related to you is a sneaky way of getting YOUR name in front of someone you may have been reluctant to call.

Let’s say, for example, I am looking for a job in Advertising. You may or may not remember that I was at one time Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency. Unfortunately, it is a small industry. If I have been “working the crowd,” there are only so many times in any given period of time I will be comfortable calling each of my contacts.

If another “Ad guy” (or Ad person) calls me, after we get past our “secret handshakes” and inside jokes, I am going to want to make sure they know or get introduced to all the folks I know from the advertising business. If they are members of The FENG or if I have at least seen their resumes, what is my risk? Most likely, they are upstanding citizens and my risk is as close to zero as these things get.

If I take the value added step of sending the resume of this aspiring networker to each of the folks on my contact list, I am in effect putting my name in front of my contacts again as well. If I don’t mention what I have been doing lately, they will often be curious enough to ask either me, or the person to whom I am introducing them, especially if I use an outgoing signature to make it easy for them to call me.

Putting two folks together who you think will have something in common makes you a matchmaker. It is one of those great times we all hope for where everybody wins.

Your aspiring networker makes a valued contact and you have connected in a positive way with someone you might otherwise not have called for many weeks.

You even have a good excuse to call and see if this individual you introduced made a favorable impression. What are the odds that your networking contact won’t ask how you are doing, while he/she has you on the phone? Friends, it is close to zero. They always ask.

So there you have it. Networking is not only a contact sport, but one at which you can win every single time! How many sports can say that?

Regards, Matt

Sharing with the family

Job search can be a lonely business. There you are, in your home office from the moment you get up in the morning until just before you go to bed. Emails are going out. Letters are being sent. Appointments are being made. (And, the only time you leave the house is for this purpose.)

The problem is, have you found a way to share with your family what you are doing every day and what progress you are making?

Yes, I know progress is hard to measure. I hear it often from members that they tried this or that many times, but of course it hasn’t worked yet. It seems the only measure we feel comfortable as meaning anything is when we find a new job. The truth is that if you are working hard at your search and there is no result, it is hard to talk to the family about it.

Whether it is your spouse, significant other or your children, what you tell them and how you tell them can make a huge difference in how they are feeling.

Just as a surgeon isn’t allowed to say “Oops!,” you as Captain of your ship aren’t allowed to show fear. (As a sailor and Captain of my sloop, Luora, you must always speak with authority and act like you know what you are doing, even when you are actually scared out of your mind. It is hard for the crew to go about their business of swabbing the deck if you are curled up in a ball rocking back and forth and muttering to yourself.)

Within this parameter of speaking quietly and with authority, it doesn’t hurt to once in a while have a family meeting to discuss where you are in your search. The fact that you are getting interviews or not, and/or to go over the family finances, can go a long way to putting fears aside.

As my daughter used to say when discussing her nightmares at the breakfast table, “And this was the silly part…” My answer back was that her whole nightmare was the silly part. When you let the imaginations of the crew run wild, you get what you deserve.

Even your small children can feel like they are contributing to the success of the family by turning off lights or taking over some of your chores so you can concentrate on the work you have to do every day. Being aware of your need for quiet and going over to their friends’ homes after school instead of running through the house like wild animals can help.

As I have said from time to time: Smile, things could be worse. So I smiled and sure enough things got worse.

Most likely the future holds great things in store for you, or at worst, nothing terrible. As a member of The FENG, you have one of the world’s best power tools at your fingertips – The FENG membership directory. Using our Member Directory Search feature, you can do amazing research to find valued networking contacts. Let’s be honest. With this at your side, how can you lose?

So, keep the discussions light. As Butch Cassidy cautioned the Sundance Kid in the movie of the same name: Don’t sugar coat it Sundance. Tell it to her straight. (I’m sure you remember the scene.)

Regards, Matt

E I E I O

I suppose I could be wrong about all of this, but I find the use of “, MBA” as part of your name to be a bad idea.

Yes, I know that not everyone has an MBA, but in my opinion unless you are a CPA or a Ph.D., you need to exercise a little caution in the initials you place after your name.

My sister sells commercial insurance and as I understand it, every time you take a test of some sort you get another set of initials you can use after your name. At meetings where you might be introduced, they read your name and ALL of your initials which everyone at these gatherings of fellow insurance folks apparently understands. To the rest of us normal folks it sounds the very popular nursery rhyme that ends in “E I E I O”.

While I don’t recommend using these initials after your name, they should appear in your resume with proper “respect.” By that I mean, instead of just putting your designation initials you should spell them out. For those of us who are not as learned as you are, it helps to know what they stand for so we can make some judgments as to their relative importance.

As much as I see members “abuse” their designations by over playing them, I see the opposite as well. While I may know that UCLA is the University of California at Los Angeles, I think seeing it as an abbreviation makes it look plain silly. (Ever wonder why abbreviation is such a long word?)

Anyway, giving all aspects of your background their proper respect is important. As you go through your resume and cover letters, I would suggest you err on the side of being more complete. I will let you in on a little secret: I hate all abbreviations.

If you have ever examined The FENG membership directory you will notice that we go to great lengths to spell things out. I think they look nicer that way. Among the silly abbreviations are words like “Lane” and “Drive”. Let’s see: Ln. or Dr. Hopefully you can “afford” the one or two additional letters.

We are always torn between appearing pretentious and appearing redundant. (There is, of course, nothing worse than a redundant redundancy, but I digress.)

I guess the “take away” here is don’t sound like a nursery rhyme.

Regards, Matt

Attention to detail

Stop me if I am wrong, but I always thought that financial folks were known for their attention to detail. Aren’t we known as total compulsives, or did I miss something?

Sad to say, but it apparently isn’t true.

Most of my daily communication is from fellow financial executives and I am continually appalled at the mistakes of all kinds that I see in what they send me.

I was reviewing candidates for one of my assignments for The FECG recently and I couldn’t believe how many email cover letters had no information at all, had no subject, didn’t follow directions on the file naming convention I request, or had cover letters attached that began “Dear Sir or Madam.”

You’ll forgive me, but these opportunities were all published in our very own newsletter under my name. I may be a lot of things, but I am definitely not a “Madam,” (although I would be willing to grant the “Sir” part as correct under certain circumstances.)

I could be wrong, but I was pretty sure that reading was a required course in college. And, we have all been drilled over the years on the issue of “reads and follows directions.”

Now I know some of you are rebels out there and bridle at convention, but there are times to follow the crowd and times to be an independent thinker. This is not the time to invent new ways of doing things.

If I go by the theory that mailings to me (who I hope all of you know and love) are typical of how you are handling the other postings in our newsletter, I can see we have a few problems.

While you are free to “click and shoot” Internet leads you see on public websites where NO ONE’S name is given, it is not appropriate to behave in this manner on leads provided by members of The FENG where hard won personal relationships may be at stake.

I am also a little concerned that our very popular and extremely effective “qualified members only” approach to postings is not being closely followed either. Please keep in mind that to the degree you “buy a lottery ticket,” you are limiting the possibility that those who post with us will come back for more punishment, AND you are making it more difficult for the right member of our august body (who may not have presented his credentials well as he might) to be identified due to the volume.

I try my best to read between the lines, but it is hard when you get a large response.

Just as I would expect that the columns on spreadsheets you might send me total to the right numbers and tie out to other numbers in your workbook, so too do I expect that any correspondence you might send to ANYONE has been checked for spelling errors, grammar and punctuation. If you need to, write anything important in Word and then cut and paste it into your emails.

We want everyone to know that the members of The FENG are as precise in their communications as you can expect them to be in the work they are going to do for the companies that hire them.

As you know, a reputation is hard won and easily lost. It has been a long uphill struggle establishing the credentials of our circle of friends. Help us maintain this image by reviewing your outgoing messages before you click send.

Who knows, it might even help your candidacy for that next great opportunity. (Selfish motives work for me too!)

Regards, Matt

Save the Nauga

I assume that most of you are unaware that in addition to being Chairman of The FENG, I am also president of the Save The Nauga Society.

I have been actively involved in trying to save the nauga from extinction for many years. While naugas existed in most parts of the world in large numbers, over the years they have been hunted for their hides for use in making furniture. In my youth, my parents had chairs and a couch covered in material made from naugas. These cute little creatures have very tough skin and the product that is made from it is, of course, called Naugahyde.

While one can’t argue with the durability of furniture covered in Naugahyde, these creatures are now at risk of extinction in the wild. I hope all of you will join with me in boycotting manufacturers who buy the skins of wild naugas. Naugas are also raised domestically and although it is a shame to see so many of them sacrificed for our seating pleasure, I suppose it is okay. I hope you won’t mind if all of my emails from this point forward include things like: Boycott furniture manufacturers who use Naugahyde! Save the nauga!

The Save the Nauga Society is a long running Bud family spoof. The purpose of bringing it up tonight is to highlight the importance of separating your personal passions from your business email. I hope you will agree that my including something about the Save the Nauga Society in every message I send out would make me look silly. (And, I can’t afford to look silly as I am a very serious guy.)

I have been at various times over the years been taken aback by the things that folks routinely include at the end of their emails. I suppose I should also mention that I am not a big fan of bumper stickers either.

Religion and politics are two topics that you should generally not discuss with strangers, unless the purpose of your conversation is specifically that. Debate on all topics is a well respected American tradition. (Even LOUD arguments.) However, if you are engaged in a business discussion, these are areas that can easily ruin a perfectly good relationship. One just never knows where the other party stands and it is generally not relevant to doing business with them.

Ending your messages with prayers or thoughtful quotes is also not something I recommend. I know your heart is in the right place, and personally I have great respect for those who believe deeply in anything, it just isn’t stuff you should necessarily share with strangers.

I hope that all of you will at some point in your lives, if you haven’t already, work hard for a worthy cause. It may be your religious organization or a politician in whom you have great faith. These are activities that I have always found to be personally rewarding.

I would just suggest that you exercise due caution in who you tell about them, and how you tell them. Email is probably not the right place.

Regards, Matt

They aren’t making any more of it

Ah, that very useful invention of mine, the day stretcher. If only it actually worked.

Not only doesn’t it work, but it would also appear that there is nothing one can do about time that is lost. Once time has passed, it is gone. (When sailing, it is similar to what I call the sploosh syndrome, which I apply to anything that falls over board that doesn’t float.)

It is a shame we can’t make our days longer or actually make up for lost time, but it is one of those “facts of life” that we can’t do anything about.

All that is left for us to do is to make the best use of the time we have each and every day, and that unfortunately requires planning.

As you sit at your desk in the evening, give serious thought to what happened during the course of your day or recent days. (I don’t know about you, but I have problems remembering anything much before yesterday, so my reflections only cover a short time frame.)

Anyway, let’s first think about those very valuable hours from 9AM to 5PM and set a few priorities.

The first law (recently passed by congress) is that you can’t call anyone much before 9AM or after 5PM. Since human contact is our most important activity, try to block out those hours most days for phone calls, or as we like to say: Networking, networking, and more networking. If you aren’t making calls then, hopefully you are engaged in face to face meetings at those times.

Early mornings and late evenings are the times to work at your computer. Hey, you can’t call anyone anyway. Surf Internet sites for job leads (if you must) at those hours. Research companies that you want to contact the night before or on the weekends when you can really focus. Each evening, make up your lists for the following day of things you want to accomplish.

(Personally, I sometimes practice “just in time planning” which is where I make up a list at the end of the day of everything that I did, and then cross everything off as accomplished. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as advanced planning.)

Especially early in a search process you will find that there is so much to do and so little time. Setting priorities can be difficult. Remember, not deciding what is most important is also a decision.

The law of phone calls is that you can only have 30-40 actual conversations in a day. Each actual phone call takes on average 15 minutes, so plan accordingly. If you are doing mailings where you promise to contact folks, don’t send out more than you can handle.

I always promise myself that I will get caught up some day. If only I could get time to stand still.

Now that would be a winning invention, don’t you think? I’ll have to put it on my list for tomorrow.

Regards, Matt

Selling from a full wagon

Although it is certainly true that it isn’t possible to sell from an empty wagon, the difficulty of selling from one that is full is greatly under rated.

As senior financial professionals, and as individuals not seriously trained in sales, we frequently find ourselves in the position of have too much to sell and not enough listening skills in place early in a search process to be able to know what our “customers” want to buy.

New salespersons in training typically do what is called in personal selling terms “throwing up on the customer.” All of the hard gained product knowledge is brought forth in one giant burp before the customer can squeeze a word in edgewise. Not a good way to start an enduring friendship.

Over the course of a 20-30 year career we acquire so many talents. It is often hard to know which ones are currently saleable and which ones are not. We often present our “history” thinking that others will “figure it out.” Don’t hold your breath.

I recall from my publishing days a questionnaire sent out by our marketing department to authors asking them for advice on how to market their books. The frequent response was that we knew best. Even in this context, not really true.

Each of us is a complex product with skills honed over many years. The power tool that we represent can be used in many ways, but it is up to us to “figure it out,” not those we contact. If we don’t lead them most of the way down that primrose path, it will simply never happen.

Resumes and 90 second announcements evolve over time. They start as an historical documentation of our careers and only grow into proper marketing vehicles if we let them.

You may have stumbled into creating an impression of how your skills can be applied and not even realize it. If you are getting interviews, FIND OUT WHY. What is it about your background that caught their attention? I know they say: “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” but if you don’t ask you will never know.

Bit by bit, word by word, the story you need to tell to transfer your skills to a new job in perhaps a new industry will become better known to you, but only if you recognize the NEED to know.

You are permitted a few lifelines here. You can call a few friends and/or a few former co-workers to find out how you bring value. In our traditional “nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel” method of working, we often never stop to find out how.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, don’t let it happen. Talk to others, but do a lot of research on your own as well. What postings appeal to you? What are the skills required as per the position description? Now, can you find them on your resume? If not and you have had the required experiences, go to your computer and start redrafting.

The conversion from being a history book to an advertisement isn’t easy, but there are very few things in life worth doing that aren’t difficult.

Write, and rewrite and rewrite again until the valued products in that wagon of yours are sitting on the most visible shelves and easy for your customers to see and understand. It is a painful process of self discovery, but it is a journey we all must take if we want success through this most difficult process.

Regards, Matt

Getting back at it

Okay sports fans, the new year has begun. It is now January 14th and time is slipping away. At the moment this year promises to be a good one for employment. (Then again, the light at the end of the tunnel I am seeing could be a speeding locomotive.)

Although you have to “do it all,” I would suggest that your area of greatest focus needs to be networking, networking, networking. (And then, if you have time, more networking.)

Networking within The FENG needs to be conducted with research and careful thoughtfulness as to the time of other members. I have in recent weeks seen several inappropriate approaches.

As much as I encourage members to communicate with one another, please be selective. Read each member’s directory listing and try to make some reference to it in your message so they will know that you took the time to study their background to discover common interests and connections.

As with any good cover note, be sure to state clearly how they might be of assistance to you and be sure to attach a copy of your resume. Speech is the slowest form of communication, and having to talk someone through your work history is a waste of time when they can read it easily while they are on the phone with you by opening your resume.

Be sure to add an outgoing signature to your email. If you don’t know what an outgoing signature is, look up “signature” on your email provider’s service and FIGURE IT OUT. 75% of the messages I receive each day are still WITHOUT an outgoing signature. If you want to have someone contact you, make it easy for them. Telephone numbers should appear in preferred order. Believe it or not, if someone wants to talk to you they will call all the numbers you provide. Calling you is simply easier than having YOU call when all your paperwork isn’t in front of them as it is now. Provide your physical address as well as your email address. Yes, I know your email address usually appears at the top in visible form, but not always. It depends on the email system the recipient uses. Your physical address is needed to know your time zone. At least provide a City/State.

Don’t write to any more folks than you can reasonably call. The key to a successful networking campaign is follow-up. As a general guideline, every phone call takes 15 minutes. That means, don’t make more than 30-40 promises to call for any one day. Space them out.

Have someone else read your cover letter. It not only should be free of errors, but it should be clear as to your purpose in calling and the possible connection. Don’t think that anyone will be able to figure out how to apply your great talents if you haven’t.

Asking for someone’s assistance is a great honor that you are bestowing on them. Think how you have felt when others have called you. It feels good to help others as long as they do their part.

The FENG membership directory is created and maintained at great cost. The funds and effort are spent because it is the most valuable tool that you have available. (I honestly spend more money than a drunken sailor on your behalf in keeping our membership database current.)

Used carefully and with the tender loving care it deserves, it can put you on as straight a path as there is in this world to that new great job!

Regards, Matt

Geese and golden eggs

One of our very most important audiences are members of the search community who are registered as Friends of The FENG.

When you communicate with these folks, briefly, you are expected to behave yourself.

Members of The FENG are expected to only respond when reasonably qualified. What does this mean? If you wouldn’t hire you for the job in question, don’t respond.

Job leads are unfortunately a beauty contest of sorts. With all the well qualified people who are out there in the world, the candidate pool is deep. Let me give you a recruiter’s perspective on how one might go through a pile of resumes.

The first criteria is industry. Hopefully you have put a one line descriptor after each company in your reverse chronological resume. I wasn’t born yesterday, but many of the individuals assigned to do initial screening were. Don’t assume they know the industries where you have worked. It won’t be long before no one will even remember Polaroid or Kodak. You don’t have to be a perfect industry match, but the analogy should be obvious. If it isn’t obvious, make a comment in your email cover note.

The second criteria is “location, location, location.” Very few firms these days want to get involved in relocation issues. If you aren’t local, don’t get cute and leave off your home address. If you think anyone is going to fooled, be assured they aren’t as dumb as you think they are. If you aren’t local, be sure to mention why you and your family are dying to move to (fill in the blank) in your one page cover letter. This is honestly an “elephant sitting in the room,” so don’t even try to skirt the issue. I would mention here that there are certain city pairs that are less credible than others, and you can probably guess which ones they are. The point is that if you are serious about moving, you have a tougher case to prove.

The third criteria is titles you have held with respect to the title in question. An Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer is NOT going to get hired as a Director of Financial Planning & Analysis. It is not credible that an individual at that level would be able, let alone willing to go down that far in responsibilities and be happy. Could you do the job? You’re kidding, right? Of course you could do the job. But that isn’t the question.

The fourth criteria is accomplishments and specific nuts and bolts. Every job posting has them. Some of them are less obvious than others. Sometimes it is specific software. If you have worked on similar programs, this is another issue for your email cover note. Sometimes it is the scope of the company. Again, could you learn on the job? You’re kidding, right? Of course you could, but in a “beauty contest,” you aren’t likely to be selected to do so.

I often make the point with those who are only answering job leads that none of this matters as much when you are networking. A job lead is a “fair fight,” and I have never been a big fan of fair fights. Hey, I could lose. But, that is not the topic of tonight’s editorial.

Back to the subject of geese and golden eggs. Don’t blow it for everyone else. The odds on lottery tickets are very, very low.

Let’s keep our Friends of The FENG coming back again and again.

Regards, Matt

Knowing what’s important

I always find it interesting during 90-second announcements how nearly identical are the descriptions of “ideal jobs” when compared to the one a member has most recently left.

Since we are all financial folks, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. As history based individuals, it is hard to have any view of the world that isn’t colored by our past experience. Add to this the fact that we KNOW what we have been doing, but are not aware of ALL the possibilities out in the world. On the flipside, some members claim to be “all things to all people,” when clearly their background only lends itself to very narrow applications.

A job search needs to be viewed as a new beginning. At least the possibility needs to be there. Sure, apples don’t fall far from trees, and in any market it is certainly hard to change industries. Still, the attitude against change frequently starts with our own perceptions or misperceptions of what we can do and what we want to do.

At a very basic level, I suppose most of us would be willing to work for food. Perhaps that position is a little extreme, but where I am trying to take you is to CONSIDER all possibilities.

Since for the most part, we tend not to change jobs frequently BY CHOICE, much of the knowledge about how the world works and our role in it isn’t always clear.

The truth is that the exact details of any job description are usually pretty far off the mark from the REALITY of what we will have to do every day.

If you are considering a situation or being considered for something, a far better starting point that I might suggest is to instead focus on the people you are meeting at the company rather than the exact job description. I would, of course, try to be sure that I could accomplish the goals that have been generally discussed. But, the question I would ask myself over and over again is: Do I really want to work with these people?

If they are going to make you crazy, or if you think they are crazy, don’t kid yourself. There are people who Will Rogers never met. As a senior professional with years of seasoning, don’t ignore the blips on your radar screen that are screaming “danger,” “danger.”

These days, one tends to spend AT LEAST 1/3 of your life at work, and that is probably over half your waking hours.

Make sure it is with folks whose company you enjoy. No matter what drudgery the work represents, you can’t go far wrong if you like the people.

Regards, Matt

Let’s keep it a secret

Any more than someone would write “Please Broadcast Widely” at the top of their resume, putting “Confidential” is just as silly in many ways.

I’m sure that this is written up somewhere as the appropriate thing to do, so I am not faulting anyone who does it, but it really is unnecessary.

It is just as silly to not show your current employer and to put in something like “Major Manufacturer.”

It is unfortunate, but those doing search these days have even less time for mysteries than those who were doing it before the Great Recession set in. The volume of email and paperwork that crosses one’s desk today is beyond belief.

If you want to get yourself excluded from an opportunity, you are welcome to create doubts about your availability or willingness to be considered. That is your choice. I would just ask you to keep in mind that NO ONE is actually going to call you to get your permission to submit your credentials or out of curiosity contact you to find out the name of your current employer except under very rare circumstances.

If you have concerns about who you are sending your resume to, don’t. Most people in the search community will certainly not send your resume to your current employer. That would be extremely stupid, although I suppose stupid does happen once in a while. If you are in a free standing part of a larger company, be sure your parent company is mentioned so this is less likely to happen.

One issue I run into frequently is the ever popular “To present.” Are you there or not? Sometimes I really need to know, and I will call you. With all the downsizing that has taken place, it is entirely reasonable that even though you recently left a particular firm that you are eligible for rehire. We wouldn’t risk embarrassing you or us by not asking. And, we wouldn’t want you to miss out on an opportunity just because you were following some resume writing advice as common as this.

Where do you live? This is another very popular secret. If you think you will fool someone into moving you across the country, think again. They may actually interview you before they hire you and after beating you with a hose get you to “confess” that you are not local. The incredible thing about this secret is that I see resumes without a home address that are local for the assignments I am handling.

If you really are paranoid, and I have no problem if you are, an alternative to putting “Confidential” on your resume is to provide the names of firms to whom you DON’T want your name submitted in your cover note. Based on the description of the company and its location, you may think you know who it is, and based on that you may not want to be considered. This is something easy to handle, and most firms do read what you send them.

The truth is that many of you are submitting your resume to email addresses where you don’t know the search firm. If you are not employed, there is certainly little risk. If you are employed and if it became known that you were looking around you might lose your job, I wouldn’t respond to such postings. It could very well be your current employer.

Other than that, you need to think very long and hard about the impact any “requirement” you impose will do to your candidacy. Any impediment in a world of surplus will cause you to be cast aside from an opportunity that may be the job of your dreams.

I try to insist that recruiters and firms that post with us provide their FULL business card information. While it doesn’t always happen, before you “click and shoot,” you can look them up on the web and see what you can learn. Many firms have a client list that you can peruse.

If your company is one of their clients, they can’t submit your candidacy to any of their other clients anyway. It is one of the rules of search that you don’t poach from your clients. They also wouldn’t breach your confidentiality in any case. To “tell” on you wouldn’t serve their business interests.

Keeping secrets is an important part of what we do as financial folks. Just be careful and exercise good judgment on which ones you ask others to keep.

Regards, Matt

Putting your best foot forward

The development of a resume can be a long and involved process. There are so many ideas that others have to share with you, and each person with whom you speak has their own perspective about what is right and what is wrong.

Your resume is also in part an historical document charged with chronicling your career from formal education through most recent work assignment.

Some of the nonsense, misapplied these days, centers on the idea that only the most recent 10 years are of interest to the reader. True, but that doesn’t mean leave off everything earlier.

The formatting and shaping of a resume is so much easier today than it was back in 1991 when I faced my first search as a senior executive that I wonder why people don’t fool around with their resumes more now since it is so easy to “play.”

Format, reformat, write and rewrite need to be the process by which you live. Initially and really throughout the entire process, don’t allow yourself to be mentally constrained by the 2 pages, 12 point type, 1 inch margin requirement of a good resume. Editing down to something you can really use comes later. Let your mind play out the alternatives. Then through a process of editing work it down to the right size.

Of greatest importance is the need to identify your driving force and best stories about your career and to get them down on paper. I unfortunately see most resumes as being a lot LESS than the person who has written them.

Do you have significant international experience? Well, guess what? I don’t. So, if you do, you need to get it out there for all to see, because outsourcing overseas is very popular. Companies need folks who understand the environment off shore. (Truth be told, I barely leave Weston, Connecticut these days, although I have been off shore sailing.)

What is the most significant project you have been responsible for? What are the “war stories” you like to tell? What is hot right now?

If you have done any of them, you need to get them out there for all to see in readable and understandable form. This is no time to be modest. Saving things for the interview is a strategy designed to ensure that you won’t get any.

There is a mistaken belief that “advertising” promotes the use of products that no one wants. Perhaps true. However, good advertising provides the potential consumer knowledge about the BEST features of products they might want to buy and provides them with the information they need to consider its purchase.

Friends, you are the product that you want people to buy. You want others to understand your best features and how you can make their life perfect.

There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. This is what the game is all about.

Besides, they will have plenty of time to learn about your flaws AFTER they hire you.

Regards, Matt

A rose by any other name

Back in 1991 after I had been out of work for only a few weeks I sent out a mailing and somehow managed to get an interview with a guy who looked and talked like Frank Perdue.

After we shook hands, he offered me his business card and asked for mine. I told him I didn’t have one. He then asked me if I had a name. I said yes. He asked me if I had an address. I said yes. He asked me if I had a phone number. I said yes. Well, he said, you should have a business card. Fortunately for me, he moved on with the interview. But, lesson learned, I went out the next day and got business cards.

The problem I faced was what to put on it. Should I put only name and contact information or should I make up a title for myself? I decided on a title of Financial Consultant, and I put some other information about what I did. (Of course, the typesetter spelled Acquisitions incorrectly and I passed out quite a few cards before my friend Alan Ross pointed out this error to me at a networking meeting. Fortunately, it wasn’t my mistake, but rather the printer’s.)

The issue is what to put on business cards if you aren’t working or really consulting. The same problem exists if you have been out for a while. What filler, if any, should you use on your resume?

I would suggest you do what is true.

Having gone to networking meetings and gotten many business cards from those “pretending” to be consultants, I can tell you that it doesn’t take much to figure out that folks are unemployed. It could be that us financial types lack imagination or are just plain cheap, but MattBud@yahoo.com isn’t going to look very convincing on a card. If you haven’t got a website I would suggest you look silly “pretending” to be a serious consultant.

The one thing I can tell you is that you do need a business card. It is just plain inconvenient to write your information down every time you want someone you meet to be able to reach you. If you give your card to someone, they feel the need to give you theirs. Hard to start that process if you don’t have one.

I would also suggest that regardless of what is on your card, you should get them properly printed. The ones you can print yourself just look plain cheap. All we are talking about here is $50 and it should be within your budget.

It is also a good idea to spend the money on a business line for calls. By separating your business line from the family line, you can answer it “This is Matt Bud” and sound very professional. (Of course, you should probably use your own name when answering your phone.)

The advertising business which I was in for almost 10 years would suggest that you look as big as you can, but do it in a smart way. Just as we all know about “piercing the corporate veil,” figuring out who is and who isn’t real isn’t very difficult.

Regards, Matt

Hanging on to unpleasantness

I don’t know if you remember “Rain Man” with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, but there was one scene where Tom Cruise either hit or yelled at Dustin Hoffman and Dustin proceeded to write it down in a notebook he carried. He was very meticulous in noting the “offense” and the date and time.

In much the same way I hear stories all the time from our members about various things that have happened to them over the course of their job search. I’m sure the offending person has continued on their way without noting the damage that they have done, but the pain they have inflicted often remains as strongly felt as the day it happened.

It is easy to quote Joan Rivers and say “Oh, grow up!” But, for those who have experienced a traumatic event, it frequently isn’t that easy.

While I may not have any medical training, what I would point out is the practical aspect that focusing on these painful experiences takes energy away from useful and productive activities. The sooner you can write these events down in a notebook (physical or otherwise) and throw it away, the better off you are.

As I have been heard to say: “You can’t change the past.” Whatever has happened is over and done with, and the sooner you put it behind you the better. The life you have ahead of you is something you can affect in favorable ways if only you devote your full effort to it.

When people ask me how I get so much done every day, the answer I give is that I try not to worry about how many tasks I have to complete because that worry time is better spent getting things done. If you can get yourself to put aside the “petty annoyances” of life and focus on all of the good things that happen to you day in and day out, you will find you are also in a better mood.

You can fuss over the fact that some people haven’t called you back, or you can bask in the glow of the friendship evidenced by the introductions some REAL friends have made for you. If you are having a “slow” day, you are “allowed” to reflect on positive experiences from recent days.

The one thing I have learned is that conserving my energy in this manner enables me to get more done. There are only so many useful hours in any 24 hour period and you need to take advantage of each and every one. Some are for sleeping. Some are for recreation. Some are for working.

Don’t allocate ANY of those hours for perseverating on old injuries. In this way, they will soon fade from memory and reside in the dustbin of history, hopefully seldom revisited.

The power of positive thinking is well known. Remember, Tinker Bell’s fairy dust only works when you think good thoughts.

Regards, Matt

There’s honestly no excuse

There was a time, I suppose, when it was really hard to get back to people.

Let’s say someone sent you a smoke signal. I guess you would first have to build a fire, and a smoky one at that. If they sent you a message towards the end of the day, would you really have enough time to respond? And, if you waited until the morning, how would you know if they were still listening?

If someone sent you a papyrus scroll, not only would you feel obligated to respond, you probably would have to feed and house the messenger who brought it while you prepared your own papyrus scroll. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it probably was.

If we move to more modern times, the Pony Express was able to move messages from Missouri to California in a remarkable 10-13 days. I guess that left you waiting about a month for a response. The Pony Express was, of course, put out of business by the telegraph.

I’m going to skip over airmail, the fax machine and all the many messages we used to have to send by Federal Express and come to today when we have cell phones and email, and amazingly, both combined on one device. (Although I must admit I don’t write emails on my phone except under duress. I type 90 words a minute and it would be a colossal waste of my time.) Should I even mention text messages, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?

I was out to dinner this past weekend with an old friend and we were lamenting the high volume of calls and emails that go unreturned these days. Neither of us could come up with a reasonable explanation as to why this is the case in these modern times.

If you actually know who I am and I send you an email, is it really all that hard to hit reply and say you are too busy or not interested? It wasn’t all that long ago that you had to draft a letter, have your secretary type it, correct what she typed (perhaps a few times), sign it, and only then put it in an envelope. Hitting reply somehow seems so much easier.

Returning phone calls, I realize, is a little more difficult. It is my belief that every phone call takes about 15 minutes of your day. That means you can only do about 32 of them a day. Still, it is disappointing that many people these days don’t return calls, even to people they know. And, even when it might benefit them.

I have no explanation for any of these issues. All I can tell you is that I don’t plan to ever be a part of that society. All my calls and all my emails are returned. Some, perhaps, not on a timely basis, but they do get attended to eventually.

There was a line in the movie Forrest Gump: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Think of every message you get as a potential missed opportunity. Unless you actually speak to someone, you don’t know if by connecting with them, your life might have been somehow better.

We have so many power tools in today’s world. Enjoy the benefit. Don’t make any excuses to yourself or to others.

Let’s check back with each other in 10 years’ time and see who is in a better place.

Regards, Matt

!!

OUR SPONSORS:


Warning: Illegal string offset 'level' in /home/fengdev/public_html/includes/advertisers.php on line 117

Warning: Illegal string offset 'level' in /home/fengdev/public_html/includes/advertisers.php on line 117

Warning: Illegal string offset 'level' in /home/fengdev/public_html/includes/advertisers.php on line 117
cfo
Warning: Illegal string offset 'level' in /home/fengdev/public_html/includes/advertisers.php on line 117