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

Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

It’s always about people

One of the most vexing problems potentially facing those who are active in their search is the decision to accept a job offer you don’t really think is right for you.

The agonizing issue of turning down a job offer is only matched by the difficulty of getting one in the first place. Those who have senior level work experience don’t usually get a lot of job offers, and needing the money, they are hard to turn down.

Let me start with the idea that if you have 20 years or more of work experience you should have a very good sense of who you are willing to work for in the years to come. By this, I am not talking about companies, but rather about people.

There are people in this world that I would NEVER work for again. Nor would I work for their twin brothers (who are not genetically related). As someone who like most of you has “been there and done that,” I have over the years developed a good sense of people and their nature. This 6th sense is not something I would ever recommend you ignore.

When the deal gets close to closing is the time to slow down, if only for a minute, and consider the fact that you are going to be spending the better part of your waking hours with these people. If they are not as honest as you are, or if they have a management style that you simply cannot tolerate, I would suggest to you that no amount of money will make up for that.

While there isn’t necessarily another job just around the corner, I would also suggest to you that the impact of a wrong decision in a matter such as your career isn’t limited to you. A job that leaves you aggravated and grumpy is undoubtedly going to affect your significant other and your children (if you are so blessed). I suppose I shouldn’t forget to mention your friends. (If you still have any after working in an “ugly” situation.

What makes the decision even more important, if all the above issues weren’t enough, is the simple fact that after taking a job that “grinds you into the ground,” you will be in terrible shape mentally and perhaps physically as well, to start that next job search. It is also possible that your personal reputation could be affected as well, and you only get to lose that once.

You are a grown up and are at all times charged with making adult decisions. While you may not be right all the time, trust me, your instincts are not to be ignored. Go with your gut and never look back.

Work is about people and life is too short to work with the wrong ones.

Regards, Matt

The sounds of silence

If losing your job wasn’t bad enough, the reluctance of business associates at your former company, as well as those who serviced your company as attorneys, accountants or recruiters to return your phone calls can be particularly disheartening.

Actually, if you gave it some thought, you wouldn’t be all that shocked or surprised that they don’t.

Let’s understand that in most cases when you leave a company everyone involved is typically sworn to secrecy. The “story” as to why you have left may even have been agreed to in writing, the violation of which could very well be cause for legal action by you. Since secrecy is normally the case, is it any wonder that no one at the firm you served so well and for so many years will risk contacting you?

While many of your co-workers at the firm may be aware of who your enemies were, no one outside the firm can ever be sure. It is for this reason that all of those fine folks who you worked with so cordially will risk being seen as your “friend.” The truth is that if you were in their shoes, you wouldn’t have anything to do with yourself either.

Just as members of the firm you just left could be putting their jobs at risk were it known they were helping you, the “vendors” who service your firm are in the very same pickle.

The problem we face as financial folks is that most of the people we know are either working for the firm we just left or work with the firm we just left. We are typically assigned to be “Mr. Inside.” The role of social butterfly is assigned to the marketing and sales types, not us. We need to know what all the players are going to do in any given set of circumstances before they know themselves. As they say, this is why we get the big bucks.

The other aspect that is not well recognized is the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. As Chief Financial Officer, you held the purse strings. Everyone had better be nice to you or you might not sign their check, approve their budget or who knows what else. Don’t ever confuse their great courtesy with their being your friends. This is simply not the case. Excuse me for being a little harsh and perhaps overstated, but for the most part everyone has an axe to grind, and as a practical matter they have to watch out for your axe.

Given the hours financial folks work and their focus on inside the company relationships, it is no wonder that when they start a job search they turn to people who can’t or won’t help them.

And, it gets worse.

Recruiters honestly have no business purpose in spending time to get to know you unless they are currently working on a job that is a perfect fit for you or expect to be in the VERY near future. They get paid for finding someone who is a perfect fit, not for finding you a job.

Accountants and lawyers, unless they are close personal friends, would almost never risk introducing you to one of their clients. Why? They have everything to lose and very little to gain. If it is already a client of theirs, the odds are greater than zero that you could upset a delicate client relationship. Even if you get a job at some firm they would like to have as a client, the odds are low that they will win the business anyway. Every potential client is already “engaged” or “married” to someone else.

So what’s a person to do? I would suggest networking, networking and more networking starting with several dozen of your closest friends in The FENG, whether you know them yet or not. Yes, I know that on the surface this sounds silly. Why would strangers help you when people you know won’t? I don’t know the exact answer to this other than that they do.

I hope you will consider everyone in The FENG to be a friend or a potential friend. As they say: A friend in need is a friend indeed! (Or is it: A friend in need is no friend of mine? … Let’s go with the first thought.)

Your fellow members will help you because they are in the EXACT same situation that you are in. And, with 40,000+ members it shouldn’t take you long to find several dozen REAL friends. All you have to do is write and/or call and the odds are high you will have some true friends in short order.

That’s why we have The FENG. You can join, but you can’t quit. And, why would you want to? It is your safety net for the rest of your career. Help us take good care of it by going out of your way for fellow members.

If we can’t take good care of each other, no one else is going to.

Regards, Matt

The small town syndrome

I am always chatting with potential sponsors for The FENG and from time to time the character of each of our chapters comes up. They are, of course, all different.

Here in the Northeast I suppose there almost aren’t any boundaries. We get visitors to our chapter meeting from pretty far away and I know from talking to members attending our meeting in Westport that they often attend meetings in Westchester and New York City. Around here, the whole world is open to you from a job perspective as well. There are simply lots of possibilities if you are willing to commute by train or drive.

Not so in other parts of the country. Many of our local chapters, while not truly small towns, have limited job opportunities. For better or worse, many of them had their local economies driven by large local employers who have now been acquired or gone out of business.

If this is where you call home, the opportunities are by definition limited. If you are a member of one of these “small town” chapters and you are a master networker, you will find that the few jobs that are out in the market at any one time are usually known by everyone in your inner circle.

This is not all bad. The goal of The FENG is to ensure that any job known by one member is known by all to the degree that this is possible. Better a friend in The FENG gets the job than someone not part of our little society. We are sort of pledged to help one another and it is in our personal interest to do so. It may seem to run against your best interests to tell others about particular jobs, but as counter intuitive as it is, this simply isn’t true. The job is going to go to someone. Most likely all who will be considered are qualified for the job. But, the one who gets it will be the one who hits it off with the hiring authority and one never knows what will be the key to that decision. These are things that are just out of your control.

By eagerly sharing the “meager rations” that may exist at any point in time, you make more certain that when the one that really is right for you comes up, you will be told about it in time. As you know, timing is everything.

Job search in a geographically isolated large town is a finite problem. As Bruce Lynn points out to me frequently, there are only 1,000 firms in the Fortune 1,000. And, we have 40,000+ members. (Sounds like a shortage of proper opportunities to me. Doesn’t it to you?) Well, I guess it gets even worse at chapters outside of major metropolitan areas.

Home is where the heart is. I don’t recommend moving to anyone. (Unless of course there is a mob chasing you with hot tar and feathers.) So, all we can do is make the best of it and share all we have. No one can ask more.

Regards, Matt

Working the room

Bashfulness has never been my strong suit.

Nevertheless, when confronted with a room of strangers, it is never easy to figure out a logical way of connecting with appropriate folks. However, having the courage to do so is actually easier.

Let’s start with preparation. You need to have business cards. The truth is that they don’t have to be all that fancy, just your name, rank and serial number is sufficient, but you do have to have them. One of the grand gestures of business life is handing someone your business card and asking them for one of theirs. It is hard to come up with a good excuse not to hand you back a business card when you have just given them one of yours. If you can come up with a few pithy words to add to your card about what you do, it is always a good idea.

The next step is if you are attending a public meeting of some kind that has pre-registration, pre-register! I can’t begin to tell you how unprofessional you appear to be with one of those hand lettered name badges. In addition, only by pre-registering will you be on any attendance list that is distributed after the meeting. Try to get your “actual” name on your badge. I go by Matt and put that on my badge that I wear to meetings of The FENG. Other meeting organizers are apparently not as sensitive as I am to the “greeting to use” issue. Still, your given name is better than one of those hand lettered badges any day of the week.

Get to the meeting early, especially if they are serving food. No, it’s not because you want to get the best muffin or the hottest coffee. It is because you want to be finished eating before most people get there. In addition, if you are there early you have the chance to appear like part of the greeting committee. Everyone coming in assumes that you have been there a while. Besides, I have never found it easy to shake hands with a cup of coffee.

Hopefully you have been attending meetings of The FENG and you have been practicing your 90-second announcement so that it sounds natural. This is the time you need to pull out your 30-second announcement. My name is, followed by your primary areas of expertise and perhaps your most recent company. Remember back in college? The great opening line was: “What’s your major?” Same deal here. It honestly isn’t all that hard to ask someone: “So, what does your firm do?” Quickly followed by: “And, what do you do for the firm?” If that doesn’t get them talking, not much will. Traffic and the weather are ALWAYS good topics. Politics and religion NEVER are.

Learn to speak in “hushed tones” about the work you do. The information that you were fired as part of a downsizing or because of office politics is for another time. Even that the company went out of business or moved is of little interest to those around you. What they want to know is what, if anything, you can do for them or those they know.

I also suggest that if this is a regular meeting of some kind that you try to concentrate on a handful of people, rather than trying to meet everyone. First of all, it isn’t possible. Secondly, it can come off as rude. You just never know how important the person you are talking to really is. Some unassuming types may just own the company.

Most successful politicians have a talent for making the person they are conversing with feel as if they are the only person in the room. This is a good model for you. Get the other person talking about themselves and you will win every time.

Remember, strangers are only friends you haven’t had a chance to get to know.

Regards, Matt

Yeah, what do you want?

Sometimes the phone here are world headquarters gets a little quiet. Several minutes can go by and no one calls. It is enough to get you a little out of practice in answering the phone. So, from time to time I just pick up the phone (even though it isn’t ringing) and say hello to see if my energized greeting is still inside my head. As you know, practice makes perfect.

Being a professional phone person I can tell a lot about the person on the other end of the phone within the first few seconds of the call. I have found that these are the critical nanoseconds when you can easily influence the tone of the conversation to follow. If it sounds like you are in a downer of a mood, I just might want to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

A cheery phone answering style can make the difference between success and failure. If you aren’t in the habit of answering the phone this way, focus on what you are doing and think about whether “you would want to talk to you.”

Hey, everyone who calls isn’t trying to get you to switch your phone service or to buy some product you don’t want. Some of those who call might actually be considering you for a job.

Since you aren’t always at your desk, you might even want to call your answering machine and listen to what it sounds like. Does it invite a second try? Does it sound like someone YOU would want to talk to?

One of the guys I called years ago had a voice mail message that ended with “please be sure to leave a message because that will make it easier to get back to you.” It kind of brought a smile to my face every time I called him. You just had to leave a message and you just had to call him back.

No one in their right mind wants to talk to someone who is going to spoil their whole day. (Okay, maybe they won’t spoil your whole day, but they may put you off your game for an hour or so, and who can afford that?)

This same philosophy applies to the leaving of phone messages.

You should ASSUME that many folks you are trying to reach aren’t going to be there. So, you might want to have the message you need to leave worked out in your head BEFORE you call. Structuring the tone of your message and the details can be difficult. Again, try leaving a message on your own answering machine and listen to yourself. Would you call yourself back?

Keep in mind that old saw that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Your telephone style is often the first PERSONAL impression that others have of you. Be sure to make it a positive one. (They always figure you had a lot of help with your resume, so they discount that.)

Regards, Matt

Docking your boat

Let’s start with the fact that she weighs about 22,000+ lbs., and instead of being on dry land with wheels in firm contact with asphalt, it is more like driving a car on glare ice, only harder.

I have been heard to say that there are only two difficult times when you are sailing – leaving the dock and returning to the dock, with returning to the dock being the harder of the two. When you are out in the middle of Long Island Sound there are certainly times when the boat is hard to handle. Still, the prospect of “crunching a little fiberglass” – yours or someone else’s – like hanging in the morning, tends to focus the mind.

Pick a day when the wind is really strong, 20 knots or better, and go down to your local marina at end of day and watch the boats come in. It is always high entertainment.

The wise captain has a plan coming in. Sure, nature can play a few tricks on you from time to time, but thinking things through before you come in is essential. An unexpected gust or even a lull, can require a sudden change in tactics at the very last second, but it is all part of the plan. What makes it particularly challenging is that there are so many hidden or at least not so obvious factors to take into account. The wind is the most important one. One is always thinking, what is going to happen when I turn? Will the wind blow me into the dock, off the dock, or cause me to pick up speed? Slowing down to “bare steerage” is always a good idea. Less speed equals more time.

A perfect landing is always to be applauded. For the true “masters of the universe” it often appears that it was easy. But then, that is always the case when you have a lot of experience doing anything. It takes great effort and lots of practice to make it look easy. And in a way, if you have done it hundreds of times, it is easy. Well, not really. Mother nature has always got one more trick up her sleeve.

It is much the same with job search. As financial people, we tend not to do it often. One of the most under appreciated aspects of your search is what you are going to do when you “land.” Yes, it does sound like you will now be safe, but don’t count on it. You have found the harbor and been assigned a slip, but the most dangerous part of the whole process has now happened – bringing yourself into a new situation as an accepted part of a management team, no matter how dysfunctional, that has significant relationships with each other, but not with you.

Have you been so busy selling yourself to the new company that you haven’t been keeping your eyes and ears open? Why exactly do you think they have hired a “been there and done that” senior financial executive like you for what they have presented as an easy job? The truth is likely to be that they are in very deep tapioca and you have been hired to clean it up and make things you aren’t even really responsible for work properly.

While I know you will be up to the challenge if you don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security, it is all too easy to let those words “I’ve landed” let you think you can now sit back and enjoy yourself. The hard work has just begun. And, the fun part.

I am not suggesting that you turn down this job of your dreams. The thought I would ask you to keep in the front of your mind is what the challenges are going to be. Ask everyone you have the opportunity to interview with what their expectations are for your first 90 days. Take notes and give every appearance of being a good listener. This is their chance to “give you a piece of their mind.”

Winning the prize by getting that job offer is only the first part of bringing your boat safely into the dock. Make sure when you do get into that slip and have all your lines tied that you are in the right slip and secure until you next have to cast off.

Regards, Matt

Giving and taking advice

It is well understood that men don’t like unsolicited advice. It is for this reason we tend not to ask for directions at the gas station. It is a macho thing driving around for hours, lost beyond hope, and yet not stopping for help. (Thank goodness for GPS!)

One of our many fine traditions at the Westport Chapter is a little coaching on 90-second announcements and resumes that we do as we go around the table. Our goal is not to put anyone down, but rather to search for ways to improve the message being delivered. Having regularly attended our meeting in Westport every month since 1996, I have heard more than my fair share of these pitches.

Perhaps my ears are getting tired, but it is my belief that they are getting better. I rarely hear a really bad one anymore. Most are good, and most get better with the passing of each meeting. It is still true that practice makes perfect and anything you practice is bound to improve.

Although I consider myself to be a resident expert on all things job search, it is still not without some fear and trepidation that I venture forth with my “tough love” program of suggesting improvements here and there. You walk a fine line.

As all of you are out and about in the neighborhood, showing your resume around and trying out your 90-second pitch, the goal on your side is to keep an open mind with respect to the advice you get. While men don’t like getting unsolicited advice, they do enjoy giving it.

Even though you may be a regular “mister know it all,” try not to let others find out. I learned a long time ago that I don’t know everything, even about job search. This is why I try to ask a lot of questions, even ones I think I already know the answer to. I am often surprised myself and have been heard to comment: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

While I suggest you present an open mind to all the advice you get, I would also suggest you exercise your own common sense when it comes to implementing this advice. You honestly don’t have to take each and every suggestion that comes your way to heart and modify your 90-second announcement or your resume to suit the latest advice you have gotten. Take what makes sense to you and that which you are ready to accept as true and use that. The rest can always wait for another time.

Everyone should go through outplacement once. The skills you learn there are hard to acquire totally on your own. That said many outplacement counselors treat you as if you were an emergency room patient, completely incapable of making any decisions on your own.

Stop me if I am wrong, but all of you are adults. Not only that, you are functioning adults. There is a lot that these folks can teach you, but there is also a lot you can learn on your own by reading a few good books on the subject. After all, that IS how you got your education.

The skill of job search is one you need to acquire and hone for the rest of your working life. As you know, all jobs are temporary.

Ask lots of questions. Seek lots of advice. And, keep growing in your knowledge and experience.

Regards, Matt

Making a pest of yourself

As I am sure all of you know, one of your responsibilities as a member is, to the best of your ability, to only respond to job postings when you are reasonably qualified.

The greatest majority of job postings in our newsletter come your way through the good offices of your fellow members. If they are posted under my name, they are the result of our organization’s great reputation. (Your esteemed Chairman, in his role as official silver tongued devil of The FENG, may also have very recently extolled the significant benefits of becoming a “Friend of The FENG” upon these very fortunate members of the search community.

Just as “birds of a feather flock together,” recruiters tend to specialize. In a manner similar to our structure of chapters and special interest groups, some specialize by industry, some by geography and some by areas of expertise.

If you are a regular responder to postings in our newsletter, what you need to keep in mind is that you are going to keep running into the same recruiters over and over again. Every posting of theirs in our newsletter cannot possibly be a fit for you. Sure you could do the job. Of this I have no doubt. I also assume that you have carefully read the position description and are comfortable answering this question in the affirmative.

However, the real question is, are you going to have any kind of serious chance to be asked to interview? For example, if the posting says “local candidates only,” is your background (on paper) sufficiently overwhelming to make up for the fact that you live 3,000 miles away? If the job is for a Chief Financial Officer, have you been one? If it is for a Controller, do you have extensive Controllership experience? If you have for the past 10 years held titles like Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, chances are you will not be deemed appropriate fodder for a Controller job. Again, I’m sure you could do it, but are you going to be considered a reasonable candidate?

Just as the boy who cried wolf, you are not only damaging the reputation of The FENG by over responding, you are embarrassing yourself as well. If you think that in the blur of all the responses the recruiter in question won’t remember your name if he/she doesn’t pick you, think again.

Our goal as an organization is to keep those recruiters who specialize in senior financial folks coming back time and again. Your goal as a job applicant is to ensure that your credentials are taken seriously when you really are a fit.

It is bad enough when we burn bridges with people we know. Don’t burn bridges with strangers you would like to meet by making a pest of yourself.

Regards, Matt

The proper placement of obstacles

As we go around the table at our meeting here in Connecticut, I am always surprised by the time devoted in 90 second announcements to where folks won’t move and what kinds of jobs they won’t take.

I have always been of the philosophy that I will go anywhere to talk to anyone about anything.

Okay, fine, there are limits, but I try not to set them before hand and create reasons why others shouldn’t talk to me. By keeping an open mind as to what the “correct answer” might be I hope that I receive more information than I might otherwise.

Changing jobs can be a traumatic time. (Actually any change can be traumatic.) Because of the stress involved we can wrap ourselves in beliefs that work against our finding another job quickly.

In working through the process of deciding what you want to be when you grow up, step one (and step two) is to keep an open mind and CONSIDER all the possibilities. Not just the short term ones, but also the long term ones as well.

For example, if you would consider moving at some point, why not consider it at the beginning of your search? By restricting your search to only local opportunities, you are denying yourself the CONSIDERATION of what might actually be viable options. And, who knows, that job you interview for out of town may turn out to be with a company that is planning to move to your hometown. (Believe it or not, this did actually happen to a member of The FENG.)

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my own job search back in 1991 was not taking interviews for jobs that paid less than I had been making. The struggle to grow my salary to an obscene level had taken me a lot of time and energy and I was not going to allow any backsliding. Little did I know at the time that the job market was going to get even worse and I was going to be unemployed for almost 2 years. The irony is that I probably could have won those interviews and been made job offers and been money ahead, but I will never know.

Your goal during your quest for the perfect opportunity is to create options. You don’t actually have to take any of the jobs that are offered to you. If at the 11th hour (or even later), you can change your mind. Companies do this to candidates all the time, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you ultimately do the same thing back to them.

The key here is to create as many possibilities for your gainful employment as is reasonable.

Taking things off the table that you might reasonably consider much later in your search denies you the opportunity to say no and puts obstacles in your path that you may later regret.

Let the world think you will consider anything. What harm can it do?

Regards, Matt

The fall networking season

As you all know, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of the season we call summer.

So much for lazy days at the beach and relaxing vacations. It is time to get back to work. If you are “between assignments” it is also the unofficial beginning of the fall networking season.

Yes, I know that there will be football games on TV, but it is also the season of getting out and about, making new friends and hopefully finding a source of income. (We used to call them jobs, but I don’t want to get carried away with myself.)

While it is probably best that you didn’t call anyone on Tuesday and even maybe today, tomorrow is a good day to get started. As you plan out your fall and winter campaign, keep in mind that the dreaded Thanksgiving to Christmas season will be upon us soon enough. (It is only dreaded in the sense that it is another one of those times during the year when we “perceive” that networking contacts are unavailable.)

Your goal is to make hay when the sun shines! Have I ever mentioned our Member Directory Search feature? (Yes Matt, only about once or twice a week.) This amazing tool will allow you to find ALL of your old friends who worked at companies you worked at, or at worst case, people who know people you knew at those firms. Don’t get bashful on me. If they worked at a firm where you worked and you don’t remember their names, contact them anyway. It is a mathematical impossibility that they won’t know SOMEONE you remember from XYZ Corporation. (Is there really an XYZ Corporation? I guess this is a question we will have to solve another time.)

Have I ever mentioned that we have chapter meetings, most likely within a 20-30 minute drive from your home? Again, this is something I bring up a lot. You need to practice your 90-second announcement in front of a live audience, and a friendly audience is easy to find at your local chapter. If you stay home, your odds of making a networking connection are slim to none. If you get out of the house and go to one of our meetings, the odds of your meeting someone who we will designate as Santa Claus (the person who introduces you to a “work opportunity”) is exponentially higher than zero. (I don’t know, can a number be exponentially greater than zero? I guess this is another question we will have to solve at some other time.)

For those of you who have been waiting for the economy to improve, it now has. While there may not be full time CFO jobs waiting to be plucked from the vine like the proverbial low hanging fruit of legend, there ARE lots of companies out there with severe problems that you probably know how to solve.

If you have been out for a while, don’t be proud and don’t be extremely picky. One of the major lectures I give from time to time is that “It’s always better to be working.”

The opportunities you may find in the next piece of time may not provide you with 6 weeks of vacation time, a company car, a large office (corner preferred), or any of the other amenities you would like to become accustomed to, but they may provide you with the ability to practice your skill sets and earn a little money.

Remember, if finding a job were really easy, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

Regards, Matt

Doing the “friend thing”

Over the past few months I have gotten several notes from members commenting on how they responded to a posting in our newsletter even though they hadn’t seen it.

How did this miracle occur you might ask? One of their fellow members took the time to send it to them to ensure that they saw it. They didn’t think to themselves “Oh, he/she probably saw it.” They took a chance about being dismissed out of hand and MADE SURE that their friend had the chance to say aye or nay.

That’s what doing the “friend thing” is all about.

It is all very easy to sit around waiting for someone to call you so you can do them a favor.

While I hope that each of you, if called, will give of yourselves, the more important aspect of our little circle of friends is the doing of small good deeds when the opportunity presents itself even when you haven’t been specifically asked.

Back in 1995 when I was a new member of The FENG, I was picked up by a very special friend by the name of Ken Hall who in those early days would call me at work to tell me about job leads he had uncovered. Although I never had the chance to reciprocate, it somehow never stopped him from calling. Perhaps it was my sincere appreciation. More likely it was Ken’s willingness to do the “friend thing” without being asked.

The core value of The FENG is that we are a circle of friends. Everyone who is a current member was sponsored by someone who thought well enough of them to ask them to join. I like to think that as each of us moves down the road of life as members of our august body that we continue to pick up more friends along the way. That IS what life is all about.

By learning enough about each other’s backgrounds to honestly be helpful is a big step. When you see that perfect job that fits one of your friends, don’t ASSUME they have seen it. Give them a call AND send it to them by email. (That is after all why Al Gore invented this darn thing called the Internet you know!)

Our goal is and continues to be to create an organization that does more for its members than any other previously in existence. This happens not from our national organization per se, but rather from the individual acts of friendship performed by our members for each other.

As I have said before and I will surely say many times again: “Every day and in every way, it all begins with you!”

Regards, Matt

Networking and holiday weekends

Tonight’s editorial will be short, but hopefully important.

How can I say this? Holiday weekends are great networking events. Consider you will likely be with family and friends who actually care about you.

If you are currently between assignments, you will have to initiate the conversation. Everyone will assume that you are in a sensitive mood and they will be afraid to bring it up. So, you have to bring it up.

A great story to begin a positive conversation about your search is to let them know you are a member of the largest networking group of senior financial officers in the entire world! (There we go being modest again.)

Share a story with them about how a member you didn’t know reached out to welcome you. Or, tell them about how several members responded to your request for assistance.

If you have been a member for more than a week, you MUST have a story about something you can share. This will get the conversation going on a positive note.

Remember, everyone knows someone who can help you if you lead them down the primrose path. Use your 90-second announcement, modified of course. Don’t assume even your relatives and close friends actually understand what you do. A little background, a few hints on target companies and your 90 year old grandmother may even have someone she can introduce you to.

And by the way, be sure to relax and have a good time.

You deserve a break over the next few days. There will be no one to call anyway. Enjoy the time off and you can get a fresh start with your mind clear after Labor Day.

Regards, Matt

The truth (as retold)

I know that many of our members are faced with the unpleasant truth that they have been out of work for a significant period of time. Having been out of work myself for almost two years, I know that this unpleasant question of “Why have you been out so long?” gets asked. Like anything else in life, if you don’t prepare a “proper” answer, you will begin to stammer. (Or, sweat!)

The natural tendency of financial folks that you need to avoid is the very detailed answer. The good old “primarily due to, partially offset by” approach that we take to providing information is not only a bad idea, it is also unnecessary. As a defense attorney on TV would say, “Question asked, question answered.” A brief response is all that is needed, but it has to be framed correctly.

Another tip is that if you have indeed been out of work for a long period of time, you may want to bring it up so that you can respond with your answer and not have to make one up or modify your pat answer because the question was asked “incorrectly.”

As I have pointed out to members at meetings I have attended, if you had a cast on your arm or leg, you would “explain.” The same principle applies here. It is an obvious question and one you will have to answer, so why not answer it on YOUR terms? Trust me, no communication will take place with the person doing the interview until the delicate and obvious questions that they are afraid to bring up have been answered in some manner.

Although silly responses just naturally pop into my brain when silly questions are asked, you may not want to go with my flip “No one has offered me a job.” answer when asked why you have been out of work so long.

Instead, your assigned task is to package the truth in the best possible wrapping paper. (In advertising there is hype and then there is pure hype, but I digress.)

Key to the response you develop is a clear message that you have taken full responsibility for the strategy and progress of your search efforts. Any attempt to portray yourself as a victim of a downsizing, politics or the bad economy will only backfire on you. If you were on the other side of the desk making a hiring decision, you wouldn’t even think of extending an offer to someone who came across as beaten up.

In a very few colorful brush strokes you need to explain your plan, how you have implemented it and how you have measured your progress. (And PLEASE don’t add, “But, of course, it hasn’t worked yet.”) If it had worked you wouldn’t be sitting in that chair being interviewed.

By structuring your response in a positive light, you can use it as yet another example of how you think. This insight into your inner self needs to strengthen your candidacy just as all of the other “conversation” you have in an interview needs to do.

Remember, every story you tell is a story about you and how you are going to perform on the job. Don’t let the minor inconvenience of being unemployed make you feel or act as anything other than the senior financial executive that we all know you are.

If you weren’t a terrific person you wouldn’t have been admitted as a member of The FENG.

Keep that in mind any time you (or anyone else) question(s) your abilities.

Regards, Matt

Have you seen my glasses?

I don’t know about you, but I am always misplacing things. I work pretty hard at keeping my papers organized, but like anything else, papers can get lost. When they do, it makes me absolutely crazy. Even when I have another copy on my computer, I am obsessed to find the copy that is on my desk.

Finding information on documents I also find maddening.

Back in the early 70’s when I worked at B. Altman & Company as an Internal Auditor, I was just amazed at the inconsistencies in invoicing formats by the firms doing business in the same industry.

I know you won’t believe this, but sometimes I can be a little impulsive. Yeah, I know, how could a financial type like yours truly be like that? Perhaps a defective gene or something is at play here.

Anyway, I get these messages from all of you, and once in a while I will actually want to pick up the phone and call you. Then I realize that you haven’t signed your message. Or, if you have signed your message, your phone number isn’t there. Or, if your phone number is there and you have signed, I am pretty sure that you don’t actually go by Robert, just as I don’t go by Matthew.

So, I consider myself fortunate in having what I refer to as my “secret decoder ring.” Yes, no matter how hard you try, I know your name and I know how to find you. As they say, you can run, but you can’t hide. At least you can’t hide from your esteemed Chairman.

But, I wonder, how does the rest of the world get by? How do all of the “others” out there in the world “reach out and touch you?” If you haven’t written to them before or they can’t tell from your email address who the “heck” you are, what do they do?

I kind of feel like you are sitting at your desk hoping the world will contact you and you are looking for the glasses that are sitting right there on top of your head.

Now look, I could set up a website called “anyfinancialperson.org” and let it be known that anyone who would like to reach a seasoned member of our profession who has written to them could contact me and I would look them up so they could call you and not be embarrassed that they don’t know your name, or, we could do it the hard way and all of you could add an outgoing signature to your emails.

Yes, I know what you are thinking: Matt, I may have to call tech support to figure out how to do that. Or, I might have to ask someone. (Boy, I sure wouldn’t want you to do that! Think how embarrassing that could be!!)

In the interest of helping one another communicate and be communicated with I would ask all of you to do the following to make the world a better place. (Or, at least our part of the world.) Anytime you get a message from anyone in The FENG that doesn’t have a proper outgoing signature, I want you to write back and send him or her the following message:

“May I suggest that you add an outgoing signature to your email? You will find that it is MUCH easier for folks to get back to you and that your emails will be deleted less frequently if others know who is writing to them. It is VERY easy to add an outgoing signature, even on a smart phone. Call me if you need help doing it.”

Who knows, it might even make their messages look more professional! (I know we wouldn’t want that to happen because then they would be fierce competition for the few jobs that are out there in the marketplace.)

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

(This is my outgoing signature.)

Silver bullets and the tooth fairy

From time to time I get inquiries about the services of career consulting firms. (Please understand I am not talking about recognized and well respected outplacement firms such as Right Management and Lee Hecht Harrison, nor am I talking about a few individual Career Coaches who are known to me and to your fellow members.)

For those of us over the age of 40 (and that’s just about everyone in The FENG), the specter of potential unemployment or under employment from now until the end of time can be a scary one. I understand and accept that.

In addition, job search for those of us over 40 is more difficult. Not only are we over qualified for just about everything, but we have often been earning more money than many of the jobs for which we are applying. The proverbial puzzle about why we would be willing to “take a cut in pay” is a hard one to answer when we feel we are worth the extra money it would take to “make us whole,” but the truth is that if you aren’t working any job is an infinite percentage increase in pay. (You have to love math facts, don’t you?)

To sort of short cut some of the at length discussion that might appear in our newsletter about specific career coaching firms, I would suggest that the first thing to do is “Google” any firm you with whom you might consider doing business. If that doesn’t get you to staple your wallet closed, nothing much will.

The basic services offered by most career services are effectively offered for free as part of your membership in The FENG if you are willing to do some of the work yourself. For example, let’s start with writing your resume.

There are lots of good resume writing books out on the market. Pick one and read it cover to cover. Then, read it again. If you weren’t much of a writer before you began, you will be better when you finish. If you don’t know how to do bolding or indenting, you might want to learn. As an alternative, ask your significant other for help or one of your children should you have any within reach. This is no time to be bashful. Once you have a decent version of your resume, help is available for this important document by writing to ResumeReview@TheFENG.org. (If you consider yourself a writer and would like to volunteer, please drop a note with a copy of your resume to the same address and it will be forwarded on to Jim Saylor, the current Chair of the Resume Review Committee.) Help is also available at our many chapter meetings. All you have to do is “trick” one of your fellow members into reading your resume and ask them for comments. We are a totally helpful group of individuals and it will be hard to stop ourselves if you honor us with a request for our advice.

Presenting your credentials orally is called a 90-second announcement. Again, there are materials available in lots of places to get yours in good order, and there is a secret place where you can practice – it’s called your local chapter meeting. I personally feel this is a most important aspect of job search and I spend most of our meeting time here in Connecticut helping members improve. Any good presentation can be made even better with a little “off Broadway” show. Again, everyone at our meetings tries to help.

The final piece that most career coaches offer is access to a database of potential employers or networking contacts. If I haven’t mentioned it before (only 100’s of times), or if you have been asleep at the switch so to speak, The FENG has 40,000+ members all neatly arranged in a membership directory that is eminently searchable using our Member Directory Search feature. If you can’t find 50 qualified individuals who based on your background would welcome a chance to talk to you, please give me a call and I’ll give you some pointers about how to set your search criteria. We don’t allow mass mailing. Personal notes are the order of the day.

The truth is that most of us are specialized by reason of geography, industry experience or area of expertise that speaking with EVERYONE in The FENG wouldn’t make any sense anyway. A target company list would of course help. These are just firms that would make sense for your background, not places where you may actually get a job. If you contact people who have worked at firms you would target, you can’t help but have something in common. Conversation with like-minded individuals can’t help but lead to networking contacts.

Job search is something you need to learn to be gainfully employed until YOU want to stop. If you let someone do it for you, you will continue to be unprepared for the reality of today’s job market. Even the youngsters are changing jobs frequently.

So, unless you have a firm belief in the silver bullets and/or the tooth fairy, please accept the fact that most of the promises you hear about how for a measly $10,000-$25,000 or more of your hard earned dollars they will help you find a job, I hope you will run, not walk to the nearest exit and keep a firm grip on your wallet and/or checkbook.

Regards, Matt

You’re not from around here

The number of qualified candidates in major metropolitan areas is always strong. The problem faced by our members in “one horse towns” is dealing with the issue of relocation when they apply for opportunities.

Most of the folks I talk to who are not from major metropolitan areas feel they are at risk of being cast aside in the sorting process when they apply for jobs that aren’t close to their current location. Alas, it is probably true. It is a simple fact of life and only logical that companies would be less open to relocating folks if they have ample candidates nearby.

To some degree, members living in major metropolitan areas who are open to relocation are faced with the same problem, except that they do probably come across at least some local job offerings.

I have seen what I think are bad solutions such as leaving off your home address, but I have yet to see any really good answers. So, I would ask those of you with suggestions to have at it. These should be sent to Leads@TheFENG.org, not to me.

The only idea I would present to get you started is that in the process of presenting your credentials in your cover note you should make some mention of why the new location might make sense for you and your family.

When I have gotten responses to some of our consulting assignments for The FECG, I find myself more likely to consider engaging someone with family in the area, than someone who is going to be all by their lonesome. I like our consultants to be happy. (Happy people work harder.)

An additional consideration is an overwhelming need for your skill set. For example, some of our assignments are very specific, and in that case companies know they are going to have to pay travel and temporary living expenses.

I don’t think it is a good idea to offer to pay for your relocation in a cover letter. Even when the posting indicates “local candidates only,” it is always true that for the right person they might pay relocation. And don’t kid yourself, those costs can be steep. Why deny them the opportunity to pay for a part of it?

I look forward to reading some of your ideas.

Regards, Matt

Bestowing the gift of friendship

As all of you are out and about networking, I hope you are aware that one of your most important member responsibilities is to invite your new and old friends who are Senior Financial Officers to join The FENG.

While it is certainly true that The FENG dominates our space. And, it may even be true that just about everyone who is a Senior Financial Officer and has a pulse is already a member. (I know it’s hard to tell sometimes since us financial folks are so low key.) That said, I hope there are some “unturned rocks” or “low hanging fruit” out there where you can find appropriate candidates to recommend.

If networking is the gift that keeps on giving, extending the hand of friendship by offering to sponsor someone is one of those things that will strengthen your relationship with those you know and with those you want to know better by providing a common language and experience.

The FENG is NOT a job listing service. If it was, we would be called The Financial Executives Job Listing Service, and not The Financial Executives NETWORKING Group.

The FENG is a society of friends. It is not a fee for service. Everyone who is a member had at least one person think enough of them to invite them to join our august body. This is one of the many things that make us unique as an organization.

Most important, you don’t have to be unemployed or employed and looking for a job to join.

The greatest percentage of our members are currently employed. And, many of our members have been in their current job for many years. They may have joined when they lost their job, but they stay for the connectedness and spirit of friendship that being a part of our little society brings to their lives.

Anyone you meet who should be a member, ask if they already are. If they aren’t, you can play “Godfather” and extend your good offices by inviting them to join.

Not only is it one of those favors you can’t refuse, there is no reason that anyone would.

No one ever has enough friends. And, The FENG will never have enough members.

So ask. What have you got to lose?

Regards, Matt

Reasons for inaction

Labor Day is just around the corner. And, summer is just about over.

There are, unfortunately, all kinds of events and holidays during the calendar year that can cause us to delay addressing our job search, and I thought I would use the “idea” of these dates as a prime example of the inaction it can cause in all of us, myself included.

I think the fear that grips us is one of offending those we call. During the summer we can be calling networking contacts just before they are leaving on vacation or, just as bad, when they have just returned.

We can be calling when folks are trying to leave early for holiday events or, as noted above, when they are just returning and still buried.

The truth is that just as there is no good time to be unemployed, there is also no perfect time to write or call networking contacts. All times have good and bad possibilities. Are you calling too early in the day or too late in the day? Are you calling too early in the week or too late in the week?

In actual fact, you really can’t win. You are asking someone to TAKE time out of their day to help when there is no obvious reward in it for them. So, you just have to take your best shot and accept the fact that there is no totally convenient time.

Listening carefully if you are calling ANYONE is important. If they sound harried, they may well be. Asking “Is this a good time?” or “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” is an appropriate question. It may not be a good time. If it isn’t, you have created an opening to reschedule.

What I suggest is not a good approach is putting off until basically NEVER making the contact.

They have a job to do, but so do you.

Of all of the possible ways to find gainful employment, contacting other human beings has over time proven to be the best approach. Government studies have proven this time and time again. (I guess I should tell you that this is a family joke I always use when I have no proof. I’m afraid you will have to trust me on this one.)

The perfect time to call or write is RIGHT NOW. So have at it. Get to it. And, don’t put it off until some mystical “perfect” time. It doesn’t exist.

Regards, Matt

A clear piece of communication

It isn’t often that I get a great resume, but I got one today.

I guess I wasn’t surprised given who sent it to me. Although it was three pages, it was still crisp and concise. Perhaps it could have been shaved down to two pages, but it really didn’t bother me that it was a little longer than the “standard.”

Here are a few of the things that made it near perfection:

1. It had a well written summary. There were no fluff words like “dynamic” or “born leader,” only prose that served to highlight the accomplishments that followed.

2. The names of all of the firms at which he worked appeared at the beginning of each section in bold, with the years of service at the right hand margin, also in bold. It was therefore easy to see his career track.

3. There was a short “definition” on the line below each firm, even for firms that are well known. (Hey, even if I had been living under a rock or something I would now know what they did!)

4. His titles appeared in bold. I didn’t have to hunt for them.

5. The accomplishments or bullet points were well written and fewer in number as you got further back into his work history, until for his first jobs where there were none.

6. His education included his years of graduation so I didn’t have to guess on that either. It was interesting to see that he finished his MBA immediately after completing his BA. (If you are going to list your first job dates, you may as well put in your graduation dates. It is easy enough to figure out how old you are from your first job.)

7. The type font he selected was easy to read and he didn’t go to 8-point type to try to squeeze in just a few more accomplishments. I guess he used a sharp electronic pencil to great advantage.

The moral is that it really isn’t impossible to put your work history in good order after all. All it requires is taking the time to write and rewrite this most important document.

The framework approach to writing your resume is the one I recommend. If you initially ignore the number of pages you have in your resume, you can build it on a frame and slowly and carefully edit and delete all the unnecessary information.

Try it with your own resume and see if it helps.

Regards, Matt

Junk mail

I don’t know what you consider to be junk mail. I view anything I don’t want to get in the mail (including bills) to be unwanted. (Can’t they send my bills to YOU for payment? Okay, you probably wouldn’t pay them and then my credit would be ruined. I guess I’ll have to come up with another plan.)

Anyway, the same principle applies to email. We all get a lot of spam these days. It appears that asking to be taken off their list only serves to confirm your address, and you get even more junk email. Now if only I got offers for things I could actually use, or offers for stuff that REALLY was free. (Fine, this probably won’t happen in my lifetime.)

The problem is people with whom we really don’t want to have an exchange of communication are approaching us all, and, more and more often. It has in a very real sense become easier and easier to communicate. Therefore the perceived value of each communication has declined.

This is the fact of life that all of us need to keep in mind as we are out and about networking. The last thing we want to be doing is trying to communicate with individuals who don’t want to hear from us. When we do this we are increasing the possibility that those we are contacting will consider us junk mail. And, if we take this to a “what is best for the community” perspective, we may in fact be ruining it for others.

This principle is, of course, a corollary of our now famous “Qualified members only” approach to job search.

Qualifying networking contacts is ALWAYS difficult. The reason is that you just never know who can help. Still, the burden is on you, the initiator of the process, to at least TRY to be selective.

We try to make networking within The FENG as simple as possible through the rather detailed membership directory we provide, and the special interest groups we have created. If your directory listing is out of date, or if you should be included in a special interest group but have not signed up, how exactly do you EXPECT to receive anything other than junk mail from your fellow members? That is, if you hear from them at all. (Perhaps you’re not getting enough email?)

The beginning of an effective networking campaign is “finding your mirrors.” This battle cry promoted by our very own Bob Walker, Co-Chair of the Dallas chapter, is an approach upon which you can hang your hat.

Those who have been through what you have been through in your career are MORE likely to be willing to hear from you. You have stories to share. You have individuals you both know. And, you have QUALIFIED networking contacts outside of The FENG that are appropriate for sharing. (Get those baseball cards out, and let the swap meet begin!)

If we each contribute to the process of reducing junk mail and unwanted phone calls, perhaps someday in the not too distant future the world may indeed become a better place.

As I have said before: Every day and in every way, it all starts with you.

Regards, Matt

Reading the tea leave

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard not to have my eyes glass over while reading job descriptions. It seems to me that they often put the most important information last, buried somewhere or disguised.

I am, of course, referring to the EXACT city location of the job in question. Hey, they don’t want to pay for relocation and they don’t want to get too many resumes, but then they go and use phrases like “Northeast.” It is hard to make any sense of it all.

Since I can’t post “Matt’s approach to writing position descriptions” on the Search Professionals website (because there isn’t one), we are probably stuck with this problem for the foreseeable future. Trust me, I do try to educate all recruiters who come my way, and I hope you do too. (Location, location, location!)

Then we come to the inevitable checklist. How seriously are we supposed to take the requirements? My pet peeve is the good old “CPA required.” If you have one, this probably doesn’t bother you. But, I have to ask, doesn’t 20+ plus years of work experience make up for this? (Okay, maybe not.)

There are positions where having a CPA is helpful. In the case of Corporate Controller type jobs, I do think this could be important, but more often than not, it is just part of someone’s checklist. It is actually a “nice to have,” but it has somehow graduated to an exalted status of a “must have.” It is really only there to have a basis for eliminating your resume.

The approach I suggest to all of these lists is an intelligent judgment call on your part. If the lead is very clear about location and you wouldn’t move there on a bet, don’t respond. If it is vague, they have no one to blame but themselves, so take a flyer on it.

The only caveat I will add is that a distinction needs to be made here as to the source of the lead.

If it is one of your esteemed fellow members who has provided this golden opportunity on a “please use my name” basis, I would ask you to be brutally honest with yourself as to your fit. Read the list several times and consider not responding if you fall into the “wish and a hope” category.

If it is a blind Internet lead, I wouldn’t go bleary eyed trying to ferret out the true meaning of a vague position description.

Save your eyes for other things, like reading a good book or watching TV. (A little advice from your favorite Mr. Magoo.)

Regards, Matt

Retained versus contingency

There is a great deal of fuss made out in “the world” about the difference between retained and contingency recruiters. If you want a full discussion about their differences and differing motivations, a very good source is “Rites of Passage” by John Lucht. The link to RiteSite.com appears every day in our newsletter if you would like to order this book.

All recruiters handle jobs in which you might have interest. And, when they appear in our newsletter under someone’s name, you should give it your best shot by writing a proper cover letter and perhaps even customizing your resume to a degree.

You see, when you are responding to a job lead handled by either group, you are in a competition. Unlike networking where you may be the only candidate, this opportunity has been exposed to a wide audience (all 40,000+ of your fellow members of The FENG) as well as most likely lots and lots of others. Trust me, if you aren’t a reasonable fit, your odds are low. Furthermore, in keeping with our “qualified members only” approach, I hope you will hesitate for a few seconds before you click and shoot your resume off. Remember, the only way we get them coming back is by holding back.

Contingency recruiters deal in volumes. They have to because they are often competing with other recruiters to get THEIR candidates in front of the client first. Our newsletter works for them because all of you diligently read the newsletter and do your best to respond quickly.

Retained recruiters have a typically different approach to filling opportunities. They get paid to find the right person and aren’t allowed to give up until they do. Contingency recruiters will give it their best shot, but since “time is money” the value of continuing a futile search limits how long they will keep at it. However, both have an incentive to get their work completed as quickly as possible.

What is not so obvious is the kinds of searches both groups tend to get. This is where money comes into play. Retained recruiters typically charge more and their fees are guaranteed. Contingency recruiters work for free unless they find someone. Guess which group gets the harder searches? If you guessed the retained folks, you guessed right.

The retained search approach is to do lots and lots of research on the industry, find the key players and then convince them to leave their secure jobs at good companies in nice locations for other companies who may be second tier or in less desirable locations. If it was an easy search, why would anyone pay more? The answer is they tend to only get the tough ones.

My point here is primarily that you can’t win. By that I mean, asking whether a firm is retained or contingency impacts you as a job seeker differently than you might imagine. While there is some snob appeal to being sought after by a retained firm, it simply doesn’t benefit you as much as you think.

They are being paid to find the proverbial left handed monkey wrench turner. Their clients are not likely to settle just for someone who can “do the job.” They want someone who fits a broad range of very specific criteria, or else!

As an organization we are at times plagued by what I call the “Rice Krispies Treats problem.” Simply put, it is just too easy to post with us and get a talented slate of highly qualified candidates without breaking a sweat.

What is not well accepted even within the search community is that it isn’t the search that they really get paid for, but rather helping their clients select the right person. That is actually why they get “the big bucks.”

We can help both groups get their searches done more quickly. Even if it doesn’t end up being one of our members, by posting with us they get the benefit of our knowledge, experience and referrals.

This is what WE sell. So, the next time you get a hard time from someone in the search business about posting in our newsletter, sell the idea that we can shorten their timelines significantly, even if they don’t want one of our “been there and done that” members.

As far as I know, the rule that “time is money” hasn’t been amended.

Regards, Matt

Life is a journey

I have often noted to my friends who aren’t into boating that the difference between a power boater and a sail boater is that power boaters usually use their boats to go somewhere, whereas sail boaters are already there once they step onto their boat.

In our goal driven, management by objectives, over achiever world, the difference in philosophy between someone who has an obsessive desire to reach a goal versus someone who lives for the journey is considerable.

The truth is, of course, one can do both as long as you think about both.

To me the purpose of sailing is to enjoy good times and adventures with my spouse, members of our family and our many friends. Whether it is a windy spring or fall day, a day with the possibility of showers, or a hot sticky windless afternoon on Long Island Sound, the conversation flows and the experience itself is what this is all about. Except for vacations (and even on vacation), the travel goal for the day is under constant revision. At 5 knots of less, you really have no choice.

I have observed the same life pattern with those who have tennis partners or golf buddies, or any number of other activities one does with others. If you dig below the surface, you find that the game itself, although initially the reason everyone got together, becomes less important as the years roll by. The exact score for the day, the impossible shots you returned (without falling down), the chip into the cup from the sand trap, all make for good conversation. But it is the doing of the activity with others that makes it all worthwhile.

Another life observation I would make is that sometimes you don’t see these folks except during your specific activity and/or at the “annual dinner” or lunch. Still, the passing of the years, watching each other age, is all part and parcel of “the game.”

The journey that binds us all together here in The FENG is our careers. As senior financial professionals, a lot of water has already passed under our bridges. Still, I wonder, have we taken enough time to focus on the journey? Have we taken the time to make a few new friends each year?

Well, it is time to focus on the journey. And, there are so many ways to do it as a member of The FENG.

Let’s start with those vitally important chapter meetings. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just click with someone. I am not always sure what I like about them, I just do. I welcome their calls and call them from time to time to see how they are doing. (Want to meet for a cup of coffee and go over your resume? Want to discuss your latest interview and whine and complain about how they didn’t get back to you. No problem, you’re a friend and I am happy to hear you out when you can’t discuss the issues of the day with anyone else.)

We also have Special Interest Groups. Have you explored yours? Sometimes it is hard to actually meet some of the friends you might meet through this vehicle, but then again, you never know where life may take you. Even if you don’t meet face to face, you can easily keep in touch by phone or email. These are folks who have a specific connection to you and you should have a lot in common. Give a few of your SIG buddies a call and try to connect. A warm handshake over the phone isn’t as cold as you might imagine.

The FENG is designed to be a part of your career journey. Enjoy the relationships and true friendships that are possible being a part of our unique circle of friends.

Who knows, it may even take you to a destination. (Although, as I hope you know, all jobs are temporary. This is a quote from Russ Potter, former Chair of one of our New Jersey chapters.)

Regards, Matt

Spilling your guts

With all of the flap these days about integrity, I am concerned that members of The FENG, being honest financial types, will again fall into their natural propensity to tell too much about things that are no one’s business.

I hope that I can trust you to blather on about all of your technical prowess and your many achievements. I also hope that you will explain at length about all matters that will enhance your candidacy for the position in question.

However, when it comes to certain subjects about your past or future, it is perhaps best to “dummy up,” or at worst to say things that will be heard as direct answers. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you lie. Don’t ever do that. All I am saying is that less than complete information, as long as it can’t be construed at some future date as a lie, may be the best approach you can take.

Inquiring minds may want to know, but they may not want to know as much information as you think.

For example, the ever popular “Why did you leave your last job?” does not require a 15 minute explanation. 2-3 minutes is sufficient. Yes, I know the intricacies of the politics of who was put on the “reduction in force” list and that you were 249 on a list of 250 is all very important, but a simple “The company was losing money and decided to reduce staff.” will more than cover the question. Interviewers have a natural curiosity about this issue, and perhaps rightly so, but they will be satisfied with a lot less than you think. The old lawyers, “Question asked, question answered.” is applicable here.

There may also be difficult questions asked about your willingness to relocate or to work long hours.

In the case of relocation, it may be your plan to work for a few months and see if the job is secure enough to move the family. (I know you don’t want to tell them that reason!) Or, you may just be planning to commute forever. As long as you are committed to being at work when you are needed, to a degree, it is none of their business how you manage it. You may have to do what you have to do to earn a living. I respect that and so will they. However, delving into how you are going to perform this magic is probably more information than they want or need. A simple “I understand what I am going to have to do” or other similar words may provide the answer to this obvious question, but there is probably no need to go further.

It can also make sense when asked a question that on the surface appears delicate to ask for more information. The classic joke about the 5 year old who asked where she came from is appropriate here. After a simple biological explanation by her father, her confused response was: “I don’t understand. Becky down the street came from Chicago. Where did I come from?” should make the point. Make sure you know not only the question, but why it is being asked.

At our advanced ages, health questions can also come up from time to time. These are particularly hard to speak to and deal with, and I can only offer up that you shouldn’t provide more information than needed. If you are expecting to collapse on the job 2 weeks after starting, you should probably feel obligated to let them know. Of course, you will never get the job, but then, you probably shouldn’t take it either.

On the other hand, if you have a “condition” that is not serious, or that you are dealing with medically that has an appropriate prognosis, waiting until all is settled is going to ensure that you never work again, and we can’t have that. So much is treatable and curable today that unless you have to pass a physical or you fear not being able to perform your job responsibilities, you should not feel obligated to bring it up. Perhaps after an offer has been made, but even then, you might want to operate on a “need to know” basis.

For example, I have a tendency to fall asleep in meetings, but I would never tell anyone. The reason is that when asked a question that breaks me out of my delightful slumber, I can always come up with a quip that brings down the house. (In the early days of PowerPoint when all the lights had to be out, I fell soundly asleep during a presentation. When asked by the presenter if he was boring me I said without missing a beat: “No Howard, please drone on.”)

Regards, Matt

Read any good books?

One of the little recognized facts about interviewing is that the most important part of what you are trying to accomplish in an interview is to make a personal connection with the interviewer.

With all of the executive talent floating around these days, starting with the 40,000+ members of The FENG, your ability to distinguish yourself in those precious minutes you have with a decision maker is what is key.

I would suggest to you that we tend to be nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel types of people. When we have work, we work. Sometimes for years. We tend not to network during those times, or even to read a few good books. We are just too busy. And, if we read a book, it is a leisure related book, perhaps a mystery.

When you are looking for a job, the best thing you can do is to check the popular reading list for a business related book that you can consume and enjoy. A simple check of your local bookstore’s business books section (if it is still open) or online will bring to your attention a variety of titles and subjects.

What you are looking for is something that is widely read but that also will interest you. What you want to pull out of it are phrases and ideas that you can sprinkle into your conversation in an interview so you will sound current.

Most senior managers read management books to keep up to date on the latest ideas and trends. With any luck they will have selected the same book that you have and you can in this way create a bond of sorts that will “seal the deal.” Hey, you have the skills or you wouldn’t be in there interviewing. Now all you need to demonstrate is that you are the kind of person with whom they are prepared to spend endless hours.

At the worst, you will find that reading a popular management book will put many of the things you have been doing the past several years into a framework that you can use to present your credentials in a more understandable form.

“Doing a little reading on your own” is one of the real win-wins in this world. It sharpens your thinking and makes you a more interesting person. For a financial type, that can’t be bad!

Regards, Matt

Give yourself a break

Back in 1991-1992 I was unemployed. Yes, two full years.

Honestly, cash was starting to get a little tight. But more importantly, although I had a lot of free time, it was hard to enjoy it.

Money, and the prospect of more, tends to focus the “let’s have some fun” part of our brains, whereas the “I don’t know if I will survive this” mindset prevents us from really enjoying our “time off” to any great degree.

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

Chances are those last few months in that Heck Hole you refer to as your most recent job were more than a little stressful. And if you think this stress was only on you, you are wrong. This stress affected the entire family. (What, you weren’t grumpy?)

Although, like hanging in the morning, job search tends to focus the mind, the mind and body needs a little relaxation.

I’m here to tell you that if I survived my long job search and the job from Heck that followed, followed by a job I was over qualified for, you can too. And, probably in better form than I did because you have this great organization called The FENG to prop you up when you are down and kick you in the “you know what” when you need it too.

But, back to you. Give yourself a break now and then. Get into a regular exercise program. Do a little reading, both business related and pleasure. And, most importantly, spend some quality time with those who really care about you.

Trust me, keeping your nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel 16 hours a day, 7 days a week will not actually shorten your job search.

What you need is to have a positive mental attitude at all times. That is the ultimate winning sales pitch when you get in front of your next “customer.” (Notice, I said winning, not whining.)

Regards, Matt

Rejected out of hand

If there is one thing that is certain about us financial types it is that we always know the answer.

Ask us a question and it isn’t long before we are well into the “primarily due to’s and partially offset by’s.” Yet, this major strength of ours and important skill set is an impediment to success at job search.

Our perception of the world, much like other human beings, is colored by our experiences, and in our world job change typically hasn’t happened as frequently as it has for many other categories of workers. When I was in my mid-40’s, an art director friend of mine told me that he had already worked at 25 different advertising agencies, some of them twice.

Anything you do a lot of, you get better at. And, although he had to develop a quick sense of jobs that were right and wrong for him so that he was always working, we would probably argue that he lacked a certain amount of judgment. We, however, would be wrong. What he was telling me was the REALITY of his career choice.

For those of us in the financial officer mold, the way we go about our screening process for opportunities out in the world typically needs a major adjustment. Many of the sources of job opportunities simply don’t work well, even in good times, for those of us later in our careers.

A few examples may help. First, back in the old days, introducing yourself to recruiters used to be a somewhat valid approach. Recruiters were busy, and although they aren’t interested in you unless they are working on something close to your background, they just might have something during the time period of your search. At this point in your career, don’t expect a significant return from a mailing to these folks.

Large firms, as incredible as it might appear on first examination, don’t hire senior executives of any stripe. Large firms, especially with the flattened organizational structures more common today, grow their own and promote from within. To do otherwise would cause the best of the dozen candidates at the next level down to leave.

Another misnomer, but for different reasons, are lawyers and accountants. Urban legend would have them as great sources of job hunting opportunities. The truth is sadly different. They will, of course, APPEAR to be helpful, but with client relationships at stake they are more often than not reluctant to help you with introductions to THEIR clients. You can’t blame them really. The best they can hope is that you won’t mess things up.

But, back to the major issue, which is keeping an open mind to those things that may represent what I will call “work opportunities.” The exact meaning of a job these days and its duration is harder to define than in years past. And, if large firms don’t hire senior level people, that only leaves small firms where the job responsibilities and structures so common from our large company experience can make them seem alien and unacceptable.

While they may appear unstructured and not to our liking, that is exactly why they need us.

You will find that most of the world actually operates quite well without rules and organization. Hard to believe, but few places actually exist like those we have come from. As I used to say to those I was introducing to the advertising business (where I was a Chief Financial Officer for 9 years), this is going to be a test of your tolerance for ambiguity.

So, before you reject that next item that comes onto your radar screen searching for you, take a deep breath and think again before you say no. It just might be the opportunity of a lifetime, and you will never know unless you check it out.

Regards, Matt

By way of explanation

Whenever I sit and review candidates for assignments being handled through The FECG, I can’t help but be disappointed by many of the cover letters we get.

I know that those who are applying feel they are qualified for the job in question, and being a financial guy myself, I know you could do the job. (Hey, us financial types can do anything!)

Although if you have the time, it can often make sense to modify your resume for a specific opportunity, more often than not there just isn’t time. So, what to do?

Well, your cover letter is a perfect place to provide explanations for a variety of obvious questions that inquiring minds need answered.

Let’s start with that ever popular “local candidates only.” It is there for a good reason. Not only is relocating an out of town candidate expensive, getting to meet them takes a lot of extra time and effort. Time zones and travel schedules make the whole effort exhausting for all involved. And, if the job is in a major metropolitan area, why exactly would any company want to talk to those not from the neighborhood? But this editorial is about you. If you are the out of town candidate, why does this remote location make sense to you? Did you go to college there? Does your spouse have family there? Have you been dreaming of moving there? Take a few sentences and let us know.

After “location, location, location,” the next issue is money. Although not all postings in our newsletter have compensation, the ones from The FECG always do. If the targeted compensation is low and you have titles like “Executive Vice President,” in addition to indicating your salary requirements, you need to provide some believable explanation as to why this paltry salary makes sense. You do have to tread lightly on this issue being careful not to undersell yourself, but if you want to be considered, you have to be credible.

If we accept that industry experience is important, and I can assure you that it is important to most of our clients, the next explanation needed is why buggy whip manufacturing is just like manufacturing computer chips. I’m just a simple Advertising and Publishing guy and I don’t always know how to draw an appropriate analogy. I do the best I can, but “a little help from my friends” wouldn’t hurt.

Dare I mention outgoing signatures again? If our client wishes to speak with you, I am prepared to track you down to the ends of the earth. I have been known to call all available phone numbers and send you a text message until I reach you. (I have been called totally relentless and for good reason.) If your resume doesn’t list all possible points of contact and you have no outgoing signature with this information, on assignments being handled by The FECG, you are lucky that I also have that incredible power tool of The FENG membership directory. I have no idea how others are able to track you down. My guess is that they can’t and/or don’t. They give it the good old college try, but then give up.

By and large, your resume stands alone. If your resume provides some interest, but leaves us with some doubts, we then turn to your cover letter.

Don’t leave us with inadequate information as to why you applied. Help us and others help you “by way of explanation.”

Regards, Matt

Meeting the RIGHT folks

Being successful at getting meetings with potential decision makers who don’t have a job right now, but who might make one for you after they meet you, is why networking is the most successful approach to finding a job. Frankly, this is how most business is really done at our level.

If you have only gotten interviews through ads or recruiters you are probably wondering how do those lucky dudes do it? How do they manage to get in front of the right people and sweet talk them into offering them a job?

Keep in mind that you are not a pea in a pod. You are a unique accumulation of talents acquired over a number of years. If you focus your energy at places where these talents can be applied effectively, potential decision makers should want to see you and should have the creative insight to offer you the job of your dreams. The first part of the challenge is to get in front of the right buyers.

If you contrast this part of your search to the daily barrage of job listings in the evening newsletter and all the other sources, it clearly takes a different approach to be successful.

Step one is do your research about industries and firms where your skills can best be applied. Ignore for the moment whether or not jobs are open at any of these firms. If folks compatible with your kind of thinking manage the company and if your background will make sense to these firms, you are most of the way there.

With your membership directory for The FENG at your fingertips through our Member Directory Search feature, and your target company list in hand, finding someone who knows someone shouldn’t be impossible.

Step two in getting an appointment is developing a softer approach. You are going to be in front of someone who will understand your background, and based on what you know about the company, your background will make sense to them. Trust me, they will be willing to see you because you fit.

Let me put this approach into a slightly better focus for you.

Compare the idea of buying a house with the idea of renting it for a few days. Buying a house requires a lot of detailed research. It is a really big commitment. And, it has a lot of financial downside. What if you don’t like the house? Will you be able to sell it? If you rush, you will regret this decision, BIG TIME.

On the other hand, if you are just renting this house by the week, heck, if you don’t like it after a few days you can just walk away. Even if you leave a few days rent on the table, no big deal.

The key here is to getting an appointment is to make the potential decision a lot less stressful. If you are seeking an appointment about a full time job, that is an all or nothing purchase decision comparable to buying a house. If you are there, however, only to present your credentials to a potential decision maker for his or her help in applying your skills, that is a much softer decision.

If all you have been doing is trying to get appointments by presenting yourself as a buy decision, you can see why you are still not connecting. It is just too stressful to talk to someone who is only coming by to talk about full time jobs.

We all have heard various pretenses that have been used. It may seem dishonest to say that you want to come by for a few minutes to share some thoughts on their industry or firm, but it is this kind of approach that softens and removes much of the stress in setting up an appointment. The person knows you are actually coming by looking for a job, but he is always prepared to accept your explanation. It is a game of pretend in which we all engage and you should allow yourself to become comfortable with it.

What I am suggesting is find ways to soften your approach when asking for an appointment.

Presenting someone with a buy decision of the magnitude of hiring someone at our level is stressful. If you are just a little less than a full purchase decision, you will find your buyers more open to seeing you.

Here is another opportunity to share our knowledge with each other. If you have been successful in getting discussion appointments, what do you use as the explanation?

Please write to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will publish your thoughts in the newsletter. As always, if you don’t want your name used, we will certainly try to respect that.

Regards, Matt

That strange device with the numbers

Although I must admit that I no longer use #2 pencils, I am still greatly addicted to using that ancient device called a phone.

If you’re not sure what that is, it has a keyboard that looks a lot like a 10 key pad, but the number 1 is in the upper left hand corner of the 12 key array instead of the lower left hand corner (where it should be), like on an adding machine. (If anyone knows why it’s reversed, please write to me. I’m dying to know.) Some of you may be so old (like me) to also know phones that had rotary dials. (This is where the phrase “dial him up” comes from.)

In today’s world the phone most people use is portable and it is called a cell phone. When it is a “smart phone,” (which almost all of them are these days) this amazing device not only makes phone calls, but it has email and “apps” that appear to me to be the primary use people make of their device. They even have cameras that are pretty amazing, but I digress.

What I find is happening is that people today believe they are communicating more, but are actually communicating less. And, in many very important ways.

While I am a big fan of email, and I send and receive close to 100 per day, it is no substitute for picking up the phone and having an EXCHANGE with another human being. What is missing from the new forms of communication is the instantaneous HUMAN exchange where two people share their thoughts interactively and with easily detected feelings. Perhaps texting, in a sense, can perform some of the back and forth exchanging of information common in a telephone call, but there is no real voice where you can pick up tonality.

Speech, I am often heard to say, is the slowest form of communication. (For the record, smoke signals are slower, but no one uses them anymore.) Please don’t get me wrong, every form of communication has its purpose and place in our fast moving society.

What I would argue is that we are all falling into the trap of using the WRONG form of communication most of the time.

If you are trapped in a meeting and a phone call comes through, I can understand why you might resort to a text to let the other person know you can’t immediately respond. What I have noticed, however, is that some people will only write to you when you call.

Call me silly, but I like the human interaction in a real phone call because I always learn more than if I just exchange an email or text. The pregnant pause, the sound of tension or happiness in a voice is to my mind worth the extra time that a live phone call requires.

One of the many things that amazes me these days is the number of people who don’t return phone calls, at all. While I’m certainly not secretive about why I am calling, it only takes a few minutes to show the courtesy of a returned call. And, who knows, you might actually connect with “Santa Claus” and make a lot of money by probing the person who went to great efforts to connect with you by picking up the phone.

We live in an amazing time. I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars. (Okay, maybe I would for two million dollars.) But, like the hand written thank you note, some things are worth hanging on to.

Do call me some time. I would enjoy hearing from you.

Regards, Matt

Time stands still

I can never understand why people hesitate in contacting old friends.

It has been one of the blessings in my life that over the 20+ years that I have been Chairing this august body, I have been able to reconnect with almost all of the people I worked with since the 1970’s. (Yes, I am that old!) I have even reconnected with some new friends that I have only known 10-20 years.

My experience has been that anyone you have ever known is DELIGHTED to hear from you. This goes for old “enemies” as well. While you may have argued at length with some of these idiots (Did I say idiots? I meant uninformed individuals.), the “discussion” was actually about work. Perhaps you just took some of their comments about you being the dumbest person on the face of the earth just a little too personally. (And you’re ugly too!)

I think at times we forget just how many of our waking hours are spent at work. We actually spend more time at work than we do at home with our families. (We don’t want to get into “quality time” issues.) So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we tend to develop real bonds with folks we have known at work.

When I see someone I haven’t had the pleasure of being with for many years, it is hard for me to keep my mind clear as to the actual points in time when we worked together. The voice is often the same. I must admit they do seem to have aged a bit, but then perhaps I’m no longer in my 30’s either. (I don’t know, but I feel like I did when I was that young, at least mentally.)

The point of all of this is that as the conversation begins anew, the years that have gone by melt away. Perhaps we only talked every few years. Perhaps we haven’t talked in many years. It honestly doesn’t matter. We’re talking now.

Friends help friends, even long lost friends. I think it is pretty clear that your enemies aren’t going to help you. Why don’t you let your friends?

What I am going to ask you is have you honestly tried to track down ALL of your long lost friends? If they are financial folks, have you enjoyed the benefit of being a member of the largest networking group of senior financial folks in the entire world and tried looking them up using our Member Directory Search feature?

Look up all the firms where you have worked. Look up competitors. Perhaps you met some of these folks at industry meetings. If you don’t recognize some of the names, call anyway. They may know where some of your favorite long lost friends can be located.

One of the little known facts in this world is that it is easier to renew an old friendship than to make a new one.

And, remember, time stands still.

Regards, Matt

Members in need of assistance

I am sure I don’t need to tell all of you that The FENG is a remarkable organization. It is also unusual in its tone.

If I had to come up with two reasons why things are different in The FENG than in the rest of the world, I would start with the fact that EVERYONE in The FENG was sponsored for membership. Because we are a circle of friends and not a fee for service, many of the things that we do for each other have no price associated with them. After all, what price could one place on friendship or acts of friendship, and how would someone go about coming up with a price structure. (Such are the things that occupy an accountant’s mind.)

The second thing that makes us different is that we don’t charge annual dues. We simply ask members who can afford it to send in contributions from time to time. Sure, money makes the world go around, but by making every effort to keep our expenses low, but more importantly because we are an army of volunteers, we are able to have a considerable impact on each other’s lives at an incredibly low out-of-pocket cost. (For anyone who would like to make a voluntary contribution, instructions appear on the last page of our newsletter every night, but I digress.)

One of the features of our evening newsletter is our very popular “Members in need of assistance.” I don’t know about you, but I delight in the fact that there is a place where you can get just about any career or financial question answered. With a membership of over 40,000, the likelihood that some member of our august body will have the answer AND will contact you with it approaches certainty.

I would hope that all of you subscribe to the idea that if you draw down benefits you should make every attempt to “pay back.” As with every other aspect of The FENG, we try to make this as painless as possible, and in most cases downright enjoyable. (It won’t be like favors granted in the Godfather movie.)

The simple suggestion is if you post a request that might be of interest to others in our evening newsletter, you should do two things. First, you should thank all who call or write. This is the most important step. Everyone likes to hear “thank you,” and no one hears it often enough. If someone took the time out of their schedule to contact you, the least you can do is say thanks and follow up with a short note. (No need to blather on at length. Financial folks aren’t good at writing such notes and don’t actually enjoy reading a tome either.) If you would like to help reinforce this appropriate behavior of your fellow members so they will do more of it, this is the best way to make it happen.

Secondly, it would be nice if you paid back the ENTIRE organization by summarizing the ideas and suggestions that came your way so others could educate themselves too. Yes, some “Members in need of assistance” don’t lend themselves to this approach, and for those you get a “pass,” but for many I see in each night’s missive, there is the possibility of great substance being shared.

We should try to educate each other whenever there is an opportunity. Sharing our knowledge in the newsletter helps others make sense of what is going on, and helps you too. (A little 15 minutes of fame at the very least.) And, who knows, by publishing the results of the question you asked, you might even make a few new friends.

Take it from one who knows, you can never have enough friends. (Or be thin enough. But again, I digress.)

Regards, Matt

Damaged goods

There was an article in The Wall Street Journal several years ago that made the following points:

1. The unemployed are damaged goods
2. Recruiters prefer finding those who are not actively seeking new jobs
3. Networking groups are of little value

While to a degree I hesitate to take exception with this esteemed periodical, I must point out that the first two issues are not news. Anyone who has read John Lucht’s book “Rites of Passage” would already know that recruiters have an inherent prejudice against those who are unemployed and are generally speaking charged with stealing someone from a competitor. That’s why they get the “big bucks.” Hence, those who are unemployed are not really of interest because they can’t be stolen. As far as being “damaged goods” you have to admit that most of our members have had too many experiences not to be damaged from their perspective. The words “over qualified” come immediately to mind.

The whole idea of members of our august body promoting themselves exclusively to the retained search community I have always viewed as a waste of time. Recruiters are only interested in you if you are an exact fit with what they have on their plate at the moment. And, what are the odds of that?

While many networking groups are of little value, The FENG is in a class by itself. We routinely get early postings of searches from well-respected firms. The question you might want to ask is why?

The answer is actually simple. As with any other problem, there are solutions. The one we use in The FENG is to make our service free to the search community so they don’t hesitate to send us job leads. We then are at the head of the line. Perhaps more importantly is the bond we have with one another. As a society of friends pledged not to “abuse the system,” the response most recruiters who provide us with city location and compensation information get is an extremely well qualified one.

No good deed goes unpunished. In this case, qualified responses generate more leads posted in our newsletter by these same firms.

The incredible scale of The FENG makes us hard to ignore. With over 40,000 members, we are the largest networking group of senior financial executives in the entire world. If you want to quickly find qualified candidates, you really need to come to us at some point. If you don’t, we are likely to find out about it anyway. It is just really hard to keep a secret from so many aggressive job seekers.

As in the fable of the 6 blind men and the elephant, it all depends on where you’re standing.

Our networking group is of great value because we generally are looking for jobs at mid-sized companies who don’t use recruiters. These firms are looking for “been there and done that” types like all of us and since they don’t have all the tools that major search firms have, we have a better chance of “stumbling” into them just when they are coming to the conclusion they need one of us. This will happen if and only if we do our networking properly.

Passive job searching is for those who want to stay unemployed longer. All you have to do is spend every waking moment reading job leads and very little time doing targeted networking. It’s easy I suppose, but not as effective as the hard work involved in networking.

As you know, networking is our middle name. This is not a coincidence.

Regards, Matt

Are you serious in applying?

Let’s be honest. There aren’t a lot of job postings in our evening newsletter that really are a fit for your particular background, salary and location preferences.

This being the case, you would think that if you saw an opportunity in our newsletter that strongly fit your background, you would take the time to do it right.

Let me first suggest to you that there simply is no excuse to having a resume that isn’t well done. With all the books that have been written on the topic of resumes, yours needs to be as close to perfect as it can be. There are several popular approaches that I think are wrong. One is to leave off your home address. I understand the identity theft issue, but if you leave off your SSAN#, your driver’s license number and your date of birth, you are probably safe. In the assignments that I work on for The FECG (www.TheFECG.com), I have seen the physical address even left off the resumes of candidates who were local. Yes, you can’t make this stuff up.

Let me also suggest to you that you aren’t fooling anyone when you leave off your early work history or the dates of your early work history. The only people who leave off dates are old. If you want others to immediately know you are old, leave this to their imagination. I can assure you that they will think you are at least 10 years older than you really are. This applies to your graduation dates as well. Lay it out there and if they don’t like it, they probably (this is one of those near certainty things) wouldn’t hire you anyway.

Make sure you “define” each prior employer. Industry experience is always a key element if a job is widely promoted. Those scanning resumes WERE born yesterday and they often won’t know unless you tell them.

Take the time to write a proper email cover note. To only say “attached is my resume” says to the recipient that they are very unimportant to you. If you know or should know the person to whom you are writing, using “Sir or Madam,” or the ever popular “Hiring Manager,” makes you look silly. Take the time to read the posting and get this part of your message right.

For those issues in the job requirements that deserve commentary, briefly make the link in your cover note. Location, if you are not local, is an important one. Why would you move there, especially if no relocation is being offered?

We live in a smart phone world. Email cover notes should be as brief as possible and in no case should they print out on more than one page. You can test your own message by sending it to yourself and trying to print it. You should also do some testing on your resume by sending it to 10 friends and asking them to print it. About 10% of the resumes I get print with a blank page which as a financially conservative accountant, I find annoying. (Yes, I know, Staples needs the money and God will grow more trees, but it is still annoying.)

I also find resumes with final pages that only have 3-10 lines on them very annoying. Usually this page only has your education. I guess some “authority” has recommended this approach because I see it a lot. A resume is either 2 pages or 3 pages. It should NEVER be 2 1/2 or 2 1/4 pages. It is also a bad idea to widen margins or make the font smaller. We live in an electronic world and you should be able to spend the time to properly edit your resume. A sharp electronic pencil is your best weapon to trimming your resume down to size.

In The FECG, we never ask for your salary history. What we do ask for are your salary REQUIREMENTS. To ignore this request I find a little rude since we ALWAYS provide a salary range for our assignments. There is always flexibility, but we need to know if you are within a reasonable range. We recently had an assignment that had a maximum range of $100k and one of our respondents wanted $300k. Friends, this isn’t mathematically possible. If you are that far off from what is being offered, I would strongly recommend not submitting your credentials.

Item last: outgoing signatures. If you don’t know what I mean by an outgoing signature, try Google. The end of the newsletter has mine. A proper outgoing signature indicates your “greeting to use” or nickname, your given name, your physical address, your phone numbers in the order you want them called, and your email address.

One of the ongoing mysteries of my life is why so many people leave this off. The issue of “greeting to use” is particularly annoying. If your given name is Robert, William or Richard, there are too many choices for me to get it right when I call you. Again, see my outgoing signature below.

So if the response rate back to you on job postings is so low, why do I recommend you take the time to get it right? The simple answer is that you need the practice.

Going through the thought process of why the position description that was held up as a target fits your background is a skill you need to polish.

Someday in the not too distant future a perfect job will come your way and you want to blow their socks off. Unless you have been through the “drill,” that won’t happen.

Regards, Matt

Always take the high road

America is a great place, isn’t it? Everything is always someone else’s fault. I guess this is why Americans are so quick to sue. After all, we can’t take the blame for that which has happened to us. There were significant mitigating factors. Primarily due to, partially offset by. I’m sure you are familiar with the approach.

All right, perhaps I shouldn’t have made those disparaging remarks about the way the boss dressed and how he always came in late, but I only mentioned it to most of his staff. And, I was only kidding.

Actually, I am only kidding here. But, I thought I would make the point that it is human nature to come up with some explanation as to why we left our last job or why we are thinking of leaving our current job.

Key to success in responding to this kind of a question is not to do any “blame shifting.”

I was speaking to one of our members the other day and his tale of job hunting success highlighted this issue, so, I asked him to “write it up,” which he did.

Dear Matt,

It’s important to always take the high road in your interactions with others. I was recently in an interview. The questions were unusually tough. Then came what may have been a bombshell! The CEO said, “It says on your application that you left one of your jobs to pursue a better
opportunity, but when I talked to your reference there, he said there was some tension between you and your last boss . . . tell me about that?”

What had my reference said? I thought we had a good relationship!? Was I wrong? Did this reference bag me? Oh @#$%!

All things that went through my mind . . . but one has only seconds to think . . . don’t panic . . . think . . . a pause is never as long as you think . . . be positive.

I admitted there was some tension there. We had differing professional views on how to run the organization that he had founded. We discussed these issues openly, but in the end we were having difficulty reaching an agreement. So, when a better opportunity came along, I pursued it!

The CEO looked at me and asked, “Were you aware they fired your former boss shortly after you left?” Yes, I replied, I was aware of that fact. He paused and then said, “How gracious of you not to bring that up!”

I talked to my reference later that day . . . he had been positive about me and negative about my former boss! The CEO interviewing me managed to read between the lines and test me to see what I would say about someone with whom I had a rough relationship.

I got the job and believe it may have been in some part due to my handling of this situation.

It would have been easy (and fun) to trash the old boss (we’ve all been there) . . . but that’s something best done with a close friend in private!

In a public situation . . . always take the high road!

Anonymous FENG Member

The lesson here is that we have all met folks that Will Rodgers never met. (He’s the guy who said “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I guess Will didn’t get out much.) But the truth is that you never come out looking like a winner discussing it with those who haven’t met them.

Sing along with me: “I’ll take the high road and let him take the low road, and I’ll get to job land before him.” (I may sound a little off key, but hey, I’m a financial guy, not a vocalist.)

Regards, Matt

Stale cigar smoke

In the movie Patton, George C. Scott explained why America was going to win the war. In brief, Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

As we do our best to achieve success in the job market, looking and acting like a winner can be difficult. It is just too easy to fall into the “misery loves company” mode. I hope you won’t allow yourself the luxury of falling into that trap.

Although I live only a few miles from where we hold our meetings here in Connecticut, I always wear a suit or sport coat. The reason is that often times this is the first and only time that members meet me. As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. (Doug Fine prefers: “Don’t make your first impression your last.”) Sure, I am the chairman, and members are going to like me regardless of what I am wearing, but my goal is to leave the clear memory with them that I am a winner. In my consulting practice, I know I will be calling on each of them for their business.

I think it is also true for each of you when you attend meetings. I can tell who is having a bad day by what they wear and how they act. I fear that this message isn’t lost on those around them either. Here they are, trying to network with their peers, and they aren’t taking this golden opportunity to make the strongest impact.

Not only do clothes make the man or woman, but your demeanor at meetings tells a tale as well. The message you want to leave with others is that you are the best at what you do. If you scrawl a “tent” with your name, slap on a hand lettered name badge to your chest, pass out resumes that have been poorly reproduced, don’t practice your 90-second announcement until it sounds like a call to arms, you shouldn’t be surprised that others aren’t rushing up to you after the meeting to shake your hand and trade a few baseball cards. (That’s a code word I use for networking contacts.)

It is all too easy to lose faith in yourself. Like the smell of stale cigars, the odor tends to soak into every aspect of your being if you allow it.

Although there aren’t the admiring crowds around you like there were back at the office when you were in charge of the checkbook, you need to be able to get yourself charged up every morning and all day long.

I’ll ask you a question. If you weren’t the best thing since sliced bread, how did you get into The FENG? Well, since you did get in, I am going to assume that you are pretty terrific.

And, I want you to assume the same thing.

Act like a winner and you will attract other winners who will want to help you. Act like a loser and no one will want to talk to you. That’s just the way it is in the world.

Exude confidence in yourself. We all know the truth that you are a giant killer. Let everyone know it. (And, don’t smoke cigars before an interview! Also, always wear matching socks.)

Regards, Matt

You sure can rattle on

Breathing is a very important activity. And, during an interview, you should be doing a lot of it.

The guideline we begin our lives with is the ever popular 90 second announcement. I hope that all of you have mastered this art form. The 90 second announcement is an important tool in your job search because you have so many opportunities to speak briefly with others and impart some wisdom about who you are and what you do. It is also the world’s best answer to that question that begins most interviews: Tell me about yourself. So, find lots of opportunities to practice your 90 second announcement.

Primarily due to, partially offset by. Is there any question that we can answer briefly? Hard to believe but most of the rest of the world isn’t all that interested in the exact details about anything. Focus on the meaning of the question that has been asked and try to come up with only the essential information.

If you are going to tell your story and respond to questions that are raised in an interviewing environment, it is important that you keep your answers brief and on task. An interview is usually no more than an hour, and every moment is a valuable opportunity for you to communicate your value.

What you need to do more than anything else is watch for signals from the interviewer that they want you to move on. (If they fall asleep, for example, that would be a signal to stop.) For typical questions 2-3 minutes is about the limit. After you have answered the bulk of the question, pause and see if the interviewer has another question or is satisfied with your response. Then and only then might it be okay to provide additional information.

There is a long list of typical interview questions on our website if you want to practice. That said, you should already have in mind the kinds of questions you might anticipate will be asked.

Why did you leave your last job? This is a question that should always be answered briefly. The inquiring mind wants to know. But as lawyers say: question asked, question answered. Once you stop, there rarely is a follow up question. They just want to know, and you have told them.

While it is impolite to keep looking at your watch, when you practice you should put a timer on you responses.

Think of the entire interview as a blank sheet of paper. As with your resume you only get 2 or 3 pages tops. How you fill in the time, whether wisely or not, will impact your chances of getting that golden opportunity.

Remember, a good salesman knows when to shut up. Keep talking and you can easily undo a sale that has been made.

Regards, Matt

A 1,000 words (plus or minus)

I assume that almost all of you have a LinkedIn account. I don’t know how each of you use it, but in addition to looking up your fellow members using our Member Directory Search feature, I strongly recommend that you check LinkedIn prior to connecting with just about everyone.

If nothing else, LinkedIn is the world’s largest annotated phone book. As Yogi Berra might have said, you can see a lot just by looking. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain checking out what people say about themselves.

I will leave it to others to lecture you on how to create a proper LinkedIn profile. We have several resident experts you can call on such as Matt Youngquist, a frequent contributor to our Op Ed section: http://careerhorizons.wordpress.com/category/linkedin-tips/

We have all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m sure it’s only 999, but why quibble?

As an amateur photographer of sorts, I take a lot of pictures. Thank goodness today it doesn’t cost anything. (That’s my inner accountant speaking.) As much as I like to save money, there are times when you shouldn’t. And, the picture you have on LinkedIn is one of those times.

The thought “just plain ugly” has crossed my mind many times when looking people up. I am totally astounded that people would use such totally inappropriate pictures on a resource that they should KNOW is going to be referenced by anyone they are planning to meet.

Blurred pictures, pictures of you on vacation, pictures of you with someone else…(should I go on and on? I can.) None of these are going to position you as a senior financial professional in the eyes of the “outside” world.

As my good friend (and Co-Chair) Doug Fine has been heard to say: “Don’t make your first impression your last.”

I don’t know who said it, but another favorite of mine is: Everything about you communicates when I have no base of information about you. (I think I made this one up.)

For example, if 10 times I see you in a suit with polished shoes and a nice tie, and once I see you at a purely social event where everyone is dressed in barbeque attire, my mental picture of you remains a suit with polished shoes and a nice tie.

Instead of searching the family electronic album for a picture taken by one of your children (or in my case your grandchildren), you honestly need to open up that wallet and have your picture taken professionally.

Don’t go crazy and spend a lot of money, but for small change, you should be able to get an appropriate BUSINESS appearing picture created for less than $100. Even a passport picture would be better than most of the pictures I see on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a BUSINESS social networking environment. Make sure your picture on LinkedIn reflects a proper business appearance.

It will pay off 1,000 fold. (Or, at least 999.)

Regards, Matt

Candidate Marketing Agreements

In last night’s newsletter there was a job posting from a search firm requesting applications for a Vice President of Finance for a publicly traded healthcare organization.

One of our members who responded to this posting received a boilerplate letter back indicating that while he wasn’t a fit for this job, the recruiter was willing to take him on as a client and market him to companies that would value his “exceptional qualifications.”

If you received a letter of this nature, I would hope that your well-developed “BS detector” would already be going off.

The offering included: Career Planning, Resume Writing, Interviewing Skills Development, Developing 50+ Target Companies, Submitting Online Applications, Candidate Sales & Marketing Campaign, Negotiating Compensation and finally, Resigning Gracefully.

To begin the process, all you had to do was send said person a check for $500 and sign a contract agreeing to pay him 5% of your base salary if he found you a job with a firm with whom he did not have a search fee arrangement. He did offer to refund $250 of your fee if he didn’t get you at least one interview. (What a sport.) Should I even mention that this firm is so professional that they don’t have a website and that the materials they sent were not well formatted? (You can just imagine what a great job he would do marketing you, if this is what he has done for himself.)

Back in the “bad old days,” there was a firm by the name of Bernard Haldane Associates. I am not suggesting that this individual is as disreputable as these bad actors, but the “offering” in many respects is not all that different.

While there are many fine firms out there that provide outplacement services, their services offerings do not include finding you a job and earning a contingency fee for it. There is a good reason for that. No one can find you a job but you.

There are many corporations out in the world that decline to use search firms. Some of them have their own in house recruitment team. They post on various job boards and often work very hard at networking their way to the right candidates. To my knowledge (and I have only been running The FENG for the past 20 years), I am not aware of ANY firms that welcome resumes from search firms UNLESS they have a relationship with them that includes paying them a retainer or a contingency fee if they hire someone through them.

I have never heard of any corporation welcoming unsolicited resumes from a search firm where they knew the candidate was paying the fee.

There is probably nothing illegal or unethical in offering these kinds of services. That said, I would still strongly recommend no one sign up for an arrangement of this nature.

I am aware that there are unscrupulous individuals trolling LinkedIn as well making these kinds of offers, so be on your guard.

If you feel your job search is going nowhere and you need help, talk to your friends and get a personal recommendation on a career coach. There are lots of quality individuals out there who can teach you all the skills listed in his offering. You need to learn and master all of them.

As you know, all jobs are temporary. The skills required to work as long as you want to work are hard to master and require your dedication to educating yourself about the process.

If you think about, this is how you mastered all the skills that brought you to this point in your career.

Regards, Matt

Computers are here to stay

I sometimes get the feeling from the format of emails I get and the strange formatting of resumes I see that there are those who believe computers are just a passing phase in our society.

I don’t know how to break this to those of you who have been reluctant to “get with the program,” one of the measures of you on the part of those receiving your many missives is your computer knowledge.

Perhaps “back on the block” (i.e. when you were working for the big corporation), you had someone to run your email and underlings to develop spreadsheets to execute your many ideas.

Well, to a large degree, those days are over for most of us. Even when you find another job, the chances are that there will be almost no secretarial support and only a minor possibility that you will have enough staffers to build spreadsheets for you. So, time to get on the stick and see if you can master that cute little device sitting on your desk with what appears to be a television screen and has this typewriter appearing keyboard in front of it. It is a computer. And, as you come to appreciate its many benefits, you will find it is a remarkable power tool.

Perhaps I was lucky that when I was in High School one of my friends convinced me to take second semester typing. In my old age I can type over 90 words per minute. Most nights I write the evening’s editorial just before sending out the newsletter. Over the course of the day I think about ideas I would like to share with all of you based on the conversations I have had with various members. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t understand my computer and how to use it.

Let me assume that most of you do actually have some skills with Excel. It is a core program to our profession. What may be a mystery is Word. Well, truth be told, it isn’t all that difficult to learn. If you need to take a class, register for one. No, you don’t have to build your skills to a level that you would qualify to become a professional secretary. But, you do need to know how to bold, change font sizes and create mirror margins. These are basic skills and you ignore them at your own peril.

Email is also a key skill. I can’t believe how many message I get where the sender appears to be sharing their email address with the entire family as in SmithFamily@Hotmail.com. Please, everyone should have their own address. And, they should know how to check how it appears to those you are sending it to so you can be sure it looks professional. In Outlook, there are several lines you need to change under “File, Account Settings, Change” to make your name appear as you want it.

Set up a free account somewhere so you can send messages to yourself. Take a look at the names of files you are attaching. ResumeRev57.doc is not a good idea. (Wow, he really worked on that didn’t he?) Neither is JohnSmith-long-version.doc. (Why didn’t he just send me the short version?)

All of these kinds of mistakes make you appear to be less than the capable person we all know you are. Experiment with using your computer. Take a few risks. You will find computers don’t actually have teeth. And, once you have sunk your teeth into this tool and gotten control over it, you will wonder why you waited so long to learn something that was SO simple.

As Larry King was once heard to say: “High technology! What will they think of next?”

Regards, Matt

Call me a compulsive

Over the course of any given week I have the great honor of reviewing well over 100 resumes. Honestly, no one should be allowed to have this much fun.

As I page through the many approaches to presenting one’s credentials, I am frequently dismayed by the way that some of the most important information is presented.

Let me start by saying that I hate most abbreviations. The reason is quite simple. I usually have to stop and puzzle through what the abbreviation means in this context. I am sure the author was quite clear, but I am often left scratching my head.

I would rank educational credentials of great importance and I hope you do too. I don’t know if BS, B.S. or Bachelor of Science really makes a whole lot of difference, but if it doesn’t and if there is room, I would always go with Bachelor of Science. Call me silly, but I think it adds a little dignity, and that can’t hurt.

Even starting at the top of the resume with the address frequently leaves a lot to be desired. If I had to choose between St. or Street and APT., Apt. or Apartment, I think you know what my choice would be. If you have this issue on your resume, try expanding it and see if it looks nicer. Sure, it doesn’t REALLY matter, but perhaps you will agree that it looks at least 5% better.

Our administrative staff also has a heck of a time getting the uppercase/lowercase issue right for the membership directory. Not their fault, of course, because most resumes do a terrible job of making it clear.

I believe that PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS is supposed to be presented as PricewaterhouseCoopers, but some applicants are apparently unaware of this. I have seen it more often than you can imagine as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which I don’t believe is correct.

Even more incredible are the names that aren’t set out properly in uppercase/lowercase fashion. Yes, I know that the name at the top of the resume should be in capital letters, but if your name is McDonald, I have to tell you that MCDONALD just doesn’t look right to me.

The other really disappointing thing I find far too often is that applicants haven’t taken the time to ensure that their most important marketing piece is totally consistent.

There are frequent inconsistencies in bolding, tabbing/paragraphing, uppercasing/lowercasing, and dates lining up. It is sort of like fingernails on a blackboard to your resident compulsive here in Connecticut.

Call me silly or call me a total compulsive (and I guess I am), but I find that the time spent making your resume appear more dignified can be time well spent. (Nothing like a little rock polishing to make the day go by.)

Regards, Matt

Don’t go it alone

Job search is in many ways a unique experience.

In contrast to the world of work where we have had folks reporting to us and have had folks that we reported to, the world of job search can tend to be a lonely place.

Outplacement facilities with their rabbit warren of cubicles at first glance seem to place you with a lot of other people. There are classes to attend, and at least in my own experience with this kind of environment, you have others with whom you can have lunch and share experiences. Not a totally bad situation. But still, everyone is on a different track and when they find work or their time ends, they typically disappear. And, it isn’t like the office where presumably you have goals in common with those around you. (Yes, I know that isn’t really true, but we’re just talking theory.)

If there is any one misconception that we try to dispel in The FENG, it is need or desirability of going it alone. Our goal is to teach one another the joy of seeking out others to help and in some magical way to being helped by them.

As our more senior members know and accept, The FENG isn’t a job listing service. I say this to you despite the rather long job listings we share with one another. These job listings should be viewed as only one manifestation of the degree to which we are trying to help one another.

We are in truth an army of volunteers, and I thought it would be appropriate tonight, in light of our continued growth, to ensure that everyone fully understands the goals of our organization.

It is all too easy to let others do the work that needs to be done. To get you started in more fully participating in our little society, I am going to assign each of you a most important task. A task that can be considered a bite sized piece, but an easy way to get started. Please know and understand that not everyone is ready to accept the truth about The FENG at any one point in time. However, the skepticism that others are willing to help you does subside over time. And, you can make a difference if you do what I am about to ask you to do: Please call at least 5 new members each and every week. (I could have asked that you call at least one new member, but I believe in stretch goals.)

Our current membership count is over 40,000. There is simply no better way for the many folkways of The FENG to be passed along than by word of mouth. We have a lot of new members to infect with the enthusiasm that I hear from those of you who participate in our many programs.

Don’t allow yourself to be alone in this process, and don’t let others be alone. Share the joy. Get involved. Pass it on.

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

Regards, Matt

It’s always better to be working

When I was growing up, my father was in the construction business. Being a plumbing contractor or a consultant or even a job seeker these days isn’t all that different with respect to finding what I call “work opportunities.”

I sense from talking to many members that there are those among us who at times can be more than a little picky about the assignments they are willing to take, despite the fact that they aren’t working AT ALL.

One of the many lessons I draw from my father’s experience is that some of the jobs you find are short term, some are more fun than others, and some pay better than others. Still, the need to have your “crew” employed has to win out every time. While you can be choosey when you are flush with work, when times are thin you need to take everything that comes your way.

You learn something from just about everything you do. And, as long as the work itself is enjoyable (oh, give me a spreadsheet to do, please), and the people you are working with are pleasant, insisting on getting your “rate” may leave you with a lot of time on your hands.

The philosophy I follow and preach is that it is always better to be working at just about anything than sitting around with nothing to do. The interaction with others or the completion of a task, no matter how bland, is always better than doing nothing.

Furthermore, “nothing” is harder to sell in your quest for more meaningful assignments than a “beneath your dignity” work opportunity any day of the week.

As an example, years ago, to be able to wax eloquent about Sarbanes-Oxley when in fact you were doing the grunt work and not the oversight end is still better than telling a potential employer that you “know” about Sarbanes-Oxley and you are sure you could handle it.

For our more senior members, it can often appear that employers perceive you as not having enough time left on your clock to be hired as a permanent addition to staff. Well, guess what? All jobs are temporary. (Have I mentioned this before?) Coming in as a consultant when this is the case can give you that “nose in the tent” leg up and you never know how long you may be there.

In The FECG, we actually had a consultant out on assignment for TWO years. I know far too many members, myself included, who have had W-2 jobs that lasted less than 6 months.

If I recall the Priceline commercials correctly, their pitch is that you can pick your own price. Sure, but you first have to find a willing seller. Just because you want to pay only $1 doesn’t mean that you were going to get the product or service.

Life is filled with choices. While I recommend weighing your alternatives, there are unfortunately times when you don’t have any. Work opportunities can at times be a brittle choice. It is often feast or famine.

When it is famine I would only suggest you keep in mind that it is ALWAYS better to be working.

Regards, Matt

Don’t be lazy

During June I was preparing our sailboat for our annual two week trip.

I take pretty good care of my boats, but still, there is always a maintenance list. This year, as is my practice, I went through each and every locker, removed everything and went through it item by item to see if I really needed it. It was a big job, but I am always amazed and astounded with the stuff I find. (Why did I buy that?)

It is easy to be lazy about things in your life. Since The FENG is about job search, I’ll focus for a minute on your resume. I figure most people practice their 90-second announcement a lot and since it is kind of “in your face” or in someone else’s, I assume that gets tuned up a lot. However, have you really looked through the lockers of your resume lately?

If I understand the process right, you polished up that old resume when you began your job search. Let me be encouraging in telling you that you are a lot smarter now. As you have been out and about in the world, my guess is that you know a lot more about the job search process and what is important than you did when you began. So, now is as good a time as any to empty out each and every sentence, bullet point and paragraph and give it a little tune up. You might even consider throwing out some parts of it to make room for more important matters.

The rumor is that most readers are only interested in your most recent ten years. Please don’t use that statement as an excuse to delete anything older. I am only putting it out there to highlight where your focus needs to be. Think about the fact that many of the accomplishments you have listed under your earlier career you have done again, but in a more senior capacity. There honestly is no need to have it appear twice.

As you have also probably used your old resume to build your new resume, you should probably reformat the whole darn thing. If you do a good old “copy, paste-unformatted” with your current document into a new file and go at the formatting again, you will most likely have a document that doesn’t go all “kerflooey” when it is opened on someone else’s computer with a different printer driver.

This same approach is also valid with your marketing materials and cover letters. Don’t be lazy.

The mental effort you apply to these most valuable documents, cleaning up the prose and making sure that everything that’s there is focused on where you see your search today can only pay big dividends.

Regards, Matt

All things to all people

It is a truth in this world that we get paid the most for doing something that is at the high end of our skill set.

For example, you would be willing to pay big bucks to a skilled surgeon to take out your appendix, but you would probably not be willing to let me take out your appendix at any price. Hence, the price you would be willing to pay me would probably be less than zero. Actually, I couldn’t even get the job.

If this is all true, then why is it that in the writing of our resumes we try to present ourselves as the ultimate solution to all problems? We may narrow the niche to finance, but generally speaking, in our attempt to make our very specific background universally applicable we tend to water down those things that the world might very well be willing to pay the most to have us do.

The problem we are trying to address in the wrong way is changing industries. Let’s face it; most members are in fact trying to change industries. Over the years, banking, telecommunications, Internet companies all have downsized. What is worse, no new hiring is going to take place for some time. So, what are you supposed to do?

Accounting and finance problems are to a very large degree universally applicable. If you put your thinking cap on and examine what it is you were doing in that industry currently in decline you can find the analogies that work.

A good place to start is by talking to folks from your industry to see what they have discovered about “the outside world.” Ask the question. Where are they thinking of applying their skills and what industries or companies are appropriate. Listen, you may not be able to get a job in those industries or companies, but it will go a long way toward getting your thinking focused on the REAL skills that you provide.

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

Identify the skills you have with the most market value to the outside world and put your best face on them in the context in which they happened. It will make them more understandable to the folks reading your resume.

Long lists that cover the gamut from soup to nuts will only serve to mask the very specific skill sets and solutions you can provide to a potential employer.

Focus, focus, focus is the answer to the problem. Jobs for generalists don’t pay as well.

Regards, Matt

A sharp pencil

There is no more powerful tool than a sharp pencil. (The only exception to this rule is the membership directory of The FENG as accessed by our Member Directory Search feature.)

I long ago declared war on unnecessary words. Why? Because they are unnecessary.

The normal space allotment for a resume is two pages. Okay, if you have to go to three I might be able to live with it, but generally two is the limit.

It is not much space to describe the accomplishments of a lifetime, but you are making a mistake if you think it is necessary to describe each and every thing you have done. If you are as old as the hills (or dirt itself) like most of us, there are adventure stories you could tell that would keep everyone here till well past their bedtime. (A little hot toddy will help you sleep, or you can read resumes!)

Anyway, get out some of those old number two pencils that I know you keep hidden in your desk for emergencies and get out the current version of your resume and let’s have at it.

Start at the top and read through the summary that I hope you have there. Are there any words that you think are necessary modifiers? Now read them carefully and ask yourself if they really say anything? How about phrases like “Proven track record” or “Results oriented?” How about “Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills?”

The game of opposites that I like to play attacks unnecessary modifiers particularly well. Does your resume speak to your “proven track record?” Would you hire someone who couldn’t write, speak or get along with others? To say you have these skills is sort of redundant. Isn’t your resume a fine example of your writing skills? When you call or I interview you there will be time enough for me to decide if you have verbal skills. Lastly, how can you measure your interpersonal skills? Just saying you have them won’t help.

How about “Thrive on international travel. Married. In excellent health. Enjoy running, biking and swimming.” See anything here we could eliminate? How about all of it!

Perhaps “willing to travel internationally” would be a good thing to say, but the rest of it is just plain silly. I don’t know many folks who would admit to being sickly. “Won a marathon last year” might speak to your health better than saying it.

By the way, cheating by going to smaller type fonts is also a bad idea. Again, let’s stick with that sharp pencil and see where we can go.

Going to the end of the resume, how about under technical skills:

Operating Systems:
Windows NT, Windows 98 (this is a good one), NOVELL, MS/DOS

Application Software:
Microsoft Office (anyone who doesn’t know this one, please leave the room now), Great Plains Dynamics, FRX software, Crystal Reports, Access, Sage-Acuity, MAS90, ACT!

Most of the above is wasted space. Except for the specialized software that might be appropriate to potential jobs, most of the above should be removed.

To get a real handle on what is and isn’t significant, collect resumes from others and do the “elimination of unnecessary words test” on someone else’s resume. Now go back to yours and really be hard-nosed about this issue.

You will find that if you do a little pruning, the resulting document will not only be shorter, it will be easier to read and comprehend. Who knows, in its new pristine state, it might even generate some interviews.

Regards, Matt

Human interaction

Sailors are a naturally friendly lot. (Yes, another sailing analogy!) As one of the other couples my wife and I met at a marina pointed out, it would be considered more than a little strange to go to a motel or hotel and start introducing yourself to other people and ask them if they wanted to join you and your wife for dinner at some restaurant.

Yet, sailors do it all the time. When you “blow in” from another harbor you have so many stories to tell and they are harder to share with those who haven’t been through what you have just been through. If it was windy and both of you were hanging on for dear life, you start out with a lot in common.

Within The FENG, we are engaged in what our former president Jimmy Carter might call the moral equivalent of war. (Gosh, was he president THAT long ago?) The process of job search is one filled with highs and lows that are hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it. And, although I wouldn’t recommend anyone VOLUNTEERING to conduct a job search, I would suggest to you that, as it has been said, “anything that doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” (Or is that “tired?”)

Anyway, you will find that one of the many purposes of The FENG beyond the mere sharing of job leads is the opportunity to share a little human interaction with others who are just like you.

It isn’t a “misery loves company” thing, but rather the recognition that you just can’t help but have a lot in common with other members of The FENG.

Let’s start with how you got here. Someone sponsored you. That initial act of friendship is what gets the whole process started.

Next we are divided geographically. Most members are near a place where they can go to meet others who are experiencing the difficulties unique to their specific geographic areas.

We are also divided up into Special Interest Groups. These groups exist to gather together those with expertise in areas not common to the entire membership of The FENG. For example, there are only 3,300+ members in our Internal Audit SIG and only 3,200+ in our Retailing SIG. If you were not a member of The FENG, how could you possibly identify so many like-minded individuals as quickly? Well, you couldn’t.

Human interaction – getting members to call one another, meet each other, exchange resumes and build friendships is what this is all about. The structure is designed to make the networking process more effective for everyone involved and to enable you to not only find another “work opportunity,” but also to make true friends for the rest of your life.

After all, there is nothing like a little “moral equivalent of war” to bring you closer to those around you.

If you haven’t been enjoying all the benefits of membership I would ask you to ask yourself what is holding you back?

The gift we give each other each and every day is there for the taking. And, I hope you will reach out and harvest some of this low hanging fruit.

Regards, Matt

No right answers

As a part of my frequent “joys of sailing” ideas, I thought I would talk about docks around Long Island Sound. Although one can drag anchor, one rarely drags dock. (A little sailing joke for you.)

Sure, it is a rather arcane topic, but hopefully it is one that you can use to amaze and astound your friends.

You would think that docking arrangements everywhere would be pretty much the same. After all, you have a boat, you have water, and you need to tie it up for the night. Well, you would be very wrong. The truth is that just about every place you go is a little different. Some marinas have pilings you have to snag on your way in. (And you thought walking and chewing gum was tough!) Some docks are at deck height, and some are just a few feet above the water. There are floating docks (my favorites) and there are fixed docks. And, there are combinations in between.

All of them are in a sense appropriate answers to the same problem. Some arrangements are unique to solving specific problems in that harbor such as variations in the height of the tide (it is a 7-8 tidal change in our harbor).

I am frequently asked for a model resume, one that you can basically copy and fill in the blanks. For the same reasons that docks vary considerably, your resume needs to as well. It needs to vary not only because you are different from others, but also you need to consider specific situations. Applying for a different type of job than one you have had requires a different focus for the same set of facts.

Sure there are standard structures. Most folks these days agree that functional resumes are not a good idea. However, a summary at the top describing who you are, and your chronological history following from most recent to least recent with more details for the most recent is a good starting point. Education is typically shown at the end with those graduation dates, please.

If only there were one right answer, even for you as a person, but alas there isn’t. Your goal is to communicate who you are and how you can solve the problem faced by your potential employer. Nothing more, nothing less.

Easily said, hard to apply in practice. And practice is where all of this lives. Write, rewrite and rewrite some more.

With any luck, you will find the right answer or series of answers that works best for you.

Regards, Matt

Attention to detail

I am at all times amazed and astounded at the lack of attention to detail by the many members who write to me. There are so many things that are easy to do, that no one seems to do.

Let me start with my primary concern (and one I write about constantly), the lack of outgoing signatures. Incredibly, some emails I get aren’t even signed. A proper outgoing signature contains your name, address, phone numbers and email address. Adding one is so simple that it doesn’t bear explaining. If you aren’t using one, just click “Help” and search for outgoing signature. If you are wondering why no one is writing back, that’s why.

Is your name Pat, or Leslie? You might want to let folks know somehow if you are male or female. I’m sure YOU know, but if your sex is a secret for some reason, and if you tell me that this is something that happens all the time (the confusion), you might want to consider steps to avoid surprises. The same thing applies to names that contain upper case and lower case characteristics. Yes, I know in outplacement they insist on putting your name in all upper case on your resume, but I have to tell you that if my name were Von Bud, Mc Bud, or Mac Bud, I would want it to appear correctly. The same thing goes for the companies at which I have worked. One of the firms was CBS. It wasn’t Cbs. I want it to be clear which way it should appear. If someone is writing to another person about me, I don’t want them to be embarrassed by making a mistake because it might hurt MY candidacy.

One of my oldest job hunting tips in this electronic world is emailing your resume to 10 friends and having them print and scan back what it looks like on their end. I can’t believe how many 4 page resumes I still get with widows on the even number pages. (A widow is one or two lines on the following page.) Not using hard page breaks, leaving extra lines on the last page so your two page resume is three pages, as well as other attempts at faking the formatting, are so common I could scream. Although it may look nice on your computer, special fonts and narrow margins can come up really ugly on other computers with different printer drivers. Everyone should know that.

File names are another area where using upper case and lower case can add to readability. I hope no one is using resume.doc, or that indication of really having worked on your resume of resumeRev58.doc. (Now he really worked on that one!) Your last name-first name.doc is the only way that the person at the other end can actually SAVE your resume to their hard drive.

If your name is Matthew, as is mine, do you go by Matt? I do, and I want others to know, so I SIGN my messages that way. I don’t want anyone to feel like a stranger or to feel embarrassed by calling me incorrectly. If you are Robert, do you go by Bob, Robert or Rob? Any of these choices could be correct. Do I really need to be put in the position of guessing? (This is why we have a “greeting to use” field in our membership database.

Typos. This one could go on and on. I actually got a message recently with Manhattan spelled Manhatten. Yes, I know there are folks from out of town, but speling is important. (Yes, I know I didn’t spell “spelling” correctly in the last sentence.) Has anyone heard of spell checker? Do you think it might make sense to use it if you are applying for a high paying job? May I answer yes?

Reads and follows directions. I could do several editorials on the importance of actually reading job postings. I seem to remember as a Chief Financial Officer making sure who the check was to be made payable to. It was only infrequently “dear sir or madam.” I may be a lot of things, but I am not a madam, and anyone who writes to me that way when I have an assignment to fill for The FECG is certainly going to “lose points.”

Well, enough complaining for tonight. Call me a fuss budget, but I like to get things right, and I would hope that you do as well.

Take a few minutes to go back and dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s.” You will find it is time well spent. Our profession is one in which attention to detail is EXPECTED. Make sure you present yourself accordingly.

Close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Regards, Matt

Your hidden assets

Almost all of the resumes I see are from members or new member applicants. In any given week, I go through a batch of 60-80 applicants.

What is surprising is how much trouble some folks go to disguising their seniority and great skills.

It is my belief and I hope to make it yours as well, that the most important thing you have to sell is your wealth of experience. There are so many things in this world that only happen once or twice a year, and most of our members have seen them anywhere from 20-40 times. Like a song you keep hearing on the radio, even if you don’t sing well, you are bound to know the words and can easily hum a few bars. Hiding this important asset of yours is generally speaking (or singing) a bad idea.

Yes, I know you are getting feedback that you are “over qualified,” but hiding your true value not only doesn’t work, it actually works against you.

Some of the approaches I have seen used include functional resumes, (which are only used by someone with something to hide), and lately more often, the leaving out of all of the jobs earlier in your career. (Like, duh, you started your first job as Chief Financial Officer.)

That which is true or not true in this world is often hard to know. Yes, your most recent 10 years of experience are what is most important, but leaving off the earliest 20 years creates a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. If you confuse me, chances are I am just going to move on to the next resume if I am looking for candidates for some job. No one has the time. And, what is worse, no one is fooled.

At some point in most of our careers we were auditors. Even if you weren’t, detecting patterns in financial data is what we do for a living. Consider that there are those out in the world who read resumes for a living. Trust me, after reviewing 80,000 candidates for membership in The FENG since 1997, the patterns are obvious. Reading between the lines isn’t difficult.

There are certainly issues that you need to address in your resume. Since most members move from large firms to small ones, I would suggest that appearing to be “hands on” is important. This is accomplished, not by diminishing your titles, but rather by citing hands on activities. These can perhaps be things you have done recently on a consulting basis.

You can make your resume work for you or against you. The choice is yours. The product we sell of “been there, done that” is compelling if presented properly. Why would any employer want to pay for someone to learn on the job when they can find someone already trained? (Some questions don’t really have rational answers.)

There is a lot of prejudice out there in “the world.” Don’t be a part of it. If you believe that you can bring value, don’t hide it. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

(I used to be modest, but it actually is more fun being boastful.)

Regards, Matt

Am I qualified?

One of my friends used to call me “the can do” guy. (Now he calls me “Mr. Chairman.”) I know he meant it in the nicest possible way and I suppose that in many respects I am the can do guy. There really isn’t much that I won’t tackle. Perhaps it comes from my Midwest self-reliance or the fact that I worked construction in my youth. (Or perhaps it is my wasted adulthood as a sailor?)

All of this leads me to believe that regardless of what it says in most job postings, I know that with enough time there are few issues that I couldn’t solve. (And, they would be lucky to have me!)

However, am I really qualified for all of them? Clearly I am not. But how does one go about drawing the line? More importantly, why is it important that as a job applicant I take the time to make such distinctions?

The reading of job descriptions is more art than science. Most position descriptions are not especially well written. Are all the requirements real? (Do you really have to be 6 feet tall?)

Still, they are what they are. And, you need to read them carefully IF it is important.

Let us take off the table immediately most job leads from the major job boards. The truth is that if they have been foolish enough to expose an opportunity to the public at large that they are going to get bombed. The odds for your candidacy are very small, so if the job is where you would find it convenient, you fit the general description, and you have the time, you have nothing to lose. I would suggest you have at it.

Within our little society that we call The FENG, it is most important that you TAKE THE TIME to read and reread any and all position descriptions to which you are planning to respond if it has come from me or another member and it is preceded by “qualified members only, please use my name.”

These are the golden opportunities only available to members of our august body. If members play too loose with the “rules” we run the risk as an organization of alienating not only members of the search community who have placed their trust in us, but you also run the risk of embarrassing one of our members who has “bragged” about us to those offering great jobs.

In these cases we need to be concerned about the greater good. What are the must haves? If you don’t have one or more of the must haves, consider not responding. Search firms get paid to deliver a specific result. If just a capable person could do the job, the client wouldn’t have engaged a search firm and agreed to pay them 30% of base pay. To earn their fees they take great pains to deliver EXACTLY what the client asks for. No exceptions.

Are all of the “must haves” valid? That is often not for you to say.

Perhaps you have something in your background that is so overwhelmingly appropriate to the position in question that it may in fact be sufficient to override one of the must haves you are missing. If the industry is a small one and that is where you achieved most of your experience, exceptions can and will be made.

No one is ever a perfect fit based on the job description. In truth, even the final candidate.

What we are trying to achieve is the best result for everyone. When dealing with strangers, you are not at risk of offending anyone. When dealing with friends of your friends, due caution and thoughtful consideration are very much in order.

As a rule, hitting 75% of the points and most of the important ones is key. This is what works best and will ensure that The FENG will continue to be a well respected organization and a resource for those seeking talented financial executives.

A big goal, but then, I was never one for taking on small challenges and I am sure you aren’t either.

Regards, Matt

A little breathing room

I have often been heard to say, “Cash is a four letter word.”

It is for this reason that taking a sound approach to your job search REQUIRES that you have your financial house in order. There is nothing that is more distracting than to be concerned about your finances during a search.

With any luck, you have hopefully been fortunate to save a little money, and/or have equity in your home. However, regardless of where you have assets you can tap, it is sage advice to get yourself as liquid as possible. If you have equity in the house and your significant other is working, it is usually possible to refinance or get a second mortgage on their income alone.

Of particular concern is ensuring that you have enough cash to make the payments to keep the house and maintain the important parts of your life style.

But, don’t kid yourself. Much as a sailor who abandons ship, one never knows how long you will be in the lifeboat, and that is the problem that defies our logic. How long to plan for?

What you don’t want to happen is to be forced into making decisions because you run out of cash. If you set about to make yourself flush with cash and spend it wisely, with any luck, you will be “rescued” before your resources are depleted.

Key to this is, of course, insurance coverage. Insurance is to cover catastrophic losses, and in your weakened condition there is the very real risk that some unpredictable event will deplete your cash.

As I learned many years ago, disability coverage is not available when you are unemployed and that it isn’t part of COBRA. The time to arrange coverage for this very real risk is when you are working. Make it your first order of business when you are back on payroll.

Don’t avoid the hard decisions related to your lifestyle choices. Sure, you may find a job soon, but then again it may take longer. Opt for early choices in the process that will give you the breathing room you need to avoid taking jobs you know you should refuse.

The job search process is a stressful event. If you want to be able to maintain your full focus on what is important, you need to get and keep your financial house in order.

Bring the WHOLE family into the discussion. I think you will be surprised how everyone will rise to the occasion and how much more pleasant life will be if they all know the “rules of engagement.”

You can’t afford to be stressed about your finances when you are looking for a job. You are likely to be stressed enough about your search. Sure, you are bleeding cash, but with any luck you will find another job and have a few years to restore your finances to some level.

Ensuring you have breathing room will relax you and allow you to pour all of your considerable energies into networking, networking, and more networking.

Remember, no one is out of work forever. It just seems that way.

Regards, Matt

Don’t forget your business cards

I assume that most folks will not be working a full day in the office tomorrow. I know I won’t be.

I just thought I would remind everyone that holiday time is networking time. Those family and friend get-togethers this time of year are great networking events.

While it would probably be bad form to bring copies of your resume, there is nothing to stop you from bringing business cards and from chatting about your career with those you meet. While the family may know how to reach you, their many friends who might be attending won’t.

Business cards are in some respects a gift. When you hand someone your business card, they are sort of obligated to give you one of theirs. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to connect with individuals who you have met on a very social basis.

Social meetings, as opposed to formal networking events, allow everyone to be very open and frank. They are in most respects better because they have that element of friendship associated with them, even though you may be “buying them a drink” at someone else’s expense.

To carry paper and a pen to a social event is a little over the top. By having cards, you can easily pass on your contact information to those you meet.

Be sure to keep your story positive. I would even encourage you to chat about The FENG as a way of getting started.

You all belong to the world’s largest networking group for senior financial officers. Our traditions of helping one another and sharing job leads is an unbelievable tale and one I am sure each of you can milk to great effect (even though you will probably be drinking something else).

So, enjoy your time off. I will hopefully be out sailing.

Regards, Matt

The golden rule – revisited

As you all know, I get a lot of email. Most of it is actually pretty routine.

There are the inevitable members asking for the user name and password for our website or to have their email address changed. Each week I also get a few good news announcements. (I always enjoy being the first to know. Okay, you can call your significant other first.)

It is rare that I get a note indicating that members are being unresponsive to one another. Yes, I am sure it happens a lot. And, sure, you can write it off to the fact that we have gotten to be a large organization, but frankly, I cannot and will not ever accept that as an explanation.

If there is any complaint that I hear more often than any other it is “I wish they would just get back to me.” The life of those who are active in their search is filled with days of making phone calls and writing letters. Generally speaking, not the satisfying work of making spreadsheets and sitting in budgeting and planning meetings those in the world of work so enjoy.

You would think that since all of us have been unemployed at one time or another, that we would remember how it felt to contact others for help and not receive the courtesy of a response. I can tell you that I remember, and that is one of the reasons that I try very hard to return all my phone calls and respond to all the email I get. (Okay, I sometimes run behind on responding to email, but I really try to catch up at least once a week!)

This is not a job listing service. Yes, we do publish about 400+ pages of job leads each month, but first and foremost, we are a circle of friends.

Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, friends also shouldn’t let messages from friends go unanswered.

What I would ask each member of our august body to keep in mind is that each person who reaches out to you is a friend of another member. If you expect the friends you sponsor to receive a warm response when they call other members, how can you not feel it incumbent upon you to act the same way?

The FENG is a sponsorship based organization. Each member of The FENG was sponsored by a friend. We are not a fee for service.

The price you pay for being a member is the joy of making yourself available to other members. Your turn to receive this gift back may or may not ever come. Hopefully not, but the odds are that if and when you need assistance this organization will be there for you.

As I have been heard to say: Every day and in every way, it all starts with you.

Being available and responsive to other members isn’t an “obligation.” It is a gift that you will find to be more rewarding than you can imagine.

Trust me, I’m the poster child on this one.

Regards, Matt

Birds of a feather

We are fortunate in the financial professions to be blessed with a very high degree of transferable skills.

Still, the next job for most of us isn’t going to be all that much different from our last one. While it is certainly possible that we will change industries, it is less likely that we will change the skill sets needed in our day to day work.

What typically happens in any recession is that certain industries take a downward turn and many of the folks in those industries lose their jobs. It used to be that this was limited to old line industries, but as we have seen in recent years, it can even affect the stars of just last year.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense would of course decide that an industry in decline is probably not the place to focus a job search. With all of the talent being downsized, right sized or whatever you would like to call it, if you are from one of the industries affected, you probably are looking elsewhere.

But where should you look?

Here is another area where you have an advantage as a member of The FENG, because the best place to network is in your very own industry. Okay, you don’t want to go back there and in fact you probably can’t. But, where is everyone going? The approach I would suggest is to contact your fellow members of The FENG who have an industry link to you and find out what they are thinking.

Birds of a feather should flock together. The reason is as basic as “two heads are better than one.” (I sure am full of trite sayings tonight!)

Networking is a process of connecting with others in such a way that they will be comfortable sending you to others they know. The more someone is comfortable with your background, and if you are from the same industry they are going to really understand, the more likely they will actually have good suggestions.

The “problem” of finding the right places to focus your energies will yield all of the possible solutions if you talk to the right people. Not only that, but you can try out your own directional ideas on others, who again, really understand what you used to do every day.

As exciting as drastic career change may appear on the surface (I always wanted to be an airline pilot), the truth is that we are not as likely to be successful as when we make a gradual change that utilizes most of our skill sets.

For those tied to geography we have our many chapters around the country. For those who match a special interest group, we have those too.

And, all immediately available out on our website: www.thefeng.org. (Knock twice and ask for Joe. Your user name is your email address for the newsletter, and if you haven’t set up a password, just click “I forgot my password” and a one-time only link will be sent to your email address.)

You can then dive into using our Member Directory Search feature.

Regards, Matt

What do companies want?

 

I have written on many occasions about how to structure your resume. I have also written about bringing your resume through stages of development. Like any selling document it is essential that you keep it growing and fresh.

Going through the birth pangs of building your resume can often feel like you are taking out your own appendix without the benefit of anesthetic. (Actually, it is a little more painful.)

Still, without this important document looking its best you are going to be hard pressed to be selected out of a batch of 200+ resumes.

After you have the framework easy to read (there are model resumes out on our website), and you have polished the prose, the next stage is to listen very carefully to any customers you may encounter for your services.

The sense I frequently get from our members is the mistaken belief that they are like a remarkable power tool of some kind and if they just describe the tool with its shiny chrome finish and rechargeable battery (and it comes with lots of accessories), they will be selected for that wonderful job they have always wanted.

As I learned in my many years in the advertising business, people don’t want ¼ inch drill bits, they want ¼ inch holes. And, they want to be able to drill lots and lots of them in all kinds of materials. The best approach is to position your product (which is you) as the solution to their problem of the day.

Inexperienced sales folks do something called “throwing up on the customer.” They are so imbued with product knowledge that they want to share (before they forget it) that they do most of the talking. They never actually hear what the customer wants or needs. Never mind whether or not their product will satisfy his/her needs.

If you think of any job search as a series of successive approximations (I do love that phrase), the first stage to you getting in front of someone who is interested in your services is a job posting or phone call. It is sort of like the old “run it up the flag pole and see who salutes.” Out of this process, which might initially include most of humanity, comes those who feel they fit.

You have in front of you the CUSTOMER’S requirements, and you think you fit. The question I would have for you is do you actually take a hard look at your resume to see if you are selling what they want? Yes, I know you feel as if you can do what they need done, but is your resume going to “sell” you into that situation?

Believe me, I have been there. Having multiple resumes is a real nuisance. (Frankly, it is hard enough just to write one version and have it print correctly.) But without the ability to take the requirements of the job and point to specific things on your resume, any reviewer is going to be hard pressed to put you in the “for further review” pile.

On just the basics of the resumes I see each week, I am always astounded how difficult most folks make it to pick out company names and titles. More specific details and difficult to define qualities are even harder to find.

For example, I try to make sure that each of our new members is placed into appropriate special interest groups. Take manufacturing for example. When I see an industrial company I sort of assume the prospective member has a wealth of manufacturing experience. It is kind of hard to hang out in that kind of environment and not absorb something. (Look at my knowledge of advertising and publishing. And, those weren’t even my job responsibilities.) However, there is often no mention of such involvement and I have to assume that they are leading with their best. (I guess they only did general accounting.)

I once had a second conversation with one of our many friends in the search community. I had explained at great length (and those who know me know I CAN talk) about “qualified members only please use my name in contacting” and how this delivered only those who fit.

Well, she accepted my challenge and called all who applied even if she didn’t think from WHAT THEY HAD SENT that this was the case.

Although there were a select few who shouldn’t have applied, the primary problem was “a failure to communicate.”

So, the next time you find a really juicy posting in our newsletter, take and minute and see if you can find the issues described in the posting on your resume. (Yes, I know, I’m tired of reading your resume too!)

You may find that you are leaving your sales pitch half done. And in this case, half done isn’t much better than neglecting to apply.

Regards, Matt

Unsolicited advice

There was a cartoon I saw many years ago. The picture was of a man playing a piano in what was obviously western saloon. The sign above the piano read: “Don’t shoot the piano player. He’s doing the best he can.”

I have often lamented that the most difficult task I face each day is getting our members to seek out the advice and counsel of other members in the process we call networking.

I don’t know exactly why it is, but for some genetic reason, men don’t like unsolicited advice. And, for those of us who like to give out a lot of advice, it can be a difficult task to make a suggestion and have it actually received as information that is acted upon.

When members call me for advice, I try to stick to the subjects they bring up and want me to address. But, being a “Mr. Know-it-all,” I sometimes can’t help myself from picking up on additional issues that need to be discussed. I know it is a minefield, but I go anyway.

No one is perfect. And, I go into “the valley of death” safe in the knowledge that in the process of extending the hand of friendship, I may very well pull back a bloody stump.

As all of you know, one of my big issues is outgoing signatures. For those of you who have not yet attended my “Mr. Rogers” class on this topic, the purpose of an outgoing signature is to make it possible for those impulsive individuals like myself to actually call or write to you without looking up your contact information when we receive an email from you. (Keep in mind that not everyone has a secret decoder ring as I do, and they may not actually know your phone number or email address off the top of their heads.) So, when members write to me without an outgoing signature, I always write back “May I suggest” rather than “How could you be so silly as to not have.” I guess that’s why I am known as “Gentle Matt.”

I suppose I could refuse to answer anyone who didn’t have an outgoing signature. In the alternate, I could make them stand in the corner or cut off their newsletter for a few days, but I’m not that kind of person.

My personal beliefs about what works best are my personal beliefs. I can try to teach them to others, but as you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

What I would like everyone to understand is that everyone knows that men don’t like unsolicited advice. So, the next time someone offers you some information that you didn’t ask to receive, before you bite their heads off, you might want to take a moment to reflect on the bravery involved in them trying to put you back on the path from which you have strayed.

Is it possible you are actually wrong? Well, I’m not going to go that far. But just remember that if you reject someone’s advice out of hand even once, you are not likely to be the recipient of this gift a second time. Hey, I’m a sensitive guy. Appear to deny my well meaning suggestions and I am not likely to take that risk again.

Okay, I’m dumb enough to try again, but I don’t think most folks are.

Regards, Matt

The truth, as retold by ….

I am always impressed by the eternal truthfulness of the many members of this august body. Unfortunately, it is one of the many things about us as financial folks that gets in the way of our finding a new job.

As many of you know, I spent 9 years as Chief Financial Officer of an advertising agency. I won’t say from this public platform that I worked with a bunch of liars (please keep in mind that I didn’t say this), but it often felt like those around me were lying even when it wasn’t necessary, just so they wouldn’t get out of practice.

Kind of like on that old TV show “Get Smart” — Would you believe???

Anyway, the issue at hand is coming up with an appropriate explanation for whatever has happened to you in the last piece of time. Perhaps you got into an ongoing argument with your immediate boss. (He wanted to cheat the government or the stockholders and you didn’t think it was a smart thing to do, and you fought about it.) Frankly, it could be just about any topic. The net result is that you are again in the market and you have this little hole in your resume.

Well, join the club. I was out of work for almost two years and that was followed by a 5 month stint in a job from “heck.” I really was in need of an explanation for that one!

And, as one of my friends who was a recruiter would tell me, inquiring minds want to know why you left.

My first suggestion is to tell the truth. Now I am not talking about the whole truth. I am talking about the essence of the truth. (As you can imagine, we each in our own way can sure rattle on. FASB what?)

To supplement the truth, you also need to know what exactly your former boss is going to say about you. Sure, you would rather not use him as a reference, and you probably won’t list him, but you need to be concerned that someone who may want to hire you knows him, or knows others who do.

So, the approach is to call and ask what he will say. Don’t suggest things for him/her to say. The reason I say this is that in the heat of the moment your carefully scripted response may be forgotten. Call and ask what will be said if he/she is asked for a reference on you and carefully listen to and write down the answer. DON’T RESPOND! First of all, there is no point, and secondly, that is not how you are going to use it.

If asked for a reference from your most recent employer you are going to repeat the exact words you just recorded for the person seeking the referral and then you are going to add that they need to understand the circumstances under which you left. Whatever are the “rational man” circumstances for your departure is what is needed here. Don’t rattle on at length or you fall into “The lady doth protest too much methinks” syndrome. Just be matter of fact about it. Hey, you’re an adult and your boss was an adult and you agreed to disagree. End it with “You may call if you want to, but this is what will be said.”

If they call, there will be no surprises on the part of the person seeking the referral. This is the important part. Since you copied down the exact words, they should pretty much match with the “caught off guard response” from that individual “with whom you spent so many pleasant hours.” Since there is no difference, their opinion doesn’t matter. You have already explained it away!

As all of you also know, I am an avid sailor and as such I am much practiced at telling tall tales. So, if you need help from the Chairman of the Spin Meister committee, I hope you will feel free to call upon my services. Please keep in mind that my nose is already long enough and I won’t lean toward lying. (Not for you or anyone!) But putting a positive spin on any situation, now that is something I can do. (I just hope you will be comfortable with it.)

(In one of my favorite episodes of the Matt Bud chronicles, when told that the key points presented by a committee of which I was a part were rejected out of hand, I responded with “I guess this means there was less than total acceptance of our ideas.”)

Regards, Matt

Selling from an empty wagon

I often get the feeling listening to members of The FENG that they feel like they are selling from an empty wagon. Friends, it just isn’t true.

What triggered tonight’s editorial was a few comments I got from one of our members about the issue of dates for your college degrees. The “product” you need to always be selling is your wealth of experience. Everyone doesn’t want the product, but those that do are willing to pay for it.

In classic marketing terms, if you try to sell a product based on attributes it doesn’t have, it is considered an over promise. You are a lot better off presenting a realistic picture.

We have all seen ads for the airlines and they frequently promise good food. For anyone who has flown recently, we all know what an over promise this is. Just exactly what kind of food can be prepared in an airplane galley that would qualify as good food? What if they promised you bad food and suggested you brought your own? Well, at least you wouldn’t be disappointed.

What has changed in your job search as a senior executive is that your senior level skill set is not as widely applicable as your skill set was when you were early in your career. There aren’t as many jobs at the top. We all have to recognize that the pyramid is smaller at the top.

The result is that we are all required to search that much harder to discover the same NUMBER of possibilities as we might have felt were adequate at any one time earlier in our career.

But let’s get back to the product. The product is you and your wealth of experience in solving problems.

Over the course of a long career, there are many problems that have only occurred a few times. This is normal. If you follow my logic, as a senior executive, what may appear as a new problem to someone early in his/her career is an old one and easily solved one for you.

This is what you have to focus on in presenting your background.

If you lay out this wealth of problem solving ability in easy to understand terms you will be that much further along in selling what IS in the wagon.

Regards, Matt

Practice makes perfect

Although we are all familiar with the above expression, I am not sure if everyone understands the importance of this idea to his or her search and how to get to where you need to be.

The “big show” is of course an interview. When you finally get yourself in front of a hiring manager all aspects of your performance need to be polished. This is not the time to be “practicing” your elevator speech when he/she says “So, tell me about yourself.”

We are fortunate within The FENG to have lots of opportunities to practice our pitch.

Let’s start with our many chapter meetings. What better place is there to work on that 90-second announcement? You have a friendly audience, and you have the opportunity to hear others who have backgrounds similar to yours present their credentials as well. If you don’t pick up at least one good idea from every meeting you attend, then you probably fell asleep.

You just can’t discuss your credentials often enough.

In my old age, I have become quite the storyteller. Some of my stories my wife has heard many times, like how The FENG got started and what it is all about. I am fortunate that I have my own personal “fly on the wall” to offer me a critique now and then, and it has helped me shape what I say and enabled me to shorten it considerably. (Okay, I still rattle on a little too much, but the topic is pretty exciting!)

Working the phones is also a tough thing. But, it is a skill you have to build. So, you have to ask yourself, where can I find a friendly audience to practice on? Guess what? There are about 50 of those folks available each week. I call them our new members!

Print off that list and search for someone, anyone, with whom you can establish some kind of relationship. Do they live near you? Did they work at some firm you also worked at? Friends, any excuse will due. As you roll through your greeting and introduction you will of course have to do a short presentation on your background. There really is no better way to practice. You may even become a better listener as you practice absorbing what they have to say about themselves.

And, who knows? You might even make a new friend or two or three.

How about writing? Well, you can always write letters introducing yourself to other members of The FENG. Who knows? They might even write back. You can practice attaching your resume. You might even want to name the file LastNameFirstName.doc so the recipient will be able to save it to their hard drive where they have their resume saved as resume.doc. (I always hate over writing my own resume, don’t you?)

The resources within The FENG to practice your performance can be invaluable. Please use them!

When you move from off Broadway to the real thing, we want the critics to give you a glowing write up in newspaper. (And, hopefully you will deserve it!)

Regards, Matt

Can you hear me now?

I still remember with fondness the cell phone commercial where the technician is in the middle of a swamp somewhere and he is testing his cell coverage. I don’t know where he might be, but he isn’t here in Weston, Connecticut where we have limited cell coverage. (Thank goodness, Sprint, in their wisdom, has provided me with a repeater.)

Despite the convenience of being able to make and receive calls anywhere (including when I am crossing Long Island Sound in my sailboat), the use of cell phones is to be approached with a great deal of caution. The fact that it really isn’t your fault that you can’t be heard will be long forgotten. All that will be remembered is that you were shouting and repeating yourself.

In addition, if you leave a message and the individual you call doesn’t call you back, you might want to call them back. I have had many messages left on my telephone over the past year that went dead just when the caller got to the part about his/her phone number. Sorry, but if you aren’t in my address book and I couldn’t make out your name or the phone number, it is going to take me longer to get back to you. As a general rule, it doesn’t hurt to repeat your phone number twice so that if you wander into “cell phone heck,” I will still be able to call you back.

Droning on at length, whether calling from a cell phone or a land line is also a bad idea. I have a lot of nice features on my phone. I can play back whole messages or just parts, but it is still a burden to have to listen to a long phone message. If your phone number is buried somewhere in the middle, it can be challenging for me to find it after I have listened to your entire message. I always like to confirm that I have written your number down correctly, just in case you are calling from one different than the one in my address book. Oh, and when you get to the phone number part of your message, DON’T SPEED UP. Yes, I know you are quite familiar with your phone number and I am sure you can repeat it several times while holding a lit match, but please don’t try to impress me.

In addition, much as I enjoy a good game of telephone tag, make it easy for me and let me know a good time to call back. I may be one of the most persistent folks on this earth, but everyone isn’t, so try to be considerate of the fact that others are easily frustrated. (They just don’t know how important you are.)

If people are going to be calling you back, and I hope they will, be sure you have a professional sounding answering machine or service, just in case you aren’t there. There is nothing worse than trying to leave a message with a small child or someone who doesn’t speak English. (Sorry, it is the only language I speak, and some folks might dispute even that!) If there are issues in your household, consider getting a private line for your business calls or getting voice mail from your telephone company. No one should ever get a busy signal.

When you call, please clearly identify yourself and how I know you. Trust me, I really do know all of you, but unfortunately, an amazing number of you have the same first and last name. Give me a few hints so I don’t feel stupid asking you to elaborate. (You know what a sensitive guy I am.)

Well, that should about do it. I do hope to hear from each of you from time to time. Anyone who calls tomorrow from a cell phone with a garbled message and a quickly spoken phone number will only have themselves to blame for not reading this editorial.

Regards, Matt

Before you click send

The fun never stops here at world headquarters of The FENG. I get more amusing emails probably than anyone else on the face of the earth.

Let’s start with the use of “Matt’s secret decoder ring.” Thank goodness it is made out a durable electronic material. Each day about 75% of the emails I get lack an outgoing signature. Now I know that learning how to create an outgoing signature could take upwards of 15 minutes and that your time is best spent elsewhere, but it sure would help me to immediately know who you are and how to reach you.

A proper outgoing signature should include your full name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone numbers and email address. Yes, I know that your email address appears at the top of your message, but unless I print your email, it isn’t always visible on my computer screen.

If you have written something to me that requires a “call to action,” I want to be able to immediately reach for my phone or forward something to you.

Then there are the messages that have been forwarded several times and the lines are all “kaflooey.” (Is kaflooey a great word or what?) If you have an important message to send to someone you “love” like me, it sure would be nice if it were easy to read. Original messages do okay, but some of the forwarded ones are truly a piece of work. (And, I have more than enough work to do.)

Keep in mind that we haven’t even gotten to the presumed skill required of all senior executives of being able to communicate one’s ideas in a coherent fashion. I actually got a 3 paragraph note of sponsorship this past week that went to great lengths to extol the virtues of the individual being proposed for membership, yet failed to mention that person’s name. Not only that, but they weren’t copied on the note, nor was their resume attached. (Yes I know, hard to believe.)

We have come a long way since the beginning of email, which began somewhat akin to the use of the citizens band radio with cutesy “handles” and abbreviated writing styles. Email is now used for business, and in the case of job search almost exclusively instead of stamped envelopes. It should now be considered a professional form of communication and treated with all the respect implied by that categorization.

So, we all have to grow up. If your email service doesn’t provide easy grammar and spell checking, consider writing your note in Word first. You can then cut and paste your communications into your email and they will look and be experienced on the receiving end as the professional missives that they are intended to be.

Remember, friends don’t let friends sound silly when they send email. (Or the email message you save may be your own.)

Regards, Matt

Reinforcing appropriate behavior

In one of the jobs I had early in my career I was Business Manager for the College Publishing division of CBS.

It was an interesting job. All of the folks around me were well educated and always testing my knowledge and experience. They were also great teachers.

One of our most popular books at that time was “Understanding Human Behavior.” I believe the author was a Jim McConnell. Anyway, to celebrate the fact that his book sold over 100,000 copies (which is a lot for a College textbook), he was invited to come to New York City. He took that occasion to speak to our organization and I was fortunate to be in attendance because I learned something that I use almost every day: Ignore all deviant behaviors and reinforce all appropriate behaviors.

In the “management by exception” world in which we live, this can be a difficult philosophy to live by, but I try and I hope you will too.

Let’s start with the negative or deviant behaviors. There are those members who from time to time don’t show enough common courtesy to say “thank you” when you respond to their “Member in need of assistance” postings. Didn’t their parents teach them manners? Well, in keeping with Jim’s approach, sending them a nasty note is probably the wrong thing to do. Not sure why “bringing the hammer down on them” doesn’t have the desired effect of changing their behavior, but it doesn’t. On the other hand, if you get a thank you note for something you have done, do you send back a thank you note for the thank you note? Well, YES! Always reinforce appropriate behaviors!

Let’s say you are the one who has posted that request for assistance. Would you like to ensure that others can get their fellow members to respond? The approach I would suggest is to send an appropriately effusive thank you note. Reinforce the behavior of the members who have taken the time to try to help. All behaviors you reinforce, you get more of.

You may have noticed that from time to time I receive a wonderful editorial contribution from one of our members. Have you focused on how I handle it? First, I write a very positive introduction thanking the member in question, and then (in keeping with my “evil plan” to get more interesting articles for you to read) I ask all of you to write to this very kind member and thank them for jotting down their thoughts and sending them in.

If you feel you have been slighted by a member, what should you do? Under Jim’s approach, ignore it. With almost 40,000 members, we can have ourselves a very nice little society just by reinforcing the positive behaviors of our fellow members when we catch them doing something right. The trick is that every time you catch them, you need to reinforce their behavior.

Friends, we have a good thing going with The FENG. It is the largest organization of senior financial executives in the United States and by implication in the entire world. We are well known and well respected for all the things we do for each other.

Still, there is more for us to do. We have the opportunity as The FENG matures to make the ties that bind us together even stronger. Remember, we aren’t a job listing service (despite the job leads we publish in our evening newsletter), we are a NETWORKING group.

All you have to do is keep in mind that every day and in every way, it all begins with you!

When you catch your fellow members doing something right, be sure to let them know.

Regards, Matt

A time of renewal

Although everyone thinks that spring is a time of renewal, actually (just like networking) any point in time and any excuse will do.

For those of us who are in their 40’s and 50’s, periods of unemployment early in our career have probably been non-existent. The experience of being unemployed can be stressful unless you use the time to good advantage.

One way of doing this is to, in part, create a new you. I’m not talking about plastic surgery but there are always things you can do that will make you into a “new” person.

After you have gone through the initial steps of preparing your job campaign and networking with everyone you can think of, it may be time to take a little breather and think about what you have done with your life so far, and what you want to do with over the next 20 years. (If you like shorter time frames, pick 5 years.)

There is an old saw about no one ever voicing regret on his or her deathbed about not having spent more time at the office. Alas, it is unfortunately true. In the rush to earn a living, we can easily forget what is really important in our lives.

Have you really spent as much time with your children and your significant other as you would like to? (Everyone can say it together – NO!) Believe it or not, during a period of unemployment it is even more important to spend time with those folks. The stress of a job search is not only borne by you. It is also borne by those around you. A little time spent can move mountains. (And, it won’t hurt you either!)

Have you read any good books lately or gone to a baseball game? (Or, whatever is your sport of choice?) These are important activities, which if done when you can’t make phone calls anyway, will put you in a more relaxed and hence better frame of mind for the battle ahead.

Are you on a regular exercise program? Every morning it is “one two, one two, one two” here in the Bud household. (Now the other eyelid!) Actually my wife and I try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week. And, during the summer we take our bikes down to the beach and bicycle where it is level and there is no traffic.

Have you bought yourself some new clothes? Clothes make the man or women. Don’t get carried away, but a few new items that will make you FEEL rich can’t hurt.

The point here is that you need to take this break in what was your normal routine to make your life a little better.

Who knows, this time may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Regards, Matt

Awaiting a rising tide

Although I would never willingly admit it, over the nearly 35 years I have been sailing I have had occasion to go aground. (It is always an embarrassing situation.)

One time I dragged anchor in a storm (that I can assure you was not in the forecast) and the other times I managed to wander too far out of the main channel. The tidal drop in Long Island Sound where I do most of my sailing can be as much as 8 feet. For most of my sailing life I have had boats that draw around 4-5 feet. At high tide you can easily pass over areas that are exposed at low tide. (For those of you not familiar with tidal patterns, there are for all practical purposes two high and two low tides daily.)

If you’re smart, you stay in marked channels as much as possible. That way it is harder to make a mistake. But sometimes you just get distracted. Or, since I have a sailboat, when the wind is blowing from the EXACT direction you want to go, you try tacking your way out of the harbor and attempt to get the most distance to your desired destination out of each tack. (Sailboats can’t sail into the eye of the wind.) Unfortunately, charts are not always totally correct.

Anyway, when you do go aground, your first concern is whether the tide is falling or rising. If it is falling, especially with an 8 foot tidal drop, you need to worry about laying the boat over on its side if you do nothing. Time is of the essence. (See, I even included a legal term in an editorial largely about sailing!) If you act quickly and don’t do something stupid like try to drive through what you assume is a small shallow spot, you may even be able to power off. Heading back the way you came sometimes works. Turning the boat broadside to the wind so she heels over a bit to reduce your draft also works sometimes.

While you CAN wait for a rising tide, it is rarely the best option.

I know all of you are wondering how I am going to tie this to job search. Well, here it is.

Those of you who are currently active in your job search who are waiting for the job market to improve so you will have more job leads to chew on are doing the equivalent of waiting for a rising tide.

While the economic news is encouraging, the reality is that the structure of the job market in PUBLISHED jobs has changed as evidenced by the lack of jobs in our newsletter, unless, of course, all of you are holding out and not sharing your leads. (At one time we had as much as 100+ pages of leads on Sunday evenings.)

Waiting for job leads to appear is called passive job searching, and as I tell my wife all the time, government studies have proven over and over again that passive job searching doesn’t work. (By the way, when I use this line of argument, it is because I don’t have any supporting data, but when you claim you saw a government study most everyone believes you.)

Lots of things are disrupting the traditional job market as we have come to know (and love) it over our early career. Huge numbers of traditional recruiters, both retained and contingency, have left the business. Newspaper job ads haven’t been significant in an eternity. The job boards have pretty much trashed themselves by allowing anyone to respond to any posting and by not making any attempt to vet the jobs they post.

Whatever you are planning to do with your career, you would at ALL times be best advised to just get about doing it. And I hope that your primary activity is our enduring mantra of NETWORKING, NETWORKING AND MORE NETWORKING.

When you are hard aground, not much else works.

Truth be told, there may not be a lot of PUBLISHED jobs out there in the world, but my reading of the newspaper every day tells me that there are still a lot of PROBLEMS in the world of business, ones that all of you are uniquely able to solve.

All you have to do is go out there and find them.

Fair winds always, Matt

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

So, you have actually done it. A company has put you through the wringer and forced you to interview with just about everyone at the firm. You have beaten the competition to a pulp. You are standing all alone in your victory.

Now comes the moment of truth. They ask you for references. Like you didn’t know this was coming.

Let’s start with the idea that it is a commonly held belief that no one gives references that will say anything bad about them. This is the high standard to which you are going to be held. So, choose your references carefully.

The rub comes in when they ask you for specific kinds of references. So, in the hopes that each of you reaches this wonderful situation where you have the job almost within your grasp, let me make a few suggestions.

Normally companies ask for 3-5 references. The best companies ask you to provide someone to whom you directly reported, a peer and finally someone who reported to you. Just like Santa Claus, you need to make your list and check it twice.

Now that you have your list pulled together, you need to prepare your references. Again, everyone is expecting that you have only given them people who will say nice things. Before you have the need, provide these very kind individuals with a copy of your resume and go over it with them. I know this can be a delicate situation, especially with people you have worked with recently, but if they are going to say the RIGHT nice things about you, they have to know what you feel is important about your background, and hopefully that information is on your resume. When it gets down to the “short strokes” where they are going to actually be speaking with someone, you will want to provide them with another copy of your resume and perhaps the job description for that potential job.

The really difficult part of providing references is that all of us are so modest that often times the people around us, other than knowing we are hard working and honest, really don’t know what we do and how wonderful we are. This is why your preparation of references is so important.

When asked for someone you reported to recently, there is the possibility that you didn’t leave on good terms, or that you didn’t work for this individual long enough for them to really appreciate your fine qualities. I suppose there is also the possibility that they might have been the reason you left the company, even if you didn’t tell them they were. Still, you have to put them down or your reference list will look suspect.

Here is where our financial training pays off. We live by the rule of no surprises. The approach you have to take when you are required to provide as references individuals who might say the wrong thing is to prepare the person who will be calling your references.

I know there is the possibility that the evil or very grumpy person you worked for or with at the last job will rise to the occasion, but there is the more likely possibility that they may very well rain on your parade. So, make sure you annotate these folks in the most polite way possible so your potential employer will hear what they expect to hear.

If your old boss is likely to be of a mind to damn you with faint praise, find a polite way to make that the expected answer.

Perhaps you are aware that the rules at your old firm prevent those giving references from saying much of anything out of fear of getting sued. You might want to mention that so it isn’t taken the wrong way.

This is a very dangerous time when the job is as good as yours and yet, it can slip from your grasp because some idiot doesn’t know what a great job you did. Don’t let it happen. We need you to get that job!

Those having additional suggestion on this perilous part of the employment process should send them to Leads@TheFENG.org for publication in our Notes from Members section.

Regards, Matt

Catching a tiger by the tail

I hope we all spend a lot of time networking. (To paraphrase René Descartes, the famous French philosopher: I network, therefore I am.)

So you have been hard at it. The FENG Member Directory Search feature is causing smoke to rise from your computer from over use, but incredible as it may seem, you have gotten an appointment with someone on your “A” list for an in person networking meeting.

Now is not the time to slack off. All of the hard work you have put into getting this appointment will be as ashes in your mouth if you don’t prepare properly. Let’s assume you don’t know everything there is to know about this valuable individual. What should you do?

Step one is to Google. Yes, Al Gore’s Internet is one of those valuable tools. You just never know what you can find out. Has this person published any articles you should read? What is his/her background? Many corporations very helpfully provide bios on their key people. Let me assure you that if you haven’t read everything that is publicly available, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I know your fingers are a little tired from running searches of The FENG Membership directory, but let’s not forget that people know people. If you have the time or can make the time, try to find someone who knows this person and can give you a little backgrounder. Does he/she have attention to detail? In other words, how much time will you really have? Why do you think your background might be of interest to them?

Trust me. No one wastes their time. While you are in there on a networking basis, there is always a hidden agenda. Perhaps YOU have some information in which THEY have interest. You may have some valuable insights into what they are doing based on your former employers. One of your many goals is to discover where their interests lie.

One of the best tools to bring with you to the meeting is a target company list. As with all things job search related like your 90-second announcement, it should be brief and targeted. By providing a list of sample companies, you will be helping your networking contact focus his/her mind. Not only that, but they will have something on which to make notes while you are chatting. Names of specific individuals you would like to meet with their titles also wouldn’t be “off the charts.” While they may not know the specific people you want to meet, they may know people with similar titles at similar companies.

And, when you are in there with “Mr./Ms. Big,” remember, God gave you two ears and only one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk. I don’t know if Yogi Berra actually said this, but if he didn’t he would have: You can hear a lot just by listening.

Golden opportunities are few and far between in this life, so make the most of every situation.

You just never know when that tiger you have by the tail will turn around and bite you or instead providing you with an incredible link you would never otherwise have had.

Let’s hope for the latter.

Regards, Matt

Catch me if you can

Several years ago, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks starred in a movie about Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before his 19th birthday, successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor. The basic story is that over the course of several years, Carl Hanratty, played by Tom Hanks tracks down Frank Abagnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

I often feel like Carl Hanratty, only in my case, I am trying to track down members of The FENG. As Chairman of The FENG, I often feel that I could easily become a detective at this point in my life given the skills I have acquired.

I can’t believe how frequently during the day I get mystery messages from our many members, even members who are applying for assignments I are managing through The FECG, LLC. (Please visit our website to learn more about what we do: www.TheFECG.com)

Let me see if I can clarify a few obvious issues that all of you should be in compliance with if you are interested in pursuing gainful employment.

Your resume should have your points of contact. Period. I hear a lot of nonsense about identity theft, but honestly, unless you put your SSAN# and DOB on your resume, there is very little that someone can do to harm you.

Not being able to reach you WILL harm you. When someone wants to reach you, they want to reach you NOW. This means that if you have a day phone number, a cell phone and a home phone number, ALL of them should be on your resume.

If you can’t be reached at home during the day, do you really think people will generally try to call you at night? Yes, I know you may not have privacy at work, but you should only be so lucky as to get a call. If you want your day phone to be your cell phone, you might want to check it once in a while. And yes, a physical address is necessary so I know what time zone you are in. With number portability and no land line, the area code isn’t as helpful as it used to be.

This same story is true for the email address you use on your resume. I know you may find this hard to believe, but there are many of you out there (and you know who you are) who have set up special email addresses for your job search. The only problem is that you almost never check these addresses. And, when you do, you tend to do it in a rush and delete important messages (from me) along with the spam. (Again, you know who you are.)

No lecture about letting others catch you would be complete without my enduring lecture about outgoing signatures. Yes, I accept that all of you consider me a friend and you don’t use one with your friends, but what about when you are writing to me about one of my assignments? Would it be possible for you to include your FULL contact information then? What if I said please?

When it comes to messages I receive from our members when they need help, a FULL outgoing signature is a big help to my getting back to you. Sure, I have my secret decoder ring (The FENG membership directory), but I can assure you that the rest of the world is not so blessed. And, often times you want help at a time of change and none of the points of contact I have for you are still valid. (Again, those of you who have been guilty of this know who you are. The list is a little too long to include in this newsletter.)

And, for those members who are using a very old email address, please be reminded that the cutesy email address you created so many years ago (mine was CPTSafety) is meaningless to the rest of humanity and doesn’t look professional. Try to set one up that is your name and that doesn’t have numbers in it.

Believe me I would like to catch you. The real question is whether or not you want to be caught.

Regards, Matt

Phones don’t bite

One of our chapter chairs called me recently, and as usual when he calls, we had a wide ranging conversation about members of The FENG, friends (sometimes these two overlap), and family matters. There generally aren’t many moments of silence since we always have so much to talk about.

Since we are both networking maniacs, it is sometimes hard for us to understand why folks find it so difficult to network. Surely picking up the phone and at least calling other members of The FENG can’t be difficult. (This was the topic that we discussed at length.)

Then it hit me! Some of our members must think that phones have teeth. What else could it be?

Surely everyone in The FENG is aware that all of our members were also sponsored by a friend and that we have clearly let this whole friend thing get so out of hand that each and every member in good standing would let just about anything else in their life wait to take or return a call from another member. So, what could be the concern?

(Okay, don’t call me when I am heading off to lunch at 12:00 sharp. Food is important to me and I eat on a schedule. Other times are okay though. Even working on the newsletter can wait if I have an important call from one of our members.)

To pick up on a consistent theme, members of The FENG have walked a mile in your shoes, and sometimes even further. (So that’s why those damn things wore out so quickly. They were borrowed by one of our members!) Having experienced what you have or are experiencing, they are open to your networking calls and THEY WANT TO HELP. (If only someone would call me so I could help them, is what most members are thinking from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night. It is sort of a Maytag repairman thing.)

Friends, the welcome mat is out and freshly cleaned. It is only waiting for your arrival.

Our entire membership directory is out on our website and waiting for you to take our Member Directory Search feature for a test drive. I hope you will take this opportunity to check your listing to make sure it is correct. I also hope that you will dig through the incredible networking tool that is available to you and:

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!

(If you call me and don’t get through tomorrow it is because I am still trying to put my phone back together. I took it completely apart to check for teeth.)

Regards, Matt

Zen and the art of job search

I have never actually read any of the books that begin with the title I selected for this editorial, but I think I know what they were all about.

Okay, maybe I don’t. Still, the thought comes to mind upon reading one of the responses I received recently that there is one aspect of your required “job search attitude” that I should address.

Our mutual purpose in trying to explain how the world works is directed toward lessening the stress you feel when you are engaged in a search. It is easy to feel alone. It is easy to feel that no one cares about you. And, it is easy to feel that everyone else is getting called back, but you aren’t.

None of this is true of course. Those who treat you poorly treat just about everyone else the same way. Don’t feel singled out.

However, if you are to survive this process with your sense of humor and sense of self in good order, you might want to consider adopting a more appropriate job search attitude.

Very briefly, set your expectations as low as possible with regard to others being considerate of your feelings. Many of those with who you will be in touch have never “walked a mile in your moccasins” and they haven’t a clue what job search in mid-life is all about. With that in mind, you actually have to feel a little sorry for them. Perhaps we could conduct a little sensitivity training for them. (A new service from The FENG.)

Many folks feel that they can instill appropriate values in the entire world. Okay, sure, I am trying to at least do this within our circle of friends, but I have a leg up in that many of you already know each other. Our bond of friendship is where all of this begins. And hopefully each of you is working hard to increase your personal circle of friends and to be a friend within our august body.

For the rest of the world, relax and set your expectations low. If someone does actually get back to you, if someone does actually treat you with the great respect that I believe we all deserve, if someone goes out of their way when there is no obvious benefit to them, TAKE THE TIME TO REJOICE.

As one of my friends used to say all the time “Happiness is a choice.” Each day you can let the world get you down, or decide that this is the nicest thunderstorm you have ever been in and besides, that suit needed to go to the cleaners anyway. (I’m sure your shoes will dry.)

Regards, Matt

The excuse you can’t cure

The world of job search is filled with a lot of cruel jokes.

I have often argued that when the answer is no with respect to your candidacy, the best thing you can probably do is stop listening. The reason is that just about everything that follows will either not be entirely true or will be as close as words come to being an out and out lie. Those on the other side of the table often consider these statements “little white lies.”

The problem with the questionable statements of fact that come at you in these situations is that they have that glimmer of truth. And, since you are at a sensitive stage in your life, you tend to believe them to have more validity than they deserve.

The most common approach to turning down a candidate I describe as “the excuse you can’t cure.” It is totally lethal. And, if you internalize these statements of “fact” they will affect your ability to compete for other jobs.

An example would be someone telling you that if only you had a CPA, you would have gotten the job. Well, if you don’t have one, this is not something you will be able to fix over the short term, if at all. While this statement may not be total nonsense, I’m sure all of us could point out successful CFOs we know who don’t have a CPA certificate.

They may as well have told you that you were too short. This is another of the many issues about your credentials that you can’t fix. The list is endless. We were looking for someone from a top 5 business school. (Didn’t they read your resume?) We were hoping to fill this job locally. (Again, didn’t they read your resume?)

Too short. Too tall. Too many jobs. Too long at one company. (Do I need to go on?)

The absolute truth in these situations is that they have not selected you. The reason they use “the excuse you can’t cure” is that the real reason might be something you could sue them for.

Perhaps they wanted someone just like you, but younger. Perhaps they didn’t know your religion, ethnic background or race. All of these issues are present in the marketplace. We would like to think that we are all past this kind of irrelevant criteria, but you may as well believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus if you think prejudice doesn’t exist in the world.

The key issue is for you to know that when the answer is no, anything that is said shouldn’t be taken to heart.

After all, your fellow members of The FENG still respect you, as do your family and friends. It is their loss. Don’t add to the problem by believing in lies, white or any other color.

Regards, Matt

Job leads versus the job market

It is a true fact (as opposed to a false fact) that most people over value job leads. Perhaps I have said this before, but the real deal is networking, networking and more networking.

That said I thought it might be of interest to all of you for me to share my own personal theories as to why published job leads all seem to be out of town and/or require unusual skills.

Back in the bad old days before the Internet, job seekers here in the Northeast had the Sunday New York Times and the Tuesday Wall Street Journal to drool over. The Sunday New York Times had a lot of 2 line ads, which now based on the wisdom of my advanced years were clearly from recruiters trolling for resumes. Most likely they didn’t really have a specific job order in hand. Still, with nothing more important to do, I answered them. The comparable postings now are on the public job boards and they are every bit as worthless as the 2 line ads that preceded them.

The display ads were the fool’s gold of that era. Sometimes companies actually posted under their own names. But for the most part, the jobs that were being posted were out of town, or were vague in location.

Surprise! Even before the beginning of time itself, there has always been networking. A lot of the desirable jobs in major cities were filled before they could be posted. All that is left in Darwinian terms are the jobs that are hard to fill.

If you think about the total job market, the jobs for which you might be considered fall into only a few broad categories. First, there are the real posted jobs, some of which appear in our newsletter. Not all of them are out of town, but depending on the degree of difficulty in potentially filling them, most of them are.

Next we have jobs that are open, and step one today and in years past would be to “put the word out.” It is all so much easier today. If you need to fill a job in your industry, as an employer all you have to do is let your staff circulate it to their friends. You have all heard the expression “Birds of a feather flock together.” People in the real estate business know other people in the real estate business. People in the pharmaceutical business know other folks in the pharmaceutical business. And, so forth. It is all so much easier today that it is a wonder any jobs in major cities are published anywhere.

And finally, you have jobs that haven’t been created yet because the “hiring authority” doesn’t even know they have a problem until you walk in on a networking basis and tell them. At that point, they realize they have a problem and the solution is sitting in front of them. What do you think they do next? If you guessed “post a job on one of the public boards,” you are wrong. They just hire you.

If you think this is another of my stupid ploys to get you to do a little more networking, you have finally guessed right.

The bulk of the job market isn’t the jobs you see posted. They are only a very small fraction of the “work opportunities” that are out there for you to find.

Being in the right place at the right time doesn’t happen from pure chance. It happens from networking. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Go ahead. Make yourself lucky. Do a little networking.

Regards, Matt

Those lazy hazy days of summer

You really can’t beat summer.

Although it is a brief season (at least here in the Northeast), it is one of those remarkable times during the year when there is lots to do and lots of daylight time in which to do it. The days are longer and the weather is warm enough that you don’t need much preparation to go outside, unless it is raining cats and dogs. And even then, all you need is your umbrella.

Heading out to lunch is just so much easier if you work in a place like New York City where I worked for 20 years. No heavy winter coat to drag with you to a restaurant.

One of the great myths of summer is that no one is around and therefore it isn’t a good time to network. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you think about it, summer is one of the best times to be out and about networking. This is the time of year when lots of folks are on vacation. Sure, they are out of the office then, but by and large with all the activities that are available, most folks try to stay close to home this time of year. Who in their right mind would want to travel when the kids are home from school and there are quiet walks one can take in the evening with one’s significant other?

I would also point out to you that for most companies, this time of year is the slow season for the accounting and finance group. The yearend close and audit are probably done, and the budget season has yet to begin. While other groups at your target companies might be busy, your peers in finance world just might have some time for you.

I would also encourage you, if you are active in your search, to try to attend meetings of your local and not so local chapters. Draw a big circle around where you live and see what chapters are in reasonable driving distance. You certainly aren’t going to get caught in a snow storm this time of year. As one of our members said to me once: “If I stay home, I can be assured that nothing will happen. If I come to the chapter meeting, at least there is a chance I might make a good networking contact.”

Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts and make good use of this time of year. Just like the other seasons, it only comes once a year.

Regards, Matt

Your inner circle of friends

The FENG is a circle of friends, not a job listing service. The question I would have for each of you is, have you recently worked to expand your inner circle of friends within The FENG?

Regardless of when you joined our august body, and even if you went through our membership directory at that time, an incredible number of new potential friends have joined since that time. Access to our full membership directory is out there on our website for your information and use.

I am often asked why the membership directories you can generate using our Member Directory Search feature are only available as Word files and not Excel files or in database form. The answer is simple. Our membership directory listings contain a wealth of information about each of us. When using this information to build your inner circle of friends, it is expected that you will take the time to actually read this information and incorporate some of it into your personal message to any fellow member you would like to contact.

Everything about The FENG is personal. Suitable punishments will be imposed upon those who begin any communication to their fellow members with “Dear FENG member.” (I don’t want to go into details about the punishments I have in mind because the threat is probably more effective, however, we do stop short of water boarding.) Suffice to say that if you want to be treated like an individual, treat others the same way. You will see that it works!

In my work filling assignments for The FECG, I find that most searches yield to industry and location. I would suggest that this is a valid approach for you as well.

When visiting our website, go to our Member Directory Search feature and type in the name of every firm you have worked for under all of its possible variations in the Company/School field at top of the form. We take great pains to be consistent when creating the membership directory, but for some firms that have changed their name in various ways, you will have to play detective. Obvious targets are old friends, of course, but even those who worked at your firms in different time periods will either know of you or will know people you knew at the firm. The overlaps at companies are significant, and you really can’t lose.

If you examine your own directory listing, you will note that companies in anyone’s history run from most recent to least recent. Depending on when you were there, you can make judgments accordingly.

We have over 38,000 members, so this may take a while, but it is work that can pay big dividends.

Next, take a look for members who have worked at competitors. There may very well be individuals who you have met at industry conferences before you became a compulsive business card collector. But, don’t be shy about contacting those you don’t know as well.

The approach I am suggesting is to talk to others who actually understand what you have been doing and the conditions under which you have been doing it. Those are meaningful conversations and will more easily lead to valid networking contacts outside of our organization.

Regards, Matt

Man is a political animal

One of the common complaints I hear from people about their current or prior jobs is how political the situation is or was. To me, this is like complaining about the weather.

There is always going to be weather. It is my belief that you can’t really appreciate a sunny day unless you have experienced a rainy one. And so it is with politics. Some of it can get pretty unpleasant, but by and large if you engage the broader implications of it all, you can learn to enjoy it.

And, I am not talking learning how to play people off against one another. What I am suggesting is that you can learn to understand the process and the good, bad and ugly that goes with it.

Office politics is usually a tough one for financial folks because we tend to view ourselves as apolitical. In our minds, the right or wrong in any situation is based on the analytics, not on the personalities. If only the rest of the world thought through problems the way that we do. Unfortunately, they don’t.

The most important way to stay on the right side of every situation is to do something that runs counter to type. Very simply, you need to push your ability to socialize with your peers to the very edge of your comfort zone.

Yes, I know you would rather sit in your office and work on a spreadsheet, (spreadsheets don’t talk back) but unless you are out and about in “the shop” on a regular basis you honestly won’t know what is going on, and no one will tell you. Because you hold the checkbook, you are already more than a little unapproachable.

When I was Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency in the 1980’s, I placed my office next to my boss. People were always trying to see him and because he was usually busy they would stop by my office to kill a little time. It was a great way to keep my finger on the pulse of the organization.

I also made it a point to walk the shop several times a day. It was good to get up from my desk anyway and in this way I maximized my opportunities to run into my peers and have casual conversations with them.

All of you who are or have been out and about in your job search would call this networking. Networking is a process by which you can create meaningful business contacts and relationships to further your career and enhance your professional life.

It is the basic tool of job search. It is also the basic tool for your survival in your current or future job.

Politics and networking have more in common than I would care to admit. But then, I was never good at keeping a secret.

Regards, Matt

Take some time off

For those who are active in their job searches, taking time off can be very difficult. Well, this weekend you really have no choice. No one will likely be around in the afternoon tomorrow and they certainly won’t be around on Monday since it is a holiday.

That said holiday weekends are great times for networking with family and friends. Ah, Memorial Day, that great kick off to summer.

The key to a successful weekend, other than stocking up on food and beverages of your choosing, is to paint a smile on your face and have a good story to tell.

Those who know and care about you are sensitive to your feelings and will likely observe a “don’t ask” approach unless you can find a way to break the ice.

May I humbly suggest that a good story about The FENG will do the trick? Think about it, we are now the largest networking group for senior financial executives in the entire world. And, we perform all possible acts of friendship known to mankind for one another.

If you start out with a positive story about your search process, it will get the conversation going and you know what happens when those who want to help are actually allowed to help.

Now that you have practiced your 90-second announcement so it sounds natural, you can do a variation of it for those you know best. Trust me, everyone wants to help. They just usually don’t know how.

So, relax, have a good time, but don’t forget to network. Just don’t let anyone know that this is what you are doing.

Regards, Matt

Corporations are reptilian

I hope no one will be offended by the thought that corporations are reptilian. All I mean to imply by this statement is that although corporations appear to have human elements, they actually have no feelings.

We have all met and in fact we may individually have been dedicated employees, but in many respects, to have feelings about a corporation is similar to having feelings about a car, boat or a house. In and of themselves, they are not caring creatures. The “warm fuzzies” we may associate with inanimate objects is derived from their interaction and our interaction with actual people. Good times with friends, family or business associates in a particular setting are always in a human context.

What fools us about companies perhaps is that there are people we have come to know and respect who are a part of these entities we call corporations. You are certainly welcome to care about them and how they might feel about various actions you might take from time to time. People are always important. Hey, that’s what networking is all about.

When I speak with members about their jobs, especially when they have recently left them, the stories about what has happened to “the company” are very strong in their minds as if they had some great importance in and of themselves. If only “the company” hadn’t done this or that, they might still be there. This to my mind has elements of misplaced thinking.

Early in your career, if you were fortunate to work for one of the many “Great Corporations” that have existed over the past 50 years, you honestly had the feeling that “the company” was going to take care of you. This feeling transcended in many respects “the people” who worked at the company. There was a method to the madness of it all. The company had folkways and ways of doing business that were institutionalized. But, it was the people who actually executed on these concepts. The shared values of a company are, I suppose, inbred by their hiring practices.

It is all very well and good to ascribe human aspects to these entities, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your doing what is best for you.

Worrying about the company shouldn’t go a whole lot further (with the exception of your job responsibilities) than you being concerned about their making payroll. It is an economic entity, not an actual person. On the other hand, you should be very concerned about how your fellow executives feel about you, because it is these individuals who actually act as references and referral sources.

When we all look back upon the very positive experiences we have had over our careers, it is easy to confuse the company with the people who worked there.

As the staff sergeant in my Army squad once said: “There’s nothing wrong with the Army, it’s just the people in it.” My response to him was that for once we were in perfect agreement. (As you can imagine, I have cleaned up his remarks a bit for our “G” rated audience.)

Regards, Matt

Changing industries

More often than not, members of our networking group prefer to change industries when they change jobs.

I have to agree that changing industries isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills we have learned to a totally new situation is an attractive concept.

The truth unfortunately is often a little harsher. Our maximum value to any new employer is our knowledge and skills, and often times our perceived value is higher if we aren’t making any significant change.

As counter intuitive as it may sound, the best approach to changing industries is talking to folks from your industry, especially those who are no longer there. The question to be answered is how did they make good their escape? What was it they identified about their new industry, or perhaps about their skill set that enabled them to make the switch?

Being primarily loyal corporate types we tend to identify with the firms at which we have worked. We absorb the jargon and the issues as part of whom and what we are. In a sense we have trouble separating and/or generalizing our experience and sort of shoot ourselves in the foot when discussing what we did every day with folks not from our industry.

Start with your resume. Although it is important that you have a short sentence about the firms at which you have worked, in the accomplishments section, have you been careful to eliminate jargon related words and phrases?

A good test is to have someone who is not a financial person review your resume and circle words they don’t recognize as good understandable English. Sometimes even your fellow financial types won’t recognize a few of your references.

Once you have your opus cleaned up, you are ready to speak to those from the “outside.”

Sign into our website and using our Member Directory Search feature, look up the names of all the firms in your industry. Each time you get a hit, look at the names of the OTHER firms at which your many fellow members have worked. What you are looking for are folks who worked in your industry one or two jobs ago. See where they landed, and if you see a few companies that intrigue you, send them a copy of your resume and follow it up with a phone call.

Everyone loves to tell a good story about how they managed to reinvent themselves. If you let your new friend know what you are trying to accomplish, how can they not want to help?

You will find that using this approach is a lot easier and a lot more productive then reinventing the wheel. (And, a lot less likely to give you an Excedrin headache.)

Regards, Matt

It must make sense (to them)

When I was in my mid-30’s, I had the great honor of being treasurer of my congregation, a job I held for 4 full years.

It is probably true that I lean towards all consuming jobs. Or, perhaps I just try to do a good job even when I am not getting paid. Nonetheless, I discovered a lot about human nature performing this often times thankless task.

The congregation had a very long list of “members” who were behind in their payments. So, I set about to call all of them. Sure, I tried writing to them, but I found that the only way I got any kind of response was by picking up the phone.

Most folks were very nice. If they had a story to tell, they shared it with me willingly and I was able to make appropriate adjustments in their obligations. Sometimes I wrote them off completely. Hey, it was a religious organization, and I was not of a mind to be “hard nosed” about the whole thing. What was important for me to find out was whether or not they were going to be able to meet their financial commitment, not to force them to do it.

Over the 4 years there were several folks who would never call me back. Please understand that I use the “glass bell” technique, not the hammer and anvil. All of my messages were polite to a fault. None of them were ever threatening in any way shape or form. (I kind of like that “any way shape or form” phrase. Don’t you?)

Anyway, the lesson I learned was that you can never allow yourself the luxury of ASSUMING why someone isn’t calling you back. It is a great lesson, and one totally applicable to job search.

NEVER start making up reasons in your own mind why someone isn’t calling you back. The reason I say this is that often times you are wrong and the “made up” reason, totally without factual basis, will tend to stick in your mind and cloud your judgment and your response should your ever reach the miscreant who has been so impolite as to not get back to you. (Oops, I fell into the trap I told you to avoid! I guess it is easy to say, harder to implement than I thought.)

The story goes that early in the history of The FECG (my consulting practice), I had a friend out on assignment with a very special friend of long standing. It was only a short assignment and I was “hot to trot” to get it billed.

I called the consultant and didn’t get a call back. I called again and left another message. I called again and left another message. (Each one was a little more strident, fully violating “Matt’s law,” even though I was aware of “Matt’s law” at that time.)

Well, talk about feeling like a first class dope. When I finally got a call back from the consultant it turns out that his son had been in the hospital all week and he and his wife had only left his side to go home and change clothes. (I guess I wasn’t very high on his priority list! What was he thinking?)

While I would be the first to admit that most of those who don’t get back to you may in fact be rude or uncaring individuals, you need to give them the benefit of the doubt AT ALL TIMES.

Their priorities and the way they are dealing with them with regard to you and YOUR needs must make sense to them. Although I do know some individuals who are consistently guilty of inconsistent thinking, for the majority of humanity, this is not so.

Getting yourself all worked up over a presumed slight will not benefit you in any way shape or form. (Notice how I squeezed that phrase in twice tonight!) So, why do it?

Besides, getting aggravated will only diminish whatever energy you have for that most important task of finding another job.

Regards, Matt

Do you know who I am?

There is an extended joke I heard a while back about a man who experienced a flight cancellation. As a matter of fact, he was not alone. The line was long and as the minutes turned to an hour, he was getting angrier and angrier.

When he finally got to the head of the line he demanded to be rebooked immediately. When he met with resistance to this idea, he screamed at the ticket agent: “Do you know who I am?” Without missing a beat, the ticket agent grabbed her microphone and announced to the assembled crowd: “I have a man at the head of the line who doesn’t know who he is. If you recognize him, please come forward.”

All of us in this world want to feel important. And, we want everyone who deals with us to treat us with respect and courtesy, even when they really don’t know who we are. (Or, how important we really are or think we are.)

When you are job searching, there are many occasions when you are treated with disrespect. There are the phone calls that are never returned. There are the email messages that we know were opened but not responded to. (Honestly, how hard is it to hit reply and type out something?)

So, if this is how you feel on the receiving end, let me ask you to focus for a moment on how well you are doing with your communications with others. The question is whether or not you are actually making every effort to let people know that you know who they are and how important they are.

Your goal in your job search is to always keep your communications personal. And, in today’s electronic world, it is easier than ever. One of the easiest mechanical solutions is to purchase a contact database program to keep track of the many networking contacts you will make on this current search and on all of your future ones.

A good contact database system allows you to make notes about your conversations and messages so that you don’t sound uninformed when they call you back. I know some of you are notorious penny pinchers, but keeping your job search contacts in an Excel spreadsheet is just plain silly. I can assure you that after 50 people, you are out of control.

The FENG database is currently maintained in SQL database. It is my personal design and has served me well. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I would highlight a very fine program called ACT! There are also other very fine programs that do the same thing, I am just not familiar with them.

Doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you have a proper tool to get the job done.

To finish the thought about keeping things personal, consider how you feel when you receive a communication that begins: “Dear job applicant”

For you to write a note such as: Dear FENG member, is not only a violation of all that is common sense, it is also “against company policy.” One of the reasons it is particularly silly is that The FENG membership directory gives you plenty of opportunity to personalize.

You may not have a lot of information about the rest of the world, but within The FENG you have no excuse.

Personally addressed communications make the recipient feel important and therefore more open to helping you. Those of you who have tips and suggestions on how to implement this magic are invited to share their thoughts by sending a note to Leads@TheFENG.org for publication in our Notes from Members section.

I do hope you will take the time to do so.

Regards, Matt

Help, I’m trapped in a nut shell!

There is no greater challenge in this world than summing yourself up in 90 seconds or writing a proper summary for your resume.

As many of you know, I was CFO of an advertising agency in the 1980’s. Initially, I used to wonder why the creative folks got paid so well. As I got more and more into who we were and what we did, it became a little more obvious how difficult it was to create the essence of a product or service in a 30 second commercial or in a print ad.

Here you are a product and/or service with 20+ years of work experience. There are so many delightful aspects to who you are and what you do that you honestly don’t know where to begin. What is it your “audience” is looking for? Do they want to know that you were “born at an early age?” More than likely, beginning at the VERY beginning is not going to leave you much time to explain your most important features/product benefits that have occurred in the most recent 10 years.

If you start your thinking with the idea that “This is you in a nutshell,” you will be well on your way to structuring your thinking about the limited amount of time or space you have available to explain the unexplainable.

I tend to think of myself as an advertising and publishing guy. I do have some retailing experience, but it was very early in my career and I only did it for 2 years. What I want to accomplish in my 90-second announcement is to give those listening a sense of who I am and how I perform my magic.

And don’t kid yourself or be modest. All of you as members of The FENG have accumulated great talents and skill sets that those out in the world who have problems are willing to pay good money to acquire. All you have to do is think like your customer.

The problem we all face as we begin our job search process for the first time is that we typically have had very little need to “explain ourselves.” Members of other professions who traditionally don’t have such long service with their early firms are quite practiced at selling their services.

An art director I knew in my mid-40’s once told me that he had worked at 25 different agencies, some of them twice. If you are an art director, your bags are always packed. I guess even when you are working you tend to work out of a suitcase.

So, as you begin writing your 90-second announcement and the summary for the top of your resume, know that it is a difficult and challenging task. And, one you need to work and rework.

To sum up your working career in a way that won’t leave you “trapped in a nutshell” isn’t easy.

Some suggested approaches include eliminating all trite phrases such as team player, bottom line oriented, innovative, etc. Actions speak louder than words, but in spoken terms, specifics about what you do speak louder than trite phrases. “10 years of International experience” says a lot about you. So do descriptions of the range of firms you have worked for such as public and private firms.

What you hope to achieve is to create a context that others can use to digest the information to follow.

Tell me what you want to tell me then tell me. In this way, even I will be able to remember it and pass you on to the right people.

Regards, Matt

Everything is a story about you

I always find it interesting what people say about themselves.

Those who deal in hiring decisions have so many hidden tools in their arsenal. I suppose the obvious manifestations of who you are come across in the body of your resume and, of course, in your 90-second announcement. What those who know how to read between the lines do next is to listen and/or read every single other word or words you say about yourself to determine who you are and how you might fit into their organization.

There is a section at the bottom of many resumes that I will focus on tonight where folks really “go to heck” with themselves because they are not thinking about the context in which their resume will be seen. Some of this information is an obvious carryover from earlier resumes and needs to be deleted.

As an example, honors you received when you graduated from college. My undergraduate degree dates back almost 50 years. (Shocking isn’t it?) The fact that I made Dean’s List probably isn’t very important. While “old timers” isn’t setting in, this academic achievement really shouldn’t be mentioned because it is very dated.

Very little personal information should appear on your resume. The name of your spouse, how long you have been married, how many children you have and their ages, are all examples of things you should consider removing. It is not that these things aren’t positives about you. It is more that they are personal and unrelated to work. Some very productive folks have very unhappy personal lives. It just isn’t a good predictor of employment success.

Languages should only be mentioned if you are fluent. One resume I saw recently indicated that the individual was learning Spanish. While that is very nice, it basically sounds silly.

Awards from your prior employers are another area where you should do a little cutting because they make you look silly. Like that pin you won for perfect attendance at Sunday school, internal company awards are more than a little suspect unlike academic degrees.

Memberships, unless you were President of an organization, are another area you should consider removing. You don’t get a lot of credit for paying dues (we’re talking writing a check to belong). On the other hand, if you have shown leadership and accomplished something outside of work, please have at.

If you passed your CPA exam on the first try, I’m very proud of you, but this is not something that you should mention 25 or more years after the fact. Again, it makes you look silly. When it comes to your CPA certificate or any other certification, the fact that you do or don’t hold an active license is all that is really important.

Software skills are another area needing some attention. I always smile when I see someone who is proficient in Windows. If you can tell me someone who isn’t, I would like to hear from them. A few years ago, somebody listed Windows 98 as an area of knowledge. Hopefully no one is using this product anymore. So, why was it listed?

Please don’t get me wrong. Knowledge or skills in well known software such as Oracle, SAP, QuickBooks or Hyperion are good to list.

Religious information, just like your political affiliations are good things to leave off. Hobbies, unless they show high energy or deep intellectual pursuits should also be left off or used with caution. Reading is not a good hobby to list as it is low energy. Show me someone with a passionate hobby and that might be interesting and appropriate.

Always keep in mind that you are weaving a story about you. The accomplishments you list at the top of your resume may enhance your standing in the world, only to be brought low by some off handed comment at the very end.

Read every word on your resume and make sure none of them diminish your proud achievements.

Regards, Matt

Say what?

I used to be very good at multi-tasking. Now that I have gotten older, I am not as good at it.

I have a lot to do every day, so when someone writes or calls I find it very helpful if they take a moment at the beginning of their communication to give me some hint how I might be most helpful to them. If I have some sense of where we are going, I am more likely to know what to listen for.

I suppose it is a simple communication strategy, but it is one that is often forgotten in the normal course of human events.

You see it all around you. Take resumes for example. In a normal batch there are very few that have a good summary at the top.

“To obtain a challenging finance position in an innovative firm.” So reads one from next week’s batch of new member candidates. Okay, I got the finance part, but not much information for me to use as a guide to absorbing the information to follow.

“CPA and MBA desires suitable challenging position in established company.” Okay, I guess this means that he/she wouldn’t consider a job in a company that has yet to be established. This is probably a smart thing since if it didn’t exist they probably wouldn’t even have offices, and where would he/she report for work?

“Am I calling you at a bad time?” This is a question I get at least once a day. No, I usually reply, but if you call back at 2PM, now that would be a bad time. (A better question would be: Is this a good time?) If I sound stressed or answer the phone “WHAT?,” it might be a good thing to ask. Otherwise, it is best to just plunge right in and have at it. After all, what are the odds of catching me when I am not on the phone?

Although it is possible to meander a bit in a written communication because the reader can go back and forth as needed, spoken communication is under a much more severe standard.

Not only that, but as I have been heard to say, speech is also the slowest form of communication.

Being organized in your thinking is a big part of having an effective conversation. What is it you would like to get across? What is the easiest way to make clear the purpose of your call? No reason to beat around the bush. People in today’s world just don’t have time for it.

So, not to make you more stressed than you were before about picking up the phone, but think before you dial. And if you have written something for my consumption, think before you hit send.

It will tend to make your communications that much more welcome on the receiving end, and less likely to receive that ever popular response of “Say what?”

Regards, Matt

Asking for and accepting help

In our male dominated society called The FENG, one of the biggest challenges I face on a daily basis is getting members to ask for and accept help.

I am sure we all know that traditionally guys don’t ask for directions at the gas station. It is much better to drive around and around totally lost. (Thank goodness for GPS, we don’t have that issue to face anymore. Although, since most GPS units have a female voice, we seem to be more comfortable taking directions from women these days, but I digress.)

We have a lot of very fine traditions in The FENG. While all of us would prefer to be on the giving end of favors (kind of a Godfather thing), when we first join our august body we are more likely to be on the receiving end.

Since I brought up the Godfather thing, I guess I should mention that The FENG is like the Mafia in the sense that you can join, but you can’t quit. (Honestly, I don’t know why you would, but please know that once you are accepted you are a member for life.)

Being in this for the long term, I want to assure you that you will have all the time in the world to pay back any favors you receive from your fellow members. And, to make it even easier for you to be comfortable with our free market in favors, please know that a favor granted you by a specific favor giver can be paid back to ANY member who comes your way.

What we have done is break the link of your incurring a debt to any one individual, and instead when you draw down favors you owe them to the general organization.

Let’s assume that you are currently between assignments and you need to do a little networking. You can call up all the members who have worked at firms where you have worked, whether you know them or not, and they will try to provide you with links to individuals they think can help you. You can also call up members who have worked at firms that were competitors of your firms. Or, you can call up others with your areas of expertise like Tax or Internal Audit.

It is my belief you should sent an email first and perhaps a copy of your resume to be efficient. Speech is the slowest form of communication. (Smoke signals are slower, but they honestly aren’t used much these days. Besides, setting fires is a little dangerous.) Reading an email and scanning a resume is a delightfully quick process and will enable those you contact for networking to jump right in and have a productive conversation with you.

Furthermore, with your resume in their hands, they might even be tempted to forward it on your behalf to someone they know. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

And, what do you have to do in return? All you have to do is be as gracious as those who go out of their way to help you when you needed it. Take out that welcome mat and put it on your electronic front steps and hope that you will have the opportunity to help your fellow members just as they helped you when you needed it.

The truth is that we all need help at one point or another. I want each of you to feel comfortable in seeking out the help you need and not feel bad that, at the moment, you have nothing to give in return.

Trust me, we are prepared to wait until you do.

Regards, Matt

No one is out of work forever

One of the pearls of wisdom I heard from a friend of mine in 1991 was that no one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.

When you are employed in a W-2 job, weekends and evenings are hopefully your time to relax. Snow days, holidays are also to be anticipated and enjoyed. After all, the money is still coming in whether you are at the office or not. The worst case scenario is that your work is piling up.

Once you are out of work, your whole perspective changes. The early morning hours when you are awake and can’t make any phone calls, and the evenings when you would like to catch up with someone are not useful to you.

And, worst of all, the world doesn’t seem to understand your urgency. You interview for jobs and they say they will get back to you in a few days, but they don’t. Are you supposed to pester them? Don’t they know the time is hanging heavy on your end?

The world of work we just left had a pace and timing of its own. There were monthly closes to do, quarterly reports to get out, etc. Job search has no comparable way of measuring time.

In a sense, someone who is unemployed has been sentenced to a condition with no set end date. Sure, there are guidelines about how many months you can expect to be out of work given your salary level and years of experience, but that is not the same thing as knowing how long it will take. There actually is no mandatory waiting period. And the number of factors including how hard you work on your search are beyond computation.

If you feel that you have already been out of work too long, you’re right. Actually, anything over 15 nanoseconds is going to feel too long.

So, what’s a person to do? The first thing to do is not worry about it. Worry is an activity that doesn’t go anywhere. What you want to do is conduct a proactive campaign to get yourself back on someone’s payroll.

The primary ticket is, of course, networking, networking and more networking. For members of The FENG who are “well experienced,” there is no larger target.

If you are uncomfortable with the networking process, understand that you need to get with it. There are lots of ways to do that. The easiest way to develop this skill is to call new members. By and large, new members will talk to anyone. The best part is that there are usually 50 or more of them every week that you can call and practice on. Once you have mastered this, your style will improve and you can practice on your fellow 40,000+ other members until you get really good and are ready to challenge the “outside world.”

While job leads aren’t the be all end all that many people think they are, they are great to practice on. Look carefully at jobs you are applying for and match your resume up to ensure you are highlighting what is in demand and using current language for your skills.

Have I mentioned our local meetings? Here is a great place for you to practice your elevator speech and wax eloquent about your many skills.

The tools for your success are within you. This whole job search thing is a pain in the neck, but it is a skill you need for the rest of your career.

While it is true no one is out of work forever, it is also true that all jobs are temporary. If this is your first time out of work, look at this little adventure as an opportunity to strengthen your skills in the job search arena.

Remember, anything that doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.

Regards, Matt

Can you spel?

Some of the notes that I get from our many learned members fill me with dismay. I often wonder, do they send notes with spelling and grammatical errors just to me, or do they provide this special service to everyone in the world?

I do get a chuckle over some of them, but by and large I get concerned that the bad habits inherent in not checking their work creep over into all of the correspondence that they turn out. Some of it might even be for jobs they would give their right arms to have.

It is all very easy to think that when you are writing to friends you don’t “need to be on your game.” I respectfully disagree.

The discipline I have always followed is that everything that comes off my desk needs to be right. No exceptions. I am an accountant by mental training, and I believe that those who hire financial officers EXPECT us to be precise individuals. (Oh, it was either $1 or $1 million, what’s the difference?)

I don’t believe that there is any better way to hone your writing/typing skills than applying them to ALL of your attempts at communication.

Although I type 90 words per minute, I know that all of you are not speed typists. This is all the more reason why you need to check and recheck your work and make it part of your daily discipline. If your eyes are getting as old as mine are, typos that you used to catch, you may not pick up on as easily.

Most email systems allow for spell checking and I would recommend that you use them if you are at all prone to not spelling words correctly. You never know if that networking contact, even within the friendly audience of The FENG, may be the one person who has to decide whether or not to introduce you to another friend. Will he/she be as likely to do so if they think you can’t spell or put a coherent sentence together?

If you really want to play it safe, you can always create your messages in Word and copy/paste them into your email. I always do this when it comes to really important messages of a business nature.

As I mentioned last night, another part of the discipline you need to apply to your email correspondence is the addition of a proper “outgoing signature.” I have over a dozen outgoing signatures that I use in Outlook. My default signature is my business email as are several of the others. Then I have quite a few boilerplate messages that I use frequently in my work as Chairman of The FENG.

The convenience of the outgoing signature is that you don’t have to type this information each time. It should provide all of the easy ways to contact you including your mailing address. However, at a minimum it should repeat your email address and should include your day and evening phone numbers. You never know when someone will decide based on your message that they want to call you right then and there. Don’t make it hard for them to do so!

The “it’s on my resume” reaction underestimates the power of the human brain not to see what is right in front of it. Your resume may not be open at the moment and your best strategy is to make sure that anyone who wants to reach you can.

If you want others to consider you to be well spoken and well written, you have to work at it.

Like the sign in the restaurant said, “Good food takes time, yours will be ready in a minute!”

Don’t be a “fast food” writer. Take your time and make it write (or is that right?). (Their I go again, being a wize gi.)

Regards, Matt

Outgoing signatures (yes, again)

Of course it would be an understatement to tell you that I believe in the value of a FULL outgoing signature. In much the same way that I am a Fanantic FENG’er, I am also a fanatic when it comes to the substance and format of outgoing signatures. (Persnickety is another word.)

I try not to beat the drum about what is or is not a FULL outgoing signature more than once or twice a week in our evening newsletter, but that’s just an honorable mention. Tonight, the ENTIRE editorial is on this important topic.

Part of my “evil” plan to have all members of The FENG use an outgoing signature is that I check ALL of them against our membership database. This is how I make sure you are current so that your fellow members can reach you.

My outgoing signature appears in every message I send out (including replies) as follows:

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 take a moment and point out each feature that I feel is appropriate and required.

Starting at the top, a message should be ended with either “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or whatever you feel is appropriate. (“Fair winds always” is another very popular one, but only among us sailing types.) You then should “sign” it with your “greeting to use.” If your given name is Robert, anyone contacting you should be informed that you prefer Rob, Bob, or Robert. In this way, you won’t be correcting them when they reach you with those ever popular words “Oh, just call me Bob.”

I believe the next line should be your given name as it might appear on your resume or on a check. This is your formal name, and it is sometimes helpful in knowing which John Smith has contacted me. Oh, John C. Smith.

If you aren’t working, a title isn’t appropriate or needed. But, if you are, I always like to see your title because it may be different than what I have in my address book. Often the title I have is one you gave me when you started your current job and you have been promoted. I like to see that.

The next section is your address. I have heard that there are identity theft issues that could make the publication of your address problematic, but I believe that including it makes your outgoing signature look more serious. I use NO abbreviations in addresses except for apartment, for which I find Apt. sufficient. You are welcome to use a few others, but abbreviations make me crazy. (Yes, I am under a doctor’s care for this.) The reason I like addresses is that while I may not recognize your area code, if I see your address, I do know what time zone you are in and I know whether or not to call. With the transportability of cell phone numbers, your phone number isn’t a good indicator anymore of where you are. As I said above, I also check this information in your directory listing.

The next section is your email address. Yes, I know if you have written to me it appears above, but often times the label you have assigned prevents the display of your email address and I like to know that I have it in my address book correctly. For those of you attending the advanced class tonight, let me mention that the same care and attention I suggest for your outgoing signature should be given to your email label in the “from” box. Proper upper casing and lower casing is essential. Please know that for any important messages you send out, it is inappropriate to share an address with your spouse.

I believe email addresses should be upper cased and lower cased for readability. The Internet doesn’t require it, but I think it makes them look more professional. If you have an address with numbers, get a new address, especially if the number is a “1.” You can’t easily tell a “1” from a lower case “L.” If you don’t care that you aren’t hearing from about 1/3 of the folks you write to, you may ignore this last issue.

Phone numbers should be listed in the order you would like them dialed. If you are always away from your office, make it your cell phone. Hardly anyone faxes these days, and if you leave off your fax number, you won’t upset me. Phone numbers should be formatted in some approved style. Traditional: (203) 227-8965, or modern: 203.227.8965, or some variation is fine. Being an accountant, I like numbers to line up. It is for this reason I put my labels on the right. You will note that they are shown with a capital initial letter and with NO abbreviations. (If you have already forgotten, please know that I HATE all abbreviations.)

And item last is on the subject of “pictures” in your outgoing signature instead of text. Please don’t, because you mess me up. Very nice logos or non-text business cards look very nice, but cannot be copied and pasted into the text box I have in my address book. When you do this, I have to manually write your new company or remember it and how to spell it so I can update you. I might also have to print your email. (As you know, this is a waste of paper.)

For those of you new to outgoing signatures, you will find step by step instructions in just about every email system by entering “signature” in the search box under help. It is so easy to do you will wonder why you didn’t do it before. By the way, you need to make sure your automatic outgoing signature isn’t being tagged at the VERY bottom of the entire message. This issue happens to our Gmail users all the time. On replies, the outgoing signature is at the VERY bottom after the earlier message(s). This can be fixed if you check your settings.

Please keep in mind that the beatings (about outgoing signatures) will continue until morale improves.

Regards, Matt

An over reliance on job leads

Part of the lecture I deliver to new members who call me is that The FENG is a networking group, not a job listing service. I then add that they shouldn’t allow the fact that we are publishing about hundreds of pages of job leads each month confuse them about our true purpose.

In the beginning (when God created heaven and earth), it was my closely held belief that the existence of our job sharing would ensure that most of the good news announcements would indicate that the lucky person got the job from a posting in our evening newsletter. Alas, it has not been so.

Sure, over the years I have seen some improvement in this statistic. And, I do work mightily to curry favor on our behalf with the search community to encourage them to post opportunities with us. Our sterling reputation has gotten more postings and gotten them to us earlier in the process. As a result we have been winning more assignments.

Still, a careful reading of good news announcements indicates that networking wins hands down as the most likely approach.

So, what is the value of all of the postings that you slog through each morning? Is it a waste of time or what?

Actually it is a good use of your time, but not for the reasons that would appear to be most obvious.

Most of us have not changed jobs frequently in our careers. It is this lack of experience that requires us to really think about what we can do in the outside world. Job leads provide you a very real window into what kinds of hiring are currently being done and what skill sets are in demand so that you can “Think like your customer.”

Job leads can also provide you with the names of individuals in our august body that you should contact for networking purposes. A two step logic applies here. If a recruiter called another member about a job in which you have interest, there is a high probability that you have something in common with this other member. Duh! (Perhaps a little networking is in order.)

There is also the logic of practice makes perfect. Just as I would encourage you to go to all the networking meetings you can possibly attend to practice your 90 second announcement and to explain what magic you bring to the party to anyone who will listen, you also need to practice your writing skills by responding to real job postings. Without this “off Broadway” practice, when the real thing comes along, you won’t be as polished as you should be and you may not win the day as we all know you should.

Job leads aren’t a “be all, end all.” They are only a beginning and a tool for you to use in your quest for that perfect job.

Read them. Analyze them. Respond to them if they are a fit. But, please understand that your greatest power tool is The FENG membership directory and the individuals who populate it. They are most likely your ticket and your key to that next job.

Regards, Matt

Are you good for nothing?

One of the many things I am always surprised about is the degree to which most members of The FENG generalize their very specific talents.

I assume that this approach is their attempt to broaden their background and make it appear more appealing to a larger audience. While it is always required to explain your work experiences in layman’s terms, it is not really desirable to cause them to lose their importance.

As I have been heard to say: “If you are all things to all people, you are nothing to anyone.”

The reason we get paid the “big bucks” as senior financial executives is for being extremely knowledgeable about accounting and finance. Those who seek out our services do so for our expertise. If just anyone who could count would due, they wouldn’t need to hire you.

While I am more than painfully aware that there are fewer jobs in certain industries and that they may not be coming back, your ability to make comprehensible the very detailed nature of what you have been doing for a living the past so many years may make you a sterling candidate for something entirely different in another industry. Why? Because people will figure that if you could make a profit for your employer in THAT industry, ours is simple by comparison and you could make a FORTUNE for us.

The ability for those outside your areas of expertise to draw analogies is contingent on your ability to explain. Clear writing and clear speaking about your many talents will get others to know and understand how smart you are.

Everyone has an area of extreme expertise. Sure, if all you know how to do is make buggy whips, you are probably in a lot of trouble. Knowledge of how to work a comptometer doesn’t come up much anymore either. (My boss at CBS in 1973 had one and they were obsolete then!)

When pressed, I have yet to find a member of our august body from whom I couldn’t squeeze information about what he felt he did best. That said, I have often had to turn certain individuals figuratively upside down and shake them to get them to “give it up.” When they finally did, I have to tell you it was always a better story than the one they first told me that was filled with platitudes and trite words.

It is my firm belief that almost all members of The FENG have done some pretty amazing things in their careers. Your “burden” is to ensure that those you have occasion to speak with are as amazed and astounded as I usually am when I hear your stories.

Think of it as your very own personal “shock and awe” program.

I know that as financial folks we can do just about anything. Your goal is to explain the specifics and let their imaginations run wild. If you don’t you just might be categorized as good for nothing, or worse yet, nothing in particular.

Regards, Matt

Selling from your own wagon

Although we are frequently willing to accept lower salaries and/or lesser responsibilities, the greater challenge is convincing the world at large of our willingness and overcoming their resistance.

What we see as age discrimination, they see as just plain common sense in screening candidates. You may be willing, but they see their clients as being unwilling to consider over paid and over qualified candidates. The trick is to convince them that it is common sense. However, one way that doesn’t work is the frontal assault.

The frontal assault is telling them that they are engaging in age discrimination.

In dealing with the search community or human resources executives I have never been really successful in overcoming their inherent prejudices. I don’t think you can. I learned a long time ago that you can’t change people’s attitudes, but you CAN change their behaviors. By offering a free posting with a 48 hour result, WITHOUT discussing the fact that most of the candidates are more senior than they really want, I have been successful in putting our members in front of them BEFORE they start looking for more junior folks.

The strategy of trying to be something you aren’t doesn’t work. Take the years off your graduation dates if you like. Eliminate your oldest jobs if you like. None of that will work because before they hire you they will find out that you have LIED. And I don’t know about you, but I would never hire a financial officer I knew had lied.

So, what approach works? Sell what is in your wagon. You bring a lot of skills to the party. You have been there and done that. And, you are interested in the general parameters of the job in question. Please tell me, mister client, what is the problem?

If you take the time to examine job postings and try to present how you have solved the issues they face before, how can you lose? Well, of course you can, but if you don’t believe you are the best person for this job, you will have difficulty convincing anyone else. If you believe you are too old or over qualified, you will have a tough time convincing anyone else that this is a fit.

Telling a convincing story takes practice. And, the first person you have to convince is yourself. It isn’t a perfect world we live in. If it were, there would be increasingly challenging jobs out there that would exactly reflect a continuing curve of knowledge and experience that matched our backgrounds.

Alas, the world isn’t perfect. We need to force our square pegs into round holes from time to time to keep working at our chosen profession. I don’t see anything wrong with this. Reinvention is at the core of American values.

So, let’s get out those universally useful tools from our wagon of skills and show how they can be applied. And, make sure the parties involved know how much fun you will have doing it.

Regards, Matt

Asking for specifics

One of the worst things that anyone networking can do is to ask if you know of any jobs for them. I can assure you that the most likely answer will be something to the effect that two weeks ago they came across something that was right for you, but they can’t remember who it was they heard it from.

The analogy I would draw for you comes from my experience at a small staffing company back in the early 90’s before the Internet. (Yes, there was a time before instant communication!)

This little company was ahead of their time I suppose. They placed senior executives of all types in temporary and permanent jobs. Their key leg up, or so they thought, was a database of 16,000 executives who had registered with them. The problem was that although searching the database based on key words brought up candidates, rarely did any of them represent a perfect fit, or even a decent fit. What was worse was that most of them also weren’t either available or interested.

Finding a job that fits your requirements is a lot of hard work. Probably harder than the work you will do when you finally find that job. As you get further along in your career, you become a more and more sophisticated key that only fits certain locks.

Just as those who do search find the process of identifying candidates difficult (and no the Internet hasn’t solved everything), us mere mortals who would like to find something to do out in the world that will pay us a decent amount of money and not kill us is also difficult.

That said, when you are out and about networking, you need to learn to ask specific questions.

To get your gracious host in the spirit of things, ask if they know any recruiters who place senior financial executives. Recruiters are not your real target, of course, but everyone knows a few well respected recruiters and they will gladly share their names with you.

The next phase requires you to have a target company list. Coming up with a target company list isn’t as difficult as it may sound. First of all, it is not necessary that the companies on your list have any openings. Secondly, they are likely to be large companies, and as many of you may know from my past comments, large companies tend not to hire senior folks. They prefer to grow their own.

The target companies should be well known brands. A short definition of their business is needed, just as you might do on your resume if they were a place where you worked. Contacts often don’t know anyone at the companies on your list, but they do know other people who work at competing firms. We may scoff at industry experience as being entirely needed in our generalized area of expertise of accounting, but people from industries where you have worked always find you more familiar than those folks from other experiences.

Phrases like “mid-sized manufacturing company” don’t work nearly as well as naming names. Although your contacts may know that a firm is a manufacturer, they may not know the size of such companies. Not wanting to be embarrassed by you pointing out that they are too small or too big, they will just say nothing.

No one but you can easily come up with an appropriate target company list. I may not know what you do or how you do it, but if the company name is familiar, I can quickly gain a sense of other appropriate firms and I will leave it to you to sort out.

Ask me a broad generalized question and I might rattle on forever and tell you nothing. Ask me a specific question and I will generally deliver a specific answer.

Regards, Matt

Are you over qualified?

I’m sure tonight’s topic will generate a lot of comments. Those of you who would like to join in on this discussion are invited to send your comments to Leads@TheFENG.org.

The short answer to the question of the moment is: I hope so! If you weren’t, I’m not really sure how you were added to our membership. Our entire organization is filled with well qualified individuals who can do just about any job they would like to take. That said the primary focus of tonight’s editorial is for our members who are much older. Let’s say 55-60 plus.

When you are interviewed for a possible work opportunity, please understand that the comments made by the interviewer are often a sincere statement of their belief. The question is if you are viewed so positively with respect to the position in question, why won’t they hire you?

Part of the answer is that when they make a comment like over qualified, they are looking to see how you react. Their concern is that you will be bored. (Aren’t they nice to be so worried about you?) My suggested approach is to take their comments as serious inquiries into how you might feel about the job in question. This is not, however, the time to indicate your lack of ambition or intelligence.

The belief system in the world is that everyone is on the way up. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true for any profession or any individual over their lifetime. It is sort of like the idea raised in The Road Less Traveled where the author explains that “life is difficult.” Once you accept this idea, the whole world makes sense. In much the same way, the idea that EVERY job is a step up just doesn’t square with reality. People move up, down, and sideways over their careers. This is all normal.

What you want to focus on are the aspects of the job that you will find to be of interest. Perhaps you have a long history in the industry. Or, the area of expertise required is one you have spent many years developing. The game is to get the conversation back on track to the work responsibilities. In a sense, the interviewer has given up on you and you have to regain his/her interest in you.

Getting past the initial screeners is the most difficult part of the interviewing process. The reason is that most of these folks ARE young enough to be your children. They see you in a parental framework and are surprised that you have interest in jobs that are in their view beneath your dignity.

For you, the goal is to be working, and working at something that you will find absorbing. We spend far too much time at work to be totally zoned out. The thrill of travel may no longer be of interest to you. Long hours with tremendous responsibility may not make it for you either. You just have to be careful how you explain these issues to someone early in their career.

The paradox which you can use as a springboard to your own answer to these kinds of questions is that while a company only reluctantly hires an over qualified employee, they would absolutely never engage a consultant who WASN’T over qualified. Go figure.

What I have found with the consultants I have had out on assignment through The FECG, LLC, is that most 2 week assignments last several months. The reason is that once a company finds someone who actually knows how to do something, they tend to find more work for them. (Please visit our website: www.TheFECG.com to learn about what we do. Perhaps one of our alumni members needs an over qualified consultant. We can find them quite a few!)

Let’s all also keep in mind that there are jobs where you could do the work, but the company’s goal is to train someone for the next level. If they don’t bring along a few young folks and train them, they will not be serving their best interests. It may not work for you, but it does work for them.

I will also share with you the idea of “the excuse you can’t cure.” As an example: If only you were taller. If only you were a CPA. If only you had an MBA. If you don’t, this is something you can’t cure by tomorrow. It is one of the best “no” answers anyone can use.

One last item to keep in mind is that people don’t buy ¼ inch drill bits. They buy something to make ¼ inch holes. If you can lay out chapter and verse about how you are going to solve the problem represented by the job in question, it will be yours for the taking.

Regards, Matt

A cut in pay

Probably one of the most upsetting and disappointing aspects of searching for a new job when you are “well experienced” is the need to consider positions for which the compensation is considerably less than your last job.

I suppose it is part of our mind set as accountants that we tend to view our gradual increases in pay over the years as hard won. I guess that’s because they probably were. The prospect of losing ground from the heights we have obtained is, at best, difficult to face.

I can tell you from my personal experience that early on in my search in 1991 I passed on several reasonable opportunities because they were slightly below my former salary. If only I hadn’t been so foolish. But then, how was I supposed to know that I was going to be unemployed for almost 2 years?

Whether the job market is soft or strong, what is most important for our more senior members is the need to understand that “we aren’t as young as we used to be.” (But then, who is?) Finding a job in your 40’s and 50’s is not only more difficult, we are also in a very real sense over qualified for most jobs. And, since these jobs don’t use all of our accumulated talents, it is hard to get paid for them.

The anecdotal evidence is that most of our members move from large companies to smaller ones. Sure, these smaller companies need our “been there, done that” expertise, but they frequently can’t pay as much as we were getting in our last job.

I have to ask you at this point if it matters.

Sure, money is the yardstick by which we measure our success, but being secretive financial types, we are probably the only ones who know that our new job with a better title pays less than our last job. You may have to look at yourself in the mirror each day and try to avoid thinking that you have failed in some way, but in reality, you have succeeded if you are now working.

We have all witnessed the shorter time cycles of jobs these days. Even the ones you win may only last 2-3 years, and then you have to look again. What you need to consider is your total earned compensation over long periods of time. This is what you are trying to maximize, and accepting jobs that come along at less than your previous salary can make sense if it gets you “off the street” quickly. No one needs to know the exact details, and generally all a company can say is that you worked there. It is in effect your secret.

If you take a job for which you are over qualified and underpaid, one factoid that may have escaped your thinking is that it is kind of hard to get fired from jobs like this. Because of all you bring to the party, you are one of the most valuable folks at the company. It is an effect that is subtle at times, but if you are alert to the fact that everyone is always trooping through your office asking for your advice, it may dawn on you.

The most important thing is to be working. Whatever sacrifices you need to make, you need to make them and be happy with them. Yes I know, easily said, but hard to accept. Still, life is compromise.

By the way, a low paying job working for miserable people is not what I am taking about. That is never worth the money, even if they are over paying you. But, if the people are okay and perhaps you don’t have to move, the deal can make sense.

Don’t let the “idea” of a pay cut that is known only to you, stand in the way of your happiness.

Regards, Matt

The power of networking

For those of you who have been spending any significant time surfing the job boards may I suggest you stop and turn that energy to networking?

I had the great pleasure of speaking with an old friend of mine some time ago (yes, most of my friends are old, but this one is actually just a little younger than I am). Anyway, this friend has been a retained recruiter for most of his career. He has been through the good times and the bad times. One of the topics we covered today was how senior level executives tend to get their jobs.

The astounding number he quoted me from a study he was sent was that only 2% of senior executives got their jobs from the various job boards. (Is that a disincentive to surfing these websites or what?) Networking was, of course, the number one source at 80%, with the remainder of jobs found being made up of contingency and retained search firms.

I’m not sure why folks tell me they are terrible at networking or why they claim they don’t know how to do it. Everyone knows how to do it. That said networking is a lot of hard work. (I guess that’s why the word “work” is in it). But, it is also a lot of fun if you go about it correctly.

Each week several of our new members get to “feel the love” that is represented by networking. These are the new members who arrive on our doorstep without a sponsor (usually left in a wicker basket and tightly wrapped in a blanket). What we tell these prospective candidates is that we are going to give them 5 names of current members, hopefully some of whom they already know. They are instructed to tell them that they have applied for membership in The FENG and that they will be accepted, but that they need a sponsor. They also are instructed to send a resume. If you have been on the receiving end of one of these new member applicants, let’s be honest, could you say no?

Well, of course not! So after we give these instructions, I try to make clear that NO ONE has ever failed to get a sponsor. Okay, there have been a few people, but they didn’t bother contacting anyone we gave them. (I guess this is like the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear. It just doesn’t make any noise.)

Our approach to providing names is the same one I suggest all of you use in our Member Directory Search feature. Look up the names of firms where you have worked. Look up the names of firms that are on your target company list. Write individual and personal notes to the most appropriate names you find based on when they were there. With respect to firms where you have worked, they may know of you. Failing that, they may know individuals who are known to both of you. Failing that, you just may have a good laugh over the fact that all the characters have changed, but nothing else has at good old XYZ Corporation.

The goal of networking is to find common connections that make sense. People who know what you do or have done are more likely to be able to lead you in the right direction.

But the primary point of tonight’s editorial is that there is little choice to networking because it is the best game going.

If you want a word that is a synonym for power, that word is networking.

Regards, Matt

Precision in your communications

Perhaps it all started with the telegraph. (Hey, they were charging by the word.) Or, was it the CB radio? Somewhere along the line we have all come to believe that brevity, even when not entirely correct, is somehow okay.

Today’s communication formats such as the various smart phones don’t lend themselves to being complete or correct. There is even an available statement you can add to your outgoing messages from these devices that highlights the fact that it wasn’t sent from a regular computer. (I guess the expectation is that folks on the receiving end will therefore be more forgiving.)

I won’t even get into Twitter. (140 characters is really constraining.)

It is sad, really, that we allow these things to affect our common sense. While I applaud the fact that I can send messages by email from my telephone, and while it is painstakingly slow compared to my regular keyboard where I can type 90 words per minute, I still take the time to get everything right.

The problem is that everything you send out from your desk (even that small one on your phone) is a statement about you. If it is sloppy or contains errors, your little excuse about the tiny keyboard really doesn’t change the impression you leave.

While you are primarily communicating with those you know from these little devices, I would suggest to everyone that the shortcuts you take shouldn’t be allowed to carry over to your regular correspondence.

Just as a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, the existence of careless mistakes in your written communications speaks to a certain lack of precision in your thinking and/or writing style.

I would be the first to admit that I use a lot of boilerplate in my communications. I get a lot of email, but that is not why. The primary reason is that I have taken great care to make sure the greater portion of my messages are entirely correct. Just as a lawyer uses boilerplate contracts because he knows what is in them, I use my frameworks for the same reason. This gives me the freedom to be creative in the balance of my message and to focus more heavily on the variable portion.

If you look at the formats in our membership directories you will notice that we have a basic style sheet. Our administrative staff goes to great lengths to eliminate most abbreviations and to tidy things up on your listing as best they can. In this way, each listing is as readable as it can be.

In your outbound communications, take the time to really think through what you are going to say, and don’t hesitate to write and rewrite before you hit send. Unlike verbal communication where you can say you misspoke, written errors in email last basically forever.

Now there’s a scary thought.

Regards, Matt

Maintaining your focus

Life is made up of a lot of endless details. And, as financial people, the endless details are where we shine.

I have said from time to time that eating an elephant is best done one bite at a time. (Mustard would probably also be a good idea.) Most tasks, no matter how enormous they may seem at the time, are actually finite in nature. By finite, I mean to say that if we work on them in our usual diligent manner, at some point they are finished.

The approach I take to planning is based on the recognition that there are 1 day plans, 1 week plans, 1 month plans, 3 month plans and 1 year plans. There are also 5 year plans I suppose, but for most of us, just getting through the day is an accomplishment and I don’t want to discourage any of you. We’ll leave a discussion of really long term thinking for another night.

The key to success is keeping all of these plans consistent. The slippery slope if you will is letting the endless details that make up the day cause you to lose focus on your longer term goals. Getting through the day is vitally important. But if you get through the day and haven’t moved yourself even an inch closer to your goals, you have effectively lost ground.

Even if you don’t have a specific timeline for your longer term goals or a detailed plan, you can still make it work by having a mental picture of where you are going with your life. Life can be filled with minor setbacks. But, two steps forward, one step back, still puts you one step ahead.

One of the questions I ask those who call me is how old they are. Where you are in your career should directly affect your strategic thinking. Early in your career you should be focused on gaining skills and stature. Late in your career, your focus needs to be on working at ANYTHING that utilizes one of your skill sets. All jobs are temporary, and they can tend to be more temporary later in your career, so the approach I recommend is to find things quickly and do them whether or not they are an exact fit for what you want to do. Fussiness is best left to those with more miles left on their odometers.

The big picture can be a lot of things. And, given how life can play tricks on us, having several big picture long term plans is probably a good idea. Any one of these big ideas should be something that you would find appropriate.

Current events will always affect us. There are boom times and times best described as great recessions. (I don’t know. Are we still allowed to use that word or are we finally in recovery?)

Just always keep in mind that you only get to do your life once. And, all you can do is try.

If you keep your focus, you just may end up exactly where you want to be.

Regards, Matt

An executive of true mystery

I am always amazed and astounded how frequently the resumes I see are missing vital information. What I am not clear about is WHY the individual in question thinks that leaving off important data will benefit him or her.

Let me start at the top of the list and mention missing home addresses. Yes, hard to believe, but some job seekers are apparently living in their cars. And to add to the impression that they are homeless, some of these resumes don’t even have a phone number or email address. (I’m not sure how you are supposed to reach them.)

I suppose the theory is that if you don’t tell them where you live and you are applying for a job for which you are not local, the individual doing the screening will be fooled into thinking you live nearby. The short and long answer is WRONG. Perhaps I should say it as ding dong, you’re wrong. It is one of the silliest approaches I have ever seen. What makes it particularly silly is that I have seen this on assignments where the candidate WAS local. Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. If you want to be considered as a local candidate, indicate in your covering email why this location makes sense.

The second maddening issue is missing dates and missing work history. I suppose some folks have been advised that because they are VERY old, leaving off date ranges on their early work history makes them appear younger. WRONG. (I won’t add ding dong this time. I will let you do that.) Think of it this way. If you leave off dates to appear younger, you must be VERY old. I do hope someone will explain to me how you won that one by leaving off your date ranges on jobs you have listed. And, some of these lists go on and on. I have seen as many as 5 prior jobs with lofty titles, but no dates. (Gosh, you might even be as old as I am, and I’m 70, but then I have a few miles left on my odometer and perhaps you don’t.)

Another very clever approach to appearing younger is a vague statement at the end of a resume that begins with “and other firms such as …” You have to love that one. Sometimes this list goes on and on as well. Exactly how long were you with each of those firms? There sure are a lot of them, and perhaps there are more.

Leaving things to my fertile imagination, or anyone else’s for that matter is a BAD idea. If the younger folks who review most resumes think you are old if you are over 40, where exactly does that leave you? I won’t even get into graduation dates that are left off most resumes.

Sometimes job postings require some indication of salary history. If it is a requirement, and it often is, leaving it off is going to hurt you. Often times the posting in question suggests a relevant range. If you are within that range, you don’t have to be any more specific than to say so. The person asking the question just wants to know that you are worth talking to. If you have had lofty titles that didn’t have corresponding compensation, you might not want to let this one go by. Stating your salary requirements isn’t a promise to work for any particular amount of money. In this same vein, the company isn’t promising to pay you in this range. It is only there for discussion. Heck, they aren’t even promising to hire you.

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma probably won’t get you to where you want to be, which is on the candidate slate for a particular job. What might get you there is CLARITY in the presentation of your credentials.

But then, who has time for that when they are so busy removing information?

Regards, Matt

Spring has sprung

In the past week, it is clear that spring is finally here in Connecticut. As you all probably know, I work out of my home office, and I am fortunate that it faces a heavily wooded area. During the winter, I can see my neighbor’s property off in the distance and sort of notice when there is activity. Not so during the summer. Then, I can just see a few feet into the forest.

This time of year I have the pleasure of watching the trees come to life. Every day is filled with a measure of surprise when I notice how much has happened since the day before. In addition, the squirrels are out and about chasing one another and the chipmunks have reappeared on the rock wall that borders my property.

The renewal that is emblematic of spring is, of course, a state of mind. The patterns we see in nature are analogous to the cycles we all experience, even in our work.

I’m sure all of us have experienced a job that was like the darkest and stormiest days of winter. And, hopefully, we have all experienced a job that warmed our heart and grew our skills like the early days of spring.

The membership of The FENG is varied. We have our more youthful members who are in their late 30’s or early 40’s and we range up to our more experienced members who are in their 60’s. We even have more than a few members in their 70’s, including yours truly.

The goal as we work our way into and through jobs is to understand that the world of work has a cycle. Jobs come and jobs go. As they end, it can be a painful process filled with uncertainty and dread, not unlike the forecast of a harsh winter which we and our loved ones will have to endure with only a small lump of coal.

What we should recognize is that this time out of the world of work will end and before too long we will be back at it renewing our skills for another company. All jobs are temporary, but no one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.

My advice is to be always preparing for that spring planting. No matter how dark the winter of your career may appear at times, the truth is that you have more than a few miles left on your odometer.

As they say, hope springs eternal.

Regards, Matt

Why do boaters wave at each other?

I don’t know about you, but there are lots of things in this world that I wonder about. At one time I wondered about why the sky was blue, but that was before Google. I guess there are lots of things we don’t need to wonder about anymore. We can just look them up.

The above topic wasn’t one I was actually wondering about earlier this week, but I got a note from one of our members and, knowing I was an avid sailor, he thought he would give me the answer.

I have always known that sailors/boaters wave at each other. I just thought it was a cute tradition. And, you don’t have to be out on the water very long before you also start waving at every boat that goes by. The thought that was suggested was that not only is it a friendly greeting, but it is also a general check-in that everything is all right.

Not a bad thing to do when you are out on the water. As I have mentioned from time to time, Mighty Mouse isn’t coming to your rescue out there. The speed with which the Coast Guard or Sea Tow will be coming to save you is a little longer than the time you are likely to survive.

In much the same way, members of The FENG are asked to wave hello to our new members. You might also want to do this kind of friendly hello to those you count as part of your inner circle of friends. Sure, more than likely they don’t need your help at the moment, but you never know. Letting others know you are acknowledging them provides them with a degree of security and self-assurance that you are out there, ready, willing and able to help.

If you thought the world of nature was potentially a cruel place, in many respects it doesn’t hold a candle to the dangers all of us face out in the world of work.

If there was ever a time we need that friendly wave, it is these times of our lives when our loved ones are counting on us for our financial support. That someone takes the time to check in with us is a gesture of support that gives us the strength to go on. Just knowing someone is there to lend a helping hand often times gives us the courage to go on.

So, next time you “pass by” another member of The FENG out on the shark infested waters of the world of work, I hope you will wave that electronic hand of yours and either send an email or make a phone call.

I can assure you that your gesture will leave a visible wake that will last a long time after you pass.

Regards, Matt

Sharing our knowledge

From time to time, I write an editorial that generates very thoughtful responses from our members.

I hope that all of you appreciate those individuals who write in as much as I do. It is an important part of The FENG, that we each take the time to share our knowledge with one another on topics large and small.

There are so many ways to share our knowledge. If you are bashful and not interested in communicating with a large audience, there are local meetings and those weekly new member listings where you can pick up the phone and TAKE THE TIME to share what you have learned with one individual at a time. That is as important as writing an “Op-Ed” piece for me. The reason is that it is PERSONAL, and being personal is what we are all about.

The FENG is a circle of friends. It has grown by friends sponsoring friends. I hope that as a part of your involvement and PARTICIPATION in our august body that over time, you will acquire more and more friends for the rest of your life. That should, in fact, be one of your goals.

Job search is full of highs and lows. One can argue that misery loves company, but I have never looked at what we do for each other in this way. This is not a support group, but rather a focused HELP group.

The knowledge that we share helps us get through the day. If you are fretting that others are getting interviews and you aren’t. If you are upset that folks don’t call you back. The concern you have impacts your ability to focus on your search.

By reading the newsletter I hope that all of our members gain some perspective on what is happening in the job market and which issues are things that ARE their fault and which things are just the market.

If I happen to write something that sparks a reaction in you, please write in and share your thoughts. The best place to send these messages is Leads@TheFENG.org.

If you would do this, I will still see them when I review the newsletter but they will get into the newsletter a lot faster than if you write to me. I get buried in email from time to time and often don’t get them published fast enough for them to be relevant.

I value the diversity of opinion that is possible with 40,000+ members and hope you will participate in this way “as the spirit moves you.”

Regards, Matt

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