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

Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

Effectively using the non-answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Actors on a stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember we are all but actors on a stage.

Regards, Matt

90% of life is just showing up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

When in doubt, throw it out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My outgoing signature used on replies AND forwards is:

Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell

Believing everything you hear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Corporate thinking – a gentle version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

An inner circle of friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Taking a punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Managing our growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Square pegs for round holes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Brutally direct advice

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

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

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

The question is which is better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Hurry up and wait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The 400 pound phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Don’t act desperate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The sploosh syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Explaining the magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Keeping busy and productive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The challenge of redefining yourself

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

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

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

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

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

Now you have time to think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Asking for the world’s smallest favor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Listening & throwing up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

What have you accomplished?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The 80/20 rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The tried and true

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Maintaining your self-esteem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Call me Mr. Know-it-all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Life changing events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Sharing job leads

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

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

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

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

During our early years as we rolled into new cities across the United States, those we encountered did usually find it strange initially that members were EXPECTED to invite competition from their fellow members. In fact, members are EXPECTED to forward job postings to their fellow members if they think they are a good fit for the opportunity in question.

Why does this work? If you were in the venture capital or private equity business, it would be called “deal flow.” The more opportunities we can individually look at and examine in detail, the more likely that we can match up our unique skill sets to appropriate jobs.

Someone is going to get that job. It serves your best interests to see to it that it is either you or one of your friends. (Strangers from The FENG are only friends you haven’t met yet.) By seeking out folks we think should see specific opportunities, we expand our own individual networks. When posting a job that IS a good fit for you, ask others to contact you for more information and/or to network. If it is a fit for you and it is a fit for other members around the country, all of you should know each other. This is how you build your very own inner circle of friends. Bob Walker, Co-Chair of our Dallas Chapter calls it seeking out your mirror.

Sharing job leads isn’t stupid or silly. It is just plain smart.

I hope all of you will join in the fun of sharing job leads as often as you can. It does drive recruiters crazy at times. And you may be crazy when you do it, but I would argue that you are crazy like a fox.

Regards, Matt

Is it business or personal?

In the closing scene of the first Godfather movie the individual who betrayed Don Corleone is being led away. Just before he gets into the car to his certain death, he turns to consigliere Tom Hagan and says that he hopes he understands that it was all about business and that it was nothing personal.

Well, it didn’t change things for him. His fate was unchanged.

Too many things in this world are strictly about business. I’m glad that The FENG isn’t one of them.

Everything about our circle of friends is INTENDED to be personal. I hope you have noticed that I sign the newsletter “Regards, Matt” and that all of our job leads are “From” someone.

The tone and structure are intentional. I expect members to treat each other with respect. (Those Godfather themes are great, aren’t they?) It doesn’t cost anything and it pays big dividends for all involved. I am always pleased when I see members sign notes to each other “Regards.”

One of the elements of a job search that everyone finds disconcerting is the lack of respect you suddenly and without warning appear to be receiving from total strangers. Unlike those halcyon days when you had the “checkbook,” you are now just another job seeker. The change can really throw you off your game.

None of us is directly or specifically assigned to find work for another member. What we are asked to do is facilitate their process. It is all about being personal and very little about business in the sense that we don’t directly gain from anything we do.

The gain we receive is also personal and comes from the satisfaction we get by giving another human being a small contribution towards achieving their life goals, for the most part, under their own head of steam. I call it the “Dumbo feather effect.”

Most members don’t need a tremendous amount of help, but they do need some. You can provide a little advice. You can provide an introduction to the right person. Or, you can provide a push in the right direction at the right time.

All of these things cost nothing while at the same time providing a substantial benefit to your fellow members.

I frequently ask members to share their experiences. You see many of them in our evening newsletter. Their purpose is not to provide you with the polished prose of a published manuscript, but rather the actual thoughts and feelings of other members, which because they are so real, provide others with the spark or support they need on a particular day.

Life doesn’t have to be “about doing business.” The truth of my life is that in the process of helping others I have improved my life more than I ever expected.

I would encourage all of you will give it a try as well. Let me share this thought with you: Life is about making new friends, helping old friends and feeling needed. Are any other explanations required?

Regards, Matt

Helping out the competition

Over the years that I have been writing editorials, I have devoted a lot of time to discussing the basics of job search. Why? Because I often can’t believe what folks send us for assignments being handled by The FECG.

In a world of more candidates than there are jobs, people who screen resumes often develop arbitrary rules to eliminate candidates. By arbitrary, I mean to imply that they often don’t take the time to look beyond embarrassing errors in spelling, grammar and resume formats or fonts that make your opus hard to read to seek out your “true value.”

As I have said many times, the burden of communication is on you.

Let me be clear. Your sloppiness or lack of discipline and precision in your submissions helps out the competition. Do you want to be considered for the job or not? If it is one worth competing for, I would suggest to you that the responses from others will be significant. A great job may cause 200 others to write in, or more.

If you were faced with a pile of resumes that high, what would you do? Well, let’s see. If there are any obvious spelling errors – out it goes. If it is not very readable – out it goes. I asked for a brief cover letter – no cover letter or brief explanation – out it goes.

Gosh, that’s much better. Now instead of 200 resumes I only have 50. I might actually be able to get through them.

If you are one of those folks who doesn’t really care about what it looks like on the other end, take a moment to walk in the other person’s shoes. When faced with an insurmountable task, what would you do?

Is this approach fair? Perhaps not. But then life is not often fair. You get the breaks you deserve, but only sometimes.

Go ahead and help out your competition for these golden opportunities by being sloppy in any element of the presentation of your credentials. After all, those others can use all the help they can get. And, they probably really want the job, so why not let them have it?

Regards, Matt

A few observations

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to ramble a bit tonight about some very important job search issues.

The most important issue I am going to cover is outgoing signatures. If you don’t know what one is, you are already in a lot of trouble. I am considering hitting the delete key on any message I receive from a member of The FENG that doesn’t have an outgoing signature. It would cut my required correspondence to 20%. Yes, about 80% of the messages I get don’t have one.

If you do have an outgoing signature, let me make the point that one should appear even on replies. I realize that Microsoft in their wisdom believes this is unnecessary, but I am going to suggest to you that it is essential. Please unclick the box. Sure I know who I wrote to, but I would like to confirm your contact information. Oops, I have revealed my “evil plan.” There are two reasons I would like you to use an outgoing signature: 1. If you say something important, I would like to call you. 2. I would like to ensure that you are shown correctly in our membership directory.

This is my outgoing signature:


Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax


Let me reveal its salient features. 1. You will notice I am providing my “greeting to use.” You don’t have to guess if I go by Matthew or Mr. Bud. 2. I am providing you with my email address. Sure, if you want to copy and paste the “From” box, you can figure it out, but I prefer to make it easy for you. 3. My phone numbers are listed in the order I would like you to dial them. And, yes, I am giving you ALL the numbers where I can be reached because I would actually like you to call me. Duh. 4. You will note that the phone numbers, properly formatted, are on the left, and the label is on the right. This is so the numbers line up. Forgive me for being an accountant about this, but I like numbers to line up. 5. I am providing you with my physical address. No, this is not so you can send me a gift, although you can do that if you like. It is rather so you will know what time zone I am in. With cell phones these days, you don’t know where folks are.

If you write to me, please put in a meaningful subject, trying to avoid those that will identify your message as spam, like Hi. I would also ask that you take a moment before you hit send and check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. While I won’t be sending you a grade, you will make it possible for me to actually understand what it is I can do to help you. If you are prone to using abbreviations, please know that I HATE all abbreviations. I find it rude that anyone would write Rgds instead of Regards for example. If I’m not worth the time to write in complete sentences, why should I feel that you are entitled to my time? You might want to consider this issue with respect to EVERYONE with whom you engage in correspondence.

To finish up on email, the From box should show your name, and your email address should actually be your name, just like it is when you work for a company. And, in this day and age, sharing an email address with your significant other just isn’t done anymore. Please, get with the program. If your address has numbers and letters, you look plain silly, and this isn’t a time to look silly. For those of you with L’s and 1’s in your email address, you might consider the fact that in lowercase Arial, they look alike. If you have O’s and 0’s, I would suggest they are also hard to tell apart. A few years ago one of our members by the name of Goldwater was using AUH2O, or in lowercase, auh2o. Now is that last thing a zero or a letter? A great conversation piece and a touch of humor, but totally out of place in the world of serious business communication.

And now on to resumes. Every resume needs a summary at the top, period. The summary is not unlike your 90-second announcement. It stakes out your territory and enables the reader to better understand what follows. By the way, I HATE the lists that many people use after their summary. I rarely see one that doesn’t contain significant redundancies such as budgeting and then another entry for planning. They are a waste of space. If it is important, put it in words in your summary. By the way, your summary should be brief.

Every resume needs a physical address and your email address. Hard to believe, but there is a growing trend of resumes without a physical address. May I ask, are you sleeping in a car? If you are, put in where you keep it parked. And back to email addresses, they should be your name and you should uppercase and lowercase them for readability, as in

Resumes should be either 2 or 3 pages, NEVER 1 1/2 or 2 1/2. If you are a member of The FENG and have 20 years of experience, your experience CAN’T properly fit on one page. And by the way, you know that 8pt font thing that many of you use? DON’T. Perhaps your eyes are getting better, but mine aren’t. NO ONE can or actually does read a resume in 8pt type. Use 12pt type and do a little editing. I know you may think that everything you want to say about yourself is important, but you will find that if you focus, you will be able to remove the unimportant and the result will be better. As an added plus, someone might actually read it. Don’t make a final page that just has your education. I find this approach silly, but I’m sure it is recommended somewhere because I see it all the time.

All of your work experience needs to be on your resume. While the last 10 years are the most important, leaving off your earlier work experience or the dates you were there makes you look old. Yes, I know if you put it down they will know you are old, but don’t you think they will find out sooner or later? And, if you are successful in fooling someone, don’t you think they will feel duped when they meet you? How exactly are you planning to recover from making them feel stupid? If you provide dates, including your dates of graduation from college, most people breeze right past the fact that you are likely older than time itself. Missing information on the other hand screams OLD. I see people leaving off dates that I think are young (now that I am 71). (Oh, to be in my 40’s again.) Dates should be year ranges, not months. Months are like subtracting Roman numerals, and I missed that day in 3rd grade.

Every company needs a one line definition, even companies you think everyone knows. Most jobs fall to industry, and the folks who do initial screening are often not as knowledgeable as you are. (That’s why they’re stuck reviewing resumes.) What industry and what size was the firm and/or your division? Help the reader know if you are a fit. Make their life easy.

If you don’t actually know how to type, have someone go over your formatting. Page breaks need to be forced. What looks right on your computer may split differently on mine. Bolding in a consistent manner will aid in readability. Also, your name needs to be on every page.

Since you are for the most part emailing your resume, your file name should be something like BudMatthewR.doc. (Use YOUR name, of course, or people will get confused.) I have been recommending this approach for quite a few years, and I find it hard to believe that hardly anyone can get it right. They send us files like budmatthew.doc or bud.doc. It really isn’t that hard to get it right. You’re an accountant. I would think you could follow a pattern.

Item last is our membership requirements. I know this will come as a shock to everyone, but we are a very senior level group. Please don’t encourage those early in their careers to fill out an application form. I normally look for at least 15-20 years of work experience. I also look for senior level titles held for a significant period of time. One of the most painful things for me is to disappoint one of your friends. I would also remind you that we are known as The Financial Executives Networking Group. The financial in our name isn’t financial services. Yes, I know that just about anyone could benefit from getting to know our members, but our membership is not open to sales executives, human resource professionals, lawyers, or information technology types. I love them dearly and they are all very nice people, but I will not be adding them to our membership. PLEASE, take a moment and actually read the resume of anyone you are sending to our website to ensure they qualify. It will save me time and it will save you from being embarrassed when I decline them membership.

That’s about it for tonight. I hope I didn’t rant too much.

Regards, Matt

Homogeneous groups and pitfalls

Is there a possible pitfall in sticking with a homogeneous group of unemployed people?

First of all, I would never suggest to anyone that they should solely and exclusively network within The FENG. What I have suggested and do strongly suggest is that you START with our networking group and use it to springboard your way to presidents and general managers who might need a “been there, done that” senior financial officer.

Just as every great journey starts with a single step, so too does success at networking start with a few successes. Us shy financial types need to experience a positive result to keep on coming back for the inevitable beatings that will come our way as we network outside of those who understand what we do and who have a personal interest in seeing us succeed (even if that interest is only because they are fellow members of our august body).

It is always difficult to find good places to network. And, mixed groups are often just that. They can frequently represent a wide range of levels, from those early in their careers to those nearing retirement, and range from those well educated to those not so well educated. Your time is valuable, and you need to pick and choose carefully.

Industry meetings such as local Venture Capital groups or national organizations such as the Association for Corporate Growth, present good opportunities for networking and you should seek them out by checking local newspapers.

Networking, networking, networking is always the path to go. It may appear to be a mysterious sequence of events that gets you introduced to “Santa Claus,” but it is actually part of the design and why it works. (Santa Claus is the person who actually offers you a job.)

Gatherings of all kinds can be important. You need to get out of the house and present your credentials to others. As with anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get at it.

So, don’t just stick with the good old FENG. Spread your wings and fly. But, use our meetings for practice. As you know, practice makes perfect.

Regards, Matt

I never met a job I didn’t like

Will Rogers is remembered as saying: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I only wish everyone reviewing job possibilities would keep in mind the job search equivalent as stated above.

Most jobs, upon initial examination, are bound to have more than a few flaws. Let’s face it, if it was an easy job, they wouldn’t need a well experienced financial officer like you to solve the huge mess they have gotten themselves into.

Let me point out that it is the height of stupidity to say “no” to a job that hasn’t even been offered to you. Perhaps the commute is too far, or the money is too low or the job responsibilities aren’t broad enough. However, it is hard to believe that all this analysis was likely done from the “sidewalk” outside the potential employer’s place of business or more likely from the sidewalk outside your own home. (Is it an “approach/avoidance” problem?)

You have gotten a phone call and based on very little information jump to a conclusion that may or may not be warranted by the actual facts in the case. Let’s assume here that you saw a posting and got called in for an interview. Friends, this is no time to say no. Your resume has been pulled from a cast of thousands. Sure, the job as described may not be your dream job. (Trust me there aren’t many of those these days.)

Your goal is to PLAY OUT ALL YOUR CARDS. The approach that is taken on their side of the table is “we love you, we love you, we love you, oops, we changed our minds.” Get with the program here and play things out the same way. You love them, you love them, you love them, oops, you changed your mind.

Look, I know this goes against the grain, but the game of job search isn’t touch football. It is more like war, with live ammunition. You are actually allowed and expected to break the rules now and then. Don’t get carried away and accept a job and then not show up for work, but anything up until the moment you say yes is fair game. If you need help coming up with an explanation at the 11th hour as to why you changed your mind, please call me. Hey, I was in the advertising business. I am used to making up things that sound good.

Now for the Will Rogers part. The truth is that I never met a job I didn’t like, and you may find this to be true as well. As you meet the people and find out more about the real job FROM THE HIRING MANAGER, you may find out that the unique skills you bring to the party will allow him/her to expand and/or dramatically change the job specifications.

See, if you said no at the beginning you never would have found that out. (And, surprise, they decided to move it closer to you home! Does life get any better?)

Regards, Matt

Dropping in a little artillery

The truth is that even friends sometimes don’t get back to you when you call. Ever wonder why?

So, if friends have trouble returning calls, is it possible that strangers might be even more reluctant to return phone calls?

I guess the real question is not why folks don’t return phone calls, but what steps can we take as master networkers to improve our results? What factors do you suspect are at work?

Let’s be generous and accept the fact that the world of work is a busy place and the individuals we are trying to reach are those folks who control what I like to call work opportunities. Let us also accept the fact that speech is the slowest form of communication. (Smoke signals may in fact be slower, but most of us don’t use them.)

Anyway, if you are sitting on the other side of the desk faced with a pile of phone messages, which ones are you going to make a priority and which ones are you going to decide to let wait? (Some, I suppose, will wait forever.)

My general rule is that I return ALL my phone calls. Still, some days I have to pick and choose. If I am left a clear message as to the nature of the call and the result that is expected, I can make a pretty good estimate of the time it will take to respond. So many seconds are allocated to pleasantries such as the weather, more seconds for perhaps some aspect of our personal relationship, if any, and finally more seconds to the meat of the conversation and the reason that you have called. On average a phone call is 15 minutes. (Give or take 3 nanoseconds.)

When the phone call is from a “job seeker” or “work opportunity seeker” and you are the one holding the cards, you know it is going to be a long and perhaps unpleasant conversation. You may love the person on the other end of the phone, but you may not have anything to offer up.

So, again, if you have to choose, many of those calls don’t get returned.

But, let’s get back to the question at hand. How can you improve your batting average for returned calls? Step one is not to make totally cold calls. By dropping in a little artillery, I am suggesting you write a “letter of introduction” that explains why you will be calling and what you hope to discuss.

If we are talking about networking contacts you don’t know and who don’t know of you, dropping in an email with details of how you connected with them and how they might be able to help you, as well as sending them a copy of your resume, can save an absolute ton of talk time when you dial their number and actually connect. Even if they have printed off your resume and cover note and lost it on their desk, they can search their electronic mailbox and find it while you are on the phone. (Are computers great or what?) A little hint is to have the email address from which you sent it ready to give them. (This is what I do. My desk can be a little bit of a mess.)

If it is friends we are talking about, giving them a brief on your search, and letting them know why you are calling will either get them to call you or at least prepare them for your call. They will have a better sense of how you are feeling from the tone of your note (be sure to keep it upbeat), and know whether this is going to be a hand holding session requiring a pep talk, or a real work session because you now know a way they can help.

Dropping in a little artillery softens up the beaches of their minds and allows your troops to hit the beach with less opposition. Let those you are trying to reach know what you want and how they can help. Who knows, when you reach them they may even be prepared. (Yes, I know it is a wish and a hope, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?)

Regards, Matt

Interrogate or dummy up?

Speaking with strangers is never fun. And, if these strangers are deciding whether or not to hire you, it can be a little stressful, especially if you want the job.

There are so many ways to offend and so few ways to ingratiate yourself without appearing overly solicitous.

In the classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” the asking of questions during an interview can be very tricky indeed.

For those of you who watch a lot of lawyer shows, I hope you know the lawyers’ rule: Never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. It is a good rule and one that is applicable here.

Questions during an interview need to be upbeat and if at all possible give you an opportunity to “strut your stuff.” If you KNOW they are in the middle of an SAP implementation and this is what you do, ask a few probing questions. If you already know it is a train wreck, you will appear to be magically zeroing in on the problems they need you to solve. Even better if you are speaking with those to whom you may be reporting. This is the opportunity to get THEM talking.

With an inexperienced interviewer, the more talking THEY do, the smarter they seem to think YOU are. Hard to believe, but true. The absence of questions about you is frequently because they ASSUME you know how to do things. Opening up your mouth when it isn’t really required is at times an opportunity to lose a job that could have been yours.

Always do your research on a company before your interview. Check their website, and just about everyone has one these days, and look for bios on people you may be meeting. You will be surprised how much stuff and what stuff is out there. Because folks in the company don’t visit their own website, they often are unaware how you seem to know what you know. Not a bad place to be.

Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Again, your goal is to get your interviewer talking. The more they talk, the more you have opportunities to wrap your MOST important achievements around what they are telling you. As it has been said: “First liar never stands a chance.”

And, if you really want to get the inside poop on a company, check The FENG membership directory and see who has worked there. They don’t need to be working there right now to give you some very real sense of how the place works, what the burning issues were and may continue to be, and who are the “evil doers” at the company. Who knows, it might even be the individual interviewing you. You may get some great tips on how best to handle him or her. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

Regards, Matt

At a glance

There is a rumor out in the world that the attention span of your “average American” is getting shorter. Sad to say, but most likely very true. We see it all around us. So many things are screaming for our attention on a given day.

Before the advent of computers it was quite a bit harder to respond to job postings. The gold standard was a personally written letter, and how many could a person crank out in a single day? I type 90 words a minute, and when I was in the Army I was fortunate to be in a clerical position where I had my very own typewriter. Still, I couldn’t write very many letters in a single day for that first job campaign of mine. In 1991 with a personal computer and a mail merge program I could plug and chug. Now in 2018 it is even easier. Heck, I communicate with 40,000+ folks every day!

Even our newsletter is a perfect example of how the world has changed. We publish about 600 pages of job leads each month. Even 20 years ago it would not even have been possible for a networking group such as ours to exist. The cost of physically distributing the newsletter would have been prohibitive. Not only would it have required a huge professional staff to retype and reformat each lead, but copying and collating would have been pretty expensive as well. And, we still haven’t talked about the postage cost. In our context, the job would have to be well written to get OUR attention.

One can’t truly appreciate what it takes to stand out in today’s world until you have seen it for yourself, so I have designed a little test that I would like all of you to try.

The subject of this test is your resume. Take one copy of your resume and examine it in detail. Absorb its format and the information it contains. Now, I want you to try to collect 200-300 resumes. Go to networking meetings and get one from everyone you meet. Write to other members of The FENG and ask for copies of theirs. If you are using the services of an outplacement service, walk around the office and collect one from everyone. Do this over the course of as many weeks as it takes to at least reach 200. Don’t throw any of them away. Keep collecting.

Now I want you to take your resume and put it somewhere in the pile. It probably would be best if it was somewhere near the bottom, but since you should do this a few times to really appreciate what I am trying to communicate, it doesn’t matter.

Okay, you have 1 hour to go through all of the resumes in the pile and find only 10 that stand out. (Good luck Mr. Phelps.)

The point is that this is what recruiters do every day, day in and day out. The same thing is true for all of those human resource departments. The unsolicited and solicited resumes come in by the HUNDREDS. So, does your resume stand out in that huge pile?

This little experiment should give you some sense of why your dear friend Mr. Magoo (that’s me) recommends 1 inch margins and 12 point type. My guess is that you won’t pick even one densely written resume. Unless some effort has been made to make company names and titles clear, you won’t pick those either.

I realize that you may feel the many details you are providing are very important, but this is the context into which you are throwing your opus. If the information you want to communicate cannot be absorbed at a glance, you stand no chance of being called for an interview. More importantly you have no chance of anyone reading further to learn more about you. The formatting of the “headlines” of your credentials is what brings the page flipping to a stop.

You have about 5 seconds to get your intended reader’s attention. And, remember, this is the job they have to do every day. They have no responsibility to ensure that you are considered. They have no requirement to read and reread to ensure that they haven’t missed someone important.

No my friends, the burden is on you. Take the “at a glance test” and see if you pass.

I know you are important and the perfect solution to any problem. Let’s make sure they know.

Regards, Matt

A gap or a cover-up?

Time goes by fast when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? And what greater fun is there than conducting a job search?

Okay, it may not be as much fun as it appears to be to those looking in from the outside. But still, you can’t beat those lunches and phone calls with old friends, not to mention all the strangers who are strangers no longer.

Unfortunately as the weeks and months go by that old standby on your resume of “2010 to present” rings less and less true, and “2010 to 2016” looks even worse.

There are many issues to consider in solving this time problem on your resume.

The first is that financial folks generally speaking have great difficulty lying. When cornered like a rat, you are going to tell the truth. Sorry, but it just goes with the territory. And, if you have “2010 to present” and you are no longer actually there you have in effect and in reality been caught in an untruth. (An untruth is a lie by another name, and unlike a rose, smells bad.)

Okay, so you decide to go with the truth, and you put down “2010 to 2016.” Well, it is now 2018. Sure looks like you have been out of work a while, and you may have been. The solution for many folks is to make up a phony consulting practice and put that at the top of their resume. This is a fine approach, but unfortunately everyone is on to it.

If you have in fact been doing consulting, you are unfortunately tarred with the same brush. There is the suspicion that it is simply not true. If it is true that you have been doing consulting, you need to make it real by listing some achievements under this category. If you haven’t been doing consulting, I would suggest not doing anything to “fill the gap.” Again, the reason is simple. When cornered, you will tend to tell the truth, and being caught in a lie is not a good thing for a financial officer.

Those of us who have been dedicated to our job search will find the reaction of those on the other side of the table to be hard to take. They would like to know what you have been doing to fill the time, as if a job search doesn’t require your full time and attention in this market. Yes, it is unfair, but the question will be asked and you need to have an appropriate and non-defensive answer handy. If you walked into a job interview with a cast on your arm, you wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to offer up an explanation. The reason is that no communication will take place until you do because the interviewer will be trying to find a polite way to ask what happened and won’t be listening to anything you say. The same thing is true of a significant gap in employment.

It is in part a serious question, but it is also a silly question. Obviously if you had been offered an appropriate job, you would have taken it. So, the suspicion is that there might be something wrong with you that isn’t obvious. In this job market you can’t afford to have that hanging over your head.

However, this is one of those times when you need to provide a complete explanation that is brief. Yes, I know there is that good old “primarily due to, partially offset by” that we fall into, but 60 seconds is about the maximum amount of time that you can allot to explaining the unexplainable – why you haven’t found a job. (It is sort of “The maiden doth protest too much, methinks” syndrome.)

Much of what you need to say can come back to haunt you later, so be careful what you say. If for example you made a decision not to move, this job you applied for may require a move. Then again, it may not. There frankly are few good choices for your explanation and lots of bad ones.

Certainly don’t tell anyone that you took a six month vacation, even if it is true.

If the consulting thing is true, you will be surprised to learn that most interviewers will be satisfied if you rattle off a small number of engagements. It is not necessary to account for every week. It is also not necessary to explain that you didn’t earn your desired rate, or didn’t make any money at all. They typically won’t ask.

Instead, talk to the learning experiences you have had since your last full time job. In addition to consulting assignments, you can add courses you may have taken, and all this while you were making a significant investment in your search. It makes you sound pretty hard working, which is the real message you want to get across.

I haven’t asked in a while, but if any of you have ideas that you feel will build on this topic, please send them in to for publication under our Notes from Members. Just be sure to indicate if you want your name used. I am sensitive to the fact that some of your experiences may be too personal to share under your name, but still may be extremely valuable to others, so take a risk and send them in.

Regards, Matt

Selling life jackets to those drowning

Since a significant percentage of our members are in the job market, I thought I would make you aware that almost all of the job search related websites are in the business of selling life jackets to people who are drowning. And, the life jackets they sell don’t actually work.

An alternate way of saying it is they are trying to pick your pocket.

Job leads, in and of themselves, are almost totally and completely worthless. Heresy perhaps. Yes, someone does win the lottery every day. Yes, you should leave no stone unturned. Still, the perceived value of a job lead, especially on an Internet website, is a LOT less than you think it is. And, be aware that many of the websites have sneaky ways of nickel and diming you to death.

While I believe our job leads have more value than most, I don’t sell them to you for this very reason. We live on voluntary contributions. If you can afford to make a donation, fine. If you can’t, that’s okay too.

For those of you who are spending time surfing these websites, may I suggest you stop? I have almost never heard of anyone getting a job from them. But then, I have only been Chairing our august body since 1996. If you are a member of long standing, tell me how many Good News Announcements have said they found their job lead on a website? There are few enough who cite our very own newsletter.

(It would help if more of you who find jobs sent in a Good News Announcement. I would then have better data.)

What you have to question is how these jobs sites get their leads and how selective they are. In our own case, almost all of the postings in our newsletter come from recruiters who are registered with us. A few slip through now and then, but for the most part anyone posting has registered as a Friend of The FENG. While it may not have any force of law, the personalized tracking and communication we do lets them know we know who they are. (And, we know where they live. Okay, at least where they work.) The others come from members who have relationships with search professionals who have not yet registered with us.

The world is built on a series of personal relationships, and we try to enforce this theme by requiring those posting with us to provide their FULL business card information. I also try to get firms posting with us to provide a city location and a salary range. Again, this doesn’t work perfectly. The critical element is time, and I don’t want to slow up the process by any back and forth with a search firm. I would also point out that job leads only appear once in our newsletter.

The “currency” in public websites is the number of jobs they have posted. Long after they are beyond dead, they will still be there. Visible volume is the key.

Job leads are the bait that gets you to visit a website. The real money for them is in the “value added” services they provide. Go ahead, take them up on their free resume review. You will soon find out that your resume is terrible and that for a small price they can fix it.

While we can’t offer this service to the outside world, have you tried our very own Resume Review Committee headed up by Jim Saylor? ( Although it would be nice if you made a donation in honor of the individual who helped you, it is not a requirement. We provide our service out of friendship.

Money to live on is very important. So is having a job. The false promise made by these organizations is that they can help you find another job in short order. May I suggest you save your money? No one can find you a job other than you. And, the primary solution set is networking, networking and more networking.

If you are truly having problems getting yourself focused and/or organized, may I suggest you contact one of your fellow members and ask for help? This is what we do for each other and the only price is your friendship. Find a neighbor and “buddy up.”

If you would like to contribute money to fund the clerical and out of pocket expenses of our network you may do so as follows:

Please make your check payable to: The Financial Executives Networking Group (The FENG)

And send it to:

Laurie Fan
Donations Coordinator
The Financial Executives Networking Group
25 Old Kings Highway N, Suite 13 #163
Darien, CT 06820-4608

Any amount you would like to contribute will be most appreciated. If you would like to donate by credit card, please go to our website and use our “Donate” button. (Upper right hand corner of your welcome page when you sign in.)

At least you know the money you send us won’t be going to waste. All of our area chairs including yours truly, Bruce Lynn and Marty Latman are volunteers. We donate our time to help one and all.

If each of you in your own way helps a few other members, at least the world of The FENG will be a better place. Remember, friends don’t let friends waste their money on job search websites of dubious value for services we can provide for each other.

Regards, Matt

Geese and golden eggs

I am sure that I don’t need to repeat the fable of the goose that laid golden eggs, so I will move right into the analogy.

The goose is The FENG (also a living organism) and the golden eggs are the ability to network with other members. (If networking isn’t true gold, I don’t know what is.)

In order to keep our goose laying golden eggs, all we have to do is treat it well. And, that is why I always recommend being VERY selective in developing your mailing lists of your fellow members of our august body.

We need to exercise due care because what might appear to save you time can easily diminish the value of our circle of friends to other members.

Let me explain. For those of you familiar with the use of mailing lists, you know that the quickest way to burn out a list is to use it too frequently. The same is true of our membership directory. Our Member Directory Search feature is certainly there for your use. In fact, I encourage it. And, it is hard for me to judge if you are using it to excess or not enough.

Many members are not using this feature at all, and that concerns me more than those who might at times inadvertently abuse the access our membership directory provides them.

Sometimes you have to get a little sneaky about it, but with very little effort, you can usually find all of the old friends and new friends you need to do a proper job search using this tool.

But, let’s get back to our “parable for modern times.” If you think about it, the gift we give each other so freely in The FENG is our accessibility. Published in the directory for the use of other members is our work history and contact information. I hope that all of you expect and welcome communications from other members. Our connectivity is what NETWORKING is all about.

I would also suggest that invariably you benefit when contacted by another member. They may be the ones asking for a favor, but the granting of favors is kind of fun. In addition, it more often than not gives you a needed reason to contact an old friend.

The trick here, like most things in life, is to strike a proper balance. I know that with 40,000+ members it is hard to THINK about The FENG remaining as friendly as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but part of this great experiment in networking is all of us being committed to TRYING to keep it that way.

Although all of us are financial types, the truth is that networking with everybody doesn’t work anyway. We need to focus on those others within our circle of friends who are just like us. As Bob Walker, Co-Chair of our Dallas chapter would say: “Look for your mirror.” Okay, very few members are going to be as handsome as you are, but we are talking here about skill sets.

Our individual backgrounds are complex. Seeking out those with comparable life experiences just makes perfect sense. These are the folks who can really understand you. And, because they do, they are more likely to make introductions for you that will make the best use of your time.

Most members of The FENG will try to be helpful. Even if you flail around and strike off in all directions at once, many of the dedicated members who make up this organization will TAKE THE TIME to try and understand how they can help.

But, to the degree that you haven’t taken the time to be selective, you are in a very real sense BURNING OUT OUR LIST. Not only will you be wasting the time of those you contact, but they will be wasting your time as well by sending yourself off in inappropriate directions. (Not intentionally of course.)

The reason mailing lists are so expensive is that they are hard to compile. The investment you make in combing through our directory will pay big dividends for you, and if done properly will actually ENHANCE the value of our membership list to others. Hard to believe, but true. If you contact the right folks they will welcome more calls from others. If you prepare for those contacts by being selective and clear in your communications, everybody wins.

Directories are everywhere these days. I have had several discussions with members about services who claim they have the ability to mass mail your resume and cover letter to thousands of potential employers. On the face of it, you should all know and understand that this can’t possibly work.

If you are specialized or localized, there are directories out there, often at low cost. You can then take these lists and compare them painstakingly to our membership directories to see if one of our members has worked at a company of interest. With our membership, the odds are VERY high that you will get a hit almost every time.

So have at it. Networking, networking and more networking IS what we do. Just remember that keeping the goose healthy is our number one priority. After all, I wouldn’t want our goose to be cooked. But, I digress.

Regards, Matt

I’m a complicated guy

I always try to tell people who ask that I am just a simple financial guy. But I guess the truth is that all of us financial types are complicated in one way or another.

Unlike lawyers and doctors who (thanks to Hollywood) everyone THINKS they know what they do every day, our profession (other than our role in stealing investor’s money) is not very well known. Let’s face it, a TV show about us would probably put everyone to sleep. (Hey, I’m feeling groggy just writing about us.)

When asked to do a 90 second announcement about our career, we are hard pressed to find the right words. And how could it be otherwise? What we do IS complicated and technical. That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

Still, we are obligated by a law recently passed by Congress to explain ourselves in layman’s terms to the “outside world.” (I know you don’t believe the Republicans and Democrats were able to reach agreement on anything, but I understand this decision was easy.)

I have a less than technical accounting background, having gained my Chief Financial Officer spurs in the Advertising industry. (Or is it I earned my scars?) Anyway, I have had the pleasure of listening in on those who do “structured finance,” “credit risk management,” and any number of other esoteric areas of expertise, do their 90 second pitch and rarely am made to truly understand what they do and how they bring value to their employers.

The golden opportunity to “present your credentials” represented by our meetings is one that I know some of you have not enjoyed the benefit of, and in part, that is what tonight’s editorial is all about. Chapter meetings are the world’s best off-Broadway play.

A room filled with as friendly an audience determined to find a way to help you help yourself, is hard to find indeed.

Although I know our Chapter Chairs these days are hard pressed to find enough space to handle those who wish to attend, I believe that if more folks show up, they will find a way to accommodate you. That is just the nature of the individuals who chair our chapters. (Their names and contact information adorn our website. When you sign in, the chapter(s) you are registered for appear on your home page.

Pay them a visit electronically or in person and “let them entertain you” at the next chapter meeting near you.

No chapter meeting in your neighborhood? A simple solution is available! Start a chapter of your own by sending me the appropriate area codes. In short order, you too can be the official “go to person” in your area.

I look forward to hearing from you and, of course, seeing you at chapter meetings!

And, let’s try to make your story more understandable and exciting! Keep in mind, I’m a simple guy.

Regards, Matt

Removing mental obstacles

A very long time ago, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of our Hartford/Springfield chapter. I was one of two guest speakers.

The other speaker was a gentleman from Robert Half who spoke about the local market. What was of particular interest to me was his perception of people who lived in the area and how those who lived in Massachusetts wouldn’t consider jobs just over the border in Connecticut and those who lived on one side of the river wouldn’t consider jobs on the other side, even though all of these possibilities were within 30 miles of their homes and traffic really wasn’t any worse in the various directions.

It got me to thinking about how easy it is to create our own mental blocks to success. It is sort of like that old legal principle of “negotiating with yourself” as explained to me by one of my learned colleagues.

Being open to all the possibilities is not easy for anyone to do, least of all us financial types. We come to the world with very fixed ideas about what will work and what won’t work. In part this comes from our unique ability to analyze just about anything, to in effect break any idea or topic into its component parts and divide and conquer as it were.

In a sense it is easy to see why some things can’t work, but much harder to suspend your disbelief in an idea or even your own abilities and imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist for you.

I suppose that another part of it is more often than not, people in the world of work come to us for OUR suggestions. To put the shoe on the other foot isn’t easy. We feel we need to have an opinion, right or wrong.

Based on our experience, we develop strong opinions on lots of things. It can be very hard to let go. The paradox is, of course, that most financial people believe as I do in our highly transferable skills. We can span industries. We might even be able to span geography.

Personally, I am not a big fan of picking up the family and moving for a job. Family tends to be permanent and jobs as we all know are temporary. Still, from time to time, you might want to examine “the possibility.”

When I was trying to find another job in the mid-90’s, as much as I didn’t want to move, I got the opportunity to interview for a job in Tampa. I went for the interview. Hey, they do have an ocean nearby, and everybody does retire to Florida, don’t they? As it turned out I wasn’t offered the job and thank goodness I wasn’t because the company was sold within months to a firm in Atlanta. Guess what? There is no ocean there, so it would have been goodbye to sailing if I had taken the job.

By the way, I never said I would take the job. I was only considering the possibility. I even went house hunting.

As you move down the road of life in your quest for meaningful employment, open your mind to opportunities that come your way and be a little less quick to dismiss potentially desirable work situations out of hand. You may in fact want to return to that industry you thought you hated, that town you thought was too small (or too big), or that company with the culture you thought was terrible.

You don’t have to take the job. You just should consider it with a more open mind.

Regards, Matt

Making networking benefit YOU

I am always trying to explain networking to users. Tonight I am going to try to explain networking to givers.

The common misperception is that networking is a give and take. You give to others and they take. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Networking as I suggest it be practiced in The FENG is a process that should benefit YOU as much as those to whom you give networking contacts. How so? Let me explain.

If you are contacted by someone who has a background connection to you, your goal is to present them to someone you know will be delighted to hear from them. Not always easy to figure out, but if the person contacting you is somehow related to you, introducing them to someone related to you in the same way they are related to you is a sneaky way of getting YOUR name in front of someone you may have been reluctant to call.

Let’s say, for example, I am looking for a job in Advertising. You may or may not remember that I was at one time Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency. Unfortunately, it is a small industry. If I have been “working the crowd,” there are only so many times in any given period of time I will be comfortable calling each of my contacts.

If another “Ad guy” (or Ad person) calls me, after we get past our “secret handshakes” and inside jokes, I am going to want to make sure they know or get introduced to all the folks I know from the advertising business. If they are members of The FENG or if I have at least seen their resumes, what is my risk? Most likely, they are upstanding citizens and my risk is as close to zero as these things get.

If I take the value added step of sending the resume of this aspiring networker to each of the folks on my contact list, I am in effect putting my name in front of my contacts again as well. If I don’t mention what I have been doing lately, they will often be curious enough to ask either me, or the person to whom I am introducing them, especially if I use an outgoing signature to make it easy for them to call me.

Putting two folks together who you think will have something in common makes you a matchmaker. It is one of those great times we all hope for where everybody wins.

Your aspiring networker makes a valued contact and you have connected in a positive way with someone you might otherwise not have called for many weeks.

You even have a good excuse to call and see if this individual you introduced made a favorable impression. What are the odds that your networking contact won’t ask how you are doing, while he/she has you on the phone? Friends, it is close to zero. They always ask.

So there you have it. Networking is not only a contact sport, but one at which you can win every single time! How many sports can say that?

Regards, Matt

Sharing with the family

Job search can be a lonely business. There you are, in your home office from the moment you get up in the morning until just before you go to bed. Emails are going out. Letters are being sent. Appointments are being made. (And, the only time you leave the house is for this purpose.)

The problem is, have you found a way to share with your family what you are doing every day and what progress you are making?

Yes, I know progress is hard to measure. I hear it often from members that they tried this or that many times, but of course it hasn’t worked yet. It seems the only measure we feel comfortable as meaning anything is when we find a new job. The truth is that if you are working hard at your search and there is no result, it is hard to talk to the family about it.

Whether it is your spouse, significant other or your children, what you tell them and how you tell them can make a huge difference in how they are feeling.

Just as a surgeon isn’t allowed to say “Oops!,” you as Captain of your ship aren’t allowed to show fear. (As a sailor and Captain of my sloop, Luora, you must always speak with authority and act like you know what you are doing, even when you are actually scared out of your mind. It is hard for the crew to go about their business of swabbing the deck if you are curled up in a ball rocking back and forth and muttering to yourself.)

Within this parameter of speaking quietly and with authority, it doesn’t hurt to once in a while have a family meeting to discuss where you are in your search. The fact that you are getting interviews or not, and/or to go over the family finances, can go a long way to putting fears aside.

As my daughter used to say when discussing her nightmares at the breakfast table, “And this was the silly part…” My answer back was that her whole nightmare was the silly part. When you let the imaginations of the crew run wild, you get what you deserve.

Even your small children can feel like they are contributing to the success of the family by turning off lights or taking over some of your chores so you can concentrate on the work you have to do every day. Being aware of your need for quiet and going over to their friends’ homes after school instead of running through the house like wild animals can help.

As I have said from time to time: Smile, things could be worse. So I smiled and sure enough things got worse.

Most likely the future holds great things in store for you, or at worst, nothing terrible. As a member of The FENG, you have one of the world’s best power tools at your fingertips – The FENG membership directory. Using our Member Directory Search feature, you can do amazing research to find valued networking contacts. Let’s be honest. With this at your side, how can you lose?

So, keep the discussions light. As Butch Cassidy cautioned the Sundance Kid in the movie of the same name: Don’t sugar coat it Sundance. Tell it to her straight. (I’m sure you remember the scene.)

Regards, Matt


I suppose I could be wrong about all of this, but I find the use of “, MBA” as part of your name to be a bad idea.

Yes, I know that not everyone has an MBA, but in my opinion unless you are a CPA or a Ph.D., you need to exercise a little caution in the initials you place after your name.

My sister sells commercial insurance and as I understand it, every time you take a test of some sort you get another set of initials you can use after your name. At meetings where you might be introduced, they read your name and ALL of your initials which everyone at these gatherings of fellow insurance folks apparently understands. To the rest of us normal folks it sounds the very popular nursery rhyme that ends in “E I E I O”.

While I don’t recommend using these initials after your name, they should appear in your resume with proper “respect.” By that I mean, instead of just putting your designation initials you should spell them out. For those of us who are not as learned as you are, it helps to know what they stand for so we can make some judgments as to their relative importance.

As much as I see members “abuse” their designations by over playing them, I see the opposite as well. While I may know that UCLA is the University of California at Los Angeles, I think seeing it as an abbreviation makes it look plain silly. (Ever wonder why abbreviation is such a long word?)

Anyway, giving all aspects of your background their proper respect is important. As you go through your resume and cover letters, I would suggest you err on the side of being more complete. I will let you in on a little secret: I hate all abbreviations.

If you have ever examined The FENG membership directory you will notice that we go to great lengths to spell things out. I think they look nicer that way. Among the silly abbreviations are words like “Lane” and “Drive”. Let’s see: Ln. or Dr. Hopefully you can “afford” the one or two additional letters.

We are always torn between appearing pretentious and appearing redundant. (There is, of course, nothing worse than a redundant redundancy, but I digress.)

I guess the “take away” here is don’t sound like a nursery rhyme.

Regards, Matt

Attention to detail

Stop me if I am wrong, but I always thought that financial folks were known for their attention to detail. Aren’t we known as total compulsives, or did I miss something?

Sad to say, but it apparently isn’t true.

Most of my daily communication is from fellow financial executives and I am continually appalled at the mistakes of all kinds that I see in what they send me.

I was reviewing candidates for one of my assignments for The FECG recently and I couldn’t believe how many email cover letters had no information at all, had no subject, didn’t follow directions on the file naming convention I request, or had cover letters attached that began “Dear Sir or Madam.”

You’ll forgive me, but these opportunities were all published in our very own newsletter under my name. I may be a lot of things, but I am definitely not a “Madam,” (although I would be willing to grant the “Sir” part as correct under certain circumstances.)

I could be wrong, but I was pretty sure that reading was a required course in college. And, we have all been drilled over the years on the issue of “reads and follows directions.”

Now I know some of you are rebels out there and bridle at convention, but there are times to follow the crowd and times to be an independent thinker. This is not the time to invent new ways of doing things.

If I go by the theory that mailings to me (who I hope all of you know and love) are typical of how you are handling the other postings in our newsletter, I can see we have a few problems.

While you are free to “click and shoot” Internet leads you see on public websites where NO ONE’S name is given, it is not appropriate to behave in this manner on leads provided by members of The FENG where hard won personal relationships may be at stake.

I am also a little concerned that our very popular and extremely effective “qualified members only” approach to postings is not being closely followed either. Please keep in mind that to the degree you “buy a lottery ticket,” you are limiting the possibility that those who post with us will come back for more punishment, AND you are making it more difficult for the right member of our august body (who may not have presented his credentials well as he might) to be identified due to the volume.

I try my best to read between the lines, but it is hard when you get a large response.

Just as I would expect that the columns on spreadsheets you might send me total to the right numbers and tie out to other numbers in your workbook, so too do I expect that any correspondence you might send to ANYONE has been checked for spelling errors, grammar and punctuation. If you need to, write anything important in Word and then cut and paste it into your emails.

We want everyone to know that the members of The FENG are as precise in their communications as you can expect them to be in the work they are going to do for the companies that hire them.

As you know, a reputation is hard won and easily lost. It has been a long uphill struggle establishing the credentials of our circle of friends. Help us maintain this image by reviewing your outgoing messages before you click send.

Who knows, it might even help your candidacy for that next great opportunity. (Selfish motives work for me too!)

Regards, Matt

Save the Nauga

I assume that most of you are unaware that in addition to being Chairman of The FENG, I am also president of the Save The Nauga Society.

I have been actively involved in trying to save the nauga from extinction for many years. While naugas existed in most parts of the world in large numbers, over the years they have been hunted for their hides for use in making furniture. In my youth, my parents had chairs and a couch covered in material made from naugas. These cute little creatures have very tough skin and the product that is made from it is, of course, called Naugahyde.

While one can’t argue with the durability of furniture covered in Naugahyde, these creatures are now at risk of extinction in the wild. I hope all of you will join with me in boycotting manufacturers who buy the skins of wild naugas. Naugas are also raised domestically and although it is a shame to see so many of them sacrificed for our seating pleasure, I suppose it is okay. I hope you won’t mind if all of my emails from this point forward include things like: Boycott furniture manufacturers who use Naugahyde! Save the nauga!

The Save the Nauga Society is a long running Bud family spoof. The purpose of bringing it up tonight is to highlight the importance of separating your personal passions from your business email. I hope you will agree that my including something about the Save the Nauga Society in every message I send out would make me look silly. (And, I can’t afford to look silly as I am a very serious guy.)

I have been at various times over the years been taken aback by the things that folks routinely include at the end of their emails. I suppose I should also mention that I am not a big fan of bumper stickers either.

Religion and politics are two topics that you should generally not discuss with strangers, unless the purpose of your conversation is specifically that. Debate on all topics is a well respected American tradition. (Even LOUD arguments.) However, if you are engaged in a business discussion, these are areas that can easily ruin a perfectly good relationship. One just never knows where the other party stands and it is generally not relevant to doing business with them.

Ending your messages with prayers or thoughtful quotes is also not something I recommend. I know your heart is in the right place, and personally I have great respect for those who believe deeply in anything, it just isn’t stuff you should necessarily share with strangers.

I hope that all of you will at some point in your lives, if you haven’t already, work hard for a worthy cause. It may be your religious organization or a politician in whom you have great faith. These are activities that I have always found to be personally rewarding.

I would just suggest that you exercise due caution in who you tell about them, and how you tell them. Email is probably not the right place.

Regards, Matt

They aren’t making any more of it

Ah, that very useful invention of mine, the day stretcher. If only it actually worked.

Not only doesn’t it work, but it would also appear that there is nothing one can do about time that is lost. Once time has passed, it is gone. (When sailing, it is similar to what I call the sploosh syndrome, which I apply to anything that falls over board that doesn’t float.)

It is a shame we can’t make our days longer or actually make up for lost time, but it is one of those “facts of life” that we can’t do anything about.

All that is left for us to do is to make the best use of the time we have each and every day, and that unfortunately requires planning.

As you sit at your desk in the evening, give serious thought to what happened during the course of your day or recent days. (I don’t know about you, but I have problems remembering anything much before yesterday, so my reflections only cover a short time frame.)

Anyway, let’s first think about those very valuable hours from 9AM to 5PM and set a few priorities.

The first law (recently passed by congress) is that you can’t call anyone much before 9AM or after 5PM. Since human contact is our most important activity, try to block out those hours most days for phone calls, or as we like to say: Networking, networking, and more networking. If you aren’t making calls then, hopefully you are engaged in face to face meetings at those times.

Early mornings and late evenings are the times to work at your computer. Hey, you can’t call anyone anyway. Surf Internet sites for job leads (if you must) at those hours. Research companies that you want to contact the night before or on the weekends when you can really focus. Each evening, make up your lists for the following day of things you want to accomplish.

(Personally, I sometimes practice “just in time planning” which is where I make up a list at the end of the day of everything that I did, and then cross everything off as accomplished. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as advanced planning.)

Especially early in a search process you will find that there is so much to do and so little time. Setting priorities can be difficult. Remember, not deciding what is most important is also a decision.

The law of phone calls is that you can only have 30-40 actual conversations in a day. Each actual phone call takes on average 15 minutes, so plan accordingly. If you are doing mailings where you promise to contact folks, don’t send out more than you can handle.

I always promise myself that I will get caught up some day. If only I could get time to stand still.

Now that would be a winning invention, don’t you think? I’ll have to put it on my list for tomorrow.

Regards, Matt

Selling from a full wagon

Although it is certainly true that it isn’t possible to sell from an empty wagon, the difficulty of selling from one that is full is greatly under rated.

As senior financial professionals, and as individuals not seriously trained in sales, we frequently find ourselves in the position of have too much to sell and not enough listening skills in place early in a search process to be able to know what our “customers” want to buy.

New salespersons in training typically do what is called in personal selling terms “throwing up on the customer.” All of the hard gained product knowledge is brought forth in one giant burp before the customer can squeeze a word in edgewise. Not a good way to start an enduring friendship.

Over the course of a 20-30 year career we acquire so many talents. It is often hard to know which ones are currently saleable and which ones are not. We often present our “history” thinking that others will “figure it out.” Don’t hold your breath.

I recall from my publishing days a questionnaire sent out by our marketing department to authors asking them for advice on how to market their books. The frequent response was that we knew best. Even in this context, not really true.

Each of us is a complex product with skills honed over many years. The power tool that we represent can be used in many ways, but it is up to us to “figure it out,” not those we contact. If we don’t lead them most of the way down that primrose path, it will simply never happen.

Resumes and 90 second announcements evolve over time. They start as an historical documentation of our careers and only grow into proper marketing vehicles if we let them.

You may have stumbled into creating an impression of how your skills can be applied and not even realize it. If you are getting interviews, FIND OUT WHY. What is it about your background that caught their attention? I know they say: “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” but if you don’t ask you will never know.

Bit by bit, word by word, the story you need to tell to transfer your skills to a new job in perhaps a new industry will become better known to you, but only if you recognize the NEED to know.

You are permitted a few lifelines here. You can call a few friends and/or a few former co-workers to find out how you bring value. In our traditional “nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel” method of working, we often never stop to find out how.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, don’t let it happen. Talk to others, but do a lot of research on your own as well. What postings appeal to you? What are the skills required as per the position description? Now, can you find them on your resume? If not and you have had the required experiences, go to your computer and start redrafting.

The conversion from being a history book to an advertisement isn’t easy, but there are very few things in life worth doing that aren’t difficult.

Write, and rewrite and rewrite again until the valued products in that wagon of yours are sitting on the most visible shelves and easy for your customers to see and understand. It is a painful process of self discovery, but it is a journey we all must take if we want success through this most difficult process.

Regards, Matt

Getting back at it

Okay sports fans, the new year has begun. It is now January 14th and time is slipping away. At the moment this year promises to be a good one for employment. (Then again, the light at the end of the tunnel I am seeing could be a speeding locomotive.)

Although you have to “do it all,” I would suggest that your area of greatest focus needs to be networking, networking, networking. (And then, if you have time, more networking.)

Networking within The FENG needs to be conducted with research and careful thoughtfulness as to the time of other members. I have in recent weeks seen several inappropriate approaches.

As much as I encourage members to communicate with one another, please be selective. Read each member’s directory listing and try to make some reference to it in your message so they will know that you took the time to study their background to discover common interests and connections.

As with any good cover note, be sure to state clearly how they might be of assistance to you and be sure to attach a copy of your resume. Speech is the slowest form of communication, and having to talk someone through your work history is a waste of time when they can read it easily while they are on the phone with you by opening your resume.

Be sure to add an outgoing signature to your email. If you don’t know what an outgoing signature is, look up “signature” on your email provider’s service and FIGURE IT OUT. 75% of the messages I receive each day are still WITHOUT an outgoing signature. If you want to have someone contact you, make it easy for them. Telephone numbers should appear in preferred order. Believe it or not, if someone wants to talk to you they will call all the numbers you provide. Calling you is simply easier than having YOU call when all your paperwork isn’t in front of them as it is now. Provide your physical address as well as your email address. Yes, I know your email address usually appears at the top in visible form, but not always. It depends on the email system the recipient uses. Your physical address is needed to know your time zone. At least provide a City/State.

Don’t write to any more folks than you can reasonably call. The key to a successful networking campaign is follow-up. As a general guideline, every phone call takes 15 minutes. That means, don’t make more than 30-40 promises to call for any one day. Space them out.

Have someone else read your cover letter. It not only should be free of errors, but it should be clear as to your purpose in calling and the possible connection. Don’t think that anyone will be able to figure out how to apply your great talents if you haven’t.

Asking for someone’s assistance is a great honor that you are bestowing on them. Think how you have felt when others have called you. It feels good to help others as long as they do their part.

The FENG membership directory is created and maintained at great cost. The funds and effort are spent because it is the most valuable tool that you have available. (I honestly spend more money than a drunken sailor on your behalf in keeping our membership database current.)

Used carefully and with the tender loving care it deserves, it can put you on as straight a path as there is in this world to that new great job!

Regards, Matt

Geese and golden eggs

One of our very most important audiences are members of the search community who are registered as Friends of The FENG.

When you communicate with these folks, briefly, you are expected to behave yourself.

Members of The FENG are expected to only respond when reasonably qualified. What does this mean? If you wouldn’t hire you for the job in question, don’t respond.

Job leads are unfortunately a beauty contest of sorts. With all the well qualified people who are out there in the world, the candidate pool is deep. Let me give you a recruiter’s perspective on how one might go through a pile of resumes.

The first criteria is industry. Hopefully you have put a one line descriptor after each company in your reverse chronological resume. I wasn’t born yesterday, but many of the individuals assigned to do initial screening were. Don’t assume they know the industries where you have worked. It won’t be long before no one will even remember Polaroid or Kodak. You don’t have to be a perfect industry match, but the analogy should be obvious. If it isn’t obvious, make a comment in your email cover note.

The second criteria is “location, location, location.” Very few firms these days want to get involved in relocation issues. If you aren’t local, don’t get cute and leave off your home address. If you think anyone is going to fooled, be assured they aren’t as dumb as you think they are. If you aren’t local, be sure to mention why you and your family are dying to move to (fill in the blank) in your one page cover letter. This is honestly an “elephant sitting in the room,” so don’t even try to skirt the issue. I would mention here that there are certain city pairs that are less credible than others, and you can probably guess which ones they are. The point is that if you are serious about moving, you have a tougher case to prove.

The third criteria is titles you have held with respect to the title in question. An Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer is NOT going to get hired as a Director of Financial Planning & Analysis. It is not credible that an individual at that level would be able, let alone willing to go down that far in responsibilities and be happy. Could you do the job? You’re kidding, right? Of course you could do the job. But that isn’t the question.

The fourth criteria is accomplishments and specific nuts and bolts. Every job posting has them. Some of them are less obvious than others. Sometimes it is specific software. If you have worked on similar programs, this is another issue for your email cover note. Sometimes it is the scope of the company. Again, could you learn on the job? You’re kidding, right? Of course you could, but in a “beauty contest,” you aren’t likely to be selected to do so.

I often make the point with those who are only answering job leads that none of this matters as much when you are networking. A job lead is a “fair fight,” and I have never been a big fan of fair fights. Hey, I could lose. But, that is not the topic of tonight’s editorial.

Back to the subject of geese and golden eggs. Don’t blow it for everyone else. The odds on lottery tickets are very, very low.

Let’s keep our Friends of The FENG coming back again and again.

Regards, Matt

Knowing what’s important

I always find it interesting during 90-second announcements how nearly identical are the descriptions of “ideal jobs” when compared to the one a member has most recently left.

Since we are all financial folks, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. As history based individuals, it is hard to have any view of the world that isn’t colored by our past experience. Add to this the fact that we KNOW what we have been doing, but are not aware of ALL the possibilities out in the world. On the flipside, some members claim to be “all things to all people,” when clearly their background only lends itself to very narrow applications.

A job search needs to be viewed as a new beginning. At least the possibility needs to be there. Sure, apples don’t fall far from trees, and in any market it is certainly hard to change industries. Still, the attitude against change frequently starts with our own perceptions or misperceptions of what we can do and what we want to do.

At a very basic level, I suppose most of us would be willing to work for food. Perhaps that position is a little extreme, but where I am trying to take you is to CONSIDER all possibilities.

Since for the most part, we tend not to change jobs frequently BY CHOICE, much of the knowledge about how the world works and our role in it isn’t always clear.

The truth is that the exact details of any job description are usually pretty far off the mark from the REALITY of what we will have to do every day.

If you are considering a situation or being considered for something, a far better starting point that I might suggest is to instead focus on the people you are meeting at the company rather than the exact job description. I would, of course, try to be sure that I could accomplish the goals that have been generally discussed. But, the question I would ask myself over and over again is: Do I really want to work with these people?

If they are going to make you crazy, or if you think they are crazy, don’t kid yourself. There are people who Will Rogers never met. As a senior professional with years of seasoning, don’t ignore the blips on your radar screen that are screaming “danger,” “danger.”

These days, one tends to spend AT LEAST 1/3 of your life at work, and that is probably over half your waking hours.

Make sure it is with folks whose company you enjoy. No matter what drudgery the work represents, you can’t go far wrong if you like the people.

Regards, Matt

Let’s keep it a secret

Any more than someone would write “Please Broadcast Widely” at the top of their resume, putting “Confidential” is just as silly in many ways.

I’m sure that this is written up somewhere as the appropriate thing to do, so I am not faulting anyone who does it, but it really is unnecessary.

It is just as silly to not show your current employer and to put in something like “Major Manufacturer.”

It is unfortunate, but those doing search these days have even less time for mysteries than those who were doing it before the Great Recession set in. The volume of email and paperwork that crosses one’s desk today is beyond belief.

If you want to get yourself excluded from an opportunity, you are welcome to create doubts about your availability or willingness to be considered. That is your choice. I would just ask you to keep in mind that NO ONE is actually going to call you to get your permission to submit your credentials or out of curiosity contact you to find out the name of your current employer except under very rare circumstances.

If you have concerns about who you are sending your resume to, don’t. Most people in the search community will certainly not send your resume to your current employer. That would be extremely stupid, although I suppose stupid does happen once in a while. If you are in a free standing part of a larger company, be sure your parent company is mentioned so this is less likely to happen.

One issue I run into frequently is the ever popular “To present.” Are you there or not? Sometimes I really need to know, and I will call you. With all the downsizing that has taken place, it is entirely reasonable that even though you recently left a particular firm that you are eligible for rehire. We wouldn’t risk embarrassing you or us by not asking. And, we wouldn’t want you to miss out on an opportunity just because you were following some resume writing advice as common as this.

Where do you live? This is another very popular secret. If you think you will fool someone into moving you across the country, think again. They may actually interview you before they hire you and after beating you with a hose get you to “confess” that you are not local. The incredible thing about this secret is that I see resumes without a home address that are local for the assignments I am handling.

If you really are paranoid, and I have no problem if you are, an alternative to putting “Confidential” on your resume is to provide the names of firms to whom you DON’T want your name submitted in your cover note. Based on the description of the company and its location, you may think you know who it is, and based on that you may not want to be considered. This is something easy to handle, and most firms do read what you send them.

The truth is that many of you are submitting your resume to email addresses where you don’t know the search firm. If you are not employed, there is certainly little risk. If you are employed and if it became known that you were looking around you might lose your job, I wouldn’t respond to such postings. It could very well be your current employer.

Other than that, you need to think very long and hard about the impact any “requirement” you impose will do to your candidacy. Any impediment in a world of surplus will cause you to be cast aside from an opportunity that may be the job of your dreams.

I try to insist that recruiters and firms that post with us provide their FULL business card information. While it doesn’t always happen, before you “click and shoot,” you can look them up on the web and see what you can learn. Many firms have a client list that you can peruse.

If your company is one of their clients, they can’t submit your candidacy to any of their other clients anyway. It is one of the rules of search that you don’t poach from your clients. They also wouldn’t breach your confidentiality in any case. To “tell” on you wouldn’t serve their business interests.

Keeping secrets is an important part of what we do as financial folks. Just be careful and exercise good judgment on which ones you ask others to keep.

Regards, Matt

Putting your best foot forward

The development of a resume can be a long and involved process. There are so many ideas that others have to share with you, and each person with whom you speak has their own perspective about what is right and what is wrong.

Your resume is also in part an historical document charged with chronicling your career from formal education through most recent work assignment.

Some of the nonsense, misapplied these days, centers on the idea that only the most recent 10 years are of interest to the reader. True, but that doesn’t mean leave off everything earlier.

The formatting and shaping of a resume is so much easier today than it was back in 1991 when I faced my first search as a senior executive that I wonder why people don’t fool around with their resumes more now since it is so easy to “play.”

Format, reformat, write and rewrite need to be the process by which you live. Initially and really throughout the entire process, don’t allow yourself to be mentally constrained by the 2 pages, 12 point type, 1 inch margin requirement of a good resume. Editing down to something you can really use comes later. Let your mind play out the alternatives. Then through a process of editing work it down to the right size.

Of greatest importance is the need to identify your driving force and best stories about your career and to get them down on paper. I unfortunately see most resumes as being a lot LESS than the person who has written them.

Do you have significant international experience? Well, guess what? I don’t. So, if you do, you need to get it out there for all to see, because outsourcing overseas is very popular. Companies need folks who understand the environment off shore. (Truth be told, I barely leave Weston, Connecticut these days, although I have been off shore sailing.)

What is the most significant project you have been responsible for? What are the “war stories” you like to tell? What is hot right now?

If you have done any of them, you need to get them out there for all to see in readable and understandable form. This is no time to be modest. Saving things for the interview is a strategy designed to ensure that you won’t get any.

There is a mistaken belief that “advertising” promotes the use of products that no one wants. Perhaps true. However, good advertising provides the potential consumer knowledge about the BEST features of products they might want to buy and provides them with the information they need to consider its purchase.

Friends, you are the product that you want people to buy. You want others to understand your best features and how you can make their life perfect.

There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. This is what the game is all about.

Besides, they will have plenty of time to learn about your flaws AFTER they hire you.

Regards, Matt

A rose by any other name

Back in 1991 after I had been out of work for only a few weeks I sent out a mailing and somehow managed to get an interview with a guy who looked and talked like Frank Perdue.

After we shook hands, he offered me his business card and asked for mine. I told him I didn’t have one. He then asked me if I had a name. I said yes. He asked me if I had an address. I said yes. He asked me if I had a phone number. I said yes. Well, he said, you should have a business card. Fortunately for me, he moved on with the interview. But, lesson learned, I went out the next day and got business cards.

The problem I faced was what to put on it. Should I put only name and contact information or should I make up a title for myself? I decided on a title of Financial Consultant, and I put some other information about what I did. (Of course, the typesetter spelled Acquisitions incorrectly and I passed out quite a few cards before my friend Alan Ross pointed out this error to me at a networking meeting. Fortunately, it wasn’t my mistake, but rather the printer’s.)

The issue is what to put on business cards if you aren’t working or really consulting. The same problem exists if you have been out for a while. What filler, if any, should you use on your resume?

I would suggest you do what is true.

Having gone to networking meetings and gotten many business cards from those “pretending” to be consultants, I can tell you that it doesn’t take much to figure out that folks are unemployed. It could be that us financial types lack imagination or are just plain cheap, but isn’t going to look very convincing on a card. If you haven’t got a website I would suggest you look silly “pretending” to be a serious consultant.

The one thing I can tell you is that you do need a business card. It is just plain inconvenient to write your information down every time you want someone you meet to be able to reach you. If you give your card to someone, they feel the need to give you theirs. Hard to start that process if you don’t have one.

I would also suggest that regardless of what is on your card, you should get them properly printed. The ones you can print yourself just look plain cheap. All we are talking about here is $50 and it should be within your budget.

It is also a good idea to spend the money on a business line for calls. By separating your business line from the family line, you can answer it “This is Matt Bud” and sound very professional. (Of course, you should probably use your own name when answering your phone.)

The advertising business which I was in for almost 10 years would suggest that you look as big as you can, but do it in a smart way. Just as we all know about “piercing the corporate veil,” figuring out who is and who isn’t real isn’t very difficult.

Regards, Matt

Hanging on to unpleasantness

I don’t know if you remember “Rain Man” with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, but there was one scene where Tom Cruise either hit or yelled at Dustin Hoffman and Dustin proceeded to write it down in a notebook he carried. He was very meticulous in noting the “offense” and the date and time.

In much the same way I hear stories all the time from our members about various things that have happened to them over the course of their job search. I’m sure the offending person has continued on their way without noting the damage that they have done, but the pain they have inflicted often remains as strongly felt as the day it happened.

It is easy to quote Joan Rivers and say “Oh, grow up!” But, for those who have experienced a traumatic event, it frequently isn’t that easy.

While I may not have any medical training, what I would point out is the practical aspect that focusing on these painful experiences takes energy away from useful and productive activities. The sooner you can write these events down in a notebook (physical or otherwise) and throw it away, the better off you are.

As I have been heard to say: “You can’t change the past.” Whatever has happened is over and done with, and the sooner you put it behind you the better. The life you have ahead of you is something you can affect in favorable ways if only you devote your full effort to it.

When people ask me how I get so much done every day, the answer I give is that I try not to worry about how many tasks I have to complete because that worry time is better spent getting things done. If you can get yourself to put aside the “petty annoyances” of life and focus on all of the good things that happen to you day in and day out, you will find you are also in a better mood.

You can fuss over the fact that some people haven’t called you back, or you can bask in the glow of the friendship evidenced by the introductions some REAL friends have made for you. If you are having a “slow” day, you are “allowed” to reflect on positive experiences from recent days.

The one thing I have learned is that conserving my energy in this manner enables me to get more done. There are only so many useful hours in any 24 hour period and you need to take advantage of each and every one. Some are for sleeping. Some are for recreation. Some are for working.

Don’t allocate ANY of those hours for perseverating on old injuries. In this way, they will soon fade from memory and reside in the dustbin of history, hopefully seldom revisited.

The power of positive thinking is well known. Remember, Tinker Bell’s fairy dust only works when you think good thoughts.

Regards, Matt

There’s honestly no excuse

There was a time, I suppose, when it was really hard to get back to people.

Let’s say someone sent you a smoke signal. I guess you would first have to build a fire, and a smoky one at that. If they sent you a message towards the end of the day, would you really have enough time to respond? And, if you waited until the morning, how would you know if they were still listening?

If someone sent you a papyrus scroll, not only would you feel obligated to respond, you probably would have to feed and house the messenger who brought it while you prepared your own papyrus scroll. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it probably was.

If we move to more modern times, the Pony Express was able to move messages from Missouri to California in a remarkable 10-13 days. I guess that left you waiting about a month for a response. The Pony Express was, of course, put out of business by the telegraph.

I’m going to skip over airmail, the fax machine and all the many messages we used to have to send by Federal Express and come to today when we have cell phones and email, and amazingly, both combined on one device. (Although I must admit I don’t write emails on my phone except under duress. I type 90 words a minute and it would be a colossal waste of my time.) Should I even mention text messages, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?

I was out to dinner this past weekend with an old friend and we were lamenting the high volume of calls and emails that go unreturned these days. Neither of us could come up with a reasonable explanation as to why this is the case in these modern times.

If you actually know who I am and I send you an email, is it really all that hard to hit reply and say you are too busy or not interested? It wasn’t all that long ago that you had to draft a letter, have your secretary type it, correct what she typed (perhaps a few times), sign it, and only then put it in an envelope. Hitting reply somehow seems so much easier.

Returning phone calls, I realize, is a little more difficult. It is my belief that every phone call takes about 15 minutes of your day. That means you can only do about 32 of them a day. Still, it is disappointing that many people these days don’t return calls, even to people they know. And, even when it might benefit them.

I have no explanation for any of these issues. All I can tell you is that I don’t plan to ever be a part of that society. All my calls and all my emails are returned. Some, perhaps, not on a timely basis, but they do get attended to eventually.

There was a line in the movie Forrest Gump: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Think of every message you get as a potential missed opportunity. Unless you actually speak to someone, you don’t know if by connecting with them, your life might have been somehow better.

We have so many power tools in today’s world. Enjoy the benefit. Don’t make any excuses to yourself or to others.

Let’s check back with each other in 10 years’ time and see who is in a better place.

Regards, Matt


When asked how your job search is going or your job, the best answer is “unbelievable.”

Unbelievable can of course mean in reality good or bad. If things are really really bad, they are certainly unbelievable. And if you are pinching yourself to make sure you are awake, they could also be unbelievably good. You have the opportunity by saying “unbelievable” to leave others with the impression you are doing quite well.

The question you may be asking is why you would do such a deceitful thing which is tantamount to lying if you are having one heck of a bad day. The reason is quite simple. No one really wants to know. It’s not that they don’t care. It is more that others have difficulty sharing your pain.

I was fortunate earlier in my career to attend a full day session on personal selling. It is a requirement (written somewhere) that every salesperson must be cheerful. Consider for a moment whether or not you have ever bought something of great value from anyone because you felt sorry for them.

We have expressions in our world about “getting on the band wagon.” Now why are we getting on the band wagon? It is because we want to get on board with a winner, before he actually wins.

Much the same is true of those with whom we network. If you come across as a sad sack on his way to oblivion, no one is signing on to join up with you. On the other hand, if you have the appearance of being a winner or well along on the path to success, everyone will want to join up.

When you are unemployed, people do feel your pain. But, just as those with cancer or other terrible diseases will tell you, people you encounter do and say a lot of stupid things when they meet you. Part of it comes from a fear that what you have is catching, and/or that it may happen to them as well.

But, let’s be clear what our goal is. We present a positive attitude to the outside world because without one we will not get the best possible advice. Not only do we need to present a positive attitude to others, we need to actually have one.

Making your gut reaction to any question about your current or prospective search “unbelievable,” will give you that momentary pause to get yourself back together and focused on your real objectives.

And, if you are out and about networking, you need to understand that you are going to do a lot of “frog kissing.” Many of the individuals you will encounter will have little to offer you that is valuable or that you haven’t heard before. However, you need to be careful about “shutting them down.” While they may not have much to add to your process, they still may know others who do.

As you begin 2018 and call everyone you know to wish them a happy new year, talk about the unbelievable networking group you belong to. Talk about the unbelievable introductions that those in your network have made for you. Talk about the unbelievable acts of friendship you have encountered from total strangers. Talk about the unbelievable support you have gotten from your spouse and your family. Talk about your unbelievable faith in the future.

And, keep in mind that it is all unbelievably true.

Regards, Matt

A time for reflection

As accountants we know only too well that the time periods into which we divide a year are a little arbitrary. They only mark the passage of time in a logical manner (which is very important to all of us financial types).

We also know intuitively that the concept of getting a fresh start with the coming of the New Year isn’t quite true. Still, it is a very fine tradition. And, with all the time you will have in the next few days, it couldn’t hurt to spend some time in quiet reflection. (I said reflection — not napping.)

I don’t know what the New Year will bring for the members of our networking group, but with any luck, the economy will actually continue to improve in 2018.

Please know that “been there and done that” is more well respected now than it ever has been in this nation of ours. And, this is what you have to sell.

However, wishing won’t make it come true for you in the months ahead. If I may quote Seneca, a Roman philosopher: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Over the next few weeks go over your campaign from stem to stern. (You knew I would squeeze in a sailing analogy, didn’t you?) Really READ your resume. Write down your typical 90-second announcement and pick at EVERY word. Organize your networking contacts. (Sort them by first name – just kidding.)

I work on The FENG many hours each week in the belief that we can and do make a difference for each other, but at the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you work for yourself.

Our family motto is: You can do anything to which you set your mind. Let’s focus and have at it in the year to come. I want us to continue to be not only the best known and most well respected networking group for senior executives, but also the most employed.

To do that, I need you to believe you can make things change for yourself in the next few months. If you don’t make yourself believe it, you won’t work at it. (Hey, maybe wishing can make it so.)

Regards, Matt

Why we share job leads

One of the core values of being a member of The FENG is that we share job leads.

There are a lot of reasons why we do this, and it isn’t just because it is a nice thing to do. It is actually a very smart thing to do. The only problem is that it is apparently a counter-intuitive idea. So, forgive me if I am going over old ground because you are one of those members who “gets it.”

Let me start you off with the idea that it is impossible to keep a secret these days about any job out in the market. If you still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, I suppose I will not be able to convince you otherwise, but you’ll have to trust me that it is a rare event indeed when there is only one candidate being considered for a job. Usually there are at least 20, 5 or more of whom will actually be interviewed. (Unfortunately, only one of the 5 will actually get hired, but I digress.)

Your actual choice in this world is whether or not you want to ensure your appropriate friends are considered for opportunities you are aware of, or if you prefer that the other folks who are being considered be strangers. I have often been heard to say that it is better that a friend gets the job than someone I don’t know, but perhaps, that’s just me.

On paper at least, you will find that all of the candidates who make it to the final list are technically qualified for the job. The person who gets the job is most likely to be the person who connects most strongly with the “boss.” Others competing for the same job may in fact on some objective basis be more qualified. But, the power of that personal relationship is what will almost always carry the day.

The next big idea I would share with you is that job leads are over valued. Most job seekers would pay a considerable sum of money to hear about a viable job lead for their skills. Hence the success of the public job boards. They sell lifejackets to people who are drowning, which wouldn’t be so bad if the lifejackets they sold actually worked.

If on the other hand, you are prepared to share your leads with those you know have background connections with you, it is more than a dream that they will feel compelled to share what they know with you. The way the math works, if there are 20 candidates, I guess all things being equal, you have a 1 in 20 shot of getting the job. So, in theory at least, if you share a job lead with 20 other qualified candidates, you should in short order hear about 20 jobs. (It’s one of those chain letter things.)

The gift of a fresh and viable job lead is considered a supreme act of friendship. I know there will be folks who won’t get it the first or even the second time you do it, but like buying lottery tickets, you have to play to win. To quote from our website:

“We make every attempt to provide useful leads by inviting other members to participate in leads in which we are ACTIVE candidates.

Counterintuitive? Time is the enemy. The value of any lead is in its freshness.

Keep in mind that you are never the only candidate. If a recruiter is going to submit other names, they may as well be friends of yours.

Our bond of friendship and trust makes the sharing of active searches possible.

We operate on the theory that in today’s world, by the time one is no longer a candidate for a position, it is effectively dead on arrival. The sharing of only old leads is a disservice to all involved. We do not in any way police or monitor your performance on this issue. You will need to make up your own mind regarding the value of your FULL participation.”

So there you have it. My personal theories as to how the world actually works, or perhaps how I think it SHOULD work.

There was a commercial on TV many years ago that had a tag line of “Try it, you’ll like it.” I think that idea is appropriate here.

Regards, Matt

A week for housekeeping

If there is a single week during the entire year when it is hard to network, it has to be the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The phone doesn’t ring much and there isn’t even much email.

While I will try to take a little time off this week, I will also be spending some time organizing and reorganizing my office. These are things I honestly can’t do very well during the rest of the year.

While you may not be able to do much networking, you can PREPARE to do a little networking.

If you find yourself with some time on your hands this week, take a minute and visit our absolutely spectacular Member Directory Search feature and take it for a test drive. We have added almost 2,000 new members this year and one or more of them may be long lost business associates. You might also find a few folks from your past that you missed the last time you checked.

If you track down a friend who you realize needs to update their directory listing, please send them to our website. If they have forgotten their password, we have a cure for that: There is an “I forgot my password” button.

While we do our best to ask those who write to us here at world headquarters if their information is correct, everyone can help us keep our directories up to date by being our “eyes and ears.” Networking only works if our directory is up to date, and you can help.

The other thing you might want to do is to reread your resume and cover letters. It is all too easy to keep sending out the same words day after day to the point that you no longer know what some of these documents say. Take the time to read them. You may find that they are in need of a serious rewrite, or you may just need to tweak them a bit. In any case, an annual review couldn’t hurt.

If you are fortunate to be “between searches” during this holiday period, it might be a good idea to add your current experience to your most recent resume so you will have it if you need it in the months to come.

You might also want to do a little reading and get caught up on that as well. I will leave the choices up to you. (I have a pile of sailing magazines that I MUST clear.)

So enjoy the week. Opportunities like this don’t happen often.

Regards, Matt

Information please

I am more often than not surprised by the amount of time it can take for a company to develop a position description and yet at the end of the day not really be able to capture the essential elements for a particular opportunity.

I suppose in part this is because senior level position descriptions are a compromise. They are partly a reflection of who is in the job currently, but they also reflect things that the individual who held the job previously wasn’t able to accomplish. And, let’s not forget the fact that the company at which these tasks are to be performed isn’t static either.

As readers of the end result, and especially with regard to opportunities that come our way from the relationships members have with the search community, we are obligated to ‘read between the lines” and decide if we are qualified.

The greatest disqualifier in my mind mirrors real estate: location, location, location. I push very hard with those to whom I actually speak to provide that information as narrowly as possible. The exact city would be nice. Sure we may guess who their client is, but that may be better than saying Northeast or Midwest. (We seem to have more than a few members in these locations!)

Next, I suggest that the compensation be set out. Sure, there is a range, but it is sometimes hard as an outsider to tell the value of a particular posting. Who is in a better position to sound out the client, a candidate or the search firm? If the compensation is extremely high or extremely low versus your prior profile, it helps to know so that you can decide whether or not to apply. Sometimes at the low end, if it is local, you might actually consider it.

However, the one thing that you can’t allow yourself to do is to ponder very long, or to write for more information. Usually, all that is known by the individual posting an opportunity is right there. Consider for a moment exactly what kind of information they might be withholding that made known to you would cause you to apply or not apply. After location and compensation, there really aren’t any.

I am assuming here that the “must haves” of skill set are detailed in some manner. Perhaps that is a big assumption, but even probing on this issue isn’t going to gain you much ground. Just like in college when you had an essay exam, the problem is the same. If more information were available to be provided, it would most likely be made available to one and all. And, it would be in the job posting itself. Why would anyone set themselves up to be asked more questions?

The most important issue to keep in mind is that today, opportunities disappear in a matter of hours not days or weeks. By disappear, I mean that a sufficient number of responses have been received and getting back to you about your legitimate question is just not going to happen.

So, in keeping with our twin goals of only responding when qualified and responding on a timely basis, I have to urge you to guess as needed.

Be mindful of what you consider, based on AVAILABLE information, to be the most important skill sets and if you are a fit have at it.

As they say, he (or she) who hesitates is lost.

Regards, Matt

Unsolicited advice

It is a sad fact that most men don’t appreciate getting unsolicited advice. That said, there are even those among us who reject advice they have asked for out of hand and in a dismissive way.

The giving and receiving of advice is always a delicate balance. Even though probably 75% of my mail comes in without an outgoing signature and I could pull my hair out over it at times, I still write “May I suggest….”, when I should say “Haven’t you heard me mention this before?” (I try to keep my suggestion about providing a FULL outgoing signature from being mentioned in my editorials to only once or twice a WEEK. Perhaps I need to pick up the pace.)

Call me Mr. Know-it-all, but I try to ask at least one stupid question a day. They sometimes begin with “What do you think?” Sure, I already know the correct answer, but I have found out that from time to time people surprise me with one I was not expecting and it is a better answer than the one I had in mind. (Lucky thing I didn’t go first!)

Seeking advice requires that you be a good listener. While you may have “heard it all before,” one just never knows when some wise guy will come up with some new twist on a well worn idea. If you aren’t really listening, you will miss it.

Take this Internet thing for example. Why would anyone not want to be able to go down to the post office and mail real letters to people they know? (This whole texting thing is over rated, don’t you think?) And, what should those of us who still have preprinted stationery do with it? Thank goodness the people who dreamed up the Internet didn’t ask me. I had just figured out how to do a mail merge for letters and envelopes and I was very happy. Who knew I would be even happier?

If you ask enough people to help you solve a problem you are more likely to be able to improve on any solution you have in mind. It is even possible that the final shape of your idea will be better than anything that has come before. Such is the power of what is known in the computer world as distributed data processing. (Another idea that no one asked my opinion about!)

I think all of you would agree that having someone ask YOUR opinion is a great honor. It makes you feel good. It even gets those old brain cells working. Perhaps it even helps you shape your own ideas from time to time by causing you to consider alternatives for someone else.

You know, we could create a whole “thing” in The FENG by asking for each other’s advice. Not only would all of us feel good about ourselves and feel important, but we might also all end up smarter.

Who knew? (Again, they didn’t ask me!)

Regards, Matt

Why bother saying thank you?

For those of you who are sailing fans and/or history buffs and saw the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World, there was a scene where Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany were having a heated argument about the merits of flogging. The comment made by the captain was that the good doctor didn’t understand what held their little wooden world together.

Please understand that I am not recommending we flog members of The FENG who fail to say thank you, but the analogy is that those who don’t say thank you apparently don’t understand what holds our little electronic world together.

NO ONE ever hears thank you enough. All of you are very kind to me and I get “love notes” from quite a few members every day. Don’t count on me telling you to stop. It is very nice to know that the hours I put into The FENG are SO appreciated.

I am not, however, asking you to send me more thank you notes.

What I am asking is that ANYONE posting a “Member in Need of Assistance” take the time to hit reply and say thanks to EVERYONE who has taken the time to send them an answer of ANY kind. Honestly, it’s not like you have to print an envelope and letter and put a stamp on it.

Thanks to Al Gore inventing this Internet thing, and Bill Gates inventing MS Word (or causing it to be invented), you have the world’s best power tools to ingratiate yourself to all those strangers who have listened to your plea for help.

Everything in The FENG is filled with hidden meanings. If you are requesting help on a topic, consider the fact that those who respond might actually have something in common with you, and/or want to be your friend. Yes, they might well be good networking contacts. Duh! By not letting them know you appreciate their gesture, you are missing out.

Doing favors for others is a Godfather thing. In the rest of the world, I do a favor for you, you do a favor for me. In The FENG, you don’t actually have to pay back the favor to the same person. You only have to make yourself available and be willing and open to doing favors for others to ask for as many favors as you like.

Some of us are in need now. Others will be in need at some point in the future. It is in all of our best interests that the many courtesies we extend to one another in the spirit of fellowship be fully recognized.

You aren’t required to put their children through college or throw yourself in front of a bus for a fellow member.

You are, however, expected to say, thank you, thank you, thank you, when someone extends the hand of friendship by sharing their knowledge and experience.

Who knows, within The FENG, common courtesy may even become something that isn’t uncommon. (By the way, this especially applies to new members returning phone calls from other members who have welcomed them to our “little” family.)

Regards, Matt

Saturday Night Live!

I have been known to get seriously silly at times. (I know this will come as a great shock to all of you.)

Back in the old days when I was able to stay up late, Saturday Night Live had an ongoing skit about an individual named Pat. Over the course of the seasons or season it was on (as I indicated, it was a long time ago), all of the skits revolved around figuring out if Pat was a male or a female. Some of them were actually pretty funny. (Keep in mind that it was late at night and I do get slaphappy when I am tired.)

Anyway, the issue for tonight is labeling yourself properly.

As you all know, we have a little field in The FENG database called “Greeting to use.” I suppose it is another one of my many strange ways, but I always like to be able to call folks by their proper name. If their given name is Francis but they go by Frank, I like to know when I call.

Since The FENG is a networking group (and one of the best in the world) you can understand why this might be important. I felt that the first communication between two new friends should begin on the right footing, and there is no greater error than not calling someone by the name they want to hear.

Okay, if this is true, why is it that some folks don’t want to somehow let others know what they like to be called in their business communications related to job search?

What I am talking about here are not only nicknames but also male and female distinctions.

The issue at hand is ensuring that those strangers contacting you are not embarrassed or caught off guard. If you are blessed with a name that may be male or female, or one you don’t usually use, or one that isn’t easy to pronounce you might want to take steps to solve the problem.

With regard to the male/female issue, I can’t tell you how many notes of sponsorship I get and new member applications where it isn’t clear. No matter how many times I read all of the attached material, both parties have at times not ever made it clear or even hinted at it. And, although I am pretty good at guessing, I don’t always get it right.

At networking meetings I frequently see name badges and tents/place cards that don’t reflect the name folks want to be called, but rather their formal name, and I just have to shake my head in disbelief.

All the time they are talking their name is being imprinted on my brain.

I just wish they would let me burn the right one into my memory. (Of course, male/female is usually pretty easy at our meetings.)

Regards, Matt

The personal, impersonal

One of the very nicest parts of the holiday season is getting greeting cards, both email and physical, from the many people that I know.

The good ones are filled with newsy information about what the sender has been doing for the past 12 months and perhaps what their plans are for the year to come. The bad ones may as well be addressed as “To Whom It May Concern.” The last time I sent out physical holiday greeting cards was many years ago and I felt even back then that for the most part they were a waste of time if they really weren’t personal.

So, with only a few days left to send out “holiday greetings,” I thought I would share with you some of my feelings as to how to make them more personal.

I know everyone will be surprised when I suggest that email is just fine. Almost all of my communications these days come in that way and it allows me to immediately write back and say thanks.

What may not be so obvious and what might seem crude is the need to include your FULL contact information somewhere in your message. You would be surprised at the number of people you would like to hear from in 2017 who don’t know how to reach you. Are you really sure everyone knows where you are currently working, where you currently live, what phone numbers you prefer and what email addresses you want them to use? If it is over 20%, I would be totally shocked. I’m sure there are exceptions. Some of you actually use an outgoing signature and keep in touch at other times during the year, but trust me, 80% of humanity that is relevant to you and your career doesn’t know how to reach you. Take a risk and allow them the opportunity to update their address books.

One of the reasons I beat the drum about outgoing signatures so much is that is how I keep our membership directories up to date. EVERY message I get that includes one is checked against our “bible.”

I have saved the most important part of your holiday missives for last. It is the need to personally address any message you send out specifically to the recipient. And, in today’s email environment there is honestly no good excuse to not doing so.

Let’s assume that you know 100 very important people. Put a clock on it. Even if you don’t have access to a mailing program that allows you to do a mail merge, you can easily send out 30 largely boilerplate messages in an hour. Ask yourself if it is worthwhile to invest 4 hours in sending out personalized messages? (I do like feeling special.)

When I see no greeting and notice that the message I am receiving has been sent to a blind courtesy copy list, I frankly find it offensive. (Don’t they know I’m Chairman of The FENG? Heck, we’re the largest networking group of senior financial officers in the entire universe!)

Please know that ALL of your friends would like to feel important at this time of year, or at any time of year for that matter. A well written boilerplate letter with a few simple fill in the blanks will go a long way to making your next phone call well received.

Make it personal, and who knows, if you tell them how to reach you they might even call or write you first next time.

Regards, Matt

The CB Radio craze

I don’t know if all of you are old enough to remember the CB Radio craze, but it was a fun period in America. I assume some truckers still use this technology, but for most of us it is just a fond memory. I remember how all of us used to talk about our “handles,” and putting the antenna on the top of the car was an absolute must before starting any long trip. (After a while, the static and the rude people on the air did take some of the charm out of it.)

Anyway, many of the elements of the CB Radio craze have valid comparisons to the beginnings of the Internet. AOL was one of the earliest forces in making the Internet user friendly. In the beginning, for example, we all talked about our “screen names.” Sending email was quite a kick. Oh, and the thrill when you signed in and heard “You’ve got mail.” Wow, does life get any better?

Well, the Internet has now been around for a while and some of the newness has certainly worn off. However, stop me if I am wrong, but I am beginning to believe that the Internet is here to stay.

If all of you accept this as true, and I hope you do, it is time for everyone to grow up. Not in the Joan Rivers sense, but in the sense that this is a power tool that you need to master. Being “cutesy” or casual about your email correspondence is no longer appropriate or acceptable.

On a daily basis I would have to tell you that 75% of the email I get lacks a proper outgoing signature. (The minimum is: your name, phone, city/state and email.) This is one of those things that could take all of an hour to learn how to do, and yet, most members of our august body don’t seem to understand how important it is.

Not only is this true, but sometimes the “name” at the top includes a spouse because this is how the account was set up. Sharing an email address is simply inappropriate if you want to be viewed as a professional. And, the place to change it isn’t that hard to find. Again, it may take as much as an hour. Oh, and the From address should be properly upper and lower cased.

The very same folks who when they realized they would be unemployed rushed out to get business cards with their proper name, full home address, home phone, home fax, cell phone and email address seem to think that signing their emails to me, “Regards, John” is okay.

Sure, as chairman of The FENG I am blessed with a secret decoder ring and a detective’s sense of research, but most of those to whom you are sending your missives are more likely to hit the delete key than scratch their heads and try to figure out who you are.

As important to this process as anything is the correctness, with regard to spelling and sentence construction, in every message you send out electronically. When in doubt, check it out. (Catchy phrase, don’t you think?) If you aren’t good at spelling, write your email messages in Word and then copy and paste them into your email message. Yes, I know it is an extra step, but it is important that you appear to those you are trying to impress to be as intelligent as I KNOW you are.

If you feel handicapped by the visual cues that are missing in a telephone conversation, think how significantly greater the email challenge is. There isn’t a single note I ever write that I don’t check, and I do write to more than a few folks every day. (I won’t even count the evening newsletter.)

Coming up with an email address that looks “corporate” doesn’t take long either. Yes, I know that one you started life with has meaning to YOU, but does mean anything to the rest of the world? And, what is the likelihood that is going to be seen correctly as Yet, I see this problem frequently. Every once in a while the email address on someone’s resume is wrong. (Yes, that does make it hard to get back to them.)

If I thought that picking an email address was difficult, clearly naming the files that are attached also seems to involve no thinking on the part of those sending them. The simple solution is to simply use your LastnameFirstnameMI.doc. It is simple and clear who sent it, and if it finds its way to my hard drive, it won’t overwrite all those resume.doc’s that others have sent me.

Keep in mind that sending two files is probably not a good idea. Your email is your cover letter (which is why it has to be professional in appearance and content), and then you can attach your resume as a single file. (Hopefully with an appropriate name.) Of course, if you name it ResumeRev57.doc, I will know that you really worked on it.

All email communication needs to be given the serious attention to detail that it deserves. Taking a “Hey good buddy” approach just isn’t going to cut it.

On such an important issue as this passing fancy called the Internet, it is an approach I would recommend to all of you.

Regards, Matt

Putting it behind you-NOT

Since much of what we do in The FENG is about job search, I thought it might be appropriate to make a few suggestions to everyone about what to do when you do actually find a new job.

I’ll be blunt. Job search is primarily filled with uncertainty, highs and lows and activities like making networking calls, which as financial folks we generally don’t like doing.

Still, as I frequently remind everyone: “All jobs are temporary.”

If you are going to be successful at this “career thing” you need to face facts, and the most important one is that you are never really employed, you are just between searches. A sad state of affairs, perhaps, but one that is factual.

With this as a backdrop, the first thing you need to do when you land a job is thank EVERYONE who helped you in any way shape or form. Sounds silly that I would have to remind you, but there are members who even forget to send in a good news announcement. I am sure that these folks also forget to reach out to their support network and let them know they have landed.

Through no one’s fault jobs don’t last that long anymore. If you are suddenly and unexpectedly back active in your search you will find yourself reluctant to call your network if you never took the time to thank them for their help.

That is phase one. Phase two is never again allowing yourself to be too busy to help others who call you to network. Sure, the new job requires you to be nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel 16 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. But, if you don’t take an hour or two each week to network by catching up with old friends, you are doing yourself a disservice.

When your dream job disappears, the company won’t help you rebuild your network.

Now that you have gone through the painstaking process of creating a resume, you now understand the logic. Keep your resume up date. Think about the projects you finish in accomplishment terms and write them down.

And my final suggestion to all of you is keep yourself connected to The FENG. I continue to be amazed and astounded when I get an email that states: “I am starting a new job on Monday, please stop the newsletter.” (You would think they could at least wait until a few paychecks clear the bank.)

Think of the evening newsletter as your very own Central Intelligence Agency, only better. Not only does it allow you to spot friends who have landed so you can call them, the many messages and job leads in particular allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the marketplace.

We have a good thing going with our circle of friends. Stay connected. Participate.

You will find that it pays significant long term benefits. (If I’m wrong you can let me know in 10 years.)

Regards, Matt

Networking by brute force

From time to time, someone tells me that networking as an approach is falling into disfavor. (If it does, we will have to change the name of our networking group, and I am at a loss as to how to come up with another name!)

When people talk about networking in this way, the networking that they are talking about is the kind that John Lucht discusses in his book Rites of Passage as “the NFL approach to networking.” This is where you hold someone down and refuse to let them up until they give you three names. (Or maybe four!)

This brute force approach to the gentlemanly game of making genuine business relationships for the future has never worked and will never work. And, rest assured that we don’t sanction this kind of behavior within The FENG.

We have a membership directory that contains 40,000+ names. Not a bad start on your networking process. At worst, you can learn about networking from selectively identifying folks with whom you have some connection.

I thought I had explained this part of the process to one of our members, but was later disappointed to learn from someone he had contacted that apparently my message had been lost in translation. As is our tradition in The FENG, those who offend other members are reported to “the Principal” (that’s me) for disciplinary action. (Don’t worry. I’m known as gentle Matt.)

In one recent case the member in question DID only contact those who had a connection to him. The problem was he didn’t tell them. Yes, hard to be believe, but the connection that went unmentioned was that they had worked at the same firm or firms, but at different times. Sure, the offended members might have figured that out if they had opened the attached resume, but the cover note was so close to a “Dear FENG Member” kind of note that I am sure many of those he contacted didn’t.

Key to getting call backs and making connections is analogous to the problem we face with 90-second announcements. (Ah, the symmetry of life.) The communications we send to our future friends need to be concise in communicating our backgrounds as well as to how the recipient can help.

The single biggest problem in communication is the ILLUSION that it has been accomplished. (George Bernard Shaw)

You can’t have the shirt off my back, or access to my friends, or even a few minutes of my time unless I know why I should make you such a gift.

So, before we all get carried away with the “failure” of networking and put ourselves in the position where we have to come up with another word, (I am still struggling with the change from garbage collector to sanitary engineer), let’s work as hard as we can to KEEP networking from getting a bad name.

As I have said before and I will say again tonight: “Every day and in every way, it all starts with you.”

Within our circle of friends, be respectful of the time of others. Make sure they know the reasons why they should take your call. Make sure you’re organized when you call.

And, last but not least, be sure to say thanks – several times. (It can’t hurt and just might encourage them to try “networking” one more time. Done right, it is a bad habit that is hard to break.

Regards, Matt

Who is that masked man?

I have at this point in my chairmanship of The FENG listened to a fairly significant number of 90-second announcements.

I try to listen patiently and assess how best to help and make suggestions for improvements in the delivery of this vital communication.

The time frame presents a formidable challenge even for the most gifted of speakers, and how best to use this “white space” is the subject of much long winded and contradictory debate. (Clearly a paradox in and of itself.) What I would like to understand more than anything else is the essence of who and what you are, but that rarely happens.

Most of the members of The FENG are living through the part of our lives we call middle age. I guess that’s because we have our children on the one side and our parents on the other, and we are caught in the middle.

At various times, and especially during a job search, thoughts of “could have, would have and should have been” buzz through our brains and occupy our thoughts for days on end. And, rightly so.

Although most days we are properly focused on that next call, or on that letter we have to write, unless you bring yourself back to your own personal basics, exactly what you are seeking cannot be clear.

The story goes that a football coach was watching his team embarrass themselves out on the field. The first quarter fumbles, and incomplete passes were followed by a 2nd quarter of much the same nonsense.

The locker room at half time was filled with tension. The team knew they were in for a tongue lashing and were braced to receive it. And so, the coach began commenting as only a coach can do about the first half. After an initial volley he told them that he was going to see if he could explain what they needed to do in the 2nd half by bringing them back to the basics of the game. Pulling that familiar object from behind his back he said “This is a football.”

The “football” is what you really do best. And just like this team, sometimes we have to start with the basics if we are going to decide what exactly it is that we are looking for. What is the driving force in your career? What is it you rank as your best skill? Which skills do you most enjoy practicing?

There are lots of reasons why members of our august body have enjoyed high salaries during their career. For some of us it is the knowledge of arcane issues. For others it is their organizational skills. It varies by person, and that is exactly the point. What is it that enables you to command a high salary? That skill, however defined, needs to be the focus of your search.

It is sort of like your own personal mission statement. And, like a good mission statement, it will help you identify the good, the bad and the ugly as you go about your day to day activities.

If you understand those things about yourself that define who you are, and if you can express them clearly to yourself and to others, it will help you drive to your next goal more effectively. And, with this focus, you can write an effective 90-second announcement and an effective summary for your resume.

If you don’t know your most valuable talents, one suggestion is to ask those with whom you have had the pleasure of working. Yes, believe it or not, they may know the reasons why you have been so “over paid.”

Funny, but us financial folks tend to be so “nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel” that we don’t usually know.

It is just possible that the “man in the mirror” may actually be someone better than you thought. And, all you have to do is ask to find out.

Regards, Matt

Building friendships-a lot of hard work

The definition of networking I use is: Networking is a process by which you can create meaningful business contacts and relationships to further your career and enhance your professional life.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult, networking is a 5. Building friendships is a 10.

I know that many of you have become better and better at this “networking thing.” The constant “nagging” I do in our evening editorial I hope has had a significant impact on your daily activities. And, I hope you are enjoying the rewards as well. But, being one who NEVER leaves well enough alone, I thought I would share one of the deep dark secrets of effective networking – some of these folks become fast friends.

Just as much as no one really understands why you fall in love, it is a mystery in much the same way why after networking with someone over the years you suddenly realize that you have become good friends.

The way we practice networking in The FENG is for you as the favor requestor to feel comfortable asking any other member of our august body for any reasonable favor. On the other side of the equation, I would ask that any member who is asked for a favor they can reasonably grant, to grant it. What is unusual about our mutual requesting and granting of favors is that there need be no match. You can ask favors of anyone and you are expected to grant favors to everyone. (As long as they ask nicely.) The twist in The FENG is that the person to whom you grant a favor doesn’t have to pay you back. He does, however, have to pay SOMEONE back.

By making every effort to network appropriately, by which I mean with those with whom you have some background connection, you are bit by bit going to meet up with like minded individuals. It is inevitable. Some of those folks will just “click” with you.

Now comes the hard part. (I know it sounded too easy to this point.) When you “click” with someone, you have to make an effort to perform acts of friendship. Networking to many seems to have some evil intent. Were it not for your need to earn a living, I suppose you would just stay in your shell and never talk to anyone. But, once you get into this friendship building stuff, it is hard to stop.

Let’s say you saw an article that you think would be of interest to your new friend. Send it along. They may already have seen it, in which case they might write back and let you know. Now that you know you have both read it, why not call up and chat about it?

Gestures large and small make up a friendship. Some of my friendships go back to the beginning of my career. Others are very new. Some are from my involvement in The FENG. All of them are cherished relationships that only get better over time.

The “care and feeding of friends” can be exhausting at times, but it is always worth the effort long term.

As much as I wish all of you a rewarding career, I even more so wish for you to enjoy the personally satisfying experience of having more friends than you can name in a single breath or even in an afternoon.

Among the many goals in your life, I hope this is one you will sign up for.

Regards, Matt

It could be Santa Claus

I don’t know what it is about returning phone calls. I get them by the truck load and still do my best to return them all. (Sometimes it does take a few days.)

Perhaps I have a high level of curiosity, but I have found that you can never tell who has called or what they have called about without actually calling them back. Some of the dumbest messages I have gotten were actually pretty important, and if I hadn’t taken the time to call back I would have missed out, big time.

I would also suggest that one of the most annoying things about looking for a job is all of the individuals in this world who don’t return phone calls. Are they unaware how important it is to call ME back? Now I will grant you that I made a lot of stupid phone calls when I was out of work in 1991 and 1992, but then the knowledge about how to be selective in your calling wasn’t as well known. Perhaps it wasn’t always necessary to call and find out if the post office had delivered my resume, but I felt there was always a chance I might get through and have a real conversation with some recruiter.

Networking was just coming into its own back then, and many of the rules of courtesy and logic were just being developed. So, who knew?

If we all accept the idea that we EXPECT those we call to call us back, I have to ask why it appears that we don’t extend the same favor and courtesy to those who call us?

Rumor has it that many of our members don’t return phone calls. Look, I know it is just an ugly rumor, and I am sure it really isn’t true, but I have to give the benefit of the doubt to one of our members of long standing who claims it is true. His statistics may be faulty, or it could be the fact that he is doing what I have asked of all of you – to call a few new members each week, and perhaps new members at the time he is calling them may not be aware of the rules we follow in our little society.

As I mention from time to time, The FENG isn’t a job listing service. It is a networking group.

EVERYONE who has joined The FENG was sponsored by a friend. It may have been a friend of many years or a new friend, but in keeping with the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish for each other, he/she extended the hand of friendship and presented a gift whose benefits are without measure and yet grow day by day.

If God has smiled upon you and you are presently “between searches,” I hope that you will keep in mind that it is all too easy to be on the other end of the phone at any time and through no fault of your own.

The task we have before us is an enormous one of teaching each other the benefits of making our networking resources available to old friends and new friends alike. The joy that comes from helping those active in their search is one that is difficult to explain unless you experience that warm feeling from time to time. The truth is that there is ALWAYS time to return phone calls, especially if it is from a fellow member of our august body.

We are first and foremost a circle of friends. The links and connections that at first appear flimsy and frail can at times surprise and amaze you how you how substantially you are “joined at the hip” with the rest of the world.

A few years ago I had an exchange with one of our chapter chairs who I was aware used to work at CBS where I worked for several years early in my career. It turns out that he worked with my first mentor there (and I met him at her retirement party), my second boss, and he worked for the person who replaced me in my last job. (I guess that makes us first cousins or something.)

Life takes many twists and turns. Most of what I have learned about members getting to know each other falls into the category of “you can’t make this stuff up.”

If you want to help build The FENG into an even more remarkable organization than it already is, please keep in mind that each caller is a friend of a friend.

Who knows, they might even become a good friend of yours in very short order. But, you’ll never know unless you call them back.

(By the way, Santa Claus is the person who directly or indirectly introduces you to someone who offers you a job.)

Regards, Matt

The captain can show no fear

There was this very amusing comedy routine that I heard many years ago. During part of it, the comedian pointed out that when operating on a patient under local anesthetic, surgeons are not allowed to say “oops.” (I know what I mean when I say oops. What did he mean?)

In much the same way, and for many of the same reasons, the captain of a ship is not allowed to show fear. No matter how fierce the storm, no matter how lost he may be at the minute, even if the vessel is becalmed and the water and food are running out, the captain is expected to keep his wits about him and act like nothing is wrong.

There is a Chinese curse or proverb that goes something like: May you live in interesting times.

Honestly, I really wish the times we are now living through were a little less interesting. If things get worse in the world or continue on this path, even I may begin having a little difficulty holding it all together. (I’m honestly having difficulty figuring out who is who in the various conflicts going on around the world and which groups are on “our side.”)

Let us all relax a bit. While it isn’t clear if the world IS actually going to heck in a hand basket, we can rely on the fact that anything that doesn’t kill us is only going to make us stronger. Most likely when this is all over, we will all be as strong as Superman. (At least the price of gasoline has stayed low!)

The most important thing to keep in mind if you are the primary bread winner of your “ship” is that the crew is watching you at all times. If they see you break into a sweat, stay in bed until noon, cry when you get your health insurance statement, or any of the other 100’s of things you might be well justified in doing, it is only going to make matters worse.

If the crew loses faith in the captain, mutiny is the likely result. And, with the crew out of control, your job and job search process is only going to get more difficult. Job search is stressful enough without members of the family acting out.

The solution is to have a plan. If you have lost your job, face reality immediately. Short of burning the house down for the insurance and sleeping in the car, you should have a family meeting to discuss conserving cash. (I would point out to you that cash is a 4 letter word.) The longer you wait to begin the process, the harder it is to manage through.

We can all be critical of the corporations who lay off workers in anticipation of a downturn of their business, but the truth is that they are being smart. If they wait until they have no choice, there won’t be severance, outplacement or even perhaps a last paycheck.

Unfortunately, your ship may not be of sufficient size for congress to believe that you are too big to fail. Most likely, you are going to be left to your own devices. So, chin up (it is easier to hit that way), and bite the bullet. Make a bold plan now and stick to it.

When you step into a lifeboat, you never know how long it will be until you are picked up. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

But, most important, do your “falling apart act” out of sight of the crew. They don’t respond well to it.

Regards, Matt

Call me Mr. Know-it-all

I know we don’t mean to do it, but as financial types who come to our decisions the hard way (usually the long scenic route), we often react to information being presented to us by others in a dismissive, “oh, I knew that” manner.

I suppose there was a time in my life when I actually thought I did know everything. As the Chief Financial Officer of a top 50 Advertising Agency back in the 1980’s, I was expected to know the answers. People looked to me for solutions to problems. There was a constant parade of folks trooping through my office all day long trying to persuade me about this or that. Talk about “analyze this.”

As I have gotten older I have learned that I know less and less, or perhaps I have grown up and I am much more open to hearing the ideas others present. If there is one thing I have learned is true, it is that if I listen to the suggestions of others without reaction, no matter how stupid they sound when they first start explaining something to me, I usually find out something I didn’t know.

While I sometimes feel I must have heard everything there is to learn about job search, I still ask at every meeting for members of the Westport chapter to share a job hunting tip with the group. Of course there is a lot of repetition in the ideas that are presented. Still, a meeting hasn’t passed where I don’t pick up on some new twist or turn to things I THOUGHT I knew.

As you are out and about in the world doing your networking, it can at times become tedious listening to suggestions about how to improve your resume. Learn to relax. Paper is cheap. Ideas are hard to come by. Let your friends write all over your resume. Let their imaginations run wild. You know, you don’t have to take ANY of their suggestions if you don’t like them. You will find that any document you have read as many times as your own resume has hidden problems that more reading won’t solve. It takes a fresh pair of eyes with a brain that has gotten more sleep than you may be getting to see what in retrospect are obvious errors.

The only thing you have to learn how to do is to put on your best “poker face” and not react to the idiotic dribble (Did I say that?) coming out of your friend’s mouth. You may have to put up with more of this kind of “criticism” than you think you can stand just to hear ONE great idea. That said, it may be the one great idea that makes your resume 10 times more impactful.

They say that God gave us two ears and one mouth with the idea that we should do twice as much listening as talking. While I am not sure this issue came up at the beginning of time, it just may be true anyway.

If you come off as being a Mr. Know-it-all, you aren’t going to be getting much information sent your way. Ideas are what really make the world go around. (I’ll bet you thought it was money. Money only comes from great ideas.)

So, be patient with those around you. Some day, if they listen to you, they just may end up being as smart as you are.

Regards, Matt

Words are important

The words we use when referring to others are important in that they affect our thinking and ability to problem solve.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I usually refer to “members of the search community” or to “search professionals.” I sometimes refer to them as “recruiters.” Although even they refer to themselves as “headhunters,” I find that term less than professional.

Another potential trap we might fall into is the use of the word “gatekeeper.” It brings up visions in my mind of my being on the outside looking in and needing the permission of some imposing individual with a spear or something even more threatening blocking my path. While in many cases our ability to network properly requires our getting our message to a decision maker, the “gatekeeper” (it appears to us), or someone more properly described as the Executive Assistant or Executive Secretary of someone who is very important is blocking our path to success.

It is for this reason that in our thinking we begin to refer to these individuals in a derisive manner. Surely they must know the importance of our getting through and it is just out of sheer meanness that they are preventing it. What other explanation could there be?

Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth. The time of important people is a valuable asset to not only the person in question, but also to the organizations by which they are employed. It is for this reason that the role of “professional road blocker,” oops, Executive Secretary was created. In some organizations, the one who controls the calendar of the “boss” is even called “Chief of Staff.”

Once you accept the importance of these individuals, I hope you will find it easier to “break through.” When you call for example, it is not a good idea to try to “trick” them. Why? Because if you are successful, “they” might be punished. Since your success in networking most likely will require more than one communication, I think you can understand why this would be a mistake.

When asked if he is expecting your call, be honest. (Not that you have to actually answer the question asked.) An honest answer might be that you sent him an email and promised to call. Or, mention the person who suggested you contact “Mr. Big” and assure his “gatekeeper” (oops, there I go again) … Executive Assistant, that this mutual friend of his was sure he would have an interest in speaking with you.

If none of this works in getting you put through, ask if there is a better time to call back or in the ultimate stroke of genius, acknowledging the very important role played by this individual, ask if he/she could get you on his/her calendar for a brief phone call at his/her convenience.

Once you accept that the words you choose to refer others affects YOUR thinking and YOUR ability to be effective, you will be well on your way to solving the problem.

Regards, Matt

Pitfalls and their avoidance

The world of job search can be an uncharted place.

I can’t think of any activity that is so specific to one’s background, while at the same time one that we generally don’t practice a whole lot until the crisis is upon us.

Over most of our careers for us stable financial types, practicing the art of job search would not be a good use of our time. There are budgets and financial statements to prepare, and always meetings to go to.

So, when we find ourselves active in our search, what are the basic steps to take?

First and foremost I would suggest taking the approach we have probably taken to most work related activities: we should do a little research. Anyone who has not read John Lucht’s Rites of Passage is doing themselves a disservice. There are other good books on the market, but John’s is primarily targeted to senior folks, and that is why I usually recommend it.

But, after we have done our reading, what is next? The next step is to talk with folks just like you – your fellow members of The FENG.

It has always been my experience that reading all about it is like drinking water from a fire hose. Within all of the material available for my attention, what is the most important and how would I know? I compare it to an Excel class I once took. All of those techniques were great, but they were solutions to problems I wasn’t working on at the time and haven’t since. Over the course of the whole day, however, there were several things discussed that I use, even now, almost every day.

By reaching out to others who are just like you, (okay, perhaps not as good looking) you have the opportunity to seek out knowledge on the greatest pitfalls facing your search.

Things like what to say during your 90-second announcement, choosing an executive coach, or any of the myriad other decisions that are staring you in the face.

Seeking out help is what The FENG is all about, and I hope you will use its resources often. There are others who have already tackled the very issue you are facing.

And as we all know, there is no purpose in reinventing the wheel.

Regards, Matt

When the newsletter thins

I realize that on days when the newsletter thins, there is the temptation to “click and shoot” all of the remotely possible postings that appear.

Please don’t.

One of the core values of The FENG is that we don’t respond to postings unless we are a good fit. Very simply put, if you wouldn’t hire you for the job, resist the temptation to buy a lottery ticket and submit your credentials.

The thing to keep in mind when there are lots of folks out of work is that any posting that has specific requirements (beyond your having a pulse) is going to get lots and lots of appropriate responses. The role of the recruiter is to identify those candidates who fit the specifications. It is not their goal to be a nice person and include you even though you are way off the mark. Put out a message to 40,000+ people and you are bound to get a few that fit exceedingly well.

If we begin bombing the few recruiters who are getting financial jobs, they will shortly stop posting with us. Reputations are hard won and easily ruined.

I know it is difficult to put aside your personal needs for the greater good, but it is actually for your greater good that you should do this.

Let me also remind members that we try to share all job leads. Trust me, they have limited value and even extremely confidential searches are widely distributed. If you think you can keep a secret and limit the candidate pool, you are only kidding yourself.

What you want to do is invite competition from your fellow members. If you can’t do this by publishing the lead in our evening newsletter, at least make a few phone calls or send a few emails to your inner circle of friends in The FENG to make them aware of it.

You should also do your best to pitch the services of The FENG to search firms and to in house recruiters. Get them to visit our website and register. Get them to submit postings for publication. If you think they will be impressed by speaking with the Chairman of The FENG, have them call me. I have sold snow making equipment to Eskimos in Alaska. Selling the value of The FENG is a lot easier.

We have the greatest resource of senior financial executives in the entire world available to them. They can’t lose. And, neither can you.

Remember, job leads have a short shelf life. The best thing you can do when you hear about one is to pass it on. Perhaps you will help a friend and/or a fellow member get a job. Life doesn’t get much better.

Regards, Matt

The illusion of trust

It is always difficult to explain why you trust someone.

In our daily encounters, out in the world we come across all kinds of folks. Most of the individuals we do business with on a daily basis don’t have to be our friends, and the nature of the exchanges we have with them don’t even require that we trust them.

As an example: purchasing gas. As long as we can bring ourselves to trust the gas station attendant not to pour the gas into the back seat of our car, there isn’t really much at risk. And, since we probably put this exchange on our credit card, there is no possibility that the value received isn’t the amount we paid. The only trust element, if you will, is that the station you have selected prices their products consistently with respect to their competition.

To be an effective networker requires an understanding and appreciation of how trust is created. While the process may begin with an illusion, (any excuse will due to make a call), to be effective it needs to end with a perception of reality.

When networking within The FENG, a trust relationship is easily started just by just mentioning that you are a fellow member of our august body. It can then be furthered by developing sound “reasons why” you have contacted this particular member. Perhaps they worked at firms where you have worked, attended the same schools, live in the same town, or belong to the same special interest group(s).

Contacting individuals to network has as one of its purposes being introduced to others. How extensive and how important the subsequent referrals are depends on your ability to present yourself as a trustworthy person.

Relationships and trust take time to build. The approach I suggest is something I call “asking for the world’s smallest favor that you know will be granted.” For example, asking a networking contact if they know a few recruiters that they might recommend. Recruiters don’t have much value, and the likelihood that you will “burn” your networking contact is small. It is an easy favor to grant. Now that you have them granting you favors, you can ask for more.

Asking for an introduction to a boss, however, requires a tremendous leap of faith. To be granted “three wishes” along these lines would be too much to ask based on what is in reality a cold call by a stranger, and it certainly isn’t something to be asked on a first call.

Understanding the importance to the individual you are asking to help you of each of his/her contacts to his/her future career will help you focus on what you can and can’t ask. To ask for a favor not likely to be granted will ensure that no future favors are ever granted.

So, the best approach is to go slowly in building your level of trust with each networking contact.

The difference between illusion and reality in the world of personal relationships is often hard to distinguish. You are the magician. If you do your hocus pocus well, you will get the best out of those hard to make new friends and build a solid base for the future.

Regards, Matt

Are you skipping ahead to the leads?

I sometimes wish I didn’t publish job leads at all. I know this is shocking for someone who is sending out a newsletter full of job leads, but it is the truth.

Our newsletter contains a wealth of information as do our membership directories. For those of you determined to never learn anything about the job search process, I would suggest you conduct a passive job search and only read the leads.

For the rest of you, may I suggest that you read my editorial, the Good News Announcements and Members in Need of Assistance, as well as the additional editorial material that I include in every newsletter and then IF you have time, read the job leads. (By the way, if you are going to read the job leads, don’t let them sit around. Job leads have a shelf life of about a nanosecond.)

I know you “walk among us.” Many members appear to have never read a good job search book. May I recommend Rites of Passage by John Lucht? If you don’t know about this book, follow the link to just above my editorial and get yourself a copy.

Job search for those of us over the age of 40 is a PERMANENT activity in our life. Sad to say there are very few gold watches that are going to be given out in the next 50 years. That was then, this is now. All jobs are temporary. Even when you are working, you are only between searches.

What you need to do in your life is become an expert at this minor inconvenience we all experience more and more frequently called job search. The focus of our newsletter is to spoon feed a little information each and every day about what is important. If you are treating our newsletter like the one of the major job boards, you are missing the point. While I do all that I can do to make our job leads current and appropriate to our membership, it is only a small part of why we have The FENG.

Let me beat a few drums and give you a little bit of a headache. First, outgoing signatures. I have considered not responding to any email that doesn’t have one, but then I wouldn’t be answering most of the messages I get. I shocked a member today by calling him. I told him it was a just punishment for his having an outgoing signature. You can win this lottery too if you write to me and don’t force me to use my secret decoder ring.

Second, the world will discover where you live. I know that some of you out there believe that if you leave off your home address you will be considered for jobs for which you are not local. Think again. If you create a mystery, you are more likely to have your resume deleted. And under the heading of “you can’t make this stuff up,” one of our members who was local to something I was working on today didn’t have his address on his resume.

Third, you are likely to have to indicate in general terms how old you are at some point. You may as well have it at the beginning. I know that some of you have been told that no one is interested in any jobs more than 10 years ago. While this is true, that doesn’t mean you should leave them off. One of the trends I am seeing is folks having a final sentence or paragraph that begins with “and prior jobs at the following firms: …” Should I mention that this list is generally so long that I have to assume they are older than Methuselah? A particularly ridiculous approach I saw today was “earlier work history available upon request.” Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. And, this particular person had their college graduation date on their resume. What exactly was the point?

If you don’t know how to spell your own name, you are likely not to be considered for anything. And, yes, there was a member today who spelled his name wrong in the “From” section of his email cover note. If you don’t know how to spell or have issues with grammar, find someone who can proof read your messages and proof read your resume. Let me add here that if you actually don’t know how to type, you might want to have someone who does do a little highlighting of the important stuff on your resume. I actually had a resume today that had NO bolding and another resume where the bolding was inconsistent. By inconsistent, I mean portions of the line were bolded ending in the middle of words. Another resume had equal signs through the middle of every word on the resume so that it appeared they were being crossed off. I’m sure Microsoft would like to know how he did that.

If you are being hired as a financial officer of an organization, your future employers would like to know that you practice attention to detail. Every company on your resume should be checked on Google and uppercased or lower cased appropriately. Yes, I know you worked there, but every firm has a preferred way that the company should appear, as in PricewaterhouseCoopers. It isn’t PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and it isn’t Price Waterhouse. Every word and every checkable point on your resume and in your cover letters needs to be presented correctly.

I know that there are those among us who feel they don’t need to read the editorial material in our newsletter or for that matter attend our networking meetings. They already know everything there is to know about job search. If you are one of those individuals, I would suggest that you are missing out. I have been at this for quite some time and I’m still learning.

The purpose of The FENG is to provide you with the best resources on the face of the earth in your quest for gainful employment.

As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I can only guess that there are those of you out there who don’t realize how thirsty you are.

Please know that for those of you who want to learn and become proficient at the essential skill of finding a job, the leadership of The FENG is ALWAYS here for you. And, sooner or later, we will catch up with the rest of you and help you on your way as well.

It will be our pleasure.

Regards, Matt

What happened?

One of the most difficult questions one is almost required to answer is why we left our last job.

Being a little bit of a wise guy, my inclination is to say “They stopped paying me.” Or, in the alternate, “When they changed the locks on my office and had security escort me out to the street, I thought it best not to come back.”

Okay, you can’t really use these lines in an interview, unless of course you are really good at comedy.

The problem with the question is that it is at once a silly question, an unfair question, and a difficult question, especially for us financial types who are used to providing incredible detail in any situation that warrants it. And, if there is any situation that warrants a “correct” answer, it is why you left your last job.

What is even worse is that it is difficult to have an intelligent discussion with anyone considering you for a new opportunity unless you address this issue. It is a question that they want to ask, and until you answer it they aren’t really listening. What they are doing is trying to find a polite way to ask.

An important fact to keep in mind is that if you allow the question to be asked rather than addressing it first, you are risking that it will be framed in a way that you will find more difficult to answer.

The best approach is to develop an explanation that is no more than 60 seconds, that is truthful, correct, and enough of an answer that no follow up question will be asked. Yes, I know it is a tough standard, but you will be surprised how easily satisfied most questioners are. Everyone isn’t a financial type. Most folks prefer short answers. A long one will provide more points of exposure for you and risk those dreaded follow up questions that can bring up negativity at a time you are trying to sell your positive nature.

There are usually agonizing “if only I had’s” constantly running through your mind when you lose a job. This is not the time to share them.

A simple “The company went through a downsizing,” or “The company was sold,” should about cover it. The details about why you were selected are not generally relevant and no one is going to really understand them anyway without a lot of additional information.

If you had an unreasonable boss who screamed at everyone and singled you out for special punishment, although truthful, can only come across as sour grapes, or worse yet, may sound like it contains a grain of truth.

Don’t go there and don’t dwell upon the reasons.

You are being considered for a new opportunity because you must in some way shape or form represent a solution to a problem faced by your potential employer.

There is a real and pressing need for you to spend every available moment in a face to face meeting discussing the future and how your many talents can be applied.

Don’t take the bait and don’t fall into the trap of “fully explaining” every detail and nuance of your departure.

I have said it many times and I will repeat it here: Speech is the slowest form of communication. Don’t waste precious minutes delving into unpleasant issues. But, understand that it is an issue that has to be addressed. Do it on your terms and in the nicest possible way.

You will see that it pays to be gracious. (Even though they “done you wrong.”)

Regards, Matt

Money is important

When it comes to deciding if someone is a fit for a particular position, industry experience and candidates current locations are often the first criteria that employers consider when weeding out applicants. After these first two issues appear to be satisfactory, the next point of focus is your recent work history. What have you done in the last ten years that is applicable to the job in question?

Much of this kind of information can be quickly gleaned from a resume and is often followed up by a telephone interview. Whether the call is from a contingency or retained recruiter, or even from a corporate recruiter, the last point on the check list is usually money. Let’s be honest, money is important.

I will pretty much believe anything anyone tells me, if they tell it to me with conviction. But the issue with money is that folks who do the hiring have a hard time believing that anyone will work for less than they were recently earning or historically earning. As a candidate you need to be aware that the higher your earnings have been with respect to the current job, the more difficult your sales pitch is.

If you live extremely close to the job in question, that certainly gives you a leg up on other candidates, but since most of our expenses in life are fixed, I don’t think this issue is given as much weight as it should. A shorter commute doesn’t do much to lower college tuition for your children.

The goal for any job seeker is to get the person handling the hiring process to tell you up front what the salary range is for the job. Information is power. Without knowing what you are selling into, it is very hard if not impossible to develop a proper sales pitch. Saying you will work for food or even equity when these are not items on the table makes you appear desperate or worse. You should also be aware that no one can make you come to work. So, it is not possible to draw up an agreement that you will stay no matter what, since it is not in any way enforceable.

In the many discussions I have had with hiring authorities over the years I have always been able to wring a salary range out of them. After saying they will pay compensation appropriate to your experience, or market or any of the other vague words that mean absolutely nothing, if you keep asking the question they will finally give in and tell you. It is an appropriate question and one they should answer. Everyone is looking for a bargain. But, in my humble opinion employers are the ones who should really go first, not candidates.

Any job has a market value and you may or may not want to bid on it. I think that is your decision. If you know what you are getting yourself into, I don’t have a problem with your being considered. Just as past performance in an investment is no guarantee of future returns, historical pay patterns are no guarantee that you will earn as much in your next job, or that you feel you need to earn at that level. Again, the issue is how hard a sales pitch you need to do.

What are the reasons you are considering taking a cut in pay? First, if you aren’t working, you aren’t taking a cut in pay. Being unemployed you don’t have a salary. Second, you may be at a different point in your life. Hard for me to judge your salary requirements, that’s why I always ask. If you are truthful and have given it serious thought, who am I to argue with you?

Be prepared for the question. When you answer it, don’t hedge your bets. Be clear and be convincing. As they say about the lottery, you can’t win unless you’re in it.

Regards, Matt


Over the next few days, the instant communications that dominate our lives in the form of phone calls, emails and texts should dissipate a bit. I hope you will take the time for a little thoughtful contemplation.

Although Thursday will most likely be totally tied up with family and friends, the rest of the weekend should allow you some time to clean your desk, finish that book that has been sitting on your night table, and who knows what else you might think of to relax. (Don’t get involved in any Black Friday shopping.)

When it gets really quiet, take a few hours to think about your life and where it is going. After all, it won’t be too long before you have to come up with those New Year’s Resolutions.

In this always connected world of ours, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of only solving the immediate crisis. I’m sure each of you have at one time or another worked at companies that operated this way. It is all too easy to fall into this trap in our personal lives as well.

Thinking about the future and planning for the future is one of the keys to happiness. If you don’t know where you’re going or how you are going to get there, any path will due. To get to a specific destination requires planning.

And, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving Holiday, let us count our blessings. As bad as we may feel things are in these United States, they’re worse just about everywhere else. No one should confuse the loud arguments we have in this country with the fact that we are all strongly connected with one another and we will figure a way out of any mess we may have gotten ourselves into.

So, enjoy the time off, but don’t let it go totally to waste.

Regards, Matt

Paint a smile on your face

As we all blast out of our day to day lives to attend or host Thanksgiving celebrations later this week, keep in mind that whether or not you REALLY are down on your luck, it never helps to let others know it.

While there are those who I greatly respect who out of the kindness of their hearts work at soup kitchens for the poor, as a general rule “woe is me” is not a good networking approach.

As a member of The FENG, you are anything but down on your luck. You are part of the largest networking group for senior financial executives in the ENTIRE world. And if that doesn’t make you proud, I don’t know what might.

In my conversations with members over the years, it is a common pattern for them to tell me of the interviews they have gotten from job postings or from networking, and yet they almost always end with: “But I still haven’t been offered a job.” Well, duh, I kind of figured that. Still, why end all that good news with a downer?

As you share a fine meal and perhaps a football game with friends and family over the next few holiday weeks through New Year’s Day, paint a smile on that face and tell positive stories.

The easiest one to start with is about The FENG. If you have been a member more than a few days, I hope you have at least one and maybe more unbelievable war stories to share about how someone called you in an unsolicited act of friendship and provided you with a job lead, a resume review, or just a phone call that revived your spirits on a day when you were down.

My guess is that you have also had a more than a few successes, even though as I am sure you will add, you haven’t yet landed or if you are working, found another job.

Share the positives and see if you can bring yourself to stop there. Believe me everyone will enjoy their time with you a lot more if you do.

Let people know what you do and what kinds of help you might need. It is my belief that everyone wants to help, but very few people actually know how. Give them a few hints, and you never know what will come to you.

Enjoy the holiday. My best to you and yours!

Regards, Matt

Mastering technology

This is probably just a lucky guess on my part, but I have the very real sense that the high technology tools we have to conduct a job search are here to stay. (To quote Larry King, “High technology, what will they think of next?”)

Friends, Al Gore invented the Internet a long time ago. And, even if the Federal Government declares it to be a public utility, chances are good that you would benefit significantly by developing a mastery of its many intricacies.

And, to bring you back to the beginning of time itself, I’ve had a computer in my office since the early 1980’s! Should I mention cell phones?

It is honestly high time that all of you figure out how these amazing things work.

Here are some areas I would suggest you strengthen your skills:

First, email. Most of the email I see looks like a kidnap note. Within the email cover notes there typically are several different type sizes and sometimes several fonts. Everyone should have at least 2 email addresses so you can write to yourself. (This way you can always get some email. Just kidding.) The reason is so you can test your messages. Outlook is a great product, but due to its huge capabilities you need to “tame” it so that you can properly paste in things you have written in Word. Pasting using “Merge Formatting” will get you through most of the issues, but do some testing so you don’t look foolish. The extra line breaks from those who should know better are particularly annoying.

Phones. When I need to speak with someone, I need to speak with them. What I tend to do is call ALL of the phone numbers I have for them. (I am totally relentless.) I am always surprised that MOST people don’t have a message set up. (You’re kidding, right? I only wish I was.) Is it really that hard to set up your answering machines? Friends, the phone is one of your lifelines to the outside world. The system message fills me with dismay.

I suppose I should have put this under email, but dare I once again mention the importance of outgoing signatures? The explanations I hear about why folks don’t have one, amaze and astound me. They include things like “This is an address I use for my personal mail.” “Everyone knows how to reach me.” (Dream on.) The best one is “I don’t like to share my personal information with strangers.” Friends, privacy is dead. And, it is over rated anyway. Make it easy for others to reach you, and they just might. If you don’t know how to add an outgoing signature, I can assure you that it won’t take more than 5 minutes to learn. At a minimum, your outgoing signature should include your name, email, phone number(s) and a city/state so others will know your time zone.

Word. In a word, most people don’t know how to use it. Don’t “fake” your formatting. Learn how to do it properly. On your resume, make sure your name is on every page at the top. Force your page breaks. And for goodness sake, let me know who promotes having a 3rd page with just your education. (If you share with me who it is, I will gladly whack them upside the head with my electronic baseball bat.) Resumes need to be two pages, or at worst case 3 pages. They should never be 2 ½ or 1 ½.

Back to email again. Your first and last name should properly show in the From box. And, it should be either your given name or your greeting to use. Your call on that one. It should also be properly uppercased and lowercased.

If you want to prove the case that you aren’t too old to work, demonstrating a facility with all the “new fangled” technology is one way to make that happen.

Here is a joke shared with me by the New York/New Jersey B2B CFO Partners that highlights my point:

A young executive was leaving the office late one evening when he found the CEO standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

“Listen,” said the CEO, “this is a very sensitive and important document here, and my secretary has gone for the night. Can you make this thing work?”

“Certainly,” said the young executive. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

“Excellent, excellent!” said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the machine. “I just need one copy.”

If you’re hoping you won’t have to learn the technology around you, think again. It’s only going to get worse. (Or is that better?)

Regards, Matt

Weather forecasting

Ever the wise sailor, I always (well, almost always) check the weather forecast before heading down to the boat to go out for the day.

This may or may not be a valuable activity. My wife jokes that in her next life she wants to be a weather forecaster. They never have to be right and they still get paid.

I have to agree that they are frequently wrong, and sometimes I have taken their prognostications to heart and they have caused me to miss a perfectly good sailing day. (As you may know, the sailing season is very short – it is less than 52 weeks per year, so I hate to miss even one day.)

There is also the ever popular expression that everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.

The problem with weather is that it is very localized. In addition, the REAL information you may be seeking may be rather limited, as for example whether or not you need your umbrella today. In my case, I don’t care if the wind is north, south, east or west, although there is meaning in the wind direction. What I primarily want to know is whether or not it is going to be really windy (which I don’t like anymore), and of course, whether or not it is going to rain all day. A little sprinkle won’t bother me, but it does tend to dampen the spirits of the crew. (Ha, ha, ha!)

Anyway, the real forecasts and post forecast reviews that I wanted to bring to your attention tonight are more related to the economy and of particular relevance to all of us, the job market.

I would suggest to all of the members of The FENG, that whatever forecast is out there for the economy, to a very large degree you need to ignore it.

Yes, I know this sounds silly, and perhaps it is, but what I would call to your attention is the tendency that by digesting all of the bad news of the moment that those in the media prefer to spread around, you may be allowing their forecast of continued “bad weather” to cause you to lower your energy level with regard to your search.

Job markets and job searches are VERY localized. What may be true for the general population may not be an absolute truth for you.

If you allow yourself to give in to the idea that the economy is bad and there are no jobs for you, you may be unconsciously reducing your efforts. (This is alternately known as having a bad attitude.)

Despite the economy or because of it, everyone needs to be hard at it turning over every rock, making every phone call, responding to every ad, and networking, networking, and more networking.

I may be wrong, but it is my closely held belief that there are lots of problems to be solved “out in the world,” and I happen to know a large group of senior financial executives who have “been there and done that” and could dispose of them in short order. (At appropriate rates of pay, of course.)

So, let’s not let the forecast of continued stormy weather in the economy allow you to keep your boat tied to the dock. Get out the foul weather gear, put a reef in the main, and go sailing anyway. The sun has to come out eventually. And, perhaps you will be closer to your destination when it does.

Regards, Matt

What makes The FENG unusual?

Several years ago I spent an evening out with an old friend of mine who previously had been in the search business.

He is a very special friend. We first met in 1977 when I was Business Manager for CBS College Publishing and we have been close friends ever since. Since he lived nearby, our families also had the opportunity to bond as well. He was instrumental in my career development in that he made a point of getting me invited to leadership meetings that I am sure I would not otherwise have attended. When I was out of work in 1991 and 1992 he was in the outplacement business and as a courtesy provided me with a place to go and make phone calls.

Since 1997 when I became Chairman of The FENG, Bob was always there to listen to my stories about our august body. I know he takes pride in the fact that he “knew me when.” He also has been the source of honest information about how the rest of the world sees The FENG, as his business contacts included human resource directors as well as many fellow members of the search community.

I can tell you that all of the news about The FENG out in the world is good. We have together created an unusual organization, and this fact has not escaped the notice of the rest of the world.

While we do publish an awful lot of job leads through the willingness of our members to share leads even when they are active candidates, our core value remains networking.

Networking, as defined, is a process by which you can create meaningful business contacts and relationships to further your career and enhance your professional life. To make this possible within The FENG, we share not only our full points of contact, but also our work histories. I would venture to say that there is no other organization that provides a membership directory with such detailed information. Networking with strangers (friends you have not yet met) is never easy. However in The FENG you have so much information about potential contacts that you can very easily make a personal connection.

As I tell everyone who asks about us, The FENG is about people. While I suppose at 40,000+ members we could consider ourselves an institution of sorts, I hope we never will. The “warm fuzzy” that most of our membership feel about each other when those “strangers” call is something that only happens when we think about each other as “friends of friends.” All of us were sponsored by someone who thought enough of us to invite our participation in this “circle of friends.”

This is the magic that makes it all work. When that phone rings or that email arrives from another member of this organization I hope you will always take the time to treat it with the respect it deserves.

As those of you who share The FENG philosophy will attest, the more you give your friendship to fellow members, the greater are the many rewards you receive without asking. Ask your chapter or special interest group chair about why they do what they do and you will find that they are driven to spend the hours they do on behalf of others because it works for them. It is hard to explain, but that’s why it is magic.

If you are one of those members who hasn’t yet gotten into the spirit of what The FENG is all about, I would point out that it is NEVER too late to get started.

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

Regards, Matt

Please, give me a hint

Every once in a while I get an assignment for The FECG that draws more than its fair share of attention.

I think our all time high a few years ago was an assignment that drew 225 responses. However, even when you get an assignment that draws more than say 40 responses, it can get a little difficult to see the forest for the trees. And, with all that talent to choose from, those who provide the clearest presentation of their credentials are the ones we are most likely to send to our client for consideration. To be very honest, it’s hard to justify forcing our client to “read between the lines” when you have so many better submissions.

Here is where the time you spend writing your resume can really pay off. The traditional structure of a resume is the one we prefer. It starts with your name, address, phone numbers and email address at the top, followed by a brief summary and then your employers in reverse chronological order ending with your education.

It has been my experience that given a fairly consistent set of responses, the real fine tuning of the selection process hinges on industry and within industry on the companies at which you have worked and what they do. And this, unfortunately, is where most resume writers let themselves fail. They assume that everyone knows the names of their companies and their vaunted areas of expertise.

While I can assure you that I wasn’t born yesterday, and even though I have been reviewing resumes on behalf of my clients since 1999, there still are firms about which I am not knowledgeable. I often wonder why those submitting their credentials for our assignments think I should know. Would it hurt to give me a little hint?

The best approach is to assume no significant knowledge of your employers by those reading your resume. Keep in mind that most resume reviewers are quite a bit younger than I am and they REALLY don’t have a clue. You need to educate them, not only about your many fine qualities and accomplishments, but also about the nature of the companies at which you have worked.

Some good examples from a recent batch:
– $15 million public corporation and manufacturer of data networking equipment.
– A public software company that develops performance and fault management systems for networks, applications and servers. The company has about 640 employees in 18 countries and has projected sales of about $150 million for 2005.
– An independent electric power producer in the solid waste industry.
– A $150m manufacturer of active lifestyle footwear.

There honestly is no need to blather on. A simple one sentence, two at the most, explanation of what your employer’s did is all that is needed.

Fit is a hard enough thing to determine from someone’s resume. Give those to whom you are sending that masterpiece of communication a little hint now and then and you will find yourself more often on the slate of candidates sent forward and less often in the circular file.

The ball is in your court. (I thought I would try a tennis analogy tonight instead of my usual sailing ones.)

Regards, Matt

Email cover notes

Based on the email cover notes I see, I’m not sure we have all made the transition from messages sent in envelopes to those sent by email.

Personally, I have always found electronic files to be maddening, especially very highly developed Excel spreadsheets. Adopting naming conventions so that you can be clear which version of a file was the latest one, used to and still does drive me crazy at times. And, as you can imagine, I’m a pretty organized guy.

Purging files from your computer can also be unnerving because when it’s gone, it’s gone. The problem in a nutshell (Help, I’m locked in a nutshell!) is that reviewing the files on your computer by opening them is like looking at something on your desk with a pair of binoculars.

Paper files on the other hand lend themselves to much easier review. You can stand or sit near a garbage pail and purge to your heart’s content. You can see the whole page at a glance.

In much the same way, the stumbling block to creating an effective email cover note is the limited space you have available. If you accept my theory that people will only read that which requires one computer screen (or worse, one screen on their smart phone), you are beginning to see the problem with blathering on and on, and in many cases repeating information that is in your resume.

Let us assume that your resume is a perfect encapsulation of your work history. (I admit this is a pretty big assumption, but please play along.) If this is the case, what purpose does your cover letter or email cover letter serve? Very simply, it serves to answer the questions raised by the job posting that are not obvious from your resume.

Perhaps a few examples will help. First, let’s assume the job says “Local candidates only.” (Don’t you hate it when it does?) But, let’s assume that although you have lived Southern California for the past 30 years, you would be delighted to move to Northern Maine to be near your aging parents. Well, it might be helpful if you mentioned this fact, especially if you would be willing to do this at your own expense. Otherwise, your candidacy doesn’t make any sense.

Many postings request salary history. I find this a little rude (and now illegal in so places), but the question honestly begs an answer. However, there is no need to be an accountant about this either. The real question is what kind of salary you require and more importantly is it reasonable that you would be willing to work for the money on the table. So, if they have been more than a little unspecific about the salary range, you can be too. Saying “My base salary has been in the range of $150,000-$175,000 the past 3 years.” is sufficient information to get them started. If the job pays $90,000, you probably won’t be considered. If it pays in your range, you will. It would be nice if they let you know, but they don’t always. (And, yes, I do lecture members of the search community about the importance of telling us. As I have been heard to say: “Money talks.”)

Are there specific “must haves” in the posting? Perhaps some of them were things not easily changed on your resume. Again, this is where your cover letter comes in. It can explain the unexplainable. Be brief, but cover all of the specific issues raised by the posting that are not clear from your resume.

And finally, save a little room for a COMPLETE outgoing signature. And, for goodness sake, if you honestly don’t know what an outgoing signature is, please don’t be afraid to ask someone. Although I try to mention the importance of it at least several times a month, I find well over half of the messages I get don’t have one. The question to be answered is: “How do I reach you? And, when I do, what do I call you? Here is mine:

Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell

Notice it has my “greeting to use,” my given name, my address (in case they want to send a gift), my email address, and my phone numbers in order of preference. Personally, I don’t like guessing games, and neither do most busy people.

Make it easy for folks to contact you, and who knows, they just might.

Regards, Matt

Picking a restaurant

People who know that my wife and I are into sailing often ask us what we most enjoy making for dinner when we are on the boat. My standard response is reservations.

The hard part is, of course, picking the restaurant. Are we in the mood for Mexican food, Pizza, French, Italian, or Chinese? Fortunately for us, although you can’t always tell by the name of the restaurant what they serve, all restaurants have enough common sense to stake out their areas of expertise when being listed in the telephone book, or in the many local brochures available at our favorite harbors. No restaurant would consider keeping their area of expertise a secret. It just wouldn’t be good for business.

You also find that the display ads in the telephone book or in the local brochures are fairly brief. There is no laundry list of the exact items they serve, just some sketchy information to “whet your appetite.”

If only most folks looking for that new perfect job had as much common sense.

More often than not, the 90-second announcements I hear lack this clear “staking out of territory.” Hey, if your background is manufacturing, please let me know. If it is treasury, please let me know. If it is publishing, please let me know. The essential nature of your background should not be viewed as a limiting factor, but rather as a key element in whether I have some significant connection to you and would have interest in getting to know you better after the meeting. If you obfuscate because you are trying to change directions in your career, you are more likely than not to end up meeting no one or the wrong people.

Just think how you would feel if you thought you were going to a fine restaurant and instead ended up at a pizza parlor. Truth in advertising is important.

I have been struggling for some time now to come up with a clear rationale for staking out your territory in your 90-second announcement and on your resume in a summary statement and I think this is really it.

As we examine the process by which those who review your resume make their decisions, it is very much analogous to restaurant selection in the sense that if I am looking for a manufacturing background, the resume needs to say that, clearly and in the summary at the top of page one or I won’t select it for a detailed reading.

Similarly, the companies at which you have worked also need to fit the profile I have selected. If you haven’t annotated the companies on your resume by following their names with a two line description of what they do, you are leaving the reader to guess the nature of their industries. And the rule is, when in doubt, move on to the next resume.

Consider too that detailed menus with elaborate descriptions of the meals offered and how they are prepared typically are only viewable once you have decided to go to the restaurant and have already been seated. The analogy here is that long summaries with everything but the kitchen sink don’t work either. Get me interested in your broad background and I will surely “read more about it.”

In our efforts to be all things to all people, we end up being nothing to anyone.

Regards, Matt

Staying close to home

With the holiday season coming up fast, it is perhaps the time to repeat the simple advice that now is the time to be out and about making phone calls and trying to get in to see people.

One of the great misunderstandings about networking is that things slow down during the holidays. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sure there are those who will be taking vacation time, but most road warriors greatly reduce their travel schedule and stay close to home. There are inevitable parties and social events that require their attendance, and being out of town would just be a bad idea if they plan to stay on speaking terms with their families and friends.

For those of you who can’t think of any other excuse to make phone calls to old friends, what better excuse is there than to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and find out if they are having turkey for dinner? And, oh by the way, how many people are coming for dinner? Really, this is one of those times of year when even those members with little imagination can come up with a valid excuse to pick up that 400 pound phone and have at it.

If things are quiet around your place over the next few days, take the time to make a list of everyone you want to call. Be organized and starting early next week, make all of your phone calls. Since there is plenty of time between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, have your calendar out and try to get a few of those individuals committed to a cup of coffee in the morning or better yet a lunch (hopefully on them). The work load is likely to permit such frivolity and you may as well take advantage of it.

For those of you who still fear the reaction, remind yourself that this tends to be a season of good cheer. While there are a few grumpy types among us, most people will answer their phone with a very friendly “What do you want?” Oops! I meant “How may I help you achieve your goals for the year?” Or, the ever popular “How can I be of service?”

Whatever the response, I can assure you it will be friendly, at least if you are calling your fellow members of The FENG.

Who knows? Perhaps this is even a good time to track down ALL of your old friends with whom you have lost touch? Why not really go to heck with yourself and search the full membership directory of The FENG? See if you can find any people you have missed since you joined who worked at firms where you have worked? Perhaps you overlooked them when you reviewed the new member announcement or never looked through the full membership directory for long lost friends. (As you know, old friends are the best!)

This really is a great time of year for networking, so please don’t sit at home waiting for others to call you. You just never know how excited others will be to hear from you unless you give it a shot.

Regards, Matt

Reinventing yourself

Much as I hate using cliché phrases as the one above, I don’t really know if there is a better one to describe the process of self-examination that is required when faced with looking for another “work opportunity.”

(I call them work opportunities instead of jobs, because they don’t generally last long enough these days to be dignified with that “job” label.)

Of course, I should preface my comments with the very obvious fact that changing industries or professions in any job market is very difficult. There are plenty of folks who are “local candidates,” or from the required industry. Competing against them in any sense isn’t an even contest, but competing rarely is as much fun as folks make it out to be anyway, so you will just have to have at it.

As one of my college professors once said: “It isn’t American to kick a man when he is down, but name a better time.” The job search corollary to this is that many of our members have no choice in their need to reinvent themselves because their industry or area of expertise is not in demand at present.

Since this has been officially been declared cliché night, another one I would throw your way is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In job search terms this means that your next job needs to represent some logical extension of your prior work experience.

We should accept the fact that we won’t be the exact match most folks are seeking, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from pursuing these opportunities.

What are the logical extensions to which you can branch? Well, like everything else in this world, that is hard to say. Still, being a member of The FENG does have its advantages because you have a terrific research tool at your fingertips.

Yes, I am talking about our Member Directory Search feature that you can use simply by signing into our website. (Our members come in over 40,000+ different flavors — almost like ice cream and a lot less fattening.)

In order to get from here to there, one must always start with here. (This is a cliché I just made up, so I guess it isn’t a cliché, is it?) Anyway, if you can find folks in The FENG who are just like you and find out what they are thinking, you can save yourself ingesting a whole lot of Excedrin and also save yourself a whole lot of time.

What are the logical product extensions for you? We know you are smart and well educated, but what talents have you acquired over the years that will qualify you for opportunities in other industries? Just understand it will be a hard sell because you aren’t a direct fit, but even square pegs can be driven into round holes if you use a big enough hammer.

(As I have often been heard to say, don’t force it; use a bigger hammer.)

Now that you have identified those folks who are just like you, and hopefully done a little networking, go to our website again with a list of target companies in hand and using our Member Directory Search feature do a search for members who have worked at those firms. This time your approach is to check out whether your assumptions are true or false and how you might have to adjust your resume so that it will make sense to those receiving it. (I think you can call this testing the null hypothesis.)

Striking off in new directions with a focus is a lot better than flailing wildly. Done properly you are more likely to be making the best use of your time and hopefully getting closer to your goal.

Just don’t invent yourself into a buggy whip manufacturer. There just isn’t much demand for them right now. (But if the price of gasoline goes up again, there just might be soon.)

Regards, Matt

The competition is fierce

No one ever said it would be easy. And, when it comes to finding a job after the age of 40, it can easily become a demoralizing situation. For those of us who are even older, like in our 50’s or 60’s, it can be extremely difficult.

Let me start you out with the idea that you are no longer the least expensive product out on the market. You bring a wealth of experience to the party, and those on the other side of the desk feel obligated to pay more to you than for someone earlier in their career should they decide to hire you. It’s true, of course, that they should pay more, but what is often missed is your value proposition. Your value proposition is where you have to focus your persuasive energies.

Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. In job search terms, it is often true that if the salary to be paid is $150,000, the hiring manager wants to pay this sum to someone who will find himself well paid and happy. Interestingly they don’t appear to be as concerned about getting the greatest value for their money, like hiring someone who previously earned (and was worth) $175,000. Their concern, valid or not, is that you will not be happy and leave at the first opportunity.

The secret of personal selling, which is what you do as a job seeker, is handling customer objections. Often times the customer objection is like an 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one wants to talk about it.

Typically there are about 20 viable candidates presented to a hiring manager. Out of these 20, he/she will select 5-10 to interview. ALL of the candidates presented will, at least on paper, be fully capable of doing the job. If the search firm or human resources department has done their job well, the candidates will have varied backgrounds and bring slightly different things to the party. No two human beings on the face of the earth are identical and/or perfect substitutes for one another.

Simply stated, the product we sell is “been there and done that.” While you want to avoid the trap of talking only about past achievements, your years of experience should give you a leg up if you present them properly. The “knock” is 20 years of experience – 1 year of experience repeated 20 times. My sales approach is that there are lots of things that only happen once a year, and you have done them 20 times. What this means is you won’t be seeing a situation as new and try to reinvent the wheel. You will see it as a variation on a theme you have solved many times.

The perception of the hard working young executive is true. They work hard because they have the energy of youth. (Oh, how I remember my 30’s, but it was a long time ago.) That said there is an element of “digging ditches and filling them in again” that is not entirely obvious to the rest of the world.

My suggestion to all of us who still want to work is to accept the fact that you need to fight even for a job that is in a sense “beneath your dignity.” There are more than enough qualified candidates at all times and for every job that even if you could do it and would do it (with one hand tied behind your back) for the money on the table (and be happy to have it), you will have to dispel the myths and make the sale to get them to offer it to you.

The competition may be fierce, but if you enjoy a good fight as much as I do, have at it and give them your best shot. (By the way, sucker punching is permitted. It is one of those “all’s fair in love and war” things.)

Regards, Matt

Hard won personal relationships

The world is actually built on a series of personal relationships.

The truth of this statement was brought home to me many times during my near decade in the Advertising business, and subsequent to that from my experiences during my job search in trying to get to know people in the Venture Capital and Search business. It is hard to get people to trust you when their income depends on who they introduce to whom.

From 1997 to just before the recession that began in 2001, I worked the search community one recruiter at a time to sell The FENG as a resource. Unfortunately, recruiters don’t talk much to each other. And, even within firms, they pretty much run an independent business. It was a lot of hard work, but it was paying off before the implosion in their profession that took place over the next three years.

During this most recent recession, we have once again seen the ranks of the search community greatly diminished. There are now probably new entrants to this industry. As a networking group, we call them Friends of The FENG.

I am not alone in this task of relationship building that never ends. Many of our chapter chairs also “work the crowd” on behalf of their local chapters and the national organization. Our work is never done. There are always recruiters who haven’t heard of us or who for whatever reason haven’t tried us.

Still, a reputation can be lost in a heartbeat. And, once undone is never easy to repair. I would ask all members to keep this in mind as they go about their business of trying to provide for their families. The FENG is the goose that lays golden eggs. Let’s keep that happening.

The very simple issue for everyone to focus on is that we NEVER run around recruiters who have shown us the courtesy of publishing a position description for one of their clients in our national newsletter or on one of our local posting boards. NOT EVER.

With the Internet and its search capabilities, I know that some of you think you are very smart and even when they don’t tell you who their client is, you can do a little research and figure it out. I would ask you not to do this except for your own edification. By that I mean you may do any research you like from public sources, but please don’t EVER call one of their clients and “ask a stupid question.”

People in the search business are human. Just like you and me, once in a while they make a mistake, like telling a blabbermouth the name of their client instead of keeping it on a “need to know” basis. I would ask you to give them a break and keep their secrets. They might even give you sufficient information to figure out their client’s name, but not mean to. Again, keep it to yourself.

If we wish to keep their trust, we need to learn to keep their secrets too. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for “getting first bite of the apple,” which we often do.

While it is probably redundant to explain why you don’t run around recruiters, I will do it anyway. It is analogous to shooting yourself in the foot. Recruiters, even contingency recruiters have hard won relationships with their clients. Their clients trust their judgment. If you sneak your credentials in front of their client during an active search, trust me, since they didn’t find you, they will come up with a rationale as to why you aren’t a good fit.

Your best shot is the front door, and that is often through their good offices. Let’s work hard to keep that welcome mat which reads “Welcome members of The FENG” firmly in place.

Regards, Matt

Networking, networking, networking

For those of you who are new to networking and for those of you who think you know everything about networking, I thought I would take tonight’s editorial space to distinguish for you the 3 kinds of networking. (And, no, I won’t have a Rick Perry brain freeze on the 3rd one.)

The first kind of networking is identifying new networking contacts. The recommended way to do this at networking meetings of all kinds is to introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Remember, strangers are only friends you haven’t met.

It really is pretty painless. You just say: “Hi, I’m Matt Bud.” (Be sure to use your name and not mine.) Step two of this is to ask a question. If they have a company name on their badge, ask them what the company does. Once they answer that question, ask them what they do for the company. Sooner or later, they will tire of talking about themselves and ask about you. They might even be so bold as to offer you a business card. And, if you are of a mind to do so, you might want to give them one of yours in return. (I’m sure yours will be a valuable collector’s item someday, so don’t give them two, because you want to ensure scarcity.)

If you can’t get out of the house for some reason, you can make new friends by using The FENG’s Member Directory Search feature and look up firms where you have worked and firms that were your firm’s competitors. You don’t absolutely have to know anyone you contact. If you do targeted networking to find folks with something in common with you, you will find your communications generally welcome. This same approach can be used on LinkedIn.

The second kind of networking is saying hello to all of your old friends. (Most of my friends are old, but I digress.) Friendships need nurturing. While it is best not to spend a lot of time with folks you already know, if you don’t take the time to “press the flesh,” they might feel that you don’t love them or that they aren’t appreciated. As you know, everyone has written across their chest: “I want to feel important.” In addition to face to face meetings, you also need to be putting out a weekly artillery barrage (personalized, of course) to those you already know. Any excuse will do.

The third and the most important kind of networking is introducing your friends to each other, as appropriate. If you subscribe to the idea that “birds of a feather flock together,” it is very likely that many of the people you know not only have something in common with you, but also have much in common with each other. Taking the time to introduce them to each other keeps your name and friendship at the top of their minds. And, each time they contact each other, it is likely your name is repeated again. (It’s usually in the context of “what was he thinking? Just kidding.)

Of course, if you are out and about networking, it is very possible you will get to know and like a few “odd balls.” If you meet enough of them, you may find two matches. No harm in introducing them to one another. If enough odd balls are introduced to one another by you, chances are good that they in turn know other odd balls who are just like you, and they will introduce you to them.

As you know, according to Murphy’s law, no good deed goes unpunished.

If you make the world all about you, you will end up being the only person in your universe. If on the other hand, you make the world all about the other people in it, you will have more friends than you know what to do with, although knowing how imaginative you are, you WILL find some way to benefit.

Please know, this has been my secret plan, and it is working very well.

Regards, Matt

A lifetime commitment

It is in some ways a shame that the idea of networking has gotten itself so tightly connected to job search.

One of the reasons that I call members who have found new jobs is to remind them to continue networking. Sad to say that many people allow themselves to get so absorbed in their new jobs that they get disconnected from their network.

I often refer to The FENG as a circle of friends. I also refer to those with whom you have the most in common and with whom you should stay in contact as your “inner circle of friends.”

However, to describe it as “your very own insurance policy” puts it in the context of job search, which may give it “a rational explanation,” but from my own perspective understates and misrepresents why most people do it.

I even find myself at a loss for words at times when asked why I do what I do. Why would anyone in their right mind spend valuable time on networking when they have work to do for their employer or when they could just plain “goof off?” Well, that is a very good question.

A college professor of mine was once heard to say, “That’s all very well in practice, but how does it work in theory?” I have in my personal experience base a valid sample of folks I know who network endlessly and yet the reasons they typically provide as to why they do it really don’t wash.

Let me pose some explanations that I hope you will find work for you. And, ones I hope that will turn you into as hopeless a networking maniac as I am and will always be.

The need to network may have some link to potentially finding another job some day, but the real reason people do it is that it creates warm feelings. Okay, now the secret is out.

Take a simple example. You have worked mightily to create your very own inner circle of friends, many of whom are just like you in some respect. In the classic changing of jobs, you have moved from a large company to a smaller one. Guess what? You now have no one just like you to talk to about problems. What a relief and pleasure it can be to open your rolodex and find that special someone from your inner circle to call. Sure the immediate problem can be explained and discussed, but you will also have the opportunity to catch up. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Now let’s assume you are called by a “stranger” (a member of The FENG who has not talked to you before) and you take their call. What if you can actually help? Perhaps you can offer some advice, a few words of support or maybe an introduction to someone in your inner circle.

Friends, if you don’t get a warm feeling coming over you, I don’t know what will “float your boat.” (I had to get in one sailing analogy, didn’t I?)

See, this is the real reason people network. There is no evil. There is no “insurance policy” here. It is just the fulfillment of what you should have realized all along.

Life is about making new friends, helping old friends and feeling needed. Are any other explanations required?

Regards, Matt

Developing a thick skin

It has often been said that I am a sensitive guy. I don’t think anyone who does what I do as a volunteer could be characterized as anything different.

Still, when it comes to job search, being sensitive probably isn’t a good thing. You know the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” When I was looking for work during 1991-1992 (yes, two long years), it seemed as if not many folks in the world were aware of this idea.

After many successful years in business always returning the phone calls of others, I found mine going unanswered. And, the same thing was true about responses to my many letters. Primarily silence on both scores. It was indeed hard not to take all of this personally.

In part our careers as Chief Financial Officers sets us up for these kinds of disappointments. I don’t know about you, but there was usually a line at my door waiting for checks to be signed or for budgets to be approved. You see, when you hold the purse strings (or are at least on good terms with the person who does) everyone has to be nice to you.

Job search is a sales process. And, as any good sales professional will tell you, you have to make a lot of sales calls to make a sale. When I was in the college textbook business, our sales representatives were expected to make 20 calls a day. Obviously, not all sales calls result in business. In job search, I suppose you are fortunate that you only have to make one successful sale and then you are tied up for a while.

It has been said that the discourtesy in the world as evidenced by phone calls not returned and messages not answered has risen dramatically in recent years. Hard to say if this is true or if it even matters.

The hard lesson to be learned is that you can’t take any of this personally because to do so casts a pall over your search effort that is very hard to overcome.

If you are feeling ignored, I would humbly suggest to you that you just aren’t making enough phone calls or sending out enough letters. The cure is to do a volume of human communication in the activity that we call networking.

While it still may be true that ALL of your phone calls and emails aren’t getting appropriate responses, I think you will find that a significant percentage are. Targeted networking makes it more likely that those with whom you are communicating want to hear from you. This being the case, they are more likely to get back to you.

It is important to understand that even in the best of circumstances not everyone will treat your communications with the “tender loving care” that you would give to theirs. And, I hope that when you are gainfully employed you will remember how others made you feel and strive not to be that kind of person.

Remember, I’m a sensitive guy.

Regards, Matt

Meetings all over the place

As I was scrolling through the newsletter the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but be struck by all of the chapter and special interest group meeting announcements. I just wonder if ALL of you out there in the land of The FENG are taking advantage of these great opportunities to meet really nice people (fellow members of The FENG) and to experience the warmth of the friendships that are part and parcel of being a member of our august body.

If you haven’t ever been to a meeting, I could try to make you feel guilty by telling you how hard your area chairs work to put on these events, but I haven’t found guilt to be as motivating a factor as making others aware of their own self-interest and how that fits with respect to attending our meetings.

Let me start you off with the idea that NO ONE has enough friends. I count all of you as my friends, and yet I am still trying to make even more. And, I don’t ever plan to stop. While we can certainly have telephone friends and email friends in The FENG, there is nothing like actually having shaken someone’s hand to properly begin a strong and enduring relationship.

For those who have never been to one of our meetings, I can assure you we don’t do anything silly like wear funny hats (with fangs, of course). The purpose of our little gatherings is to get to know each other and to be helpful to one another in whatever way we can.

I feel like Will Rogers when I paraphrase for political correctness that I never met a member I that didn’t like. By and large our profession is filled with individuals of high integrity who are hard working salt of the earth types. And since everyone in The FENG was sponsored by someone, extending the hand of friendship to others is just something we do. If there was ever a core value for The FENG, this is it.

There are so many benefits to coming to meetings of The FENG that I am only going to be able to mention a few more in the space I allot to my evening editorial.

Presenting your credentials to a friendly audience is one that I find as valuable as any. I know that all members have done significant things in their career. As I listen to 90-second announcements, I check what is being said to the resume that you have hopefully passed out at the beginning of the meeting. I want to be sure that the spoken message is as powerful as the written message. I think how I might “sell” the product that is you. Hopefully others at the meeting are thinking the same “happy” thoughts about how to help. We are often bashful or afraid of being boastful and tone down valuable approaches. As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. And, only when you have given your “play” in front of a live audience can you tell what’s working and not working.

So, if you are one of those types who needs to be asked, I’m asking. I can’t force you to go, and I in no way make it a requirement that you attend these valuable sessions.

I just want you to be clear that you are missing out if you don’t join your fellow FENG’ers from time to time for some of the best networking known to mankind. (Or is it now peoplekind?)

Regards, Matt

Working the room

I suppose that one of the most difficult things for us social butterfly accounting types is going to networking events and working the room like a politician.

As with any other activity, a little preparation can go a long way in your ability to maximize the value of any potential networking event that you might attend.

Let’s me suggest you start by registering for the event as early as possible. Most networking events publish a list of attendees and if you don’t register in advance, you won’t be on the list with all of your contact information. As an additional benefit of registering early, you get a printed badge that is easy to read instead of a cheesy hand written one. Registering for an event well in advance also speaks well of your ability to plan your schedule.

If you are going to be going to a meeting you need to have business cards. Business cards, like an outgoing signature on EVERY email, are the currency of business professionals. Someone I interviewed with in 1991 handed me his business card and asked me for one of mine. I lamely said, “I’m not working. I don’t have a business card.” He said, “You have a name, address and phone number don’t you?” Well, you get the idea. I went out the next day and got business cards.

Now let’s dress for the meeting. If you want to give the impression that you are “too cool to actually be networking,” don’t wear your “Sunday go to meeting” best. (Sorry, this is an old Indiana expression.) My approach is to “dress to the nines.” (I’m not sure where this comes from, but I think it conveys the correct tone.) I wear my best suits and best ties to ALL networking events. I also shine my shoes. I am a subscriber to the old saw that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. I would also suggest to you that to be effective at networking you have to look successful. No one will approach someone who appears to be down on their luck.

Dressed in your finest threads and armed with your professionally printed business cards, my next piece of advice is to get to the meeting early. I personally couldn’t care less who the speaker is or what he/she is planning to talk about. (As my friends would tell you, I usually fall asleep during this part of the meeting.) Get there early and plan to leave late. Those dedicated to networking will be doing the same, and they are the ones you want to meet anyway. By the way, be sure to have a fine writing instrument with you. Cheap pens are fine for the office perhaps, but not for formal business events. Everything about you tells a story. Make sure it is the one you want to communicate. If there is food being served, getting there early not only gives you your pick of “what’s for breakfast,” it also gives you the chance to finish your breakfast before everyone else arrives. I don’t know about you, but I have always found it difficult to shake hands while holding a cup of coffee.

Now it is time for the rubber to meet the road. Networking, full speed ahead. Pick a likely “victim” and introduce yourself. This is where your 90 second announcement, boiled down to 15 seconds can come in real handy. Ask them what they do. (Someone has to go first, and it is more gracious to let the other person do so.) They will then ask you what you do. Now comes the business card exchange. I have a business card holder I keep in my jacket pocket. I don’t find pulling them out of a wallet works as well. Above all, don’t be surprised when someone asks for your card. (I can’t believe how often this is the reaction when I ask. Hello! You’re at a networking event. DUH!) Have your business cards handy.

I know you want to know why you need a pen. Well, the answer is simple. If you have met someone and they have offered to give you a networking contact in some category, write this information on YOUR card before you hand it to them. And, of course, add THANKS! On their card, write yourself a note. It is hands down one of the best personal selling techniques I have ever heard, and you are now in sales.

The most frequently asked question I hear asked is how to maximize the number of people you meet. May I make a suggestion? Try to meet as many people as possible IN DEPTH. Running around the room grabbing business cards isn’t going to make you appear to be a serious person who is interested in other people. While I may not be a big fan of ANY politician, there is a lot to learn from how they practice their trade. They make it a point to make everyone they meet feel important. Even in a crowded room, they take the time to make a personal connection to anyone they meet. It is more important than doing a volume.

Well, there you have it. These are the basics.

Anyone who would like to contribute their own ideas on this topic should send a note to and ask Leslie to put your comments in our “Notes from Members” section. Please don’t send them to me as it will only slow down their publication.

Regards, Matt

I’ll call him back

Just to prove to you how old I am, there used to be a show on TV called “The Millionaire.” (The show was in black and white. Need I say more?)

It seems there was this wealthy man who wanted to give away some of his money and each week he would send this poor sap out into the world to hand someone a check for, you guessed it, a million dollars. Hard to believe the difficulties he ran into just trying to get folks to believe that there wasn’t a catch.

I think about that show every time I get a phone call or email. What if the sinister purpose of the message I have just received is actually a futile attempt to lay $1,000,000 on little old me? And what if I don’t call or write him back?

Well, that could never happen to me because I respond to all my emails and call back everyone who calls me. (I can’t afford to miss out on that potentially easy money, now can I?)

But, how about you? Are you diligent about returning phone calls and responding to emails, and if not, why?

I encourage members to take a risk and ask for help. Are they going to get an enthusiastic reception when they call you?

Are you too busy? Are you afraid that the person calling will soak up too much of your time?

Friends, you need to deal with these foolish fears. The truth is that you never know how much you will benefit from any call or email. The very person you fear is trying to drag you down may in fact be trying to build you up. You just never know.

There was a note I received some time ago about a member’s futile attempts to reach one of our members. His evil purpose you ask? It was to ask him to bid on a contract with his firm. (I hope this member has kicked himself around his office a few times, because the business went elsewhere.)

Life is full of surprises. Take a risk on your end and let yourself be taken by surprise now and then. Who knows, it just might result in your getting a check for a million dollars.

(Okay, I’m probably wrong on the dollar amount, but the good feeling you will get if you help a fellow member will be worth a lot more than mere money.)

Regards, Matt

A fear of being contacted

Gosh, please don’t call me. That’s the message that I seem to get from time to time when I am trying to track down candidates for the consulting assignments and full time jobs I am handling through The FECG. I have also been alerted to this fear by one of our chapter chairs who noted that folks weren’t putting their phone numbers on his meeting attendance sheet.

Okay, you do have one phone number on your resume and you may even have this same number in your outgoing signature. That said, you can’t be reached there. If you are still employed, it is your home phone number. I’m sure you will find my message when you get there at the end of the day, but by then you may very well have missed the boat. When someone needs to reach you, they generally need to reach you NOW. I suppose you’re one of the 10 people in the USA who doesn’t have a cell phone.

If you are active in your search, I have to tell you that I am puzzled why you wouldn’t provide all of your relevant points of contact. Is there a hidden fear of my actually reaching you?

And for that matter, what about networking? If you have come to a meeting of your fellow members of The FENG, what exactly is the message you are trying to deliver? Is it “don’t call me, I’ll call you?”

I am always amazed by the folks who provide me with their phone numbers at work, but conveniently forget to give me their extension. Like a fool, I call the number and try to reach them. Do I want to press 4 and get to the directory by name? Well, I suppose I could do that, but they didn’t spell their name when they left their message. Do you think they really don’t know that you need an extension to reach them? The expression “dumber than a box of rocks” does come to mind. How could they not know? I guess they have never tried to call themselves.

And, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I do the name search and the “system” doesn’t bother to tell me the extension number when they put me through, to voice mail, of course. (Do you think there is some evil plan in action here to prevent me from reaching you?) I would say only 1 system in 10 is smart enough to provide me with your extension so I don’t have to run the high hurdles the next time.

Friends, you are either in the game or you aren’t. You should only be so lucky as to have someone call you for a great work opportunity or to network. Let me assure you that if I am reaching you at a bad time, or if you have a work situation where you can’t talk, I will be very understanding. You can call me back, or I can call you back. But, I will have reached you.

In keeping with this theme, if I do have a phone number for you and I go into voice mail, would you be so kind as to provide your name? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I get a home or cell phone voice mail and the message does not include your name. How do I know I reached the right number? Let me assure you that there are worse things than my actually knowing I dialed your number correctly.

As long as you don’t leave your SSAN# on your phone message, you are pretty safe with respect to identity theft.

The phone companies always encourage us to reach out and touch someone. Don’t be afraid. I won’t harm you.

Regards, Matt

Starting over is never easy

Although I constantly repeat our two mantras that all jobs are temporary and that one is never actually employed, only between searches, when this truth rears its ugly head I don’t know if anyone is really prepared.

As the clock winds itself down on a current assignment, it is usually a stressful period of time prior to the actual event of your being given the bad news. This is hardly a time when you will be thinking clearly and focused on your goal of finding that next great “work opportunity.”

The FENG is now so old that many of our members have been with us long enough to have gotten 2 or 3 searches under their belts. I would hope that with each search the process has gotten easier, at least with respect to the networking opportunities. For example, if your last search was in 2005, we only had 23,000 members back then. Now we have over 40,000! The possibilities for networking are significantly greater.

And, if you have been diligently reading the newsletter or at least reading it on a frequent basis, you should have been able to pick up a lot of knowledge about the job search process, even though you weren’t going through it at the time. (Like hanging in the morning, actually having to do a job search does tend to focus the mind.)

As you dust off that old resume that I hope you have made some attempt to keep current, be sure all the formatting is consistent. Doing an “add on” is often noticeable. After you finish your first round of rewriting, you might want to do an “edit, select all, paste unformatted” and do the formatting all over again just to play it safe. Your resume is your most important communication tool, so don’t take any shortcuts with it.

I would also suggest that you not rush to get out of that difficult work situation. While it may have turned into the “job from heck,” the sailor’s rule is that you “step up into a lifeboat.” In other words, staying with the mother ship until the last possible moment is what makes the most sense. I think you will find that if you have resigned yourself to the fact that it’s over, you actually don’t take all the nonsense around you quite so seriously.

If you haven’t been keeping up with your networking, get back at it. Don’t make the mistake of starting with all of your old business contacts. While they may represent your best approach to contacts in your industry or areas of expertise, give it a few weeks until you are totally on firm ground mentally. Practice on strangers such as our weekly list of new members. (Typically, they will talk to anyone!) As a long standing member of The FENG, you will find you have a lot of wisdom to pass along, and that in and of itself will give you more confidence.

Consider stepping up your involvement in The FENG, whether that means your local chapter or your special interest groups. The ticket to effective networking is getting to know lots and lots of people, and there aren’t better people to get to know than members of our august body.

As a final thought, try to keep in mind that you lived through it the last time, so the odds are high you will live through it again.

It is never easy. And, it won’t be this time around either. But, you have the tools and you have 40,000+ friends, and that isn’t a bad start to any day of the week.

Regards, Matt

Two anchors or one?

A long time ago I got into a discussion with another captain about the wisdom of setting two anchors.

It may sound silly, since I am known on board my sailboat as Captain Safety, but I have never set two anchors. And, even though I have read a lot about it over the years, in most cases I don’t think it is smart to do. There are conditions when it is appropriate, but I try to be tied to a dock or safely at home during those times or I avoid anchoring in the kinds of places where it might be necessary.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about a speech a cousin of mine gave at a family gathering many years ago. It seems that he had a closely held belief that his wife and his mother-in-law were never wrong. (After all, this is what they always told him.) So, from time to time when they would argue about something, he would find it very confusing. How could both of them be right if they were arguing?

Those of us who are engaged in the process of trying to earn a living, when unemployed or about to be unemployed, are very much in the same set of circumstances as my quandary about setting two anchors or my cousin. Clearly everyone who is giving you advice can’t be right.

When I give my job search classes I try to present the reasons why I think things work without saying with absolute certainty that any 90-second announcement or resume is perfect. The truth is that parts of everyone’s two major pieces of communication are right and parts could be made better. The question is whether or not they communicate the true value that you represent.

As an outsider, i.e. not inside your body and not able to absorb the full essence of who you are in the time allotted, NO ONE is in a position to judge the merits of what describes you best other than YOU. The mechanics of creating that image for the outside world is in your hands. And, all DECISIONS about what is true and correct really need to be made by you.

All those of us on the outside can do is provide you with TOOLS to shape your message. We all come to the party with knowledge about what works for us. Your goal is to acquire tools and advice and then in the quiet of your own thinking decide what is true.

In order for you to deliver “the message” it has to come from you. If you do it right, it will become a part of you and it will be your message. And, that is where you need to be.

Read ALL of the good books on the job search process. Listen to ALL of the experts you can find and hear them out.

You will find that this learning experience will change you AND your thinking. At the end, you won’t know where the ideas of others that you have absorbed and your own ideas end. This is the happy result I wish for all of you.

As captain of your own ship you need to be fearlessly certain in your own mind that the course you have set is correct for the conditions you are experiencing and the conditions you expect during your voyage.

Unfortunately, fair winds and sunny skies are not always what you encounter. However, if YOU are in control, an inner calm will prevail even in the worst of conditions.

I know — I’ve been there.

Regards, Matt



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