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

Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

Thanksgiving

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

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

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 Leads@TheFENG.org 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

90-second announcements

From time to time I get requests for information on how to do a proper 90-second announcement. So, I thought tonight I would share a few thoughts with you on this linguistic challenge.

Since my wife is a speech pathologist by trade, I can tell you with great authority that speech is the slowest form of communication. Smoke signals may be a tad slower, but they aren’t in common usage these days. And, with the drought we have had in many parts of the country, they probably aren’t a good idea anyway these days, not to mention the fact that they are hard to use at networking gatherings.

Of course, you want to begin your 90-second announcement with your name. It is after this that things generally fall apart. 90 seconds just isn’t a lot of time. If you are one of those folks who begins at the beginning and works your way to your current responsibilities, you will lose your audience very quickly. You have probably heard it before, but your most recent 10 years are the most important. Focus on them.

I believe that you should start by “staking out your territory.” I tell people that my background is primarily advertising and publishing. I then tell them that I was CFO of an advertising agency for almost a decade. Book ended around that were two experiences in the publishing industry. Early in my career I worked for Holt Rinehart & Winston when they were owned by CBS, and my last corporate job was with The Thomson Corporation (now Thomson/Reuters). The Thomson Corporation is an information publisher and I was with their West Group division, a legal publisher.

I leave out my first job in retailing because it isn’t in any way relevant. I also leave out a job I had for only 5 months, again because it is not relevant. I close with a few words about my consulting practice and The FENG.

That’s me. Your 90-second announcement will be very different. The only common element I recommend strongly is staking out your territory. Are you an Internal Auditor? Are you a manufacturing expert? Please, I beg you, give me a frame of reference.

Step two is to keep it simple. I can probably only hang onto 3 important things about you, so choose wisely. If you have worked for brand name companies, be a name dropper. The guy from GE Capital is easy to remember. The guy from Morgan Stanley is easy to remember. If you have no brand name companies to report, find something else to make your 90-seconds of fame something I can remember and repeat.

The repeat part is the most important. It’s fine if you tell me and I nod knowingly, but you are actually depending on me to tell other people. While I may have a good impression of you, if you don’t make it easy for me to say something about you to those I know, I can’t spread your fame and fortune.

A good 90-second announcement needs to be practiced in front of a live audience. I can think of no better place than your local chapter meeting. Not only is it a live audience, it is a friendly audience. Practicing in front of the mirror is certainly better than nothing, but you are talking to yourself. Hard to get much in the way of feedback, unless you are prone to disagreeing with yourself.

Oh how we love to rattle on. Well, you can’t. Think through what you want to say and actually put a clock on it. And, no cheating. Talking faster is the equivalent of using 8 point type on your resume instead of taking sharp electronic pencil to it. You have 90 seconds of clearly spoken communication to get your ideas across.

Make the most of the time. “Primarily due to, partially offset by” has no place or time in your announcement. Why you left your last job is a sad story and not of interest in this context. I also find the discussion of geographic limitations not useful. They may be true, but save it for a later private conversation.

Well, I hope this gets everyone started. If you have suggestions about 90-second announcements that you would like published in our newsletter, please send them to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will put them in our Notes from Members section.

Regards, Matt

Accepting help

One of the less well recognized phobias in this world is the fear of accepting help from others.

Perhaps it is primarily a guy thing and it explains why we never used to ask for directions at the gas station, but when it comes to job search it is another one of the many things that “get in the way” of very capable individuals finding work opportunities. (I don’t know if anything lasts long enough these days that we can dignify them with the word jobs.)

With the new reality in the world we need to be more and more attuned to our own personal information networks for opportunities that fit our background, and that means reaching out to others and in a very real sense “asking for help.” Very simply, because we should all plan on having to do this more frequently than we would like, we need to always have our eye on the ball and our ear to the ground, not to mention keeping our nose to the grindstone. (I do enjoy sticking in trite phrases from time to time.)

It is sort of a misconception that networking, and that is what The FENG is all about, is a process of asking for favors. The truth is that in any conversation there can be a fairly even exchange of ideas if you can just move yourself down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a little bit and not focus on your own stress.

One of the ideas I have long promoted to ease the fear of accepting help is the idea that the favors you may receive during your job search can be repaid to anyone you subsequently meet. There is no need to repay favors to the exact person who provided them to you.

It is a simple concept and one to which I have always subscribed.

It is in fact difficult to pay back favors to specific individuals. The reason is not all that different from the problem we all face in applying our skills to job postings we see. The truth is most of them don’t fit.

If you apply this logic, the very idea that you may have a solution to someone else’s specific needs who was kind enough to help you highlights the problem.

So to help you abandon the concern you may have in accepting favors I would suggest that you apply yourself to my simple philosophy: For every favor you receive during your job search you are obligated to repay 2 favors to anyone and everyone who comes your way. (If you want, you can even repay 3 or more favors if it suits you.)

I should also add that there is no time limit on when you repay all these favors. You may even take the rest of your life if you like to finish the process. (And, let me wish all of you a very long life!)

Regards, Matt

Buddy up

If there is one enduring truth about The FENG it is that we are a circle of friends. It started with the individual who sponsored you, and ends with … well, it doesn’t end.

Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, friends also shouldn’t let friends feel alone during their job search.

I called one of our members recently to follow up on an old piece of correspondence and was greeted by a drone. Hey, I’m feeling a little down today. (Really? Who knew?)

I recognize that the job market isn’t what it used to be when we were in our youth, but then, what is? The important thing is that right now, each and every day, you have to be working hard on your job search and that means keeping your energy level high.

While it may be true that misery loves company, it is also true that if you can put on a happy face for an hour, you can bring others and yourself up to “fighting strength.” Whether you do this in person or over the phone is up to you, but I suggest your local coffee shop.

Here is what you do. Visit our website and using our Member Directory Search feature, search on your area code and telephone exchange. “(203) 227” would be mine. Try to find at least 4 folks who are available for breakfast. Breakfast is cheap and quick and won’t use up the best part of your day, especially if you eat breakfast at 7AM like I try to do.

There is nothing like some idle chatter, coffee, eggs and bacon to make your whole day and your life look a lot better. This not being at a chapter meeting, you can forget about doing formal 90-second announcements and just quietly present your backgrounds to each other. A booth at a coffee shop will perhaps even bring up fond memories of your misspent youth hanging out with your friends.

In any case, you have it in you to put together a floating group that meets regularly. (One of those “same time next week” kinds.

There is no reason on earth you have to go through your search by yourself. You need to get out of the house and be with others to discuss the outrage of the day that only those who have had to do a job search really know about or understand.

Buddy up. It is the best way to make the process something you might even miss when you are back in the world of work. And, with your improved attitude, it won’t be long!

Regards, Matt

The art of being sensitive

I’m sure there are those of you out there who remember a positively awful movie starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts called The Mexican. Some of you may have seen it and have been trying desperately to forget it. I don’t blame you.

Anyway, there was this one scene in the movie where Julia is standing on the balcony of a cheap motel throwing Brad’s clothes down on him and screaming at him: “It’s always about you.” If this isn’t something that speaks to our world, I don’t know what does.

I know you will all be shocked to discover that the world doesn’t actually revolve around you and your problems, considerable as they may be at any given moment. Unbeknownst to you perhaps is the fact that there is a LOT of pain and misery in the world. Yes, they walk amongst us.

What is worse, some of these poor misbegotten souls actually have the nerve to send us emails and to call us. And what is their flimsy reason for being in touch with us? Yes, they want to network!

I guess what I am asking you to do when these unworthy individuals contact you is to be more than a little understanding. I think the phrase is “There but for the grace of God go I.”

If their phone message is a little unclear or phrased in the wrong way, cut them a little slack. If their email lacks an outgoing signature, I hope you will gently remind them of the importance of having one without being sarcastic. If their resume is absolutely terrible, I hope you will merely suggest that it could use some improvements, and perhaps help them rewrite it.

There are always members of The FENG entering our little emergency room and in great need of a little TLC.

If you are one of the fortunate few with an intact retirement plan and a good job, I would ask you to indulge their wallowing in pity as best you can. Your goal is to give them a simultaneous pat on the back and a kick in the behind to get them moving on their search.

There simply isn’t any time in this world for indecision and inaction. For those of you familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a similar understanding is required here. If you are mentally well, keep in mind that others may not be “all there” at some given point in time.

Be patient. Be helpful. Be a friend. That’s what The FENG is all about.

Regards, Matt

Handling compensation negotiations

Money makes the world go around, or so they say. If this is the case, can there be any more delicate subject to bring up with a potential employer than your potential salary?

There was a comment I heard on “Streets of San Francisco” many years ago that is applicable here: “First liar never stands a chance.” As applicable to salary negotiations, it is always better to let the potential employer put something on the table before you try to improve upon it. It is just good negotiating to find out the relevant range before saying anything.

The danger of presenting your salary demands too early in the process is considerable. The acceptable price of anything someone might want to buy, including your services, is based on perceived value. To put a number out there before you have had a chance to establish your credentials is simply not smart. If you are asked for how much money you are seeking, while it is always better to be honest, you also need to keep in mind that the money you want may be far greater than they can afford. It isn’t that you aren’t worth that much, it’s is just that the job may not pay it.

I hate to suggest answering a question with a question, but in this case it isn’t a bad idea. When asked how much money you want, before you answer, ask what the salary range is for the job. If they are reluctant to tell you, another strategy is to not actually answer their question. Again, with speaking the truth being the best approach, give them some indication of your recent compensation history. Notice you aren’t exactly telling them that’s how much you want, but you should be able to elicit a gasp or at least a raised eyebrow that will open the door for you to again ask the salary range. Trust me, it is a fair question for you to ask, just as it is a fair question for them to ask you.

It is my view that when companies get ready to make an offer to a particular candidate, the existence of other candidates is generally not a factor. It typically isn’t a bidding war. The distance between number one and number two is generally significant. While in truth it may have been a tough choice based on skills and fit, at the time of the decision the perceived differences are great. It is only if you turn down their very kind offer that a number two will be considered. So, don’t let that affect your thinking.

If there is a recruiter involved, you should probably let them handle the negotiations as long as you are fairly certain that they will be honest brokers. On the one hand, they work for your potential employer as he/she will be paying their fee. That said, their goal is to get the deal done. Whether they are contingency or retained their motivations are similar. A contingency recruiter won’t get paid. A retained recruiter will have to keep working on the assignment. If a candidate has been selected, it is better to act as an honest broker. Having worked with the company for some period of time, they may know their client’s flexibility and share it with you “off line.”

As a general rule, suggest numbers, don’t make demands. Even in salary negotiations, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Keep in mind that your income for some months ahead is at stake and don’t let any “fish” get away.

Regards, Matt

No steps forward, two steps back

One of the most difficult challenges in a career is being faced with taking a step or two back.

Because we tend to stay with companies longer than most senior managers, the gains we make in our career in terms of compensation and responsibilities are hard won and painstaking achieved. So, when a time comes in our careers that we have to choose whether to accept a title and real responsibilities that are significantly less than our last job, it can be a difficult thing.

Even after we come to the decision that it is the best thing to do financially, it can be a bothersome and esteem affecting experience. I know because it happened to me.

The truth is that many of our members in specific industries are still faced with a very difficult job market. In the recession of 1991, the two industries in which I had the most experience were both in the dumper. If you accept the fact that most companies can ask for and get folks from their industry even in good economic times, changing industries can be very difficult.

As I have looked back upon those dark years and how I got through them, I have come to several conclusions.

First, it is ALWAYS better to be working than not working. WHATEVER you have to do to get a “work opportunity” (as long as they pay in US dollars), it is always better than waiting for that mythical perfect job. (Keep in mind that all perfect jobs are temporary anyway.)

Second, if you do take a step back in your career and actually get them to hire you into a job for which you are over qualified, you are now incredibly in an enviable position.

Since you have already been there and done that, chances are you won’t be spending a lot of time reinventing the wheel. You might actually be able to get home in time for dinner once in a while since you won’t be doing and redoing your work. In addition, since you are over qualified and under paid for your experience, you are the biggest bargain in the company. You almost can’t get fired. (Name another person who is delivering more value.) And, as the “old man” of the group, everyone at your level will come to you for advice.

Thirdly, as you know all investments are best evaluated in terms of cash flow. Two short-term very senior level positions with long periods of time finding each one can easily yield less cash over a 5-year period than one “miserable” low paying job.

In a perfect world we could all keep growing in our career and never experience any reversals. And why should we when we are getting smarter and more experienced with each passing day?

The fly in the ointment is that the world isn’t perfect.

The world this week and this month is still a difficult place for “well experienced” executives, and as any sailor would tell you – any port in a storm.

One fact you should always keep in mind is that you can always quit. When times improve and jobs are available, the fact that you have been able to maintain your skills, that perhaps you have become more hands on, can all be positioned as positives that can offset bad titles and limited responsibilities. Sometimes, believe it or not, no one asks.

Never allow yourself to have regrets doing something you know you have to do. There are bills to pay, and storms to pass through. If you don’t allow yourself to survive with your pride and dignity intact, you won’t be prepared when the sun comes out.

And trust me, it usually does.

Regards, Matt

This is no time to blend

If you haven’t seen the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” you may not really understand where this line comes from. If this is the case, please accept my apology for this reference out of left field. It is an old movie, and it wasn’t a great one.

As opposed to the marketing and sales folks I have met over the years who never miss an opportunity to brag about what they have done, by and large the financial types I have known in great contrast are only brought kicking and screaming into the spotlight for their 90-seconds of fame.

Sure, “I was there,” they might say, “but I was only part of a team.” While this may be true, the team would have been rudderless. (I know you like sailing analogies, so I thought I would sneak one in.) Not only that, but the team would have been at a total loss as to how to measure what they were doing. (If they ever did get anything done.)

Our role as “the advisor to many” at times makes it hard for us to see how much good we are doing. This is all very well when we are part of a team. Our very well known modesty and tendency to share the spotlight gives us the “good offices” that cause all of the warring factions to use our council as a sounding board for their hair brained schemes. (Separating the hair from their schemes is one of the things we do best.)

While this “aw shucks” stuff works to our advantage in being seen as a team player, when it comes to job search it makes us appear not to have done anything significant in our entire career.

So in brief, get over it. Now is the time to go back over your career and revisit all of those projects with which you were involved and really think through your contribution. Ask yourself the question: Would it have gotten finished without you? And, if so, would it have been as impactful without the structure and analytics you brought to the party? I would venture a guess that the answer is no.

Money makes the world go around. And, the measurement of the monetary contribution of projects in which we were involved makes a difference. In fact, a significant difference.

Now I am not suggesting you can overnight become a well respected blowhard, but you can with a little encouragement learn to explain your many real accomplishments to a captivated audience.

You have performed many miracles over the course of your career. You have pulled many an iron from the fire. You have also pulled many a rabbit from a hat. Now is the time to let the world know.

In the spirit of the movie “My cousin Vinny,” this is no time to blend. (Be honest, you have a lot to be modest about.)

Regards, Matt

The importance of alumni involvement

There is no topic that comes up more frequently than how can we keep our alumni members deeply involved in the goings on of our organization.

Among a small number of our members there is a desire to put their whole ugly job search thing behind them and move on with their lives. In some cases they even ask that the delivery of our evening newsletter cease. (I know we put out a lot of email, but there is always the delete key if you don’t have time to read it.)

My guess is that these individuals have not quite absorbed our now well accepted mantra of “all jobs are temporary,” quickly followed by “you are never employed, you are just between searches.” Still, I can understand in part why they might not want to be faced on a daily basis with this reality.

There are, of course, the great majority of our members who fall into the category of “now that I have found a job I finally have time to give back.” These members know that they don’t have to read the attached file to our newsletter and review the job leads each night. All they have to do is read what I send out as email, which includes our “Good News Announcements” and our “Members in Need of Assistance” columns. Reading my evening editorial is strictly optional. (But it is probably a good thing to do if you have the time.)

You staying connected to our organization as an alumni member is key to our success as I hope it is to YOUR success for the rest of your career.

There are lots of ways, once you achieve alumni status that you can continue to participate in our august body, and I hope you will do as many of them as you can.

Each week there is a new member announcement. Since you are not currently looking for a job, is it possible you could close your door for 15 minutes each week and call at least one new member? Remember when you were out in that cold cruel world of job search? How did you feel when alumni members called you with a little encouragement? Instead of the “misery loves company” thought that might cross your mind, here is someone contacting you with nothing specific to gain. And, you have a success model. You are proof of the pudding that “no one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.”

It would also be nice if all alumni members made an attempt to attend their local chapter meeting at least two or three times a year. I know the fear is that everyone at the meeting will ask you for a job, but this is an unfounded fear. They might want to hear the story of how you found your current job, but that is more to see if there are any secrets to the process that they have not yet discovered. I know many of our meetings are scheduled at times that are not totally convenient, but then what meeting is? I am suggesting that you make the time.

Under the category of your own self-preservation as an alumni member and the maintenance of your long term career, it is probably a good idea to “take a day off at the office” from time to time and go through the membership directory for your special interest group or chapter and search for old and new friends to call using our Member Directory Search feature. You just never know what you might learn by reaching out to like-minded individuals.

Those of you who are “practicing” alumni members who would like to share your own approaches to staying involved are encouraged to write something for our “Notes from Members” section. If you have strategies to share, please send them there. The address is the same as for job leads: Leads@TheFENG.org. (If you send them to me it will prevent me from dealing with the 100+ emails I usually have to clear from my inbox on a daily basis.)

As our organization continues to mature we are in the enviable position of thinking up ways to make it even stronger. I hope you will put your thinking cap on and make suggestions, but if you are bashful perhaps you can at least start with the ones I have put on the table.

Regards, Matt

A lifeboat mentality

Unfortunately for all of you, my wife bought me a book once when we were on vacation about the whale ship Essex. No need to go into all the details here, but the short story is that the ship was rammed by a whale and began to sink.

Being a devoted sailor, I have certainly read other novels about what happens when the ship goes down. These tales of survival tend to be real page turners for me. (Perhaps in my last life I was a sailor on a square rigged ship.)

Anyway, the mentality of someone about to abandon ship and how they feel afterwards as they attempt to survive has parallels with the process we all go through when we leave jobs in corporate America.

Ah, the mother ship with the coffee machine and cafeteria was all so comfortable. Okay, it’s true. Being on board a large vessel, as opposed to being cast adrift in a much smaller one is an easy choice, which brings me to remind those of you who have heard this before and to tell those of you who are new to my line of sailor’s reasoning that one always STEPS UP into a lifeboat. The meaning of this is that one never abandons ship until the last possible moment.

No matter how bad you might think it is where you are right now if things are winding down, your best strategy is to bear with it. Once you have committed yourself mentally to getting into the lifeboat AT SOME POINT, you will find that much of the stress you feel about your current set of circumstances will ease. No need to rush things.

The next part of your thinking is what you will need to take with you or have in the lifeboat. Sure it isn’t as capacious as the world headquarters of a large corporation, but you would be surprised how inexpensively you can furnish that home office with all the navigation and support tools you need to conduct a proper search. Hey, you could be in that lifeboat for a while these days, and without a powerful computer and a laser printer, you are going to be hard pressed to look and feel as corporate as you need to be. And, while you have time at the office, don’t forget to get copies of reports or studies you have done that you might need for your portfolio. I am not suggesting you take anything confidential, but merely things you will need to prepare and/or refine your resume.

Our financial conservatism gets in the way of our success from time to time. Putting off the commitment of funds until the last minute, cutting corners, etc., will all be detrimental over the NEAR term to what you need to accomplish.

And, don’t forget about your survival clothing. Check out those grown-up clothes you have been wearing to the office and decide what looks nice when the waves are breaking over your head in the storm ahead. Once you are in the lifeboat hanging on for dear life is no time to be looking for new foul weather gear. You need to look as well as act the part of a senior financial executive, and with so many firms on business casual these days, that old wardrobe may need some additions.

Of most concern when I talk to members is that we all can tend to get carried away with our lifeboat mentality. Our need to squeeze a dime and get 11 cents is part and parcel of who we are as financial officers.

Not knowing when you will be “rescued” can certainly make you crazy. But unlike those poor souls who were cast adrift in days of yore, you can add to your provisions if you need to.

If you are bleeding cash, or think you will be, now is the time to evaluate your financial assets and see what you will need to do. If you are one of the lucky few who have a lot of equity in your house, you may be able to refinance it at some point in the next several months, especially if you have a working spouse.

Putting the whole family on severely reduced rations is certainly a valid approach to making your cash last longer, but don’t get carried away. While you are focused on the bottom line, you can be CAUSING yourself additional stress by stressing out everyone else.

So there you have it, a short primer on abandoning ship and dealing with a lifeboat mentality.

Regards, Matt

Hidden customer objections

It is a sad fact of interviewing that often times those sitting on the other side of the table hesitate asking questions that you would gladly answer. The kinds of questions I am talking about are things that might be grounds for a lawsuit because they skirt the edge of age discrimination or one of the other laws out there to “protect us.”

While it is your decision whether or not to answer questions you know are illegal, the real problem with questions of this nature is that when they are the “elephant sitting in the room,” very little real communication takes place between you and the interviewer unless you get them out of the way.

If you had a cast on your arm I don’t think you would hesitate to explain how it happened. It is an obvious situation that demands an explanation. In much the same way, why you left your last job, while not an illegal question, is always hanging out there. Although the answer to that question typically provides a future employer with very little useful information, until it is asked and answered, it gets in the way.

Another question that often goes unasked is “Why would you want this job when it pays so much less than you were earning previously?” (The idea that you need to feed your family apparently has never crossed the interviewer’s mind.)

Each of us in our own way comes to an interview situation with baggage. You can’t get to be a senior financial executive without picking up a few scars along the way. The question you always need to be asking yourself is which ones might be important to your interviewer to the degree that they are working to frame their totally useless questions during the whole time that you are trying to impart useful information.

As we know from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, an appropriate thought to keep in mind when answering questions is: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Any answer you give needs to be brief. If you tend to rattle on about why you left your last company, there may be more to the situation than you are willing to tell me. If you go on and on about how money isn’t important to you, I just may question if you are being truthful with yourself.

The goal is to get YOUR story out in answer to the question you think they should ask and in answer to the question as you would like it asked. If you let them drive the “debate” you are more likely to lose in some way.

Think like your interviewer and come up with the questions in your own mind that they will hesitate to ask and find a way to either answer them in your opening statement or find some way to work them into the conversation. Things like: “I had to do so much traveling in my last job that it really wasn’t worth the huge salary I was earning. I literally had no life. I don’t mind being at the office, but in that job I was out of town even on the weekends. I enjoyed the job and the people, but it was very hard on the family.”

Like our 90-second announcements, this tool can be applied to your cover letters and just about any significant communication you may have with potential employers.

While answering a question they really don’t want answered can be a concern, use your best judgment in identifying the ones that are never asked.

You just may set the stage for a big win.

Regards, Matt

The hobgoblin of consistency

As many of you know, I have a variety of backgrounds. I was not only in the publishing business for 10 years, I was also in the advertising business for 9 years.

Communication, or the assumption that it has taken place, is at the core of most of the problems in this world. (Okay, there are probably others, but that would take away from the points I am going to try to make tonight.)

Anyway, when an underpaid overworked and groggy screener is placed in front of a pile of 500 resumes and asked to pull out 20 good ones, how much time do you think they actually get to spend on each one? Yes, I am sure they will work quickly so that when they get to yours they can spend some serious time trying to figure out what a great candidate you will make, but what if they zone out?

Well, the thought I have for all of you is to be consistent within the traditional STRUCTURE of resumes so they will not have quite as much difficulty figuring out if you fit. (Duh!)

Let’s hark back to those halcyon days when you were publishing financial reports each month. Did you change the format each month just to keep everyone on his or her toes? So, if you tried to be consistent with folks you could coach through your month burp of data, why when dealing with strangers do you try to confuse them?

Let’s start with the idea that when I look at the first page of your resume, it would be nice if your name and contact information was right up there at the top. (Who knows, I might even want to contact you.)

Next, it would sure be nice if you had an impactful summary of who you are and what magic you have been known to perform. Don’t bore me with a lot of details, but just a variation on your 90-second announcement. (They sure do come in handy, don’t they?)

Now we are going to get tricky on you and suggest that the next place a reviewer looks is the last page. Where were you educated? UCLA is fine if I am into football, I suppose, but don’t you think University of California at Los Angeles has a more dignified ring? What degrees and what years of graduation will create a context for me to understand the foundation of your career. If you have an engineering degree as a financial officer and work in manufacturing, it all makes sense somehow.

Once you finished college, at what corporations did you finish the foundation of your career? That is why (even though it was 50 years ago) I would like to know. No accomplishments are needed, just the names of the companies, titles held during what years and if you would be so kind, tell me what the companies did. (Some resume reviewers WERE born yesterday.)

Keep that format going all the way to the present, but in your most recent 10 years of labor on behalf of some great (or not so great) corporation, give me a few highlights of all you have achieved.

Now that I have a quick snapshot, I will put you into one of the two piles on my desk: the large one that we will “be keeping on file,” and the short one that we will pass forward to the “senior dream killer” for his action.

I hope that you understand that you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you cloud my already foggy brain with small type and a new and inventive format, you are likely to be doomed from the get go.

Put information where I am expecting to see it. Put it in a consistent and widely accepted framework so I don’t have to hunt for it. Be consistent in your format throughout.

Who knows, you might even get a phone call to “tell me more about yourself.”

(If you want to see three samples, please download our model resumes from the website complements of Ken Homza, Roy Roberts, Tom Sobell, and Rich Wieland.)

Regards, Matt

The New York minute

I don’t know if all of you are familiar with the concept of a New York minute, but for all intents and purposes it is generally accepted to be a micro second. For your further edification, a Google search turned up the following:

New York Minute: A New York minute is an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light changing to green and the guy behind you honking his car horn.

It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what a Texan would take a minute to do.

The term has a mildly derogatory meaning to it; although New Yorkers are probably proud of the characteristic and would forgive you for using this term.

Having grown up in the Midwest and now having lived in Connecticut over 45 years, I can tell you that all of the above is true.

What I would like all of our members to do is adopt the philosophy of the New York minute to their urge to use The FENG’s Member Directory Search feature.

I was on the phone with one of our members recently and was delighted to hear that he had become aware of a published job opportunity. Not only was it a great fit for his background, but he knew the name of the company!

Friends, life doesn’t get much better. Yes, answer the ad, and then wait a full New York minute before reaching for your computer and using our Member Directory Search feature which contains the ENTIRE membership of The FENG. If we don’t have at least one member who has worked at that firm recently, I will fall over from the shock. (If this turns out to be the case, let me know and I will get busy and recruit a few new members because I apparently have not been able to achieve total world domination for you YET. I will continue working on it.)

Your odds of getting your resume pulled when responding to any published job posting is close to zero. However, your odds of getting your paperwork in front of a hiring manager (now that you know the name of the company) can be close to certainty if you are only willing to use the good offices of one of your fellow members of this august body.

There has to be SOMEONE who has recently worked there or who is there now. And I can bet you that they would like any excuse to network with an old friend or two by using your candidacy as their approach.

Friends, it is one of the all-time great “win wins.”

Enjoy the benefit of our remarkable organization and “reach out and touch someone.” Just don’t wait until it’s too late. The delay of more than a New York minute will cause you to lose your competitive advantage. Please don’t hesitate.

In Star Wars, The FENG membership directory would be considered either a light sword or “The Force.”

Regards, Matt

Some dumb ideas actually work

Back at the beginning of time itself when my good friend Ed Devlin was running what was to become The FENG, he invited me to join. (I don’t know what he was thinking.)

Seeing the networking opportunity for my own job search, I immediately offered to act as social chairman for our small gathering of senior financial executives and bring a membership directory to every meeting for distribution. (It wasn’t all that hard as there were only 15-20 of us.)

As the meetings I attended became more than a person could count on one hand, I had the occasion to speak with Ed about how to increase our membership. We had both experienced the committee review method and found it to be too off putting as well as too slow. I boldly proposed that instead of requiring at least 3 people to recommend you for membership, if one person was willing to vouch for you that should certainly be sufficient. And, so it has been and continues to be the practice of The FENG that you only need one sponsor. More would be nice, but one is enough.

Since the time I thought up this dumb idea, I have had the opportunity and great pleasure to see it at work. It is in my opinion one of the reasons why our circle of friends is as effective as it is and why our organization is so well respected.

It is a sad fact of life that most people do not have the hand of friendship extended to them as often as they would like or as often as they need. Outside of The FENG it can indeed appear to be a cold cruel world. But anyone, I have come to observe, who has had enjoyed the benefit of becoming a member of our august body is somehow changed, hopefully for the better.

There are a lot of caring people who are members of The FENG. I continue to be amazed and astounded by the hard work of our many chapter and special interest group chairs. But, that would hardly be enough to sustain The FENG. What makes us different and sets us apart is the degree to which all of you extend the hand of friendship to each other on a day in and day out basis.

But, don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that all you have to do is read the newsletter every day and respond to the postings for which you are a 75% fit. A sad state of affairs it is, but our many Friends of The FENG actually also consider non-members for those assignments.

I would ask you to keep in mind that this is The Financial Executives Networking Group, not The Financial Executives Job Listing Service. Networking, networking and more networking will continue to be the key to any senior financial executive search.

As a member of The FENG, you have a leg up on the rest of the world because we are a society of friends. From one dumb idea thought up by a publishing and advertising financial guy, we now have a 40,000+ member organization dedicated to helping one another. I will modestly tell you that I have only provided the spark. All of you provide the kindling, the logs and the fanning of the flames necessary to keep it all going.

If I may repeat something I say from time to time: Every day and in every way, it all begins with you. Keep up your good work!

Regards, Matt

No one has time for mysteries

At one time many years ago I had a lot of time for reading. I picked up an Agatha Christy novel and I was hooked. Over the next several months I believe I read just about everything she had written up to that point. I know that when we moved, I had quite a box of books. Trying to pick up the clues was sure entertaining.

There are other fine authors out there that I have indulged in from time to time, but lately the mystery writing on which I spend the most time is confined to the resumes I get from new member applicants.

I am not really sure why they feel the need, but they usually begin creating their mystery novelette by leaving off their graduation dates in the education section of their resumes. I am not sure exactly what secrecy they think they are achieving because in most cases they provide details of all of the jobs they have held. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to compute their age by assuming that they probably finished college sometime before they started their career. Duh!

Knowing that some readers have gotten wise to this approach, some mystery writers leave off their first few jobs to hide their age. It is amusing to see at times that their first job was so senior. They must be quite talented to have been born fully grown.

Others don’t exactly leave off their first few jobs, but to shorten their resumes they include a paragraph listing a “sampling” of the companies at which they have worked, but without providing the length of service.

All these things are more than a little amusing, if it all weren’t so self-defeating.

Trust me, no one who reads resumes for a living is fooled by any of these approaches. What is worse is that no one who is reading resumes for a living will take the time to try to solve a mystery. Consider a pile of resumes about a foot tall. Yours isn’t clear as to your work history.

As a recruiter, if I am considering you for a golden opportunity with one of my clients, do I sit there and ponder whether what you are trying to hide is important or do I move on to the next resume? Friends, I am afraid that they move on.

No one has the time to consider as a serious candidate anyone who is trying to hide anything. The burning question is: “What else might they be trying to hide?”

Dates of graduation don’t need to be highlighted, but they need to be there. Firms at which you worked early in your career need to be there, but they don’t need any achievements listed. There are ways of presenting your early history that won’t take up a lot of space.

Don’t leave those trying to consider your candidacy with a mystery to solve. Few of those folks have the time for knotty problems.

If they really won’t hire someone who is as old as the hills like you, they aren’t going to hire you anyway. What you need to do is ensure that your recent accomplishments are SO compelling that they will contact you DESPITE your age.

Your knowledge, skills and years of seasoning ARE what you are selling. Don’t sell that short.

Regards, Matt

A simple case of identity theft

Over the past 15 years I have had more than a few opportunities to work with groups of members on their 90-second announcements. In fact, this is typically one of the drills in which we engage at all Westport chapter meetings.

Although most résumés I see could also use more than a little work, I find that there is already a significant amount of help available there. Within The FENG for example we have a résumé review committee headed up by Jim Saylor (ResumeReview@TheFENG.org).

Speech is the slowest form of communication and creating a 90-second announcement that projects the real you is a formidable task, and one not to be underestimated in its inherent difficulty.

Having been in the advertising business for almost a decade, I can tell you that the folks that write commercials are very well paid and the reason is the difficulty of communicating the value of the products they hawk in the limited time available. The successful creative types who can achieve the desired result are worth every penny they are paid.

As I have thought about why it is so difficult to create a killer 90-second announcement I am beginning to think that perhaps we all experience what we should consider “a simple case of identity theft.”

When I was in the army back in 1969, it was very common for guys to introduce themselves (their 90-second announcements) by explaining who they “used to be” back on the block. (They really weren’t the crew cut guy dressed in OD green that you were looking at.)

In much the same way we all tend to struggle with explaining who we are because so much of who we are is where we have been and what we were most recently doing.

Prior to this new condition in our lives called “in transition” we were able to explain in simple terms that were Chief Financial Officer of XYZ Corporation, for example. So much of our life was spent at this place of employment and so much of our energy was devoted to it, that it would be hard not to feel this way.

With that existence gone from our lives, suddenly it is not so easy to explain.

The truth is, of course, that there is always a lot more to us than our corporate identity. We are perhaps also spouses, parents, members of a religious organization, and any number of other things IN ADDITION to being hard working folks.

To come up with a winning 90-second announcement you need to transcend the shorthand label or labels that you used to use to describe who you were and come up with new ones that focus on the value you have brought and can continue to bring to the corporate party.

And, what a party it will be when you arrive!

Regards, Matt

Transferrable skills

There is no greater truth about our profession than the one about our having transferrable skills.

Like lawyers and marketing folks, us financial types come to the world with talents that can be applied in a variety of situations. (Sort of sounds like the introduction to Superman, doesn’t it?) Generally we believe this hook line and sinker. The problem is getting the rest of the world to suspend their disbelief and listen.

That said, if we have built a career that spans decades rather than years or months, there are things we know that are rather specialized. And, if we want to find a job that we will enjoy (that old quality of life issue again), it will tend to be somehow related to things we have learned and in which we have some high level of expertise. If you are engaged in some arena in which you have expertise, you are also most likely to be offered the highest compensation level that you can achieve.

Not unlike recessions past, (Did I say recession?) not only have whole industries reduced the numbers of financial officers they need, but certain very specific areas of expertise have also reduced their staffing levels.

Ferreting out where to go next can be challenging. And, listening to your own voice (there you go talking to yourself again) won’t get you where you need to be.

No one ever said you have to limit yourself to what you used to do in terms of industry or area of specialization, but I always suggest that you START your conversation about what you want to do for the rest of your life with others who are just like you. If I may quote our esteemed Dallas Chapter Co-Chair, Bob Walker, make an effort to “find your mirror.”

Only someone who has been through the same wars you have been through can possess enough knowledge about what you did every day to draw the analogies essential to coming up with alternative plans. Of course, it doesn’t end there. This is only a place to BEGIN.

If two heads are better than one, 3 must be 50% better. And, who knows what a dozen very focused individuals of the caliber of members of The FENG could do if they put their heads together. Some members of any gathering of this nature have been “at it” longer and may already have identified some approach that they feel might work. They might even be willing to share this knowledge with a few close friends like you if you provide the donuts and coffee (or sodas and cookies if the meeting is in the afternoon). Heck, they might even BRING the food offerings if you ask politely. (WOW, an opportunity to show how smart I am! Hard to pass that one up.)

Solutions exist for EVERY problem. I wish I had all the answers, but even though I have been doing this for a long time, I still have more questions than answers about what works and what doesn’t work. Besides, answers that work will tend to be very personal and specifically targeted to you and your background.

If you put a meeting of this nature together, at worst you may only be able to regain your enthusiasm for the process. But, that alone could make the time involved in putting together a brainstorming session worthwhile. And I’m not even talking about the possibility of making a few new friends (for the rest of your life). It really is amazing what a few cups of coffee and donuts can do to you. (Or, for you.)

Hint: the place to look for folks to gather together for your team is either the membership directory of The FENG (using our Member Directory Search feature), or a “Member in Need of Assistance” posting in the newsletter. (If I may appeal to your “inner accountant,” searches using our Member Directory Search feature are free. Run as many as you like. We only want to help you find a new job.)

Regards, Matt

Great expectations

For those of you who are familiar with Kermit the Frog, you know it isn’t easy being green.

In much the same way, individuals who know about our little society called The FENG have come to expect great things from us.

If I start from the outside and work my way in, members of the search community have a perception, not all wrong, that members of The FENG are all very qualified individuals. I have either been able to fool all of the people all of the time, or else those of you who are dedicated members of our august body have been living by our “qualified members only” standard and passing by jobs that aren’t a fit. God bless you all for helping me in this endeavor.

While it creates a burden on all of us not to “buy a lottery ticket” once in a while, over the long term it pays big dividends in the form of more and more job listings. With 40,000+ members who behave themselves and 4,000+ registered Friends of The FENG, we are bound to have more and more job listings to pick through. And, hopefully, because we don’t charge for postings, we get to see them before anyone else. Not a bad deal, don’t you think?

Since I don’t want to take up too much more than my allotted number of pages tonight, I am going to primarily focus tonight on our relationships with each other. Let me begin with the invitation we extend to those we know and meet to become new members.

What we have going for us is the envy of all of the other discipline areas. We are far and away the largest organization of our type in the entire world. We are a true networking group in that in order to join, you need a sponsor. (We have the world of “six degrees of separation” beat by a wide margin.) Those who wander our way are given 5 names to contact in the hopes of their finding a sponsor. It is THAT important to me that your relationship with The FENG begins with someone extending the hand of friendship to you that we personally take the time to provide you with those names.

So, if you begin your relationship with The FENG by someone giving you this most valuable gift of membership, I hope you will pass it on to those you meet along the way who should be members. Please keep in mind that The FENG is primarily an organization of CFOs, Controllers and Treasurers. Other job categories, directly related, are also welcome as long as they are financial folks. Financial services is not the same thing. It’s not that there aren’t great people in other discipline areas, it is just that they aren’t appropriate to our membership. Help them in whatever way you can, but don’t invite them to join. The same thing is true of those who are not at a senior level in their careers. I typically look for at least 20+ years of work experience and senior level titles. I do accept those earlier in their careers if they appear to have held senior level jobs for some significant period of time.

Let us assume for the moment that you are currently looking for a new work opportunity. Your expectation from our members should be that anyone you contact will make some attempt to be helpful to you. This is not to say that they will conduct your search for you, but only that they will try to connect you to others who have some appropriate relationship to your industry or skill set background.

For those of you on the receiving end of these communications, I would ask you to keep in mind something I say from time to time. All jobs are temporary. No one is ever actually working. Everyone is just between searches. When you are next on the asking end, you will want to believe in your heart of hearts that you did everything you could do for those who sought you out for your advice and counsel. This will entitle you to draw down as many favors as you like during your time of need.

For those of you soliciting help, let me suggest an approach. First, be very selective in who you contact from our membership directories. Second, any message you send should be personalized so the recipient knows you took the time to consider whether or not you should write. Third, make your message actionable. I left this for last because it needs some explanation.

Actionable means that you will write an email cover letter no more than ¾ of a page in length that identifies you as a member in good standing of The FENG, that states your basic industry and/or skill set background and that you will have attached a copy of your resume. The resume is attached not in the hopes that the recipient will have a job for you, but rather as a shorthand way of providing an easy to read overview of who you are and what you do that will save both parties a lot of time when you connect by phone or in person. Speech is the slowest form of communication. Reading a resume takes just seconds. We can then spend more time building our friendship.

I would ask members to “pull out the stops” for one another, but I would also ask those who are asking for favors to understand that not everyone can “come out and play” on a particular day. Some folks “don’t get it” and some folks don’t think they can help. While it would be nice if they would tell you that, some folks don’t know how to do that either. Let’s not tar our entire organization with the brush that no one helps, when more likely than not you have just randomly hit a few bad apples. Perhaps this borders on “the suspension of disbelief” required for going to the movies, but I can live with it.

I fully realize and accept that I live in a dream world to believe that all 40,000+ of our members will live up to the great expectations I have for each and every one of you, but I also know if I beat on you regularly about what I want The FENG to be, sooner or later I will wear you down.

Regards, Matt

Keeping your chin up

There are lots of good reasons to keep you chin up. Of course, the most important reason is that it is easier to hit!

Okay, I am just kidding with you. But seriously, some members have been active in their search for so long, that I fear many of them are beginning to believe things that have been told to them like:

If only you had a CPA.
If only you hadn’t been with one company for so long.
If only you hadn’t done so much job-hopping.
If only you weren’t so over qualified. (We rarely hear that we are UNDER qualified.)

The “if only” list is too long to publish. (If only it were shorter.)

The fear I have is that the effect of all of this nonsense on you is that you might believe that any of it is actually true and let your decline in spirits show in your correspondence and interviewing.

Given the state of the market, you need to get and keep yourself energized, especially if you have been looking for over 6 months.

What I am suggesting is a small make over. (After all, we are financial folks and not prone to going to “heck” with ourselves, so a total make over is OUT!)

Let’s start with that old wardrobe. If you have gained or lost weight in the past several months, do you have clothes that fit? I am not suggesting you go on a diet and lose weight. (That is always a good suggestion, but not practical for most of us.) What I am suggesting is that you need to look your best and in control. Have at least one good interviewing costume. (Hey, the world is a stage, and you are the star of your own play, so the word costume is appropriate.)

How about writing instruments? I hope you don’t have a Bic pen in your pocket. A nice matching pen and pencil set (even if you don’t know how to write) is absolutely essential. And, it isn’t all that expensive. You don’t have to have high end writing instruments, but they should at least look nice.

A smart phone or some other high tech gadget like a tablet computer is always a nice touch. (But the parts that makes noise should not be turned on during any meetings of course.) Having a few high technology toys close at hand presents you as the cutting edge person we all know you are.

Footgear is also very important. Guys, those shoes have to have a high state of polish and PLEASE no holes in the bottom! If you can stop at a shoeshine stand before your appointment, it is worth the money.

As a financial person, you are selling your precision, and nothing speaks more about you than having a crisp appearance.

During the opening of Patton, George C. Scott tells why America will win the war. I may be misquoting him, but I believe he said that Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

Act like a winner. After all, if you are a member of The FENG, I am hard pressed to describe you in any other way.

And as far as having that chin up and the exposure it creates, you might want to practice a few blocking moves in case someone takes a swing at you. (As you know, practice makes perfect.)

Regards, Matt

Phone interviews

Probably one of the most difficult interviews to pull off well is a telephone interview.

Let’s start off with the idea that the lack of face to face contact prevents you from seeing if the words and ideas you are presenting are playing well. A live audience is always better. Is the person on the other end of the phone nodding in agreement? Are they rolling their eyes? Even for someone who spends as much time on the phone as I do, it is often hard to tell.

Sitting during a telephone interview is probably not a good idea because your conversation will tend to lack energy. This is at least one of the things you can solve. If you have a wireless phone that you can use walking around the room, that will help, but one of those “operator headsets” would be best. I have one, and it allows you to gesture wildly if you are so inclined.

I may be wrong, but phones don’t seem to “duplex” as well as they used to. I find that interrupting someone while they are speaking is very difficult these days. Perhaps it is the wireless phones, or just the state of technology, but if you are the kind of person who doesn’t take a breath when you are in a “sales pitch,” be aware that your “customer” can’t interrupt you and ask another question.

Just as when you are speaking to a large audience, you may have to force yourself to speak a little slower than you normally would and perhaps even a little louder, although neither of these two changes should be so extreme as to be obvious to the person on the other end of the phone.

Since this is a strained situation of sorts, you should also be aware of the importance to be organized. Have your resume out on your desk and, even so, review it before the call comes in. You have probably read it so many times you are sick of looking at it, but do it anyway. In addition, make a list of the areas you feel you would like to cover and check them off as you are able to communicate them.

More and more I hear stories that candidates are first put through a telephone screening before being invited in to interview at a firm, even for local jobs, but especially for ones that are out of town. The cost of travel is considerable these days, and it probably is a valid approach.

As much as you may feel the need to cover EVERYTHING in your telephone interview on the theory that this may be the only shot you will get, remember that your goal is to be invited in for an in person interview. It is not inappropriate to try a “trial close” if you feel it might work during the conversation. The interviewer may have an agenda, but then again, they may not. The worst thing that can happen is for you to “rattle on.” And trust me, the lack of visual cues as to how you are doing can cause idle chatter that can unwind a “done deal.”

Anything you do a lot of, you will get better at, even pitching your services over the phone. It is, like so many things, one of the skills we have to build to be good at this “job search thing,” so don’t avoid it or dread it. It is all part of the game.

Regards, Matt

Does anyone have job leads to share?

There was a time in the not too distant past when our evening newsletter on Sunday evening ran to over 120 pages. The newsletters during the week were typically 50-75 pages. Lately our newsletter is typically 25 pages or less.

Back in the “good old days,” we only had 15,000-20,000 members. Now we have over 40,000.

With the job market supposedly improving, I would hope we could muster more published pages of job leads if we all took the time to send in appropriate items to Leads@TheFENG.org.

The FENG is primarily an organization of CFOs, Controllers and Treasurers. Although we have members with many other related titles, the thing that unites us is that we are all senior level executives. I am not suggesting that we fill the newsletter with junior level jobs. In fact, please don’t. I am only asking that everyone pull out the stops to send in postings.

Part of what each of us needs to do on a daily basis is be a salesperson for The FENG. Our rules for those posting with us are simple. Providing a salary range, a city location and a position description of about one full page allows members to disqualify themselves and only respond if they are a fit. In your sales pitch to “hiring authorities,” be sure to make the point that putting down “the Midwest” is going to get them a surplus of resumes. “Competitive salary” or “commensurate with experience” is also not going to get them where they need to be. The more precise they are, the more likely they will get an appropriate and controlled response.

Members of the search community, popularly known as Recruiters or Headhunters, should be sent to our website to register as a Friend of The FENG. They will then be contacted by one of our very efficient Administrative Assistants who will send them a “Welcome to The FENG” note. In house Corporate Recruiters have a separate form on our website. They should also be encouraged to register with us. Since they are smaller in number and usually have special needs, I personally contact them. They usually need a little prodding to provide a salary range.

Job leads in our newsletter don’t happen by magic. The FENG has long standing relationships with many folks in the search business. But, we need more.

The job market has been slow for a long time and many of our Friends of The FENG have left the business. I’m sure they will be replaced by new folks to whom we need to explain the “magic” of what we do.

If you have been hearing about opportunities and upon further investigation determined they were not of interest, don’t throw them back, send them to Leads@TheFENG.org. In fact it would be in keeping with our core values that you even share leads in which you have interest. The more you share, the more you know about.

Although job leads alone are not necessarily the ticket to a new job, they are needed so that all of us know what is going on in the marketplace. Trust me, the more we publish, the more energized everyone will be.

Please do your part. As I say from time to time: Every day and in every way, it all begins with you.

Regards, Matt

Dear FENG Member or Current Occupant

In keeping with the spirit of networking that makes The FENG a remarkable organization, it is appropriate that we share our contact information. And, when other members reach out to you, it is EXPECTED that you will take the time to respond. (Yes, I know you are busy, but so am I and I need your help. It is one of those “many hands make light work” things. Besides, I am not always the right person to contact.)

What makes this obligation a joy to fulfill is that most members pick and choose whom to contact and are genuinely interested in creating mutually beneficial long term relationships.

However, from time to time I find members sending out what appear to be indiscriminant mailings. Even if they did take the time to pick and choose individual members with whom they might have some background connection, they don’t take the time to customize each message in some way.

Their messages typically began “Dear FENG member.” (I don’t know about you, but I like to feel special, and “Dear FENG member” just doesn’t do it for me.) You can tell you aren’t the only one they are contacting by the number of addresses in the “To” box.

The purpose of our membership directory listings is to facilitate easy communication and they are provided for your information and PERSONAL use. I hope you will use them. That is why our staff spends so much time producing them and updating them.

Any time you receive a message from a fellow member that clearly has been distributed to many other members, I hope you will take the time to inform me or inform the sender that this is not how we treat one another. I would encourage you to act on my behalf in this matter. What needs to happen is for this offending member to be made aware of our “rules of engagement.”

The truth is that anyone who has to take the time to craft a personalized message will tend to be more discriminating in whom they write to. And, they are more likely to get the kind of help they need because they also more likely to be communicating a specific need.

While blasting the same message out to many members works for the sender in the same manner as mass mail does for those who send out those annoying envelopes we all throw out, it doesn’t work for the recipient. Think how you would feel if everyone was doing it to you.

If you want your fellow members of The FENG to make themselves available to you, you need to treat each of them with great respect. Let them know that you have taken the time to analyze who they are and how a relationship with them might benefit both parties.

I suppose I am only communicating a variation on the “Golden Rule,” but then I’m just a simple guy.

Regards, Matt

Over responding to job leads

One of the foundations upon which The FENG has been built has been relying upon our members to exercise good judgment about the jobs for which they are a fit and only responding when they are. I could no more police this activity when we were smaller than I can now that we are huge.

In the world of geese and golden eggs, it is important to us as an organization that the outside world views posting in our newsletter as a civilized experience. While we are viewed as the best resource for financial jobs by those who have tried us, we can always do better. My simple theory is that if we make the effort to be honest with ourselves whether or not “we would hire ourselves” for the job in question, by and large we will succeed in getting recruiters with search firms and with corporations to post with us again. People only know what they know. Repeat business is a good thing. As you know, a reputation that has taken over two decades to build can be tarnished or even destroyed in short order.

By and large, law and order in The FENG seems to reign supreme. I thank all of you for that each and every day. It is truly amazing.

While our good behavior is clearly a win for those using our service, it is obviously a temptation to take a shot at a job in your local area, whether you are a fit or not. The long term goal of getting more job postings for The FENG is without doubt offset by the possibility of your “starving to death” in the short term if you don’t find some work. I understand this, but would suggest to you that the world is a small place. Just as birds of a feather flock together, the actual number of recruiters and companies for whom your background represents a fit is a small number. I am always willing to give our members the benefit of the doubt about whether or not their background is a fit, but I would suggest to you that it is not in your best interests to “buy a lottery ticket.”

There are those members who respond to everything. In our consulting practice, I see them all the time. It is hard not to dismiss their candidacy out of hand, try as I might to give everyone a break. I’m sure I am not the only one who is “blessed” with these particular individuals and their “bomb them into submission” approach to job leads. These same people often show further discourtesy by not even taking the time to write a cover letter. Why they think this will cause them to become a winner, I don’t know.

My only thought is that it must give these individuals a source of satisfaction that they have sent out 50 resumes on a particular day. I would just suggest to them that this approach is not only a waste of time for those receiving their missives, it is also a waste of time for them.

If you “click and shoot” don’t be surprised if you are actually shooting yourself in the foot. And, shooting yourself in the foot can make it hard to walk, let alone run a proper job search.

Regards, Matt

Making small talk

I have never considered myself a social butterfly, but I guess for many of us financial types it is difficult to start a conversation with someone we don’t know.

If you give a little thought to conversations you have had over your life with people not known to you, you will fondly remember the favorite topic most of those discussions began with was the weather. (As you know, everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it, but I digress.)

If weather isn’t the chosen topic, traffic, sports (How about those Yankees?) will all suffice. Religion and politics are generally not good ideas for conversation openers with strangers.

I suppose the reason that one might start out this way is that it takes some amount of time to get comfortable with another human being and the best way to do that is picking some non-threatening subject. Hard to argue about the weather even when asked: Hot enough for you?

Networking calls are, of course, the driving force in The FENG. How does one pick up that 400 pound phone and dial the number without getting a stress attack? The short answer is preparation, preparation and more preparation.

The process for either your fellow members or those they have sent you to is to drop in a little artillery before you call. The weapon of choice is email. Email is the power tool of our generation. I have found that I don’t print these messages and wait for your call anymore. All I do is read briefly and when you call, I first ask you for your email address. This tool also makes it so easy for me to help you by forwarding your message or one of my own to “every man, women and child on the face of the earth.” Just kidding. I will only send it to a few of my closest 40,000+ friends. Again, just kidding. Just as you have been selective in contacting me, I will try to be selective in contacting others on your behalf.

And what do you think should be attached to this preliminary message? Why your resume, of course. After your 90-second announcement, it is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. It will also save us both a tremendous amount of time in your explaining your background to me. (Reading is such an important skill.)

And now for the text of the message. A simple statement as to why you are calling me is always nice. A brief statement of your life and what it is all about, and perhaps a few target companies so I will have my head on straight when you call. (Here is where a written 90-second announcement would be helpful. Let not forget the subject. (“Hi” is not a good idea, nor is “Your loan has been approved”) If it is a fellow member, you might want “The FENG” somewhere in the subject.

And now as you dial the phone, I hope you can relax a bit. All you have to do to get started is say your name and mention that you have written and we can move quickly through the mandatory weather, traffic and sports discussion and get to the meat of why we are talking:

NETWORKING, NETWORKING AND MORE NETWORKING.

Not to worry. You’ll do fine.

Regards, Matt

People don’t go there anymore

Yogi Berra has been known to have said some pretty amusing things. One of my favorites is: “People don’t go there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

We all know what Yogi means by all the things he is claimed to have said and it tends to bring a smile to our face, or at least to mine. But, with this particular one, the reverse is also true. If everyone thinks that no one is going to show up, or that a meeting is not going to be well attended, they simply won’t go. And, presto, the meeting isn’t well attended. A self-fulfilling prophesy.

Some of our chapters have a reputation for energizing meetings. Some chapters seem to have trouble getting that critical mass going to qualify under Yogi’s saying.

I’m not sure if you can actually go to too many chapter meetings. I know it’s hard to give up an evening in front of the TV, but it is just possible that you might get something out of it. I tend to be a risk taker, so what the heck. I go.

First there are those 90-second announcements. Why would anyone need to do that in front of an audience if they have practiced in front of a mirror? Do you really think an audience will make a difference? Well, yes it will. A 90-second announcement is one of life’s real power tools. And like any tool you use a lot, it needs sharpening if it is going to be effective. What better place to test out your prototype than in front of a friendly audience where you will get honest feedback and more than a few helpful suggestions. (You know that part about how you saved the company a billion dollars on paper clips? You might want to start with that!)

Would you like to collect a few resumes from other financial folks? I don’t know where you might go where you could collect a better and more targeted batch. And, if you are trying to wallpaper the world with your opus, I can’t think of a better place to start. Who knows, someone at the meeting who actually understands what you did for a living because they are also a financial type might have some great suggestions for you.

Did I mention job hunting tips? At meetings I attend, I try to get everyone to share something that they have found generates real results, defined as phone calls or interviews. I am always pleasantly surprised by the spin and variations on themes that I hear. (And I thought I knew everything about job search. I guess not!)

There is also that dire possibility that you will make a new friend or business contact at one of these meetings. Strangely, if you go often enough the odds increase. Of course then you are going to have to call them from time to time, network with them and generally allow them to be helpful to you in your search, and you will have to do the same.

It is a high price to pay, but then again, it just might be worth the cost.

Regards, Matt

It’s always about people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The sounds of silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, it gets worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The small town syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Working the room

Bashfulness has never been my strong suit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Yeah, what do you want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This same philosophy applies to the leaving of phone messages.

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Docking your boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Giving and taking advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Making a pest of yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The proper placement of obstacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The fall networking season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Doing the “friend thing”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Networking and holiday weekends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The truth (as retold)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Have you seen my glasses?

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

Finding information on documents I also find maddening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

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

MattBud@TheFENG.org
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax

(This is my outgoing signature.)

Silver bullets and the tooth fairy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

You’re not from around here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to reading some of your ideas.

Regards, Matt

Bestowing the gift of friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ask. What have you got to lose?

Regards, Matt

Reasons for inaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A clear piece of communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Junk mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Reading the tea leave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Retained versus contingency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Life is a journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Spilling your guts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Read any good books?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Give yourself a break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Rejected out of hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

By way of explanation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Meeting the RIGHT folks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

That strange device with the numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Time stands still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, remember, time stands still.

Regards, Matt

Members in need of assistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Damaged goods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Are you serious in applying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Always take the high road

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Matt,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anonymous FENG Member

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

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

Regards, Matt

Stale cigar smoke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I want you to assume the same thing.

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

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

Regards, Matt

You sure can rattle on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A 1,000 words (plus or minus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Candidate Marketing Agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Computers are here to stay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Call me a compulsive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Don’t go it alone

Job search is in many ways a unique experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

It’s always better to be working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Don’t be lazy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

All things to all people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A sharp pencil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Human interaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

No right answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Attention to detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close enough only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Regards, Matt

Your hidden assets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Am I qualified?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A little breathing room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Don’t forget your business cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The golden rule – revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Birds of a feather

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

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

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

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

But where should you look?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

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