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

Matt's Editorials: Sailing is a Metaphor for Life

They aren’t making any more of it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Selling from a full wagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Getting back at it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Geese and golden eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Knowing what’s important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Let’s keep it a secret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Putting your best foot forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A rose by any other name

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

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

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

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

I would suggest you do what is true.

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Hanging on to unpleasantness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

There’s honestly no excuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Unbelievable!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A time for reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Why we share job leads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

A week for housekeeping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Information please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Unsolicited advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Why bother saying thank you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Saturday Night Live!

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

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

Anyway, the issue for tonight is labeling yourself properly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The personal, impersonal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

The CB Radio craze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up with an email address that looks “corporate” doesn’t take long either. Yes, I know that one you started life with has meaning to YOU, but does Joe245@aol.com mean anything to the rest of the world? And, what is the likelihood that barryl1@gmail.com is going to be seen correctly as BarryL1@gmail.com? Yet, I see this problem frequently. Every once in a while the email address on someone’s resume is wrong. (Yes, that does make it hard to get back to them.)

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Putting it behind you-NOT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Networking by brute force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Matt

Who is that masked man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you understand those things about yourself that define who you are, and if you can express them clearly to yourself and to others, it will help you drive to your next goal more effectively. And, with this focus, you can write an effective 90-second announcement and an effective summary for your resume.

If you don’t know your most valuable talents, one suggestion is to ask those with whom you have had the pleasure of working. Yes, believe it or not, they may know the reasons why you have been so “over paid.”

Funny, but us financial folks tend to be so “nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel” that we don’t usually know.

It is just possible that the “man in the mirror” may actually be someone better than you thought. And, all you have to do is ask to find out.

Regards, Matt

Building friendships-a lot of hard work

The definition of networking I use is: Networking is a process by which you can create meaningful business contacts and relationships to further your career and enhance your professional life.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult, networking is a 5. Building friendships is a 10.

I know that many of you have become better and better at this “networking thing.” The constant “nagging” I do in our evening editorial I hope has had a significant impact on your daily activities. And, I hope you are enjoying the rewards as well. But, being one who NEVER leaves well enough alone, I thought I would share one of the deep dark secrets of effective networking – some of these folks become fast friends.

Just as much as no one really understands why you fall in love, it is a mystery in much the same way why after networking with someone over the years you suddenly realize that you have become good friends.

The way we practice networking in The FENG is for you as the favor requestor to feel comfortable asking any other member of our august body for any reasonable favor. On the other side of the equation, I would ask that any member who is asked for a favor they can reasonably grant, to grant it. What is unusual about our mutual requesting and granting of favors is that there need be no match. You can ask favors of anyone and you are expected to grant favors to everyone. (As long as they ask nicely.) The twist in The FENG is that the person to whom you grant a favor doesn’t have to pay you back. He does, however, have to pay SOMEONE back.

By making every effort to network appropriately, by which I mean with those with whom you have some background connection, you are bit by bit going to meet up with like minded individuals. It is inevitable. Some of those folks will just “click” with you.

Now comes the hard part. (I know it sounded too easy to this point.) When you “click” with someone, you have to make an effort to perform acts of friendship. Networking to many seems to have some evil intent. Were it not for your need to earn a living, I suppose you would just stay in your shell and never talk to anyone. But, once you get into this friendship building stuff, it is hard to stop.

Let’s say you saw an article that you think would be of interest to your new friend. Send it along. They may already have seen it, in which case they might write back and let you know. Now that you know you have both read it, why not call up and chat about it?

Gestures large and small make up a friendship. Some of my friendships go back to the beginning of my career. Others are very new. Some are from my involvement in The FENG. All of them are cherished relationships that only get better over time.

The “care and feeding of friends” can be exhausting at times, but it is always worth the effort long term.

As much as I wish all of you a rewarding career, I even more so wish for you to enjoy the personally satisfying experience of having more friends than you can name in a single breath or even in an afternoon.

Among the many goals in your life, I hope this is one you will sign up for.

Regards, Matt

It could be Santa Claus

I don’t know what it is about returning phone calls. I get them by the truck load and still do my best to return them all. (Sometimes it does take a few days.)

Perhaps I have a high level of curiosity, but I have found that you can never tell who has called or what they have called about without actually calling them back. Some of the dumbest messages I have gotten were actually pretty important, and if I hadn’t taken the time to call back I would have missed out, big time.

I would also suggest that one of the most annoying things about looking for a job is all of the individuals in this world who don’t return phone calls. Are they unaware how important it is to call ME back? Now I will grant you that I made a lot of stupid phone calls when I was out of work in 1991 and 1992, but then the knowledge about how to be selective in your calling wasn’t as well known. Perhaps it wasn’t always necessary to call and find out if the post office had delivered my resume, but I felt there was always a chance I might get through and have a real conversation with some recruiter.

Networking was just coming into its own back then, and many of the rules of courtesy and logic were just being developed. So, who knew?

If we all accept the idea that we EXPECT those we call to call us back, I have to ask why it appears that we don’t extend the same favor and courtesy to those who call us?

Rumor has it that many of our members don’t return phone calls. Look, I know it is just an ugly rumor, and I am sure it really isn’t true, but I have to give the benefit of the doubt to one of our members of long standing who claims it is true. His statistics may be faulty, or it could be the fact that he is doing what I have asked of all of you – to call a few new members each week, and perhaps new members at the time he is calling them may not be aware of the rules we follow in our little society.

As I mention from time to time, The FENG isn’t a job listing service. It is a networking group.

EVERYONE who has joined The FENG was sponsored by a friend. It may have been a friend of many years or a new friend, but in keeping with the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish for each other, he/she extended the hand of friendship and presented a gift whose benefits are without measure and yet grow day by day.

If God has smiled upon you and you are presently “between searches,” I hope that you will keep in mind that it is all too easy to be on the other end of the phone at any time and through no fault of your own.

The task we have before us is an enormous one of teaching each other the benefits of making our networking resources available to old friends and new friends alike. The joy that comes from helping those active in their search is one that is difficult to explain unless you experience that warm feeling from time to time. The truth is that there is ALWAYS time to return phone calls, especially if it is from a fellow member of our august body.

We are first and foremost a circle of friends. The links and connections that at first appear flimsy and frail can at times surprise and amaze you how you how substantially you are “joined at the hip” with the rest of the world.

A few years ago I had an exchange with one of our chapter chairs who I was aware used to work at CBS where I worked for several years early in my career. It turns out that he worked with my first mentor there (and I met him at her retirement party), my second boss, and he worked for the person who replaced me in my last job. (I guess that makes us first cousins or something.)

Life takes many twists and turns. Most of what I have learned about members getting to know each other falls into the category of “you can’t make this stuff up.”

If you want to help build The FENG into an even more remarkable organization than it already is, please keep in mind that each caller is a friend of a friend.

Who knows, they might even become a good friend of yours in very short order. But, you’ll never know unless you call them back.

(By the way, Santa Claus is the person who directly or indirectly introduces you to someone who offers you a job.)

Regards, Matt

The captain can show no fear

There was this very amusing comedy routine that I heard many years ago. During part of it, the comedian pointed out that when operating on a patient under local anesthetic, surgeons are not allowed to say “oops.” (I know what I mean when I say oops. What did he mean?)

In much the same way, and for many of the same reasons, the captain of a ship is not allowed to show fear. No matter how fierce the storm, no matter how lost he may be at the minute, even if the vessel is becalmed and the water and food are running out, the captain is expected to keep his wits about him and act like nothing is wrong.

There is a Chinese curse or proverb that goes something like: May you live in interesting times.

Honestly, I really wish the times we are now living through were a little less interesting. If things get worse in the world or continue on this path, even I may begin having a little difficulty holding it all together. (I’m honestly having difficulty figuring out who is who in the various conflicts going on around the world and which groups are on “our side.”)

Let us all relax a bit. While it isn’t clear if the world IS actually going to heck in a hand basket, we can rely on the fact that anything that doesn’t kill us is only going to make us stronger. Most likely when this is all over, we will all be as strong as Superman. (At least the price of gasoline has stayed low!)

The most important thing to keep in mind if you are the primary bread winner of your “ship” is that the crew is watching you at all times. If they see you break into a sweat, stay in bed until noon, cry when you get your health insurance statement, or any of the other 100’s of things you might be well justified in doing, it is only going to make matters worse.

If the crew loses faith in the captain, mutiny is the likely result. And, with the crew out of control, your job and job search process is only going to get more difficult. Job search is stressful enough without members of the family acting out.

The solution is to have a plan. If you have lost your job, face reality immediately. Short of burning the house down for the insurance and sleeping in the car, you should have a family meeting to discuss conserving cash. (I would point out to you that cash is a 4 letter word.) The longer you wait to begin the process, the harder it is to manage through.

We can all be critical of the corporations who lay off workers in anticipation of a downturn of their business, but the truth is that they are being smart. If they wait until they have no choice, there won’t be severance, outplacement or even perhaps a last paycheck.

Unfortunately, your ship may not be of sufficient size for congress to believe that you are too big to fail. Most likely, you are going to be left to your own devices. So, chin up (it is easier to hit that way), and bite the bullet. Make a bold plan now and stick to it.

When you step into a lifeboat, you never know how long it will be until you are picked up. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

But, most important, do your “falling apart act” out of sight of the crew. They don’t respond well to it.

Regards, Matt

Call me Mr. Know-it-all

I know we don’t mean to do it, but as financial types who come to our decisions the hard way (usually the long scenic route), we often react to information being presented to us by others in a dismissive, “oh, I knew that” manner.

I suppose there was a time in my life when I actually thought I did know everything. As the Chief Financial Officer of a top 50 Advertising Agency back in the 1980’s, I was expected to know the answers. People looked to me for solutions to problems. There was a constant parade of folks trooping through my office all day long trying to persuade me about this or that. Talk about “analyze this.”

As I have gotten older I have learned that I know less and less, or perhaps I have grown up and I am much more open to hearing the ideas others present. If there is one thing I have learned is true, it is that if I listen to the suggestions of others without reaction, no matter how stupid they sound when they first start explaining something to me, I usually find out something I didn’t know.

While I sometimes feel I must have heard everything there is to learn about job search, I still ask at every meeting for members of the Westport chapter to share a job hunting tip with the group. Of course there is a lot of repetition in the ideas that are presented. Still, a meeting hasn’t passed where I don’t pick up on some new twist or turn to things I THOUGHT I knew.

As you are out and about in the world doing your networking, it can at times become tedious listening to suggestions about how to improve your resume. Learn to relax. Paper is cheap. Ideas are hard to come by. Let your friends write all over your resume. Let their imaginations run wild. You know, you don’t have to take ANY of their suggestions if you don’t like them. You will find that any document you have read as many times as your own resume has hidden problems that more reading won’t solve. It takes a fresh pair of eyes with a brain that has gotten more sleep than you may be getting to see what in retrospect are obvious errors.

The only thing you have to learn how to do is to put on your best “poker face” and not react to the idiotic dribble (Did I say that?) coming out of your friend’s mouth. You may have to put up with more of this kind of “criticism” than you think you can stand just to hear ONE great idea. That said, it may be the one great idea that makes your resume 10 times more impactful.

They say that God gave us two ears and one mouth with the idea that we should do twice as much listening as talking. While I am not sure this issue came up at the beginning of time, it just may be true anyway.

If you come off as being a Mr. Know-it-all, you aren’t going to be getting much information sent your way. Ideas are what really make the world go around. (I’ll bet you thought it was money. Money only comes from great ideas.)

So, be patient with those around you. Some day, if they listen to you, they just may end up being as smart as you are.

Regards, Matt

Words are important

The words we use when referring to others are important in that they affect our thinking and ability to problem solve.

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I usually refer to “members of the search community” or to “search professionals.” I sometimes refer to them as “recruiters.” Although even they refer to themselves as “headhunters,” I find that term less than professional.

Another potential trap we might fall into is the use of the word “gatekeeper.” It brings up visions in my mind of my being on the outside looking in and needing the permission of some imposing individual with a spear or something even more threatening blocking my path. While in many cases our ability to network properly requires our getting our message to a decision maker, the “gatekeeper” (it appears to us), or someone more properly described as the Executive Assistant or Executive Secretary of someone who is very important is blocking our path to success.

It is for this reason that in our thinking we begin to refer to these individuals in a derisive manner. Surely they must know the importance of our getting through and it is just out of sheer meanness that they are preventing it. What other explanation could there be?

Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth. The time of important people is a valuable asset to not only the person in question, but also to the organizations by which they are employed. It is for this reason that the role of “professional road blocker,” oops, Executive Secretary was created. In some organizations, the one who controls the calendar of the “boss” is even called “Chief of Staff.”

Once you accept the importance of these individuals, I hope you will find it easier to “break through.” When you call for example, it is not a good idea to try to “trick” them. Why? Because if you are successful, “they” might be punished. Since your success in networking most likely will require more than one communication, I think you can understand why this would be a mistake.

When asked if he is expecting your call, be honest. (Not that you have to actually answer the question asked.) An honest answer might be that you sent him an email and promised to call. Or, mention the person who suggested you contact “Mr. Big” and assure his “gatekeeper” (oops, there I go again) … Executive Assistant, that this mutual friend of his was sure he would have an interest in speaking with you.

If none of this works in getting you put through, ask if there is a better time to call back or in the ultimate stroke of genius, acknowledging the very important role played by this individual, ask if he/she could get you on his/her calendar for a brief phone call at his/her convenience.

Once you accept that the words you choose to refer others affects YOUR thinking and YOUR ability to be effective, you will be well on your way to solving the problem.

Regards, Matt

Pitfalls and their avoidance

The world of job search can be an uncharted place.

I can’t think of any activity that is so specific to one’s background, while at the same time one that we generally don’t practice a whole lot until the crisis is upon us.

Over most of our careers for us stable financial types, practicing the art of job search would not be a good use of our time. There are budgets and financial statements to prepare, and always meetings to go to.

So, when we find ourselves active in our search, what are the basic steps to take?

First and foremost I would suggest taking the approach we have probably taken to most work related activities: we should do a little research. Anyone who has not read John Lucht’s Rites of Passage is doing themselves a disservice. There are other good books on the market, but John’s is primarily targeted to senior folks, and that is why I usually recommend it.

But, after we have done our reading, what is next? The next step is to talk with folks just like you – your fellow members of The FENG.

It has always been my experience that reading all about it is like drinking water from a fire hose. Within all of the material available for my attention, what is the most important and how would I know? I compare it to an Excel class I once took. All of those techniques were great, but they were solutions to problems I wasn’t working on at the time and haven’t since. Over the course of the whole day, however, there were several things discussed that I use, even now, almost every day.

By reaching out to others who are just like you, (okay, perhaps not as good looking) you have the opportunity to seek out knowledge on the greatest pitfalls facing your search.

Things like what to say during your 90-second announcement, choosing an executive coach, or any of the myriad other decisions that are staring you in the face.

Seeking out help is what The FENG is all about, and I hope you will use its resources often. There are others who have already tackled the very issue you are facing.

And as we all know, there is no purpose in reinventing the wheel.

Regards, Matt

When the newsletter thins

I realize that on days when the newsletter thins, there is the temptation to “click and shoot” all of the remotely possible postings that appear.

Please don’t.

One of the core values of The FENG is that we don’t respond to postings unless we are a good fit. Very simply put, if you wouldn’t hire you for the job, resist the temptation to buy a lottery ticket and submit your credentials.

The thing to keep in mind when there are lots of folks out of work is that any posting that has specific requirements (beyond your having a pulse) is going to get lots and lots of appropriate responses. The role of the recruiter is to identify those candidates who fit the specifications. It is not their goal to be a nice person and include you even though you are way off the mark. Put out a message to 40,000+ people and you are bound to get a few that fit exceedingly well.

If we begin bombing the few recruiters who are getting financial jobs, they will shortly stop posting with us. Reputations are hard won and easily ruined.

I know it is difficult to put aside your personal needs for the greater good, but it is actually for your greater good that you should do this.

Let me also remind members that we try to share all job leads. Trust me, they have limited value and even extremely confidential searches are widely distributed. If you think you can keep a secret and limit the candidate pool, you are only kidding yourself.

What you want to do is invite competition from your fellow members. If you can’t do this by publishing the lead in our evening newsletter, at least make a few phone calls or send a few emails to your inner circle of friends in The FENG to make them aware of it.

You should also do your best to pitch the services of The FENG to search firms and to in house recruiters. Get them to visit our website and register. Get them to submit postings for publication. If you think they will be impressed by speaking with the Chairman of The FENG, have them call me. I have sold snow making equipment to Eskimos in Alaska. Selling the value of The FENG is a lot easier.

We have the greatest resource of senior financial executives in the entire world available to them. They can’t lose. And, neither can you.

Remember, job leads have a short shelf life. The best thing you can do when you hear about one is to pass it on. Perhaps you will help a friend and/or a fellow member get a job. Life doesn’t get much better.

Regards, Matt

The illusion of trust

It is always difficult to explain why you trust someone.

In our daily encounters, out in the world we come across all kinds of folks. Most of the individuals we do business with on a daily basis don’t have to be our friends, and the nature of the exchanges we have with them don’t even require that we trust them.

As an example: purchasing gas. As long as we can bring ourselves to trust the gas station attendant not to pour the gas into the back seat of our car, there isn’t really much at risk. And, since we probably put this exchange on our credit card, there is no possibility that the value received isn’t the amount we paid. The only trust element, if you will, is that the station you have selected prices their products consistently with respect to their competition.

To be an effective networker requires an understanding and appreciation of how trust is created. While the process may begin with an illusion, (any excuse will due to make a call), to be effective it needs to end with a perception of reality.

When networking within The FENG, a trust relationship is easily started just by just mentioning that you are a fellow member of our august body. It can then be furthered by developing sound “reasons why” you have contacted this particular member. Perhaps they worked at firms where you have worked, attended the same schools, live in the same town, or belong to the same special interest group(s).

Contacting individuals to network has as one of its purposes being introduced to others. How extensive and how important the subsequent referrals are depends on your ability to present yourself as a trustworthy person.

Relationships and trust take time to build. The approach I suggest is something I call “asking for the world’s smallest favor that you know will be granted.” For example, asking a networking contact if they know a few recruiters that they might recommend. Recruiters don’t have much value, and the likelihood that you will “burn” your networking contact is small. It is an easy favor to grant. Now that you have them granting you favors, you can ask for more.

Asking for an introduction to a boss, however, requires a tremendous leap of faith. To be granted “three wishes” along these lines would be too much to ask based on what is in reality a cold call by a stranger, and it certainly isn’t something to be asked on a first call.

Understanding the importance to the individual you are asking to help you of each of his/her contacts to his/her future career will help you focus on what you can and can’t ask. To ask for a favor not likely to be granted will ensure that no future favors are ever granted.

So, the best approach is to go slowly in building your level of trust with each networking contact.

The difference between illusion and reality in the world of personal relationships is often hard to distinguish. You are the magician. If you do your hocus pocus well, you will get the best out of those hard to make new friends and build a solid base for the future.

Regards, Matt

Are you skipping ahead to the leads?

I sometimes wish I didn’t publish job leads at all. I know this is shocking for someone who is sending out a newsletter full of job leads, but it is the truth.

Our newsletter contains a wealth of information as do our membership directories. For those of you determined to never learn anything about the job search process, I would suggest you conduct a passive job search and only read the leads.

For the rest of you, may I suggest that you read my editorial, the Good News Announcements and Members in Need of Assistance, as well as the additional editorial material that I include in every newsletter and then IF you have time, read the job leads. (By the way, if you are going to read the job leads, don’t let them sit around. Job leads have a shelf life of about a nanosecond.)

I know you “walk among us.” Many members appear to have never read a good job search book. May I recommend Rites of Passage by John Lucht? If you don’t know about this book, follow the link to RiteSite.com just above my editorial and get yourself a copy.

Job search for those of us over the age of 40 is a PERMANENT activity in our life. Sad to say there are very few gold watches that are going to be given out in the next 50 years. That was then, this is now. All jobs are temporary. Even when you are working, you are only between searches.

What you need to do in your life is become an expert at this minor inconvenience we all experience more and more frequently called job search. The focus of our newsletter is to spoon feed a little information each and every day about what is important. If you are treating our newsletter like the one of the major job boards, you are missing the point. While I do all that I can do to make our job leads current and appropriate to our membership, it is only a small part of why we have The FENG.

Let me beat a few drums and give you a little bit of a headache. First, outgoing signatures. I have considered not responding to any email that doesn’t have one, but then I wouldn’t be answering most of the messages I get. I shocked a member today by calling him. I told him it was a just punishment for his having an outgoing signature. You can win this lottery too if you write to me and don’t force me to use my secret decoder ring.

Second, the world will discover where you live. I know that some of you out there believe that if you leave off your home address you will be considered for jobs for which you are not local. Think again. If you create a mystery, you are more likely to have your resume deleted. And under the heading of “you can’t make this stuff up,” one of our members who was local to something I was working on today didn’t have his address on his resume.

Third, you are likely to have to indicate in general terms how old you are at some point. You may as well have it at the beginning. I know that some of you have been told that no one is interested in any jobs more than 10 years ago. While this is true, that doesn’t mean you should leave them off. One of the trends I am seeing is folks having a final sentence or paragraph that begins with “and prior jobs at the following firms: …” Should I mention that this list is generally so long that I have to assume they are older than Methuselah? A particularly ridiculous approach I saw today was “earlier work history available upon request.” Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. And, this particular person had their college graduation date on their resume. What exactly was the point?

If you don’t know how to spell your own name, you are likely not to be considered for anything. And, yes, there was a member today who spelled his name wrong in the “From” section of his email cover note. If you don’t know how to spell or have issues with grammar, find someone who can proof read your messages and proof read your resume. Let me add here that if you actually don’t know how to type, you might want to have someone who does do a little highlighting of the important stuff on your resume. I actually had a resume today that had NO bolding and another resume where the bolding was inconsistent. By inconsistent, I mean portions of the line were bolded ending in the middle of words. Another resume had equal signs through the middle of every word on the resume so that it appeared they were being crossed off. I’m sure Microsoft would like to know how he did that.

If you are being hired as a financial officer of an organization, your future employers would like to know that you practice attention to detail. Every company on your resume should be checked on Google and uppercased or lower cased appropriately. Yes, I know you worked there, but every firm has a preferred way that the company should appear, as in PricewaterhouseCoopers. It isn’t PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and it isn’t Price Waterhouse. Every word and every checkable point on your resume and in your cover letters needs to be presented correctly.

I know that there are those among us who feel they don’t need to read the editorial material in our newsletter or for that matter attend our networking meetings. They already know everything there is to know about job search. If you are one of those individuals, I would suggest that you are missing out. I have been at this for quite some time and I’m still learning.

The purpose of The FENG is to provide you with the best resources on the face of the earth in your quest for gainful employment.

As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I can only guess that there are those of you out there who don’t realize how thirsty you are.

Please know that for those of you who want to learn and become proficient at the essential skill of finding a job, the leadership of The FENG is ALWAYS here for you. And, sooner or later, we will catch up with the rest of you and help you on your way as well.

It will be our pleasure.

Regards, Matt

What happened?

One of the most difficult questions one is almost required to answer is why we left our last job.

Being a little bit of a wise guy, my inclination is to say “They stopped paying me.” Or, in the alternate, “When they changed the locks on my office and had security escort me out to the street, I thought it best not to come back.”

Okay, you can’t really use these lines in an interview, unless of course you are really good at comedy.

The problem with the question is that it is at once a silly question, an unfair question, and a difficult question, especially for us financial types who are used to providing incredible detail in any situation that warrants it. And, if there is any situation that warrants a “correct” answer, it is why you left your last job.

What is even worse is that it is difficult to have an intelligent discussion with anyone considering you for a new opportunity unless you address this issue. It is a question that they want to ask, and until you answer it they aren’t really listening. What they are doing is trying to find a polite way to ask.

An important fact to keep in mind is that if you allow the question to be asked rather than addressing it first, you are risking that it will be framed in a way that you will find more difficult to answer.

The best approach is to develop an explanation that is no more than 60 seconds, that is truthful, correct, and enough of an answer that no follow up question will be asked. Yes, I know it is a tough standard, but you will be surprised how easily satisfied most questioners are. Everyone isn’t a financial type. Most folks prefer short answers. A long one will provide more points of exposure for you and risk those dreaded follow up questions that can bring up negativity at a time you are trying to sell your positive nature.

There are usually agonizing “if only I had’s” constantly running through your mind when you lose a job. This is not the time to share them.

A simple “The company went through a downsizing,” or “The company was sold,” should about cover it. The details about why you were selected are not generally relevant and no one is going to really understand them anyway without a lot of additional information.

If you had an unreasonable boss who screamed at everyone and singled you out for special punishment, although truthful, can only come across as sour grapes, or worse yet, may sound like it contains a grain of truth.

Don’t go there and don’t dwell upon the reasons.

You are being considered for a new opportunity because you must in some way shape or form represent a solution to a problem faced by your potential employer.

There is a real and pressing need for you to spend every available moment in a face to face meeting discussing the future and how your many talents can be applied.

Don’t take the bait and don’t fall into the trap of “fully explaining” every detail and nuance of your departure.

I have said it many times and I will repeat it here: Speech is the slowest form of communication. Don’t waste precious minutes delving into unpleasant issues. But, understand that it is an issue that has to be addressed. Do it on your terms and in the nicest possible way.

You will see that it pays to be gracious. (Even though they “done you wrong.”)

Regards, Matt

Money is important

When it comes to deciding if someone is a fit for a particular position, industry experience and candidates current locations are often the first criteria that employers consider when weeding out applicants. After these first two issues appear to be satisfactory, the next point of focus is your recent work history. What have you done in the last ten years that is applicable to the job in question?

Much of this kind of information can be quickly gleaned from a resume and is often followed up by a telephone interview. Whether the call is from a contingency or retained recruiter, or even from a corporate recruiter, the last point on the check list is usually money. Let’s be honest, money is important.

I will pretty much believe anything anyone tells me, if they tell it to me with conviction. But the issue with money is that folks who do the hiring have a hard time believing that anyone will work for less than they were recently earning or historically earning. As a candidate you need to be aware that the higher your earnings have been with respect to the current job, the more difficult your sales pitch is.

If you live extremely close to the job in question, that certainly gives you a leg up on other candidates, but since most of our expenses in life are fixed, I don’t think this issue is given as much weight as it should. A shorter commute doesn’t do much to lower college tuition for your children.

The goal for any job seeker is to get the person handling the hiring process to tell you up front what the salary range is for the job. Information is power. Without knowing what you are selling into, it is very hard if not impossible to develop a proper sales pitch. Saying you will work for food or even equity when these are not items on the table makes you appear desperate or worse. You should also be aware that no one can make you come to work. So, it is not possible to draw up an agreement that you will stay no matter what, since it is not in any way enforceable.

In the many discussions I have had with hiring authorities over the years I have always been able to wring a salary range out of them. After saying they will pay compensation appropriate to your experience, or market or any of the other vague words that mean absolutely nothing, if you keep asking the question they will finally give in and tell you. It is an appropriate question and one they should answer. Everyone is looking for a bargain. But, in my humble opinion employers are the ones who should really go first, not candidates.

Any job has a market value and you may or may not want to bid on it. I think that is your decision. If you know what you are getting yourself into, I don’t have a problem with your being considered. Just as past performance in an investment is no guarantee of future returns, historical pay patterns are no guarantee that you will earn as much in your next job, or that you feel you need to earn at that level. Again, the issue is how hard a sales pitch you need to do.

What are the reasons you are considering taking a cut in pay? First, if you aren’t working, you aren’t taking a cut in pay. Being unemployed you don’t have a salary. Second, you may be at a different point in your life. Hard for me to judge your salary requirements, that’s why I always ask. If you are truthful and have given it serious thought, who am I to argue with you?

Be prepared for the question. When you answer it, don’t hedge your bets. Be clear and be convincing. As they say about the lottery, you can’t win unless you’re in it.

Regards, Matt

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

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