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Creating a Self-Affirming Job Search Process in a Tough Economy
By: Rebecca Holderread 
 
 
Creating a Self-Affirming Job Search Process in a Tough Economy
 
It has been six months since I eliminated my own position due to cash constraints. I loved my job, the people with whom I worked, and I miss it. However, out of all of the days of unemployment I have only been “low” for a half a day. 
 
Perhaps the following approach may help others take control of their transition in order to begin a positive cycle of networking and NetWeaving in their lives.
 
Keeping your head in the game!
 
I had an epiphany a few weeks back. Several people asked, “How do you stay so positive and up beat?” I realized that my focus had been on making new friends, rather than finding a position. It is that simple, but it involves many hours of work.
 
The economy has turned the job market into a buyer’s market – employers are providing detailed and specific requirements as they select new members for their team. If my goal is to make new friends, I have multiple opportunities for positive self-affirmation each week. If my goal is simply a job – the reality of the job market is likely to provide weeks of disappointment.  
 
If I build relationships through networking and NetWeaving, I will be able to reach the decision makers before the position description is written or at least with a recommendation that may overcome the checklist of the recruiter. In addition, these new friends will be there long after I start my next position.
 
What I don’t do and what I do. Beating the economic odds.
 
Historically I have always been a good job hunter. During 25 years of work, I have been with 7 companies. I found these opportunities in a variety of ways:   3 by networking, 2 by recruiters, 1 with a direct mail, and 1 by answering a Monster ad.   
 
The current economy slows things down. From what I hear the current estimate is 8 weeks of search for every $10 thousand of income.   In order to beat these estimates, I have developed a model of activity which I hope will cut the time by more than 50%.   These action items are the result of experience in 7 previous job hunts, two sessions of outplacement, and the teachings of my career coach, Richard Kirby (www.executive-impact.com).
 
My goal is to find a great opportunity for employment. I plan to find this opportunity indirectly and in a manner that will provide friends and contacts that will be with me for a very long time.   I approach this process as I would any job or position – with dedication, focus, performance measurements, and process evaluations along the way.   In addition, I have a coach as my “chairman” who checks in to keep me on track—a loop of accountability.
 
Activities/things I don’t do:
 
·        Don’t scan the job boards. 
·        Don’t attend frequent meetings of large numbers of unemployed. These large meetings can sometimes be depressing.
·        These meetings serve an important role for those who have never networked.
·        Don’t do things that don’t make me feel good.
·        Don’t spend money on “networking” events unless there is a cost/benefit return. I make sure that the opportunity to network, real quality time building relationships, is possible or I don’t spend the money.
 
Activities/things I do:
 
·        Hang out with positive, up beat people.
·        Network/net weave to make 8 to 10 new friends a week. These are one- on-one meetings lasting anywhere from 1 to 2 hours each (1 being the norm). Build the foundation for a long term relationship. 
·        Focus on paying it forward – in each network meeting, my goal is to WOW my partner with relevant connections—a minimum of at least 2.
·        Metrics to measure my performance:
·        8 to 10 one-on-one meetings a week.
·        Maximum of 2 to 3 group meetings a month.
·        Mix of one-on-one meetings should be 70% working and 30% non-working.
·        Network with a variety of functions and levels within an organization.
·        Exercise and have an outlet for discussion and review of my processes on a daily basis – I try to do both with a good friend.
·        Increase my volunteer work, above previous levels—I balance my inward focus with an outward focus to help others.
·        Keep my LinkedIn Profile up to date. I monitor the number of searches for which my Profile was identified and make changes to increase the search performance of my profile.
 
 
Does it work? Opportunities and leads.
 
In my opinion, yes it does work. The following are some examples and results that my network has brought to me. The activity seems to come in waves every 6 to 8 weeks and is tied directly to my “pay it forward” introductions on the behalf of others.  
 
  • A friend and former vendor called with a position referral. His friend, the CEO was desperate for a CFO. My introduction to the top was of the highest quality and it was delivered with a reference on my work.   However, the company decided to hold onto their liquidity until later in the year. A prudent move.
  • One of my networking groups posted a non-profit position before most of Atlanta knew about it. I applied and had a phone screen. The feedback was that the client wanted someone with “larger revenue experience.” I was unable to network to the hiring manager to build a relationship that would override the job description.
  • My network brought me a posting for a VP of Finance position. I had strong contacts that led to the hiring manager and the peers of the position. The initial feedback was that I would make it to the final round. At the last minute, an internal candidate came forward – a smart and safer choice for the organization.
  • A friend sent my resume to the executive search firm where he used to work and I was selected to interview for a position. I passed the screen of two recruiters and had one round of client interviews (not with the hiring manager). There were three candidates. At the same time, the company laid off several key employees. I may not have made it to the final round, but I am not sure I wanted to.
  • A contract service provider recommended me to a retained recruiter for a specific search. My screen with the recruiter went well and I was presented on paper to the client. They have chosen to pursue other resumes at the current time. My network did not take me to the hiring manager a disadvantage.
  • A new friend, who provides an outsourced HR service to entrepreneurial firms, has two clients that are ready to add some outside executives to their team. My contact feels that I am a good fit. However, both clients are moving cautiously – both are profitable and growing – and delaying adding overhead until the economy is stronger.
  • Currently, two members of my network have startup firms who just finished their funding that are in need of someone with my skills.   We are currently trying to coordinate meetings to discuss further.
  • One of my new friends is a recruiter and consultant; she has recommended to a private equity investor that I be considered for a position outside my normal function—this is a non-fee situation.
  • Through a group meeting of angel investors, I networked with two of the presenters. Both have expressed an interest in having me join their team and I am beginning a discussion of the next steps.
  • A former peer introduced me to a local, private equity owned firm that has a posting for a CFO position. I am currently interviewing.
 
Based on the above and with regard to my job search, yes I think the process is working. It is all about building relationships where your contacts KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST you. 
 
Does it work? Other Results that create my “brand.”
 
Recently, I have had some exciting stories reach me from those I networked together. This is really what the process is about. Think about the “brand equity” I am building in the Rebecca Holderread brand here in Atlanta.
 
  • A network friend called to invite me to lunch – he told me I was directly or indirectly responsible for three new contracts.
  • While meeting an attorney, we discovered that his wife’s car had been hit by someone insured by a company where I had a contact. My new friend was struggling to get the claims adjuster to pay the claim. One call to a former peer of mine and within 24 hours the situation was addressed.
  • Another new friend called to let me know that two of the introductions I made were scheduled to meet with his Chairman and the third is partnering with him and a mutual client.
  • A local banker said that she was able to help two of my introductions each land a new piece of business and she had landed one as well.
  • An angel group is hiring an accountant that I introduced who specializes in their product line.
  • I helped round up 15 to 20 resumes for my former company. One contact and member of my Kettering Group landed the VP position – a win for my former company and for my new networking friend.
 
These are just the benefits that have been reported to me. The positive affirmation of joining people together to help each other – in business or personal endeavors – is very rewarding.   This is a long term play and investment in the future.
 
Conclusion
 
Take the opportunity to build your “brand.” Stay positive and up beat. Invest in relationships that will be there for many years to come.   Networking and NetWeaving should involve intentional actions by each person to help the other with meaningful introductions.
 
You cannot control the economy, but it is my sincere belief that with my networking / NetWeaving approach I will beat the statistics and find a meaningful position faster than the average executive – and have fun doing it!
 
 
Rebecca W. Holderread lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Over the last 25 years she has taken progressively higher level financial management positions, rising to CFO and, in her most recent position, CFO & COO. Her experience spans several industries including manufacturing, financial services, restaurant / hospitality, logistics, and most recently digital printing. Although she began her career in the Fortune 150 arena, she has spent the last 11 years working in private organizations. She is interested in learning more about Atlanta's private and entrepreneurial companies in the $5 million to $150 million revenue range.   http://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccaholderread

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