by Mary Harmon
The days of commitment to one job for life are long gone. For Five O’Clock Clubbers those days have been replaced with a life-long commitment to keeping themselves marketable-in the employment arena as well as within their companies. In 1978, The Five O’Clock Club re-defined job-hunting as the process of staying aware of market conditions internally and externally-and staying aware of what you have to offer, internally and externally. Five O’Clock Clubbers know that an on-going campaign to stay marketable leads to the development of new skills.
The Five O’Clock News asked four successful Club members to share their on-going strategies for staying marketable. They talked about the steps they take every day that increase their value to prospective as well as present employers
Marketing Around The Coffee Machine
Kent Wallgren is Vice President and Group Program Manager at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette’s DLJdirect, an on-line broker that allows investors to trade stocks, options, mutual funds and other products on the Internet. Kent pinpoints informal gatherings around the office coffee machine as his most productive networking method for staying marketable.
“I’ve found it tremendously helpful to chat with people whom I might not have contact with in the course of my work,” he says. “For example, a programmer might mention that he’s developing a program that could be useful to me down the line. I pick up different viewpoints and approaches, too, as well as the latest software applications. There are lots of young, aggressive, talented people at DLJdirect, with a variety of financial and cutting edge technology specialties. These small chit-chats are energizing and stimulating.”
Kent uses e-mail from his home to find out what is going on with friends, industry
contacts, and former work and school colleagues.
Marketing On-Line and Off
“About a year ago I bought a high-end computer, with all the software tools I could ever need,” says Kent. “I have two Internet service providers, a fax and a separate phone line, so there will be no excuse for not keeping in touch with people. It improves my overall efficiency. It’s like buying a more powerful car.”
Kent networks with friends, industry contacts, and former work and school colleagues through e-mail from his home on weekends and evenings. In the office, he spends about an hour each day using the computer to visit websites for research on current assignments. DLJdirect is expanding internationally to Asia and Europe, and he visits Web sites to bring himself up to date on the financial markets in those countries. In his efforts to hire people for the international expansion, he has made productive e-mail exchanges with colleagues from his previous job with Reuters and with business school classmates.
Meetings and conferences sponsored by New York New Media Association and Kent’s alumni associations keep Kent abreast of emerging trends and new technologies.
“My alumni association at the MIT Sloan School of Management ran a program on financial services,” says Kent. “The speaker was Bill Porter, the founder and Chairman of E*Trade, a direct competitor of DLJdirect. He is also a Sloan graduate, and, in this intimate atmosphere, he shared some really helpful information that he might not have disclosed in a more public setting.”
Kent’s subscriptions cover a full range of professional interests, including The New York Times, The Economist, Byte, Wired and Internet World. In addition, newsletters at work and informational e-mail subscription services provide Kent with industry-specific information.
“The Internet industry is developing rapidly and these publications help me keep my head above water,” he says.
Kent credits The Five O’Clock Club with having helped him to be more organized and methodical in his job search. It is obvious from his self-marketing success that these skills have become an integral part of his overall professional life as well.
Gaye uses the internet, attends classes and teaches. Her activities as a community leader have brought out her planning and organizing skills.
The Path in Life
When Gaye Kazmirski joined the Chicago Club, her goal was to find a job in the Northwest where she could have easy access to cross-country skiing, mountain biking, white water rafting and the other outdoor sports she loves. Through someone she met on a cross- country ski race, Gaye first learned of Bend, Oregon, the town where she now lives and works as Outcomes Measure-ment Manager at St. Charles Medical Center. Bend is near the Cascade Mountains as well as the white water rapids of the Deschutes River. Gaye relocated to the area without knowing anyone. But she used the techniques and strategies that helped her to find her job to establish herself in the community and create regional networks of friends. She did this through professional associations and the cross country skiing, mountain biking and mountaineering clubs that she joined on arrival in Bend. She waged an on-going self-marketing campaign at St. Charles and in the health care field, as well as in the athletic circles she connected with in Oregon and Washington.
Gaye, who has an MBA, a masters degree in nursing and 18 years’ experience working in health care, spent her first year in Bend with a company that restructured several times within a few months of her employment. She immediately networked to find her current job.
Gaye’s expertise at building and nurturing her network has been reflected in her success on the job, too. A committed environmental advocate, she was elected President of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, a mountain biking advocacy group. She has made a direct impact on the Alliance, increasing membership from three to 110 within one year. Gaye was recently appointed the Oregon State Representative for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. She is aware that it doesn’t hurt her credibility in the health care field to be known as a community leader who follows a healthy, balanced lifestyle and who demonstrates concern for the environment.
Gaye belongs to the professional associations for managed care and quality improvement. Because of the self-assessment she did at the Chicago Club, Gaye realized she needed to rekindle her love for professional development activities. Her professional associations are based in Portland and Seattle-two and a half and five hours from Bend, but Gaye has used their locations to her career advantage. These associations wanted to expand into Oregon’s regional markets, and she worked on their marketing, membership and program development committees to assist them in meeting their goals.
“I wanted to help them, and I worked with an eye toward increasing my skills in leadership, program development and enhancing my marketability,” says Gaye. She drew on the skills she had used in her Chicago, plus those she uses in her work with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and in environmental activism.
Career Path/Life Path
“It’s amazing how my volunteer activities have brought out my skills in planning and organizing,” Gaye says. “My professional activities and my involvement in sports overlap. This confirms my belief that one’s career should coincide with one’s path in life.”
The Internet has proven to be another valuable marketing tool for Gaye. She regularly logs on in order to stay current with clinical research, to do searches of business journals and to keep up with her professional associations. The Internet has been helpful in her work with the biking association as well.
Gaye attends classes in order to stay current on the rapidly changing health care field. She teaches too, and received an adjunct faculty appointment at Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing in February, 1998. She is also a member of the Oregon Nurses Association’s Council of Clinical Nurse Specialists (an Advanced Practice Nurse Activism Group). Her goals: assist health care professionals who are transitioning their careers; teach business and marketing to health care professionals and be a volunteer mentor to graduate students.
“I do all this mostly for personal satisfaction,” she says. “But I’m thinking about how it can help my career, too.”
It’s no surprise that Gaye participates in ski, mountain biking, mountaineering and kayaking classes and clinics. She signs up because she enjoys outdoor sports. But it seems impossible to separate activities that increase her enjoyment of sports, those that sharpen her impact as a community activist and those that promote her career success.
Says Gaye: “Viewing one’s whole life as a career path is a matter of bringing together both professional and interpersonal growth and satisfaction.”
Climbing Toward The Top
Rhonda James of Work-force America describes her career as “a roller coaster of excitement.” But unlike a roller coaster, she seems to be climbing only higher and higher, exploring the in’s and out’s of networking, teaching, re-searching and learning. She reached new heights with her promotion in November, 1997 and stays on a steady track as she continues advancing in her career.
The excitement began in October, 1992 when Rhonda accepted a four month temporary assignment in the Information Systems Department of a leading mutual funds company. She worked as Administrative Assistant to the Manager of the PCs & Technology Area. Her responsibilities ranged from processing monthly technology-related invoices to assisting PC Support in providing basic level Help Desk support. The PCs & Technology Manager was so pleased with her outstanding performance that he offered her a permanent position, which she accepted in March, 1993. In late 1994, the company was acquired and a major reorganization within Information Systems affected Rhonda.
In March, 1995 the Legal Department needed someone with strong computer skills and she was transferred there as Executive Assistant to the Office Administrator / Strategic Planner / Supervisory Paralegal. Rhonda’s new responsibilities included assisting with fund work and improving the productivity of the Legal Department’s three antiquated compliance computer systems. Two years later, with several new skills, accomplishments and contributions added to her résumé, Rhonda applied for and was promoted to Risk Management and Compliance Officer.
The Momentum Builds
Rhonda has been moving full-speed ahead, learning new job skills, absorbing more about the industry, and taking in every bit of information she can uncover to enhance her job and her career. Shortly after her transfer to Legal, the department began a project to upgrade their computers and server. Rhonda was one of two key people on this project, and she worked closely with the Information Systems staff. She renewed relationships with colleagues she had worked with while in Information Systems and developed new ones. She began networking within Information Systems, contacting specialists in PC support / LAN / network support, telecommunications, applications development, procurement and data security. This helped her to handle her new responsibilities, polish her current computer skills and develop additional ones. She also built relationships with colleagues who worked with mutual funds, to could get a firm understanding of the fund basics and the rules and regulations that govern them. Rhonda used her external network, too.
“I kept in touch with previous colleagues who had moved to other companies and industries.” she says. “Over lunch, we would talk about what’s going on with technology and how it has affected our respective industries.” She learned through more formal methods as well.
“I watched Computer Chronicles on television,” she says. “It taught me about new computer technology as well as the Internet. The show also briefly discussed some problems you might encounter in the office. Based on my knowledge of Legal’s unresolved production problems, computer equipment limitations and information from the Computer Chronicles, I consulted with the Information Systems Staff and obtained their advice. Then I took all the information back to the Legal Department and advised them on some possible solutions to their problems.”
Rhonda also took training classes at the New York Public Library on using the Internet and the Dow Jones databases. She uses the Internet at home, too.
“PC Novice offers great advice on surfing the Internet,” she says. “The Internet helps me learn more about my new career and other careers as well since I have a variety of professional goals.”
Rhonda regularly reads trade journals such as SEC Today, Corporate Legal Times and Compliance Reporter Law. In addition, she reads books about career strategies and magazines such as Working Woman.
“In my current position, I learned that most of the business news will affect the stock market,” Rhonda says. “When I read articles on business, I try to determine how certain stocks and bonds might be affected.”
Rhonda is also a member of Web Grrls, an organization that empowers women and girls by teaching them about technology. She even networks with her husband, Ralston James (also a member of Workforce America). Ralston teaches language arts via MAC computers in the public schools; Rhonda works on an IBM platform, and the couple exchange information and cross-train on software. This helps in the training Rhonda does at work, where she is known as the department’s resident computer expert. She helps the staff learn new functions on the latest standard office software.
“The department has contracted with an outside vendor to build and design a new compliance application based on two existing ones,” says Rhonda. “I have been assisting the vendors with the logic and design on this project. After its completion, I will be one of two systems administrators. I’ll also participate in training the attorneys and paralegals in using the system.”
Rhonda’s roller coaster is still climbing. She recently took advantage of the opportunity to study more about the compliance area of trading-information that will propel her to a higher level in the compliance industry. With the power of Rhonda’s self-marketing skills behind her, the sky’s the limit.
Good Contacts Will Travel
Bennett Schmidt of the New York Club describes himself as “a big telephone person.” He admits to never having had trouble finding a job. Not surprisingly, Bennett is as successful at keeping himself marketable as he has been at job-hunting.
“I am fortunate to be someone who stays in touch with others,” he says. “I did a stint in corporate sales a few years back and that prompts you to keep up with clients and to build a network. Plus, I’ve never been shy. I’m a person who enjoys being ‘out there.’ I’d be lost without my Rolodex. I flip through it once a week and call people for lunch or just to stay in touch. We bounce ideas off each other, exchange tips and leads for jobs, customers and clients and catch up on each others’ work and professions.”
Bennett nurtures relationships with his college and graduate school alumni, as well as with co-workers and clients from past jobs. His positions have included Director, New Business Partnership at American Express, and Vice President & Partner for Marketing at Targeted Marketing Systems, Inc. He is currently Vice President for Marketing with Alliance National Inc., a company that owns and operates executive suites throughout the country. He responded to their ad in the Wall Street Journal and used Five O’Clock Club methods for interviewing and follow-up.
Volunteering Pays Off
Bennett may be a “phone person,” but the telephone is not Bennett’s only way of connecting. Perhaps the networking activity he found to be most professionally productive and personally satisfying was volunteering for New York Greeter.
“New York Greeter is an organization whose purpose is to promote New York City as a friendly place to visit,” Bennett explains. “Volunteers who live in the city guide out-of-towners on tours of neighborhoods in the New York City area that tourists want to learn about from the perspective of someone who lives here. I had a lot of fun volunteering as a tour guide, and was able to secure a position on the board. I met a whole hoard of people from other travel-related industries by serving on the board. In fact, through networking with them, I got a job interview with MasterCard that I would never have gotten otherwise; I met a senior person at Chase Bank through whom I opened a host of contacts both in and outside of the bank; and I landed even more job prospects and actual interviews with the likes of New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.”
Bennet insures his marketability by keeping current with other fields related to marketing and advertising, including real estate and direct marketing. And of course he stays active in associations directly related to his field: the Direct Marketing Association and the Executive Suite Association. He regularly reads Advertising Age magazine and other journals, and attends trade shows, small business expositions and industry-sponsored conferences and meetings.
One way Bennett networks is by volunteering for New York Greeter and being on the Board. He also stays active in associations, reads trade journals, and attends trade shows.
“I pick up lots of different viewpoints through these involvements,” he says. “I gain exposure, too. I recently gave a presentation at the Atlanta Executive Suite Association. This provided a whole new stream of contacts in my field who were ready and willing to exchange business cards and e-mail addresses.” Whether on the road or on the phone, Bennett continues to make contact, and to make his contacts work for him.