By: David Madison, PhD, Guild Director
Keeping the Big Picture in Mind: Aiming for 200 Positions
Matthew’s hard work at the Five O’Clock Club resulted in his landing a CFO position at a private investment company. He was able to report his success during his 15th session with his teleconference small group, one reserved for executives earning over $200K. Matthew credits the weekly sessions with keeping his search grounded in reality: “Hearing the issues people are dealing with and how they’re structuring and pursuing their searches completely informs your own search. What are the other people doing well? What are they not doing so well? You have something against which to measure how you’re doing.”
The Seven Stories Exercise tells in your own words what you have loved to do.
As is the case with all people who join the Five O’Clock Club, Matthew was expected to do his Seven Stories and Forty-Year Vision. He had been through career coaching before, so knew the importance of assessment, but found his Seven Stories a revelation: “There are lots of assessment tools that tell you what you’re good at and what you like, but the Seven Stories Exercise tells you in your own words what you have loved to do over and over again. It’s incredibly insightful. The Forty-Year Vision helps pull out your core values and what you hope to have in your life.”
Being well connected in his community in the Mid-West, Matthew was ready to launch an intensive networking campaign. “I surely knew enough people to get a good job-search off the ground.” But his coach wanted a campaign based on more than a strong rolodex, so recommended that he take time to make his map of 200 positions that he was going for—since he was aiming for CFO, this actually meant coming up with 200 companies. “I was convinced that there were not 200 positions in my geographic area—I just wanted to start networking. But my coach said, ‘No, construct your list of 200 companies first.’ It took me a month to do it, and required a lot of spadework. I went to the websites of emerging companies, private investment companies, early stage companies and local venture firms.”
Constructing this list proved to be the key for Matthew’s successful search, and he sums up its value in four categories:
· “It actually gets you excited about your search because you see all sorts of possibilities.”
· “It increases your confidence that if something doesn’t work out with one group of companies, you have lots of other options.”
· “It reduces your attachment to any one situation.”
· “It becomes an incredibly wonderful tool for networking meetings.”
In fact, Matthew brought his networking meetings to the level of sophistication that the Five O’Clock Club has always recommended: “I sat down with people with my map of 200 and said, ‘Let me tell you what I’m trying to do. I want you to tell me which of these companies you like, which ones you don’t like and I shouldn’t waste my time on, and which ones you might be able to refer me in to.’ It was very effective. You’re giving people a very tangible problem to help you with—as opposed to a general, ‘This is what I’m trying to do, who do you know?’”
Matthew’s map of 200 was also instrumental in keeping 6 to 10 things in the works, which he recommends emphatically. “I met with two companies over and over for three months. The natural tendency is to assume, ‘One of these is going to work out, so I’ll just focus on these things.’ But in one case they decided not to hire anyone after all, and in the other case, they weren’t able to create the position they’d hoped to. So find more things even if you’re sure that something is going to come out right.”
Matthew welcomed consulting assignments as part of his strategy. “If you’re consulting while you’re job hunting it helps to keep your confidence up and gives you something to talk about during interviews.” Above all, however, he recommends using your map of 200 positions/companies during networking, and push to get 6 to 10 things in the works—and keep working all elements of Five O’Clock Club methodology. “The audiotapes are not only informative, they’re inspiring. The books and audiotapes are fabulous. Anything you’d ever want to know about job-search you can find in either or both.”
Constructing a list of 200 potential positions gets you excited about your search because you see all sorts of possibilities.
Consulting as a Technique for Career Change
“I started the job search on my own,” Harriet admits, “which was a big mistake. I hadn’t had to look for a job in more than 16 years.” After 15 years at a major sports and entertainment marketing company, she had taken a year off to work on an executive MBA abroad. Ordinarily she would have been welcomed back by her employer, but the country was reeling from 9/11, a recession was in full swing, and a hiring freeze was in place at her former company—many of her colleagues had been laid off.
Harriet spotted the listing for the Five O’Clock Club in Crain’s, and decided to get help. Her group coach immediately recognized that she needed a crash course in networking, one of the primary ways for generating leads and meetings. “At my first session she forced me to go to an executive networking meeting. She told me that I had to network with at least five people or she wouldn’t give me her free pass!” But of course, the coach and the group put Harriet through the Club tutorial on how to network the right way. “I learned what it means to network properly. It’s not the old-fashioned backslapping and hurried business card exchange. It has to be genuine. You have to listen, you have to figure out what your needs are, what the other person’s needs are, and try to make connections. And always, always, follow up.”
Harriet has followed the strategy that was useful to Matthew: using consulting assignments to enhance the résumé and generate cash flow. She spotted a newspaper notice for a project manager at a major library, which was looking for someone to coordinate a photo essay competition and exhibition for four months. As is common with short assignments, the hiring process was over in just a few days. “Part of the reason in this case was that my references were very current,” Harriet points out. “The library was able to reach them immediately. As the Club recommends, always keep your references up to date on what you’re doing. Send them cards, take them out for coffee.”
Harriet gives credit to her small group for pushing her to do the right things. She showed the group a brochure for an association conference, but had excuses for not going. (“I’m not an insider.” “It’s too expensive.”) But under the group’s urging she went—and by the time the conference was over, she felt like an insider, had built her network further, and had more confidence that she was headed in the right direction. “I heard everyone at the conference talking about how much they love their work. That’s really rewarding.” Which also reminded her of one of the quotes included in Target the Job You Want: “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” (Confucius)
I learned what it means to network properly. It’s not the old-fashioned
backslapping and hurried business-card exchange.
Remaining His Own Boss
Originally Dennis got a boost from the Five O’Clock Club during the dot.com boom a few years back. At that time, after attending his weekly group for a dozen sessions he landed in a fairly intense dot.com environment. “It lasted about 18 months. It was fun and it was interesting, but the workload was too much. I got laid off along with about 40 percent of the staff. Actually that was fine by me—I wasn’t all that happy.”
The post 9/11 environment wasn’t conducive to finding on-payroll jobs, so Dennis welcomed consulting work—especially a role that allowed him to exploit his prior shopping experience. Not shopping as most of us think of it, nor even as the typical corporate buyer might have in mind. “You’ve all seen my work,” Dennis told the Five O’Clock Club meeting in New York. “I worked for the Transit Authority. I bought railway cars, the new technology trains. I also bought the telephone and radio equipment for the system.” Based on this experience Dennis was hired by a firm as a consultant—a Strategic Sourcing Consultant.
And he remembered his Five O’Clock Club training. He went back to our book, Interviewing and Salary Negotiation, and followed all of the suggestions for launching and pricing a consulting business. After more than a year on his own—turning down payroll jobs to remain his own boss—Dennis has generated cash flow at about $150,000. “I’m having fun, it’s my company. I’m doing things that are in the book. I’m out there promoting, I’m interviewing while I’m working on my current four or five contracts, looking for the next assignments.” Going by the book means connecting with industry associations, and for Dennis that means attending meetings of the National Association Purchasing Managers. “I got to know the president and I’m writing an article with him.”
I’m interviewing while I’m working on my current four or five contracts,
looking for the next assignments.
Dennis had originally reported at the Club when he landed the dot.com job in what now seems another era, but he asked to come back to report on his successful consulting practice, to give encouragement to others. This is not surprising, according to his coach, who recalled that Dennis “really followed the methodology and he was very helpful in the group.”
A Career Shift—Based on 20 Years of Experience
“Don’t go at it half-heartedly,” Jason advises, admitting that he was depressed when he first arrived at the Five O’Clock Club. “I had been a copywriter in advertising for twenty years when I lost my job, and I plummeted. I didn’t want to do anything.” Given this frame of mind he didn’t even do his Seven Stories well. “I didn’t take the Seven Stories seriously, and had to rewrite the exercise several months later—then it helped guide my search.”
Jason’s extensive network is now in place and he maintains his memberships in associations—positioning him well for another job hunt when the time comes.
Jason was actually embarking on a career change—or at least a career shift. After so many years in consumer advertising, he didn’t relish remaining in an environment with such punishing hours. “I wanted a job again, of course, but I really didn’t want to get a job that would keep me at the office til midnight.” Jason had worked in public relations once upon a time, but didn’t find doors opening in that direction. “I got some meetings, but no one wanted to hire me because salaries were so low and people were afraid I would bolt as soon as good copywriting jobs came along.”
In developing his targets, Jason had included medical advertising as a possibility, but encountered resistance because he had done mostly consumer copywriting—even a medical portfolio developed on a freelancing assignment didn’t carry enough weight. “I kept hearing, ‘You’re a consumer writer trying to write medical.’” But he decided to try another approach to gain entry into this field, inspired by a pep talk by one of the Five O’Clock Club coaches about the importance of joining associations. “I went to a lot of association meetings to hear presentations. During one I asked the speaker a lot of questions, and afterwards went up to speak with her. She was the creative director at a medical advertising agency.” Jason had found a sympathetic ear—and someone who was willing to help. “She didn’t have a job for me, but she became a mentor. She fed me a lot of names—she became a major resource.” Jason also joined a professional association made up mainly of ad agency executives who participated in a networking database, which brought him into contact with a lot of people.
Jason finally landed an interview that proved to be his entrée into medical copywriting. He honed his pitch on why he would be a good hire, and he finessed the money issue. “I had to do a lot of tap-dancing. Salary was secondary and I told them so. I wanted to get into this new field, so I never mentioned a figure. I let them give me a range—and they brought me in at the top of the range because of my experience. I said, ‘I haven’t been on staff at a medical ad agency, so I would consider myself a junior, but look at what you’re getting creatively’—and they agreed.”
Several weeks settled into his new job, Jason was gratified that he had pushed hard to get 6 to 10 things in the works: he got calls to come in for interviews, the payoff for contacting many PR people. “But I like my new job a lot, and it positions me well for my new career.” His extensive network is now in place and he maintains his memberships in associations—positioning him well for another job hunt when the time comes.
Didn’t Get Fired After All, But Moved on Anyway
When rumors are flying about layoffs, many people prefer denial: “It won’t be me.” Gwynne assumed, however, that it would be her. After working for a large corporation for more than a decade, she assumed that her role in the corporate philanthropy department was anything but secure. “After all, we’re not exactly a profit center.” Although Gwynne liked what she did, she was unsure that she really was being true to herself in terms of being on the best career path. She asked a headhunter for suggestions about a career coach and was referred to the Five O’Clock Club. “The Club matched me with a coach who specializes in helping women with career change.”
“I read the books and found the Seven Stories Exercise especially helpful. I had been in the same job with the same company for twelve years, yet a lot of the things I’d loved doing had come earlier in my life, such as leading projects and working with young people in the arts. Looking at these accomplishments gave me a whole different sense of direction and a different sense of self-confidence. I got informational and networking interviews that wouldn’t have happened if I’d not done the Seven Stories.”
As is often the case when a person networks intensively and generates informational interview, Gwynne didn’t find a job that existed, but stirred enough interest that a job was created for her—based on her experience and enthusiasm. She had targeted properly and positioned herself well and secured a management position at a large community music school. “This is exactly what I wanted to do—creative work with young people.”
Gwynne counsels patience and persistence for anyone working at a career change, especially if it means the creation of a new position. “It turned out to be an amazing process for me. It’s important to talk with people broadly and go with their time frame instead of yours—it takes a while to create jobs that don’t exist. Just remember that delay doesn’t mean lack of interest.” And Gwynne’s approach from now on will remain anchored in the Seven Stories. “You have to follow your gut in choosing a job. Even if you take something now that’s not the ideal job, just remember that you have to keep on the right path as much as possible.”
Looking at these accomplishments gave me a new sense of direction and self-confidence. I got interviews that wouldn’t have happened if I’d not done the Seven Stories. As it turned out, Gwynne’s job in corporate philanthropy wasn’t eliminated, but she’s pleased that the prospect of unemployment prompted her to be proactive in managing her career. She encourages others to search for the best possible fit: “It’s important to know you’re in a place where you can thrive, contribute and grow.”
A Career Change After Working 18 Years
Five years ago Judy Hoffman of San Diego was looking for a way to earn a living and stay at home with her baby. She and her husband decided to launch a house-cleaning business; they incorporated, with Judy as president and manager. At one point they had a staff of six employees. “But the business climate isn’t very favorable in California for enterprises as small as ours,” Judy pointed out. “And when you’re self-employed, everyone else gets paid first—you get what’s left over.” Late in 2002 Judy began thinking about going back to work as a salaried employee with full benefits. Prior to being a business owner, she had worked for 13 years at a local publishing company, departing there as a printing manager.
Even if you take something that’s not the ideal job, keep on the right path as much as possible.
Judy had been following the Kate and Dale column in her local Sunday paper for a long time. “Even though it’s an advice column for job-hunters, I liked to read it from the business-owner perspective.” The Kate in this case, of course, is the founder of the Five O’Clock Club, and Judy visited the Club website. She discovered that we offer small group strategy sessions by teleconference and signed up for twenty.
She began listening to the taped lectures as assigned for the week, and reading Targeting the Job You Want. “I was really flopping around,” Judy says—perhaps a little too hard on herself for someone who had stayed with one company for 13 years and then run a successful business for 5. But consistency in her case, she admits, didn’t amount to having a direction. “I’d pretty much lived my life going with what came up and not developing a plan. The assessment forced me to think about what I really wanted to do.”
The Seven Stories pointed Judy in the direction of a paralegal career, and she began networking with that in mind—and armed with Five O’Clock Club advice about approaching interviews as a consultant. “That was one of the most helpful things I learned—thinking of yourself as a consultant. It was very different from any other job-hunting advice I’d come across. It made a lot of sense to me.”
A friend introduced Judy to a Federal judge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who was looking for a personal assistant, and Judy was hired. No legal background was required, and her new role positions her perfectly for the future. The judge will be training her and she will be able to complete her associate’s degree—a requirement for becoming a paralegal. If Judy had any doubt about making such a dramatic career change at age 42, the judge herself is already her role model: she got her JD at age 42.
In reviewing her successful transition, Judy credits that crucial often-neglected first step, assessment, and making use of the group. “It’s easier, of course, not to do the Seven Stories and the Forty-Year Vision. It’s hard to really think about what you want to do and set goals. And the weekly group meetings were especially helpful. They kept me accountable. I wanted to have something to report about at the next session!”
I pretty much lived my life going with what came up and not developing a plan. The assessment forced me to think about what I
really wanted to do.
A Move from Publishing to Academia
“I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that my company had arranged for Five O’Clock Club outplacement,” Kevin says. He was one of about 300 employees let go by a publishing giant in the summer of 2003. A graduate of New York University’s Stern School of Business, he had heard Kate Wendleton speak a couple of years previously at an alumni event, and he had once spent an afternoon at Barnes & Noble devouring one of the Five O’Clock Club books. “I was looking at Getting Interviews and ended up reading almost the whole thing in a couple of hours. It made so much sense I ended up buying it a couple of days later.”
When Kevin’s two-year job at the publisher came to an end and he was assigned to work with a Five O’Clock Club coach and small group, he intensified a self-examine process that was already under way. “I did the Seven Stories, which confirmed what I had already suspected. That is, the track I had been on was surely not in line with my likes and talents. I had been in the private sector, in business and marketing, for over ten years. I had been asking myself if this was something I wanted to do long term. I didn’t want to look back and claim to have generated tons of revenue and sold lots of products. I know I like kids and I like sports. I realized that I really wanted to have an impact on young people.”
I always customized the résumé, often changing only a word or two.
I got in to see almost all the people I wrote to.
With this kind of career change in mind, Kevin realized that he needed to do extensive research on the not-for-profit world. “I was able to get a lot of meetings, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without applying the Five O’Clock Club concepts. I used all four ways to generate interviews, and I did the follow-up required. I am not an out-going person—not the kind who loves making phone calls. It was difficult, but I learned how to do it effectively.”
He also learned what many job hunters discover when they explore a
tentative target: it’s probably not a good idea after all. “I learned a lot about the not-for-profit world, and I realized that I wasn’t cut out for working at a children’s not-for-profit in general. But I did narrow it down, and decided that a school was a place where I could be very happy.”
Kevin happened upon the right contact while taking a class, where he met a school administrator. He was called in for interviews at a New York City independent school and was hired as an admissions officer.
Kevin feels that he is in full possession of career management techniques that will last a lifetime: “The Five O’Clock Club principles have become so engrained—they feel second nature to me now.”
The weekly group meetings kept me accountable.
I wanted to have
something to report about at the next session!
Turning Down Jobs to Stay on Course
With 15 years of corporate marketing behind her—10 in financial services and 5 in publishing and media, Roberta had all the right instincts for marketing herself. But she confesses that application of Five O’Clock Club methodology was the key to marketing herself successfully in a tough market, and coming up with a job she didn’t have to settle for. “It actually took me about a month to find a job, but 18 months to take one! I had a lot of job offers, but would have been unhappy if I’d taken them.”
Roberta endorses without reservation the Club advice to target 200 positions, in order to get ‘6 to 10 things in the works’ and have choices. To achieve the 200 she networked relentlessly and used targeted mailings. “Call everyone you know, come up with your pitch, re-engage people you haven’t talked with in a long time—it will pay off. Even if you haven’t been in touch with someone for 6 months or a year, send an article to that person if you think it would be of interest. True networking is ‘adding value’ to relationships, which should be long-term. Don’t be afraid to make that phone call.” She estimates that she sent out almost 200 targeted mailings alone. “I always customized the résumé, by the way, even if it was a matter of changing only a word or two here and there. And in the cover letter I customized the bullets. I got in to see almost all the people I wrote to.”
One of Roberta’s favorite techniques, as Five O’Clock Club suggests, is to court the gatekeepers. “I really relied on the secretaries. You know it can take up to eight attempts to reach the people you’ve written to—which is painful. The secret is using the gatekeepers. I wrote thank-you notes to secretaries, which I’ve never heard of anyone else doing. Even if you don’t ever get through, you will get information.”
Roberta usually got rave reviews from interviewers about her knowledge of the companies and the industries. “People said to me, ‘You’re so prepared’ —but I cannot imagine not being prepared! If nothing else, go to the company website, find out three things that they really care about and one good buzz-phrase. Just 15 minutes of this kind of research can make all the difference.”
Roberta also believes in careful interview follow-up, as the Club recommends—but applied our advice in her own way. “I always sent my letters after the interview by email. Everyone sends letters, and interviewers expect them. But don’t necessarily rush to write the thank-you note. Unless you know a decision is about to be made, wait a few days and write something really thoughtful. That’s how to be sure your letter will be read. People read what’s thoughtful.”
The Five O’Clock Club principles have become so engrained—they feel
second-nature to me now.
Roberta began attending a Five O’Clock Club branch in Manhattan, then switched to one of the telephone groups. Her intensive efforts—and refusal to accept offers that would take her off strategy—paid off. In the home stretch she received three offers and landed a position as SVP Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for a major consumer survey service.
I wrote thank-you notes
to secretaries, which
I’ve never heard of
anyone else doing.