"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
   — George Eliot

Tips, techniques and teachings on the job search from the facilitator of the Marketing Professionals Network.

Marketing Professionals Network

mpn Blog

You are here > About MPN > Blog

Why Building — and Maintaining — Momentum in the Job Search Is So Important.

What makes the job search process so endlessly fascinating— at least to me!— is that while everyone handles it in their very own unique way, there seems to be a pattern underlying many searches. But not all…and that’s the rub. Some people just get going, hang a resume on line, and, bang, they seem to get a job right away. Witness Amy Shanahan. Others are more methodical, take more time to touch all the bases, and learn as much as they can about all facets of the search and the marketing world, before getting a prized offer: witness Libby Dilling who just landed. Yet it seems that there is an underlying process at work and this is that they both located a strong current or undertow of attraction and willingness to move forward that resulted in a strong momentum being built up. Yes, I know, this sounds very vague and theoretical, but if you keep in mind that your job is to build your momentum, get out of the calm eddies and pools at the edge of the river, and get into the middle of things…and then to keep paddling like mad even when you have an offer almost in your reach…you’ll be in a new job before you know it!

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Cover E-mails: How to Write Them for the Best Possible Response.

Yesterday’s Boston Globe (Dec 6, 2009) features an article by Scott Kirsner, their respected technology columnist, “How to Make the Most of Your E-mail to Get Prompt Replies.” Coincidentally, we covered a similar topic at our meeting on Nov 23 when we discussed the cover e-mail. A few of the conclusions that we came to: 1) Don’t make cover e-mails too long: more like 3–5 paragraphs than a full page, and, for the most part, keep paragraphs relatively short; 2) Include as many proper nouns as you can in your e-mail, e.g., prior employers, clients, products you worked on, quantitative results, and even the location of the companies; 3) Be direct and concise, even conversational in your tone, but avoid puffery, clichés and bloviation at all costs; 4) Use bullet points or numbered items (like this) to make it easier on the reader; 5) If someone has referred you to the recipient, include their name in the subject line and in the first paragraph of the e-mail; 6) Use the pronoun “you” as much as you can and avoid too many “I’s” as you want to focus on what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in past  for yourself; and 7) Always add a “signature” to the e-mail with any relevant contact information you want them to have, especially a phone number. There’s more, as you’ll see in Kirsner’s article, but these are the kinds of issues that we all face with e-mail and the principles that a smart group of marketers can pull together in 45 minutes of animated discussion and review. If there is one conclusion I think those of us there would agree on is that we all have our own styles, and we won’t all agree on what and how someone writes such an e-mail, so relax and do the best you can! A cover e-mail is better sent now than left to languish in your Draft Folder for days on end.

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

It’s Still A Matter of Networking, Networking, Networking.

One of the major changes in MPN this fall, besides a perceptible uptick in the local hiring market, has been the introduction of Table Topics into the agenda for each Monday Meeting. Interestingly, it’s less teaching and more listening as everyone seems to have an opinion as well as some very constructive suggestions as to go about your search. The fact is there’s a lot of knowledge around that table, both in terms of all the different aspects of marketing and the job search. The hard part is getting to the table! (That’s why we’ve shortened the meetings so that they end at 5:00pm—sharp.) While new social technologies such as LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter are bringing more people together more of the time, the question remains as to how close those connections really are. Which is why an event like tonight’s Soiree is so well attended: people need and want to press the flesh and get that invaluable face time, no matter how many text messages they send and receive every day. And this is a great month to get out from behind that shimmering, flickering, glimmering blue monitor and meet some new people and reconnect with old ones. It’s a familiar refrain, I know; but when you read the following stories of how MPNers got their jobs, time and again you see that it was a matter of “Networking, networking, networking” as one recent job recipient noted in her email—and a joyous one at that. So MPN will continue  next year to host events both large and small where people can get to know one another better…and at the same time develop better and more honed job search skills so they too can celebrate their new jobs!

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Bad News, Good News for Small Businesses and Unemployed Marketers.

The bad news: smaller businesses (<500 employees), which account for about two thirds of all new hires including marketing professionals, are currently laying off people at rates higher than the big companies. In addition, their plans for expansion are at lows not seen since the 1974 recession.

As an article in Knowledge@Wharton recently put it, “The job-creation engine known as small business has been slammed, not only because of falling demand but also because the normal flow of financing has slowed to a trickle. Last month, a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that expansion plans for small enterprises were at a 35-year low. That’s no surprise, given that their usual sources of borrowing — banks, government-secured financing, venture capitalists and credit cards — are far more limited than a couple of years ago.” However, the article then went on to say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that is a program proposed by the administration that would increase the amount of credit extended to small businesses through community banks and the Small Business Administration.

So what, you say? Well, if small businesses are the prime source of new jobs, then these changes are coming none too soon. Especially as many mid-level marketers ought to be considering a smaller business culture, where their solid experience will be valued and their unwillingness to put in 90 hr. weeks will be forgiven. (Where it was merely seen as a weakness to be exploited in the eyes of corporate-ladder climbers.)

Also, it’s important to recognize the difficulty the times present the job seeker. When you find yourself getting down on yourself, doubting your abilities, wondering about whether you still have your fastball, remember: “It’s the economy, stupid!” The national news remains pretty bleak out there – the media will be trumpeting a 10% unemployment rate in the near future in all likelihood. But take heart: like the Queen Mary, our economy is slowly, ever so maddeningly slowly, making a turn. And your turn is sure to come.

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Why A Lateral Move Now May Be Best for You in the Long Run

I happened to read the Corner Office section of The New York Times Sunday paper (Oct. 18, 2009) this morning. It was about Carol Bartz, the current CEO of Yahoo. She grew up poor on a farm in Wisconsin; her mother died when she was 8; her grandmother raised her; and she worked in sales at DEC, where she faced down some very upfront anti-feminism. But what was most interesting about the piece was what she said about careers. Her best advice was as follows:

“You need to build your career not as a ladder, but as a pyramid. You need to have a base of experience because it’s a much more stable structure. And so that involves taking lateral moves. And it involves getting out of your comfort zone.”

I’d never heard this before. It struck me immediately as excellent advice. It also provides a very good reason for those who are looking at jobs that they might be “over qualified” for. In other words, you can tell potential employers that you wish to broaden your experience at this point, and refer to her quotation. In addition, she said something that echoed what an MPNer said at a meeting a month ago. He said that when hiring, once the candidate’s competence was established, he looked for two things: 1) intelligence, and 2) whether he wanted to spend the next two years hanging out with this person. When asked how she hired, Carol put it in a slightly more C-suite way:

“I’m assuming that the people that get to me know their business. But what kind of person are you? Can I stand to have dinner with you? How did you tackle your problems? How does the person think? How do they act? Will they take a little humor? I’m looking for a personality fit. I use humor in my management. I can’t take a person who gets offended by every little thing I say. I always have dinner with them because I want to find out if I’m thinking, after that first glass of wine, how can I get out of here? I have to be able to make it through a dinner.”

You may not get asked out to dinner, but remember, as hard as it is to find an opening, as hard as it to get through all the interviews along the way, a little humor and a lot of attention to the personality fit will go a long way. Then again, you might want to get in the habit of having a glass or two of red wine at dinner!

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

There’s been a lot of activity already this fall—may it continue!

Hopefully, it will only continue to pick up. While we have three job announcements to list this issue, there are a couple of others that the Admin Guy is awaiting input on before printing up the particulars. In one case, the individual had done a national search that stretched out in terms of time, but in the end it was worth it because he found what looks to be like a very good match. In the meantime, other MPNers who were working have been able to move on to new positions or new companies. And job leads have increased noticeably.

In short, there seems to be a real pickup in the job market. Which in turn is encouraging job seekers to come out and be more proactive in their searches. No question it was a long summer and only the most ardent and persevering went through the whole season without a break. Then again, I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that recommends that one cut back on how long you work (and I would include job search work in that category) in order to be more productive. At the same time, when things perk up, it’s a good time to pick up your search as well.

As for how long a search should take…there is no real formula. The old formula of a month/$10k of salary is no longer really relevant, especially to this economy. The real key is how quickly a candidate can learn the ins and outs of job searching; how soon they move away from their computer screens and out of the house to meet new people and explore new avenues of work. This is no time to be timid and house-bound; better to go to one of those endlessly dull networking meetings (like MPN – not!) than read another online job description and send your carefully crafted reply to the black hole of resumes. Still, you’ve got to take the steps you feel necessary for you; but sooner or later, you’ll get out and about. And the sooner the better!

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Just what is happening with this crazy, mishugas, of an economy anyways?

When I came into work this morning at my usual early hour, I stopped to talk with two young women dressed for the office but tossing around some boxes in a mini-warehouse in the back of our building. They said they were packing to move out. Ahh, another company downsizing thinks I. But no, they work for St. Jude’s Research and are expanding and need more space. I don’t know if they have any jobs available, but they did say they were doing well. Which is not as unusual as one might think as there seem to be pockets in this economy that are doing well…and people who are finding jobs. Yes, it takes longer: look at Kelly M. It was a five-month campaign, but she’s now raring to go: witness Aline K. who is fast back at work. I know of a couple of other MPNers who are on the verge of being hired as well. From what I’ve heard from recruiters around the city they are finding the same kind of activity, busy in spots, quiet in others, but in general there’s been an uptick. MPNers themselves have noted that there seems to be more activity out there. And why shouldn’t there be? The Fed is printing money and buying clunkers — an idea that the Germans first used, more for environmental reasons than pump priming I believe—and spending on infrastructure so there should be more economic activity. How can you be sure that things are really turning the corner…beyond the musings of some misguided blogger? Or anecdotal evidence which is microeconomics at its finest? Here’s a tip. Go to the Labor Department’s site for the Bureau of Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ces/home.htm#news ) and look up the latest report on the Current Employment Situation. You’ll find buried in the statistics an entry for Temporary Employment. It just so happens that a recent research report by the American Staffing Association (ASA) in conjunction with its corporate partner, Inavero Institute for Service Research, has confirmed the old wisdom that, like a robin is a sign of spring, an increase in Temporary Employment is a coincident indicator of a recovery. Then again, you can do what Caroline R. is doing and not put your eggs in any one applecart, as it were!, and take multiple smaller jobs in the interim. Which in fact is what I am finding a number of MPNers doing: a contract job here, a temp to perm opportunity there, a consulting agreement over there, a partnership or boutique consultancy up there…and pretty soon you have a patchwork vision of the local marketing job market. At least until the BLS tells us differently, it’s all we’ve got…and some of it is pretty colorful, too! Let’s just hope the upswing keeps on going up.

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Making the most of the summer season.

Every summer I hear people say that since companies don’t tend to hire in the summer they might as well go off to the beach themselves. Or, maybe they’re a little more savvy, and ask how busy it is at MPN and what should they be doing? Fact is, as a recent article that MPNer Stacie M. gave me (from CEO Update) made clear, summer is actually a very good time to be out looking for a job. For one, some companies like to do their interviewing in July and August so that the candidates can on board right after Labor Day, which arguably is a much the beginning of a new year as January 1st. Furthermore, people are more social in the summer (and not hidden in their caves riding out the cold, dark days of winter) so they will be apt to take the time to see you. Finally, even those who are working are not immune to the news from the unemployment offices, so they are now more than ever aware of the importance of networking. Who knows when they’ll need a favor returned? At the same time, there’s nothing like a healthy tan to project a picture of vitality and “can-do-it-ive-ness” (a technical human resource term!) to help you secure that next job. So, by all means, be sure to take some vacation time and spend time outdoors. A 60-hour a week job search in July is probably counterproductive, but a month hanging out on the islands, sending off the odd resume and making the occasional networking phone call, probably won’t get you very far…well, not beyond the local lobster and margarita shack! Then again, you never know whom you will meet down at the Cape. Stacie M, who just happens to be enjoying the easy life this week at the Cape as this is written, ran into an old friend a couple of years ago who helped her network into her last job. So if you do go to the beach, don’t forget to make nice with your fellow vacationers!

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

If a company has a layoff, should you cross it off your prospect list? No way!

It’s almost a daily event these days: a company announces a round of layoffs. The first, the second…the ninth? Who knows? As a job seeker you immediately scratch them off your target list figuring that if they are laying people off, they won’t need the likes of you. But not so fast, Buckwheat…! It turns out that companies frequently don’t take into consideration the effects of their layoffs and end up letting too many people go. For instance, after a layoff, as a recent CareerBuilder survey found, over a third of the employees left behind were spending more time at the office and, in some cases, taking on the work of two people. Not surprisingly, 34% of respondents said they were burned out. And when that happens people start looking elsewhere. As a result, there are numerous voluntary resignations, many more than the geniuses in the C-suites planned for. Two University of Wisconsin-Madison professors, Charlie Trevor and Anthony Nyberg, wrote a seminal paper on the subject not long ago entitled, “Keeping Your Headcount When All About You Are Losing Theirs: Downsizing, Voluntary Turnover Rates, and the Moderating Role of HR Practices”. Their findings confirmed the CareerBuilder survey; in fact, they were able to quantify the phenomenon:

“Perhaps the most striking finding in this study of quitting rates in some 200 companies was the considerable exodus that even a small downsizing could set off. For example, companies that laid off a mere 0.5% of their workforce sustained, on average, a turnover rate of 13%, a rate that was 2.6 percentage points higher than the average turnover rate of non-downsizing firms. In other words, an extra 2.6% of the workforce left of their own accord, more than five times more workers than were laid off.”

One of the mitigating factors in the increase in the numbers of workers leaving, they found, was the presence of an HR department that promoted fairness in the treatment of employees. When there was trust, there would be loyalty. When not, there would be a stampede out the door. Conclusions: 1) Just because a company you’re interested in has a layoff doesn’t mean there won’t be openings in the future, and maybe sooner than you think; and 2) you might include HR in your list of questions as to how a company is run. The existence of an ombudsman, for example, or other built-in processes to handle employee grievances would suggest that it would be a good—and fair— company to work for. Either way, be careful not to take things at face value these days.

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment

Is It Time for Plan B?

The Sunday New York Times recently featured an article entitled, “What’s Your Backup Plan?” The article looked at three potential backup plans: chocolatier, organic farmer, and dog massage therapist. As the author, Alex Williams noted, “Plan B typically offers less money and prestige than Plan A, but promises a more hands-on, stress-free and fulfilling existence. That’s the fantasy anyway. After a few days spent test-driving a few new careers, however, I started to suspect that Plan B should really be called Plan G. For grind.” Obviously, that lead and ensuing story makes for an entertaining one—especially for the well-heeled of Fifth Avenue—but for the rest of us, it’s serious business. If the downturn continues, do you have a Plan B? A way to bring home some money, do something that appeals to you, and isn’t such a grind that you can’t keep looking for something in your regular line of work? Sometimes these Plan B’s can turn into a full-time job…and a new life. Witness one MPNer who in the last recession took her interest in animals and started a pet products distribution company. Did it make her rich as Croesus? No. But last I heard she was living upcountry and happily serving the pets of New England. Or the MPNer who just didn’t seem to gain any traction in the large corporate database marketing firms. He finally bit the bullet and took the exams and became a middle school science teacher. And we know another MPNer who is currently spearheading the effort to market a new line of organic teas. And having some fun doing it, too, by all reports. So what’s your Plan B? Might be worth some thought now.

Posted in mpnThoughts | Leave a comment