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25 January, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Career Transition/Outplacement, Podcast, Stories
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Dan’s Hard Work, Research and Strategy Pays Off [PODCAST]

Posted January 25th, 2017 | Author: John G. Self
listensubscribe-itunesListen to today’s podcast here, read the transcript below or subscribe and listen on iTunes.

Listen to Part 1 of Dan’s story

Listen to Part 2 of Dan’s story

You know when you lose your job there are consequences regardless of the reasons.  You either have a lot of explaining to do or you have a lot of explaining to do.

In a competitive job market, a lot of explaining is the last thing you want to have to do.  But this career upset isn’t the end of the world.

A couple of weeks ago I took you on an inside look into the trials and tribulations of an executive who got the sack  — through no fault of his on.  You see his boss, the CEO, was feeling a little pressure from his board regarding profits and the share price — they urged him to shake things up.  So the CEO  hired a new Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales.   The  job searching executive, Bob, was recommended by another CEO in the industry and Bob had, in fact,  interviewed exceptionally well.   He was, the CEO thought, the answer to his problems with the Board.

Since the board had asked— well actually they strongly suggested — that the CEO shake things up in the sales and marketing department, he followed their advice and pulled the trigger, hiring Bob. On his first day on the job, the CEO told Bob to make things happen.  Bob reassured him that he would do just that.

All would be well, the CEO thought, that is until Bob’s first target turned out to be Dan, a business development star who had consistently exceeded his targets, had steadily risen through the ranks and was promoted to a VP role and awarded a nice salary increase within the last year.

The CEO was stunned.  Dan was a rising star, he believed, but he was determined not to intervene with his new hire’s moves.

Now lets fast forward to Dan, the executive who was the first to get the sack under the CEOs little shake-up strategy. Dan was stunned, but with the help of his wife Jennifer and their lawyer, they crafted a find-a-better job strategy and Dan was off to the races.

He viewed this unfamiliar situation of being without a job as his new full-time job.   His gut told him that he should not sit back and wait.  There were a lot of executives in the market looking for work and Dan was determined that he would not be passive — waiting around for the telephone to ring, depending on LinkedIn, or posting his resume to job boards.  He did not want the distraction of contingency recruiters trying to market his services to make a quick commission.  No, Dan had a plan and he was going to carry out that strategy with the same focus and successful execution that had made him one of his former company’s sales stars.

When he we last looked in on Dan he was working in his new home office that was, in many ways, better than his former corporate digs. Great desk, a wonderful chair, a telephone system that had every feature except hot and cold running water, and a wonderful view of his tree-lined yard.  Yes, he would have to sell the house, but Dan knew in his heart of hearts, that he would end up in a better place with a nicer home for his family.  He truly believed it!

Every day, Dan focused on completing important homework assignments.   He first targeted the top-tier companies in his industry that were highly successful and which he admired.  Four of those were within his driving zone — they were close enough he could drive for meetings without having to buy an airline ticket or pay for a hotel room.  Yes, that meant long drives, but that was doable, Dan told himself.

The other 10 would require overnight travel.  So Dan adopted two strategies: one for the companies within his “expense zone” — those that he could easily reach by car and those in the “fly zone.”

Meanwhile Dan was also looking at targeted companies in allied fields, those companies that supported his industry.

Next he began to execute his strategy by calling his vendor contacts, those people he trusted and who Dan knew would help him make “warm” introductions to his targeted companies.  In almost every instance, Dan’s efforts were rewarded.  Five of the six calls he placed offered to contact their counterparts in the territories or towns where Dan’s targeted companies were based.  Several even offered some business intelligence that was not widely known regarding problems and challenges these companies were facing.

Dan was prepared for those contacts.  He had held off sending out resumes or making contact calls until he finished his outplacement counseling.  It had been an amazing experience.  Dan was so happy his lawyer had negotiated this benefit back into his severance package.

His counselor taught him about his VALUE PROPOSITION and how his understanding of his strengths would enhance his ability to more effectively communicate his value to potential clients.  This sounded so theoretical to Dan when he began, but by the time he finished Phase I of the firm’s outplacement support, he was filled with confidence and ready to take on the world.

He had his story down pat.  He discovered that Bob, his former new boss, had a reputation of promising the world and delivering something much less, hence his career churn.  He also discovered that most of his industry’s insiders knew of Bob and were not impressed. The story was that Bob kept getting jobs more because he interviewed well and less because he successfully executed on his promises.  Dan’s old division now had five FOBs working there — Friends of Bob. They had replaced Dan’s own hires.    If that was the shake up the CEO had envision, god help him, Dan thought.    All of this market intelligence gave Dan more confidence.  He was determined to use that to help himself, not for the cheap satisfaction of knowing that his former new boss made a mistake.

What Dan learned over the next couple of months of researching the market was that several of his targeted companies, those organizations he so admired, were facing their own sets of challenges and, remarkably, most of the companies needed someone with Dan’s expertise and track record.   He had been successfully doing for the last three years  what they needed done.

To find the additional contacts that had helped Dan fill in the blanks on the information provided by the vendors, he also researched industry executive profiles on LinkedIn as well as his industry’s  professional association’s web site.  The site provided the names and contact information, including email addresses, of all the key decisions who were members, which is to say the majority of the decision makers.

He did company searches by the decision makers names and then doubled  back to LinkedIn to find their profiles — and sometimes pictures.  His on-line contacts manager tool allowed him to post the photos of his contacts on their home page in his database.

Dan became increasingly excited.  This was a new type of sales research and he was encouraged by what actionable intelligence he was finding.

Before he began to take action, Dan called executives of his  initial vendor contacts of his targeted companies.  These calls were  to those individuals he had unearthed in his follow up research. After hearing Dan’s pitch, they were only too glad to help and they provided, in the least case scenario, good insight; and in the best case scenario, invaluable additional awareness.

While some of his calls were met with abrupt rejection or polite but firm refusal to discuss the targeted company, Dan would not be deterred.  Even we he was discouraged with the rejection or hostility to his approach, Dan  found a way to see the high ground and fight on.

So Dan began to try to arrange  coffees — lunches would be great, dinners outstanding, but he knew looking for a job was akin to dating.  Coffee was the best  — and safest — first date.

So Dan began to execute, to make calls and to work on scheduling meetings.  This was no walk in the park, he quickly learned.  Executive Assistants could be politely protective.  It took longer to arrange for coffees than Dan had imagined.  When he did arrange a meeting, Dan knew he had only one chance to impress.

Dan studied the research reports that he had  developed and assembled.  He had created files on each targeted company.  He learned their revenues, targeted markets and as much about their marketing strategy as possible.  And he dug deep into the background of any contact who agreed to have coffee — a coffee date.

This was hard, time consuming work.  When he complained to his outplacement counselor, she was kind but told him to quit complaining, that most of his competitors would never invest this much effort.  He was effectively differentiating himself against those competitors.

Dan’s strategy for the coffee was not to sell himself, but to carefully steer the conversation to industry challenges and, as if he were back on the lake fishing at his wife’s family cabin, reel the contact in by asking what they were experiencing.

Because Dan was not trying to slam-sell himself, he found that his corporate contacts were remarkably candid.  When an executive mentioned a challenge that was in Dan’s wheel house, he nodded knowingly and offered a tidbit of a solution in the form of as question:  Had the coffee date’s company tried this approach or considered that strategy?  Dan was determined not to come across as a salesman desperate to close a deal.  There would be emails and hand written thank you notes to reinforce Dan as a fixer who would solve their problems.  Dan knew that coffee was an introduction, not an all-out assault.  At the end of the meeting, Dan knew the ball was in his court.  He would not sit back and wait.

It was not a quick or easy process.  Dan encountered more than a few brick walls — insecure or uncertain executives who did not want to appear weak or inept by suggesting the company interview Dan.

And then Dan learned first hand what his outplacement coach had been telling him: You will get plenty of rejection but it only takes one YES to open a door.

Dan had flown into a New England community where one of his targeted companies was based.  It had been 11 months since Dan had been sacked from his former company.  Dan liked this town a lot but what he liked even more was that his contact had actually arranged for Dan to have lunch with the CEO.  Dan and his targeted contact had several telephone interactions — some Dan initiated and others that had come from his contact —  and they had exchanged numerous emails.  In each message or contact, Dan had peeled away a little more of his onion equivalent of skills sets and relevant successes.   He had been patient and tactful.

Now his coffee had turned into lunch. Dan’s corporate contact had been impressed with his demeanor and apparent strategy.  This was someone, the contact thought, who could help us.  He sounds like a real team player.   Instead of being threatened, Dan’s contact saw this as a way to enhance his own value to the company.

The lunch was a success. The CEO began talking about a possible opportunity for Dan to come in and help them solve their problems.

Six more weeks — and three more grueling interviews — passed before a deal was struck.  Dan would join the company as Executive Vice President of Business Development Strategy, reporting to the CEO and be one of four members of  the senior leadership counsel. He would have frequent board contact and, in fact, the Board chairman had called after Dan had accepted the offer.  “We are glad you are joining our family,” he had said.

Much more money, stock options, better benefits and six weeks of paid vacation.

Jennifer was ecstatic.  There had been many dark days during Dan’s search. She marveled at how he had persevered, how he had stuck with his plan — their plan — even when she was not so sure.

Next up was a house hunting trip to their new home town.  With Dan’s generous signing bonus, finding the right home would not be a problem.

As Dan and Jennifer were preparing to leave for the airport, the phone rang.  A former colleague at Dan’s old company was calling.  Bob and the CEO had been fired that morning.  The shake up had not worked.  Too many FOBs that did not produce.

Dan smiled and hung up.

That company was now Old News.

© 2017 John Gregory Self

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