EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Developing a thick skin

From our daily member newsletter on November 1, 2017

It has often been said that I am a sensitive guy. I don’t think anyone who does what I do as a volunteer could be characterized as anything different. Still, when it comes to job search, being sensitive probably isn’t a good thing. You know the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” When I was looking for work during 1991-1992 (yes, two long years), it seemed as if not many folks in the world were aware of this idea. After many successful years in business always returning the phone calls of others, I found mine going unanswered. And, the same thing was true about responses to my many letters. Primarily silence on both [ Read more… ]

Starting over is never easy

From our daily member newsletter on October 25, 2017

Although I constantly repeat our two mantras that all jobs are temporary and that one is never actually employed, only between searches, when this truth rears its ugly head I don’t know if anyone is really prepared. As the clock winds itself down on a current assignment, it is usually a stressful period of time prior to the actual event of your being given the bad news. This is hardly a time when you will be thinking clearly and focused on your goal of finding that next great “work opportunity.” The FENG is now so old that many of our members have been with us long enough to have gotten 2 or 3 searches under their belts. I would hope [ Read more… ]

Two anchors or one?

From our daily member newsletter on October 24, 2017

A long time ago I got into a discussion with another captain about the wisdom of setting two anchors. It may sound silly, since I am known on board my sailboat as Captain Safety, but I have never set two anchors. And, even though I have read a lot about it over the years, in most cases I don’t think it is smart to do. There are conditions when it is appropriate, but I try to be tied to a dock or safely at home during those times or I avoid anchoring in the kinds of places where it might be necessary. Anyway, it got me to thinking about a speech a cousin of mine gave at a family gathering [ Read more… ]

Accepting help

From our daily member newsletter on October 22, 2017

One of the less well recognized phobias in this world is the fear of accepting help from others. Perhaps it is primarily a guy thing and it explains why we never used to ask for directions at the gas station, but when it comes to job search it is another one of the many things that “get in the way” of very capable individuals finding work opportunities. (I don’t know if anything lasts long enough these days that we can dignify them with the word jobs.) With the new reality in the world we need to be more and more attuned to our own personal information networks for opportunities that fit our background, and that means reaching out to others [ Read more… ]

Buddy up

From our daily member newsletter on October 19, 2017

If there is one enduring truth about The FENG it is that we are a circle of friends. It started with the individual who sponsored you, and ends with … well, it doesn’t end. Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, friends also shouldn’t let friends feel alone during their job search. I called one of our members recently to follow up on an old piece of correspondence and was greeted by a drone. Hey, I’m feeling a little down today. (Really? Who knew?) I recognize that the job market isn’t what it used to be when we were in our youth, but then, what is? The important thing is that right now, each and every day, you have [ Read more… ]

No steps forward, two steps back

From our daily member newsletter on October 16, 2017

One of the most difficult challenges in a career is being faced with taking a step or two back. Because we tend to stay with companies longer than most senior managers, the gains we make in our career in terms of compensation and responsibilities are hard won and painstaking achieved. So, when a time comes in our careers that we have to choose whether to accept a title and real responsibilities that are significantly less than our last job, it can be a difficult thing. Even after we come to the decision that it is the best thing to do financially, it can be a bothersome and esteem affecting experience. I know because it happened to me. The truth is [ Read more… ]

A lifeboat mentality

From our daily member newsletter on October 11, 2017

Unfortunately for all of you, my wife bought me a book once when we were on vacation about the whale ship Essex. No need to go into all the details here, but the short story is that the ship was rammed by a whale and began to sink. Being a devoted sailor, I have certainly read other novels about what happens when the ship goes down. These tales of survival tend to be real page turners for me. (Perhaps in my last life I was a sailor on a square rigged ship.) Anyway, the mentality of someone about to abandon ship and how they feel afterwards as they attempt to survive has parallels with the process we all go through [ Read more… ]

Keeping your chin up

From our daily member newsletter on September 28, 2017

There are lots of good reasons to keep you chin up. Of course, the most important reason is that it is easier to hit! Okay, I am just kidding with you. But seriously, some members have been active in their search for so long, that I fear many of them are beginning to believe things that have been told to them like: If only you had a CPA. If only you hadn’t been with one company for so long. If only you hadn’t done so much job-hopping. If only you weren’t so over qualified. (We rarely hear that we are UNDER qualified.) The “if only” list is too long to publish. (If only it were shorter.) The fear I have [ Read more… ]

The sounds of silence

From our daily member newsletter on September 18, 2017

If losing your job wasn’t bad enough, the reluctance of business associates at your former company, as well as those who serviced your company as attorneys, accountants or recruiters to return your phone calls can be particularly disheartening. Actually, if you gave it some thought, you wouldn’t be all that shocked or surprised that they don’t. Let’s understand that in most cases when you leave a company everyone involved is typically sworn to secrecy. The “story” as to why you have left may even have been agreed to in writing, the violation of which could very well be cause for legal action by you. Since secrecy is normally the case, is it any wonder that no one at the firm [ Read more… ]

The small town syndrome

From our daily member newsletter on September 17, 2017

I am always chatting with potential sponsors for The FENG and from time to time the character of each of our chapters comes up. They are, of course, all different. Here in the Northeast I suppose there almost aren’t any boundaries. We get visitors to our chapter meeting from pretty far away and I know from talking to members attending our meeting in Westport that they often attend meetings in Westchester and New York City. Around here, the whole world is open to you from a job perspective as well. There are simply lots of possibilities if you are willing to commute by train or drive. Not so in other parts of the country. Many of our local chapters, while [ Read more… ]

Docking your boat

From our daily member newsletter on September 12, 2017

Let’s start with the fact that she weighs about 22,000+ lbs., and instead of being on dry land with wheels in firm contact with asphalt, it is more like driving a car on glare ice, only harder. I have been heard to say that there are only two difficult times when you are sailing – leaving the dock and returning to the dock, with returning to the dock being the harder of the two. When you are out in the middle of Long Island Sound there are certainly times when the boat is hard to handle. Still, the prospect of “crunching a little fiberglass” – yours or someone else’s – like hanging in the morning, tends to focus the mind. [ Read more… ]

Giving and taking advice

From our daily member newsletter on September 11, 2017

It is well understood that men don’t like unsolicited advice. It is for this reason we tend not to ask for directions at the gas station. It is a macho thing driving around for hours, lost beyond hope, and yet not stopping for help. (Thank goodness for GPS!) One of our many fine traditions at the Westport Chapter is a little coaching on 90-second announcements and resumes that we do as we go around the table. Our goal is not to put anyone down, but rather to search for ways to improve the message being delivered. Having regularly attended our meeting in Westport every month since 1996, I have heard more than my fair share of these pitches. Perhaps my [ Read more… ]

The proper placement of obstacles

From our daily member newsletter on September 7, 2017

As we go around the table at our meeting here in Connecticut, I am always surprised by the time devoted in 90 second announcements to where folks won’t move and what kinds of jobs they won’t take. I have always been of the philosophy that I will go anywhere to talk to anyone about anything. Okay, fine, there are limits, but I try not to set them before hand and create reasons why others shouldn’t talk to me. By keeping an open mind as to what the “correct answer” might be I hope that I receive more information than I might otherwise. Changing jobs can be a traumatic time. (Actually any change can be traumatic.) Because of the stress involved [ Read more… ]

The truth (as retold)

From our daily member newsletter on August 30, 2017

I know that many of our members are faced with the unpleasant truth that they have been out of work for a significant period of time. Having been out of work myself for almost two years, I know that this unpleasant question of “Why have you been out so long?” gets asked. Like anything else in life, if you don’t prepare a “proper” answer, you will begin to stammer. (Or, sweat!) The natural tendency of financial folks that you need to avoid is the very detailed answer. The good old “primarily due to, partially offset by” approach that we take to providing information is not only a bad idea, it is also unnecessary. As a defense attorney on TV would [ Read more… ]

Reasons for inaction

From our daily member newsletter on August 23, 2017

Labor Day is just around the corner. And, summer is just about over. There are, unfortunately, all kinds of events and holidays during the calendar year that can cause us to delay addressing our job search, and I thought I would use the “idea” of these dates as a prime example of the inaction it can cause in all of us, myself included. I think the fear that grips us is one of offending those we call. During the summer we can be calling networking contacts just before they are leaving on vacation or, just as bad, when they have just returned. We can be calling when folks are trying to leave early for holiday events or, as noted above, [ Read more… ]

Give yourself a break

From our daily member newsletter on August 13, 2017

Back in 1991-1992 I was unemployed. Yes, two full years. Honestly, cash was starting to get a little tight. But more importantly, although I had a lot of free time, it was hard to enjoy it. Money, and the prospect of more, tends to focus the “let’s have some fun” part of our brains, whereas the “I don’t know if I will survive this” mindset prevents us from really enjoying our “time off” to any great degree. However, as one of my friends once said, “No one is out of work forever, it just seems that way.” Chances are those last few months in that Heck Hole you refer to as your most recent job were more than a little [ Read more… ]

Don’t go it alone

From our daily member newsletter on July 19, 2017

Job search is in many ways a unique experience. In contrast to the world of work where we have had folks reporting to us and have had folks that we reported to, the world of job search can tend to be a lonely place. Outplacement facilities with their rabbit warren of cubicles at first glance seem to place you with a lot of other people. There are classes to attend, and at least in my own experience with this kind of environment, you have others with whom you can have lunch and share experiences. Not a totally bad situation. But still, everyone is on a different track and when they find work or their time ends, they typically disappear. And, [ Read more… ]

It’s always better to be working

From our daily member newsletter on July 18, 2017

When I was growing up, my father was in the construction business. Being a plumbing contractor or a consultant or even a job seeker these days isn’t all that different with respect to finding what I call “work opportunities.” I sense from talking to many members that there are those among us who at times can be more than a little picky about the assignments they are willing to take, despite the fact that they aren’t working AT ALL. One of the many lessons I draw from my father’s experience is that some of the jobs you find are short term, some are more fun than others, and some pay better than others. Still, the need to have your “crew” [ Read more… ]

Birds of a feather

From our daily member newsletter on June 27, 2017

We are fortunate in the financial professions to be blessed with a very high degree of transferable skills. Still, the next job for most of us isn’t going to be all that much different from our last one. While it is certainly possible that we will change industries, it is less likely that we will change the skill sets needed in our day to day work. What typically happens in any recession is that certain industries take a downward turn and many of the folks in those industries lose their jobs. It used to be that this was limited to old line industries, but as we have seen in recent years, it can even affect the stars of just last [ Read more… ]

A time of renewal

From our daily member newsletter on June 14, 2017

Although everyone thinks that spring is a time of renewal, actually (just like networking) any point in time and any excuse will do. For those of us who are in their 40’s and 50’s, periods of unemployment early in our career have probably been non-existent. The experience of being unemployed can be stressful unless you use the time to good advantage. One way of doing this is to, in part, create a new you. I’m not talking about plastic surgery but there are always things you can do that will make you into a “new” person. After you have gone through the initial steps of preparing your job campaign and networking with everyone you can think of, it may be [ Read more… ]

Awaiting a rising tide

From our daily member newsletter on June 13, 2017

Although I would never willingly admit it, over the nearly 35 years I have been sailing I have had occasion to go aground. (It is always an embarrassing situation.) One time I dragged anchor in a storm (that I can assure you was not in the forecast) and the other times I managed to wander too far out of the main channel. The tidal drop in Long Island Sound where I do most of my sailing can be as much as 8 feet. For most of my sailing life I have had boats that draw around 4-5 feet. At high tide you can easily pass over areas that are exposed at low tide. (For those of you not familiar with [ Read more… ]

Zen and the art of job search

From our daily member newsletter on June 6, 2017

I have never actually read any of the books that begin with the title I selected for this editorial, but I think I know what they were all about. Okay, maybe I don’t. Still, the thought comes to mind upon reading one of the responses I received recently that there is one aspect of your required “job search attitude” that I should address. Our mutual purpose in trying to explain how the world works is directed toward lessening the stress you feel when you are engaged in a search. It is easy to feel alone. It is easy to feel that no one cares about you. And, it is easy to feel that everyone else is getting called back, but [ Read more… ]

Those lazy hazy days of summer

From our daily member newsletter on June 1, 2017

You really can’t beat summer. Although it is a brief season (at least here in the Northeast), it is one of those remarkable times during the year when there is lots to do and lots of daylight time in which to do it. The days are longer and the weather is warm enough that you don’t need much preparation to go outside, unless it is raining cats and dogs. And even then, all you need is your umbrella. Heading out to lunch is just so much easier if you work in a place like New York City where I worked for 20 years. No heavy winter coat to drag with you to a restaurant. One of the great myths of [ Read more… ]

Corporations are reptilian

From our daily member newsletter on May 24, 2017

I hope no one will be offended by the thought that corporations are reptilian. All I mean to imply by this statement is that although corporations appear to have human elements, they actually have no feelings. We have all met and in fact we may individually have been dedicated employees, but in many respects, to have feelings about a corporation is similar to having feelings about a car, boat or a house. In and of themselves, they are not caring creatures. The “warm fuzzies” we may associate with inanimate objects is derived from their interaction and our interaction with actual people. Good times with friends, family or business associates in a particular setting are always in a human context. What [ Read more… ]

Changing industries

From our daily member newsletter on May 23, 2017

More often than not, members of our networking group prefer to change industries when they change jobs. I have to agree that changing industries isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills we have learned to a totally new situation is an attractive concept. The truth unfortunately is often a little harsher. Our maximum value to any new employer is our knowledge and skills, and often times our perceived value is higher if we aren’t making any significant change. As counter intuitive as it may sound, the best approach to changing industries is talking to folks from your industry, especially those who are no longer there. The question to be answered is how [ Read more… ]

It must make sense (to them)

From our daily member newsletter on May 22, 2017

When I was in my mid-30’s, I had the great honor of being treasurer of my congregation, a job I held for 4 full years. It is probably true that I lean towards all consuming jobs. Or, perhaps I just try to do a good job even when I am not getting paid. Nonetheless, I discovered a lot about human nature performing this often times thankless task. The congregation had a very long list of “members” who were behind in their payments. So, I set about to call all of them. Sure, I tried writing to them, but I found that the only way I got any kind of response was by picking up the phone. Most folks were very [ Read more… ]

No one is out of work forever

From our daily member newsletter on May 14, 2017

One of the pearls of wisdom I heard from a friend of mine in 1991 was that no one is out of work forever, it just seems that way. When you are employed in a W-2 job, weekends and evenings are hopefully your time to relax. Snow days, holidays are also to be anticipated and enjoyed. After all, the money is still coming in whether you are at the office or not. The worst case scenario is that your work is piling up. Once you are out of work, your whole perspective changes. The early morning hours when you are awake and can’t make any phone calls, and the evenings when you would like to catch up with someone are [ Read more… ]

A cut in pay

From our daily member newsletter on May 2, 2017

Probably one of the most upsetting and disappointing aspects of searching for a new job when you are “well experienced” is the need to consider positions for which the compensation is considerably less than your last job. I suppose it is part of our mind set as accountants that we tend to view our gradual increases in pay over the years as hard won. I guess that’s because they probably were. The prospect of losing ground from the heights we have obtained is, at best, difficult to face. I can tell you from my personal experience that early on in my search in 1991 I passed on several reasonable opportunities because they were slightly below my former salary. If only [ Read more… ]

There are evil doers

From our daily member newsletter on April 20, 2017

The executive search business isn’t what it used to be, but then what is? I hate to bore those who already know the primary difference between recruiters, but I hesitate to assume. Retained recruiters typically have an exclusive right to find a particular candidate for a firm and they get paid whether they find an acceptable candidate or not. The only problem is that since they have been paid, they sort of have to keep working on it. Contingency recruiters don’t have an exclusive and will typically present what candidates they can find and then quit looking. Please understand that there is nothing inherently evil with either type of firm. If you want to learn more about the differences between [ Read more… ]

Home is where the heart is

From our daily member newsletter on March 22, 2017

As many of you know, in 1991 and 1992, I was unemployed. (Yes, two long years!) Hard to say exactly why it took so long to find another job, but suffice to say that it was a recession and after 9 years in the Advertising business (which was in the dumper) and no recent experience in Publishing (my other background which was also in the dumper), there weren’t a lot of job possibilities. One of the things I took off the table immediately was moving. Sure, I was born in Chicago and had lived in Northern Indiana when I was growing up, but for nearly 25 years I had been living in Norwalk, Connecticut. It is arguable if moving would [ Read more… ]

Why bother?

From our daily member newsletter on March 21, 2017

I was working on two assignments for The FECG a few weeks ago and I couldn’t help but notice the frequency with which some members consistently failed to provide a meaningful cover letter with their resume. (Just so you know, assignments marketed by our consulting practice are only presented to members of The FENG for their consideration.) I have often been heard to say that “your resume stands alone.” It’s true. But, sometimes we need a little more information. When a member’s candidacy is marginal, that email cover note can really make the difference. When I say marginal I am not talking about the general qualifications of the individual in question, but rather his/her suitability for the particular assignment we [ Read more… ]

The fine line

From our daily member newsletter on February 6, 2017

To call or not to call, that is the question. To write or not to write, that is the question. When is enough, enough? (Or perhaps you should just show up in person and demand to see someone?) At what point do you move from showing your persistence and tenacity to just being a pest? Well, the truth is, I don’t know. I do operate on the principle that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It comes from my many years as Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency trying to collect bills from our clients. How often I heard the story: “I was just about to put your check in the mail.” Oh sure, now that I called. [ Read more… ]

Local candidates only

From our daily member newsletter on November 29, 2007

I know how disheartening it can be to get to the bottom of a job posting and see those deathless words: “Local candidates only” Still, the facts are that there are always lots of qualified folks applying for any great job and at least in major metropolitan areas there is no need for a company to move someone. In addition to the availability of local talent, a not so obvious issue is the difficulty of meeting and getting to know a candidate from outside the area. If we are talking “East Coast/West Coast”, the three hour time difference can make it difficult to connect. With this as a backdrop, if you see a job posting that is a good fit [ Read more… ]

Move to where?

From our daily member newsletter on November 19, 2007

In 1991 when I was last out of work I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to move.   Although born in Chicago and raised in northern Indiana, I had lived in Connecticut for almost 20 years and I liked it here. My wife’s parents lived nearby and I had a daughter and son in high school. Moving really didn’t make sense in that it would have been very disruptive. And, much as I respect those who have taken jobs out of town and commuted for a period of time, it wasn’t something I was prepared to do.   It seemed to me at the time that because I lived in the New York metropolitan [ Read more… ]

Did you have a bad day?

From our daily member newsletter on November 6, 2007

Let’s face it, sooner or later you are bound to have a bad day. The odds of having 365 perfect days in a row just aren’t high. It’s sort of a reverse thing to the odds of your winning the lottery. Sure, someone wins it every day, but it never seems to be me. (I guess it would help if I bought a ticket, but I am a tightwad financial guy and I would never spend the money – but I digress.) By the way, if it turns out to be you, I hope you will make a generous contribution to The FENG or buy me a new car or something.   Anyway, getting out of bed every morning, energized [ Read more… ]

True confessions

From our daily member newsletter on November 5, 2007

While confession may be good for the soul, it is deadly when it comes to job search. The dreaded question: What is your greatest weakness?   This is one of those questions we could easily do without. And, they often catch us by surprise.   Enron not withstanding, the problem is that most senior financial folks are very honest. I’m sure there is something about each of us we believe to be our greatest weakness. However, this is not the time to tell ANYONE about your secret concerns.   Okay, you do have to say something. To say you have no weaknesses comes off as conceited or worse arrogant. But what to confess to?   My suggestion is that you [ Read more… ]

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