EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

In my distant past I remember seeing a commercial in which an Abraham Lincoln look alike was sitting in an employment agency office. As the recruiter was flipping through his Rolodex he was telling old Abe that without “that sheepskin” he really wasn’t going anywhere. I guess the same thing was probably told to Bill Gates.

While I don’t recommend avoiding college and/or not finishing your degrees as a career strategy, there are other certifications and educational achievements such as CPA, CMA and MBA that more often than not seem to be REQUIRED in the postings most frequently appearing in our newsletter.

Under the heading of “don’t believe everything you hear,” it would be foolish in the extreme to believe that just because you don’t have these credentials you are unemployable. As one of my friends was heard to say, “No one is unemployed forever, it just seems that way.”

Alas, early in my career I decided not to get a CPA. With no interest in auditing books, why did I need it? Would it have changed my life? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I will never know. Honestly, finance, not accounting was my real thing. In any case, you can’t change the past.

What is overlooked by many folks seeking jobs is that posted jobs are only part of the puzzle. For senior executives, they have never really been a good source of opportunities. The screening and evaluation process engaged in by most recruiters doesn’t easily take into account the wealth of life experiences and actual knowledge that one acquires over a 20-30 year career. I always smiled to myself when the CPA’s who worked for me came to my office to have me help them figure out correcting journal entries.

If you want to compete for posted jobs, that is your decision. A passive job search allows you the luxury of believing that you will never find a job because you are being screened out for what you consider to be invalid reasons. You need to respect the fact that clients want what they want, and it is the stupid recruiter who doesn’t give it to them.

On the other hand, I learned over the years that people prefer doing business with individuals who are known to them. For example, Private Equity Groups work this way. Working with those you know and trust is a safer way of doing business.

It is for this reason that networking (networking and more networking) is the most successful strategy for a senior executive search. Rather than competing on your written credentials, you have the opportunity to compete based on your personal reputation.

As you identify those who have background connections to you based on companies where you have worked or areas of expertise, you have the unique opportunity to be introduced to individuals at a personal level. Is it easy making those links to others who might want to see you? No, but at the end of the day your likelihood of success is so much higher than answering job postings that there is no comparison. Although in some respects not as satisfying as that pile of 100 emails or letters you may have sent out blind from time to time, the human connections you make work wonders. Like good friendships, they take time and patience. But, they are more rewarding.

While it may come as a surprise to all of you because I only mention it once or twice a week, we have a remarkable tool called The FENG Membership Directory Search feature. I hope you will visit our website and use it from time to time. The staff and I labor mightily over this resource and power tool on your behalf, and it breaks my heart that more members don’t make the effort to use it effectively.

Let me share this thought with you from our website: Life is about making new friends, helping old friends and feeling needed. Are any other explanations required?

I hope that these are the words that members will live by. Take a risk and reach out and touch a few members by email and/or phone and see what happens. (All members who don’t seem to be in the spirit of what we are trying to do for one another should be reported to “The Chairman.”)

Regards, Matt

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