Getting Back Into the Game

Twelve tips show accounting and finance executives how to re-enter today's job market.

November 20, 2008
by Debra Feldman

The game is new for senior-level accounting and finance executives returning to the job market. Today's environment is not welcoming even for the most successful, passionate, capable and proven individuals. Networks that were once the source of lucrative deal options and secretive networking inquiries are not delivering good leads. For the first time accounting execs are stumped.

To be competitive returnees have some unique challenges, not the least of which is the gap in their employment history. The first step is often getting past computerized or human gatekeepers. One of the reasons why re-entry candidates face a daunting job search is that companies and search firms use automated candidate screening and recruitment processes to triage applications and résumé submissions.

For Jobseekers

So how can returning finance execs reach their goals? The preferred job search method remains the same: connections. Networking is the means to a swift, successful landing.

Jumpstarting your search campaign requires designing and purposefully creating a new network of relationships. In today's competitive and risk-adverse job market, networking purposefully is the solution to finding a new position that matches your requirements for personal, professional and financial rewards. Your mission is to carve a direct path to senior management and then present a remarkable and memorable value proposition fostering a meaningful dialog about mutual interests.

An effective technique for boosting your potential is having an inside contact. You need to identify and communicate your unique value contribution and encourage your contact to share this information with the hiring decision-maker, and not just HR. A personal recommendation goes a long way to grab attention.

Too often, networking contacts are inaccurately valued as isolated interactions. In fact, networking is about relationships, not only a transaction targeted to a single position. Beyond an immediate job offer, a positive impression yields more networking referrals that produce more job leads. Networking has multiple benefits for prospective candidates, such as getting up-to-date on the industry; developing influential relationships; acquiring insights from the employer's perspective; and gaining knowledge.

The surest way of finding a job is by developing and nurturing key networking relationships continuously. A personalized introduction can explain unusual circumstances and pave the way for meaningful dialogues with prospective employers when you have gaps in your résumé.

What You Should Know About Hiring Managers

There is no such thing as the ideal candidate and the ideal employee. That said, if the hiring manager believes that you would fit into the company's culture, they are known to bend the requirements, reorganize resources and do what it takes to make an offer. That's why connecting with the appropriate inside authority is key to generating a new career opportunity, whether a job is advertised or part of the hidden job market.

Twelve Tips for Re-entering Execs

Here are some tips to accelerate job search progress if you are looking to re-enter the job market.

  • Differentiate and specialize within a niche expertise to attract more attention. Illustrate capabilities with concrete solution examples. Support extraordinary skills and talent with compelling achievements overcoming sizable challenges.
  • Target niche industries. These employers will appreciate your background better and recognize complementary qualifications.
  • Put skin in the game. Show confidence in your anticipated ability to deliver with an emphasis on performance-dependent compensation.
  • Show. Don't tell. Prove expected and required strengths to persuade decision-makers. Volunteer presentations, white papers, garner support from references, etc. Increase your visibility and credibility by publishing, commenting and posting on Web sites and blogs. Don't forget to attend forums and present at conferences.
  • Initiate contacts and stay connected. Identify key players, obtain recommendations, research speakers, trade publications and online resources then connect with current industry thought leaders. Cultivate relationships that are likely to generate job leads, while increasing your credibility.
  • Communicate your value with consistent messaging. Résumés, bios, online profiles and quotes must all reinforce your potential contribution and highlight your strengths. Demonstrate that you are the first choice, go-to expert.
  • Connect with "insiders." Individuals affiliated with target employers are the ones who are first to learn about and be presented with an unadvertised opportunity.
  • Be bold and persistent. Network purposefully to make new contacts designed to enhance job searching results. Networking is about relationships.
  • Think positively. As a job seeker, you should be screening prospective challenges as carefully as employers investigate new team members.
  • Give back. Make introductions when you see synergy. Contribute advice, help and counsel before being asked. Networking is not just for job searching.
  • Initiate contact directly with hiring decision-makers. Call outside typical business hours. Use snail mail creatively to attract attention. Leave enticing voicemail messages letting employers know what you have to offer. Leave them thinking that not returning the call would be risky.
  • Follow up on connections. Be courteous and respectful while persevering leads.

It is difficult for anyone to land a job in today's job market. It is even more difficult for those who are re-entering the job market. That said, following these 12 strategies will make your job search easier and open doors quicker.

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© Debra Feldman, 2008

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques soon to be profiled in Forbes magazine and featured in an upcoming syndicated television series. In addition to writing columns and conducting workshops for several revered professional associations, Debra provides career guidance to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.