If I had been thinking clearly, my first reaction when my CEO boss informed me in late November that I was I being placed on a “90-day furlough,” would have been ‘Everything happens for a reason’. However, the surprise of immediately losing my income along with finding out I would receive no severance or access to vacation time quickly turned to fear. It had been a good 15 years since I was in the job market. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I “looked” for a job. I was one of the fortunate few. My next opportunity always seemed to come my way at the right time. I suddenly realized a lot has changed in 15 years – my experience far exceeded the 5-8 years employers seem to want, the Internet had become a major source for hiring and unemployment was at record high.
Just when I was at my lowest in terms of self confidence, I got the best advice I could, from a colleague who I’ve provided a lot of PR advice to over the years. He said, “Do what you do best. Your job is to promote people. You need to promote yourself.”
It may seem like simple advice, but it provided the perspective I needed to move forward. Like many communications professionals, I’ve spent little time thinking about my own PR. Our job is to promote others. In fact, I think it’s our nature to stay in the background and out of the limelight.
What I did next probably isn’t that novel:
- I updated my resume
- I made long lists of everyone I know – recruiters, friends, individuals from within my company who might be able to recommend me to their clients or contacts; people from my former company who have moved on to leadership positions at other companies; and those I know within the communications profession and competitor firms who might be looking to expand their communications capabilities.
- I made it a point to call or email at least six people on my list each day, and when I got to the end of the list I reached out to them again.
- I began searching the job sites on a daily basis.
The good news is with everything being online you can search for jobs whenever you want. However, I found the process to be extremely impersonal. I had to go beyond just applying for a job. What worked best was to find someone I knew at the company or even better someone who knew the hiring manager. In PR terms, how many times have you used PRNewswire to distribute a really important press release and not proactively followed up with key media? It’s like a follow-up call to a key reporter with whom you have a relationship in order to ensure coverage.
In my job search, in every instance where I relied on a relationship to distinguish myself from the other candidates, I was contacted by the HR person conducting the search and was invited to interview with the hiring manager.
After hearing horror stories of people looking for work for a year or more, I feel very fortunate to have received not one but two offers within 60 days of being furloughed. I know it’s not easy to find yourself in a situation where the future is uncertain. However, the best piece of advice I can provide is approach your job search the way you would a PR assignment – develop a plan and execute against that plan.
A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Janice McDill has been involved in corporate communications for more than 25 years. She began her new job this week as Director, Internal and Executive Communications at Heidrick & Struggles.