By Jack J. Kelly
Then things started to change. I met with a recruiter to discuss finding a new job, since once again I was in a job that I hated and was pretty bad at it. Peter Gay, the person who ran the Taft Associates recruiting agency at the time, suggested I might make a great recruiter. At first I dismissed this idea. Like most people, it was drummed into me to take the expected path. I was in the corporate world, would go to law school, and pursue a traditional, acceptable path. Although, in the back of mind there was always the thought of being in business for myself. My entire family, including mother, father, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins, and others were all in teaching but they all seemed to hate it. My dad in particular used to always lament that he should have went into ‘business’ because he felt that the salary he received in Brooklyn in the 1970s and 1980s was horrible – and it was. So, when Peter spoke to me about recruiting, I viewed it as a potential means to start my own business.
As it happens, one of my coworkers knew someone who owned and managed a large recruiting firm in Manhattan. I cold called the guy, let’s call him Ed, and he was gracious enough to invite me up to his office. It was a beautiful large office with a lot of employees, as I recall. The place seemed nice and active and the people happy. Ed shared with me the ups and downs about recruiting, but I really wasn’t paying attention. My only thought at the time was that Ed seemed like a really nice down-to-earth guy. If he could do it, why couldn’t I? Ironically, if he was this slick George Clooney, Brad Pitt type of person, I admit that I would have been intimidated to follow through.
I decided right then that I was going to make this work, told Peter that I’d accept the offer, and started working at about a $200.00 per week draw against future commissions. The small compensation didn’t faze me, as I promised myself that I was going to give it all I had and soon enough the money will come.
It was the best decision I ever made, (except for marrying my wife and having kids – although I really don’t need to include this because they all stubbornly don’t read my articles).
I became a Partner at Taft, then started my own firm and have been at this for twenty years. I have been blessed to literally place thousands of people and make their lives better. Also, I was able to pursue my dream of being a business person, and was able to reap the financial rewards as well. In hindsight, I know now that my post-college epic failures were primarily due to a lack of focus and not having a clear career plan with specific, outlined goals and objectives.
Here are the lessons I learned along the way in starting and building a business, which you can apply to your job search and career. In short, you must have (1) a defined goal, along with (2) a clear outline of daily and monthly objectives that need to be met, in order to achieve the desired goals and you also have to be (3) insanely relentless and hyper-focused in pursuing your plan, plus (4) grow a thick skin and do not let anything stop you or let yourself get defeated. Also, you have to be (5) passionate about what you do all the time, every day, and (6) work harder and longer hours than everyone else. I have found out first-hand that you don’t have to be the smartest, most charismatic and talented person to succeed. Grit, determination, hard work, drive and passion, with only a modest amount of intelligence and talent, will win in the long term.
The best piece of advice that I can give you in your job search (and career), is to think and act as if you are a business owner. The business is you. Mentally, you are not just an employee at the mercy of your employer.
As a business person, you get up ridiculously early at about 5:00 am or so, work all day, all night, all weekend. You should come to the Zen recognition that nobody will do anything for you. No one except your spouse, or maybe one or two close relatives or friends, will care if you fail or succeed; it is all up to you to make it happen. You need to formulate a plan for your job search with daily benchmarks to be met, then focus, and work like hell to achieve your goal of finding a new job.
This is how business owners think. They grind; all day, every day. It’s not glamorous and could be mind-numbingly tedious, but you have to put in the time and effort, in order to succeed. There is no safety net or fall back. Either you succeed or fail. No prize for second place. That keeps you driven. You are your own business. You have a brand. You are the product. You need to market and sell that product with passion. No one knows this product better than you, because it is you. Craft an elevator pitch, one that you commit to memory. This is a quick two minute sales pitch of who you are, why you are awesome, and how you will succeed in the job that you are applying for, and will make the hiring manager’s life easier and better. Learn how to sell yourself by practicing, practicing, and practicing some more.
Once you decide that you want a new job, you’ve got to go after it with drive, ambition, determination and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Create a great resume. Build up your LinkedIn profile. Network like crazy. Contact recruiters, meet recruiters. If one recruiter sucks, find a new one. Go to conferences and strike up conversations with anyone who can help you, (please don’t come across desperate or needy because then they’ll think you’re weird). Leverage all your friends, family, old college buddies, coworkers, and former associates to get job leads and contacts. If you aren’t feeling well before an interview, too bad, go anyway and bring your ‘A’ game. No excuses, no complaining.
No one owes you anything, and nobody cares about you but yourself. You have to make your own break. You have to create your own future. You will fail, but get back up. You will get rejected, but keep moving forward.
Work on your pitch. Work on your appearance, mannerisms, and articulation, so that you come across as a winner. If your suit is frayed, buy a new beautiful suit. If your haircut is out of style, spring for a nice new fashionable look. Lose the 90s tie, and old-style glasses. Improve your vocabulary. Work on your diction and presentation.
Look in the mirror and see how you smile. Do you look sleazy, or smart and dependable? Is your handshake like a limp fish, or firm and strong? Do you maintain good eye contact, or do you avoid a direct look and your eyes dart around the room? Do you fidget, or sit up straight? Are you slumped over when you walk into a room, or do you walk in like you own it?
Before the interview, do your homework; learn every little detail about the people before you meet them, and become an expert on the company. Map out and time the route to the interview days in advance, so you don’t get lost or stuck in traffic. Don’t leave anything to chance.
As you do this, you will get better and stronger. Nothing will stop you from your goal. It may take a while, but so what. In the long term what does a month, or six months matter in a career that may last thirty to forty years? It is an endurance contest, not a sprint. You are playing to win in the long run. If you follow this advice, I promise that you will succeed. I can’t guarantee when, but it will ultimately happen. Why am I so confident? Because I have seen thousands of people take this approach, procure great jobs and do phenomenally well in their careers. I have also used this approach myself, and know that it works first-hand (and I‘m not terribly bright, good looking, talented, charismatic or have a particularly nice personality).
Please feel free to contact me directly at 212.997.3166 or email Jack@ComplianceSearch.com if I could be of assistance, or you would just like to talk.