March 2001


Volume VII   Number 1     

Change…Coming around the Mountain


I first became interested in helping people change when I was a counselor during my college years at a camp for emotionally disturbed boys in New Hampshire.  My greatest accomplishment was getting all fifty boys to successfully climb Mt. Monadnock, which, to a serious climber is a snap, but to out-of-shape twelve year olds with a history of negative self-image and failure -- well, that was a challenge, and the change I saw motivated me to go to graduate school.


My theme for this year’s letters is another C word  -- change. As a career counselor, my basic job description is to help people make some kind of change in their career.  As an outplacement counselor at G&S, I am working with people for whom the decision to change jobs was made, to a greater or lesser extent, for them by their employer.


There are two inter-related dimensions of change that I try to understand today in my work with clients -- speed and control.


Most career-counseling clients are involved in a self-directed search for a more satisfying job status.  Most do not quit their current jobs to devote themselves full-time to that search, which usually results in taking more time, and with a more variable time allocation to the change process.  For example, Mitch did not quit his job as a lawyer for a federal agency until he was offered a trading position at a Wall Street firm. It took almost nine months of networking, during which he had to travel frequently for his job and his father had open-heart surgery.  My role, as his counselor, was to help Mitch keep up momentum and to be his sounding board as he explored opportunities, as well as to see that he was making progress. Three years later, after making the change, Mitch reports great satisfaction with the work, and a greatly increased compensation level, which allows him more options in his personal life.


However, with outplacement clients, the instigation of job change is eternal, at least to some extent. Financial downturns, new senior management, and mergers all lead to executives and professionals arriving at G&S.  Whether they come alone, or as part of an affected group, I need to assess their styles of coping with change, particularly as it relates to speed and to control. 


The time a person takes to deal with job loss, focus on a new target, and move into the self-marketing process is a function of many things.  At G&S, all of our work with clients is individual, so we can be flexible and allow for client differences in speed of change.  Financial concerns, health issues (many busy executives have put off having health treatments and decide that this is the time), and prior family commitments may all be valid, but I sometimes need to challenge clients who appear to be stalled in the process.


For most people, job loss is a loss of control, which is frightening. We recently were present on site when a closure of a unit of a client company was announced.  Although the unit had serious financial problems known to all, the executives we met with were, as one said, “shocked, but not surprised.”  When the individual executive comes in, my mission is to “lend them a vision”-- a sense that there is a place for them out there.


I was reminded of this when I saw a photograph of President Bush, while on the Iowa primaries circuit,  jogging alone across flat Iowa farmlands. I wish the process of change were as clear and as straightforward as that landscape. It is not. Change is more like running in that other early primary state -- New Hampshire: the terrain is full of hills and twists, easy down slopes, mixed with mountains to climb.



May I Use You as a Reference?


My colleague Fred Feuerhake has recently started a networking group at G&S for senior-level human resources executives in the New York area. Fred asked me to do a brief presentation to the group, and I focused on references, a topic not as widely considered as it should be.


Since you, dear reader, are not likely to be currently in a job search mode, I decided to address my comments here to how you might respond to the above question:


  • 1.      Be helpful, if you can -- the golden rule applies.
  • 2.      Ask for a copy of the resume, even if it is an old friend, because you need to see how the person is positioning himself or herself.
  • 3.      Ask for a call as soon as your name and number are given.  Your referee should tell you


  • ·        the person’s name, title, and company
  • ·        the job title you are being considered for
  • ·        any relevant issues they will ask about and how you might respond, e.g., Is the hiring manager more concerned with creative solutions or following policy?


4.  Call the referee soon after you give the reference to let them know

  • ·        the hiring manger had called
  • ·        what was asked, and how you responded
  • ·        any other relevant information, e.g., what you thought of the hiring manager
  • ·         that you are reminding them, gently, to “let me know what happens.”


Score One for the Monster


I knew it was just a matter of time … one of my G&S clients recently began a $200K job as CFO of a soon to-go-public service company, following up a posting on  While I have had other clients, particularly “techies,” get interviews and ultimately jobs, this was the first at that level.


Books I’d Recommend


Impact Hiring: The Secrets of Hiring a Superstar  by Barbara B. Ball and Frederick W. Ball, Prentice Hall, Paramus, NJ, 2000, $26.00.


My colleague at G&S, Fred, and his wife, Barbara, have written a follow-up to their highly successful Killer Interviews.  The new book addresses the topic of job interviewing from the prospective employer’s point of view. Barbara and Fred got a tremendous amount of feedback from high-level executives and human resources managers about the need to be clear at the top on the importance of a sense of mission and a methodology to imple- ment a coherent, focused hiring strategy.


The Balls say “the demand for top talent is moving in the opposite direction from supply.  Studies have shown that there will be a 15 percent decline in 35-44 year olds, the traditional executive talent pool, over the next fifteen years.  There will also be a decline in the 44-54 year olds.   These shifting demographics suggest an acute shortage of management talent that is only going to worsen.”


Citing clear case examples, the authors make their case in an easy-to-read yet thorough way.  As someone who listens daily to job interviewees’ reactions to the interview process, I can only hope that Impact Hiring is read by every executive involved in the interviewing process.