June 2001

Volume VII   Number 2                     jimborland@att.net

Change Your Career


Some career counseling clients, particularly those who were surprised by being involved in an involuntary downsizing, will come to our first meeting and announce that they want to make a career change.  This is usually an understandable reaction to the hurt and anger associated with sudden loss of a job.  My role is to help them take a longer view, and consider carefully the ramifications to making, what is usually better, and more accurately, termed a “shift.”


We talk about the necessity in career transition to have a target, which is a composite of three elements:

  • ·        Geography -- where are you going to work?
  • ·        Industry  --who are you going to work for?
  • ·         Function -- what are you going to do?


With regard to geography, most clients do not   want to relocate.  (Virtually everyone outside Metro NYC thinks we’re draft because of that, of course.)  People usually move out of New York for either of two reasons. 


First, they want a life style change. Ted, an international investment banker took a job with a regional bank headquartered in Charlotte, in part, so that he could spend more time at home with his three young sons.  The second reason is more subtle, but has to do with market conditions.  Peter, for example, relocated to London, because the absence of SEC controls made it more conducive to the kind of trading in which he specialized.


A bigger change issue is industry.  The number of consolidations in the financial services industry in New York, for example has cut the absolute number of jobs available. Two years ago, many of our younger MBA-level clients went to work in start-ups in the internet-based world because of the incredible potential.   Many of them have come back to us as downsizings of the past few months have taken effect.


The issue of function is perhaps the core issue in change. Most of our clients have considerable experience in doing what they do, and, many have specialized degrees or advanced training. At G&S, there is a range, but, on average, our clients have between ten and twenty years successful work experience, with major well-known employers and are earning six- and seven-figure compensation packages.  The greater the functional change the client targets, the more he calls into question his market value, and even his judgment.


 For example, I recently worked with Victor, who had eight years experience as an attorney with a firm that specialized in corporate law.  He had convinced a B2B start-up to hire him in a business development role and was relatively successful until the third-round funding didn’t come through and he was downsized.  Part of my job was to help Victor first decide what his functional goal should be, and then, to unify the story so that his shifts seemed sensible and logical.


We encourage our clients to identify three core competencies which become, in marketing terms, their  “unique selling proposition,” or the answer to the (usually unstated) question -- “Why should I hire you?” 


Victor’s three core sales points were:

  • Attention to detail and ability to follow through
  • Broad knowledge of corporate law
  • Ability to relate to technical and creative people.


Victor had good focused accomplishments to support his core competencies in both his “90 Second Pitch” and his resume. I’m happy to say that he has just accepted a business development position at a major music company where he will be heavily involved in internet applications.


The more a client sees her target as a rational well thought-out shift, the easier it will be for her to articulate it convincingly.  I often use the analogy of trying to get across a stream -- if we can find someplace in the stream with a rock or two to jump between then it becomes easier.  Change in mindset occurs easier in small steps. 


So, do we have career changers at G&S?  Yes,   but rarely. One such client was Alice, on turning forty, and said she wanted out.  A trained engineer, she completed our assessment material and decided to take a year-long course at NYU in computer science. She loved it, did well, and upon graduation returned to her bulge-bracket firm for an IT job. They said “you’re a trader,” and refused to hire her. She went to another firm which hired her on the spot, and she’s now very involved in projects which use her intimate knowledge of trading albeit at a compensation package about one-third of her prior job. 


As one of my search colleagues said, we have to deal with reality and with the perception of reality.  Our goal is to help clients sort out goals and develop a realistic target that will energize them and lead to a satisfying new challenge.


My Son -- A Work in Progress


My G&S colleague, Fred Ball, just returned from Providence where his second child graduated from Brown. Fred remarked that he would miss the continuous change that one sees in kids at college.


Some of you have asked about my son, Jeff.  After a semester as Assistant Director of a Spanish Immersion Program in Central America (a job he got through the internet), he went to San Francisco to put his Econometrics and Computer Science degree to work.


His timing couldn’t have been worse.  Silicon Valley jobs are off, so he temped at a law firm, and biked everywhere.  He decided he needs to see more of the world, so accepted a summer job in Costa Rica as a wilderness camp counselor and then will go to Asia, perhaps as a volunteer at a Bangladeshi orphanage. His mother and I are apprehensive, but Jeff is clear he wants to do it his way (and it should be said, with his own  money!)


As a career counselor, I am intrigued by the so-called “Gen-Y’ers” just now entering the work force who share the very conflicting values that Jeff embodies.  As a parent, I can’t help find Jeff both frustrating and exciting.  He is his own person, and I am proud of him for that.


Books I’d Recommend


Gotham -- A History of New York City to 1898,   by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Oxford University Press, New York, 1999, paper, $24.95.


As some of my readers know from past reviews, I am fascinated by American History.  This work, by two CUNY professors, took twenty years of collaboration and won the Pulitzer Prize.  At almost 1300 pages, it is not for subway shlepping, but, if you’re going on vacation, you probably won’t need any other reading.


The authors take a lively, if authoritative approach, tying events and developments in New York to larger trends occurring in Europe and the world.


“This book is only possible because in recent decades a host of scholars has investigated afresh every imaginable aspect of New York’s history [from] sex [to] sewer systems… It is hard to understand any place in isolation, but utterly hopeless here, because linkages -- connections to the wider world -- have been key to the city’s development ”